21st April 2021: Getting My Weeb On
Over the Christmas period I realised I was starting to build up a bit of a collection of quite anime-inspired games, so I gave a couple of them a go. The first one completely failed to convince me to keep playing it more than a few hours. But this game here, while failing to keep me interested back in January when I first tried it, did at least warrant a second look. Though it has been a bit of a slog, especially nearer the end of the game, I have now managed to complete the main story. So while there are other things I could work towards in the game, I'm going to consider it done so I can move onto other things.
This game is Trials Of Mana, a game that came out on the PS4 last year.
I didn't really know anything about this game before playing it other than knowing that it was a remake of an old JRPG from the early 90s. I didn't even read anything about it or the Mana series until I was well into the last half of the game. Turns out that this is a remake of the third game in the series, but luckily knowledge of those other games is not really required.
From what I can gather, they have been very respectful to the original when making this new version, something which, in my opinion, is a double edged sword. While fans of the original probably appreciate what has been done here, the sheer levels of early 90s Nintendo cheesiness are at sky high levels, and the story and dialogue are at times laughably bad. It really wouldn't surprise me to discover these things are direct from the original, as it seems no work has been done to improve or modernise them. Things are not helped at all by the fact that the new voice acting is also fairly lacklustre for the most part.
Compare this to the FF7 remake from last year. While quite a lot of effort was put into paying respect to the original story (at least for now - who knows what will happen in the future), the characters and their dialogue were dramatically improved, plus the voice acting was really good.
So forward I stepped into this franchise for the first time ever, picking the amazon Riesz as my main character, Angela the sorceress as companion number one, and the beastman Kevin as companion number two.
Wait. Did you just say Kevin? Kevin... the beastman?
Yes I did.
As it turns out, the remarkably stupid name of one of the characters was far from the worst thing about my team. Riesz turned out to be an absolute bore, and as dumb as a bag of rocks to boot. Kevin was just as stupid as Riesz, with his only character trait being "me hungry". Angela was the most interesting of the trio, and the one I ended up preferring to control in battle, but even she was mainly just an irritating, entitled little princess who only seemed to get excited about going shopping.
Urgh. Not good.
The story was odd. An absolute multitude of different evil factions are all fighting against each other to claim something called the Sword of Mana, which will give the wielder insane power over the entire world, and you are obviously out to stop them. To do this, various magical elemental stones must be visited and activated, and their imprisoned monsters battled. I got a bit lost trying to keep up with who was who in all of the different factions. Each enemy force had leaders, and goons, and ultimate evils they were trying to raise, and I mostly just tuned out, preferring to run around twonking things.
I do give the game credit for having the enemy factions going against each other in the story, though. Indeed at one point, there is a large battle between three factions at the location of the mana sword, and its a shame we as the player don't actually get to see it.
So what is the actual gameplay like? Hmm. I'd say it was mostly pretty good and sometimes pretty bad. It's a third person combat game, which allows you to pause in order to use magic or items. So in this regard, it's quite like the FF7 remake, but more simple. And like that other game, there are similar things that annoyed me. For example, there is a delay in performing an action such as dodge if another animation is playing out. It's a problem with games that I keep rattling on about, but it's something that narks me. The other thing is that it's one of those games where the characters step forward, or sometimes even jump forward when they attack, meaning they can sometimes just step right passed their target and miss entirely.
The other main thing about the gameplay that annoyed me was only in certain locations. See, you often get indicators on the floor a second or two in advanced whenever an enemy is going to do a big attack, giving you the time needed to run or dodge out of it. However, I found that in sand or snow environments, these indicators were really hard to see, making battles here more difficult.
In truth, the main problem with the game was the slow load screens, of which there were many. So freaking many. This, as well as constantly re-visiting the same areas on the map, and constantly fighting the same enemies, made the game drag on for far too long. So while it was a perfectly fine game to play through, if it was shorter by a quarter or even a third, I'd have had a far better and more enjoyable time. As it was, I really had to knuckle down and wade through the last parts of the game.
The other game I played, back in December, is about as JRPG as it can possibly get, in Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1. I saw this on sale on GOG a while back and thought it looked like it might be fun. Alas, it was not fun enough to keep me playing longer than a few hours.
The game has an interesting, tongue-in-cheek setting, which I found quite charming. The entire land is called Gamindustri, and each of the four countries or zones is named after one of four gaming consoles, such as Lastation and Leanbox. Each land has their own Goddess, who I think is supposed to protect their people from monsters and also promote their land so that their land can get more 'shares'. Shares of what I'm not sure. Maybe faith or something.
However, the Goddesses are more interested in fighting amongst themselves, and the game opens up with one of them, the main protagonist of the game named Purple Heart, being teamed up on by the other three and being defeated. Purple Heart falls down to Gamindustri suffering from amnesia. In her mortal guise of a young girl named Neptune, Purple Heart begins gathering a party to head out into the world, defeat monsters and figure out who she really is.
The game is split between somewhat typical turn-based RPG combat, and story sections that are presented in a visual novel style.
I can't mince my words here. While there were one or two things I liked about the game, it mostly just annoyed the fuck out of me. There were two primary issues. One being that the game barely explained anything, and often when it tried to explain something it was already too late. Case in point was when I was in a dungeon, and I saw a slightly different enemy icon on the minimap. Wondering what it was, I initiated combat, only for the enemy to one hit kill every single one of my characters. Then in the next dungeon the game finally explained that the different icon means "dangerous enemy". Thanks for the warning, game.
Mostly though the game does not explain anything, and I had to go on the internet to help figure things out. For starters, there's no explanation about what your character's stats do, at least in the first couple of hours of play. When the game does explain something, it will usually tell you that you can do something new, but won't properly tell you how to do it. It was annoying.
But the main problem without a doubt was the forced grinding. I just followed the main story, as most people I imagine would. And when my party was at about level 9, I came upon a boss fight against one of the other Goddesses, who absolutely fucking wrecked me. I assumed, as one would, at this early point in the game I would never be able to beat a Goddess, and thought it would be a scripted loss. But nope. I simply died and got the game over screen. Upon doing some research, I discovered people recommend a grind up to level 20 before tackling that boss. So with a big sigh, I set off into some dungeons, but only levelled up to lvl 12 before getting way too bored of that shit.
What an absolute joke of a requirement, to put that kind of grinding in a game so early on. Didn't help that most of the characters were also really irritating. Only IF of the main three characters was bearable (and what kind of name is IF??), though Neptune also became far less annoying when in her Purple Heart form. But other than that, all of the conversations made me roll my eyes so hard I could look back into my skull.
I promised I would not waste time on games I did not enjoy, so simply uninstalled it, never to be played again. Good riddance.