Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age

I intended to write about Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age when I was about halfway through it, but that didn’t happen.  Instead, the game completely took control of me in a way that few games do.  It is very similar to the weeks I spent enthralled by Breath of the Wild earlier this year. That doesn’t happen to me often, for it to happen twice in the same year is unusual.

 

Especially since I have already played Final Fantasy XII. It got me like this all the way back when it first came out.  I went to a midnight launch of the game at a Gamestop and played it pretty much nonstop until I beat it.  This remaster is largely the same game; very little of the content is changed.  The biggest changes are in the license board character growth system, since The Zodiac Age is based on the International special edition of the game that introduced job specific license boards instead of one identical one.  It’s a change I feared going in, thinking that it would upset the game balance by limiting the characters. While it does limit them, it also makes for more specialization. They are better at the few things they can do.  It takes for some adjusting, but all it really takes it knowing what abilities you have at your disposal.

 

Some of the game’s flaws are still there.  A lot of abilities are hidden in randomly spawning chests in dungeons.  That makes it really hard to make full use of your abilities when the best ones are hidden three quarters of the way through the game.  Some really great strategies are just impossible until you have the right skills, which even if you unlock them on the board you might never have.  I don’t know why they did it that way, but it is a very extent annoyance.

Still, I burned through The Zodiac Age in about a week of play.  In my head, FFXII turned into a slog about halfway through and dragged on way too long, like a lot of PS2 games did.  I did not find that to be the case this time.  I cleared the game in about 40 hours, which is about how long I like JRPGs to take.  I don’t mind the occasional 80 hour super-epic, but I prefer the Chrono Triggerian focused 25 experience.  FFXII fits right in between the two of them.  It is just about perfect.

The story does take a back seat after an action packed opening, but the world it task the player with exploring is the best.  I stopped caring that my task got kind of lost, because I was having too much fun exploring the caves and plains and beaches of Ivalice. There is just so much there, enough to keep anyone busy for at least as long again as playing through the story takes.  The world is the star of this game.

Honestly, though, I am a big fan of the story of this game as well.  It has one of my favorite casts.  Basch, Balthier and Ashe are all great characters.  A lot of people really don’t like Vaan and Penelo, but I find them inordinately charming.  Vaan positioning as the protagonist, even though he is not even close to the driving figure of the story, can be annoying, but the character himself is a lot fun.  His youthful exuberance is the perfect antidote to the often closed and jaded characters like Basch.  It takes more than a few cues from Star Wars, but Vaan is not the Luke of this story, he’s more like the R2D2.  A vital part of the team, but not really a driving force of plot. (the others match like this Balthier = Han, Fran = Chewie, Basch = Luke/Obi Wan, Ashe = Leia and Penelo = C-3PO) It gets a little lost in the middle, mostly because the story is split by vast stretches of land, it honestly holds together a lot better than I remembered.

Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is FFXII just like you remember it, much in the same way that the 3DS remakes of the N64 Zeldas are just like you remember them.  They are not as the game’s actually were, but they are close and everything that is different just removes annoyances to let you get at the great game that has always been underneath.  This remake is the rose tinted version of the game, minus a bunch of small complaints that didn’t even occur to players at the time.  I put up my Final Fantasy rankings a month or so ago and I stand by XII’s placement on the list. This game is one of the greats.

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Now Playing August 2017

Beaten

Lufia 2: The Fortress of Doom – I didn’t beat it, but I am done with it. I am sorry, I am going write up my experiences with the first half or so of the game.  One day I will get back to this, like I intend to go back to the original Lufia and several other SNES rpgs.  It just isn’t clicking with me right now and I don’t feel like dragging my 25 SNES project out any longer.  I will try to play Terranigma sometime in the next month or so, but my free time is severely constrained.

Ongoing

Persona 5

I started this up right after its release, but I really only got invested in it in the last few weeks. Right now, I don’t like it as much as I liked Persona 3, let alone Persona 4.  It isn’t bad, but it just isn’t captivating me the same way either of those two games did. That is likely as much on me as anything in the game.  Persona 4 came out nearly a decade ago.  I was a different person then, in a different stage of my life.  I had the time to spent full days doing nothing but playing those games, now I really don’t. I am also less investing in the travails of high schoolers.  Ten years ago I was only a few years out of high school, those problems and considerations were much more relatable.  I don’t think the game should change, those high schoolers should have games that speak to them like Persona 4 spoke to me.  It just means that I connect with it a little less now.  At least the gameplay is still great.

Chrono Trigger – I’ve got a big post coming about this game, but recently I had the strong desire to replay one of my all time favorites. CT is still great.  No matter how many times I play it, I always want to play it again.  This might be my absolute favorite.

Sword Coast Legends – It was cheap on PSN and I still have affection for the old Infinity Engine games.  I beat the prologue.  There are problems, like reading tiny dialogue on the TV and ‘reading’ the screen in general because it is clearly designed for the PC with the players face inches instead of feet from the screen, or its extensive loading times, but I am still getting some enjoyment out of it. Enough to be worth the less than $5 I payed for it.

Upcoming

Yakuza 0/Kiwami – One of these is up next once I finish with or wander away from Persona 5.  They are starting to stack up on me now that Sega is actually committed to localizing them.  I will get to them, while I am considering spending a significant portion of my gaming budget on the special edition of Yakuza 6.  I love this series.

Monster Hunter Stories – It’s coming from Amazon. I might actually loan it to my brother while I play the next game on this list and finish Chrono Trigger.

Metroid: Samus Returns – Also coming from Amazon. This is the only Metroid game I haven’t beaten.

Terranigma – Now that I am done with Lufia 2 for the foreseeable future, I am eager to finally get to this last game on my list.  I will at least start in September.

Mario Games – I am having problems with my Wii and don’t have access to my WiiU, which means all the remaining games aside from 3D Land and New Super Mario Bros 2 are currently inaccessible to me. I will get back to this, but it could be a little while.  I will certainly not finish before Super Mario Odyssey comes out, which I will not get to play because I still don’t own a Switch.  But I do intend to finish this series.

Now Playing July 2017

Finished

Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age – Read about it here.

Ever Oasis Read about it here.

New Super Mario Bros. – Read about it here.

Ongoing

The Last Guardian – I barely played it again, but I feel like I am just a moment or two of being completely captured by this game, like I was with Shadow of the Colossus and Ico.  Right now, it is playing out more like Ico.  I love that game, but I fought with it for a few hours before I started to enjoy it and after that I really enjoyed it.  I feel like I am on the cusp of that with this game.  I guess time will tell.

River City Knights of Justice – For some reason, these River City Ransom follow ups keep deviating from that NES classic in strange ways.  Last year’s Tokyo Rumble was more of a take on Renegade, a game that precisely no one likes, instead of RCR, from which the game mostly just took the look. In this Fantasy RPG themed River City game they for some reason took out all the character building stuff.  I sincerely don’t get it.  There is very little sense of character building, something that both RPGs and River City Ransom are known for. The fighting and the setting are still fun, but the game kind of sets out with little help making sense of what is going on.  I really feel like I need a Nintendo Power guide to figure this out.  Most of the game seems to be completing little nonsense missions.  Though I did just fight a big ass dragon, which was cool.  I guess I am saying I like the game, but not as much as I hoped to like it.

Mighty Gunvolt Burst – From beating about two levels of this it looks like the game that everyone wanted Mighty No 9 to be. It is a essentially an 8-bit Mega Man game with the characters replaced with slightly different characters.  I actually kind of liked MN9, but so far this is a better, if smaller, game.  The bosses do take too many hits to kill, but otherwise I am having a lot fun with. With Inticreates keeping the DLC coming, I expect to have a lot of fun with this before I’m done with it.

Shin Megami Tensei Apocalypse – I’ve tried to get back into this, but for some reason it just isn’t clicking with me.  Which is odd, because I have liked just about every SMT game I’ve played before this one.  I’m about ten hours into this, but I am having trouble finding the desire to move forward.  I might drop this back and pick up another of my unfinished 3DS games. I am not giving up on this game forever.

Lufia 2 – I wouldn’t believe me either.

Upcoming

Persona 5 – It fell out of the rotation thanks to Final Fantasy XII, but I will get back to in the coming month.

Super Mario Sunshine – I finally got my Wii hooked back up and ready to go. I’ll be getting on this soon.

Super Mario Galaxy – As soon as I am done with Sunshine it is on to what I remember as being one of the greatest games of all time, though I haven’t played since shortly after its release.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Valerian and The City of a Thousand Planets is not a movie for everybody. No movie is, but reactions to Luc Besson’s latest science fiction adventure seem to be especially divided.  It does just so happen to be a movie for me.  I loved every insane second of this glorious mess.

The complaints about this, upon reflection, are valid.  The two leads aren’t great.  I think Cara Delevingne does a pretty good job as Laureline, though she is given too little to do.  Dane Dehaan seems completely miscast as Valerian, who from his dialogue appears to be intended to be a seasoned soldier and adventurer while Dehaan looks like a teenager even though he is more than 30.  It seems slightly incongruous, and the awkward dialogue doesn’t help.  The dialogue feels like direct translations of lines written in another language.  Knowing that the movie is an adaptation of a French comic from a screenplay written by its French director leads me to believe that this is the case.  That is no excuse for a movie to sound awkward and stilted in the language all the characters are speaking.  Honestly, it rarely bothered me. Aside from some awkward phrasing, it mostly just added to the otherworldliness of it all.

There are also complaints about the plot, which fills some gaps with cliche and leaves a few other holes open, but it is mostly a straight line mystery that doesn’t do enough to disguise its obvious twists. It isn’t bad so much as episodic, with one set piece leading to another set piece, but not having those connect all that well.

I’ve laid out a pretty good explanation, I think, for why some people didn’t like this movie. Not a one of them bothered me while I was on this rollercoaster.  It starts with a mostly silent scene where a space station becomes a place for the meetings of different cultures, from various Earth based societies to eventually humans meeting alien lifeforms.  Each one builds its own addition to the space station, until it is big enough to disrupt Earth and is shot across the galaxy to find a new home.  It then cuts to an alien world, where we a given a brief look at the life of an alien society for tragedy strikes their planet.  Both of these sequences are wonderful. One is mostly just people shaking hands, but it lays across what is meant by the title so quickly and cleanly.  The other is its own mini-tragedy that is crushing yet visually amazing.

Then we finally get to our protagonists, and some leaden banter, before they go on another visually amazing adventure into another dimensional marketplace to retrieve stolen government property.  This movie runs more than 2 hours, and throughout its runtime it doesn’t go more than 15 minutes without introducing some crazy new thing.  Once they reach Alpha, the space station, Valerian and Laureline jump from section to section so fast it is hard to catch your breath.  The mystery unfolds, but it is pretty obvious who the the villain is from the moment he appears.  The only question is can our two heroes figure things out in time to prevent an inevitable tragedy.  Once the action was rolling, Dehaan’s youthful looks were not a distraction and he and Delevingne proved to be solid real elements to meet the nonsense that the movie threw at them.

There is such a sense of fun here that I was enthralled.  I wanted to see what new madness each segment of this movie could show me. It wasn’t all new, but it was all spectacular.  While it shares a lot in common with Besson’s own The Fifth Element, I also saw shades of John Carter and Flash Gordon.  Not all viewers will take those comparisons as positive things, but I think John Carter is one of the most underrated movies of the last decade and rank Flash Gordon was one of my personal favorite films.  To say that this movie reminded me of them is high praise.  This is almost exactly the kind of movie I want for Summer popcorn fare.  I loved every nonsensical second of it.

****1/2

Ever Oasis

Ever Oasis, the new 3DS action RPG from Grezzo and Nintendo, is a perfect summer game. It is breezy and bright and cheery. It is great for pulling out to play for twenty or thirty minutes before putting it away for the day or even the week. That makes it sound kind of slight and forgettable, but it is really just perfectly bite sized. It is a rather simple game, but that mostly works in its favor, with the games charm resting in its simplicity.

I previously compared it to Dark Cloud 2 and that comparison fits in the broad strokes. They are both action rpgs with some light dungeon puzzles and city building sim elements. But Dark Cloud is a big, meaty, complex game. It has giant dungeons to explore, several deep character building systems and involved town building sections. It does a lot of thing and does them well. While the game never really clicked for me, I am never surprised when someone tells me that it is a favorite. Ever Oasis offers a lot of the same things, but in this game they are simplified to be almost immediately graspable. There is some weapon building, but it is almost entirely linear. You use weaker weapons to forge stronger weapons, there is nothing like the complex weapons trees of Dark Cloud 2. The dungeons are compact, with easily understandable puzzles and most use the same few tools over and over. And the town building is as simple as placing buildings in a line. I could see some people craving more depth than Ever Oasis has to offer, but it gave me a taste of things I love in games without ever overwhelming me.

I don’t know that Dark Cloud was actually that much of an influence here. The same is true of the other PS2 RPG that it brought to mind, Radiata Stories. Ever Oasis feels like those games, but I can see stronger DNA from The Legend of Zelda, Grezzo previously remade the N64 games for the 3DS, and Secret of Mana, whose creator worked on this as well. It really feels like a synthesis of those two games, with some light town building thrown on top.

As breezy and charming as I found the game, there are parts that don’t work. The biggest problem is that the puzzle solving skills are tied to specific villagers in your oasis. Since you always have the protagonists in your 3 person party, you better hope you don’t encounter more than two types of puzzles that you need to solve. Yes, you can warp back to the oasis with the press of a button, but that takes time away from exploring. Also, some of the town business can grow tedious having to do it every day, despite how much can be automated.

For the most part, though, the game’s charms shine through. It is helped along by bright, cheery graphics and some solid music. It is just fun to be in the world of this game. The actually fighting and exploring mechanics, while simple, are satisfying. The camera is better than most games of this sort, mostly because it uses fixed perspectives. And the story, while mostly a bright and sunny adventure, makes an excellent turn to bittersweet at the end. It isn’t too heavy or crushing, but it does finally show a little weight.

Ever Oasis isn’t a great game, but it is good enough at a enough things to be worth a look. This is a game destined to show up years from now on underrated and overlooked games lists, much like Radiata Stories and Dark Cloud 2. These sorts of games don’t really come around often enough, and I’m glad Nintendo took a chance on this in the waning days of the 3DS.

Ranking Final Fantasy Games

At one time I had planned a whole series of posts that was nothing but lists, but I never got around to getting it started, leaving me with a handful of lists waiting for me to feel like posting them.  The Dragon Quest one already went up, I have a Mario one waiting for me to finish replaying the series to see how it needs to be adjusted and there are a couple more in various stages of being finished.  Lately I’ve been blitzing through Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age, so today I am tossing up my ranking of the Final Fantasy series. The main series; I also have a list of spin offs and direct sequels, but those are another beast entirely. I thought about swapping in some games to take the place of the not present MMO’s, but decided to just leave them off.  11, 14 and 15 are not the list because I haven’t played them.

12. Final Fantasy 2 – I feel like a bully putting this at the bottom, but while it is interesting, it’s just not good.  It is the only game in the series I’ve never felt compelled to complete.

11. Final Fantasy 3 – There is a lot I like about this game, but I’ve only played the DS version and it is a rough draft of the perfected job system from 5.  Still, even this far down on the list is a game I like.

10. Final Fantasy 13 – I actually like this game a whole lot even if it appears unfinished at times. It plays like a fairly unsuccessful combination of 10 and 12, but I enjoyed it well enough.

09. Final Fantasy – The original has a lot of charm even if options for playing it are either brainlessly simple or annoyingly tedious. For all of its faults, I still prefer the NES version. It is a simple game, but there is a lot to love here.

08. Final Fantasy 4 – My enjoyment of this game mostly came from reading Nintendo Power and wishing I could play it. Once I finally got the chance to play it, FF4 never quite clicked with me the way plenty of other SNES JRPGs did.

07. Final Fantasy 8 – I find the plot of this game to be a mess and the junction system is fiddly and breakable, but I still find the game wholly compelling every time I play it.

06. Final Fantasy 10 – It loses the feeling of exploring a real world, but it has one of the best realized stories in the series and a solid battle system.

05. Final Fantasy 5 – This has my favorite character building system in any game. FFV’s job system is perfection.  The story is nothing, but this is a perfect systems game.

04. Final Fantasy 7 – For a long time I had it out for this game. The love it got seemed to detract from what I felt, and still feel, are superior games in the series, like 6 and 9.  But I can’t let that blind me to the fact that this is a phenomenal game.

03. Final Fantasy 9 – It isn’t the best game from a story or systems point of view, but there is something charming about the setting and characters. It is the perfect synthesis of old and new Final Fantasy.

02. Final Fantasy 12 – Playing the remake has solidified just how much I like this game. The gambit system is brilliant and the world is the best in the series.  This is a game you can get lost in for hours and hours. It also has the most underrated cast in the series.

01. Final Fantasy 6 – Still the best in the series. It has a great cast, a terrific story and pretty great systems.  FF6 isn’t just my favorite FF game; it is one of my favorite games of all time.

Super Mario Replay: New Super Mario Bros

I haven’t managed to get my Wii or Gamecube set up to play Super Mario Sunshine, but I did find time to run through New Super Mario Bros. Playing New Super Mario Bros after recently beating the original 2D Mario games is kind of a strange experience. It makes it clear just how much of a backwards looking title it is. It feels like an amalgamation of Super Mario Bros 3 and Super Mario World, but with some regressions to the original Super Mario Bros thrown in. It has a smattering of new ideas, but it seems largely to be an exercise in stoking nostalgia.

That might be a too harsh assessment. There are some new and interesting ideas. The Giant and Mini mushrooms are good ideas, even if one is mostly pointless and the other is an over-used secret generator. I also had some fun with the turtle shell power up even though it is as dangerous as it is helpful. And while it doesn’t feel like it is breaking new ground, it also isn’t directly copying any of the previous games in the series. It takes from all over the series. The world map feels very Mario 3, the gameplay feels more like Super Mario World. The secrets in the level, with 3 hidden coins to find while poking around mostly linear levels, feels a lot like Yoshi’s Island. While Nintendo put “New” in the title, it is clearly a backwards looking game.

That kind of makes sense. New Super Mario Bros was the first new 2D Mario game in more than a decade. If you don’t count Yoshi’s Island, it had been around fifteen years since the last time Mario had featured in a 2D platformer. With Super Mario 64, the series left the sidescroller behind. And even then, there had only been that game and Sunshine since the SNES. After getting roughly seven Mario games in roughly ten years, from after Yoshi’s Island to New Super Mario Bros it was ten years with two. New Super Mario Bros was the start of a renaissance of Mario games, the first in a line when they started coming much more often.

I don’t think New Super Mario Bros holds up too well compared to other Mario games. It was successful because it was being compared to no Mario games, which it is clearly much better than. However, it lacks the spark that most of the other games have. Each of the original run of Mario games felt like an event. It was something new and different and exciting. NSMB feels like a reminder of that feeling. It feels like all old Mario games and somehow none of them. It is creating something new, because no Mario game looked or played like, but doing everything it can to feel like something old.

It also feels like Nintendo was stretching muscles they hadn’t used in a long time. It is occasionally rough, with some weak levels and too many secrets hidden behind mini-mushroom pipes, but you can almost feel the development team learning how to make this sort of game as they go. Which is why I think each subsequent New Super Mario Bros game is better than this one. This was a proof of concept, and Nintendo learned that both they could still make this sort of game and that this sort of game will sell.

For all that this game lacks the spark of the games that made Mario Mario, it is still a very good game. I did speed through it in about six or seven hours over two days. It is a lot of fun. Not gold standard, best game of all time fun, but solid fun. That is something that the Mario series has never failed to deliver. Even if this game was junk, the fact that it seems to have been the impetuous for the ongoing Mario renaissance more than makes it worthwhile.

Now Playing in June 2017

Beaten

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island – read about it here.

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia – read about it here.

Ongoing

Ever Oasis – I was a little on the fence about getting this game. I like the developer Grezzo’s previous work, but that work was mostly remaking/porting the N64 Zelda games. It looked to combine a lot of things I think I like, but tend to not actually enjoy. I’ve got a stack of Harvest Moon and Rune Factory games that I have barely played to prove it. I want to like games like this, games like Dark Cloud or Fantasy Life, but I just don’t tend to have as much fun with them as I would like. Through the first four or five hours Ever Oasis is proving to be an exception. The town building stuff is pretty simplified, but satisfying. The combat isn’t anything super unique or anything, but it is enjoyable. It simply looks and sounds appealing and plays pretty well too. So far it is shaping up to be the perfect summer game.

River City Knights of Justice – I got distracted by Ever Oasis, but I also picked this up late in the month. At first blush it plays a lot like last year’s River City Tokyo Rumble, which I mostly enjoyed, only with a fantasy coat of paint on it. I don’t really like the scaled back areas and weird character progression, but maybe that make more sense as it goes on, since I’ve only cleared the first couple of towns. It looks good and sounds good and only costs $15, I’m sure I’ll have my fair share of fun with it before the summer is over.

Persona 5 – I have made little progress and it’s not the game’s fault. A confluence of circumstances (a death in the family, I moved and changed jobs) kept me from even plugging in my PS4 for most of June. When I did have time to play games, I generally ending up doing something else. I still plan on playing these games, but I didn’t do much in June.

The Last Guardian – I have made little progress and it’s not the game’s fault. See above

Lufia 2 – I have made little progress and it’s not the game’s fault. See above

Upcoming

Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age – This is one of my favorite FF games and I can’t wait to give this remastered version of it a go.

Super Mario Sunshine – I still need to get my Wii hooked up and going, but I am eager to get to it.

New Super Mario Bros. – While I am trying to play the series in order, I am willing to differentiate the 2D and 3D games. This is the only handheld game I don’t own

Yakuza 0 – I don’t know if I will manage to get to it among all of the other PS4 games I’ve got on my plate, but I refuse to let this game slip through the cracks.

Super Mario Replay Yoshi’s Island

I’m just going to come out and say it: I don’t really like Yoshi’s Island. You could argue that is because I’ve only ever played the supposedly compromised GBA port, but I think I just don’t like the game. I have played most of its recent follow ups, like Yoshi’s New Island for 3DS and Yoshi’s Woolly World, and while enjoyed those games, there is still something about them that I wasn’t quite to my taste. Compared to other Mario games, Yoshi’s Island is a slow and pokey game, focused more on exploring and collecting that traditional platforming challenges. I get why people would like it, but it is not for me.

It is a great looking SNES game. While at the time most games were either ugly 3D (Star Fox) or ugly approximations of 3D (Donkey Kong Country), Yoshi’s Island went for a detailed, colorful hand drawn look, with plenty of effects thanks to using the same advanced on cart chip that Star Fox used to make the SNES capable of its primitive 3D graphics. There is no getting around that this is one of the best looking games on the SNES. The same is true for the excellent music. And Nintendo wasn’t content to just run out the Mario World formula again, they gave the idea of a platformer a fairly extensive overhaul and produced a fresh and tightly designed game.

The problem I have is that no matter how well made the game might be, I simply prefer what came before. Super Mario World was already more of an exploratory game than previous Mario games and Yoshi’s Island slows the pace even more to focus on poking around expansive levels. I couldn’t even begin to say that they aren’t well designed, but they end up being more like mazes than obstacle courses. It is rarely that difficult to just clear a stage, but the game judges based on how well you collect things and finding all of the things in each stage is a tedious and involved process. Many people bemoan the collect-a-thons that 3D platformers became in the wake of Super Mario 64, but that trend was started with Yoshi’s Island. There are five flowers hidden throughout each stage, a perfectly fine collectable, much like the three giant coins in later Mario games. Each stage also has 30 red coins to collect, some of which are hidden, some sit in plain sight and some look like regular coins until you nab them, meaning you have to go for every stupid coin in the game on the off chance it is one of the important ones. Then there are the stars, which are tied in with the game’s worst mechanic.

The stars represent how much time you have to rescue Mario if you get hit and he becomes dislodged from Yoshi’s back. Because yes, you control Yoshi, not Mario in this game. And Baby Mario’s wails as he floats around are insufferable. To then be also graded on maintaining 30 of those damned stars is frustrating. Finally there is the egg throwing. Yoshi is able to eat just about anything and turn it into an egg. The player must then throw those eggs at just about everything. This brings up the not especially intuitive aiming mechanic and the often limited supply of eggs. It is a good idea, but one that is often too complex to be enjoyable.

I do question whether Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island is really a Mario game. The unignorable fact is that the game is titled Super Mario World 2. But that doesn’t make it all that different from Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3. There Wario gets top billing, but Nintendo was still hedging its bets by keeping it in the Mario series. In both games, Mario has been replaced as the protagonist and the mechanics of the game are significantly different from what came before or happened since. None of Yoshi’s Islands sequels or follow ups are considered a part of the main Mario series. I counted it at least as much because it is one of the few Mario games I haven’t beaten than for any other reason.

The thing is, I see a lot of Yoshi’s Island’s DNA in the “New” Super Mario series. It has been scaled back quite a bit, but things like the hidden giant coins feel like something from this game. Though Yoshi’s Island’s mechanics have been directly continued in what most people call disappointing follow ups – I would argue the only thing disappointing about Yoshi’s New Island is how it looks – its impact continues to be felt in the main series as well. I guess I just have to finish coming to terms with the fact that I don’t really like it.

Dragon Quest Rankings

I finished up with Dragon Quest 8 3DS a few weeks ago, but since I’ve already said just about everything I have to say about it in this post, I figured I would mark the achievement, such as it is, by making a list ranking the main line Dragon Quest games. I could have tried to fit in some of the spin offs I’ve played, but what I’ve played and what I haven’t outside of the main series is pretty spotty and it’s been so long since I’ve touched the original Dragon Quest Monsters, for instance, that I thought it better to just stick with the main series.

  1. Dragon Quest 5: Hand of the Heavenly Bride – This is just about a perfect rpg.  It is Dragon Quest at its best, with solid if basic gameplay and interesting narrative experimentations.  Playing through the life of the protagonist, from starting out as a little kid until he has kids of his own. It is just a delight
  2. Dragon Quest 4: Chapters of the Chosen – Much like 5, this is another game that plays around with narrative structure, opening with several short sections with completely different casts until they all come together under the protagonist.
  3. Dragon Quest 8: Journey of the Cursed King – Possibly the simplest game in the series since DQ4.  Yet is is also the most charming since 5.  8 deliberately breaks no new ground, but it is a perfectly executed classic style jrpg.
  4. Dragon Quest 9: Sentinels of the Starry Skies – The only new DS entry is the best version of the series’ class system.  The gameplay is fine but nothing more than the enjoyably basic JRPG that most of the series offers, though it does have a somewhat enjoyable multiplayer mode.
  5. Dragon Quest 7: Fragments of the Forgotten Past – I’ve only played the recent 3DS version and I liked it, but between this and DQ6, no series is better at bungling a class system than Dragon Quest.
  6. Dragon Quest 6: Realms of Revelation – I kind of hate most of this game’s characters and it takes forever to really get going.
  7. Dragon Quest 3: Seeds of Salvation – Full disclosure: I haven’t played more than an hour or two of this game.  Instead of using that as a reason not to include it or to postpone this list, I am instead considering it a mark against the game, since I’ve found the time to play all the rest. I will revisit when I finally do play it.
  8. Dragon Quest – There is stuff to like about the original Dragon Quest, but there really isn’t that much there all told.
  9. Dragon Quest 2: Luminaries of the Legendary Line – Grindy and not all that fun.