Final Fantasy Record Keeper

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Dr. Mog better crack the whip on this kid!

I used to be able to proudly say I’ve never been caught in the throes of a mobile free to play game. The only ones I had on my phone were mainly for my son that he plays solo or we play together.

Until Final Fantasy Record Keeper became a thing.

Now I can’t stop playing. It’s like Square-Enix wrote us longtime Final Fantasy fans an apology letter that says, “We realize every Final Fantasy game that we’ve put out in the last 10 years has sucked balls. Here, have a kick in the ass with this nostalgia boot.”

Here’s the concept: An annoying new child character who you will remove from the party at the earliest opportunity works in the Royal Archives as a keeper of the paintings that preserve the stories of what we know as Final Fantasies I-XIII. Then bad things happen for reasons unknown, and you get to delve into the paintings to restore the stories and recruit the characters to help you in your quest!

As of writing this blog post, we are now able to relive parts of Final Fantasy I, II, IV, V, VI, VII, and X in North America, with many more to follow. Diving into these paintings to do the missions as they unlock are  basically the main story quests. These are great trips down memory lane, as we get to fight enemies from their corresponding games in 8-bit, with the music we all remember and the characters we know and love. After clearing a dungeon you get a ranking (Mastery awards you with extra loot) and a screenshot accentuating a recap of what is going on in that realm. On top of earning more loot to go towards upgrading your gear and creating/honing abilities, mastering a stage unlocks its elite counterpart. As of right now I don’t think I’ve even cleared half of them yet. Yes, they’re that hard and require that much grinding.

And that’s not all! Record Keeper also incorporates daily dungeons where you can earn extra EXP, Gil, or materials depending on the day of the week. Daily dungeons are offered in easy, normal, or hard difficulties so anyone can partake in them.

But the most exciting features of all are the events. Periodically, events are released that typically allow players to recruit new characters and get useful items. There are two events active as of this writing: Countdown to Sector 7, where you recruit Aerith and grind for magicite shards to turn into Dr. Mog for goodies, and Monster in the Lethe, a trip down FFVI memory lane where we get to recruit Terra! These are timed events, usually around for 1-2 weeks, so you gotta get them while the gettin’s good. If not, you will most likely lose out on your chance to recruit these characters for quite a while.

All F2P games have a gimmick that encourages the player to spend real currency to get ahead in the game. FFRK is no exception, I’ll admit, but at least it doesn’t feel as problematic as, say, Panda Pop. Nor do you have to pay money to get rid of frustrating ads that spam your screen in other F2P games. One highly-sought after item in FFRK is Mythril, It has multiple purposes, but the main thing I use it for is to do rare relic pulls. If you acquire 5 Mythril, you can use them for a shot at acquiring super rare character specific weapons.  So far I only have Wakka’s 5-star weapon, but it immediately transformed him from a punk to a pro. And I haven’t even leveled it up yet! Needless to say, if you’re impatient to get more Mythril (or, like me, frustrated with all the crap you’ve been getting) you can spend real money to gamble some more. I spent $9.99 to get 3 relic pulls, and it got me Wakka’s weapon and a Genji Shield. Totally enough to satiate me… for now.

So, not only is Record Keeper the first F2P game I’ve become addicted to, it’s also the first I’ve spent real money on.

I honestly don’t know how anyone growing up playing these games could NOT like it. Record Keeper is definitely the most addicting FF game I’ve played in years. It has the endearing 8-bit music and sprites, the turn-based system that I miss, and a steady stream of content and grinding that keeps me coming back for more. I can guarantee that as long as DeNa and SquareEnix keep supporting this game, I’ll keep playing it.

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Shovel Knight Review

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I wish I could insert the sound effect that goes along with this pose.

Shovel Knight is, simply put, an entertaining breath of nostalgic air. Imagine, if you can, an 8-bit retro game inspired by the likes of some of our favorite NES platformers; Megaman and Super Mario Bros. 3 were two titles from my gaming past that I kept experiencing deja vu moments for while playing Shovel Knight. I never played Duck Tales, but the Shovel pogo-ing is unmistakable.

I’m happy to report that Shovel Knight is more than just a sum of its parts. On its own merit, it is a wonderfully crafted adventure, in which you can feel the dedication and love pouring out of its development. Yacht Club Games didn’t stop at just creating an 8-bit platformer to get NES gamers like myself to buy it. They went above and beyond to create a genuinely great game that stands on its own two feet. They could have just settled on 8-bit  graphics and music. Yet every screen has amazing color contrast and texture work, and every song is a catchy beat you’ll be humming long after you’ve turned the game off.

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Hard to believe he sleeps with that helmet on.

Shovel Knight truly is a game that would challenge anyone who doesn’t think 8-bit graphics can be aesthetically pleasing.

The world map is presented as a near clone to Super Mario Bros. 3, with progression locked until you defeat certain bosses. There are two villages you can visit to speak with NPCs and purchase upgrades, and the side-scrolling is reminiscent of LoZ 2. Health upgrades can be obtained by turning in meal tickets, while your magic capacity, weapon and armor upgrades are purchased with good old fashioned gold. I wasn’t entirely crazy about having to return to town to change armor (each armor has different features and changes Shovel Knight’s appearance). Magic in Shovel Knight is really using secondary items called relics. Each relic will use a certain amount of magic, and when your magic is out you’re stuck  unless you pick up an item to fill it. The more you upgrade your magic, the more you can use without needing to refill it. And there are a lot of different relics to collect for how short this game is.

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Yeah, this guy is a dick.

The stages themselves take the Megaman approach; 8  bosses to defeat and all! Clear a certain Knight’s stage and defeat the Knight. Unlike Megaman, defeating a Knight does not grant you with an “I Win” button to use against the next boss. In this game, you don’t get crazy weaknesses to exploit, giving more trial and error to boss fights that surpasses Megaman’s “Okay, time to find the boss weak to fire! Gee, can’t imagine who it could be!”

Instead, we get checkpoints! Checkpoints abound! One great aspect about Shovel Knight is that you can decide to make the game more difficult, therefore more faithful to some of your favorite NES games if you so choose. Checkpoints are splattered throughout each stage. If you die, you lose a handful of gold that you can retrieve by picking it up again. If you’re feeling ballsy, you can DESTROY your checkpoints for a decent wad of gold, meaning you must start even further back (or at the beginning) of the stage. I’m not the sort of person to partake in difficulty challenges nowadays, but I give the developers a nod for coming up with a clever compromise between old school difficulty and the current gaming trends of abundant checkpoints.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may have noticed that here at Hardly Hobbies, we love it when a game pokes fun at itself. Shovel Knight’s dialogue is filled with humorous puns and pokes at the cheesy, poorly-translated games of yore. SK takes it’s medieval theme and runs with it, creating hilarious dialogue that will help you unwind after getting worked up over the boss that killed you five times in a row.

And you will die. Shovel Knight isn’t insanely difficult, but it does have a handful of stages that rely on practice and memorization, particularly with shovel pogo-ing. Thanks to not having a set amount of lives, and (usually) generous checkpoints, I didn’t experience any of the rage I get when playing old school games.

Now that Shovel  Knight is being ported to systems outside of the 3DS and Wii U, I’m hoping it will receive a lot more support. It’s a fantastic game, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys 2D platformers. And shovels.

Final Fantasy XV Demo First Impressions

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Feast your eyes on the latest computer-rendered J-pop boy band!

Hubby and I played through the FFXV demo offered with Final Fantasy Type-O a week ago. It supplies hours worth of content to familiarize yourself with and practice the battle system if you’re so inclined. Unsurprisingly, they’ve completely abandoned turn-based battle mechanics for an action-RPG free-for-all open map style. At least FFXIII pretended to be turn based. But, sigh, it seems that SquareEnix aren’t interested in keeping that tradition alive.

As you’ve probably seen in articles or heard in discussions, the cast of playable characters is a sausage party. No tacos allowed. The player controls Noctis, some sort of Prince, and guides around his infuriatingly character trope-filled bro squad. Their outfits are offensive and obnoxious, but not more than the only female character you have meaningful interactions with; she’s a female automobile mechanic who dresses like Megan Fox in her introduction scene in the first Transformers movie. Apparently it’s acceptable in this newest Final Fantasy world for women to show up at work in a GARAGE with their T&A hanging out.

So anyway, we’ve got a prince on the run or something with 4 obnoxious dudes and a broken down car. In order to raise the gil necessary to get it fixed, they decide to chase after a bounty. This particular bounty is on a mean ol’ disfigured, blind in one eye Behemoth. Don’t let his worthless eye and missing horn fool you; he still stomps the floor with these rank amateurs. Then he has the audacity to make you stealth follow him back to his lair.

Yes, you read that correctly: in a demo that, I assume, is supposed to make you WANT to purchase a game upon release, they incorporate a stupid “follow this AI and if it detects you, you have to start over” segment. Are you kidding me?! I kinda wanted to boycott the game more for that than having no good excuse for omitting playable female characters, but then my husband went and pre-ordered it anyway.

Why did he pre-order it?

Not because of the combat system. It’s limited in the demo (when characters level you’re reminded that techniques aren’t available) but you still get a pretty good idea of what it is about. While it isn’t terrible, it is needlessly complicated. It takes a little getting used to, plus the lock on doesn’t really work. The menu says it’s a lock on, but it sort of just moves the camera in the enemy’s general direction. It doesn’t follow them or anything useful like that.

And we’re certainly not in it for the character customization. From the looks of it, the player is only able to control Noctis in combat, and he’s the only character you can equip or do anything with. I don’t think it’s just the demo; I seem to recall reading something about this development decision earlier. If that’s the case, I’m not too crazy about it. We all know how reliable companion AI is in most video games. *Insert eye roll.*

I was at the point where I was getting the similar “Another game with boring, padded map exploration” vibes, about ready to write off FFXV as something not worth more of my time, when this happened:

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Take a close look at his clenched left fist…

Then this happened. Ramuh descended from the heavens to give the Behemoth, (and from the size of it, the entire friggin’ continent) a hefty dose of Apocalypse-style Judgment Bolt. It was enormous and absolutely beautiful. It was the way I envisioned summons should have always been. The most grandiose spectacle I’ve seen in a Final Fantasy game in a long time. After Ramuh had his way with the Behemoth, both of us were staring at the TV in shock, incapable of saying anything besides “Oh my God,” and “That was f***ing awesome.” Having played FF games in their 8-bit glory, this astounded us.

Ramuh’s impressive entrance aside, the demo was so-so. After Inquisition I’m really leery of games with a lot of map wandering. I suppose this means I’ll be playing FFXV for the summons and my franchise loyalty that refuses to die, no matter how many times I try to kill it.

Dragon Age: Inquisition Rant

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Fear my glowing green palm of death!

Steve-O and I finally wrapped up our Dragon Age: Inquisition run a couple of weeks ago. It’s taken me longer than usual to sit down and write this because A.) I had two shorter posts to write, and B.) I wasn’t entirely sure how to properly convey my feelings towards this game. I think the best way to come out with my feelings is to say that I did not completely fall in love with this game like the rest of the internet appeared to have. Aside from complaints about the glitches we come to expect from Bioware games (more on that later), everything I read sang praises about Inquisition. Good story, great characters, excellent battle system, lots to do… So what’s not to love?

Part of me feels like Bioware went overboard with their response to gamer complaints about how limited the setting in DA2 was. Yes, it was a lot of repeated maps and having Kirkwall as the only city was cheap and snooze-worthy. But you know what else is snooze-worthy? Spending 5 hours wandering the same map collecting mats and shards, especially after taking a half-hour detour to get from point A to point B. Between the pointless map wandering and real-time war table quests, you can’t tell me Inquisition isn’t chock full of padded game play hours. I love sandbox games, don’t get me wrong, but make all my wandering at least somewhat engaging. I was bored to tears after an hour of exploring maps to gain Influence that I didn’t really need every time I sat down to play. After suffering through the first couple of maps we committed to doing what we had to do to kill all the dragons and be on our way.

Speaking of the dragons, aside from their elemental weaknesses, the fights are all very samey. For a game titled Dragon Age, you’d think some more work would’ve gone into making the dragon fights feel more varied and exciting. Basically, you fight them to get the loot and that’s it. No epicness is truly felt here.

There’s no epic feelings with the dragons or with the story. Having played DA:O and DA:II I can safely say that the story falls somewhere in the middle between how awesome Origins was and how bland II was. The writers didn’t do themselves any favors by incorporating half-assed time travel crap and a completely cliche main villain. A baddie who wants to be the newest all-powerful god in town? Join the club, buddy.

I think one of the things about Inquisition that irks me the most is the supporting cast. I’ve come to play Bioware games for the characters more than the overall narrative. Sadly, I didn’t like ANY of the new characters. Not a one. Hell, I liked the cast of DA:II better! At least in DA:II the characters I disliked fell into a “Love to Hate” relationship status with me (Aveline) and there was none of that here. The only characters I was interested in were from previous entries: Leliana, Varric, and Cassandra… all, coincidentally, characters we didn’t have the option of romancing either due to our gender or because Bioware says so. We flirted with the idea of romancing a couple different people, like Sera or Josephine, but they eventually turned us off so we decided to fly the game solo.

Plus, we were pro-mage and basically no one else is. Even the mages themselves were against my actions when I expressed favor for freeing the mages. Yeah, makes total sense. Bunch of self-loathing assholes. Vivien can piss up a rope. I can’t stand her.

That’s right: Inquisition is the only Bioware game I’ve played where I did not partake in romancing a character. Compare that with Origins, where I romanced everyone, or Mass Effect, where I was fiercely loyal to Liara (to the point of obsession) throughout the entirely trilogy.

Compounding these complaints with the horrific experience we had the last two nights we played the game really soured our taste buds. The second-to-last evening we spent with Inquisition we partook in the drawn out, fancy-schmancy ball, where our Inquisition rubbed noses with royalty and tried acting like the upstanding citizens we weren’t. Anyway, we had a glitched door that would not load the next room which was, you know, required to proceed with the game. Thinking it was an issue with switching to the digital version from the disc, we deleted the digital version, re-installed the game disc, and played. We researched the issue online (evidently the geniuses at Bioware screwed their game up even further with one of the patches). Realizing our issue was due to a patch and not the way we were playing, we switched back to digital, only to be met with our game refusing to load, period. It wouldn’t work the rest of the night.

We never found out what happened, but the following morning after my PS4 updated it worked fine. Scared that we would lose over 60 hours of progress to more bugs, and getting bored with the game, we decided to plow through the main story mission and move on with our lives.

For this, we were rewarded with two slaps to the face.

First, we made the mistake of trying to bring Cole with us. News flash: If you don’t do his personal quest, you don’t get to use in the final battle. Ugh. Okay, fair enough. But, and here’s where I thought my head would combust, THEY DON’T ALLOW YOU TO GO BACK TO THE INVENTORY AND TAKE HIS GEAR OFF!

In what world does that make any sense?!?!

And because we had no one besides our actively party appropriately geared, we ended up bringing a naked Sera into the FINAL BOSS FIGHT.

And guess what?!

We STILL had the glitch where the final boss fight–ya know, the part of the game that’s supposed to be all super climactic and shit– became broken because we damaged it too quickly.

Yes, you read that correctly. We did too much damage to the final boss before some invisible time frame with a NAKED ROGUE. I’m sorry Bioware, was I not supposed to explore your large, boring maps and do your countless, boring side quests to get better gear and level my characters? I kinda thought that was the point of open-world games.

In the end, we had to reload the game and I picked my nose while the rest of my team whittled away at it because I was too scared to break it again.

Google it, it’s a real glitch. Along with the previous one I mentioned. That’ my friends, is Triple A, Game of the Year material.

I am dumbfounded, to be honest. And I’m also reliving the tragic experience I had with Skyrim when I literally couldn’t beat the game until a patch came out to fix my terrible luck with broken games. Know how I responded to Bethesda for releasing a broken game? I boycotted them.

Now I’m terrified the new Mass Effect with be a broken, glitchy, padded game with boring characters and a lackluster story. And that makes me a sad panda.

Because I really want to play Mass Effect, and I really want it to be good. Like I wanted this game to be as good as everyone said it was.

Plus, if I boycotted every developer that released a broken game I’d be playing nothing but retros and indies. But I guess that’s a tale for another blog post.

Telltale’s Game of Thrones, Episode 3: The Sword in the Darkness

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Finally, some fire-breathing action going on this episode!

The halfway point in Telltale Game’s Game of Thrones series is more engrossing and entertaining than the previous episode. There were some interesting goings-ons, what with the purple wedding and Daenerys making a cameo appearance at the end. At the Wall, we were also treated to an interesting reveal from one character before Gared found his balls and finally gave someone something they deserved.

The same cannot be said for House Forrester. Episode 3 continues with the Forrester family taking it up the butt from the Whitehills; who are, at this point, becoming more cheesily over-the-top insulting than the jocks in Glee. It’s starting to feel forced at this point. Yes, as lord of the house you can talk back to them, but it serves little purpose besides saving the player’s ego  before getting thunder-kicked to the floor again. I’m hoping against hope that we can start giving the Whitehills a bit of what they deserve starting next episode, because the high school level bullying is getting old. I get it, they’re being jerks, can we move on now?

As with Episode 2, Asher’s screen time was the most entertaining for me. He has another fun battle scene, except this one is flavored with a hint of dragon. Daenerys’ missing dragon, to be precise. Spoiler: Daenerys is this episode’s famous face. And her character model looks really good. Like, really, really good. There’s something about the other HBO show characters that are off to me with this art style, but Daenaerys is perfect.

We accidentally played on the wrong save file, and I actually want to play it again to see how one crucial aspect differs. Normally I shrug and say, “It all melds together in the end.” But this time I’m actually anxious to see the difference. If that doesn’t show I’m invested in this game, nothing does.