Video Game Review: Crystalis (NES)

If I’m being honest, I didn’t really get into this game as a kid. I had a neighbor that played the shit out of it and I’d watch him but I didn’t know the story or what the objective was.

In the years since this has come out, I’ve heard it described as one of the top action RPGs for the original Nintendo. I’ve heard it compared to both of the original NES Zelda games. So being that those two games were two of my favorites of all-time, I figured that a playthrough of Crystalis was decades overdue.

Plus, I was in the right headspace for this now, as I just played all four Dragon Warrior games and the first Final Fantasy.

So now that I’ve played and conquered this game, I have to say that it is one of the best NES games ever made and it’s the best action RPG after the two Zelda games.

It was a hell of a lot of fun and even though you’ve got to grind for some experience points, here and there, you do level up fast enough that it’s not a total chore.

I love the level design and frankly, the geographical layout of the whole game.

In fact, everything is near perfect other than two gripes I have.

The first is the multiple swords. It’s cool that the game plays off of the four elements but different enemies have different weaknesses and it’s tedious to go into the menus to switch swords and have to sometimes go through all four of them to figure out which ones work on which monsters. Dungeons where different monsters have different weaknesses is pretty tiresome.

The second is that the game won’t even let you damage monsters unless you are at the level to do so. Usually, bosses are at a level higher than the monsters in their own dungeon. So being at a certain level and working your way through a dungeon just to find out that you aren’t leveled high enough to even damage the boss is pretty infuriating. Because then you have to leave the dungeon, go somewhere and grind up to the next level and then go back and work your way through it a second time. This happened to me in just about every dungeon until I just decided to spend a couple hours completely maxing out my character.

Still, despite those hangups, this is a damn solid game and one of the best of its time.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.

Video Game Review: Final Fantasy (NES)

I’ve got to say, Final Fantasy didn’t start off with a bang. At least not in the same way that the Dragon Quest franchise did.

While this is a pretty damn good 8-bit RPG, it seems like it’s really lacking when compared to the first Dragon Quest a.k.a. Dragon Warrior.

Now this does benefit from having a party and not just playing as a sole character. However, managing the party is kind of tedious and cumbersome. It’s not clear which character types are more beneficial and which combos work best. But there are a good amount of options. The only problem, is once you choose your party, you’re locked in.

Additionally, the game design isn’t that great. Everything looks like a basic and watered down version of the original Nintendo Dragon Warrior games. It lacks color, vibrancy and is kind of dull after playing through four Dragon Warrior games in a row.

Also, you have to grind like a MFer. It’s not really clear what levels you need to be at, as you advance, but sometimes you beat a section really easy and then the next portion of the game can have an extreme jump in difficulty.

In the end, it comes down to fun factor and time invested. This wasn’t as fun for me as the Dragon Warrior games, which I also preferred as a kid. Also, this took a lot of time to complete and most of that was spent grinding, which really put a halt on the momentum of the story and my enthusiasm in trying to complete it.

However, this is the first game of many and like Dragon Quest, each chapter would improve things and become better balanced.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other early Final Fantasy games and the superior Dragon Warrior/Dragon Quest games of the era.

Video Game Review: Dragon Warrior IV (NES)

Well, I finally reached the summit! I have finally conquered all of the Dragon Warrior games for the original Nintendo! It was a massive and very time consuming undertaking with a lot of experience point grinding and wandering around aimlessly without the Nintendo Hotline to call.

After my experience playing the two previous games, this one was so refreshing and it didn’t force me to have to grind my ass off for what felt like weeks on end. This installment in the franchise finally got the XP issue fixed, as it is pretty much a perfectly balanced game in that regard.

This is also the most innovative in the series for several reasons.

First, the story is broken out into five acts. That’s right, you play five very different chapters, each introducing new protagonists. In the fifth act, you finally get to play as your self named “hero” character. But as that chapter rolls on, you are joined by new party members, most of whom are made up of the other characters you played as in the earlier acts.

Second, the party size in this game is immense. You now have eight or more characters to rotate into your playing party of four. What’s even cooler, is that when you get XP from battles, the inactive characters also level up. This way you don’t have to do extra XP grinding with a myriad of lineups trying to have everyone maintain the same level.

Third, this also adds in part-time party members that help out on certain missions. This is kind of cool as the game sort of throws new allies at you as you progress. It makes this feel like a bigger, more important story as the decent people of the land want to directly assist you.

I really liked the maps and the structure of the overworld, as well as the dungeons and towers. This is the best designed game of the lot and most locations feel unique and also different than what you’ve encountered in the games before this one.

Between the game play and the overall design, this Dragon Warrior is like a whole new game, even if the graphical style is the same as the previous three.

I love old school 8-bit RPGs and the Dragon Warrior games for the original Nintendo are my favorite of the bunch. But this one is absolutely perfect from start to finish. While I gave the first game a perfect score, I wish I could give this one a score higher than that. Where I thought the first one was mostly perfect, this one greatly exceeds it.

Rating: 10+/10
Pairs well with: The other Dragon Warrior a.k.a. Dragon Quest games for the original NES, as well as the NES Final Fantasy games.

Video Game Review: Dragon Warrior III (NES)

My biggest complaint about Dragon Warrior II was the grinding. Sadly, it may actually be worse in this chapter, as I felt like I spent countless hours being forced to grind away for experience points in an effort to progress in the game.

Still, this was a damn good installment in the series and in spite of my fun and the adventure screeching to a halt too often, the game was great when I was able to actually play it and not get my ass kicked.

I like that the overworld map was very similar to Earth and that once you’ve been everywhere and have defeated the big evil, a chasm opens up, revealing a new darkworld where the real big evil lives. So once you think that you’ve beat the game, you realize that there is a whole new world to explore and save from darkness.

Also, the ending of this game leads into the story of Dragon Warrior I. So this is a prequel. Although, that can be figured out if you pay attention to and remember all the details from the first and third games.

Overall, this game felt much larger in scale than the others. The second game felt massive compared to the first but this one feels like it also dwarfed its predecessor since it gave you a second world map. Additionally, this one also took the longest to play. But, again, a lot of that was grinding and grinding hard.

For fans of the series, this is a pretty satisfying chapter. Dragon Warrior always had the edge for me over Final Fantasy back in the early days of the two franchises. However, after I play through Dragon Warrior IV, I do plan to give the 8-bit Final Fantasy games a replay, as it’s been decades and my opinion on which franchise was better, could now be very different.

If it weren’t for all the tedious grinding, this would have been a 10 out of 10.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: The other Dragon Warrior a.k.a. Dragon Quest games for the original NES, as well as the NES Final Fantasy games.

Vids I Dig 045: Generation Gap Gaming: ‘The Legend of Zelda’ NES Secrets and History

From Generation Gap Gaming’s YouTube description: I still get so excited talking about The Legend of Zelda on the NES because I have found so many secrets over the 30 years I’ve been playing the game and I am still finding out secrets to this day. I wanted to share my favorite secrets and historical facts with you about my favorite game of all time!

Video Game Review: Dragon Warrior II (NES)

In my review of the first Dragon Warrior a.k.a. Dragon Quest game, I’m sure I talked about how it was one of my favorite RPGs of all-time and my number one favorite for the original Nintendo.

I tried playing this one way back in the day but I couldn’t get a handle on it. I think that when I was a kid, I found it difficult because of all the bells and whistles that Enix added to this game.

You see, instead of being one badass knight, you now had a party with three characters and you also found yourself in battles with multiple enemies, sometimes as many as eight! In the original game, all the encounters were always one-on-one.

As a kid, I felt overwhelmed by this game. But as years rolled on and I played more advanced RPGs, the things that caught me offguard with this game weren’t really a problem for me anymore.

In fact, the innovations that this game made, changed the RPG landscape going forward, as everyone else started developing RPGs with parties and multiple monsters to fight all at once.

Looking at this now, and at face value, this is everything that the first game was but even better!

However, as great as this is and as much as I enjoy most of it, it’s bogged down by some problems. But the issues it has have more to do with this being the first of its kind and not having the understanding of how important gameplay balance is to an RPG.

This game is massive when compared to its predecessor. There is so much area to explore but it can be a bit much and remembering which town is which and how to get to an area is hard to remember. You definitely need to use maps with this game.

Additionally, some of the dungeons are massive and completely maddening.

But the biggest issue, is that the leveling system is unbalanced with the pacing of the game and you have to literally spend hours upon hours grinding away for experience points. The problem with that, is that it ruins the game’s momentum.

Before you can go to the final castle and run through a string of five, yes five, powerful bosses, you have to spend days, maybe weeks, building up your characters. And your second character is a total weakling that dies all the time and makes it hard for him to collect experience because of that.

Also, the game is impossible without using guides. You can talk to every person in every town but most of the time, it is never clear what you need to do to advance the plot. Playing this now, I kept a walkthrough of bullet points handy because I would have been lost without it.

A lot of people shit on this game and I understand why. I still loved playing it though. And from what I’ve heard, Dragon Warrior III corrects a lot of this game’s mistakes. I plan on playing that one in the very near future.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: The other Dragon Warrior a.k.a. Dragon Quest games for the original NES, as well as the NES Final Fantasy games.

Video Game Review: Fallout 4 (PlayStation 4)

Having loved Bethesda’s work on FalloutFallout: New Vegas and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, I have been chomping at the bit to play Fallout 4 for awhile. Although, when it comes to video games that consume mass amounts of time to play, it can sometimes take me a few years before I can devote that much time to them. Life is a busy bitch when you get older.

So by the time I was ready to jump into this game, I was able to get the expanded “Game of the Year” edition and for rather cheap. That’s one big benefit I have by buying video games a few years too late.

Anyway, the enthusiasm I had for this series sort of went away as I started playing this. Let me clarify that I mostly like the game but after giving this a go for the first few days, I just felt like I was playing a game I’ve already played.

Sure, Fallout 4 takes place in a new location but it feels incredibly similar to Fallout 3. It’s in a northwestern American town that is surrounded by lots of patriotic shit. This one takes place in Boston, Fallout 3 took place in Washington, D.C. But this one does feature Fenway Park as a major location in the game, which was pretty cool being that I’m a big baseball fan, especially in regards to the history and culture of the sport.

But the map just wasn’t very exciting and didn’t feel like a new experience, really. Sure, there are some cool places and things that are fairly unique for this game but exploring the world map just didn’t seem as fun as it did in Fallout 3 or Fallout: New Vegas. The only part of the world map that was exciting was the nuclear zone, as it was friggin’ ominous as hell, dark, dreary, desolate, full of tough as balls monsters and cool secrets. Plus, you need a hazmat suit before you even try to venture off into this part of the map.

My biggest complaint about the game, however, is its difficulty from the get go. Hell, one of your first few missions makes you have to fight a damn deathclaw when you’ve really got no experience or perks to speak of. It’s not an unbeatable situation but I had to expose a flaw in the games design in order to sort of cheat my way through the feat. Plus, in that same mission, you acquire power armor. It just makes everything seem very topsy turvy when compared to how the other two games played out.

Also, there are raiders and super mutants literally everywhere. Exploring the map is really damn difficult, early on. I found this to be a major annoyance, as I tend to like exploring my surroundings in these types of games. I think that it’s done to make exploring more pocketed to what your actual experience level is at. However, that seems odd as you also have to travel to Diamond City pretty early on in the game and it’s a hell of a real trek for just starting out and having to fight or evade groups of raiders and super mutants.

Needless to say, I had some frustrations with the game and it wasn’t very fun, as a low experienced player. So then I noticed that Bethesda allows you to use mods on the console versions of this game. So I tried a few out, not that I wanted to cheat but I just wanted to enjoy the game and have my battles with swarms of raiders and ghouls to feel a bit more balanced.

The mods made the game fun enough for me to not want to outright quit it after about ten hours. Although, the game should work and be balanced enough on its own. Everything felt lopsided early on and that wasn’t a problem I experienced with other Bethesda games before this.

Additionally, all the “dungeons” in the game feel very repetitive and not as imaginative as the dungeons from Skyrim or New Vegas. Those games had some great interior locations whereas Fallout 4 just seems like a lot of the same. Some places are interesting but a lot of the maps suck and are more like traveling through a knotted up snake than something more natural feeling. Also, a lot of these interior mazes make you have to backtrack through them, unlike Skyrim, which would typically reward you with a secret exit once you worked your way through these places.

In regards to the settlement building addition to the game, I’m not really a fan of it. I think that’s because it wasn’t a component in other Bethesda games and it just feels like something to waste my time and distract me from actual ass kicking gameplay.

The story in this game is also lacking. I was engaged by the main narrative in the other three Bethesda games but I just didn’t care about the story here. A lot of the missions were fun but I got more enjoyment from side quests than main quests. In fact, getting back on track with the main quest felt like a real chore.

Another issue, is that the graphics are improved but this doesn’t necessarily feel like a next gen game. I guess I’d have to fire up Fallout 3 again to really notice the difference but Fallout 4 doesn’t feel like a big enough leap forward in that regard. I haven’t played the older Fallout games since 2012 or so but the mechanics in this one felt clunkier than they needed to be. The controls felt more complex and it took a period of adjustment for me to get used to them but they never feel natural to me.

The only real positive is that this seems less buggy overall than previous Fallout games. Both of them felt littered with bugs that caused me to have to save often. Stuff like getting stuck in terrain and lots of freezing. This Fallout is better in that regard. I never got stuck in a rock and the game only froze up on me once.

I expected this to be at least a 9 out of 10 based off of my experience with other Bethesda games. It really disappointed, even though it was fun to play after getting some mods. But ultimately, I still quit after a few weeks because the mods eventually caused bugs and I didn’t want to go back to a really old save and play through some of the mundane missions again.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas.