Top 100 PS1 Review: #21 – Final Fantasy Anthology (1999)

Reintroducing Final Fantasy To America.

Taking advantage of the popularity of FF7, Squaresoft rereleased almost every game they ever made for the PS1.

Final Fantasy V Final Fantasy Anthology Title ScreenApe’s Ranking: #21/100
My Rating: StarStarStar

RPGs were not mainstream until Final Fantasy 7 dropped on the PS1 in 1997. Even though Squaresoft and Enix released several iterations of their popular in Japan Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy  games, it was still a pretty niche market in America. Hell, Squaresoft didn’t even bother releasing all of their games in America leading to a unique numbering system that wouldn’t be corrected until the late 90s.

With FF7 being a blockbuster hit, Squaresoft wanted to capitalize with repackaging their catalog to a North American population now clamoring for more RPGs. Final Fantasy Anthologies was the first to release containing FFV and FFVI. Final Fantasy Origins (FF I and FF II) and Final Fantasy Chronicles (FFIV and Chrono Trigger) would soon follow for a total of 6 games being released for the PS1 which were ports of older NES or SNES versions.

Very little new content was added to these games. For the NES ports, the graphics were updated to SNES level. For the rest, short opening and ending CGI sequences were included. For those of us who already owned the originals (i.e: me), there was little benefit from buying these redundant ports…

…except when it comes to the never before released American titles.

Final Fantasy Anthologies includes such a title: Final Fantasy V. Only released in Japan, it is unique for having a diverse job system where characters aren’t pigeon-holed into a class type. Instead of the static characters in FFVI and FFVI, you can mix and match classes together to make unique skill sets.

I was more interested in the history aspect: every Final Fantasy is part of lineage where motifs, themes, and ideas build upon one another. This scaffolding is more apparent with the more titles you play by seeing how the series has grown over time. Having played the games that bookend FFV, I was interested to see where it stood. Was it more like FFIV with old-school conundrums or forward thinking like FFVI with a fantastic narrative?

Well, it ended up being a little of both. While FFV’s job system is THE thing that makes the game stand out, it’s not fantastically done. The other elements, mainly the story, are a disappointment and never reach the level I expected.

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Top 100 N64 Review: #76 – Quest 64 (1998)

Still A Disappointment.

At least its consistently bad no matter what decade you play it in.

Quest 64 Title ScreenLesLites’ Ranking#76/100
My Rating: StarStar

Being of elementary school age meant that I wasn’t in control of my discretionary spending. Whatever momma bought was what sonny was going to play. However, I could steer her in the right direction with a few not so subtle hints. Riding the hype from Nintendo Power, I knew I had to have Quest 64.

I was yearning for a new RPG  — I was still replaying FFVI for God’s sake! The previews looked like it was the right game for the first RPG entry into the N64 catalog. The vistas were chocked full of things to explore. The battle system intricate. The stat system innovative.

After playing for a very short time, I became frustrated. The game was a grind. The people and places hallow. The story non-existent. It was a nasty, brutish, and short experience. Soon after, I acquired a ps1 where my RPG gaming life was about to change for the better.

Revisiting this game now only brings up feelings of what could have been. There are plenty of bright spots (the combat system and stat system were intricate and innovative), however, everything else pulls it down. The grind really wears on you, and with no story to buoy your interest, the final stages are a test of perseverance.

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Top 100 PS1 Review: # 35 – Alundra (1997)

The Hidden Gem of the PS1.

AND NO. IT’S NOT A ZELDA CLONE!

Alundar Psone Title ScreenApe’s Ranking: #35/100
My Rating: StarStarStarStar

Okay, maybe it is kind of a Zelda Clone. There are bombs, arrows, gloves that allow you to pick up boulders, and something called a “life vessel” that is nothing more than a heart piece. It’s easy to to confuse Inoa, the village in Alundra, with Kakariko or mistake the open world with the fields of Hyrule. However, what the game does within this framework is wholly unique…

… and hard as holy hell! This is quite possibly one of the hardest games I have ever played. Even considering this as something akin to Zelda is a sin after you experience the beatdown of the perfect this game requires. The game’s only downfall is how much it expects of you. The satisfaction of solving a hard and difficult puzzle is quickly extinguished when you realize that it’s only been replaced with an even harder challenge which is followed by another — it’s turtles all the way down.

The grind is worth it, though. Alundra has impeccable world building. Its mature themes are nestled in a world chocked full of unique of experiences. You’ll want to explore and talk to everything as it captures the spirit of adventure so well.

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Top 100 PS1 Review: #18 – Final Fantasy VIII (1999)

So Conflicting.

A convoluted, mish-mashed story with amazing moments nestled in a beautiful world full of culture which has a completely broken fighting system that is also immensely addicting… this game is nothing but contradictions. 

Final Fantasy VIII Title ScreenApe’s Ranking: #18/100
My Rating: StarStarStar

Final Fantasy VIII is such a hard game for me to unravel. It’s full of problems start to finish, but I can’t untangle that from the peaks of sweet experiences and nostalgia. The only way I felt like I could address this was by presenting all the problems alongside a twenty year perspective from three different vantage points: 2000, 2010, and 2020. These were the three times when I beat this game, and while Final Fantasy VIII might not have changed in those 20 years, I sure have.

There are amazing moments in this game, exquisite experiences where we feel it in our gut. It’s the reason we are willing to toil for a 40 hour adventures: the sense of wonder and connection that FF8 occasional provides. So no matter how silly and broken everything becomes, there are still pieces and parts that propel it forward.

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Top 100 Xbox 360 Review: #94 – Diablo III (2012)

Junk Food.

This game is like playing slot machines except you are not wasting money, you are wasting your life. 

https___blogs-images.forbes.com_insertcoin_files_2015_08_diablo-3-new1.jpgGame FAQs Ranking:  #98/100
My Rating: StarStar

Some games try and reach a higher plane of existence. Using powerful narratives, nostalgic music, and stylized imagery, some games really come across as high art and should be adored.

Diablo III is more like Candy Crush.

The backdrop is the typical fantasy trope, but what really sets Diablo apart is what happens in the foreground: button smashing. Each piece of movable plastic on the controller is mapped to a different ability with different recharge times and effects. Battle is the effort to smash each button in the most efficient manner possible by timing your reflexes to be in line when an attack refreshes.

Battles are nothing more than reaction tests without consequences. Endless battle against hordes of enemies don’t matter as you skillfully press X-B-Y-R1-X-X-B-Y-L1-X-X-B-Y-X-B-Y-R1-X-X-B-Y-L1-X-X-B-Y-X-B-Y-R1-X-X-B-Y-L1-X-X-B-Y.

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Top 100 PS1 Review: #60 – Suikoden (1996)

Simple and Perfect.

Perfectly charming — no frills required.

Suikoden psone title screenApe’s Ranking: #60/100
My Rating: StarStarStarStar

How pure!

Suikoden harkens back to a time when characters and charm were more important than a silly sandbox game with a thousand permutations. An early scene puts the main characters around the dinner table with an impactful guitar solo that sets the mood for the rest of the game:

While the story might be pretty standard fair, the game boasts 108 characters for you to recruit for your rebellion army. Each one is unique in their own way and mostly avoids the pitfall of Chrono Cross where no one matters. Home base isn’t a static structure but rather a thriving community. This game builds a sense of connection with the world; you can’t wait to return home to see what your friends are up to.  Continue reading “Top 100 PS1 Review: #60 – Suikoden (1996)”

Top 100 Xbox 360 Review: #21 – Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011)

The Rare Feeling of Something New But Phenomenal.

In a world of so many remakes and spinoffs, it’s a blessing to experience something wholly new.

apps.37801.63750441729289425.02fa3cec-7bcd-4630-b5fe-dfebefcf45e7.jpegGame FAQs Ranking:  #21/100
My Rating: StarStarStarStarStar

A quick look at the top movies of 2018 showed multiple retreads of Marvel comic storylines, a Mission: Impossible relaunch, a sequel to The Incredibles. and remake of A Star is Born.

Where the hell is anything new? Part of the problem is how we consume media. Big companies cannot sustain a bomb, so those who are able to take risks are the indie communities in each sector. But, big media is who has reach, so the only things we share on a societal level are the better safe than sorry projects.

After laying dormant since 2003, Edios/Square Enix decided to give the Deus Ex franchise another go. It must have been risky; unlike Final Fantasy, there was no big fan base to fall back on. It worked emphatically.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution has no tropes for the player because there is nothing for them to reference. What you find is an immersive world and addictive game play with its own set of rules and interactions. Finally, a chance to go completely into the unknown!

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Top 100 PS1 Review: #87 – Legend of Legaia (1999)

Great For Listening to Podcasts.

I couldn’t keep playing a game where I needed to be doing something else to stay interested. 

Legend of Legaia title screen.png
Ape’s Ranking: #87/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586

I’ve owned this game since 1999, and I wanted it to be my first post for the top 100 PS1 games. I am older now, more disciplined and mature. I could set my mind to it and see it through! NO. NO I CAN’T. 

In the spirit of Lufia and The Fortress of Doom for SNES, the final straw with Legend of Legaia (or LoL, which the game is kind of a joke) was another senseless and artificial fetch quest. This was the kind of pointless plot that you expect a few hours in to learn game mechanics, not after twenty hours into the story.

Things were already not going well. While playing, I listened to the following;

The reason? The main focus of this game (the battles) become frequent, long protracted affairs that didn’t need my attention. They were a waste of time. I couldn’t ethically use my gift of consciousness on them without dual-tasking something more important. The story, quests, and characters all followed suite with their own quirks and problems. While this game is interesting to talk about from a historical/cultural perspective (after all, it is a FF7 clone that speaks to what gamers were looking for and how developers tried to create it), the game itself sucks.

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Top 100 SNES Review: #29 – Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen (1993)

I Ran Out of Steam.

With more than twenty levels each requiring hours of your time, the game ran out of incentives to keep me going. 

Ogre Battle Title ScreenSydlexia’s Ranking: #29/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586

February 2nd, 2019.

That’s when I started this enthralling and highly encompassing strategy game. Three months later, while only a few levels away from the finish line, I can honestly say I have no more — this game has successfully grounded me to dust.

The game’s biggest fault is that it peaks atmospherically during the first ten battles. The randomly-generated unit names will stick with me for the rest of my life. I wrote them on pieces of paper, categorized by their expertise and purpose. This might seem silly, but this game is pretty serious and requires so much thought that the units grow to be something akin to colleagues.

The pressure to sweat the details dissipates in the later half: after assiduously managing your brigade, you reach a point where it becomes a cakewalk. The last handful of battles were only slightly above point and click campaigns. With the 1.5 to 2.0 hour campaigns no longer demanding the riveting planning and execution, there was no point to continue.

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Top 100 NES Review: #18 – Crystalis (1990)

The NES Tries to Steal Perfection From Me Again.

Why can’t things just be good and wholesome on this devil of a system?

Crystalis 1

Sydlexia’s Ranking: #25/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550

I always start these games with the best of intentions: no guides, embrace the grind, willing to flounder. The drama of these games are in the struggle, and if you run to a walkthrough at the first moment of adversity, you will destroy anything these old games have to offer. The joy is figuring out the puzzles both via your own skill and serendipitous discovery.

Crystalis started as the type of game you do these top 100 lists for: a complete joy of an unknown. The graphics, mechanics, and puzzles are an addictive pull to do more. It was an instant favorite, but then came the moment that happens in every NES adventure/puzzle/RPG — the inscrutable puzzle with no hints and no logic but is required for you to continue. Thankfully, it survives this moment and avoids the NES’s ultimate desire to make every game unenjoyable.

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