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 Post subject: itt i review video games
PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2016 9:55 pm 
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Elder Dragon
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and make you suffer from my opinions

but first, a guide on the components of the RPG

The traditional console/PC RPG (role playing game) has six key elements, all of which can add to or detract from the experience. Given that, a comprehensive review needs to cover all of them. By definition, the RPG has some number of playable characters who progress via experience points, eventually increasing in level which modifies parameters. There are a few members that stray from the traditional experience points (for example, Chrono Cross) and in fact there are numerous non-RPG games that have embraced the experience model, notably sports and racing games.

Story - Sadly, this element has become weaker over time as a main influence, being overtaken by graphics, but it is still absolutely crucial because in practice the story is generally what keeps players interested. It is possible for RPGs to have a weak story and still have good elements, and in fact this has become increasingly common, but that does not make them overall a good experience.

Graphics - Honestly, I wish this did not have to be a category. However, the power of marketing mandates it be the case, because modern-day graphics sell. (At least, until people realize that graphics do not make an experience, and then they already spent $60 minimum, oops!) To be honest, fans of the RPG genre should not overvalue this category unless the graphics make the game literally unplayable, and this is the category I value the least.

Combat - This element is hugely important, because combat is generally how the experience model even functions (with some exceptions, of course), so it has to be enjoyable. There are three main types of combat in which RPGs are sub-classified: action (the Tales of and Star Ocean series are notable members), turn-based (Final Fantasy and Shin Megami Tensei with a few exceptions), and by far the rarest tactical (Disgaea, Valkyrie Profile, and Tactics Ogre). Some games value this element too highly in contrast to other elements, which I like to refer to as "Star Ocean syndrome" (named for Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, which is carried by its unique combat system and is relatively flawed elsewhere, especially with regards to its story) and is definitely not desirable. Balance within the combat system is covered by its own category.

Quality-of-Life - Part of the reason that the RPG (or more specifically, the JRPG) has been losing appeal is that the 60-hour epics of old just don't work anymore and smaller sessions are more desirable, as many former JRPG customers now have families and have to deal with this thing called life. In addition, the dreaded and overused "fetch quest" mechanic (go to a place, get an item, go to another place) is a huge negative because it does not actually add much to the experience other than "fake" gameplay. Positives such as methods to eliminate tedium/backtracking are also emphasized in this category.

Balance - This is usually the least relevant category as games are usually played for fun, but can at times be crippling to a game's enjoyment (the Shin Megami Tensei games are notable for the instant death game over potential). The goal with this category is to ensure that the combat experience requires and/or allows for variety without becoming too cumbersome.

Aesthetics - Distinct from graphics, aesthetics covers the general mood and themes within a game. Ironically, while graphics may sell games, aesthetics sells the experience, which is more valuable in practice. This category is purposely broad because its scope can vary from being extremely narrow to being extremely wide depending on the game itself.

Numerical Scores - The one thing reviews don't need, because "Game A is 15% better in graphics but 30% worse in story than Game B" is a ridiculous statement that can be derived from numerical scores, which tells you that they really don't mean that much in the grand scheme of things. Sadly, they have persisted because of laziness on the part of consumers and some even discuss them as if they hold actual relevance (sadly, they do), which obviously means capitalism is totally working. Thanks capitalism!


Last edited by Golgari_Spy on Wed Jun 08, 2016 9:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2016 10:00 pm 
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I eagerly await the forthcoming suffering.

Also, I give the above placeholder post a completely arbitrary numerical score of 4.2 out of 11.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2016 10:14 pm 
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Golgari wrote:
and maybe a tirade on how numerical scores are dumb
Yay!


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2016 9:09 am 
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look at that, i now have six components i can review every game on

now off to working on the disgaea review


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2016 12:11 pm 
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 10, 2016 11:11 am 
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and now, enjoy the review you have been waiting for while i decide what to do next

Disgaea

Platforms available: PS2 (as Disgaea: Hour of Darkness), DS (as Disgaea DS), PSP (as Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness), PC (as Disgaea PC, a port of the PSP version)
Publisher: Nippon Ichi
Developer: Nippon Ichi
Sub-Genre: Tactical

This review will focus on the DS version, while contrasting with other versions where necessary.

Story - This element is arguably the strongest in the Disgaea series, and has held up remarkably well. The game starts in a (yes, a) Netherworld with Laharl being awoken after a long sleep by his vassal Etna, or, should I say, Etna failing yet again to kill Laharl. They are demons, after all! Laharl soon discovers that his father has (apparently) passed away, leaving no Overlord, so Laharl sets out to claim his rightful title along with Etna and her Prinny Squad. Along the way, Laharl and "friends" meet some other characters, including the love addict Flonne, an Angel Trainee from Celestia, and Laharl slowly realizes that being an Overlord is more than simply being evil. Disgaea does not take itself too seriously, as the game is full of humor. The DS version features prinny commentary as a bonus for a second playthrough, which enhances the humor element. Character development is respectable, which is an impressive task given the rather humorous dialogue.

Graphics - Let's be honest - if you're playing Disgaea, you are not playing it for the graphics. Regardless of version, the graphics do not hold up to modern games, which is to be expected for a game that is relatively ancient in terms of video games. That being said, the graphics are functional and the menus are easily navigable.

Combat - The worst-kept secret about a Disgaea game is that the main game is just a speed bump to impede progress for the post-game, which I'll also cover in the quality-of-life section. Disgaea's combat system features an element of turn-based combat in that all the allies' actions resolve first, then all the enemies' action, and so on until one side wins. This encourages an element called combo attacks in which consecutive characters target another character, which is built upon in later games in the series. Positioning also matters, as characters adjacent to a character performing a melee attack can join in a team attack, with its benefits (increased damage) and drawbacks (divided EXP, is usually not 100% guaranteed, requires a melee attack specifically). Characters also have a "counter" rating, which affects the chance of a counterattack and the number of counterattacks that character can perform in a single turn, and interestingly counters can trigger on more than physical attacks.

Because that alone isn't enough, Disgaea has colored Geo Panels, which bestow benefits/drawbacks on floor panels that match the color the Geo Panel is on, and the Geo Panel can be attacked like anything else to trigger a Geo Combo. Mastery of Geo Combos is occasionally useful, as it is possible to chain them once the underlying mechanics are understood.

Throughout a battle, actions build a bonus meter that hands out predetermined post-battle bonuses for a victory depending on how full it is, up a maximum of 10 extra rewards. The rewards can vary among items, EXP for all allied characters out at map completion, and currently, appropriately called hell (HL). Geo Combos are the best for filling the bonus meter, although in the long term the bonuses are not really worthwhile.

For those who just love to steal things, Disgaea has items called stealing hands that give a chance to steal an equipped item from an enemy. The chance is largely based on Level and is capped at 50% except for Thief classes, which can get up to the 99% cap.

In case leveling up your character wasn't enough, Disgaea also features Item World, which lets you level up items. Be aware that as the item increases in rank (relative strength) and as floors are completed, the enemies become more difficult, so there is no such thing as too many Mr. Gency's Exits to let you escape without harm.

Humanoid characters can also throw other characters. The lovable Prinny is famous for exploding after a throw, but throwing also serves pratical uses, such as crossing gaps or artifically increasing movement range.

If you always wanted a fist fighter to cast Fire, Disgaea lets you do that too with a little work, thanks to the Extra Gain mechanic. Just have the Fist Fighter create a Red Mage/Skull pupil, stand next to the Red Mage/Skull in battle, cast Fire a few times, and once Fire is at level 1 (and as long as it is at least level 1) the Fist Fighter will keep the spell and be able to cast it at will!

Quality-of-Life - Disgaea does not hold up well in this department given the age of the game. Notably, the PS2 version does not grant the ability to skip attack/spell animations, which is poor compensation for voice acting. The DS version sacrifices voice acting (probably because of technical limitations, really) for these quality-of-life improvements, while the PSP version has both voice acting and the ability to skip attack/spell animations, but has a few various other glitches.

Item World can be tedious because certain specialists can grant minor permanent bonuses upon leveling up the item (even if in practice it doesn't add up to that much). Also, rarity matching is somewhat vital in the late post-game, as matching all four item slots gives a 30% bonus to the stats each item offers, which adds tedium because there are 256 rarities (although only 8 legendary rarities) and rarity matching is a relatively easy bonus to attain.

Reincarnation serves three purposes in Disgaea: to promote to the next-higher level in a class (each class has six tiers, with increasing level requirements and the highest available tier), to increase the amount of stored levels which increases the amount of stat points you can add, and to increase the amount of "yellow bar" stats given from inherent stats before reincarnation. While reincarnation is suboptimal for completing the main game, it is very helpful for completing the post-game content, and sadly the lack of a quality leveling map makes maxing out at 186,000 stored levels and unlocking higher tiers in some cases a pain, a problem that wasn't really rectified in the series until Disgaea 3. Reincarnation does also give a penalty to skill/weapon mastery levels, but that is far easier to remedy.

Thankfully, Disgaea is the easiest game in the series by far to obtain top-rank (which is rank 40) legendaries, but that still requires a Thief (to steal the item) and traversing 100 floors in the Item World of a legendary rank 39 item (itself a task, given how difficult it is to find legendaries in general), and with the prevalence of Gatekeepers this encourages building up two characters with high MV (usually one with fist attacks, as they can knock the Gatekeeper off the exit panel so the other can exit quickly) to reduce future tedium, a theme that repeats itself in future entries.

Leveling up healer classes to gain access to higher-tier healing spells is painful, as it requires a team attack which is not fully reliable. As skills usually outdamage melee physicals, higher stats are required to even make the team attack useful for giving the healer a share of the experience. Sadly, Omega Heal (the highest-tier healing spell) is something that expedites the post-game, so acquiring it is a necessary step so that it can be Extra Gained onto your more useful characters.

Mr. Gency's Exits can only be acquired after clearing a floor that is a multiple of 10 in Item World (other than the free one you get when the Item World is introduced). A mechanic built into the game, called the "double-kill" allows you to gain the bonus stats from an Item General/King/God twice rather than once, which requires the usage of Mr. Gency's Exits, so maximizing items can be tedious, although in practice it is really only necessary for the end of the post-game.

Unlocking all the proposals that can be passed in the Dark Assembly requires defeating special battles. Most notably, reincarnation requires rank 3 minimum.

Balance - Characters are built around aptitudes, which are a multiplier that affects the stats given by equipment (along with a factor based on current level, except for humanoid weapons which only care about current weapon mastery rank), and for humanoid characters, weapon mastery multipliers (ranging from S as the best to E as the worst). Sadly, monster characters suffer long-term from the lack of weapon mastery multipliers and poor aptitudes (even if the level multiplier has a slightly higher cap), which encourages an all-humanoid party. In addition, the hard-to-unlock Majin class has the best all-around aptitudes and the best all-around weapon mastery multipliers (the top tier has S for all humanoid weapons), which supplants all other classes for combat purposes. Thankfully, the Thief class is still the best at stealing, and Majin does not have the highest base MV, so it does not replace every character.

Also, defense (DEF) has historically been irrelevant as a stat in the Disgaea series, because the damage formula greatly favors attack stats for both physicals and spells, so as the game progresses the best defense is naturally a great offense, as you are given the initative. This theme continues throughout the series.

Spells also have the benefit of a weapon mastery multiplier that is multiplicative for purposes of damage (on top of the stat multiplier for weapon mastery), so offensive spells are far more powerful than their corresponding physical skills, which don't get this benefit. While the elemental skills are measured against elemental defense, the "non-elemental" Star spell (which is actually a hidden element that everything has 20% resistance to) has no such countermeasure, so it outclasses the elemental spells unless the elemental spells are hitting a weakness. The weapon mastery multiplier for spell damage also has the side effect of making monster spellcasters less useful than "already useless". Poor monsters!

Aesthetics - Disgaea does an excellent job of establishing and maintaining the appropiate mood, supplemented at times by the music. If you want a scary, evil Netherworld, that's what you're going to get unless Flonne gets in the way. Even when the locations change, the overall feel of the game keeps up, all the way to the final fight - and even beyond that.

It is possible to change the base music and the Item World music, but the costs are astronomical amounts of HL so it's really a cosmetic late post-game feature more than anything.

The Dark Assembly feels like what one would expect from demon politicians, because they will vote however they want to - but you can persuade them with the art of bribing them with your items. You can also try to slay those who oppose you when they (inevitably) reject your proposal, but that makes them hate you even more if you succeed, as one would expect from demons.

Overall - Disgaea suffers from its age, as its age shows with some of the mechanical tedium that exists. In spite of that, it does offer a solid main-game storyline and for those that want to complete the post-game you get more jokes (obviously) and you just might even defeat the mighty Baal! Given that the game is available on PC (through Steam, obviously), the power of mods can improve the base experience (or try to, at least), although I would argue that the DS version is still the superior just for prinny commentary. If you want to play the Disgaea series, start with Disgaea itself, because after playing the more recent games in the series the mechanics feel dated.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 10, 2016 12:00 pm 
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Have you played Bravely Default/ Bravely Second? I think at least the first title remakes the traditional JRPG model in compelling and very meta-textual ways by referencing terrible design archetypes and then turning them sideways.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 10, 2016 12:06 pm 
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i do not have a 3ds, so not yet


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 10, 2016 12:22 pm 
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Well written, dood.

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You failed to mention, though, how many hours this game will suck out of your life if you let it. I would love to see your estimate (mine is infinity, give or take a day or two).

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 10, 2016 12:34 pm 
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i think i covered that with the tedium of the post-game balance

my "i did everything i wanted to" save was around 160 hours iirc

i'll probably work on star ocean: till the end of time next, where i get to establish the best rule ever for definitive proof a story is terrible


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 10, 2016 12:35 pm 
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The World Ends With You


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 10, 2016 2:58 pm 
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I love both bravely default and the world ends with you. Bravely second has this far been underwhelming.

I enjoyed this review and look forward to til the end of time. That game was aweful and I loved every minute of it right up to the bazooka man and whip dude near the end. They destroyed me and all feel good I ever had about the game haha.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 10, 2016 7:15 pm 
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Tkorigins wrote:
I love both bravely default and the world ends with you. Bravely second has this far been underwhelming.

I enjoyed this review and look forward to til the end of time. That game was aweful and I loved every minute of it right up to the bazooka man and whip dude near the end. They destroyed me and all feel good I ever had about the game haha.

that would be berial and belzeber and that's probably about two-thirds through the main game (i'm impressed you survive the overpowered robot enemies and the plot twist to make it to that point actually)

you are right that they are very annoying even if there are numerous very cheap ways to get past them

i'll make a note to get the world ends with you eventually and bravely default when i get a 3ds


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 14, 2016 12:48 pm 
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Are you going to be reviewing mostly (relatively) well known games or are you going to review some indy games as well?

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 14, 2016 12:54 pm 
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There's also a seris of games (2 of 3 out right now, 3rd on the way to the US at least this Christmas) called Zero Escape. The first game is called 999: Nine Persons, Nine Hours, Nine Doors, and the second is called Virtue's Last Reward. They're puzzle games at their core, but the plot is truly inspiring, and the second game has the single greatest end of game twist I have ever experienced. The games are very dark though. I highly encourage you to check them out.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 14, 2016 6:47 pm 
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IronHead wrote:
Are you going to be reviewing mostly (relatively) well known games or are you going to review some indy games as well?

i probably have very specific tastes, so i'll be reviewing relatively known games


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 14, 2016 11:41 pm 
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on the other hand, you reminded me to finish shadow hearts: covenant, which i remember quitting because it wouldn't play past a certain point on console (but it worked fine emulated, then i stopped for some reason), that's probably as obscure as it gets for me

i probably should consider playing the first game some day (apparently the third game is awful)


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 16, 2016 8:19 am 
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Star Ocean: Till the End of Time

Platforms available: PS2
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Tri-Ace
Sub-Genre: Action

Story - SO:TET's story is not the game's strong suit. Fayt, the main character, and Sophia start off on vacation when they are attacked by Vendeeni, which leads to them being separated and Fayt crash landing onto Vanguard III. From there, the story continues.

Or, at least, that's how Tri-Ace wants you to think about it. emeraldweapon posted a parody of the story, called Tales of Sulphur Tri-Oxide (which is a not-so-subtle reference to the origins of Tri-Ace itself) on the GameFAQs forums which I responsibly stored in a Notepad file (it's probably still out there somewhere, but have fun finding it), and let me tell you that when the parody is a massive improvement on the original story, your story sucks.

There's also the infamous plot twist, but the parody outdoes the game itself, as you would expect.

Graphics - While some may look at anime-style graphics as a copout, it is better to focus on making the other elements shine rather than focus on graphics, otherwise you end up with Star Ocean: The Last Hope, which somehow manages to be even worse as a game, but hey the graphics are better! Sadly, most of the other elements do not shine.

Combat - SO:TET features real-time combat with a menu for tactical purposes, such as scanning an enemy's attributes and using items. SO:TET's combat is notable for incapacitation being caused by being at 0 HP or 0 MP. While other games have had the 0 MP rule for certain enemies (notably Final Fantasy VI), SO:TET builds around the so-called "MP kill" as a mechanic, although its intended introduction is poorly done featuring enemies with low MP totals along with high HP and DEF values at a little before the halfway point.

Of course, MP kills alone aren't enough, so relatively early on you acquire a tome for Anti-Attack Auras. Basically, minor attacks are quick but can be guarded against by the anti-attack aura, while major attacks are slow but can't be guarded. While in practice this would theoretically work like rock-paper-scissors, there is an element that works in the player's favor against this element, as most battle skills set to the major slot activate quickly compared to a normal physical.

The third notable feature is a Fury gauge, which all actions require as a cost, whether it be a basic physical attack or a Battle Skill. SO:TET allows skills to be set at short and long range and in the minor and major attack slots. This allows you to not only activate the skills, but allow access to Cancel bonuses (which are damage multipliers) if the skills can be comboed into each other, from a base of 100% to 175%, 200%, 250%, and then 300% thereafer. Each character gains a Tactical Skill, Berserk, via leveling up which reduces Fury costs by half (thus allowing for longer battle skill combos) but reduces DEF by 30%, which is usually irrelevant as a drawback.

Item creation is actually pretty important to combat in this entry, as it allows the creation of special tomes that allow access to certain tactical skills, such as Max Fury, which randomly fills the Fury gauge, and Quick Symbol, which reduces casting time for symbology, and it allows synthesis of weapons, armor, and accessories. Certain accessories can also be synthesized onto weapons, so there is some flexibility with item creation as well. Sadly, item creation in SO:TET is not really a good system, which is a shame because it becomes vital later in the game and at higher difficulty settings.

SO:TET introduces battle trophies to the franchise. In this entry, there's a list of 300 battle trophies, which can range from defeating bosses in 60 seconds to defeating bosses without taking any damage with the controlled character to recovering exactly 777 HP. Battle trophies unlock special features, although many of them require multiple playthroughs to take advantage of.

Quality-of-Life - Item creation is especially tedious due to the method in which it functions. First, you have to recruit inventors to access most of the available items, and then have the right set of inventors set at the right price to create (hopefully) the desired item. There's a rating system based on how many inventions you patent, but it's functionally irrelevant, which is good because there's a lot of overlap for price ranges, which adds tedium. Also, the potential price values are randomly generated, and refining items can itself be a task, especially the infamous Boots of Prowess.

Unlocking higher difficulties is painful, as it is time consuming and requires knowledge of the trophies. The best unlockable, full action mode, requires 285 battle trophies to unlock, which requires at minimum a playthrough at 4D, the highest difficulty setting, along with full playthroughs including post-game at Galaxy and Universe, the default and second-highest difficulty settings respectively.

The relative lack of save points in certain locations makes it difficult to enjoy SO:TET in burst sessions.

Backtracking is incredibly common, and with almost no fast travel options, a lot of time is spent traveling back and forth among the same three or four locations.

Also problematic is that it is not yet available on PSN, so a PS2 is specifically required.

Balance - The default difficulty setting, Galaxy, hides many of the balance issues that plague SO:TET's combat system. First of all, robot enemies are ridiculously overpowered compared to most other types of enemies, which is made worse by the fact that there are three locations that feature them prominently, thus discouraging the enjoyment of the best aspect of the game except for the bosses.

Item creation can potentially be game-breaking but that is by user choice.

Symbology suffers from subpar damage, probably to compensate for a lack of a magic defense stat. In spite of that, offensive symbology serves legitimate functions, usually to support stunlocking, or keeping an enemy in place. Thunder Flare is easily the best spell for this purpose, and one character can even set it as a battle skill.

Many of the battle skills do not do enough to merit existing, notably short-range symbology and most of Peppita's dances. Also, certain battle skills, like Maria's Energy Burst, are so good that they supplant all other options for their purpose.

Balance among the characters is a little better, but not much. Fayt is more useful in the main game, but fades away post-game due to a lack of damage options and can be supplanted by Mirage or Cliff. Maria is the best damage-dealer post-game because of Energy Burst, but is mostly poor in the main game. Sophia is functionally a healer that can support with Thunder Flare stunlocking if necessary, which makes her situationally useful. The problem comes mostly with the recruitable characters, as the best choice is easily Nel, with Peppita holding on to second place. Adray suffers from being a short-range symbology specialist (with a few hilariously bad battle skills on top of that), which makes him functionally useless, and Roger is somehow even worse.

The AI can only competently handle (that is, access Cancel bonuses) specific combinations at specific ranges. As is conventional for most action RPGs, the AI-controlled allies are mostly incompetent.

Aesthetics - SO:TET actually does decently well in the aesthetics department, although that's mostly by design. There's a few subtle references to the first two Star Ocean games throughout the game. More importantly, though, is the emphasis on space travel and theoretical technology, as it is the backbone of what makes Star Ocean what it is. Unfortunately, Star Ocean's traditional focus is less on space itself and more about a small slice of the interactions between the technologically advanced outsiders and the locals, which is the impetus for the UP3, or the Universal Planet Protection Pact, to make sure that hyperadvanced civilizations don't suddenly influence others with their technology. While conceptually important, it's not something that four consecutive games of the same series can be built around.

It's also unfortunate that many of the aesthetic features of the mid-game are effectively spoilers themselves, otherwise I would be talking about them, but what I can say is that they are thematically appropriate.

SO:TET includes a dictionary as a feature, which is a nice touch, and would make the story easier to comprehend if it wasn't so awful.

Overall - SO:TET is carried by its combat system, which itself is plagued with flaws but is still the best element it has to offer. The story itself is subpar to the point that it's literally a joke, and item creation demonstrates just how far too much randomness can go. This is not a game I would recommend today because it did not age well and there's not enough to keep the experience enjoyable, which is unimpressive for the Star Ocean series' best-selling entry.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 16, 2016 8:21 am 
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now that i side kicked that review out of the way, i have to decide what to do next


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 16, 2016 9:08 am 
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Do you have a genre, or a class of specifications for games you play? Based on these reviews I think we share at least some similar tastes and I'm always happy to provide laundry lists of games to play for friends :)

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