Tag Archives: jrpgs

Yes, I Would Love A “Fantasy” Final Fantasy Game Again

Just a quick post, stemming from a comment at the Paris Fan Festival from the director and producer of Final Fantasy XIV, Naoki Yoshida:

“I’d like to see a Final Fantasy that is straightforward fantasy, one that doesn’t have much machinery, and with no mecha in it.”

Given how so many RPGs in general as of late are focused a little too much on the technology side of things, take the last few single-player Final Fantasy experiences for example, I am more than okay with this. It’s not to say that I don’t want to see a more tech-based Final Fantasy, but I think it’d be nice to go back to the classic setting that the series was first known for.

My first ever Final Fantasy game was Final Fantasy IV (or Final Fantasy II as it was known at the time in North America) and the game is definitely far more set in a fantasy world with fantasy elements. Sure there are airships, a spacecraft that gets you to the Moon and a hovercraft, but in this game, you are a knight who goes from town to town, castle to castle with a bard, several mages, a dragoon and other non-technology required classes. It was an incredible sight to me as a kid, I was seeing things I’d never heard of, nor seen before. I can’t imagine what my reaction would’ve been if my first FF game was the newest one in Final Fantasy XV and the first thing I do, is push a freaking car that ran out of gas.

Again, not to say I don’t want to ever see games like FFXV ever again, I think it’s just time that a lot of developers go back to that absolute fantasy era. Most RPGs that claim to be in a fantasy era are either taking from modern day technology or future technology, or they’re taking from our own past history and adapting that into a fantasy RPG. I don’t want stuff I know about or see on a daily basis, I want the awe and suspense of seeing things that don’t exist today, nor have ever existed.

I want to see floating cities in the sky, I want to see magical spells that defy all scientific knowledge. I would love to sit down and play a game where everything I know is thrown right out the window and everything I see challenges my brain not only to freak out about how awesome these things are, but make sense of it all.

After all, is it really a “fantasy” if I’ve seen everything and understand it?

Is Suikoden Coming Back?

So apparently Konami has relaunched their Suikoden website for the first time in over 5 years. There’s no reason as to why as of this point, but there’s many ideas floating around:

  • Suikoden or Suikoden II being featured on the PlayStation Classic
  • A digital re-release of the original two PS classics on PS4
  • A remaster of either or both of the original two
  • A new Suikoden game altogether?!!!

I did notice on the website that it mentions every game in the series, so I wonder if that could possibly mean that a potential compilation disc could be released, featuring all five of the main games in the series.

Personally, that would be fantastic for me. I’ve played through Suikoden IV and V, got a little bit into III, but never finished it, but most importantly, I’ve never played the original two, which most fans of the series call the two best. I would love to be able to check out these games, as I’d have a physical copy of the original games already, but have you seen the price of Suikoden II?! It’s like 200 bucks, minimum!

I own all three of the PS2 games and am glad I got my hands on them, but man if there was a re-release of all five games and I didn’t have to dust off the ol’ PS2 to play them? Well, I mean…my PS4 is dusty too, but that’s not the point! Being able to replay the two I’ve beaten, attempt to finish the one I never finished and then play the two originals that I never got a chance to play, as I missed the original PlayStation as a long-time owner of a Nintendo 64 before moving onto the PlayStation 2…

…Yeah. I’m 100% behind that!

 

5 Things: JRPGs I’d Love To See Remastered

This is 5 Things, a series of articles where I take a topic and take the five biggest options from that very topic. This could range from “Songs That Weird Me Out” to “Video Games I’ll Never Tired Of Playing Over Again”, that kind of stuff.

I’ve been wanting to do this for a while now, just haven’t gotten the time to write it until recently (and also I forgot this saved article was even here, it got buried in my other drafts), so here we are. Obviously with Final Fantasy VII getting the full remake treatment and the same now being said for Secret of Mana, I’d love to point out other JRPGs that I’d love to see get the same treatment.

So without further to do, here’s five JRPGs (in no particular order) that I’d love to see get a modern remake:

First one that jumped out in my mind. I’m just going to say it right now for all the Chrono fans out there…I don’t want Trigger to have an HD remake. It’s perfect as is, let’s leave that game as one of the few we don’t overhaul.

As for Cross, it’s one of my personal favourite JRPGs of all-time and one that is under-appreciated and underrated, so what better game to give the HD remake treatment so new players can get their hands on this classic. It’s a game that I will forever love, but man oh man does it look rough as shit nowadays, though let’s be honest, EVERY game on the original PlayStation looks horrific nowadays, just ask the Nintendo 64 nostalgic.

Look, I’ll be honest…I just really want to see Kid looking gorgeous in 3D. She deserves it.

An SNES Classic (no, not the mini-console), Super Mario RPG was the game that opened the door to already established franchises going the RPG route. A game that to this day I cannot believe has been re-released on handhelds and a game that to this day I still can’t believe was so damn good, proving that back in the day, Squaresoft actually knew how to make really good JRPGs.

Now in the case of Super Mario RPG, I’m not necessarily saying it needs a complete overhaul. I don’t think the game would work with a change of viewpoint, instead I’d just prefer the graphics to be smoother, sleeker, like a fresh coat of paint. If we could have Super Mario RPG looking like what Mario games look like now on the WiiU and the Switch, I’d be down for that!

I need more Peach slapping the shit out of stuff in my life.

For the sole reason that I have never played this game and I have heard so goddamn much about how good this game is, the best in the series according to so many fans of the illustrious series. I’ve played the third game and finished the fourth and fifth, but I think they’re fine as is. I would love to see this legendary game not only get re-released, but get brought into the modern age with a nice little graphics overhaul and some voice acting along with it.

It’s a shame though, because it seems like the Suikoden series has completely died off, as the last game in the series was Tierkreis for the DS in 2009 and the last main game in the series was back in 2006. Hell, Japan hasn’t gotten a new game in the series since 2012. I need some Suikoden back in my life, man!

Besides, what other games out there give you 108 party members?!

Another legendary PlayStation JRPG and another one that I never finished and could use an excuse to actually complete it. Dragoon was a game that I remember being told so many times during the PS2 era about how I missed a gem in that series, especially after playing so many other PS original JRPGs before it. So I found a copy for a decent price finally and popped it in. Except I maybe played 5-10 hours of it and something came out brand new and completely diverted my attention away, cannot remember for the life of me what the game was.

The aesthetic of the game alone would look fantastic with modern-day graphics, holy shit the architecture alone would look incredible on the PlayStation 4. And I mean come on, don’t tell me you wouldn’t love to see that armor in crazy-detailed textures!

They look as sharp as Cloud’s hair…

I know it sounds like the Pokémon series will be finally getting made for the Switch, which is long overdue for console Pokémon games to make a return. But come on, you tell me that Switch sales would go out of this fucking world if they not only re-released the original 150(+1) Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow game on Switch, but completely overhauled it so that it looked like a completely brand new game.

For the younger audience, the original Pokémon game is a thing of legend. Sure, it got re-released on GameBoy Advance, but that was still 13 years ago! Both old and new fans would love nothing more than to kick the shit out of Douche’s—oh wait, I mean Gary’s pathetic lineup of Pokémon in high-definition. Just being able to see all the original towns and roads in remastered HD glory would be unbelievable and something any Pokémon fan would be foaming at the mouth to see and play.

And at last you’ll be able to see if Mew was actually hiding underneath that fucking pickup truck all along!


So that’s it for this edition of 5 Things, I hope you enjoyed it. As always, make sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below and of course bring up JRPGs you want to see get the HD remake treatment as well.

A New Atlus JRPG? Sign Me Up!!!

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So this Tweet came out less than 24 hours ago:

Obviously for those who don’t read Japanese (or in my case, don’t have the translation readily available), Atlus has announced that they are making a new JRPG series that isn’t a part of the Persona or Shin Megami Tensei series of games, this will be a completely new IP, or as they call it “a new challenge”.

The artwork above is the only image we have so far for reference, but as reported by Famitsu, the game will have more revealed in the next week, but what we do know is that the game will be a more fantasy-setting RPG and the game will be directed by Persona 5 director Katsura Hashino. So if Persona 5 is as good as I’m hearing from Japanese game journalists, that’s a fantastic start.

I’ve always been a huge Atlus fan, but once I got my first taste of the Persona series with Persona 3 on the PlayStation 2 in 2006 (crazy to me that game is now 10 years old!), I was completely sold on Atlus. Have they made a consistent lineup of great games? No, but I have not been burned by them either. I loved the Persona games, including the Arena fighting games, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, while not the best JRPG I’ve played in a while, it’s still solid, Demon Souls’ while I didn’t get too into it, kickstarted a whole new series that is beloved and Dragon’s Crown is a gorgeous, solid game (that pissed off a lot of people with H-cups).

So for Atlus to be taking a shot at something new, I’m absolutely excited to see how it goes. The artwork already interests me as well. Come on! It’s a hot red-haired elf girl in full armor! She looks so badass!!! I’m already in and can’t wait to see how the project is actually going to look.

Top 10 Atlus Games

With Persona 5 stuck in my head right now, I thought what better Top 10 to have than the tremendous library of games Atlus has developed and published. I could do a Persona-based list, but that’s something better suited for closer to Persona 5’s April 4th launch next year. So Atlus games it is!

Now remember, this list is of games I’ve actually played. There will probably be a few games missing that you guys are like “WHAT?! HOW IS THAT GAME NOT ON THIS LIST?!” and that’s why, I haven’t played them. I wish I could have played every single game ever made, but y’know the whole money thing. And time. And my sanity.

Anyways, here’s my personal top 10 Atlus games!

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Cue the eyebrow raise from everyone! But actually, I really liked this game in an era when I was in my early teens and I still enjoyed tennis games whether it was more realistic or more arcade-like. Hard Hitter Tennis for me was a pretty solid tennis game that always challenged me enough to keep coming back to it and the fictional characters in the game were all very unique and different. Hell, there was a girl in that game who looks suspiciously like a dude. There was a little bit of everything in the game. It’s not anything super special, but it was fun enough for me to include it on this list.

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I was such a sucker for this game when it came out. The art style is so perfectly cheesy and colourful and the idea of this over-the-top dodgeball game coming out with an anime-like art style to it, it was so perfect to me. The game was varied enough and offered enough of a challenge to keep the average player interested long enough to get their moneys worth. And come on! It’s dodgeball! How many dodgeball games have ever been made? To be honest, this is the only one I can come up with from the top of my head.

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Now while these games kicked my ass and then some, the first entry into the Souls series in the PS3 game Demon’s Souls, I can’t deny just how polished a first entry into what became a resurgence of a genre of hardcore, challenging game that Demon’s Souls was. I still hate it because it grabbed me, bent me over and spanked the shit out of me, but it’s a love-hate relationship. Though ever since that game, I haven’t really been able to get into any other of those games.

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I remember when I saw this game for the first time, I thought it was an ingenius idea. Both the Wii and DS versions in this series were such a great idea to me, motion controls or a touch screen allowing you to do precision (well not really, but…) surgery sounded so damn cool! Then attach an anime art style to it, some ridiculous over-the-top anime bullshit with superpowers and stuff and you have a series of games that are a lot better than one would’ve expected.

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While a tough game to get into, especially for those who are used to the Shin Megami Tensei name being behind the Persona series, this game is still a very solid JRPG, it’s just suited for the more hardcore tactical JRPG audience who prefer a more dark and dreary kind of storytelling and universe surrounding it. I’ve yet to finish the game (because Destiny is so good at pulling me away from newer games), but the time I’ve spent with it has been fantastic and hopefully after writing this article, it’ll convince me to go back and finish it.

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It’s weird because I don’t remember much about this game, I haven’t played it or looked at it since I got it on release day in 2005. That’s 11 years where I haven’t played the game, or even seen screenshots of the game. By Google Image searching the game, I remember bits and pieces here and there, the combat system, some of the characters and especially the beautiful anime art style. What I can tell you for sure though is that when I played and finished this game (real quick cause I couldn’t put it down), at the time it was definitely one of my favourite games, I loved the hell out of it!

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I love the Persona series. I also love the Arc System Works 2D fighting games such as the Guilty Gear and BlazBlue series respectively. So what do you think happens to me when both come together? Yep, I break my golden rule of not pre-ordering games. Both the first and second entries into this series have been some of the best fighting games I’ve ever played, rivaling games like Guilty Gear X2Super Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat (remake) and many other fantastic fighters. The art style is so perfect, the music is fantastic and the game has arguably the best story mode ever in games, unless you hate visual novels as a style of storytelling. But if you’re into Persona and even if you’re not too big a fan of fighters, this is worth a play and then some. 

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Speaking of things mixing together, THEY MIXED SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI WITH FIRE EMBLEM!!! AGH!!! Upon hearing this concept, my mind blew. After cleaning up the brain juice on the floor, I was now waiting in anticipation for what would come out of this and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The art style is so goddamn good, especially considering this is on the WiiU of all consoles. The battle system is a great mesh of the Shin Megami Tensei with Fire Emblem elements (not the tactical overhead stuff, but the sword/axe/spear setup) and the characters are all very unique. There’s so much to love about this game and I’m so happy that this amazing crossover didn’t end in failure.

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Now we get to the good stuff. I can remember reading PlayStation Magazine and seeing this game getting an 8.5/10 rating. This is during an era where I was completely done with JRPGs because in the second half of the PS2’s lifespan, JRPGs were 95% shitty anime art games with a clunky battle system. So for anyone to rate a JRPG that high, that got my attention. Upon playing it, I was shocked by how much depth there was to this game, even today this game holds up so well for its story, characters, battle system and just how much there is to do in the game. While I’ve had trouble getting into the first two Persona games, Persona 3 definitely kickstarted my love for the Shin Megami Tensei name and certainly put confidence back in me for the JRPG genre.

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But then Persona 4 came along and not only improved upon the greatness Persona 3 already was, but completely shattered it. There were even better characters, better storylines, better sidequests, better battle systems, better world to explore, everything was better and then some. In fact, this game was so goddamn good, I’ve played through it more times than any post-PlayStation/Nintendo 64 era game, not just JRPGs, but all games. The only game I’ve played through more is Final Fantasy VI for the SNES, which is probably the only game I would put above Persona 4. It’s that good a game and if you’ve still not played it, you’re doing yourself such a major disservice by not doing so.


And that’s the list, thank you so much for reading this, I hope you enjoyed it!

If you have your own games that I’ve missed (likely because I didn’t play it), list it in the comments below. Keep the conversation going!

Saturday Morning Rant: Persona 5’s Delay

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To all those who are upset with Persona 5’s two month delay from its February 14th release to now April 4th…

Hi. I’m Adam aka CSRadical and a Persona fan like you, or at least I assume you are. So, uh…WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH YOU?!

The game is being delayed for two months. Hell, it’s actually less than two months, it’s 49 days. Seven weeks! How miserable is your life that waiting seven more weeks for a fucking video game is just too much to bear?!

Believe me, I’m disappointed that the game’s getting pushed back to April 4th. I’m not saying I’m 100% okay with it, but holy fucking hell I’m not throwing a temper tantrum and calling for Atlus and SEGA’s heads on a pike! The game isn’t being held back because SEGA and/or Atlus hate their fans, they’re not doing it in spite of anything, they’re fucking doing it to improve the game, especially in terms of the localization, which by the way is not the easiest thing to do, just ask the folks that were translating the Trails in the Sky series (here). How fucking stupid are you if you think they’re holding the game back for any reason other than making it better?! They want your money! They can’t get your money unless they ship the game out! They don’t break even from pre-orders, that just doesn’t happen, they have to release the game s people can spend actual fucking money on it!

Also, it’s not like they’re holding the game back two months and that’s it, they’re also apologizing to us fans by now adding dual-audio options in the game upon release. Not many games do this, having both Japanese and English voice acting available, it’s usually one or the other. But no, that’s not good enough, if Atlus and SEGA were truly sorry, they’d just release the game at my door right now and send me a legion of hot girls cosplaying as all the main Persona 3 and Persona 4 girls so I can have a massive orgy with them all. That’s the only acceptable solution, right?

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The game is going to be amazing, guys. Early reviews of the Japanese version are calling the game the best in the series and possibly one of the best JRPGs of all-time. If that’s the case, what’s another two months? If it’s that good, it’ll be more than worth the wait.

I love the Persona series. I’m willing to wait just a little longer if it means the next game after eight long years of waiting will be in perfect shape.

Final Fantasy XV Will Decide The Fate Of The Series

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The last time I fully enjoyed a “numbered” Final Fantasy game was Final Fantasy X. Let that sink in for a second, the last numbered Final Fantasy game I enjoyed was released 15 years ago. How many series can you think of where something like this happens AND you’ve stuck with the series regardless? I can’t think of any others, that’s for damn sure!

I played a little bit of Final Fantasy XI, but I didn’t know anyone who played it, so it became extremely difficult to keep interested with the game. I was indifferent to Final Fantasy XII, I never really fully enjoyed the game, it was more a game where I played it just because I was already so into the series, I just accepted a mediocre game. I’ve still yet to finish it too, I’m pretty sure when I stopped I was 80-90% the way through, I just turned it on one day and thought “Wait…what am I fighting for? Who am I fighting? Why am I fighting?” and without an answer, that was it, I put it down. I think my thoughts on Final Fantasy XIII have been echoed over and over again as well, I absolutely despise that series of three games (well, XIII-2 was passable) and they nearly killed my love for Final Fantasy completely. Lastly, even though I said I wouldn’t until it was free-to-play, I have played Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. I got a copy cheap in a Humble Bundle with a 30-day free trial, so I tried it out and it’s actually pretty fun, but I’m still not paying monthly for it.

All in all, since 2001, minus the odd side game here and there, Final Fantasy has been a thorn in my side, one that I wish every single day would get off its ass and be what it used to be.

Final Fantasy XV in my eyes might just be the last chance the series has to prove to me that it’s still got it.

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After a stretch of games where I was uninterested in the worlds, Final Fantasy XV at the very least at first glance more than intrigues me. It’s like the game is in the present day but it’s a Final Fantasy version of real life, monsters and boys with weird haircuts a’plenty! The idea of walking around in a world that looks so much like the present day, driving around in a badass car and then in the meantime stopping to fight giant monsters like I’m Nightcrawler with a sword? I’m in!

The battle system also has my full attention. I remember seeing the first official trailer for the game at E3, I believe in 2013? Regardless, seeing the battle system, looking like what would happen if you took the Kingdom Hearts battle system and made it even crazier with teleports and shit, I was beyond amazed and wanting to see more. After XII and XIII’s terribly boring battle systems, I wanted one of two systems in the next non-online Final Fantasy game. I wanted either Square Enix to revert back to the good ol’ days of the ATB system a la Final Fantasy X, or hell, let’s go back to Final Fantasy VI’s system, it’s still perfect today! The other system was what we look to be getting with the new game, a Kingdom Hearts-like battle system. I felt that XII and XIII’s battles were more like you were watching a game, rather than playing it and I was sick and tired of that. When games like Mass Effect can be these crazy deep RPGs and yet still have a very rewarding and engaging combat system, Final Fantasy has been struggling to have any semblance of fun in them.

But I did play the first demo of Final Fantasy XV and experienced the battle system. It’ll take some getting used to, but after that demo, I saw promise. Which is more than I can say about the last 15 years of Final Fantasy games.

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The one thing that does worry me is the main characters in the game. The main four are all male and the demo while short and light on actual story content, none of the four guys really grabbed me. In fact, the one character who had my full attention was Cidney (pictured above) and no, it’s not because of her outfit, so shut the fuck up, feminists. Cidney actually had a personality different than what I’m used to seeing in JRPGs, a more Southern-like personality. While the guys have the usual “I’m tough”, “I’m smart”, “I’m funny” and “I’m bored” cliche personalities, Cidney isn’t a cliched character. So my worry lies in the four men I’ll be spending the majority of my time with, worried that I will get tired of them before the game reaches its end. Because regardless how good a story is, how fun a game is, it’s really hard to keep playing something when you’re not attached to any of the main cast.

I also don’t feel like I can trust Square Enix when it comes to writing a story in a Final Fantasy game, after all it’s been 15 years since the last game that I felt had a good story. When games like Persona 3 & 4, Trails of Cold Steel, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt are RPGs with fantastic stories, Final Fantasy just isn’t anywhere near the quality that the best in the genre are at, and Final Fantasy is supposed to be the series at the top, yet as far as I’m concerned, they’re not even Top 5 today.

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So when November 29th rolls around, I have it pre-ordered, I will be playing it regardless of what people say, though from what I’ve heard by early reviewers, it hasn’t been bad. But this game my just decide whether I continue to play games in the series after this, at least in terms of the main franchise, games like World of Final Fantasy can still work with me, but if Final Fantasy XV is terrible to me, the chances of me playing Final Fantasy XVI will be next to none. I’ve been burned enough times, that my love of the series is now in question and if Square Enix decides to fuck with me one more time, that might just be it. I’m not the archetypical hardcore fan, I won’t stay through thick and thin, I’m not above outright leaving a series alone.

So Square Enix, the ball’s in your court now. Let’s see what you got!

Character Spotlight: Rean Schwarzer

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Generally speaking the lead character of JRPGs, especially when they’re male, they’re not exactly the brightest or the most interesting. They’re usually made to either be very bland so every player can associate themselves with him, or they’re designed to be way over-the-top, whether they’re super broody, super happy, or just super strong and tough.

Rean from Trails of Cold Steel doesn’t really fall into any of those categories. Yes, he’s skilled, friendly and a bit oblivious to when girls have feelings for him, but he is what most MCs are not: an actual leader.

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Rean is the adopted son of a lower-tier Baron of the town of Ymir. At this point it’s unknown who his biological family is and what happened to them, but he is a Schwarzer now through his adopted family and gained nobility based on this. However when first asked if he’s a noble or not, he says he’s not, as he honestly doesn’t view himself as a part of that culture and realistically isn’t actually of noble blood. Because of his adoption though, his adopted family was ostracized by the rest of the nobility due to them essentially adopting a commoner, though it’s still very possible he is of noble blood, we just don’t know.

Throughout the game, in particular the beginning, we see that Rean isn’t your typical main character of a JRPG. He establishes himself early on as someone who should be respected amongst his peers and more than capable of leading the party. After solving (sort of) the constant fighting between party members Jusis and Machias, the rest of the group begins to depend on him (or use him depending on how you see it) when it comes to similar issues, such as Laura and Fie’s quarrels, or the many monthly requests the student council gives him when no one else volunteers to help. Rean is so dependable that he’s essentially getting tasks and problems almost literally thrown at him because he’s the most capable of doing so.

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In battle, there’s definitely far more about him that we’re not privy to. He claims right from the very start he learned just the basics of the Eight Leaf Sword Style, yet he is one of the most capable fighters of the entire Class VII roster, including Laura and Fie who are juggernauts on the battle field. He also appears to have an unknown power within him that he uses twice the entire game which turns him into a white-haired, red-eyed powerhouse that he fears using for risk of it consuming him. However, by the end of the first game we know nothing about what this power is, where it came from and why he has it. We’re left to assume it has something to do with why he was found alone when he was adopted by the Schwarzer family.

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Lastly, unlike most male protagonists in a game where many lovely ladies exist (and believe me, there are a lot of them), Rean actually attempts to not fall into the usual trope of getting caught in situations where he would have to get a slap across the face, though he can’t avoid one of them, no matter how well he plays the situation (as pictured above). He tries his best when saving Alisa from a drop and she lands on top of him, he keeps his hands up where everyone can see them, but it doesn’t really matter, she landed breast-first on his face, there’s nothing he can do now, he’s screwed in Alisa’s eyes regardless. But it’s nice that over the course of the game, he doesn’t find himself in the girls’ changeroom, he’s not somehow in their hot spring when they all come out and he’s not walking in on any of the girls in their underwear. He still is a bit clueless with any of the girls expressing their feelings towards him (in particular Alisa and Elise, his adopted sister), but all in all, he’s designed to be a normal guy who has fighting ability and is a strong leader.

I’m not saying he’s the most amazing main character in JRPG history, but it’s refreshing to play through a game with a lead character that isn’t cringe-worthy or isn’t some dipshit, emotionless and usually voiceless MC that a lot of JRPGs tend to have. Rean is genuinely interesting and given that there’s two more games left before his story ends, I’m very interested to see where his journey goes.

Game Spotlight: Trails of Cold Steel

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I’ve been in desperate need of a good JRPG for a while now. Final Fantasy hasn’t been that great the past 5 years and XV isn’t ’till September, Persona 5 is still six months or so away and let’s be honest, unless the series is a big franchise, most JRPGs nowadays are basically shitty anime visual novels that have a scraped together RPG system in it.

Now I’ve heard of the Legend of Heroes series, in particular the Trails in the Sky series that has gotten a lot of media attention because of the long time it took to translate the first two games into English and getting onto Steam to rave reviews, though I’ve yet to play them. But I saw Trails of Cold Steel on sale for PS Vita and I haven’t used my PS TV since getting Persona 4 Golden, so I figured why not.

Holy shit was that a fantastic decision!

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Right off the bat, I absolutely adore the setting choice. It’s like if you took your basic high school anime and added a steampunk element into it, churning out a world where guns and swords can exist together AND you can still go to school with girls in short skirts. Though what I do appreciate is that the game does a very good job of barely sexualizing any of the girls, there’s no way to get even a glimpse of panties at any point in the game, the best you’re going to get is the odd time you’ll see the girls (other than Laura who’s consistent in this) wearing a standard one-piece race swimsuit and the one-time only hot spring moment. There’s no beach scene where the girls pull out their skimpy bikinis, there’s no catching the girls undressing, none of that exists here.

Even the main character has self-awareness and control when one possible ecchi moment takes place:

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The plot of the game is simple to start with, you’re a new student attending Thors Military Academy, one of the best institutions in the nation. You’re also one of nine students out of the entire first-year program to be put into a special “Class VII” (even though there’s no Class VI) and that’s where the interest of the game really comes in. This world has the old class system in terms of nobility and the working-class. Classes are separated into their systems, two classes are all nobles, the other three are all lower-class students. However, Class VII is a mixture of both, about half and half depending on where you place a couple characters, but there are three definite nobles in Laura, Jusis and Alisa, while Rean and Machias can kind of go between both sides. It’s a very realistic representation of a worst-case scenario in terms of the upper and lower classes, where there is clearly friction between both sides, the nobles being a bunch of snobby dickheads and the lower class being a bunch of bitter fucks. Though given what the nobles do over the course of the game, I give the lower class a lot more leeway.

Another thing about the plot that shocked me with how well it’s portrayed is in its political undertones. The struggles of a potential war starting, along with various factions fighting for power (aka the nobles being quite pushy) is not only displayed prominently over the course of the game, but displayed with realistic storylines, twists and hidden objectives that don’t insult your intelligence. Normally stuff like this would bore me because when it’s done terribly, it can be extremely tedious. But in Trails of Cold Steel, everything that happens of a political standpoint is done to perfection, you believe it’s plausible and the story is written around it in a way where it genuinely affects the plot and your party constantly, to the point you have to pay attention and can be very interested in it. It’s not some tedious storyline to read into, it’s actually very engaging and interesting the whole way through.

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The battle system is pretty polished as well. There are three basic attacks, your normal ‘Attack’ option, ‘Arts’ which are essentially magic spells and ‘Skills’ which are just more powerful weapon attacks. However, while Arts have their own EP bar, your Skills are tied to the CP bar which is also responsible for your special attacks, which you need at least 100 to perform, while having 200 makes the attack extremely powerful. So it becomes a strategic setup for you in how you use each party member. There are of course ways to regenerate CP (Rean and Alisa are good for that, not to mention the Impassion Art), but generally speaking if you want your special attacks ready, you best take it easy with using Skills.

What can be a little frustrating is how the game pretty much never lets you fully select your party until the very end of the game. Throughout the story, your class is cut in half to go on separate assignments related to this special class of theirs. And you have no control over who joins Rean (yourself) on these assignments, so you’re forced to make new parties every chapter. That can suck, especially if you have a party you really like, especially certain members, Eliot is a great healer and Laura’s a powerhouse, so whenever I lost one or both for a whole chapter, I was not a happy camper.

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The game really shines though with its cast of characters and not even just limited to your party members. The main nine all have something to offer, some more than others depending on what you’re into and what you can’t stand. I think out of the main cast, Jusis and Machias are really the only two weak characters, relegated to the role of the two boys that can’t stop fighting. Out of all the girls, Alisa is probably the worst, just due to her bratty attitude that she displays especially during the first couple chapters. But in terms of the main cast, there’s a ton of great characters to work with. Rean’s a fantastic MC and not just the usual dumbass guy who’s somehow capable of defending everyone. While the story happens around Rean, he actually figures stuff out instead of waiting for everything to reveal itself to him. Then you’ve got characters like Fie, who’s an adorable badass, Laura who’s an elegant powerhouse, Eliot who’s a general’s son, but very pacifistic and Emma who’s far more mysterious than you could ever know. But other side characters like Towa, the adorable student council president and Angelica, who may be my favourite character ever in a JRPG because she’s essentially the most perverted lesbian I’ve ever seen, they add to an already diverse and interesting cast.

Believe me, if the boys weren't around, those hands would be elsewhere...
Believe me, if the boys weren’t around, those hands would be elsewhere…

The only thing I can really complain about with the game is the end of this first of three in the series. I won’t spoil it outright, but for those who have played and finished the game, they’ll know what I mean when I say this.

The game does a fantastic job for the first 90% of the game, creating a world where the class system and politics roam as the dominant factors. Yes, there is another faction working against everyone during all this, but they’re kind of the side plot that acts as the game’s villains within the political standoff that is what I perceive as the main plot of the game. By the time all the loose ends seem to be tied up, the game suddenly changes its script completely and becomes something completely different to what you’ve worked towards the entire (for me) 100+ hours played. It’s like they decided to start a new game within this game and not give the player any warning about it. So by the very end of the show, not only has the entire complexity of the series changed, you’re forced to leave it all behind and watch an ending that really comes off like an Empire Strikes Back type of ending and it’s the kind of ending that I don’t think makes sense as the end of a first game. I mean, it makes the second game (which will be out sometime this fall in North America) really interesting, but I left the first game a little ticked off, feeling like I put in the work only to get fucked at the very end. It’s disappointing.

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But out of any JRPG that I have played since Persona 4, this is without a shadow of a doubt the best one I’ve played since the PlayStation 2 era. Trails of Cold Steel made me believe that JRPGs are still alive and well and with Final Fantasy XV and Persona 5 coming soon, not to mention I Am Setsuna already out and on my to-play list AND I’ve just started Tokyo Mirage Sessions as I’m typing this…I’m excited for JRPGs again! Because games like Omega Quintet and the many Final Fantasy XIII games, they turned me off of them for a while.

Trails of Cold Steel managed to win my JRPG heart back and they did it without being super ecchi and with the addition of politics of all things! That’s saying something! Play that game if you can, you will not regret it!