Platinum Demo- Final Fantasy XV is Short but Sweet

Late last night, Square-Enix surprised us (or, tried to, but it got leaked ahead of time) with a release date for the long awaited Final Fantasy XV and a new demo. The demo, titled Platinum Demo- Final Fantasy XV, features content that will not be available in the actual retail game and is intended to introduce players to game’s style. Upon completion, you unlock the Carbuncle summon in the full game, so it is encouraged that you check it out.

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Carbuncle is your guide through Noctis’ dream

The demo takes place in the dreams of Notcis, Final Fantasy XV’s main character. At this point, Noctis is still a child and it seems like he has been knocked out by some kind of daemon. Noctis is greeted by Carbuncle, a small fox-like creature from the Final Fantasy series, who gives him a smart phone. Using the phone, Carbuncle is able to guide Noctis through his dream so that he can wake back up.

The first thing you’ll probably notice is that Final Fantasy XV is gorgeous. You’ll start in a cave but eventually find your way to a city, and it all looks great. The art direction looks great with tons of little details everywhere. One place in particular that really stood out to me was in the city. There’s a really detailed building with a fountain in front. In the fountain is a sculpture of what appears to be the classic Final Fantasy summon, Bismarck.

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Look at that whale

From a technical standpoint, the demo is also a success. I’ve been a little worried about how well Final Fantasy XV will run ever since last year’s demo, Episode Duscae, came out. Episode Duscae played well, but suffered from an extremely poor frame rate. Thankfully, Platinum Demo runs much better. I didn’t notice any frame rate drops during the entire demo. To be fair though, the scope of the demo is much smaller than Episode Duscae, with a much more directed path and only a few enemies on screen at a time. So, my worries aren’t entirely gone, but I do feel better about the game now.

Combat is fast paced and fun, but also pretty simple. When you encounter your first enemy, Carbuncle presents you with a toy hammer and sword. You can equip them to directions on the d-pad. Then, you can swap between weapons by tapping directions on the d-pad, and attacking is as simple as hitting the B button. Holding down the X button let’s you automatically dodge attacks, although it doesn’t work for everything. The combat is very easy to pick up and learn, but I hope that the full game offers more depth.

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Beating up monsters with a toy hammer

Platinum Demo is very short. I ended up finishing it in about twenty-four minutes. But, it’s free, and gives you a good idea of what to expect from the full game. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re interested in the full game.

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Oh, and when you finish the demo, you’re prompted to buy the game. That’s kinda weird.

I’m worried about Star Fox Zero

There’s a new Star Fox game due out next month and I’m worried about it. I have no doubt that the game will be great, but that’s not what’s getting to me. The thing about Star Fox is that standards have changed in the last twenty-three years, and I just don’t know if Star Fox makes sense in 2016.

When the original Star Fox released back in 1993 on the Super Nintendo, it was kind of revolutionary. The majority of Super Nintendo games were, for lack of a better term, very video gamey. They were primarily 2D games with little story. Just move from right to left and rescue the princess. Obviously there’s some exceptions to this, like SquareSoft’s RPGs, but generally, if you popped in a random SNES cartridge, this is what you could expect. And then along comes Star Fox.

Star Fox was fully polygonal. It’s not particularly impressive by today’s standards, it mostly just looks like flying triangles, but at the time it was a revelation. Suddenly, cinematic camera angles in cutscenes were possible. Characters would chatter with each other during gameplay. Console games could now feel more like an interactive movie.

Another one of the traits of games from this era is that they are often very short. If you know what you’re doing, the original Star Fox can be beaten in less than an hour. This is the kind of the thing that would be viewed as a problem today, but back then, it was par for the course. Many games, Star Fox included, were meant to be finished in a single sitting. The longevity came from the challenge the game presented and alternate paths and secrets. Repeating the same game over and over just to get better at it and find all the secrets is something players used to do all the time, but it simply isn’t the way people play games in 2016.

However, I think Nintendo is aware of this. They know that the core gameplay of Star Fox is great, but also simple by today’s standards. Star Fox 64, the first sequel to Star Fox, was built on largely the same ideas, but added multiplayer to help give the game more legs. Star Fox Assault on the GameCube added missions where you were on foot, turning the game into more of a third-person shooter. Star Fox Command on the DS was more of turn based strategy game that would turn into mini Star Fox levels when units interacted. Every Star Fox game since the original added something to try and make the game a little more complicated.

Now, Star Fox Zero isn’t out yet, so I might be jumping to conclusions, but everything we’ve seen points to it just being Star Fox. I love Star Fox, but the idea of putting out a game that is just more of that at full price just seems insane. Nowadays, games come out for less than twenty dollars that have more complicated gameplay and last longer. A good example would be Stardew Valley. Stardew Valley is $15, offers tons of content to do, and takes players over seventy hours to see and do everything. I know that the actual style of game is quite a bit different, but it’s hard to see the value in something that’s most likely to be so much shorter, so much simpler, and so much more expensive.

All of this really bums me out. A new Star Fox coming out should be reason to celebrate, and I’m still willing to bet that it’s going to be a lot of fun. But putting Star Fox out in it’s most basic form at full price on a console that has a very small user base sounds like a recipe for disaster. But this is all speculative, and I hope to be proven wrong next month.

Oh, and you probably noticed that I didn’t mention Star Fox Adventures when I was going over the previous games. Adventures is such a different game and didn’t even start as a Star Fox game, so it didn’t really make sense to bring it up. However, I do really like that game and hope to talk about in much more detail later on. So, hey, look forward to that.

Announcing Quarter Circle Forward’s first weekly feature

A friend of mine has been bothering me to play through a certain video game for a long time. It’s a big game, and one that’ll take a decent commitment for me to get through. But, it is one that I want to play and one that I now own. So, I’m going to start playing through Xenoblade Chronicles X.

Starting next week, you can expect check-in posts from me talking about my progress in the game and how I’m currently feeling about it. Think of it as a really long review that you get a section of every week. I imagine the first week will be a pretty long post, but depending on how much happens and how much opinions change over time, future posts might be much shorter.

Anyway, I hope to have fun playing this game and I hope you have fun seeing how I feel about it. Check back next week for the first installment.

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Dynowarz and why it’s okay to like garbage

The NES is often remembered as one of the greatest consoles in history. When it’s brought up, people will bring up a couple dozen games that defined the entire generation. You’ve got your Marios, your Zeldas, your Castlevanias, and so much more. But did you know that there are over 800 officially released games on the NES?

If you grew up with an NES, there’s a good chance you ened up with at least a few games that aren’t part of that coveted dozen or so of classics. These are the games that your non-gaming relatives got you for your birthday. Or perhaps ones that you picked up because the boxart looked cool. After all, in those days, video game coverage wasn’t nearly as prolific as it is today. It wasn’t uncommon to discover a game while you were in a store.

Because you were a kid and didn’t have limitless money, when you got a game, you played that game. A lot. As a result, everyone seems to have that one game that no one else remembers, but you spent a significant amount of your childhood playing. One of those games for me was Dynowarz.

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Apparently, Dynowarz has a subtitle. Who knew?

My copy of Dynowarz was a loose cartridge. Having never owned the instruction manual, and the game itself offering nothing in terms of story, I had no idea what this game was about. You were a blue guy with a gun. You’d go through pretty simple platforming levels until you run into a strange brain thing. After destroying the brain, you backtrack through the same level, then jump into your giant robot dinosaur and wreak havoc on other robot dinosaurs., As a child, I never questioned why any of this was happening.┬áHere’s the thing about Dynowarz; it’s awesome. Robot dinosaurs, weapons, colorful visuals, great soundtrack… it’s all great. It doesn’t matter at all why any of this was happening, it’s just awesome.

Unfortunately, there’s something else about Dynowarz. It’s kind of a big thing, probably one of the main reasons that the game isn’t looked back upon as one of the classics. That reason is that this game is hot garbage. Almost everything about the actual act of playing this game is objectively bad.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, the game is broken into two distinct gameplay styles. The first is a fairly simple platformer. These are the parts where you control the blue guy. You start at the left and you go right, shooting enemies and hopping on platforms along the way. Unfortunately, the control has this real lag to it. Nothing you do feels fluid. Getting your character to do anything the way you want him to is a massive undertaking. If you want to jump on a small moving platform, you have to take into account the fact that he won’t respond immediately to what you’re telling him to do, and you have to line up that jump pixel perfect or you’ll fall to your death. There were several times while I replayed the game for this article where I swear I successfully landed a jump only to find myself dead.

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Landing on this platform is much harder than it looks.

After getting a few screens to the right, you encounter that brain boss I mentioned earlier. Hopefully you really enjoy fighting this thing, because it’s at the end of every single one of these segments. All you have to do to destroy it is keep shooting.┬áThe most variety that comes from these fights is in the layout of the room they’re in. Sometimes there’s some platforms you have to deal with with to get an ideal shot in. Other times there’s smaller enemies trying to get in your way. But none of that really matters. Every fight is extremely easy and they all feel like the same thing.

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Get used to seeing this brain thing.

Upon beating the boss, you have to go back through the entire level. Thankfully, it does remember what enemies you have defeated, so it’s a lot easier this time around. This is a pretty rare thing in NES games and is very appreciated. The jumps can still be quite difficult though, and if you mess up you’ll have to do the entire section over again. When you get back to the beginning, you’ll find your giant dinosaur robot waiting for you.

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You can skip the cutscene that plays every time you enter the robot dinosaur, but you won’t.

Next you’ll pilot the robot dinosaur through a more action heavy stage. There’s still jumps over bottomless pits you’ll have to make, but these sections are much less platform-heavy. Now your primary goal is to beat up other robot dinosaurs. Some enemies use unfair tactics that make the game much less fun. While most are of the stand around and shoot variety, some will bum rush you the second you hit them. This results in almost completely unavoidable damage. Challenge is not a bad thing, but when a game stops feeling fair, when it feels like there’s nothing you could have done to avoid what happened, that’s when the game really starts to suffer.

As you progress through these levels, you’ll come across weapons power-ups. The weapon system in Dynowarz is actually pretty cool. Basically, when you pick up a weapon, you’ll receive the level 1 version of that weapon. If you find the same weapon and pick it up, you’ll receive the level 2 version of that weapon. Each weapon has three levels, which increase their effectiveness. If you happen to grab a different weapon, your weapon will be replaced by the level 1 version of the one you just picked up. As a result, you’ll likely find one weapon that you like a lot and stick to it, trying your hardest to avoid accidentally picking up a different one.

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Just enjoying the three Jupiters in the night sky.

When you get to the end of these sections, you’ll fight a boss. Thankfully, these bosses actually look different each time. However, the strategy for beating them never changes. Just keep hitting them and try not to get hit yourself. When you defeat the boss, you enter a doorway and go to the next blue guy level. You repeat this cycle about seven times and then the game is over.

I’ve done a lot of complaining about this game so far, so why exactly do I love it? Well, as I stated earlier, there’s a lot of really positive features. The visuals and art style are very striking. The music is catchy and has been stuck in my head since replaying. The weapon upgrade system is fairly unique for this style of game. There’s just a lot to really appreciate here, but it’s the fundamentals that it messes up.

People talk about movies that are so bad that they actually enjoy watching them. But does this concept exist in video games? I think it can, but it’s a little different. Because you have more direct control over what’s happening in a game, gameplay problems can make it so you don’t see the rest of the game. You end up giving up because it just isn’t fun. Movies will keep progressing whether they’re good or not.

Sometimes, what you find fun is kind of inexplainable. But that doesn’t mean that you aren’t having it. I guess if there’s any point to this other than just wanting to talk about a game that no one talks about, is that no one can tell you what you do or don’t like. However, you need to be able to think critically about what the game doesn’t get right. I love Dynowarz, and that’s okay, but imagine if that game was actually good.If that was the case, I wouldn’t be the only one talking about it over twenty years after it’s release.

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They don’t make video game endings like they used to.

Oh, and one last thing. While looking up information on Dynowarz before writing this article, I learned that the blue guy is named Dr. Proteus, the bad guy is Dr. Brainius, and your robot dinosaur is called the Cyborasaurus. This game is great.