So I've still mostly been playing through Berseria and I really love that game overall. It has a pirate guy who goes around punching dragons. However I went back and finished two games on the side that I had started a while back.
18. Xenoblade Chronicles -
If you've played any of the newer Super Smash Bros. games, this is the game the game that Shulk, one of those characters you probably hadn't heard of before, is from.
^This guy right here, with the British accent that is totally conveyed through this image.
Several years back there were a million thinkpieces about how Xenoblade Chronicles was the Jesus of JRPG's, how it redefined the genre etc., and honestly I don't know what crack these people were smoking. This game is mediocre, bordering on bad. Yes it has wide open areas that look nice, but there's fucking nothing
to do in them except fight monsters or find hidden areas which sometimes have monsters in them. This would be fine if the battle system was better (More on that in a second). In that sense the areas being big and open actually works against the game, because it just puts a lot of extra padding between you and the next plot cutscene. There are areas where if I happened to die to a boss, it would be like a five minute walk back to the boss fight before I had another shot. Even saying the areas are visually interesting feels like a weighted compliment to me, since as a Wii game Xenoblade very much has the feeling of being held back by the hardware its on.
The battle system is kind of a disaster. There's so little you're actually doing. No real systems to actually learn. In the beginning of the game they teach to use an attack to "Break" an enemy, use a second attack to "Topple" an enemy, and then if you have a third attack that "Dazes" them you use that. This is all I ended up doing for 90% of the game, and the combo is honestly less complicated than it sounds. You also have some attacks that matter based on positioning- Shulk's "Back Slash" for example does more damage if you launch from behind an enemy, but it's not like the extra damage turn a critical boss battle in your favor. You have your party members too, and while you can pick your party leader, it's real annoying that you can't switch who you're playing as in battle- something other, better games let you do. You can't even give your party members commands to set off a specific attack during normal combat- something other, better games let you do. At best you do can give a general order like "Be aggressive!" which is fine but even by broad strokes is pretty limited.
I think the real biggest problem with the battle system here is that whether you win or lose a battle is mostly determined before you start it. If the level gulf between you and an enemy is more than two levels they get a buff. As in, if the enemy is two levels ABOVE you, they get an extra boost to their stats in addition to the already being naturally stronger than you- you can still probably win if you're able to keep up with your healing. If they're several levels stronger than you though (I'm not sure exactly how many it needs to be) they get an additional boost and your attacks just straight up won't connect with them unless you have some arcane setup with equipment that a new player isn't going to know how to do anyways. And because that battle system is mostly that Break-Topple-Daze system it's not like they're some clever strategy in-battle
that can allow you to pull through. It just honestly seems there to punish you for not grinding.
I think you're expected to grind through doing sidequests, and Xenoblade has hundreds of them, and not a single one of them doesn't suck. Almost every single one I did was of the "Collect XYZ bear fangs" or whatever the fuck variety. Reviewers praised how the game doesn't (always) make you return to the quest giver to get your rewards for collecting the bear fangs or whatever the fuck, but for some reason the thought the sidequests actually being fun to do instead never entered their minds.
The story is fine I guess, but like Xenogears before it is mostly made up of references to mecha anime stitched together. Like even the thing about Shulk being able to see the future is a plot point straight out of the original Mobile Suit Gundam. They try to turn this into a game mechanic, and while I respect the attempt it just turned into the battle stopping for 15 seconds to watch a "vision" of your party member dying, and then trying to interrupt or kill the enemy that will take them out (Presuming a second enemy doesn't kill them first which defeats the entire point of the fucking vision mechanic
), and you do this by usually using the damn Break>Topple>Daze combo.
While I'm ranting about the gameplay again, it also has a "Party leader death = Game over, unless you have at least one bar of the Party gauge filled but lol if you expect the AI to properly raise you back to life without either dying themselves or taking heavy damage first" mechanic. Why? Why is this here? What is the reason for it? In other games there's usually a story reason for this, or only ever have you controlling one character all the time anyways. It seems pointless in Xenoblade.
I could go on but I'll stop here since I'm rambling at this point. I honestly don't get where any of the praise for this game came from, let alone it somehow being the "savior" of JRPG's that people were going on about a few years ago. It isn't even the best console RPG from the time it came out- NieR came out the same year and is way better. Before Xenoblade in that generation you had games like Tales of Vesperia and Demon's Souls. The year after Xenoblade came out a game called Dark Souls was released. I don't even think I'd even call Xenoblade the best JRPG on the Wii.
This has been a lot of unprompted words about a Wii game I don't particularly like.
19. Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest -
If you've played any of the newer Super Smash Bros. games, this is the game the game that Corrin, one of those characters you probably hadn't heard of before, are from.
^In Fates your Corrin can be either male or female and it's cool that Smash Bros. reflects this.
Fire Emblem Fates is actually three games. The basic story revolves around Corrin, who was raised in the kingdom of Nohr (A kind of standin for a medieval European society) as a member of the royal family, but is biologically a member of the royalty of the neighboring enemy country of Hoshido (A standin for medieval Japan). After a conflict erupts, Corrin is forced to choose which family they truly side with.
Conquest is about them siding with Nohr and fighting against and eventually conquering Hoshido. A separate game, Birthright, is the opposite. Lastly there's Revelations, which has Corrin forcing both of their families to work together. The three games only share a few levels and are otherwise full length in their own rights. The idea is that you buy either Conquest or Birthright in stores, and then you get the other two games as DLC for that entry.
I've only played Conquest, and it's supposed to be the hardest of the three. Fire Emblem games are pretty much the quintessential Strategy RPG series, you move your characters around on a grid and attack enemies with them, though Fire Emblem stands out from others in that once a unit dies they're fucking dead. There's no bringing them back (Unless you play on Casual mode, but why would you? Are you afraid of a challenge? Of the inevitability of death?), so you have to play smart to win well. The biggest addition to the game is the "Dragon Vein" system- special tiles on the map that when activated by you or your enemy causes weird changes to the map. In Conquest at least I found them more frustrating than anything, and kind of just felt like they made battles feel longer than they really needed to. While I like these games I'm also bad at them, and that may have contributed to how I felt about the new system here.
I think the idea of Conquest's story is a bit better than the execution. Nohr is supposed to be the obviously evil country, so choosing to side with them because you like your Nohrian siblings (Who really don't seem that evil themselves, it's your father that's the dickbag), is supposed to be morally ambiguous I guess and it doesn't come off too strongly. Fire Emblem has never really been known for its strong story anyways so oh well, the gameplay itself is fun enough even if I'm not too hot on the Dragon Vein system. I look forward to checking out the Birthright and and Revelations campaigns eventually anyways since they're supposed to have different gimmicks in combat and general map design.
"[Cinema] is a labyrinth with a treacherous resemblance to reality." - Andrew Sarris