Tag Archives: Square Enix

50 Hours In, Still In Love With Kingdom Hearts 3

I’m just shy of 50 hours into KH3. I know I’m at the last possible point before the final boss, so I’m out grinding and finishing all the sidequests I want to do beforehand. So I know the end is near, at least for now, assuming there is DLC coming later on.

And I’ve gotta tell you…it was well worth the wait.

I’ll obviously talk more about it once I’ve completed the game, but man oh man am I in love with this game. There may be less in terms of worlds, but the quality of these worlds is nothing short of incredible. For example, the Toy Story world has mech combat and the Pirates of the Caribbean world have ship battles. It’s not what you’re used to in the series where you drop in, smack smack smack, boss battle, smack smack smack, all right, all done, move to the next world. These worlds, some more than others carry major differences that make them easily to differentiate, thus making them more memorable.

The combat still hasn’t soured on me either, thanks large in part to the unique keyblades. No longer just stats, each keyblade has extra forms to it, ranging from a spear, blasters, to even yo-yos. Adding all the flowmotion moves (which admittedly I cut out from Sora’s ability list late in the game to make room for more stat bonsuses and combo extenders) and the variety of special moves and combos you can generate with magic, keyblades and your teammates, it makes KH3’s combat the best it’s ever been. Also I’ve had no noticeable frame drops, so man has it been fluid.

Lastly though, since I want to keep this post as spoiler free as possible, thus the shorter post, man the story has been really good at the very end. The Disney stories for the most part are just re-tellings of the source material, but after clearing all the Disney worlds and getting to the meat and potatoes of the Dark Seeker Saga ending, man oh man has it struck the heart a couple of times. All I can say is, if you’ve kept up with the series as a whole, you won’t be disappointed by all the loose ends as they’re being closed. The story is still a mess, as the KH series has always been known to be, but there are definitely some memorable moments here, two in fact (back-to-back no less…) that made me nearly cry.

But all in all, as I strike the 50-hour mark of this game, I’m not feeling like this was over-hyped, a disappointment, a bad game, hell I wouldn’t even say it’s really all that flawed, despite a couple things I can nitpick, which I’ll do in my final review. I’m feeling like this might just be my favourite Kingdom Hearts game in the series.

Then again, I haven’t played Kingdom Hearts 2 in over a decade, so I don’t really remember how I felt back then. I barely remember how I felt about games like Oxenfree, that I finished at the beginning of the freaking year.

But feeling as positive as I feel right now, I couldn’t ask for more.

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?

10 Hours In, Kingdom Hearts 3 Is Everything I Hoped It Would Be

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NOTE: This will be a spoiler-free article in terms of story.

As of writing this post, I’m just shy of 10 hours into the game. I’ve been slowly going through the story, having fun collecting things, messing around, etc etc. I’ve just arrived at my third world, the story really hasn’t started to show its hand yet, but the nostalgia factor is what’s keeping me running at full speed right now.

The moment I hit start and got the orchestral version of “Don’t Think Twice”, everything hit me all at once. All those emotions when I was in my mid-teens, playing the first two games. The music, the visuals, the combat, it all came back to me, like it had never left. Kingdom Hearts was back and not only was it back, but it hadn’t compromised its original state. Sure, it’s added more special moves, newer worlds and more, but the core of the series is still very much there. I don’t feel like I’m playing “the new and improved” Kingdom Hearts, I’m just playing an improved Kingdom Hearts.

First off, the graphics. Holy fucking shit is this game gorgeous. The mixture of current-gen limits, mixed with the vibrant, anime-like visual style that the series has always had, it looks absolutely incredible. In particular, the third world I’ve landed on, the Toy Story world, looks unbelievable. It definitely gives me the same reaction the trailers did, it legitimately looks like I’m playing a game within the confines of the film series.

The music is also very much the same to how it’s always been. Hearing familiar music from the first world of Olympus brings back the nostalgia, but also hearing this new orchestra version of “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” in the Toy Story world, it gives me an irresistible desire to have the biggest smile on my face at all times. But then again, when has Yoko Shimomura disappointed us?

Lastly, the gameplay. What can I say? They made it bigger and better. Wall running, more special moves, actual boss mechanics that isn’t just “hit this spot, then hit this spot” or just smacking the shit out of him. The Rock Titan as you saw in the trailers is a great example, there’s a lead-up to the boss, rather than just fighting a giant rock out of nowhere. The fighting is quicker, more chaotic, with more options that should make me so much better at the game, but instead I still get hit by everything cause I’m not paying attention to shit. I’ve gotta say, not that it would’ve been hard to top the gameplay of a PS2 game, but the fighting in KH3 is easily the best the series has ever had.

Hell, even the Gummi Ship sequences are kinda fun now and they’ve never been for me. There’s more exploration to these sequences, little collecting here and there, it adds just enough to be a pretty decent improvement, but still has a lot to be desired. I don’t like how there’s just one enemy alone in a massive range on the map and can only be attacked if in close proximity, to which it takes you away from the open space and resumes the classic sequence-driven fight. This should’ve been an open world with enemies littered around the map (apart from the couple ones that are situated on asteroids and don’t move at all) that you’d be fighting regularly as you flew around. But it’s still better than what it used to be.

So yeah, I’m really happy that I can say with a straight face that Kingdom Hearts 3 thus far, has lived up to what I had hoped for. Now I’ve seen many different reactions from people and I think they may have overhyped themselves in comparison to myself, though I’ll obviously have a more finite opinion once I get to the end of the game. But for now, it’s certainly what I wanted and I’m so relieved that this is the case.

Though admittedly listening to Haley Joel Osment, who is two months younger than me, still voicing a tiny teenager…it’s a little odd now.

Kingdom Hearts May Be Three Years From Release?

It’s been a running joke almost as old as the never-to-be-coming release date of Half-Life 3, but for Kingdom Hearts fans, the third (numbered) game in the franchise has felt even longer to them. And it appears now after a financial briefing for Square Enix, that wait may be even longer than we were expecting.

Ever since the first tease of Kingdom Hearts 3 at E3 in 2013, we’ve been patiently awaiting the release date of a game that has taken far too long to come out. Then 2014 came…and 2015…and 2016…but it’s 2017 now, it has to be coming out this year, right? Surely they wouldn’t announce a game that was going to take more than four years to come out, right?

Clearly you haven’t been paying attention to the games industry for very long.

At the financial meeting, we got a list of games that Square Enix had released before Q3 of this year, games they intend to release in the remainder of the year and games they intend to release after Q3 and beyond of 2018. Both the Final Fantasy VII Remake and Kingdom Hearts III happen to be on that least. This means at the earliest, we’ll get the Kingdom Hearts game we’ve been waiting for in July…next year! Over five full years since the first tease we got of the game! Square Enix President and CEO Yosuke Matsuda also added that they intend to release the games in the next three years, which means that (pending more setbacks) we could be waiting all the way until the next decade for the third game.

Let’s take a moment to consider that possibility. Square Enix, are you telling us that after we’re already sitting at 12 years (12 full years on December 22nd) since Kingdom Hearts II, we could actually be hitting over 15 years in between those two games?! To put this into perspective, can you imagine a series like Grand Theft Auto, Uncharted, hell even Final Fantasy going 15 years without a release?! Now people will make the argument that there have been Kingdom Hearts games released, but aside from a repack, what’s the last Kingdom Hearts game on a console? Yep, Kingdom Hearts II in 2005. Sure, there have been mobile games, handheld games, browser games, remasterings, repackagings, but at the end of the day we haven’t had a full console release in over 12 years and it could hit 15 years.

15 years for a series that has such a legendary name to it. It just doesn’t sound right…

Final Fantasy XV – First Impressions

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So I’m now 15 hours into the game, been playing at a slow and steady pace so far. Because I’m about this far, I figured I’d give my first impressions on the game as it stands after 15 hours of gameplay.

The Story

I’m only at Chapter 3, I haven’t gotten through much of the story as of yet. But given what I’ve played through so far, there’s not really anything that’s happened that’s turned me off of it. Granted as of right now, it’s a very basic evil invades your land, kills people, now go fight them kind of story, but in the little bits of story I’ve played so far, it’s progressed very naturally and hasn’t felt like elements and plot twists have been thrown in for the sake of throwing them in.

The World

While I haven’t reached a major city yet, the open world so far between Chapters 1 and 3 that I’ve seen has been nothing short of absolutely breathtaking. The idea of the initial areas being more open land with a few outposts here and there, like you’re travelling in those desolate areas between major cities. There’s enough variety so far as well, a desert, a beach, a forest, a crazy meteor-destroyed land that actually may just be one of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen in terms of world design. There’s a lot to love here and I can’t wait to get into the big city landscapes.

The Design

I’ve already talked about the world design, so let’s talk about the other pretty things in the game. The character designs are top-notch, which is a shame because at times it feels like the lip-syncing is not that up to par. But every character looks fantastic, their clothes are well-detailed, especially when in the elements, seeing their clothes get drenched from the rain really brings the realism to the whole package. Another little thing I like is when you use magic spells, the land will frost up a bit, or the foliage will char and burn when a Fire or Thunder spell is cast. It’s to be expected that a Final Fantasy game is downright gorgeous, but hey, that won’t stop me from gushing about it!

The Combat

I’m still not 100% sold on the system yet, a major reason being that I haven’t really had a unique battle yet and I’ve got a lot of skills left to unlock, so I’m not experiencing the game’s combat system at full capacity. I’m getting better and better as time goes on, being faster with warp strikes, getting myself into position for blindside attacks, all that jazz. However it’s very weird not having someone who can cast Cure spells during battle, your main source of healing is either warping to safety where HP heals faster or by the use of items. Also, in the early going here, it’s been way too easy for me and the party to get overwhelmed, especially when the Magitek forces come out, which I’ll get to later.

The Music

As of right now, the music is for the most part decent. It’s certainly not bad, but when you don’t really notice it some of the time, it’s hard to say whether that’s a good or a bad thing. Not to mention with the addition of various soundtracks in the Final Fantasy library added to your car’s playlist, it’s hard to really get a good sense of the new game’s music when you want to go on a nostalgia trip with the older music.

The Sidequests

There is a ton to do outside of the game’s story, to the point that I’m pretty sure I’ve spent far more time sidequesting than working on the actual story. How do I know this? Because the current story quest is Level 10…and I’m Level 22. There’s a lot to do, sidequests, hunts, finding food ingredients, treasures, fishing, there’s so much to do that you don’t really need to grind, you’ll do it naturally if you do all the sidequests. The one thing I have an issue with is the game opening up sidequests in areas you don’t have access to. I don’t know why they don’t unlock the quest until after you’ve done a main story quest that opens up the area where the sidequest lies. It’s weird getting a Level 26 quest when you’re only Level 15 and it’s in an area you can’t reach yet.

The Voice Acting

As of this moment, I have nothing bad to say about this game’s voice acting. The four main guys are gelling very well together, which is a relief as I was worried an all-male cast would drone on, but no these four mesh together so well, a collection of unique personalities. The addition of different accents too are fantastic, notables being Cindy (aka Cidney, I don’t care what the game says her name is, it’s Cidney to me!) with her southern belle accent, Sania with her Louisiana accent and Dino with his New York/Italian accent. It’s fantastic to have that kind of diversity in a game’s voice acting when we’re so used to just plain old American voices or if you’re lucky, an English accent.

The Little Negatives

  • Thankfully there’s fast travel, but it takes way too long to get to certain places by car in the game, especially when I haven’t even unlocked a good chunk of the map yet.
  • I do not like how you’re fighting other enemies and the game will just drop Magitek soldiers on top of you, it becomes really unfair and overwhelming at times.
  • I feel like there’s too much of an emphasis on either eating or having Ignis cook for you to increase your party members stats, whether it’s HP, attack power, resistances, experience bonus and more, especially when the best food is either really expensive or takes a lot of hard to find ingredients. I spend way too much time with low-stat bonus food in my stomach, my usual are the french fries just for the larger HP bonus.
  • The sudden cutscene at the end of Chapter 1 really comes out of nowhere and without any dialogue it carries zero weight when in actuality, it should mean a lot more.
  • I know they’re powerful spells, but to only craft as many as three casts per spell max is a little ridiculous.

So with all that being said, at this point in time I’ve gotta tell ya, it’s breaks my heart to say that after 15 long years of waiting for a good Final Fantasy game, I just don’t know if–

Ah, I’m just kidding, this game as of 15 hours in is fantastic and a huge relief for me given how sour I’ve been towards the series all the way from FFX to now. There’s a few rough patches in the game and I’m still not 100% sold on the combat, but this game is leaps and bounds better than FFXII and all three FFXIII games, it’s not even close. While I don’t feel the series has gone back to what made it great in the first place, it’s at least finally taking some steps to become a better game again.

First Impressions Rating: 8.5/10

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!

Will We Ever See A Kingdom Hearts III?

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So this is the current slate of Kingdom Hearts games coming out that actually have official release dates:

  • Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue – Jan 24, 2017
  • Kingdom Hearts HD I.5 + II.5 Remix – Mar 28, 2017

Keep in mind that the last major Kingdom Hearts game was Kingdom Hearts II and that was released on the PLAYSTATION 2!!! in 2005 (2006 in North America). I don’t count the handheld games like Birth by Sleep, 358/2 Days, etc., because I don’t look at them like major titles the same way I would about the first two PS2 games. They’re Kingdom Hearts titles for sure and they’re part of the whole complicated lore of the series, but they just don’t hold up like major releases to me.

So again, at least in my view, the last major Kingdom Hearts title was now over a decade ago! A decade! And it’s not like they haven’t released a single game in the series afterwards, much like the Half-Life series, no no no! Square Enix has released a grand total of five separate games if you’re counting the handheld games in Birth By Sleep, 358/2 Days and Dream Drop Distance, the mobile phone game Coded and the PC browser game Kingdom Hearts χ. Even if you’re only counting non-mobile and non-browser based games, Square Enix has still released three games in the past 10 years and on top of that, another couple remasters.

So that begs the question…WHEN THE FUCK IS KINGDOM HEARTS III COMING OUT?!

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Now I will give Square Enix some rope, they’ve at least in the past year or so, actually showed us that not only does it exist, but they’ve actually put some work into it! Not only that, but it looks like it’s been made recently, unlike The Last Guardian, which I’m sorry to say looks like a game that should’ve been out a decade ago. Kingdom Hearts III on the other hand, looks like a game that would be released in the present day, so there’s that bit of relief on the end of all fans of the series.

But at the same time, how in god’s name has it taken Square Enix over a decade to get a new major Kingdom Hearts title in production?! I’m sorry, Square, but your shitty excuses for three Final Fantasy XIII games ain’t gonna cut it with me. You’ve basically made a bunch of terrible Final Fantasy games (other than FFXIV, which I keep hearing is really good), a bunch of meh Star Ocean games, a few Dragon Quest games that you sometimes give to us here in North America and then you started making Western games, like Deus Ex: Human Revolution/Mankind Divided and Hitman. So you’ve made a bunch of lackluster JRPGs and some decent Western games. Maybe it is for the best you didn’t make Kingdom Hearts III until you started remembering how to make good JRPGs again, a la Bravely Default, even though you got confused as to how so many people liked it, because apparently you forgot what made you the juggernaut you are in the first place. But you’re showing promise now, so we’ll accept things for what it is.

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Do I have a bet on when Kingdom Hearts III will come out? No, because I ain’t putting money on shit, cause I will lose, guaranteed. But if I were to guess when we’ll see this game finally, I’m going to assume (for North America) Holiday 2018. I’m not convinced they’ve done enough work to have it done by the end of next year and I just feel like a Disney-related game is better suited for a near-Christmas release, so Holiday 2018 seems like a fair guess, assuming what we’ve seen isn’t literally the first thing they’ve made of the game thus far. But I wouldn’t be shocked by a Holiday 2019 release either. I want to hope that in the next three years, this will finally be in our hands.

We’ve been waiting over a decade for this game, it’s mind-boggling to me that we’ve waited this long for such a game when it was such a popular, money-making title for Square Enix. You’d figure that with them and Disney behind this series, they’d be pushing for major releases as fast as possible. It makes you wonder what’s gone on behind the scenes with Square and Disney, the various directors and producers of the first two games, etc etc. I don’t pretend to know anything, I’m not a journalist and I haven’t spent hours researching into this. From my point of view, I just see a game that’s at least five years overdue.

Hopefully it won’t be much further off now. I don’t know how much longer my heart can wait for a game I’ve already waited a decade for.

Character Spotlight: Kid

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One of the first female characters I can remember having a crush on was this beauty from the original PlayStation JRPG epic from Squaresoft (Square Enix), Chrono Cross. Kid for me is a great example of a female character early on in gaming that wasn’t too sexualized, is very strong and also very memorable, primarily for her speech.

I remember the first time I saw that FMV where we see her standing on a cliff, my teenage self got lost for a moment. She’s absolutely stunning, a tomboyish figure (always a plus for me), a really cool outfit, she just looks damn perfect. Then you get your first hit of that Australian-like accent in the text and you know you’re dealing with a girl that’s going to be a little different than the usual quiet, shy girl, the badass girl who doesn’t speak much, or the flirty girl that won’t shut up. For me, she was a whole new breed.

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In the game, Kid was a party member I kept at all times I could. If she was out, it was the only time someone else got brought into the #2 spot, otherwise it was a constant rotation of #3s. The second she was back from whatever kept her out of the party, she went right back in, no questions asked. In terms of battle, she wasn’t exactly the best party member to put in there, there were a number of other characters I could’ve used that would’ve probably been a better choice, but I was clearly biased towards her, there was nothing stopping me from putting this blonde bombshell into the forefront of my game. Everywhere I went, she was coming with me.

I won’t spoil a whole lot of her history, cause it’s a bit complicated so unless you know your Chrono lore, it makes zero sense to everyone else. But the idea that she had a whole lot to do with the entire history of Chrono Trigger was super interesting to me, especially when I replayed the game at an older age and understood half the shit going, I was clueless when I was younger playing this game. The game makes her important beyond the game she’s in, the story wrote her to be an integral part of the entire series’ lore, just like they do with the main character, Serge. That’s super cool to me.

fan art by Soumakyo
fan art by Soumakyo

Kid’s one of those characters that makes me wish the game got a complete remake, like Final Fantasy VII is getting. I would love nothing more than to see this beauty in full 1080p graphics, but most importantly, hearing her voice for the first time. To hear that accent would be the best thing ever, you know she’d be a total badass awesome girl in a game if it was released today. But I won’t lie, seeing that body in today’s graphics would still be off the charts hot. I mean, come on! Look at how good she looks in those FMVs! And that’s from the original PlayStation, we’re three more generations past that! She looked that good then! The outfit doesn’t reveal much either, the skirt doesn’t allow you to see anything underneath, so you’re left dreaming, but her upper half is just so perfect. She looks super well-toned with her stomach and chest and the cut up tanktop she has just completes it, it doesn’t even bother you that she’s got another layer on top preventing you from seeing her shoulders.

I absolutely adore Kid. She’s beautiful, has a phenomenal personality, isn’t just a pretty face in a game where there’s so many other characters that could’ve taken her spot otherwise. But most of all, she’s important to the entirety of not just Chrono Cross, but the entire Chrono series. She’s not just a cool character in a game, she’s the cool character in a game and a series.

And don’t tell her otherwise, or else she’ll kick yer arse so hard, you’ll kiss the moons!

Character Spotlight: Nel Zelpher

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That Nel’s one hot chick…just don’t tell her I called her that, specifically the ‘chick’ part. This Aquarian ninja from Star Ocean: Till the End of Time is a girl you don’t want to mess with. She’s loyal to those she serves, tough as nails, yet while she’s designed to be a badass girl in your party, I can’t help but look at her and see her as a total sweetheart more than a badass soldier. But hey, I’ll take both.

Nel’s a girl that I’ll be throwing into the group of legendary female characters like the ones already in the Character Spotlight articles, except she might be the one I have the least to say about. Why? Honestly, I never fully finished the game, so I don’t have full usage of the content and its storyline. But most of all, there’s really (at least when I’ve played the game) not a ton of things I can say about Nel that doesn’t just amount to “she’s gorgeous”, “she’s nice” and “she’s badass”.

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It’s also a testament to how forgettable she must be when this is the only well-drawn fan art I’ve ever seen of her. Which is surprising to me, because she’s absolutely stunning and as we’ve learned all throughout gaming and anime, that’s more than enough to have hundreds of well-drawn fan art of a girl. I chalk this up to not that many people playing the game as far as I’ve known, I can count on one hand how many people I know who’ve played it. Mix that with girls like Mirage and Maria also around to divert attention, you make it harder and harder to be paid attention to.

But for me, Nel steps ahead of the rest of those girls, hell I’d put her number one in Star Ocean, though Rena’s right next to her. I’m a sucker for red hair, her voice is the perfect blend of sexy and mature and most of all, while she could slit your throat in the blink of an eye, she really does come off like she’d be your best friend if she wasn’t on duty. I’ve never looked at Nel as a tough, hard to approach girl, even if she was intended to be so. She really does come off to me as a girl who once she’s home, settles down and is either just a calm, stoic woman, or an absolute adorable cuddlebug. Seems like it might be a little bit of both considering her friendships with Tynave and Farleen.

And there must be a little bit of a soft spot with this girl if an alternate costume is a maid outfit. No badass assassin’s wearing this without a mission-based purpose.

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So yeah, sorry this one’s shorter and I’m not gushing as much over this one, but Nel’s just that, a girl that I like, well…just cause I like her. Sometimes you don’t have a million reasons why, sometimes it’s just down to “she’s pretty” and “she’s nice”. Ain’t nothing wrong with that!

Game Spotlight: Kingdom Hearts 1 & 2

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It’s crazy to me to think that I scoffed at the idea of this game when I was first made aware of it. I was 14 when the game came out, though I didn’t know about it for another year or so and never played it until I was 16, as I was still running Nintendo 64 for a while. When I heard about it, it didn’t make any sense to me, a Disney JRPG from the guys who made Final Fantasy? Are you serious, bro?! I cast it away, even when seeing a friend play the now infamous Sephiroth boss fight. I couldn’t bear the idea of spending that much time with Donald and Goofy. But then when the greatest hits version released for $20, it was the best chance for me to try it out and at least see what all the fuss was about.

Turns out it’d become one of my favourite series of all-time.

(left to right) Tidus, Wakka, Selphie, Sora
(left to right) Tidus, Wakka, Selphie, Sora]

The tutorial didn’t do anything for me but the opening track was interesting. At this point in time I was yet to really discover J-Pop music, of course this game introducing me to my all-time favourite Japanese artist, Utada Hikaru. But once the game truly starts when you’re on the Destiny Islands, things started to pick up. For starters, they had two characters from at that time my most favourite game, Final Fantasy X in Wakka and Tidus. From there on out seeing other Final Fantasy favourites like Yuffie and Leon (aka Squall) really got my attention and once I was free to roam in Traverse Town that was it, I was hooked.

The battle system was insane to me, it felt like a JRPG except I was in full control of every attack, every movement. This blew my mind when I first played it and would only be expanded upon when the sequel later hit. But for the time being, I was absolutely dumbfounded how I could go from traditional JRPGs like Final Fantasy X to a game like Kingdom Hearts that felt very similar to me, yet was so different.

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Now one thing the game has that most fans will admit as a problem is the extremely convoluted and difficult to summarize storyline. For a game that seems like it’s partially marketed to younger players, the story is nearly impossible to follow at times, particularly the story that goes past just a single world. The entire story of Sora, Riku and Kairi, how this matches up with Terra, Ventus and Aqua, how Xehanort fits in with everything, the Heartless, the Nobodies, how Mickey f’ing Mouse falls into this, the story is all over the place, to the point that Eligible Monster who I know as a YouTuber who’s great a summarizing stories of entire game series even admits that it’s pretty much impossible to properly summarize the entire Kingdom Hearts story and timeline.

But at the very least when the stories go down to a single world, they work phenomenally well in tying together the original stories from these worlds such as Aladdin and The Little Mermaid with the new characters of Sora, Donald and Goofy being thrown in there in the middle of the story. And being able to have the leads of these films accompany your party makes it even cooler. Sorry, Goofy. Like I wasn’t going to have Ariel in my party and Donald’s the healer.

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Final Boss – Kingdom Hearts

The original game was a lot of fun, albeit with a few hiccups here and there. Some of the worlds were not that great, the camera and battle system could be sloppy at times and admittedly it was harder for me to get into characters that were so young, as I usually have trouble with games where characters are younger than 14. But the game was still solid and I had a ton of fun playing it.

Then Kingdom Hearts II came out.

Battle of the 1000 Heartless - Kingdom Hearts II
Battle of the 1000 Heartless – Kingdom Hearts II

I was already beyond pumped for this game. Massive improvements to everything I could possibly think of, plenty of new characters, both Disney and Final Fantasy, I was more than ready. I remember actually lying about an appointment to get out of class early so I could make the hour and change walk from my school to the EB Games in town and buy the game and be home before my parents so it wouldn’t look like I bought anything. I had to be pretty sneaky with my video game purchases when I was younger, something I don’t miss at all now that I live on my own.

I was a bit perplexed at first with the whole Roxas thing, mostly because at the time while I played Chain of Memories on an emulator, I hadn’t finished it, so I had no idea how Roxas tied into anything. But it was still a fun section to the game, although Setzer of all characters?! Think about that, Setzer is the only character from Final Fantasy VI that’s been in the series. Not even Kefka’s been in that series yet! But once we got back to Sora, I was good to go.

And then this moment happened later on:

Motherfucking Auron!
Motherfucking Auron!

As far as I remember, Auron (Final Fantasy X) is the only Final Fantasy party member you have if you don’t count the Sephiroth battle. Auron is your party member throughout your time in the Hercules universe’s Underworld (side note, James motherfucking Woods as Hades!!!) after fighting him briefly. Again, my favourite game at that point and the most badass character from it is fighting in my party. Sorry again, Goofy but you’re gone!

Some of the other worlds again were hit and miss, but this time around the gameplay held up in spades, every battle felt great, responsive and when the 1000 Heartless battle came around, you truly left that battle feeling like a motherfucking badass, didn’t you? Of course you did, it was fucking awesome!

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Kingdom Hearts as a series has been just so good. I haven’t played a lot of the handheld games, as I’m not huge on handhelds, but anything I’ve touched with that series name on it has been gold. And with Kingdom Hearts III hopefully coming out by the end of next year, it’s only going to get better.

Seriously, Disney + Final Fantasy. Who the hell would’ve ever thought it’d be so good?