I’m great at buying video games. I’m even better at playing them. I’m terrible at beating them. Consequently, I end up playing a lot of games at once. In no particular order, here are my current impressions of a handful of the RPGs that I am juggling at the moment.
Yep. I am still playing Fire Emblem: Awakening on my 3DS, and I won’t let myself buy Fates: Conquest until I beat this one. The game is still amazing, the characters are still great…but because my pride refuses to allow me to play the game on Casual mode and because my attachment to my party members refuses to let me allow anyone to succumb to permadeath, the game has become a bit of a frustrating exercise in constantly restarting battles. Also, the “Fight the evil empire! Because…evil!” plot is wearing a little thin at this point. I’m going to get there eventually, though…
Yo-Kai Watch is my go-to for when I want to game, but I don’t want to have to pay too much attention to it. When I want to watch Boyfriend play a game, I’ll often have Yo-Kai Watch going on my 3DS to play while he’s doing something in his game that isn’t plot-related or super-interesting. Yo-Kai Watch is an adorable, charming, highly-polished little time-waster by one of my favorite developers. It’s a Pokemon game if Pokemon games were somewhat interesting. It has a plot, but the plot is less important to me than exploring the richly-detailed and whimsical city of Springdale, collecting wacky monsters, and naming them after Shakespeare characters.
Speaking of Pokemon, let’s go ahead and get this one out of the way: of course I am playing Pokemon Go. I love Pokemon Go. (Team Mystic FTW.) I played Ingress when I first got my smartphone, but I tired of it quickly. Pokemon Go takes everything that was appealing about Ingress and adds Pokemon, which, let’s be real, was absolutely the thing that Ingress was missing. Pokemon Go is essentially guilt-free gaming; it’s hard to feel like you’re wasting time when you’re getting exercise. I’ve walked almost 45 miles over the course of this month. This app is well on its way to single-handedly solving America’s obesity problem.
I enjoyed Bravely Default quite a bit, so it is perhaps unsurprising that I preordered Bravely Second. However, I’m not enjoying it quite as much as I expected. Much of the charm of the first game is lost, though this second iteration remains just as polished and beautiful to behold as its predecessor. It seems as if the developers were just trying too hard to make the plot and the characters seem as wacky as possible, and the forced whimsy is falling a little flat. Beyond this, the combat got boring and repetitive much more quickly than it did the last time around. The dungeons feel too long, too repetitive, the enemy mobs too similar. Some reviews have hinted that the story will eventually become more interesting, but I can tell that it’s going to take me awhile to get to that point. This may end up being another playing-while-watching-Boyfriend-playing-a-thing sort of game. Though, as an aside, I have to admit that some of the puns are amusing, despite being over-used.
This one was a Boyfriend recommendation. Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magic Obscura (which, let me say, is easily the best subtitle of any game ever) is a PC RPG that regularly appears on toplists of the best PC RPGs. Boyfriend tells me that the plot, the world, and the writing are staggeringly amazing. I am sure that they are. However, I’m finding myself having a similar attitude towards this game as I have towards Planescape in that I really want to like and play this game, but I’m having some trouble actually doing it. The dialogue is well-written, the world fascinating and fully-realized, but I just can’t seem to get past the clunky controls and weird combat. Some aspects of PC RPGs are hard for this JRPG girl to grasp, but I’m going to keep trying.
This weird little gem is one of Boyfriend’s Steam games. I’m not actually certain that one would describe Kentucky Route Zero as an RPG exactly — I suppose it’s more of an adventure game? — but there haven’t been any puzzles yet, just surreal dialogue options accompanied by dreamlike visuals, moody music, and quirky characters. I have no idea what this game is about, but I know that I like it.
I have been wanting to play Transistor for ages, as I really enjoyed Supergiant’s first foray, Bastion, despite the fact that I suck at it and have yet to finish it. I’ve owned Transistor for quite some time, but Archimedes, my clunky, elderly tank of a laptop, was unable to run it. Boyfriend, however, owns a custom gaming PC with impressive horsepower, so now I can play the game without issue on the highest graphical settings. (Thanks, Boyfriend!) The game was well worth waiting for. The story unfolds organically as the silent protagonist, a singer who has lost her voice, explores a mysterious technologically-advanced city that appears similar to Bioshock’s Rapture by way of Tron, de-rezzing enemies made of code with strategic action RPG mechanics, and equipping skills that may or may not be the souls of dead people. The battles are tense but fun, the game is gorgeous, and I love the idea of a silent protagonist that actually has a compelling reason to be silent.
GUYS. CAN WE TALK ABOUT SKIES OF ARCADIA. I never had a Dreamcast or a GameCube, so I missed out on this game and had never really thought to seek it out. The other day, Boyfriend sat me down in front of the TV, put a controller in my hand, and informed me that I was going to play this game. I was sold as soon as the opening video finished and obsessed after about thirty minutes of gameplay. Skies of Arcadia is charming, exciting, exuberant, colorful, and absolutely everything I want in a JRPG. Many recent JRPGs seem to be lacking a certain unencumbered sense of joy, bogged down in self-referential tropes and overly jaded self-awareness. I don’t dislike that sort of thing, mind you, but I was surprised to discover how much I missed the innocent fun of a classic JRPG. The characters are varied, the random encounters are fast and often challenging, there is an entirely separate system governing airship battles, and I’m genuinely interested to see where the story is going. Boyfriend is enjoying watching me play it as much as I enjoy actually playing it. If you haven’t experienced this game, do yourself a favor and do the same.
The last game on today’s roundup is Stella Glow. I have been playing this game in demo form. I don’t usually count demos as “games I am playing,” but this particular demo deserves special mention. It’s an unusually long demo, for one thing, allowing the player to experience the first hour or so of the game, and I have found myself unable to put it down. I’m not entirely sure what about this game I am finding so compelling, as the plot appears to be pretty standard JRPG-fare — amnesiac male hero and cute female childhood/love interest friend must save their village from certain doom — but the extreme polish, fully-voiced dialogue of unusual quality, and crisp, beautiful artwork make the cliched story much more palatable. The battles are streamlined, scripted encounters that move along with surprising speed, a rarity in grid-based strategy RPGs. The magical girl “witches” are clearly channeling Madoka Magica, but Madoka Magica is far and away my favorite anime of recent years, so I’m not complaining. As much as I absolutely do not need another video game to beat, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to resist picking this one up…
I need to admit that I have a problem.