Penny Arcade Adventures: Episode Four (PC/360) – Through Hell and Back (Detailed Review)

Penny Arcade Adventures: Episode Four | Tree

Oh the things you never expect. When I finished playing Penny Arcade Adventures: Episode Three, I stated that I hoped that this game improved upon Episode Three the same way Episode Two improved on Episode One. While it is definitely fair to say that Episode Four was an improvement, I simply did not expect one of this magnitude. There are several things regarding this game that I did not expect.

It certainly does not do anything revolutionary nor does it look particularly innovative, but when you actually play it, you realize just how meticulously crafted this game is. Yes it may appear to be another parody of 16-bit era JRPGs, but it is so much more in terms of execution. Not only does it have the signature humor of Zeboyd’s games, but it also has a story that is actually compelling on its own merits. When you add an outstanding soundtrack by Hyperduck Soundworks, the same people behind the soundtrack of Dust: An Elysian Tale, and some of the most addicting and precise battle mechanics in any turn based RPG; you end up with a game that might as well have been made to silence anyone who said these types of games are only made to pander to nostalgia. Read more

Penny Arcade Adventures: Episode Three (PC/360/Ios): Something Completely Different (Detailed Review)

Penny Arcade Adventures Episode Three | Logo

Penny Arcade Adventures: Episode Three may be a jarring experience to those that have played the first two. This is the case with Episode Three because the development of these games shifted developers, from Hothead Games to Zeboyd. While Zeyboyd is a smaller development team and clearly does not have as high a budget as Hothead, they are still well known for their work on Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu saves the world. Being a huge fan of those games, I naturally had some high expectations for this game and I was hoping that this game would exceed the quality of both the previous Penny Arcade Adventures installments and Zeyboyd’s previous titles.

Instead, Penny Arcade Adventures: Episode Three is a game that it is good in its own right and is definitely superior to the first Penny Arcade Adventures and Breath of Death, but does not hold a candle to Episode Two or Cthulhu Saves the World. It is hard to really say the game is a step back from Episode Two given that the games are quite a bit different, but in general, it does feel like a step down from the incredible experience that Cthulhu Saves the World offered. In addition, it feels like the game also suffers from simply not having the same budget as the first two Penny Arcade titles. When you add that Episode Three still retains some of the flaws of the earlier entries, you end up with a good game in its own right, but one that felt rather underwhelming. Read more

Amazing VGM: World Map Themes (Dragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line)

Dragon Quest I & II | Boxart

Yeah I kinda fell out of the habit of making Amazing VGM Pieces haven’t I? The last one I did was for The Dark Colossus Destroys All from NieR and that was back in October. Perhaps I should capitalize on the game I just reviewed then? Dragon Quest II it is! Particularly I would like to go with the two world map themes and their variations. The first of these tracks is titled “Distant Journey” (Also sometimes referred to as “A Lonely Youth”) and plays on the world map with an incomplete party and is thus the first one you here.

Read more

Dragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line (NES/MSX/SNES/GBC/Mobile/3DS/PS4): A JRPG Codifier (Detailed Review)

Dragon Quest II | jp box art

Dragon Quest II is often glossed over when discussing the legacy of the series. While Dragon Quest I is noteworthy for being the first game in the series and Dragon Quest III is noteworthy for being motherfucking Dragon Quest III, Dragon Quest II just seems to be known as “that one that’s really really hard and comes between Dragon Quest I and III.” I often see people act as if Dragon Quest II is completely unremarkable and that is just not the case.

Dragon Quest II is a pretty badass game when you get right down to it. I should note that I have not played the NES original this time around and am thus only familiar with it from a lets play I saw years ago and from what I’ve looked up about it. From what I can gather the later versions definitely seem more polished and well structured, that is unless you are playing and English fan translation of the super famicom version that is. Read more

Dragon Quest (NES/MSX/SNES/GBC/Mobile/3DS/PS4): A JRPG Pioneer (Detailed Review)

Dragon Quest | jp box art

Given the niche of people who read my stuff, I am sure most of you are aware of the impact the Dragon Quest series has on JRPGs as a whole. There is a strange sense of disconnect when thinking about how popular the series is in Japan when comparing its overseas releases. While the series is moderately popular in the west, the Dragon Quest series is pretty much mainstream in Japan. Today I am going to look at the game that started it all.

Prior to about a month ago, I have never played the first three Dragon Quest games (and still have not played the third as I am writing this). I beat the first Dragon Quest a few weeks ago and am very close to completing Dragon Quest 2. For the sake of context, the version I played through was the SNES version but I played a bit of the NES version until my emulator went kaput and made me lose all my progress. I plan to briefly talk about each version though and this piece is meant as a critique of the game overall. Read more

Fangame Review: Mother: Cognitive Dissonance

I have been a fan of the EarthBound series for many years at this point. I first became a fan from watching various lets plays of the game back around 2008 or 2009, because at the time I knew nothing about roms and emulators, and I clearly could not afford a copy of EarthBound. After having been moved by both EarthBound and Mother 3, I was enamored with the series for several months to the point of near obsession. As such, the series was very influential to my experiences as a gamer, despite me having experienced them over a decade after EarthBound’s release.

I didn’t end up playing EarthBound on my own until I bought a cart myself despite the huge price, and I’m still glad I have a physical copy seeing as how it’s my favorite game of all time, and I only played Earthbound Beginnings last year when it was released on the Wii U e-shop. Hell I still have not legitimately played Mother 3 and am waiting until its inevitable e-shop release to do so (although as I said, I have seen let’s plays of it and know enough to say that’s it’s pretty much a masterpiece) Read more

EarthBound (SNES/GBA): Pure Artistic Desire (Detailed Review)

Earthbound | Ness's Nightmare

EarthBound is a game that has been well received since its introduction, but has only recently received a serious look by mainstream gaming websites in the past few years. We now find it frequently in top-10 lists near the number one spot. The weird thing about this however, is that Nintendo of America has ignored the EarthBound series and has given it no publicity over the years, so what was there to increase its publicity so drastically that major gaming sites started noticing? The answer would be the game’s rabid fan base that is incredibly loyal to the series and have pushed hard to get it noticed. This however has led some to some fans that are really overzealous and give the series a massive amount of hype with great expectations to fill. I myself at one point have been in that same position of near obsession with the series, but it has been years since then and I have moved on and played many other games that have made me just as passionate as EarthBound did.

I recently decided to replay EarthBound and I expected that losing my overzealous passion would make the game’s flaws more noticeable. Despite having a very special place in my heart I expected this review to be one that, while still having a positive tone, was more critical of the game. I was wrong, and being wrong has never felt so right. It turns out that not only in this play-through that I re-discovered exactly what it was that made me fall in love with it in the first place, but I discovered more. This play-through marks the only time that my opinion of a game I already played improved despite being one of my all time favorite games to begin with. Read more

Persona 3 FES (PS2): Finding the Will to Live (Detailed Review)

Persona 3 | What I wanted most

When people think of the biggest JRPG series, what do they usually think of? Likely Final Fantasy at this point but the series is no longer what it once was. There’s also Dragon Quest if you are in Japan or are a total weeb like myself, and the Tales series if you are a weeb as well. But the face of new console JRPGs for the last decade or so has arguably been the Persona series.

Persona 3 was the first new entry in the Persona series in 6 years when it originally came out. The original Persona was pretty popular in Japan but it just kind lingered in obscurity in the US since it was a JRPG released before Final Fantasy VII. The first entry in the Persona 2 duology was not even localized at the time and as far as I know the second one wasn’t successful.

It was Persona 3 that decided to change its entire approach and that was almost single-handedly responsible for putting Atlus on the map. I first played Persona 3 almost a decade ago and had yet to replay it until earlier this year. While it is not without flaws, it is an immensely powerful game and is likely to remain a cornerstone in the genre for quite some time. There is a lot to talk about with Persona 3 both good and bad. Read more

RPGs of the Famicom: Earthbound Beginnings

Earthbound Beginnings | Title

With the release of Earthbound Beginnings on the Wii U e-shop, Nintendo of America has corrected a 26 year old mistake on their part. Earthbound Beginnings is the prequel to Earthbound on the SNES that was not originally released in Japan. The game was originally intended to be localized but was canceled despite the localization having already been fully completed. Until now the translated version of Earthbound Beginnings (which was otherwise known as Earthbound Zero) could only be played via emulation or a reproduction cart. Nintendo just now released the translated version for the Wii U e-shop making it available more easily and legally.

Earthbound Beginnings is different from its successor in plenty of ways and is mostly an inferior game, but this is usually to be expected in terms of sequels. Even if one were to hold Earthbound Beginnings to the standards of a lot of modern day games it still handles things far more competently than most and is an amazing game on its own. Read more

Amazing VGM: The Dark Colossus Destroys All (NieR)

Ah yes, three of my most shilled games in a row for Amazing VGM. I’d normally do something from Saya no Uta since I just reviewed it but I kinda hinted at this one last week so I better follow through. Anyway I’ve been meaning to touch on this one for a while since it really is an amazing track from an amazing game.

NieR is known for its outstanding music after all, so it’s time to cover a track that was good enough they made it twice! Starting with the original. Read more