Monday, June 26, 2017

Four Job Fiesta Update: Week 1

I’m one week into my Four Job Fiesta campaign and am having a total blast. So far I’ve unlocked three of my four classes and have hosted four Twitch streams. I’m also proud to announce that to date, the Four Job Fiesta has already raised over $14,600 for Child’s Play!

Here’s a recap of my campaign so far:

For starters, I want to give a special thanks to Data_Error for placing the winning bid in my character-naming auction. He elected to change Bartz’s name to Faris… and thus I now have two characters named Faris in my party. Thankfully, in the PC version of Final Fantasy 5, character portraits are displayed during dialog, so it’s usually not too confusing to figure out which Faris is speaking. However, in some cases, there are text-only character status messages that take some context clues to figure out.

At the Wind Crystal, the job I unlocked was White Mage. This made for some slow going initially as my characters had very limited offensive capabilities, causing some boss battles to take up 30 minutes to slowly chip away at the boss’s HP. On the bright side, one of the dungeons I went through was filled with undead enemies and I was able to steamroll them with healing spells.

At the Water Crystal, I was really hoping for some sort of class with heavy-hitting physical attacks… so of course what I ended up getting was Red Mage. While not ideal, at least this allowed me the ability to equip swords and do a small but respectable amount of physical damage. The real boon here, however, was being able to use a technique called “rod breaking”. Rod breaking (which I just learned about recently) allows my Red Mages to sacrifice one of their rod weapons in order to cast level 3 black magic (e.g. break a fire rod to cast level 3 fire). This early in the game, a level 3 spell is devastatingly powerful and there have been a few bosses I’ve been able to annihilate in only a few turns using this technique.

I closed out my first week of the Fiesta by reaching the Fire Crystal, which is where I finally unlocked a class that can do some real physical damage: Ninja. This is a class I don’t have much experience with, but I was happy to find that they can hold a weapon in each hand. This means that Bartz (aka “first Faris”) is now doing over 300 damage per turn as opposed to 150 as a Red Mage or 60 as a White Mage. I’m definitely looking forward to experimenting more with weapon combinations using this class as my run continues.

While the classes I’ve unlocked haven’t always been the easiest to use or the most ideal, I’ve really been appreciating how they’ve caused me to come up with completely different strategies from those I used when I originally played Final Fantasy 5. For my fourth class, I’m hoping to get something really outlandish so that I get to learn how to play a completely unfamiliar class.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Four Job Fiesta

I am very excited to be participating in the Four Job Fiesta this year. It's a charity event benefiting Child's Play in which participants play through Final Fantasy 5 with a specialized set of challenge rules. Since FF5 is one of my all-time favorite RPGs, I couldn't be more thrilled to revisit it while also supporting a great cause!

The Gameplay:
Normally in Final Fantasy 5, each time the party reaches one of the four elemental crystals (Wind, Water, Fire, and Earth), a new set of character classes is unlocked. Effectively mixing, matching, and swapping classes is a major part of the strategy, and that's where the rules of the Four Job Fiesta throw in a monkey wrench. When playing for the Fiesta, players are restricted to using only one randomly selected class per crystal. Being limited to using only 4 of the 21 possible classes throughout the entire game radically changes the way players approach battles and increases the difficulty. Fiesta participants have from June 19th through August 31st to complete their runs through the FF5.

The Charity:
The Four Job Fiesta benefits the Child's Play Charity. This organization seeks to improve the quality of life of children in hospitals and domestic abuse shelters by providing them with games and toys. The Fiesta raises funds for the charity in three ways:
  1. Players pledge an amount of money based on certain conditions of their play-through(s)
  2. Supporters and spectators can pledge money to sponsor the participants of their choosing (similar to a charity marathon)
  3. Players who find themselves in a bind with their randomly selected character classes can re-roll their classes in exchange for a donation
My Participation:
I will be starting my run on June 19th and periodically streaming my play-through on Twitch. I will also be posting status updates and screenshots on Twitter and this blog throughout my run, especially after major in-game milestones.

For my charitable pledge, I will be donating $1 per level of my highest level character when I finish the game (e.g. if my strongest character is level 50 when I beat the final boss, I will donate $50). In the event I fail to finish the game before the end of the Fiesta, I will donate double my strongest character's level (e.g. $70 if my strongest character is level 35 at the end of the Fiesta).

My Auction:
As I announced last night on my Twitch channel, I am auctioning off the naming rights to my player character (whose default name is Bartz). If you would like to place a bid to be the one to name my character, please send me a tweet. I will close the auction and contact the highest bidder at 11 PM EDT on June 18th. Opening bids start at $5 US. Upon confirmation that the donation to Child's Play has been made, Bartz's new name shall be whatever the highest bidder desires!
After the end of the auction, anyone who donates or pledges to sponsor my run will be added to the Special Thanks section of my Four Job Fiesta blog posts. Of course, donors are welcome to remain anonymous if they'd prefer.

Note: I won't be able to accept blatantly profane names since the character name will be appearing in screenshots and on my Twitch stream, but other than that, I invite whatever humorous, unique, or creative names the auction winner can think of.

 For more information, to sign up to participate, or to make a charitable donation, please visit If you have any questions you'd like to ask me directly, please contact me via my  Twitter page.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

E3 2017 Highlights

This is the first year in a long time that I've really dug deep into E3. It was interesting to watch all the press conferences, keep tabs on the fan reactions, and live tweet with each event. There was way too much shown over the course of the past few days to be able to summarize it all, so I've put together a list of my personal highlights from each show.

This was the only conference I missed. Watching the recap after the fact, there was only one game that stood out to me.
  • A Way Out - A story-driven co-op prison break game that looked really intriguing.
They didn't convince me to buy an Xbox One (or the new Xbox One X), but they did show a couple of games that are also releasing on PC that looked appealing.
  • The Last Night - A really cool-looking pixel art cyberpunk adventure. I should note that the developer was supposedly involved in some sort of controversy in the past that has made some people hesitant about this game. 
  • Code Vein - A slick action RPG that appears to be set in a post-apocalyptic vampire world.
  • Sea of Thieves - Reminds me a lot of a pirate mod I used to play for Battlefield 1942. Looks like it would be a lot of fun to assemble some friends to form a pirate crew.
  • Life Is Strange Before The Storm - A prequel to Life Is Strange! One of my favorite games that I played last year!
  • Anthem - Bioware's next game, a sci-fi adventure in which players explore an alien planet in Ironman-like power suits
This conference almost entirely focused on expansions to existing games. There was a reveal of a new Evil Within and a new Wolfenstein, but I didn't see enough of them to know if either one is for me.

I couldn't even get all the way through this awful conference that was more focused on jokes than actual games. I so disliked this one that I think it retroactively made me like Hotline Miami and Titan Souls less.

PC Gaming:
Longer and slower-paced than the other conferences, it mostly showed games that weren't really my thing, but there were a few exceptions:
  • Tunic - An isometric Zelda-like game starring a cartoon fox. Maybe I'm just a sucker for anything even resembling Zelda.
  • Grift Lands - A sci-fi RPG with really stylish comic book-like visuals.
  • War Groove - Very clearly inspired by Advance Wars and Fire Emblem, a turn-based RPG with a level editor. It's coming out for both PC and Switch.
This one was a surprisingly strong showing. It may have been the best conference of E3.
  • Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle - I never thought a mashup of Mario and Rayman's Raving Rabbids with gameplay in the style of XCOM would appeal to me, but this game looked great. I also really enjoyed seeing Shigeru Miyamoto and Yves Guillemot on stage together.
  • Assassin's Creed Origins - I don't have any prior experience with Assassin's Creed, but this one's ancient Egyptian setting and the inclusion of animal companions has piqued my interest.
  • Skull & Bones - A really pretty-looking game of pirate naval combat.
  • Beyond Good & Evil 2 - They only showed a cinematic trailer and didn't reveal any information regarding release date or platform, but I'm really excited that one of my favorite games of the Gamecube-PS2-Xbox era is finally getting a follow-up.
As somebody who doesn't own a PS4, this was the conference I was least invested in. However, I watched it anyway just to get a sense of what's going on in that part of the industry.
  •  Monster Hunter World - Hunting for dinosaurs in a lush jungle looks like it could be a lot of fun. This is the most interested I've been in a Monster Hunter title in quite some time. I was also glad to see this is getting a PC release.
  • Detroit: Become Human - A story-driven adventure about an android uprising in a future version of Detroit. Only a story trailer was shown, but what I saw looked interesting. Unfortunately for me, it's a PS4 exclusive.
  • Spider-Man - Another PS4 exclusive, this game looked really impressive and did a great job capturing the flow of Spider-Man's movements. The heavy reliance on QTEs (quick time events) does give me pause, however.
As a massive Nintendo fan, this is the one I was most excited for but I tried to keep my expectations in check. It was a tight 25 minutes of solid, but not mind-blowing stuff.
  • Xenoblade 2 - I loved the previous Xenoblade games, and this one is looking good. I was happy to hear the return of the UK voice-acting team and see that the release date was this year.
  • Pokemon Switch - We all knew it was only a matter of time. It's probably still a long way off, but I'm glad to hear confirmation of a Pokemon RPG for Switch.
  • Kirby and Yoshi - Two new 2D co-op platformers. Nothing revolutionary, but my wife and I really enjoy playing these together.
  • Metroid Prime 4 - They only showed a logo, but like with Pokemon, it was good to hear an announcement of something fans have been craving for a long time.
  • Super Mario Odyssey - It looks absolutely insane and I love it. Can't wait for this one.
  • Rocket League - It was awesome to see this get ported to Switch with cross-platform online play.
Though some people lamented that this E3 lacked the excitement of some of the shows of years past, I came away from it feeling like I have a lot of games to look forward to on my Switch and PC for the rest of this year and into 2018. If you're looking to catch up on things that were shown at E3 or see footage of any games I highlighted, I'd recommend checking out this handy website:

See below for some screenshots I took while watching the conferences:

Two industry icons sharing the stage
Skull & Bones looks really pretty
It's only been 15 years in the making, but I'm still excited about it

New Kirby co-op game
At least they finally announced it
Mexican Mario is the best Mario

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Metal Gear Solid 3 (3DS) Review

Mission compromised

It turns out I was much closer to the end of MGS3 than I thought at the time I wrote my impressions! As result, most of what I said there is applicable to the game as a whole. Thus instead of writing a full review from scratch, here are some of my observations from the 3rd act of the game followed by some closing thoughts:

WARNING: There may be some spoilers ahead.
  • As I had said in my impressions, the fact that they crammed a fairly demanding PS2 game into the tiny and underpowered original 3DS is a technical feat that I continued to marvel at for most of my play-through. However, a lot of the big action set pieces that may have been gripping on the PS2 in 2004 felt drawn-out and excessive on the 3DS in 2017. After getting a few minutes into one of these scenes, I found myself wishing that they would wrap up so that I could return to regular gameplay and have full control of Snake again.
  • There are a couple of other artistic excesses that get in the way of the gameplay experience. Most glaring of these is the "boss battle" with The Sorrow. In this scene, all Snake can do is slowly walk by the ghosts of every enemy he's killed. Other than that, there's no other interaction involved with this scene, but it goes on for an extremely long time. While I realize that director Hideo Kojima may have been trying to make some kind of philosophical statement here, this section is not at all enjoyable to play. I ended up just tilting the analog pad forward while watching TV to keep myself entertained as I waited for this part to end.
  • While it may have just been the way things were back in 2004, to the modern eye, the sexualization of the female characters comes off as pretty immature. Female characters in MGS3 are usually in various stages of undress, even in segments of the game where it seems completely tonally inappropriate.
  • The last few boss fights (i.e. after trudging through The Sorrow) represented some of the best action sequences of the game. However, in some cases, these required the sort of speed and accuracy that the 3DS control scheme just cannot provide. As a result, I had to rely pretty heavily on auto-aim on some these which was a lot less exciting than lining up shots myself would have been. 
  • Though most of the action cut scenes fell a little flat for me, there were definitely some dialog cutscenes (especially the ending) that were surprisingly compelling. Kojima is at his best when he's weaving political intrigue and betrayal, rather showing Ocelot spin his revolvers around for the twelfth time.
Ultimately, the experience of playing Metal Gear Solid 3 on 3DS was less than ideal, but I'm glad I finally got around to playing it. I think a linear story-based action game is exactly what I needed after a sprawling open-world RPG like Breath of the Wild. However, throughout my play-through, I couldn't shake the feeling that MGS3 just didn't make a ton of sense as a 3DS game. The combination of clunky controls and a form factor ill-suited to watching lengthy cutscenes detracted significantly from what this game was trying to accomplish and I suspect that I would have enjoyed it more if I had been playing it in longer sessions on the PS2. Thus my recommendation would be if you have the option of playing on the PS2, go with that, but if portability is a big selling point to you, the 3DS version still manages to preserve a decent amount of what originally made MGS so popular (perhaps more so if you have a New 3DS).

Score: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Completion Time: 14 hours, 48 minutes (main story on easy difficulty)

Note: I suspect this game would have had a shot at a 4-star score if I had played it on PS2.

 No-kill play-throughs are for hippies!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Demo Hotness: ARMS Global Test Punch

A game that I like more in theory than I do in practice
Over the past 2 weekends, I've had the opportunity to try out the online multiplayer demo of Nintendo's newest fighting game, ARMS. Now that I've been able to participate in 3 different sessions of the ARMS Global Test Punch, my thoughts on the game are starting to come together.
  • Controls: I initially went back and forth between two of the game's control schemes: motion controls and Pro-controller. In general, I found that while the motion controls allow for more fine control of punches in mid-flight, the pro-con offered much better movement and blocking. I ultimately found that I got more consistent results with the pro-con, but it's definitely admirable that the motion controls work as well as they do; they're certainly a viable option. I'm very curious to see if any competitive players will be using motion controls in the upcoming E3 ARMS tournament.
  • Characters: While I initially didn't appreciate them, the character designs really started to grow on me. There's a good amount of variety to their designs and play-styles. I do wish that they had a little bit more personality in their win and loss animations. Hopefully, the full game will feature some additional voice work to give the characters more life.
  • Mechanics: There is more depth to this game than meets the eye and I like how switching between characters and mixing and matching weapons allows for a wide variety of strategies. This is a game that requires a fairly high degree of finesse to play, and thus I don't think button-mashers will get very far. As a result, the game doesn't feel as approachable as old-school fighting games or Smash Bros, so I think exciting matches pretty much require two players of equivalent skill and a firm grasp on the systems.
  • Music: The theme song is extremely repetitive, but manages to get stuck in my head every time I play!
Overall, I really appreciate the creativity and intricacies of ARMS, but I'm just not sure that it's a game for me. Generally, the games that work for me have to do at least one of the three following things: offer a satisfying single-player campaign, be a good co-op experience with my wife, or keep house guests entertained. From what I've heard from those who have early access to the full game, the single-player is very limited and there's been no mention of co-op. Thus, the whole thing hinges on ARMS's potential as a party game, and at this point, I don't think this game's mechanics lend themselves well to that. From what I can see in the demo, ARMS is a game that really encourages honing one's skills and then going online in search of worthy opponents. By the time I got to the 45-minute mark in my third Test Punch session, I found myself checking my watch; I think I got my fill of online competition from the demo alone. Thus, there's a good chance I'll be passing on the full version of ARMS until it gets a price-drop unless I hear something especially compelling about the content not featured in the demo.