Tag Archives: PS 1

Final Fantasy 7 REMAKE! … My Thoughts

final-fantasy-7-logoWell, well, well….. It is really happening. SQUARE is remaking Final Fantasy 7. After teasing fans for years and years and years, they have finally rewarded our patience with a remake of this classic RPG. Once again, we will return to the streets of Midgar, fight the evil Shina Corporation, witness the silliness of the Gold Saucer, fight the Ruby Weapon and cast Knights of the Round, all in glorious, redesigned HD graphics. What an amazing development to come out of  Sony’s E3 conference this year. So in the spirit of that excitement, let’s talk about it.

The Never Ending Fantasy…Just Keeps Going and Going….

My experience and connection with FF7 is drastically different then that of most of my friends. Unlike the majority of fans out there, I have only ever played this game once and not even to full completion. Now, before you have me tied to a Chocobo and run out of town, let me assure you that I have, in fact seen EVERYTHING in this game, multiple times over. I have witnessed and participated in 6-8 hour farming sessions. I have cried over the tragic death of Aerith more times than I want to admit. I have bred and raced Chocobos. I have been on the edge of my seat while fighting Ruby Weapon and completely exhausted after barely winning. I may not have always been holding the controller, but I was right there witnessing and being swept away by the sheer epic craziness of this game.

What does that all mean? Well, in the late 90s, Final Fantasy 7 was all the rage and everyone I knew was completely obsessed with that game. Rightly so, since it was a fantastic game. Of course, as soon as FF7 hit the shelves, everyone I knew became obsessed. Every friend I had, played FF7 almost exclusively for months and months on end. The desire to play this game was all consuming and it swept through my friends like wildfire.

Unfortunately, I was not in a financial position to buy my own physical copy of the game. That wouldn’t happen till much later. Instead, I was relegated to the sidelines, waiting until one of my friends would allow me to borrow their copy. As one can imagine, since all of my friends were playing this game, guess who was usually sitting on a couch, right next to them, during their gaming sessions? You guessed it…. ME. I witnessed each of my friend’s individual runs, almost in their entirety. By the time I got around to actually getting my own copy, I was simply burned out. I had seen everything, from beginning to end. There were just no surprises left in the game for me and I didn’t feel any great urgency to play it, yet again. However, that does NOT lessen my love for the game and it sure doesn’t make me any less excited for the remake. I just experienced it a little differently then most fans.

tc0ofwda5zek2mfaiivtRegarding Remakes

Since SQUARE’s announcement of the remake of Final Fantasy 7, the world is rejoicing at the news. The internet and discussion forums are all a buzz with speculations and opinions. Excitement is flowing freely. People love FF7, that is obviously clear. However, despite my excitement at this shocking and exciting turn of events, I can’t help but think, am I going to like this game when it hits shelves? The original game had such a HUGE impact on me and every single one of my friends, how can any game live up to that level of importance? I am very hopeful sure, but also fairly skeptical.

Not only is Final Fantasy 7 known as one of the best RPGs of all time, it STILL has a gigantic, very dedicated fan base. If SQUARE changes too much of the game, they run the risk of alienating the diehard fans. If they keep the game completely stock, they might be accused of just trying to cash in on the FF7 legacy. This is not an easy position for them to be in and we won’t know how it’ll play out, until it is in full swing.

So that begs the question, can a remake be as powerful or as influential as the original game once was? Or in this case, is SQUARE somehow damaging the legacy and power of FF7 by remaking a game that literally shaped a generation of gamers. Sure, most of us fans are pretty excited at the idea of seeing such iconic characters as Cloud, Tifa and Sephiroth in HD, but can this remake recapture the love of so many old school fans? Can it rekindle those same feelings of amazement and awe that we felt as we were greeted with our very first FMV? Chances are, no it can’t. No matter how much time and effort SQUARE puts into this project, it will never be exactly as it was. That would be impossible. When this game first came out, it was a different world. It was a moment in time that has long passed and as Thomas Wolfe once wrote, “You can’t go home again….”

ff7headerimg599px1512512Final Thoughts…

As the months go by and we hear more and more about this upcoming remake, all eyes will be on SQUARE-ENIX. They are tinkering with a classic and that is a very daring and scary move. Truth be told, this game is going to set a precedence for all other Final Fantasy remakes. If any of us ever want to see remakes of FF6, FF1 or even Tactics, we had best hope that FF7 does extraordinarily well. Unfortunately, I guarantee that before the final game is released, at some point fans will be outraged at the decisions that SQUARE has made. We will read things like “How dare SQUARE do this to this game!” and “I hate them! They have ruined my childhood!” Like Sephiroth’s Super Nova, the drama will seem to go on and on and on. Until we play the final build, people will speculate, trash talk and condemn, but sink or swim, I believe that SQUARE will give us our remake. However, only time will tell if THIS remake is the one that we’ve always wanted. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope that it is. I for one, will see you in Midgar.

~GB

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The King’s Field Retrospective: Part Two – King’s Field (North America)

King's Field - Front CoverKing’s Field (North America)

As I mentioned in the first part of this retrospective, our King’s Field was not the first game in the King’s Field series, a fact that many of us North American gamers did not learn, until late into the 90s. It was actually the 2nd installment, following closely to the Japanese only  game, with the same title. As you can imagine, I was pretty surprised when I found this out.

The fact that we never got the original King’s Field is unfortunate, since the Japanese game introduced a huge amount of lore, characters, items and game play elements that were to become staples throughout the entire series. Names like John Alfred Forester, the Dragon Gods, the Moonlight Sword, Dragon Crystals, Earth Herbs, Antidotes, Verdite, Moon Stone, Blood Stone, the Truth Glass… all of it originated here, in King’s Field (JP). Our first King’s Field, usually called King’s Field (North America) or King’s Field (NA) was actually the 2nd game in the series. 

Like all of the King’s Field games, King’s Field (NA) was developed by a relatively unknown and obscure, Japanese game development studio called From Software. You might recognize that name, because of the success of the recent Souls series: Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2. Much like their predecessors, these are fantastic games, renown for their difficulty, challenging game play and unforgiving brutality. These games are often known as the spiritual successors to the King’s Field legacy.

It Begins….

King’s Field (NA) was released here in the U.S. on February 15, 1996. That gives this game the honor of being one of the first role-playing games ever released, for the PlayStation, here in the west. I will admit that King’s Field (North America) was not my first taste of the King’s Field series. I was actually introduced through the U.S. King’s Field 2, (actually King’s Field 3 in Japan), but after just a few minutes behind its controls and a handful of deaths, I was hooked. I wanted to know all I could about the world of King’s Field, uncover all of it’s secrets and watch its story unfold. However, I did not want to start from King’s Field 2, I wanted to start from the very beginning of the series. I thought, ‘Hey, if there is a King’s Field 2, then there has to be a King’s Field 1.’  So, that weekend, I went down to the local gaming store, found a copy of King‘s Field (NA) and bought it. That was such an awesome day!

The Story Unfolds….

King’s Field (NA) can be classified as a first person, dark fantasy, hack and slash, roll playing game. Taking place on a mysterious island called Melanant, you assumed control of a knight named Alexander, who had just washed up on the island’s rocky shore line. You are the only survivor of a powerful expeditionary force, sent by King Forester, to find and retrieve the stolen, legendary, Moonlight Sword. Of course, having lost all of your supplies in a powerful storm, you have nothing, save for the clothes on your back and your trusty dagger.

King’s Field (NA) was a very difficult and unforgiving game.  The enemies were relentless, the environments allowed for very few mistakes, and the buttons stand as some of the most complicated controls I have ever mastered on a console. I racked up so many deaths within my first few hours of game play, it was staggering.

However, despite all of that, the game compelled me to push on, to fulfill Alexander’s duty and to retrieve the Moonlight Sword.  For me, it was the lure of the unknown, the challenge of exploring the winding and claustrophobic interiors of the island and discovering the bits and pieces of lore, spread throughout Melanant. The entire experience was epic.

As you progress through the game, you begin to uncover a myriad of terrible secrets. You learn about the dark history of the island, the fall of ancient kingdoms and the rise of a mysterious warrior calling himself Necron.

You eventually discover that Necron controls Melanant and has enveloped the island in a powerful darkness. We also find out that he serves the dragon demi-god, Guyra and has obtained powers that allow him to summon monsters and control the undead. Greed, despair, and death, seem to permeate the interior tunnels, passageways and halls of Melanant and its inhabitants are doomed to a miserable existence, toiling in the underground crystal caves, trapped, having to relying on the island’s healing water, to keep them alive.

Playing King’s Field can be a very solitary and lonely experience. There are only a few small villages, homes, and communities dotted around Melanant and most of these locations are empty and deserted. Of course, you do find a few NPCs along your travels, but most of them have been driven half mad by the islands dark energy and trusting them can sometimes be a dangerous proposition. It is a good idea though, to talk to everyone you meet and to gather as much information as possible. Otherwise, you will have no idea what you are supposed to do. (Don’t worry, they do tend to let a few trustworthy tidbits slip out, from time to time.

Like most RPGs, you can find a few shops and merchants, littered around some of the villages, but they all seem to have an insatiable lust for riches and charge WAY to much gold, for even the simplest of items. It is my experience that most of the good weapons and armor available in the shops, can be found for free throughout your travels, so leave them in the shops.

Melanant is a dangerous place and it punishes you at almost every turn. The island is littered with secret tunnels, mining complexes, ancient shrines and the ruins of once mighty kingdoms. Unfortunately, most places are now teeming with vengeful monsters, the undead and restless spirits, so you must tread lightly.

Eventually, you face off against Necron, who you learn has become a pawn of Guyra, the Black Dragon. Once Necron falls to your blade, Guyra awaits, guarding the fabled Moonlight Sword, the very sword you were tasked with retrieving. Only after defeating him, can you reclaim the sword and rid the island of all darkness and evil.

Final Thoughts…

King’s Field (NA) stands as one of my most treasured games and I spent well over 150 hours playing the game (that was a lot of hours back then). Exploring the island’s vast network of tunnels and ruins was extremely addictive and the game was amazing for it’s time. Being in a fully explorable, 3D world, surrounded by the unknown was something that I had yet to experience in a console game. Everything about King’s Field (NA), held me spellbound, even after countless deaths and game overs. The environments, the music, the characters, the enemies… it was all pretty awesome.

Even though I loved King’s Field (NA), I have to admit, this game was not without it issues. Graphically, the game was filled with strange visual anomalies. Surface textures had the annoying habit of distorting and tearing, draw distance for faraway objects seemed to fluctuate wildly and the graphics were not really the prettiest to look at. The game also suffered from inconsistent frame rates and massive slowdown, all of which could get you killed… very easily.

Never-the-less, I adored King’s Field (NA) and I still consider it a classic. It is amongst my favorite RPGs of all time. Aside from Final Fantasy Tactics, this game stands out as my 2nd most played game of the 90s. I have such found memories tied up with this game and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good old-school RPG, as long as you can get passed the outdated graphics. If you haven’t played it, you really should. If nothing else, at least watch a Let’s Play over on YouTube! It is quite a game.

Up next, we will spend some time taking a look at the awesome sequel, King’s Field II. So stay tuned.

~GB

GentleBen’s Favorite Games of All Time (PlayStation)

PlayStation (PSX)

Let me start off by saying, I love the PlayStation! For me, Sony’s entire line of PlayStation gaming consoles have been superb. I have been an ardent PS fan since 1995 and have purchased every iteration of the console, all the way up to the present day PS3. I even pre-ordered the PS4, displaying an unprecedented level of faith in the Sony brand. (Please don’t let me down Sony!) That probably makes me a Sony Fan Boy, but I am OK with that. Heck, I’ve been called much worse.

I first caught a glimpse of the PlayStation in 1995, at my friend Wellang’s house. I can remember thinking “Man what a game changer!” Not only did it use a CD instead of a cartridge, you could save your game on detachable memory cards, the controllers were loaded with buttons and you could even play your music CDs through the  gaming console! It was an amazing little system and I have been a big fan ever since.

Back in the day, it seemed like PlayStation had all the games that I wanted to play. For the PSX, they had games like Final Fantasy 7, King’s Field, Xenogears, Lunar, Colony Wars, Wild Arms, Mega Man X4, Tomb Raider, Resident Evil 2 and Gran Turismo. When the PS2 came out, it was a similar story. Games like King’s Field: The Ancient City, Devil May Cry, Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, Resident Evil 4, Gran Turismo 3 & 4 and God of War were so much fun. Even the PS3 has its fair share of great games: Call of Duty World at War, Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Red Dead Redemption, Skyrim, Bioshock, Boarderlands and Grand Turismo 5.

PlayStation consoles were everywhere in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Lots of gamers ended up owning all three systems, including me. There was a huge amount of Sony brand loyalty. It just goes to show you, the PlayStation has treated us pretty well.

Now many PS fans will admit, Sony lost a substantial chunk of the gamer population with their less than favorable launch for the PS3. However, I think the PS4 will re-claim a lot of their former glory. I’m very excited and can hardly wait to see what PlayStation 4 brings us. That being said, I wanted to take another stroll down memory lane and look back at my top 5 favorite games on the PlayStation 1 (PSX). Hope you enjoy.

#5: Command and Conquer

Now before you start, I know that Command and Conquer (also known as C&C) was NOT originally a PlayStation 1 game. I know, I know……. it was a PC game that was just ported to the PSX. And yes, I know that it was less than a perfect port. Sure it had clumsy controls, lacked the ability to save in the middle of missions, was missing a few musical tracks, had lower resolution graphics and did not have any form of multiplayer… I understand all of that. BUT never-the-less, C&C was one of the main reason’s why I first purchased a PlayStation 1. Let me explain…

Back in the early 90s, I had been watching my friend Arkalius, play through C&C on his PC and I had absolutely loved the entire concept of the game. Being able to control vast armies of troops, vehicles, tanks and aircraft, all while designing a base, building up an army and crushing my enemies, seemed like good times to me! We would sit there in front of his computer for hours, Arkalius playing and me watching. I would vicariously play out the missions, plan attacks, offer suggestions and share in the experience as much as I could. Most of which fell on deaf ears.

Unfortunately, my friend was not the most sharing of individuals and I seldom got a chance to put my well-planned strategies to the test. So, when I heard that C&C was due out on the PlayStation, I thought “AT LAST! Now I can play my OWN copy of the game!” My only other option was to buy a PC, but that was WAY more of an expense then simply picking up a PSX plus the game.

I spent hours upon hours playing C&C, going over each and every level, building epic bases, designing different layouts for defense and planning detailed and sometimes overly complex battle plans. Sometimes I’d win, other times I’d loose, but it was always a blast.

My favorite level in C&C was one of the last stages on the GDI disc and I played it over and over, to the point of exhaustion. It was soooo much fun! I still remember the password for that level too: GTJ2PV460. Usually, I would setup a series of fortified walls, Advanced Guard Towers and Machine Gun Towers that would chop the enemy to pieces. I would also capture the main tiberium field and keep NOD’s harvesters blocked. No tiberium = no money. I also loved using coordinated attacks to push through the enemy’s forward base, distract their obelisk towers and use an APC filled with engineers to capture their 2nd construction yard. It was in the far southwest of the map, right across a small river so it was easy to defend and nicely out of the way. That would open up the ability to build NOD weapons and add their tanks, troops and gun turrets to the mix.

Today, even thought I have the classic C&C for my PC, I still love to play the old PSX version. There are so many awesome memories wrapped up with that game and such a huge amount of nostalgia, I can’t help but love it. Plus, it sure made a huge impact on me, opening up the flood gates on a ton of other RTS games.

#4: Tomb Raider

When it comes to puzzle solving, adventure games, it doesn’t get much better than Tomb Raider. This game blew my mind when I first saw it. The graphics, the music, the freedom of movement, it was all spectacular.

Not only could you walk, run and jump, but Lara could perform a host of other varied and complex interactions within her environment. Lara could side-step, dodge, perform a handstand, climb across ledges, hang off cliffs, roll, dive, and even swim. It was the most realistic movement any of us had yet to see, in a video game.

You searched for clues, solved puzzles, discovered treasure and uncovered lost civilizations. You faced off with wild beasts, poachers, and even a few fellow treasure hunters. You spent a good deal of time escaping death from a multitude of disastrous traps and environmental elements. It was a fight for Lara’s very survival and you felt extremely connected to it all.

Of course,  Lara was far from defenseless. She could really handle herself in combat, usually carrying her two trusty pistols, but also using shotguns, magnums and even dual wielding Uzis. It was all great fun and really stands out in my mind as one of the most well known games of the 90s.

One element that I remember most in Tomb Raider was the puzzle solving.  My friend Wellang and I would always work together on the trickiest puzzles, coming up with ideas, trying things out and making suggestions. We both felt connected to the whole experience. It was as if our very survival depended entirely on our wits. Sometimes we succeeded, sometimes we failed, but each time it was a blast.

I also remember the deaths in Tomb Raider being pretty gruesome for its time: plummeting to my death, burning alive, drowning, being electrocuted, becoming impaled on spikes, getting killed by human enemies, and even being eaten alive by wild creatures. To this day, I can still remember the last boss picking me up like a rag doll and slamming me into the ground, over and over again until I was dead. What a horrifying moment.

Despite the graphics not aging very well, this game is still a lot of fun to play. I recommend that anyone who has not played it, to give it a try. Even to this day, I would still this one pick and relive a few wonderfully brutal, Tomb Raider moments.

#3: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (SoTN)

When Castlevania fans talk about their favorite Castlevania games, a large majority of them will rank Symphony of the Night as one of the best in the franchise. They would be correct in doing so. Everything about the game just clicked together so well, that many fans and gaming publications still rank it as one of the best games on the PlayStation 1. I still own the original Symphony of the Night and it is definitely one of my favorite Castlevania games of all time.

SOtN was actually a direct sequel to a Japanese only title called Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, for the PC-Engine.  To us North American fans, who had no prior knowledge of this fact, Symphony of the Night seemed like an entirely new type of Castlevania adventure, with maybe a slight connection to Dracula X on the SNES.

SOtN was quite a departure from the older NES and SNES Castlevania games. Sure, it was still a very action oriented, side-scrolling game, but many of the similarities stopped there. First off, it no longer starred a Blemont, you now played as Alucard, the half-human-half-vampire son of the infamous Count Dracula.  Because of his lineage, Alucard was extremely powerful and very skilled. He could equip a ton of different main weapons, sub-weapons, armors, capes and accessories. He could use a wide variety of items, cast magic, use familiars and even transform into a wolf, a bat or a cloud of mist. Compared to the members of the Belmont Clan, Alucard was vastly out of their league. You felt unstoppable.

Also, SOtN was not your typical level based linear game, either. It was geared more towards an open world environment, with elements of exploration and discovery. It still took place in Dracula’s castle, but instead of your standard 8 or 9 levels, the game gave you the entire castle to explore.  This allowed the player to move from area to area seamlessly and to explore each and every dark recess of the Castle.

Each area was connected by a short, creepy, transitional hallway, completely devoid of any background music, that served both as a loading screen and safe haven from the Gothic horrors that surrounded you. A bit of respite in a brutally savage game.

SOtN was a great game, but it was so much more than that. Not only did it utilize the classic, action oriented, side scrolling style of game play, but it introduced a number of RPG elements and game mechanics that I had never seen before in a Castlevania game. It kept it’s dark Gothic atmosphere and included a ton of visual enhancements, control improvements and a killer soundtrack that was nothing short of epic. It also spawned an entire line of hand-held  SOtN style games and has even been included in the PSP release of Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles. It has spawned a legacy all of its own and I count it as one of the all time greats.

#2: The King’s Field Series

Any one who knows me, knows that I am a big fan of FROM Software.  In fact, I have been a fan for some time now. More recent gamers might know FROM Software from their recent work on the Soul’s games: Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, but they have been around since November 1986 and have developed their fair share of awesome games. I could bot choose between the two games, released here in the U.S., so I’ve grouped them together.

In the mid 1990’s and early 2000’s, they released an obscure, first person, action RPG series called King’s Field and it quickly became one of my favorite RPG series of all time. Why did I like it so much? Well, for me it was a combination of the game’s atmosphere, level design, music, story line, characters, and fully immersive, 360 degree environments. It was revolutionary for its time, and it had everything that I enjoyed in video games: swords, sorcery, knights, monsters and an engaging fantasy mythos. The entire series was awesome!

It was my friend Wellang, who first introduced me to King’s Field by renting King’s Field 2 and giving me the opportunity to spend a few hours behind the controls. Right from the start, King’s Field 2 was NOT an easy game. It didn’t have very a intuitive control scheme, your attack speed was painfully slow, enemy attacks were brutally devastating, the environments were unpredictable and you were given very little instruction or direction. The first time playing King’s Field 2, I was promptly killed only 2 mins into the game. In fact, it took me about an hour of playtime before I had even a BASIC grasp on the controls. Even then, in the heat of battle I would often hit the wrong button. It was a rough introduction, but oh so much fun. It was so much fun in fact, I went out a few weeks later and picked up the first game in the series, simply called King’s Field.

Unlike most other mid 90’s RPG’s both, King’s Field 1 & 2 took place entirely in a 3 dimensional, fully-explorable world. It was also in real-time and you controlled every aspect of your character’s actions. You could look up, down, left and right, you could circle strafe, you could aim in all directions, you could attack with swords, magic or ranged attacks…. I fell in love with both games. King’s Field also gave me a reason to buy a PlayStation 2, since King’s Field: The Ancient City was only available on PS2.

FROM Software created such an interesting world, with a great story line, mysterious characters and an engaging battle system. I couldn’t help but be wrapped up in their epic journey. Wondering and fighting through an unfamiliar landscape, surrounded by powerful enemies, all while discovering a rich collection of lore, really made me feel like I was an intricate part of that world’s fate.  It was an awesome experience and a great adventure. If you haven’t played either of them by now, I recommend you go out and give them a try. If nothing else, at least watch one of the rare Long Plays over on YouTube. I guarantee, it is well worth it.

#1: Final Fantasy Tactics

What?! Final Fantasy Tactics? Where is Final Fantasy 7?!!! Now, calm down, let me explain.

For any die-hard Final Fantasy fan, the 90s were probably some of the best years for that franchise. Final Fantasy 3/6, Final Fantasy 7 and even Final Fantasy 8 were all solid games with great music, wonderful characters and awesome story lines. I know for a fact that many of us spent hours upon hours of our time, exploring their respective worlds, leveling up and falling in love with each game.  Everyone I knew  was hooked the moment they put those games in their systems.

In the 90s, one of the most popular games to take over my small group of gaming friends was Final Fantasy 7 and everyone I knew was completely obsessed with that game. Why not, right? It was a fantastic game. Not only is it known as one of the best RPGs of all time, it STILL has a gigantic, very dedicated fan base. This is very impressive considering it has been some 16 years since it’s release date.

Now, even though Final Fantasy 7 WAS a great game, it never held my full attention. By the time I got a hold of the game, I had already witnessed all of the most pivotal moments. I had seen Aeris’ death multiple times, I had witnessed the destruction of the Emerald Weapon and Ruby Weapon, even spent hours farming and racing chocobos. My friends had all beaten the game countless times and I had seen that ending more times then I had ever wanted to. There was just no surprises left in the game for me and I didn’t feel any great urge to play it further. Since my friend Wellang had first purchased it, FF7 had been passed around my entire group of friends and I had been with each of them, through most of their individual runs. I was simply burned out.

Besides, I wanted a game that was new, fresh and all mine. A game that hadn’t been played by all of my friends. A game that required skillful planning and surgical execution. Something similar to Command and Conquer. For me, Final Fantasy Tactics was that game.

FFT was not your typical Final Fantasy game. It was a turn-based, tactical RPG with a strong emphasis on character creation and proper utilization of very specific, strategic elements. Concepts such as elevation, line of sight, terrain and weather all played key rolls in your victories and in your defeats.

FFT utilized a system of fully customizable characters, specializing in various jobs and class skills. It was like nothing that I, nor any of my friends had ever seen before. Each and every character could become any one of twenty distinct character classes. This allowed players to customize their party with a host of character classes such as: Summoner, Wizard, Priest, Monk, Lancer, Thief, Samurai, Ninja, Mime, Bard, Dancer, Squire, Chemist, Orator, Archer, Calculator, Knight, Geomancer, Time Mage and a Mediator.

Also, each character was given a zodiac sign and each sign had a certain level of affinity with other zodiac symbols. It was a complicated relationship that could moderately alter certain battle actions like the amount of damage you inflicted on certain opposing signs, the amount of HP you could restore with healing spells, casting battle magic, hitting with a critical strike and a host of other in-game elements. In reality, I rarely took into account my character’s zodiac signs in my battle strategies, but I was aware of their existence and they did come in handy from time to time.

Instead of a fully open world, like the one found in FF7, FFT used a static map of towns, cities, forts and battle points all connected by predefined travel paths. Journeying from one of these points to another point, equaled one day of travel. After a while, weeks, months even years of in-game time would just slip by.

Random battles, story battles and even cut scenes would all occur on certain, pre-set locations. After you had activated a random encounter, set your 5 person team and set your battle formation, you would be placed on a 3D, isometric, rotatable playing field. Then, based on your character’s speed rating, and the speed rating of your enemies, you would all go in turn until you were either defeated or victorious.

The storyline in FFT was a thing of beauty, but far too massive to retell here.  The basic idea is that you control a young noble named Ramza as he grows and matures in a world filled with political intrigue, internal power struggles, murder, love, hate and disillusionment and a host of various trials and tribulations. The game made quite an impression on me and I loved every moment of it.

FFT was a wonderful game that combined my love of strategy games with the vibrant and powerful world of Final Fantasy. I became a master at this game, learning how to make the best use of terrain, status effects, character speed, elevation, magic, summons,  and a host of other powerful job skills. It was the first Final Fantasy game that I ever beat entirely by myself and it was my very first game where I broke over 250 hours of game play! (Even though the counter on the save slots stopped at 99hrs’ 99mins’ 99secs’, the in-game counter told a different story.) I rank Final Fantasy Tactics as one of the best Final Fantasy RPGs out there. It is also my favorite PSX game of all time. Final Fantasy 7 is good, but for me, Final Fantasy Tactics is superior. It just doesn’t get much better then this one.

Final Thoughts:

During the late 90s, I had the privilege of hanging out with some of the best gamers that I have ever known. They were dedicated, proficient and amazingly talented. From PCs to consoles, I used to aspire to game more like they did, but I never quite made it.

One of their favorite gaming consoles was the awesome PlayStation 1 and we all put a huge number of hours behind that little grey box. It had such a great lineup of games, it was difficult to come up with just 5 of my favorite titles. Those days were some of the best days of my early gaming life and it is so much fun to remember the “Good ‘Ol Days”. This is just a short list of games, but for me, these are some of the most significant titles I have ever played. I am hoping that the PS4 will continue to provide such wonderful content, but only time will tell.

Thanks for reading,

We’ll see ya soon…

Always Online….Are you out of your mind?

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about our “next gen” games and gaming consoles requiring a permanent online connection, in order for us users to access content or use the systems. Many of the larger companies like Microsoft, Blizzard and EA all seem to be on board with this idea, going so far as to begin implementing this into our current generation of games. Whether or not we like it, we might start seeing this practice used more and more in the next few years and that is a real shame for us gamers.

Why do a lot of gamers…including yours truly, have issues with this idea? Does it really matter in this day and age, when so many of us have constant connections to the net? Well, let’s take a look and see.

Let’s start with the basic fact that not everyone has the internet. Even in today’s technologically driven society, there are those of us, who do not have access to the net. Yes, it’s probably a small percentage in most large cities, but what about in more rural areas, where internet is nonexistent or extremely spotty at best?  Unless they can obtain a reliable internet connection, any system or game that requires a persistent online connection, would be out of reach.

Those individuals should be able to play the console or game of their choosing. Why punish those potential gamers for circumstances beyond their control? Now, I’m no CEO, but aren’t customers and brand loyalty a good thing? How is “always online” helping win customers over?       Simple… it’s not. It is far too restrictive.

To those of us living in the cities and towns with a net connection, this might not seem like a big deal. Who cares if I have to be online to play a game? Chances are, I’m online anyways. This might be true, but we need to look a little deeper. If I go out and buy a game for $60 dollars I’m going to want to play it, but on my own time, in my own fashion. However, it might not be that easy. In my experience, if the game requires an “always online” connection, one of two things can happen…

Best case scenario, I get online right away, connect to their servers, download all the launch patches and bug fixes, maybe set up a user name and password for their service and THEN I can play the game. There are some extra steps involved and I might have to jump through a few hoops to get everything working, but I would eventually get in the game.

Worst case scenario, their servers are overloaded and I can’t get on. That means I can’t download any patches, I can’t get into the game to set up any preferences and I definitely can’t play. Until they sort it all out, my new $60 game is useless. Titles like Diablo III and the new Sim City have become poster children for this exact scenario. When Sim City was released, it was virtually unplayable.  Servers were severely impacted and wait times were hours longer then they should have been. Believe me, I’ve had this happen and it is VERY frustrating.

Gamers buy a game with the expectation that we can play it whenever we want, for as long as we want. Look at the NES, SNES, Genesis, PS1, Gamecube, Xbox and PS2 consoles. As long as they still work, I can play any of my old games. Games on the PS3 and 360 consoles are not 100% replayable, but the majority of the games will work, even after the “next gen” takes over. If these “next gen” games and consoles require internet and server connections to run, what happens when those server connections go away? Look at Sim City or Diablo III, what’s going to happen when EA or Blizzard stops supporting those games? Since you are required to be online AND connected to their servers to play them, if those servers are no longer there, you can say bye-bye to all of your hours of gameplay, your customized characters and all of your worlds. They will simply cease to exist. When the money drys up, so does the online support.

All of this makes me extremely angry. If this is allowed to happen, we can say farewell to our current idea of game ownership. We will no longer be buying games to keep, we will be buying a $60 online pass that lets us play the game, but only until the servers are taken offline. At that point, we are forced to move on. Our ability to play “always online” games after that point, would be contingent upon their parent company still being able to make a profit off of us. If not, they will move on to greener pastures and we gamers will loose that game and eventually the entire console.

Let’s face it, video games should NOT be reliant on an internet connection to play. This “always online” foolishness is simply a means to protect AAA companies and their intellectual and creative property, from pirates and piracy.  I suspect that their PR and advertising machines are going to try and make these new features appealing to us gamers. I hope we don’t fall for their tricks. I for one, do not want to sign in EVERY TIME I want to play a game or turn on a console. This is especially true if the game is a single-player title with NO multi-player or co-op modes. The AAA’s can doctor it up and spin it any way they want, but it’s still all about the money. “Always online” is in THEIR best interest, not ours.

I have a feeling that difficult times are on their way and that we should expect the AAA game companies to raise prices for their “next gen” games, to help mitigate the increase in costs for servers and “always online” functionality. I hope I’m wrong, but the money has to come from somewhere.

Recently, Sony has assured gamers that their PS4 console will NOT require an “always online” connection. That is quite a relief, but Sony has a reputation for changing their minds, so I wouldn’t rule them out just yet. Despite a lot of rumors, Microsoft is still officially keeping quiet. However, unofficially some of Microsoft’s spokespersons have hinted that the new Xbox WILL require a persistent internet connection, if you want to use their system. That is a scarey thought. Ultimately, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. I really hope that they all come to their senses and they keep the internet and gaming two separate, yet equal entities. Neither one should be reliant on the other.

Gentleben94

The King’s Field Retrospective: King’s Field Part One (A Brief Introduction)

King's Field

In my humble opinion, the 1990s were a GREAT decade for gaming. We witnessed the birth and the death of some of the most legendary gaming systems: Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Nintendo 64, Sega Saturn, Atari Jaguar and even the vaulted PlayStation 1. It was the heyday of many of our “classic” video games. The 90s gave us Super Mario Bros. 3 (1990 in the U.S.), Super Mario World, Act Raiser, Super Castlevaina 4, Super Metroid, Mega Man X, Final Fantasy 3/6, Star Fox, Final Fantasy 7, Final Fantasy Tactics, Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, Golden Eye 64, Doom, Doom II, Command and Conquer, Unreal Tournament, Half Life…the list can go on and on.  In those 10 years, we saw massive changes come to the industry. Games made huge strides in the area of graphics and game design, levels became more intricate and environments began to be fully rendered, 3 dimensional landscapes. It’s safe to say that the 90s blew our collective gaming minds.

However, there is one particular series of games, born out of this gaming renaissance that are often forgotten and overlooked by mainstream gamers. Personally, I always include at least one of them in any list of my all-time favorite games; an obscure, 1st person, action RPG series called King’s Field.

Combining gloomy and foreboding elements of dark fantasy with knights, swords, sorcery, dragons, gods and even demons, King’s Field was an engrossing, multifaceted world with a rich and captivating storyline. It was truly a unique experience and one that forever changed how I played video games.

Created by FROM Software, the King’s Field series was groundbreaking amongst RPGs of the time. Utilizing a first person view and a fully 3 Dimensional environment, the first installment of the series helped to launch the original Japanese PlayStation system, in 1994. King’s Field showcased the system’s rather impressive capabilities and was one of the original launch titles for the new console, but only in Japan. Unfortunately, we in the U.S. would never see the first King’s Field as an official disc based release. This game, which is unofficially referred to as King’s Field Japan, can only be found through fan translated ROMs running on PlayStation emulators. Of course, these are notoriously difficult to get working, but they are the only way to play the original title in English.

In Japan, FROM Software created a total of six King’s Field games, however here in the U.S. we only received the 2nd, 3rd and 4th installments. Since King’s Field Japan gathered a dedicated fan base throughout Japan, it spawned two direct sequels for the original PlayStation, one title on the PlayStation 2 and eventually two titles on the PlayStation Portable. The King’s Field series also helped to create other games such as Eternal Ring, Shadow Tower and even today’s Souls series (Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2). I’d consider that a pretty impressive set of credentials wouldn’t you?

Most of the King’s Field games shared common ground with one another. They all used a good deal of the same weaponry, armor, items and magic spells, while pulling from and building upon the same pool of characters and lore. Weapons like the Moonlight Sword or items like Earth Herbs or Antidotes are perfect examples, popping up throughout all of the King’s Field games. Some of these elements even managed to make their way into the current Souls games, giving us King’s Field fans, a much needed sense of nostalgia. Also, the brutal and unforgiving nature of the original King’s Fields have continued right down to the present day, becoming a major selling point for both Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls. (We’ll explore these two games later on, as I have very strong feelings for both.)

In the King’s Field series, players were left up to their own devices. There was NO hand holding here. If the player was going to survive, THEY had to uncover all the items, weapons, secrets and lore. Since the game’s NPCs gave little help, this was always a challenge. At the start of each game the player was stranded in a strange landscape, with little to no equipment. Which way you went and how you developed your playing style was up to you. That was a freedom of game play that, back then I had yet to experience.

When I first played the American King’s Field, I fell in love with it and I became an instant fan. It was the perfect combination of 3D visuals, creepy and engrossing sound, brutal difficulty, catchy music, underlying fear and a profound sense of anticipation for the huge journey that lay ahead. It set the benchmark for every other action RPG that I played and in my head… few live up to the comparison. Over the next few posts, I plan on diving in and exploring each individual game, as I remember them. I am only going to refer to the American releases to try and limit confusion, but I do plan on eventually doing a separate post to give information on the Japan only titles. Up next, we will take a look back at the American King’s Field, as seen through my eyes and my controller. I hope to see you there.

GentleBen94