Fly A Dragon, Get A Job & Save The World – Final Fantasy 5 Advance Review

FINAL FANTASY 5 (2007) – SQUARE ENIX

It is natural with a series that goes on for so long like Final Fantasy that some games will get unfairly overlooked, and for me Final Fantasy 5 is the forgotten child of the series. It didn’t help that it was a Japan-only release on the SNES, meaning that the West never got a chance to get hands on with the game until it was ported first of all to the Playstation in Final Fantasy Anthology, and then to the Game Boy Advance five years later. Happily I played the Advance version, and can shed some light on why this is a game worthy of your time.

Unfortunately, we start with the worst element of the game; the plot. I may not have personally enjoyed it, but I can at least appreciate that in Final Fantasy 4, Square tried to do something different with the plot and focused on character relations. Final Fantasy 5 on the other hand goes back to the horribly clichéd ‘four crystals and four Warriors Of Light’ story. At the start of the story, a young man named Bartz investigates a meteorite that has crashed nearby his resting place, finding a woman there named Lenna who is travelling to the Wind Shrine, which holds the Wind crystal. Bartz soon learns that an evil force called Exdeath has been sealed away for 30 years by the crystals, and that if the crystals are shattered then he will break free and attempt to destroy the world using the power of the Void, an alter dimension. The rest of the game then focuses on Bartz travelling the world to save the crystals with Lenna (who is revealed to be the princess of Tycoon), Galuf (a warrior who played his part in sealing away Exdeath originally) and Faris (a female pirate commander). Continue reading

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Spoony Bards On The Move – Final Fantasy 4 Advance Review

FINAL FANTASY 4 ADVANCE (2005) – SQUARE ENIX

Kain, Cecil and Rosa steal the spotlight

Of all the games in the Final Fantasy series, the fourth instalment is the one that causes me the most headaches when evaluating it. On the one hand it’s pretty much everything that you could ask for from a classic RPG, and on the other it’s a frustrating and basic experience. Held in high regard by many, it just doesn’t appeal to me like it should do.

It should be noted as this point that I never did get my hands on the original copy released for the SNES (known confusingly as Final Fantasy II in North America), but instead played the port released on the Game Boy Advance, and that is the version that this review concerns.

So where should we start when looking at this game? Much of the praise that it has received comes from its character driven plot, so it would be wise to start there (it remains unchanged from the SNES version on the Game Boy). At the start of Final Fantasy 4 we are introduced to Cecil, a Dark Knight (no Batman references here) who commands the Red Wings, the elite airship force of the kingdom of Baron. Cecil finds himself increasingly unable to accept the strange requests of the King Of Baron who is looking to take various elemental crystals from across the world by force, and is demoted from his command. After being split from his comrades Kain (a Dragoon Lancer) and Rosa (a white mage) on an early mission, Cecil begins a journey to stop his replacement as the commander of the Red Barons, the sorcerer Golbez, from taking the crystals, picking up a motley crew of allies along the way to help him in his cause. Continue reading

Hit The Motherload – Mother 3 Review

MOTHER 3 (2006) – BROWNIE BROWN/HAL LABORATORY

Note the blend of wood and metal...mixtures of machines and nature is a prevalent theme in Mother 3

In the JRPG genre, the Mother series has always been the black sheep. The likes of Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy may well go out and steal the headlines, but since the days of the NES, the series of Mother games have attracted a loyal fanbase with their quirky take on how an RPG should be played. The original is highly regarded, and its successor, Earthbound, is the epitome of a cult classic, with the original SNES cartridges picking up anywhere near to £100. What fans wanted then, was the third instalment; and my word didn’t they have to wait for it. Mother 3 was originally intended for the Super Famicom, and then was transferred to the doomed Nintendo 64DD. Eventually, it was released on the Game Boy Advance in 2006…in Japan only. With the possibility of a localisation looking remote, fans at Starmen.net decided to make a fan translation, taking over two years to complete. Finally, in October 2008, Western fans of the Mother franchise were able to get their hands on the game. The question is, after such a troubled birth (call it the Japanese ‘Duke Nukem Forever’), is it any good? Continue reading

Time To Get Metallic – Pokemon Gold & Silver Review

POKEMON GOLD AND SILVER (2001) – Game Freak

Did you know that Ho-Oh was in the first episode of Pokemon?

A few weeks ago, Pokemon Black & White were finally released in the United Kingdom, and my friends (who are all hip and have a DS…or a 3DS) all rushed out to buy it. My level of interest in Pokemon is perhaps not as high these days as it was back when I was 10 (still playing Red & Blue for the win), but I know enough about the series to notice a certain lack of excitement amongst my friends as the weeks have passed. Sure, they have continued to play Black & White, but there doesn’t seem to be the same spark or joy anymore. I personally blame the new cast of Pokemon; when you have to base one on a bag of rubbish (which for months I thought was a troll), you get the sense Game Freak are running out of ideas.

Which brings me neatly to the issue of the 2nd generation of Pokemon, with Gold & Silver. The first generation had taken the world by storm, and we were all eagerly awaiting the next adventure, where we were promised a new land, and 100 brand new Pokemon. The point is, at this time it was the first time Game Freak had pulled this trick, so we were all still interested and bought it. And I’m happy I did, because Gold & Silver picked up where Red & Blue had left off and improved it. Continue reading

‘I Wanna Be The Very Best, Like No-One Ever Was…’ – Pokemon Red/Blue Review

(First published on Gamepad Magazine, December 3rd 2010)

POKEMON RED/BLUE (1999) – GAME FREAK

Poster boy Charizard remains my favorite monster to this day

Poster boy Charizard remains my favorite monster to this day

Gotta catch ‘em all. This one simple idea for a game would end up spawning one of the biggest and most powerful franchises in the world, and that is of course Pokemon. When I was a child growing up, for nearly three years straight the only thing going on in the school playground would be Pokemon: trading the cards, discussing the cartoon, and of course playing the game. The first generation, Red And Blue (Green in Japan) are the games that started the ball rolling, and in time came to define Nintendo’s Game Boy. And for good reason, because they were (and still are) fantastic. Continue reading