Archives for category: PlayStation 2


I’m a little more than a fortnight into my new Eorzean adventure, so I thought I’d post a little update on my progress.

In the time since my last post, I’ve joined a Free Company, run the first three ‘beginner’ dungeons of Sastasha Seagrot, The Tam Tara Deepcroft and the Copperbell Mines with a mix of fellow guildies and randoms – god bless the Duty Finder, which immediately put myself and a tanking friend into a couple of instances – and progressed past level 30. Having joined the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, I’m now heading towards a showdown with the Primal Ifrit, and reeeaaally looking forward to getting my chocobo soon. Because sod running about everywhere.

Upon hitting level 30, I was given a million gil and fifteen extra days of game time, which is very handy as I wouldn’t have been able to re-sub until the end of the month. And while waiting for FC members to run Sastasha, I also decided to try out some other classes; on my previous character I was a level 33 Bard, 17 Conjurer, 15 Pugilist and level 9 Weaver, so I decided to try a couple of different classes this time, just to see how they felt. So I’m now a level 31 Conjurer, 11 Thaumaturge and a level 6 Arcanist. If anything, trying these classes out has just reaffirmed that I want to continue on with my Conjurer until she’s ready to progress to White Mage.

Hanging out at Aleport, waiting for a Sastasha run

I’ve also since grabbed the Stormblood expansion, which included Heavensward, from CDKeys for just £15, so I guess I’m in for the long haul now. I’m still really enjoying my time with Final Fantasy XIV, and though I’m still a fair way away from where I was before (I was waiting to run Haukke Manor with members of my old Odin FC at the time), once I get there, I’ve got a hell of a lot of new content in front of me. Of course, it’s been a bit of a different experience anyway, seeing as I’m maining a healer this time rather than ranged DPS – I had played Conjurer to level 17 on my old character, but I don’t think I actually ran any dungeons on that class – and it certainly felt fresh, creeping through Sastasha while keeping tabs on a group’s HP (who am I kidding, I was basically the tank’s pocket healer!).

I’ve got some work to do before I can become a White Mage, however. It used to be that you needed a second class at level 15 to progress to a full job – in the case of White Mage, you needed Conjurer at 30 and Arcanist at 15 – but things have changed while I’ve been away from the game. I’m actually not sure how I progress now, but I know I have to be at least level 30 and to have completed a certain main scenario quest – I think it was a quest to do with the Sylph tribe, and all I can remember about them is endless dancing… /dance

Hopefully I can make White Mage before poor Khroma dances herself to death.

In other news, I’ve also been playing the recently-released Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, which I just couldn’t get into back on the PS2. I played for about 12 hours, made it to the Imperial Dreadnought after a meeting with Marquis Ondore, and just left it there. Whether it was the story, the characters or the gameplay, FFXII just didn’t grab me back in 2006, yet this time I’m absolutely loving it. I think the fact that it was so different from Final Fantasy X put me off a bit, and the perception that it was an ‘offline MMO’ didn’t help things much. Having actually played an MMO in the intervening years, however, they really don’t have many similarities in my opinion. If anything, FFXII‘s ‘Active Dimension Battle’ system makes me think more of realtime with pause systems seen in western RPGs. I had wondered quite how I’d manage, playing both Final Fantasys XII and XIV at the same time, but I needn’t have worried – it actually feels fantastic to be playing two expansive fantasy-based instalments with plenty of lovely Akihiko Yoshida design work informing the look and feel of both worlds.

Square Enix have done a great job with this remaster.

The Zodiac Age features a ‘speed mode’ option, which allows you to speed up the action by either two or four times, and using that to zoom through the more mundane sections of Final Fantasy XII – like dungeon combat against trash mobs – means that I made it back to the Dreadnought in around seven hours, rather than my previous 12 or so, and I’ve even been taking my time to more thoroughly explore towns and other environments this time out. It’s a fantastic quality of life improvement that has helped me to genuinely fall in love with Final Fantasy XII – something I never thought would happen, and certainly not 11 years after its initial release. I thought at best that I’d feel more favourably toward this most idiosyncratic episode in one of my favourite series, so the fact that I feel this positive about it is an absolutely wonderful thing; having played so little of XII in the past, it may as well be a new Final Fantasy game to me.

One thing that’s still a bit of a mystery to me is the Gambit system. I thought I had my head around it in the early hours, but upon arriving at Bhujerba, hoping to rescue Penelo in the Lhusu Mines, I happened to stop in a Gambit shop and dear god, the options I saw in there. There must have been hundreds of them! I’m going to have to do my homework and figure out more than just useful early-game Gambits, because that shop made my head spin at the potential intricacies of the system. My next stop is King Raithwall’s Tomb, but I think I’ll need to do a bit of housekeeping before I set out, and try to properly wrap my loaf around Gambits. It feels exciting though, rather than a chore; can I get my battle party working like a well-oiled machine without me even needing to intervene? Time will tell!

No you’re not, Vaan. Stop being a silly billy.

It feels good to be so fully immersed in the Final Fantasy series again. I was cautiously optimistic about XV in the lead-up to its release, and I did find a lot to like in the final product, but even though they’re each very distinct within the wider Final Fantasy canon, XII and XIV are giving me all kinds of nostalgic, old-school FF feelings. I’d love to see another Matsuno take on a big-budget Final Fantasy, or to see what Naoki “Yoshi-P” Yoshida could do with an offline instalment. Who knows what the future holds? With Yoshida’s MMO going from strength to strength (and with a Matsuno-penned, Ivalice-themed raid on the way!) and Final Fantasy XII finding a new audience, I’m genuinely excited for the future of Square Enix and their marquee series.

2014-03-23-015933Final Fantasy X|X-2 HD Remaster is finally (finally) with us. After a wait of almost two-and-a-half years, I finally have one of the games that convinced me to pre-order a Vita in my hands. Actually, I have two copies (erm…), as I also grabbed a copy of the PS3 limited edition, which comes with a gorgeous little hardback artbook, complete with notations for much of the included full-colour art.

But it’s the Vita version which has most impressed me, despite the reduction in resolution from its big screen brother. It looks every bit as sharp and clean as the PS3 version (bar some artifacting in some FMV scenes – disappointingly, one of my favourite scenes in the entire game is quite macroblocked), and those lovely bright colours that drench the beaches and jungles of Besaid really pop out of the handheld’s OLED screen.

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I’m constantly stopping in-game to pick out detail that you could barely identify in the original PS2 release, like the Besaid ruins in the shot above, or the ornate flooring of the island’s Temple of the Fayth. It’s far from the best-looking title on the system (you can probably look to Killzone: Mercenary for that), but it’s been impressing me at every turn; I know the game very well, so it’s almost like seeing a long-held favourite in a new light.

What I’m less sure of so far is the remastered music. Some of it is unquestionably better in my opinion (like Besaid’s theme), while others I’m less sure about, such as ‘Calm Before the Storm’. It’s only subtly different, but for the worse in my opinion. The original always had a somewhat otherworldly feel that the new arrangement doesn’t quite manage to elicit.

The gameplay though? It’s as good as it ever was, and it’s actually surprised me just how good. Final Fantasy X is a game I’ve played twice. Well, almost twice; I never quite finished it the first time (at launch – I had a lot going on, okay?), so I went back about three-or-so years ago (yep, just before they announced this remaster…) and played it from start to end. By the time I reached the climactic hours of Tidus and Yuna’s adventure, I was massively overpowered. Not because I’d purposely set out to be so, but I just had so much fun battling with the game’s enemies and exploiting its systems.

Replaying the Vita version these last few days, I’ve been reminded of just how inviting and engaging the game is. In conversation with a friend, a fellow Final Fantasy X fan, the word that kept coming up was ‘frictionless’. The game doesn’t put many obstacles between the player and their enjoyment, and when it does, it’s actually fun to overcome them. Take grinding for instance, that constant jRPG companion that so many have come to loathe (and I say this as someone who’s been stuck on a single boss in Tales of Eternia for weeks). For me, battling in Final Fantasy X is not only enjoyable, but compelling. I want to do it, and I want to do it because the battle system puts everything in your hands and just says ‘have fun!’

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The game is probably one of the easier instalments in the series, but it’s kept engaging by making everyone useful in some way: Tidus is fast, so his turns come around often enough to use him as a backup healer; Yuna has her white magic and summons; Rikku can steal and combine items, and one-shot mechanical enemies; Kimahri can learn abilities from his enemies; and so on. So you’ve got a relatively straight-forward take on the traditional Final Fantasy job system, but what keeps X engaging is the ability to switch any party member in or out of battle at will to meet your needs. Up against an enemy with high physical resistance but weak to magic? Switch in Lulu and deal some massive damage. His buddy’s armoured, you say? Auron, you’re up!

This immediacy is further reinforced by such design decisions as giving your white mage Esuna right off the bat. Generally, you’d have to work for such a useful spell, spending your initial hours throwing away precious items to cure your party of status effects. Here, you just sub someone else out for Yuna, cure the afflicted, and then get back to your gameplan. Save points in the world will replenish your health and magic, making level grinding more appealing as you no longer need to travel to an inn each time you reach your lowest ebb, and levelling and skill acquisition also benefit, offering to make the process as simple or involved as you like; I’m using the expert sphere grid for the first time, and enjoying the initially-overwhelming scope to develop my party as I see fit, but players that just want to follow a straight path can do just that with the normal grid, letting the game shape their characters’ growth for them.

If this all sounds like it makes the game easy, well… it can do. But in adding an extra layer of both strategy and, crucially, possibility, what it ends up doing is replacing a system that often boils down to using the same three characters and mashing ‘X’ to spam physical attacks in an effort to speed through encounters, with one that not only encourages you to experience more of what the game offers, but makes it enjoyable to do so. In Final Fantasy X you’ll use everybody. Not just once in a while, but often in every fight. It gives you the tools to do what you need and want to do, and it’s eminently satisfying when you do it.

Final Fantasy X is looked at as the point where the series began to streamline somewhat, the logical conclusion thereof being 2010’s Final Fantasy XIII (indeed, there are many parallels you could draw between the two games, not least their linearity). But when I talk of the frictionless nature of Final Fantasy X, I don’t mean streamlining. I mean the ways in which the developers have taken fairly complex systems and made them easy to understand and manipulate; the way they’ve taken often-frustrating game mechanics like grinding and made them enjoyable and compelling. I mean the ways in which they’ve sanded down the barriers between what the player wants to do and what the game allows you to do, making it possible to have fun no matter what you’re doing in the world of Spira.

Except Blitzball. No one likes Blitzball.

Tomorrow sees the launch of Tales of Symphonia Chronicles, an HD re-release of GC/PS2 RPG Tales of Symphonia, regarded by some as the height of the series, and it’s less well-received sequel, Dawn of the New World. The collection is PS3-exclusive, with both games coming on a single disc, and there’s also a limited edition – something we’ve come to expect thanks to recent Tales of releases.

Of course, I just had to buy the limited edition, because I’m a sucker for soundtrack CDs, plastic figurines and shiny boxes. Are you interested in what’s in that shiny box I mentioned? Of course you are! And luckily for you, I took some pictures. I’ll highlight a few in the body of this post, but be sure to check out the gallery at the bottom for all the images.

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First off, the shiny box. It’s a card case with a plastic slipcover over the top, and it’s covered in beautiful art from anime studio ufotable. There are some close-ups of the gorgeous, colourful art that graces each panel of the box in the gallery, and in those images you can see that it isn’t ruined by any logos – those sit on the plastic slipcover, allowing you to admire that artwork in full.

It’s not a big box, as far as limited editions go; big enough to hold a blu ray case, but deeper – think of a blu ray TV box set and you’re not far off the mark. It’s certainly much more compact than the gigantic Tales of Xillia or Bravely Default limited editions.

So that’s the box, but what’s inside? Hidden within, we find the game case, with one game disc and two soundtrack CDs (one each for Symphonia and Dawn of the New World), a new paperback novel written by Takumi Miyajima called Successors of Hope, which bridges the gap between the two games, and five (well, four really) mini figures of Lloyd, Colette, Emil and Marta (plus a tiny Tenebrae).

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It’s a nice set, as long as you haven’t seen the US version. American fans get a couple of nice extras that we don’t, such as a steelbook case and artbook, and all the other elements of the US edition are better executed. The box is nicer, the novel is hardback, the soundtrack is spread over four discs (whereas the two EU discs are MP3 audio discs rammed with tracks – these refused to play when I tried them in my Xbox One, so I suspect that they’ll need to be ripped to my PC) and also come in their own 4-disc jewel case, rather than being stuffed into the game case. The game case insert is also reversible, something that isn’t possible in the EU edition because the inside cover lists the OST tracklisting. American fans also get a full colour manual, while ours is not only black and white, but only affords a small handful of pages per language.

It all feels a bit budget compared to the US release, which isn’t really something you should be thinking about a collectors edition you’ve just spent £70 on. It’s a nice set in isolation, and I’m happy with it, but it’s disappointing that not only is it missing a couple of items from the US release, but that everything that did make it in is also not quite as good as its American counterpart.

Anyway, back to those contents. As I mentioned above, the OST discs are MP3 audio discs, with around 50 tracks on each, and they’re housed in the same case as the game disc. They’re are also nicely decorated with full-colour game art, and look great if attractive discs are your thing.

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Then there’s the mini-figures. A fair amount of limited editions come with a figurine of some sort (and then there’s the frankly ludicrous Titanfall one), but it’s not very often you get a whole party to play with. The mini figures really are ‘mini’ (at a couple of inches tall, most of their size is down to their gigantic heads), but it’s nice to have a variety of characters in the box, and they’re all nicely detailed. Tenebrae really is tiny though, and is more of an addition to the Marta figure (even standing on her base). Below, you can see them mingling with my other Tales of figures.

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Overall it’s a nice set, and it’s always encouraging to see the Tales of series doing well enough in Europe that collectors editions are even viable. Here’s hoping we get one for Tales of Xillia 2, which should be releasing some time later this year, and looking a bit further into the future, next year’s Tales of Zestiria.

Be sure to check out all the images of the Tales of Symphonia Chronicles Collectors Edition in the gallery below.

ffxhdtidusyunaAbout a month ago, it was revealed that Final Fantasy X|X-2 HD would sport a new audio drama written by Kazushige Nojima that would play over the end credits of the game. Well, we can now hear a snippet of it in the video below.

In it, we can hear that James Arnold Taylor is returning to voice Tidus (which isn’t a massive surprise, considering he returned for the Dissidia games), and we also hear another character speaking, who appears to be voiced by Laura Bailey (to my ears, anyway). I haven’t played X-2, so I don’t know if there are any mild spoilers in this piece, but there don’t appear to be. Watch at your own discretion.

Tidus mentions that it’s been two years since Spira entered the Eternal Calm (at the end of the first game), which is roughly when X-2 picks up, so I wonder if this is will serve as a linking piece between the two? If I’d played X-2 before now, perhaps I’d know!

Some have speculated that the audio drama could be a lead-in to a Final Fantasy X-3, and considering the second character seems fairly unsurprised to spot Tidus, even mentioning the crowd up ahead and the star shining in the middle of it (remember at the start of the first game Tidus was supposed to be a star blitzball player?), perhaps it could be. Of course, you could argue that the second character is speaking from the perspective of Tidus’ Zanarkand (seen at the very start of the first game), but I think the fact that she mentions a road that used to be called Mika Road rules this out: Mika was the Grand Maester of the now-disgraced Yevon religion, so it makes sense that they would rename a street named for him after its fall. For me, this suggests the second character is speaking after the Calm.

I wish I could say we won’t have to wait long to find out, but Square-Enix are still yet to announce a release date for this. The E3 trailer simply said “2013”, and we’re running out of months. Gamescom will take place this month, and Final Fantasy X|X-2 HD will be on show, so hopefully we’ll get a firm date there. Wouldn’t it be great if they just said, “it’s out next month guys! Enjoy!” A man can dream.

Over on their EU blog, Square-Enix have been sharing some new images of the game, and it’s safe to say it looks incredible. This really isn’t the usual cynical cash-grab HD upscaling that we see all to often – this game has had some work done! Noticeably, the battle UI has seen a few changes, giving it a bit more of a modern feel. Have a look:
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You can see more images over on the blog, but just have a look at this pic of Besaid! It looks glorious! ffxhdbesaid

Be sure to visit the Square-Enix blog and have a flick through all the beautiful images they’ve provided.

Square-Enix has put out a new video showcasing the differences between the original SD version of Final Fantasy X and the HD remaster that is in development for PS3/Vita. The video shows off the opening in-engine cutscene, and it’s an interesting comparison, demonstrating not only how much more detail we’re seeing in HD, but also how much more of the scene we’re seeing thanks to the widescreen presentation. It also shows off some differences in colour; the original footage has an orange-y cast to it, without which the HD version looks much more realistic.

The video also announces that we’ll be seeing a limited edition for the home console version. Packaged in an outer box, the set comes with a nice-looking hardbound art book featuring concept art taken from both Final Fantasy X and its sequel X-2 – both of which come on one disc for PS3, and as separate releases for PS Vita. The games support cross-saving, so you can journey with Tidus, Yuna and friends on the big screen at home before continuing your adventure on the morning commute.

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There’s no news of a limited edition for the Vita versions, nor do we have a release date yet, but I’ll be buying both. Because I’m a sucker. It occurs to me that when I buy both HD versions I’ll have three copies of Final Fantasy X-2, and four copies of Final Fantasy X. I think it’s fair to say I like FFX.

These HD versions should be the definitive versions of these games, with all the added International goodies, high-definition rendering and the news that this release will include a 30-minute additional ‘drama’ at the end of the credits, penned by ex-Square-Enix scenario writer Kazushige Nojima, featuring new cast and character voices. What this will entail is presently a mystery, but it’s always nice to get more stuff. I’m looking forward to replaying Final Fantasy X again, and playing its sequel for the first time. Now all we need is a release date.

sympA rumour has hit the net today concerning an HD re-release of celebrated GameCube jRPG Tales of Symphonia. Dubbed the Tales of Symphonia: Perfect Edition, the pack will apparently contain both the original cult game and its less-well-received Wii sequel Dawn of the New World (called Knight of Ratatosk in Japan). The pair are said to feature HD graphics and the collection will see release on PlayStation 3.

The rumour comes from Spanish site Koi-Nya, which I have linked at the bottom. It purports to be a summary of an interview with Tales of series producer Hideo Baba that took place recently but has yet to be published. I can’t seem to get the page to load no matter how many times I try, but a friend managed to get through and copy-pasted me the body of the text, which I have reproduced below.

During the celebration of Expomanga 2013, we had the pleasure of chatting at length with Mr. Hideo Baba, producer of the series Tales of, and although it was not until within a couple of days when post the full interview, we bring you of the juiciest and shocking news that Mr. Baba dropped relative Tales of Symphonia: Perfect Edition, a remake in HD for PlayStation 3 would include both sets of Symphonia, the Tales of Symphonia Original (GameCube, PS2) and Tales of Symphonia: Knight of Ratatosk -Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World in the West (Wii).

And, following the rumor of the existence of this title whose information we gained from internal sources-nya koi, we decided to ask about its reliability to the producer of the series. Although Baba was not in a position to officially confirm its existence, has been able to drop that thing would be “a representation of the dreams and hopes of the fans, who have long been wanting it” and that may soon know something about it.

In case of confirmation of the existence of this game, which we expect to hear so soon, this game would be released at least in the United States, locating the source from which we obtained the leaked information, and which also spoke that Tales of Xillia 2 would have secured its location in the West .

In addition to this news, Hideo Baba has told us many other interesting news and curiosities about Tales that soon you can read the full interview granted us.

EDIT – I’ve just got the site to load, after about ten attempts – perhaps their servers were overloaded by thousands of Symphonia fans descending upon them!

It’s a little difficult to parse what’s being said here, as it’s been machine-translated from Spanish. To me, it seems that Koi-Nya had heard of an HD remake from some other source, and then asked Baba-san about it, who replied that such a project would be “a representation of the dreams and hopes of the fans, who have long been wanting it”, while also pointing out that he was ‘not in a position to officially confirm its existence’. The problem here is that, thanks to the translation I can’t tell if, having been questioned about the rumour, Baba has basically said “wouldn’t that be great! It’d make a lot of people happy, right?”

I’m a little sceptical – perhaps too much so. I’d like to believe that this website wouldn’t have posted their story if my above interpretation were the truth of the matter, but I’ve never heard of this site before (not surprising, as I’m not Spanish, nor do I speak the language), so I have no context for this; as such, I can’t just take this story as gospel. They do, however, seem to suggest that Baba said we’ll hear about it soon, so maybe I’m just being a massive cynic. As an aside, they also seem to be claiming that Tales of Xillia 2 will see a Western release – I’ve not seen anyone pick up on this little tid-bit.

I want this rumour to be true, I really do – I missed out on Symphonia when it released on GameCube, always telling myself I’d grab a copy later. Then it was too late and it became increasingly hard to find. I watched the Symphonia anime recently and fell in love with the world, characters and storyline, and it just made me even more desperate to play the game. So I really want this to be true. But I’m not going to be getting my hopes up too high until Hideo Baba officially announces it. Namco-Bandai’s annual Tales of Festival will take place in just under three weeks (June 1-2) in Yokohama, Japan, so perhaps we’ll hear more then? Fingers crossed.

Source: Koi-Nya
http://www.koi-nya.net/2013/05/12/hideo-baba-deja-caer-una-posible-remasterizacion-para-ps3-de-ambos-tales-of-symphonia-tales-of-symphonia-perfect-edition/

x2yrpA while back we had our first official trailer of the PS3/Vita remaster of much-loved jRPG Final Fantasy X. The short teaser seemed to hint that the release would be more than just a simple upscaling for modern displays, and that it’d truly live up to the term ‘remaster’ that Square-Enix used to describe it. It also confirmed the rumour that direct sequel Final Fantasy X-2 would be included, though it did not show any footage from that game. I wondered at the time whether X-2 was a recent addition, and that perhaps the developers had not yet started work on it.

Well, today we can see what they’ve been doing, and the results are stunning. Over on the Square-Enix blog, a number of images from the remastered X-2 have been published, and it’s pretty amazing how clean, clear and beautiful they look. Take a look at this shot of Paine for an example. Make sure to click each image for the full-size version.

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I think these shots look even better than the Final Fantasy X HD screens! Here’s another shot, this time of Rikku, because everyone loves Rikku, right?

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It’s interesting to see just how intricate some of the original artwork is, with details emerging that perhaps weren’t particularly apparent upon the game’s original release. Just take a look at this image of the Gullwing’s airship, the Celsius; there’s some incredibly intricate detail in there.

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It looks like Square-Enix are doing a fantastic job so far on this remaster, and they’re certainly doing the original art and assets justice – some elements on show here look almost on par with some current-gen games, especially the fantastic character models. I can’t wait to get stuck back into the world of Spira, and as I’ve never played Final Fantasy X-2 before (despite having a copy on my shelf), it’s going to be a nice mix of nostalgia and novelty. Now all we need is a release date!

Follow the link to the S-E Blog for a couple more screens.

Final Fantasy X HD gets its first official trailer
https://pushstartgaming.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/final-fantasy-x-hd-gets-its-first-official-trailer/

Square-Enix Blog
http://eu.square-enix.com/en/blog/new-final-fantasy-x-2-hd-remaster-screenshots