Unfinalized Fantasy XV

 

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We’ve come used to day one patches. Developers fix the problems in their games after release, benefit of the internet age. Although it leaves the door open to some lack of polish, it’s clearly a progress compared to the time you were stuck with a freezing disc. But when Hajime Tabate patches Final Fantasy XV, it’s a whole different story.

Final Fantasy XV started strong in Japan with more than 700’000 copies sold first week (digital taken into account), and 5 millions shipped worldwide. The always tired-looking producer could have boasted about those figures, if he hadn’t said a little too much. In the short term, he wants to re-balance the gameplay in the 13th chapter, said to be something horrendous according to GAF. The mid term objective is to enrich the narrative with new cutscenes, in order to explain the destiny of some characters better. Last but not least, in the long term, key-characters of the narrative will become playable, and character creation is thought about. Yes, you read that right : SquareEnix is going to re-develop Final Fantasy XV in 2017. The game wasn’t finished at all when it hit shelves on November 28th 2016.

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All this is disastrous of course. Lots of outraged players consider having been mocked. They’re right on this : they could live only part of the experience planned by the developers. They might start it again when the changes are in place, but nothing will replace the delight of experiencing a game for the first time. Some said they would stop playing at once, others congratulated themselves for cancelling their preorder, and some simply said they would “wait”. The latter, and that’s my case, are the big winners in this whole FFXV mess : next year, they’ll have the full Final Fantasy XV experience for half price, whereas day one buyers paid full price for half the content. In other words, they paid 60€ to be beta testers. No wonder many are screaming in anger today. It’s a huge blow dealt to SquareEnix’s brand image, and to Japanese gaming in general. A true national shame. After that, people will still be surprised that the Japanese gaming market digs year after year. How can it be otherwise when it creates its own deflation? Indeed, because of apparatchiks like Mr. Tabata (or Mr. Futami for Sword Art Online) who rush unfinished games on the market, the best thing to do is always to “wait”.

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But all this is also, at the same time, absolutely wonderful. To be the true heir of the series, Final Fantasy XV lacked more playable characters, and gender equality. You’ve never heard of a main Final Fantasy that would have only one playable character. You’ve never heard of a main Final Fantasy where women would have a walk-on part. Can you imagine even one second Final Fantasy IX without Dagga or Final Fantasy X without Yuna? The setting of Final Fantasy XV is obviously freakin’ dumb as it is now, an abnormality usurping its name. The very good news is that now, we know that this was not the objective : Final Fantasy XV wasn’t doomed to be simply bromance stuff, SquareEnix just wanted to get the money earlier. I’d rather imagine that the key-characters include Cidney, Iris and Aranea. The developers were saying last October that they would “tackle the question of [playing as a female character]”. Character creation might also allow us to revive Stella or make Luna something else than a fleeting narrative object. That still leaves the problem of Gladio, Ignis and Prompto, only playable via paid DLC… … … hum, actually not a problem. How cares about those three? The deal is now fair and square, Final Fantasy will be Final Fantasy again, even though we’ll have to wait the “long term”. This pain in my chest, I feel it vanishing.

This day is the worst day, and yet the best day for Final Fantasy in recent memory. Tabata and SquareEnix have been deceiving people to get the bucks earlier. They discredited themselves in front of the world, public thunderstruck that they could sell them a game that wouldn’t be complete before months. Still, while the publisher didn’t lose its marketing tricks, it also hasn’t lost sight of what is a JRPG, and what makes a Final Fantasy. The looming clouds in the series’ horizon have cleared.

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JRPG, for a change of power

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Despite having a limited importance on the market, JRPGs still maintain themselves in the spotlight. It is still the king of Japanese gaming : every manufacturer, publisher or developer wants its own JRPG to express their talent and influence. It’s a genre that has been captivating players for 25 years, there’s a lot at stake for Japanese companies.

In this long-running struggle, Final Fantasy had long been a unquestioned leader : its extreme refinements at each episode, its overwhelming content, its emotional power had crushed the competition for a long time. But lately, its leadership has been contested by outsiders like Tales of or Xenoblade. Final Fantasy XV’s motto “reclaim your throne” echoes the necessity to take back the crown. But the returning king could very well be robbed of its throne by a malicious thief.

March 30th, May 5th 2016, two dates that might change the balance of power for JRPGs worldwide. Two events aiming at striking the heart of the people, but of opposed style. More than that, a clash of ideologies : Final Fantasy XV and Persona 5 don’t offer their JRPG experience in the same way. Absolutely not.

Final Fantasy XV went for a lavish show : fashionable soiree, large audience, funny MCs, CG movie, commercial partnerships… SquareEnix actually held that in Los Angeles, sign that they’re dropping the original spirit. Uncovered Final Fantasy XV feels terrible by its locked communication and flowery articles in the mainstream press. The publisher seeks to widen its marketing target, but distances itself from players in the same process.

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The case of Kingslaive, animated movie that tells the events that occurred before FFXV, is interesting : the short film sure has a energetic pace, but it show a western way of making entertainment, we still aren’t in the JRPG sphere. It’s just like SquareEnix was going back to an approach similar to Final Fantasy The Spirits Within, and we know how that finished… And there is that Audi R8, which almost jumps out at your face, which ultimately suggests that pretty everything went awry in rotten business plan and a movie shot with a bugdet it doesn’t even have. And fuck, why is the gameplay trailer ending on Stand by Me!? This is truly the end, the RPG Final Fantasy XV is not Japanese anymore.

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On the other side of the planet, Persona 5 (which tells the adventures of a Arsene Lupin-like master thieves) declares that it will “steal Tokyo Tower”. Original and clever way to make the buzz : the lights of the famous red structure indeed went off on 5/5 at 10pm. The commentary is given by some old Japanese lady no one knows where she comes from, and by the characters who run the prison in the game. An anime will air in September for the launch of the game, and it can only be better than Brotherhood, the tasteless attempt of Final Fantasy XV to go media mix. In short, Atlus shows a better symbiosis with its fans than SquareEnix, less business, more fun and passion. Cooler, closer to the people… Doesn’t that ring a bell? Yes, that is Sony’s strategy with the PS4, and it works.

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But that was just the appearance of things. On the content presented, the gap is even wider between the two. Final Fantasy XV hardly shows anything new, since the trailer is just a patchwork of super short sequences that refrain to show precise gameplay or any bit of consistent narrative. True, there was the Platinum demo. But this trial version in reality doesn’t represent the FFXV experience and in fact, dodges the question of gameplay by conjuring up spin-off content. And that’s fortunate, because gameplay in the Platinum demo is atrocious : there is one button for attack and one to maintain for both defense and counter. Confusing, rough, even Duscae was more exciting than this. Evasion has magically vanished and the poor QTEs don’t give much hope for deep gameplay. Surely that was some secret experiment from the publisher that was recently saying in a Famitsu interview that half of the Duscae poll respondents wanted it less complex… Unavoidable consequence : between Duscae and Platinum, gameplay got nothing but worse and the hype for the story deflated.

Persona 5 does show lots of gameplay, serious gameplay. Stealth, joint assaults, dungeons, magic, interface, time management… you have to watch the trailer several times to pick up everything. You know more about Persona 5 after 4 minutes in video than you know about Final Fantasy XV after 2 demos. It also communicate an excitement on the storyline that Final Fantasy XV has barely shown. The master thieves are up to some unbelievable stunts and have the entire world against them.

But Atlus will strike its competitor when it hurts, on characters. No need to remind you how unappealing Noctis’s group is : JRPG players in the world are split between anger ad hilarity, SquareEnox failing to notice. Final Fantasy betrays and 25-year long heritage by refusing the very idea of a permanent playable female character. The series constructed itself by respecting parity to deliver the best in terms of story, emotion, art and visuals : the sloppy setting of Final Fantasy XV cannot work, and Atlus is fully aware of that.

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While Persona 5’s team was already flattening the other in charisma even before May 5th , the dev team doesn’t just add one, but THREE heroines. Parity is totally rebalanced in Persona 5, loud and clear message send to its opponents and to the players worldwide. The role of the girls is heavily underlined in the trailer, way of showing that no, Persona 5 doesn’t have double standards.

All those elements show that Persona 5 wants to restate its commitment to the JRPG genre, and to its audience. It can be considered part of “the Final Fantasy spirit” which Bravely Default failed to inherit. With Final Fantasy itself being so far from its roots, Atlus’s series has a historical chance to reign over JRPG.

Review – Star Ocean 5 Integrity and Faithlessness

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10 years ago or so, Star Ocean 3 became my favorite game of all time. Despite the arrival of the masterpiece Valkyria Chronicles, it still remains on top. Never an RPG had hooked me like this by its gameplay, its story, its characters, its animation and its overwhelming content. The exclusivity period of Star Ocean The Last Hope for 360 had been a nightmare. Six years after this (quite good) 4th episode, it’s another kind of disenchantment that awaited me…

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We can safely say that Star Ocean 5 Integrity and Faithlessness does not have a mind-blowing start. Master of a kenjutsu dojo, Fidel is entrusted with the defense of his village, Staal, threatened by looters. With the help of his childhood friend Miki and joined by Victor, a knight sent in reinforcement from the capital, he intends to get rid of the bandits once for all. During this battle, the party will meet and start protecting a young girl called Lylia. That’s where Tri-Ace’s story goes wrong, because everything will revolve around Lylia, without any justification on how the characters are so deeply attached to her. The succession of events is a lot too fast and doesn’t feel natural, leaving the player skeptic.

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The trouble is that by making a local guy the hero of this newest Star Ocean, the developer puts a big emphasis on the ground part of the adventure, rather than on the space opera aspect. It’s really a shame that the space parts are so scarce, because they’re still quite well made : space war and maneuvers still make unforgettable scenes, and the cutscenes here are great. On the top of leaving space a bit aside, Star Ocean 5 Integrity and Faithlessness neglects its characters : the game is so centered on Lylia that it leaves little room for building the relation between the other characters, and it doesn’t give them a background solid enough either. Of the 6 playable characters, Emmerson is the only really charismatic one, lifting the mood of the party. Always talking about pretty girls, he and Anne make a great comical duo, but the man is also a born (unofficial) leader.

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SquareEnix’s RPG does have what it calls private actions, which are small scenes featuring the characters chatting with each other, building the group’s cohesion in the process. Nice initiative but it leads us to Tri-Ace’s biggest mistake in this game : most of the story scenes are seen from a unique camera angle centered around Fidel. The player can move it as he likes but… that should be the job of the game director! This ends up showing a lifeless narrative, and of mundane presentation… In short, the direction fails in most of the game.

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Funny enough to notice that the enemy characters really stand out, even more than some of your own characters. The “bad guys” of Star Ocean 5 Integrity and Faithlessness indeed get the most attention because they’re part of the best cutscenes and the hottest fights.

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In pure visuals, Star Ocean 5 Integrity and Faithlessness gives us a first glimpse of next-gen JRPG. Modeling, but also the extremely refined rendering, set a new record in the genre. Despite its actually common wilderness, progressing with a group of seven characters feels rather cool. Characters and enemies are equally well made, which make combat very impressive, not to mention the colored and gigantic spells. But the beauty prize goes to the cities of this new episode, the architecture of which is rich an detailed like you’ve never seen.

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While particularly mighty in its aspect, SquareEnix’s RPG is not as impressive when it comes down to game content. Once the astonishment of the discovery is gone, you quickly realize that the world of Star Ocean 5 Integrity and Faithlessness isn’t large at all. The towns are a typical case : they’re hella good-looking as I said earlier, but they’re also incredibly tiny! The capitals of this PS4 episode are about half as large and have less stuff to be discovered than those of Star Ocean 3 on… PS2! The main story can be cleared in about 30 hours, even taking the time to complete half of the sidequests. Nothing appealing about those, sadly listed on a quest board somewhere in the town. None of those quests are very interesting : it’s about creating or looting items, beating monsters which happen to be just in front of the city gates (how convenient) or defending Fidel’s dojo countless times… What’s more? Two optional dungeons : an arena shaped like a Cathedral popping at random on the world map, and the traditional post-game dungeon where you can listen to Mission to the Deep Space. The latter has no minimap and fighting is super harsh under level 100, so that might get you to play a lot longer if you’re motivated. Additional outfits would have been welcome, but Tri-Ace didn’t have the generosity to include any despite certain characters clearly having them.

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Worst of all, item creation was a downright disappointment. The interface is cold, unappealing, and some sad and small artworks have replaced the 3D view of your inventions. As we’re on this subject, let’s stress that even though the weapons look different in the equipment menu, the look in actual fighting will always be the same : lack of time or efforts, something went MIA here. No animations when fishing or digging up resources, whilst even the smallest JRPGs have them nowdays. No inventors to be found either, and even the small icons which were showing the characters’ mood when success or failure are missing… this poor excuse for item creation make me miss the one of Star Ocean 3 even more. In today’s Star Ocean, you just quickly make the goods to drop at the quest board, nothing more… On the other hand, we do appreciate the effort to make it more lively thanks to a better designed and more entertaining Welch. Every time you access a new type of creation, Welch will have you complete a quest to do so. Bossy and selfish, the young girl is a total loose cannon : she calls the party characters her “assistants” and won’t hesitate to work them to the bones. Probably one aspect where this newest episode shines compared to older ones.

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As for combat, Star Ocean 5 Integrity and Faithlessness truly benefits from the experience acquired in past games, as well as from technical improvements, although not avoiding some mishaps. New for the genre, you always have all your characters with you. No 1st/2nd line to consider, no hesitating when choosing the attack team, everyone is here, anytime, in every fight. Even with seven members on the battlefield, switching playable character is simple and fast, as well as deciding who will unleash his Reserve Rush (it doesn’t have to be the one you’re playing), ultimate skill that can cause 99’999 damage at high level. For that, you need to totally empty your Reserve gauge, which allows for more experience points and more Fol (the currency in Star Ocean) when actually filled. Appreciable improvement over older titles, the gauge isn’t broken completely at the first mistake. It’s going to empty progressively if you’re KO or if your guard is broken too often. Such added flexibility makes grinding a lot more comfortable and quicker.

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Guard, let’s talk about it. Set on square, you can double-press the button to counter a weak attack from the enemy. Same as before, you have to monitor carefully how your opponents move and find out whether they’re up to a weak or strong attack (the latter breaking the guard). You then have to opt for counter or dodging in the blink of an eye. A proved and dynamic battle system which here hits a snag : seven characters are acting simultaneously in a flurry of special effects. Let’s say it straight, you can’t always assess the situation well enough to react effectively. Battles are liable to leave the player confused in many occasions, but boss fights are fine.

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As usual by chaining attacks and spells, you can perform a Cancel Bonus repeatedly to boost the damage dealt from 125 to 200%. You’d better be familiar with this feature, because battles of attrition do not tend to turn in your favor. Indeed, the difficulty will rise by (brutal) steps and reach almost unbearable levels during the last stages of the game. There are several defense missions that leaves no room for idling, and some crazy battle marathons of very high tension in which the skill and tactics of the player will be tested. Some bosses have spells of such an insane blast radius that your entire team can be wiped out in seconds, some won’t hesitate to hurt and KO downed characters, etc. it’s beyond horrific at times. As AI is also showing some poor wits, playing as Fiore or Miki really helps because you can concentrate on healing. Clearing Star Ocean 5 Integrity and Faithlessness means a lot of sweating, potentially a broken TV because a dual shock was hurled at it, but it’s so rewarding when the victory trophy pops.

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You’d come to think that Star Ocean 5 Integrity and Faithlessness would barely rehash the past, but it has something new which is the role system. A role in this game is actually a title that will give some tactical advantages to the character who equips it. For example, HP Boost boosts your HP (nothing complicated here), Sniper reinforces attacks from afar, Assassin allows the character to be less targeted. You can level up those roles by using skill points, which will unlock even more sophisticated roles. It’s not the only way to get new roles, since some will be given after certain quests or private actions. But the main point is to combine the roles, since each character can have four simultaneously. You can for example boost the power of your magic while keeping the cost in HP low, make healing or guarding more efficient, focusing on a certain category of enemies with the “-killer” roles… There are numerous possibilities and combining them is a definite plus in terms of strategy.

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Despite that interesting novelty, there’s no denying that the shadow of Star Ocean 3 looms on this PS4 episode. Tri-Ace had been clear that they would take a similar approach to their PS2 hit, and you do feel it… a lot too much! 90% of the monsters are copy/pasted from before, some bosses are exactly the same, some skills are blatantly identical… The character called Del Sur (pronounce like in Spanish) is obviously a successor to the legendary Albel Nox. Even the storyline is widely inspired by Star Ocean 3, because it also is split between the war on the planet and the space conflict behind the scenes. That said, it can’t even remotely match it, being too short and dull in large part. The game will go as far as playing Star Ocean 3 music during key parts of the narrative! Odd choice, but it takes only the best tracks : Airyglyph Castle, The Desolate Smell of Earth, The Divine Spirit of Language. It still doesn’t fail to contribute to the musical heritage of the series, notably thanks to the fantastic theme of the ship, the Charles de Gaulle (yes, that pleases us French people). You sometimes feel like playing some sort of tribute game to Star Ocean 3 rather than the new Star Ocean. It’s a shame that Star Ocean 5 Integrity and Faithlessness is unwilling to be completely itself and push its own identity.

Star Ocean 5 Integrity and Faithlessness is let’s say, OK. It is a beautiful game, it has quality RPG gameplay and there’s a powerful challenge, but the overall content is way off the mark. A pleasant JRPG, but which could have been a fantastic one with more effort put into the direction and the side content. Did Tri-Ace really get free hands to make it as they wanted? The answer to this question might be eternally lost in the starry sky…

Review – Dragon Quest Heroes

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Welcome home. Those are the words the president of Sony Computer Entertainment Asia addressed to Yuji Horii when unveiling Dragon Quest Heroes. There had indeed been nearly 10 years without a Dragon Quest title on a Playstation system. After a smashing success in Japan where it shipped 1 million copies, this action spin-off of the famous RPG franchise comes to the West only of PS4. Good thing since that’s the one I’ll tell you about.

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The now well-known studio Omega Force being in charge, it is a Musô-like game (like a Samurai Warriors) which is delivered to us. You thus have in hands an action-RPG like any other, where you’ll level-up, learn skills, create accessories and do side-quests to get stronger. Combat is in real-time and each character has 3 or 4 combos with various combinations of square and triangle. It’s kinda too few, but there are also 4 magic spells that you can activate quickly with L1, and a highly destructive super-attack you can unleash when your fury gauge is filled. Magic and physical attacks can be linked in seamless fashion so that control can be mastered in no time. Only drawback : dodging is set on R2, which not as convenient as circle (used in God Eater for example).

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But KoeiTecmo and SquareEnix haven’t merely copied the Musô formula with a Dragon Quest skin. The game system is different. In Dragon Quest Heroes, you’ll be very often defending a location or a NPC as monsters come from everywhere. You have to cover all sides at the same time : before you can clean one part of the frontline, monsters will alread been rushing on another side. In order to complete those missions, you’ll be able to rely on ally monsters (that you acquire by picking up medals) and place them at strategic locations to have them hold the ground for you. There are dozens of them, actually the entire bestiary of the series! The game is pretty easy in its first half so that’s a bit disappointing, and the enemy troops are always not as massive as in Samurai Warriors. That said, the challenge makes more sense in the late stages of the story, where stronger fiends make battles really fierce. Let’s stress that some free DLCs in Japan throws you against insane opponents. The big letdown is the lack of multiplayer, despite it being traditionally a huge added-value of “Warriors” games.

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Before being an action game, this new SquareEnix title is a Dragon Quest, a true and pure one. Of course, you can play as legendary characters such as Alina and Manya from Dragon Quest IV, Jessica and Yangus from Dragon Quest VIII, Bianca and Flora from Dragon Quest V. 13 in total in you include the main characters created for this game. Both have a personality and fit in the Dragon Quest universe very well. Against you march numerous classic enemies of the series, like Slimes and Killer Machines. Not to mention gigantic statues and dragons which are impressive bosses.

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This title is a true rejuvenating experience because the it sticks to the Dragon Quest universe from back to front. Music, sounds and even the icons during the dialogs are the same as years ago! In the Japanese version, even the writing style is taken from former episodes, that is to say few kanjis and spaces between the words (which is traditionally implemented in games aimed at kids, like Pokemon). In the same way, dialogs are easy-going but keep to comic tone of the series, though it prevents the story to be surprising in whichever way.

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While you do feel nostalgic by playing it, it doesn’t mean Dragon Quest Heroes is not modern. True, it’s not the most complex PS4 game graphically speaking but it remains visually stunning. That’s not for the character/background modeling, average for the system, but for the incredible flurry of sparkling colors, especially of magic and skills. Animation is of great quality too, as the rapid frame rate never drops. There are also lots of tiny animation details like when the characters are stun or exhaust the magic that make it a whole new Dragon Quest experience. The numerous cut-scenes are beautiful and extremely well directed, like in pretty much every SquareEnix title. The last artistic feature is the small blurry effect that occurs when you beat a boss, which is truly exciting for people like me who love to use their Share button.

Dragon Quest’s return on Playstation is a definitive success with that PS4 episode. It reunites both the old and the new and can appeal to any Japanese gaming fan. A fun and exciting game so fully Dragon Quest that it gives shivers of nostalgia.

Impressions – Life is Strange

Life is Strange marks the comeback of DONTNOD, the prodigious French studio behind Remember Me. The latter not having sold as expected, the developer went through tough times and was searching for a publisher for their next project. After having been turned down several times because many companies didn’t want a heroine, SquareEnix stepped in to market this narrative game, which reminds us of Beyond.

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If I had to describe Life is Strange, I would say that it is a westernized visual novel mixed with a puzzle game. It’s gonna be a game in five episodes, so what we’ll be examining today on PS4 is only the introduction of that. You play as a young girl called Max (I guess it must have become a girl’s name at some point) who’s back in her native town in Oregon to study photography. Unfortunately, fishy events are taking place in the Empire town of Arcadia and Max also starts to have strange visions.

What seduced me in Life is Strange is the eerie and mysterious atmosphere that contrasts with the somewhat classic school life featured. The campus is like haunted after that some girl called Rachel Amber went missing. Everywhere but nowhere at the same time, she is a key-person you want to know more about. Even without a confirmed crime, every person around you seems suspect : it’s like Criminal Minds, except that you’re in charge. Max, shy and lacking self-confidence, has an interesting personality that echoes a certain number of issues of today’s world. Like Remember Me, which offered a unique and complex universe, Life is Strange deserves kudos for having very original settings and features (photography being the first of them) unlike many of the generic AAA those past few months.

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In Life is Strange, you’ll have to make choices, an the game direction knows how to make them particularly serious. At numerous occasions, the actions you take will affect your future, near or distant. Some are more important than others of course, but the game will put pressure on you regardless, because Max never stops wondering if she took the right decision. That said, the consequences within this episode weren’t as important as I expected : when doing a 2nd walkthrough making the opposite choices, the main events stayed more or less the same (for example, I expected the event at the parking lot to change completely). I’d say there’s some potential yet to be confirmed in that department, which we’ll know quickly since your actions today have an impact on future episodes.

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In terms of puzzles also, Life is Strange starts slowly : there are few of them and they’re not so elaborated. In fact, this first episode is more a matter of observation and searching, which fits RPG addicts like me. In particular, trophies are all about snapping rare shots in the different environments. That was very addictive as it involved small choices, but it’s kinda disappointing not to have trophies linked to important choices.

Similar to Remember Me, puzzles and challenges in Life is Strange involve going back in time, and Max gets that supernatural power at the very start of the game. But it’s only valid on a few minutes, impossible to go back in 2012 to prevent the exclusivity of Bayonetta 2 for example. Max is not affected by those travels in time and can thus go back and use information earned in the present. The system allows you to perform numerous small thing, but nothing big yet, save that it adds some sense of grandeur to the story.

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Graphically speaking, DONTNOD’s game clearly lacks polish as models would make it appear as an early PS3 game. It clearly looks far less good than Remember Me, and I do reckon the developers didn’t have the freedom to go as far as they wanted to in that department. That said, Life is Strange has a lot of other decisive qualities, notably atmosphere and originality that make it stand out compared to today’s bland western offer.

Preview – Bravely Second

The various demos of Bravely Default had convinced me to skip it. Terribad on a technical point of view, it had also an underwhelming battle system and atrocious difficulty balance. One upgraded version later, we come back to the starting point with Bravely Second’s (BS) demo.

This demo called «the 3 Musketeers» is actually a series of sidequests and humoristic events. No great plot twist or even any introduction on the full story, you just have to loot materials and beat random bosses. Surprisingly enough, BS had a slice of life approach in that demo : the tone is light, dialogs are pretty fun and some characters lovely. Agnes is a wonderful Tsundere, Magnolia is hilarious with her nerves. In fact, this demo has been moe/burlesque all along like many Playstation games I know, the idol bunny girl with her girly samuraï sidekick (like Logos from FFX-2) being definite proof of that. That’s not a bad thing, but BS in this clearly moves away of its ambition of “successor of Final Fantasy”.

BS nevertheless inherits FF’s DNA in urban design & architecture and excellent sound & music. On the other hand, dungeons looked a bit generic. The snag is that it betrays FF lineage in one thing which is graphics : Final Fantasy has always been at the forefront of its generation, whereas BS looks like a 15-year-old game. Whatever its other qualities may be, it is not acceptable to receive a PSone game in 2015. 3D are way too simplistic, no one can be satisfied by this after seeing Phantasy Star Nova or Hyperdimension Neptune U. By the way, Ace Attorney and Stardust Amazones have shown that 3DS can do far better than that. BS has a likeable design but is clearly under the par technically speaking.

In terms of gameplay, BS is less divisive. It inherits the Brave/Default system from BD. In short, you “discard” to save turns and “brave” to use multiple turns at once. Though I can see the strategic uses it can have, I find it unnecessarily complex. In practice, I often run out of turn at the worst moment because I tend to play too fast, which ruins my strategy at times. I’m more satisfied by the job system. It’s more or less the same as FF Tactics Advance, but is nonetheless extremely addictive and very quick to understand. Even better here, magic can be bought and becomes available immediately for all characters who have the adequate job level. Many jobs are progressively unlocked an bring a deal of variety in gameplay in only 4 hours.

The improvements made for For the Sequel are back in BS. You still have the opportunity to change the level of difficulty anytime like in Tales of Xillia for example. That’s fortunate, because I had to switch to easy mode within 30 minutes so as to progress without grinding during the entire week. Another very good idea, BS allows you to tune the frequency of random battles. It is very convenient in a way that you can advance in the game at your own pace.

Bravely Second is a lot more attractive than Bravely Default two years ago. But aside from the postcard-of-FFIX aspect, to me it lacks decisive qualities to make up for its dismal graphics. It seems a honest JRPG but likely behind more ambitious 2015 games on PS4, PSVita or even WiiU.