Editorial Miscellany: Tired Headlines

Really he is just reflecting on murder plots against me.
Jack Skellington is reflecting on his ill-timed reign as mascot.

My hibernation is complete, LusiBears, and while I had a great vacation, I had a decidedly lackluster hibernation period. What is usually a two week expanse spent playing games that I otherwise never would, I only had about one full day completely to myself, and I spent it finishing up Avatar: The Last Airbender. A very worthy way to spend my time, but I was frustrated that I felt too rushed to dive into a time-consuming JRPG as is usually my wont for the season.

This week I struggle even harder to differentiate myself from Julian’s more esteemed, storied, and critically acclaimed column as I expect to do nothing except rave about Bravely Default the whole time based on only the demo. Also, the words “expect” and “except” appear exceptionally similar on four hours of sleep.

It is difficult to transition back to a workday sleeping schedule.

Bravely Demo

Sold. I am no quiet supporter of the excellent first half of 4 Heroes of Light and I have to admit that I was a little worried when the team was not working on a direct sequel. If the demo is any indication – and the buzz among reviews and Europeans is that it is – then I had no reason to worry. The game is beautiful and already gives a sense of expansive adventure even from within the demo.

Actually, let me sidetrack for a second and talk about how well-designed the demo itself is. It is so difficult to build an enticing demo for a genre like the JRPG. Most developers try too hard to stuff as many elements as they can into a short period – including a lot of dialogue – and the experience ends up as disorienting, exhausting, and ultimately not reflective of the experience. Bravely Default trusts its material and does not feel the need to hurriedly show off everything in its arsenal. Instead, it essentially creates a mini-RPG with quests specifically created for the demo but using the systems, locations, and art from the game. The result is that playing the demo does not spoil much for when I pick up the full version, but gives the exact right impression. The characters all start at level one, and there is plenty of items and spells to purchase and three separate mini-dungeons to explore.

But in English, please.
Gimme dem menus!

As for the gameplay itself, while I cannot tell from the demo if Bravely Default retains 4 Heroes of Light excellent lack of hand-holding, but it definitely boasts a superior battle system and an excellent and addicting job system. It is apparent that while the game is not afraid to innovate, it is also aware of what made classic elements and systems great. It knows that good game design, like all good art, is timeless, and appears to harness the magic that made us all fall in love with the genre in the first place. Combined with the Etrian Odyssey series, Bravely Default makes me very optimistic about the future of the genre. February 7th cannot come soon enough.

PSP 3

No, I am not talking about the successor to the PS Vita which I am sure is another five years away. I am talking about my third PSP Go. Which I am pretty sure is actually just my second one that I got stolen. So that means that my girlfriend bought me the same used PSP Go twice. My secret to life, friends, has been fooling people that are too good for me into believing that I am worth their love. Then, apparently, creating mini-economies around buying the same PSP Go after a thief resells it to A&C Games. The point is that I am extremely pleased to get the system back. The reason I am so convinced that it is the same system is because of a very particular scratch on the screen. It is easily overlooked, but not invisible, and its size and placement on the screen is identical to my memory.

More importantly is my ability to once again play Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy IX. Two games that I expect to replay until I am unable to do so.

Kingdom Farts

I also played a little bit of the HD version of Kingdom Hearts, and I am learning that I was the right age to get into that series. There are well-designed elements, and the series is not even without some insight, but its dramatic indulgence and lack of grace or subtlety in the writing excludes it from being truly great. It is too concerned with reiterating its ideas that it often forgets to give its characters substance. The greatest character work is actually found in Donald. His taciturn and blunt demeanor brings out the most interesting sides of everybody and also provides the most genuinely funny moments. I still like the series, but Kingdom Hearts III will have to grow up severely to be more than just fun and endearing. I do not have faith that it will be.

Final Thoughts

None, really. I am back to work and it feels weird. Although it also means that I am back to work on LFoPD after an official, but not announced hiatus. Talk to me about what you have been playing! Also, who do you feel should be the mascot for the upcoming Fifth Phase of the series?

3 comments

  1. I’ve played a couple hours of the Bravely Default demo, and while I like it enough to want more, nothing is striking on an interesting story. It’s more as if they distilled classic Final Fantasy elements, improved and expanded them, and then sent you out on missions and into dungeons. Which is cool; it’s on the same plane as Etrian Odyssey so far.

    The next mascot should be Chris Elliot as the Fancy Lad from the classic 1994 film Cabin Boy.

  2. I didn’t really go into this, but I like that they left the story alone, knowing that a demo isn’t really a good vehicle for something as hulking as a JRPG story. They had a little bit of dialogue off the top to show that it does happen, and the rest was about enjoying the details and pace of the systems, progression, and exploration.

    I love the “we give you the mood and setting and you fill in the blanks” style of Etrian Odyssey but don’t think it would work for every game, and I would be surprised if that’s the case for Bravely. I hope it is more like 4 Heroes in that it has a set story and characters (and character names), but to truly get to know the world, you have to seek it out yourself, not have it stuffed down your throat. So dialogue existed, but was minimal compared to modern JRPGs, allowing for a more fluid and user-created experience. I felt trusted as a gamer by the game, which is an increasingly rare thing in the genre.

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