FFVII Replay: "Just the same as him…"

The next segment of Final Fantasy VII is important because it introduces Aeris. But first, Cloud, Tifa, and Barret go on another mission to blow up Mako Reactor #5. The scenery is exactly the same as the first mission, though getting to the reactor is a bit different because the gang triggers the alarm system on the train and has to jump off, ending up in some sewers. On the way in, there’s the first of many goofy and badly-explained minigames: in order to open the door to the reactor (the same door that Jesse hacked last time), Barret, Tifa, and Cloud all have to hit buttons at the same time; this requires the player to time a button press so that Cloud raises his arms and then hits the button at the same time Barret and Tifa do. It was an annoying and nonsensical attempt to add variety to the gameplay.

Once at the reactor itself, Cloud has his first freakout. There is a short flashback to a scene where Tifa, dressed like a cowgirl, discovers that her dad was killed by Sephiroth and declares, “I hate them all!!” (referring to Sephiroth, Shinra, and SOLDIER). This is the first actual glimpse of the Nibelheim Incident we get in FFVII, and I was surprised at how early on it happens. It’s shown very early on that something is not right with Cloud, and it adds a layer of mystery to the story. When he regains consciousness, Cloud just says, “… Tifa?” It seems as if this was either not a memory of his, or something that had been deeply buried that he had forgotten. But why?

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FFVII Replay: "The Planet's Dyin', Cloud"

I picked up Crisis Core again recently, and toward the end of the game, it catches up with some of the backstory sequences from Final Fantasy VII. I’ve only played FFVII once, a long time ago, so I decided to play it again to fill in the gaps of my hazy memory. I’ve only played the first hour or so so far, but what I wanted to remark upon was how great this opening hour is for setting up the world, plot, and a couple of the main characters of the game quickly, without sacrificing excitement.

In the opening scene of the game, our protagonist, Cloud, and a group of four people who call themselves AVALANCHE infiltrate and destroy a thing called a Mako Reactor. The group breaks codes on security doors, battles through the facility to the reactor where they face a giant scorpion robot, sets a bomb, escapes before the place explodes, and flees the area via train. Throughout all of this, we learn about:
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The World Ends with a Crisis: Story, Gameplay, and the Handheld Experience

Pick-up-and-play games–puzzle games, especially–do well on handheld consoles for this obvious reason: handhelds are generally most often played in short bursts, often while traveling or waiting for something. But is it possible to make an epic, story-heavy RPG, adventure, or action game on a handheld while designing for portability? Crisis Core on the PSP and The World Ends With You on the DS both attempt to deliver such an experience, and I’d like to examine how they do so, whether they succeed, and what level of portability is truly necessary.

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How the World Ends

(Contains some vague spoilers for the first third ofThe World Ends With You.)

The World Ends with You for the DS is, like its PS2 cousin Kingdom Hearts, very much a game about friendship and teamwork. While both games deal with this theme in a way that’s fairly heavy-handed, only in TWEWY does it result in one of the most unique RPG combat systems in a while.

As a quick overview: combat in TWEWY, an action RPG, takes place on both screens of the DS. Neku, the protagonist, fights on the bottom screen and is controlled using various slashes, touches, and taps of the stylus. Simultaneously, Neku’s partner–for the first third of the game, a fashion-loving girl named Shiki–fights on the top screen and is controlled using the D-pad (or A/B/X/Y buttons for lefties). For Shiki, the combat involves the player hitting directional buttons to follow a path to one of three cards in order to match three cards at the top of the screen; when three cards are matched, a Fusion attack–a flashy team-up attack that damages all enemies on-screen–becomes available.

What really makes the battle system a team effort between the characters is the light puck, a ball of green light that gets passed back and forth between Neku and Shiki like a sparkly tennis ball (or the magic projectiles volleyed between Ganondorf and Link in many of their epic confrontations). In order to send the light puck to their partner, the player must inflict a certain amount of damage before the puck fades away. Continued volleys increase each character’s attack (some enemies can only be damaged when the character has the light puck) and net more experience points at the end of battle. The light puck simultaneously adds depth to the already intricate battle system, streamlines the dual-screen combat by giving the player an idea of which screen to focus on at a given moment, and emphasizes the game’s theme of teamwork and friendship; it contributes to both gameplay and story.

In TWEWY, the two characters fighting together actually communicate with each other, calling “I’ve got this!” and “Good job, Neku!” as the light puck bounces back and forth. This natural battle-chatter is something you don’t realize is missing from RPG battles until you hear it done well.

In a larger sense, the characters become stronger as the relationship between them becomes stronger. As Neku and Shiki face greater obstacles and stronger enemies, they bond over their shared hardship and learn to trust each other. By the end of the seven days of the Reapers’ Game, Neku and Shiki are close friends and promise to meet each other after the Game ends. It’s rather elegant that the gameplay reflects and emphasizes this growing relationship, unlike many games where, because of gameplay design decisions, the player can choose to act in a way that is completely different than what the story dictates the character(s) should be like.

Please visit the Round Table’s Main Hall for links to all entries.