Return to Spira: A Quick Look At FFX HD Remaster

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One-hundred-and-thirty-eight hours.  That was how much time I placed in playing–and completing every aspect of, including getting the Platinum Trophy–Final Fantasy X HD Remaster for the Vita.  Half of that time I have clocked in to this game involved farming for the spheres needed to improve the characters, capturing ten of every monster found in almost all the dungeons, obtaining the most powerful weapons and armors (the ones that also required farming for items to customize them into uber equipment), playing Blitzball, defeating Dark Aeons, defeating the most powerful boss Penance, and defeating the most powerful boss in the Monster Arena Nemesis.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  Some might not know what the heck I am even talking about.  So allow me a few paragraphs to explain…and tell the story of, without spoiling anything.

Final Fantasy X HD Remaster Logo

Final Fantasy X HD Remaster is a very-much enhanced and (as its name suggests) high-definition remaster of the acclaimed international version of a game that first hit shelves some thirteen years ago. It tells of the story of Tidus, a star Blitzball (an underwater soccer-ish sport) player for the Zanarkand Abes who gets thrown into Spira–a place that is a thousand years into the future from where and when he was from.  There, Tidus meets Yuna, a summoner who is on her journey to defeat Sin–a monstrous creature who, according to the world’s mythos, was born from the sins of the past–particularly a war that occurred prior to the game’s story–because the people of Spira made use of “machinas” (I am merely glossing over things here).

Like most–if not all–RPGs/JRPGs, Tidus is drawn to Yuna and ends up being her Guardian.  Long story short, Tidus, Yuna, and the rest of their crew (which comprises of Wakka, a retired Blitzball Player, Lulu a Black Magician Guardian, Khimari a Ronzo with a broken horn who took Yuna to Besaid (the island from where the actual game starts from) and looked after her, Rikku an Al Bhed scavenger who also happens to be Yuna’s cousin, and Auron a legendary Guardian who with Tidus’ father Jecht and Yuna’s father Braska, brought forth the previous “Calm”) travel all across Spira, seeking the aid of the Fayth and Aeons (summon spirits/creatures/whatever you want to call them) to battle and defeat Sin and herald forth another Calm for Spira while searching for a way for Tidus to go back to his home, Zanarkand.

There is a lot to this game than the very quick summary I had made above.  Believe me.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t have ended up with a hundred hours worth of gameplay.

So, what’s new with this so-called “HD Remaster”?

Well, apart from the HD aspect, the remodeled version of the characters (which some gamers are complaining about) and map models, and the aforementioned fact that this is the International version of the game–a version which wasn’t released in North America and PAL regions–FFX HD Remaster includes the Eternal Calm FMV and a bonus audio drama (which occurs sometime after FFX-2 (which begs the question why Square would include that in the FFX game)).  It also includes the ability to swap saves from the PS3 release of the game and the Vita release for those who enjoy having two copies of their games (one for the console and another for their handheld).

In-Game Cutscene comparison

Above image is from the original PS2 release of the game. Below is an image form the remastered version.

The International Version of the game from where this remaster was based off from gave players the ability to choose which grid system they would use: Standard or Expert.  The Grid System is this game’s version of leveling up your characters the way you see fit, using spheres and nodes (of which I am not going to delve into, but it is quite a hassle).  It also has additional bosses which are both very powerful.

It also has improved audio and 60 remastered tracks (again, some fans are not too happy about these remastered tracks), a quick recovery feature that makes use of the touch screen to quickly heal your party (never made use of this), and, of course, the trophies.

The remastered version brings about nostalgia, especially if you have played the original PS2 release before.  With the addition of the Trophies, you will also be in for a long haul if you intend to Platinum the game.  Long hours await you at grinding, trying to nab that 0-second race win aboard the Chocobo, winning a Chocobo race while trying to obtain 5 treasure chests, dodging 200 lightning strikes consecutively–without encountering monsters, beating super-powered bosses, obtaining secret Aeons and items,  playing Blitzball, and learning the Al Bhed language (just to name a few).  Though the game is fun, some aspects of it are quite annoying/irritating to the point where I almost threw my Vita at the wall.

Maybe that’s because I was aiming for a 100% completion of the game, but there are some parts of it that shouldn’t have been required for a trophy (I am talking about you damn Chocobo trophies!).  Or, since there is already a trophy for it, that the developers should have taken time to fix the clunky controls on some of the mini games (again, giving you a death glare, Chocobo trophies!)  Really, after thirteen years you would’ve think they would, at least, fixed the drunken controls of those mini-games and made it enjoyable for the gamers.  But, no.  Sadly, the poor controls were left in.

In-Game Cutscene Comparison

Another in-game comparison. The top image is from the remastered version. The bottom is from the original.

That’s really my only rant about this game.  The poor controls they have on the mini-games.  I mean, if you’re developing a mini-game for a videogame, the best thing to do is to ensure it has proper controls and that the gamers would enjoy it.  Otherwise, it would simply be a chore and the people playing the game would not bother with it…worst is if there is some “unlockable” found within the mini-game, or if the mini-game is forced, and the gamer ends up simply giving up on the game itself.

Other than the controls, I really could say nothing bad about this game.  It is quite enjoyable, and the story one of my favorites (certainly beats out the convoluted storyline of Final Fantasy 13).  Beating the game and obtaining its Platinum Trophy is even made sweeter by the fact that I wasn’t able to beat it back when I was a kid and it was first released.  The HD Remaster gave me a chance to go at it again and complete the game to the core.

As far as remakes go, is Final Fantasy X (even X-2) the Final Fantasy game that needed remaking/remastering?  I wouldn’t go so far as putting it at the top of my list.  That spot is highly reserved for Final Fantasy 7.  If or when Final Fantasy 7 will get the remaster that it deserves and Square finally listens to the pleas of the fans…perhaps we will never know.

 

Posted in Entertainment, Reviews, Video Games Tagged with: , , , , ,

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition A Quick Look

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How many times have a videogame been ported from one console to another?  I can name quite a number of those ports that provided nothing more than a gamers ability to play it on something other than the first console/handheld (or vice-versa) it was intended for.

When word came out that the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider was going to be ported over to the next-gen consoles, I didn’t know what to think.  On one hand, I loved the reboot. I’ve played it on my 360 and blazed through the game while knocking down the achievements along the way.  It wasn’t just the personification—the humanization—of iconic Lara Croft that captivated me.  It was the story and the characters as well.  To be able to play the game on my new console was a good thing for me, after all, at the moment, I only have a few number of PS4 titles, and all of them I have already finished and even platinum-ed (with the exception of NBA 2k14).

On the other side of the spectrum, I was a bit skeptical.  Despite loving the reboot, I wonder if it would be a good idea to purchase a game that I’ve already 100-percent finished.  What could this game possibly offer?  Would it be worth it?  I mean, I could just play it over again on my 360.

Even though I debated with myself, I did end up purchasing and even hyping about it when I saw the comparison between the last-gen version of the game and the current-gen.

As immersive as the last-gen version was, the current-gen version was even better.  The graphics alone surpassed the earlier release of the game as Lara was given a new model, and the other characters looked as though they have been enhanced as well.  The environment of the game—the Island of Yamatai—was even more alive than it was.  The fog actually looked like a fog.  The gloss of the skin, the way the shadows and even the water touched the skin of the characters looked impressive.

Gameplay-wise, it remained the same, with some of the bugs riddling the older version eliminated, or at least put into a minimum.  The use of the PS4 touchpad was also integrated, along with the use of the controller’s speaker…which, at times, surprises me whenever I forget about it, to the point where I wondered where the sound was coming from.

Using the torch also changes the color of the controller’s light…which, at first, I didn’t realize was because of the torch, and I ended up panicking and wondering if I had just butchered the controller (whilst praying that was not the case as this newest incarnation of the Dual Shock controller costs a lot).

I really have no qualms about the game, in-general…save for two things.

First is the length.  Even at the highest of difficulties, I breezed through the game and finished it in a couple of days (shorter if I didn’t have to go to work, or do other stuff).  There’s nothing wrong with the story, I enjoyed it…a lot.  It’s just…I wished it was longer.  And I wished there were other things we can do after we finished the game, like, more tombs to raid (this is ‘Tomb Raider’…raiding tombs is supposed to be a given).

Maybe in the sequel, we’ll get that…but, really, my attention span can only last for two-to-three playthroughs of a game (which, I noted, when I worked on getting a Platinum for the Mass Effect Trilogy).

My second issue is: Multiplayer.

Now, on the PS3, I enjoyed the addition of multiplayer.  It brings about a different kind of accomplishment when the system/console notifies you that you achieved a trophy from something you did while on multiplayer.  It’s also quite amusing, even when there are players raging about.

But I only felt exasperated with this game’s multiplayer.  It’s just like ACIV: Black Flag.  You need to be a Plus member to give it a go.  Unfortunately, I am not…at least, at the moment.  Which is such a bummer.  I mean, games in and of itself already costs quite a lot, and although the Plus membership is a very good deal, to fork up more in order to have the “complete experience” is just…kind of a downer.

I mean, can they not provide non-plus members, like, a week of free Multiplayer Access?  I know, I know…this is still a business, still…

Anyways, regardless of how I am unable to Platinum this stellar title at the moment, I’m still quite happy with the purchase.  If you haven’t played the earlier version of the reboot, this is a great buy!  If you have and want to experience the beginning of Lara Croft’s adventure once more, it’s not such a bad deal.  It really does stand to its name as being the “definitive” edition.  Borrow it, purchase it digitally, or obtain a physical copy.  Do whatever—except pirate it—just make sure you don’t pass this title up.

Posted in Entertainment, Video Games Tagged with: , , , ,

Little Bit of Updates

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So, I’ve been a “little” bit preoccupied and have been unable to update this blog for a very long while now.  It’s kind of sad really, as that is not something I wanted.  I may post those backlog articles sometime this month, if I could squeeze some time in for that.

Anyways, for those wondering…I am doing fine.  I feel as though I’m in the middle of something akin to “The Game of Thrones“, though (those who know me personally, will know what I am talking about)…which is not someplace I want to be.  I don’t intend to rant here in this post, though.  I don’t want to “immortalize” those concerned with my writing.

Having said that, I am working on a few stuff that might interest y’all.

First up, to my FFN readers.  Yes, I am still updating my stories…although the updates are a bit sporadic.  One of the stories that I trying to finish as soon as I can is “Rise of the Fright Knights”.  I’m past the half-way point, and the story is going in the direction I wanted it to.  The other stories are on hiatus until then, though.  I didn’t want to put them on hold, but with the number of things I am currently working on and dealing with…well, I chose to pick my battles.

With regards to the Winged Saga–my beloved book series–I’ve finished writing the first part for the interim novel–which is a very short novel that bridges the gap between the second and third book.  I already have the title for the novela, but I’m going to wait until I’m almost done with the entire draft before I reveal it (and the cover) since there is a slight chance that I might end up changing it.

RPG-making-wise, I am still on hiatus as well…I’m well-beyond the point of being frustrated with that…especially since Chronicles of Endlessia is almost playable…But “almost” is still not good enough, and I would want to be able to deliver as great a game as I can develop.  I owe that to myself, as much as those who were going to be trying/playing my game out.

I’ve also taken to creating worlds for Disney Infinity…which is totally awesome and helps me relax.  I’ve been working on a “Castle Adventure” themed world, though I sort of took a break from it since I am missing a couple of blocks/items to complete it–which, I intend to obtain as soon as I get my hands on a new Disney Infinity figure (Sorcerer Mickey, Violet, Venellope, Ralph, or Rapunzel… :D).

Hmmm…what else have I been busy with?  There’s work, of course, but I’d rather not talk about that. I’m enjoying designing T-Shirt when I am unable to do anything else, so…there’s that.  I’m going to post some of them soon, and if you guys would like, you can order them as well.  I’m also back to going crazy over Doctor Who, what with having to watch the entire 2005 series from the Ninth to the Eleventh Doctor every day for the past couple of days.  Seriously, it feels like forever before the new episodes/season comes!

I’ve started to draw again, by the way.  They’re just doodles compared to what I have been doing before I lost a bit of inspiration for that sort of thing.  I’m not sure if I would end up using my DA account again, though.  I mean, as much as I enjoy drawing/painting and generally creating doodles, I much prefer writing.  I’m happiest when I am writing…especially when I am not being forced to do it.

That’s all I can share at the moment…all the interesting stuff, anyway.  Hopefully, this post will kick up my blog updates again.

Until next post!  Dream on; Fly on!

Posted in Personal Updates Tagged with: , , , ,

Disney Infinity: First Impressions

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I blame Queen Elsa and Princess Anna, and the movie Frozen, for ending up with a Disney Infinity Starter Pack purchase.

Well…that is not entirely true.  I had, actually, been contemplating about getting the game for the Sony PlayStation 3 system ever since I watched the game trailers.  After all, I have always been a sucker when it comes to games that requires one to use her/his imagination. Having said that, however, I had a brief foray with Minecraft, and a little bit of LittleBigPlanet streak a few years back.  I’ve stopped playing those two games now, though since I grew bored with them.  So, you can see why I was going back-and-forth on whether I should get a copy of this game or not.

In the end, however, after watching “Frozen” for a couple of times and liking–no, loving–everything about that animated movie, I decided that I wanted the Elsa and Anna figures that Disney Infinity was offering.  Of course, I felt stupid at buying just that so I thought, ‘What the heck.  I’ll buy a Disney Infinity Starter Pack, too.’.  And I did.  I have yet to regret the purchase since then.

Disney-Infinity-logo

First off, Disney Infinity isn’t just your average sandbox building game.  It’s more fun than that…and that’s coming from someone who is in her mid-twenties.

Developed by Avalanche Software and published by Disney Interactive Studios with a whopping $100 million funded into development, the game utilizes collectible figures in the form of select Disney characters to bring these characters–and their world–to life.  This figures synchronizes with the games and allow Disney and Pixar characters to go on pre-designed adventures, or adventures that you create for yourself.

disney-infinity-35It has physical toys (in the form of the figures), open-world sandbox action-adventure, and story-driven gameplay.  The pre-designed adventures, however, are from the PlaySets you can buy (one is part of the Starter Package featuring The Incredibles, Monsters University, and Pirates of the Caribbean).  Add that to the multitude of character figures currently out, and the powerdiscs that you can also buy, and this game is…perhaps…a parent’s nightmare.

Having said that, however, the good thing about this game is that the figures, playsets, and powerdiscs can be used on different systems where the game is available.  Not only that, it is backwards and forwards compatible as well.  Meaning, they can be used for the upcoming sequel and the sequels after that.  It is genius on the developer’s part, and something the Skylanders series failed to address.

Disney-Infinity-new-112313-1The gameplay itself isn’t just geared for children.  It’s made for everyone.  Although some in-game missions tend to be repetitive, it still manages to provide entertainment.  The sound can use a bit of work, too.  Sadly, I noticed that some of the original voice actors didn’t provide the voice overs for this game.  Although some of them do sound like the original, some are noticeably different which can irk you a bit…depending on how much of a fanatic you are.  (EDIT: I’ve been told by Mr. Thomas Estrada on the comments section below, that Kristin Bell and Idina Menzel DO reprise their role as Princess Anna and Queen Elsa for the game.  That.  Is.  Just.  Awesome!)  As for the graphics, well, it’s sort of right there in the middle.  Not too shabby, but not the best either.  The characters, the world, and everything in-between DO look straight from the movies they are from, though.  I’m merely stating this from the next-gen’s (which is now current-gen (PS4 and XBOne) perspective.

The game also provides online/multiplayer modes where you can visit a friend’s toybox.  The toybox is the place where you can build your own “world”, your own adventure, and where the figures who do not have playsets of their own can be used.

DisneyInfinityE3screen4Although there are still some quirks Disney Infinity could fix, the game itself is a fun addition to any videogame library, especially if you have children or young cousins who come over to your house from time to time to play.  I’d recommend this game for anyone who wants to build their own Disney “World”, play with their favorite Disney and Pixar characters, and those who simply enjoy videogames that strengthens ones imagination.

It’s impossible NOT to have fun with this game.  I never got bored with it during the times I can play it (which is right after I have done my quota of chapters to write for my novel).  Lots of things to do.  And with the figures, the powerdiscs, and the playsets that are available, it really does provide an infinite amount of possibilities.  Add the multiplayer functionality and, well…Infinity sounds just about right.

Disney Infinity is available for the PC, XBOX 360, Wii, 3DS, and the PS3.

 

Posted in Video Games Tagged with: , , , ,

Farewell, 2013. It Was One Heck of A Year!

2014

I never fail to contemplate on all the things that had happened to me during a previous year, especially during the last day of the year–which also happens to be my birthday.  I often find myself being awed and thankful for the things that happened over the course of twelve months, and even more so this year.  A lot of things happened–from the start of 2013 up to its “last hurrah”–that I often see myself blessed.

On January of 2013, we started working on the cover for Winged: The Unraveling.  It was (and still is) a milestone for me.  After all, I had worked hard on writing the second book of the Winged Saga.

On February of 2013, I was able to watch one of my favorite books come to life in the big screen.  There are only a handful of book-to-movie adaptations that I felt satisfied after watching and “Beautiful Creatures” was one of them for me.  As it happens, the authors of this best-selling New York Times book, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl are two of my most favorite authors of all time! And while watching a movie might not be much of a “milestone” to anybody, watching this movie (which I waited for and had so much anticipation on) is one of the things I will remember most during this month.  Apart from that this was also the month when I quit my job–one where I have so much to say but would rather not post them here.  Suffice to say, leaving that job was one of the highlights of my year.

 On April of 2013, I unveiled the cover of Winged: The Unraveling.   After months of debating and making drafts of the “perfect cover” for this book, it all came together and I was able to share it with all of you.

On May of 2013, our country held its mid-term elections.  It was the month that made me wonder why I even bother to vote.  It made me very skeptical, and I am even more so now, after all, I see no changes.  It makes me wonder if our country would move forward as a nation.  Not such a positive highlight of the year, but it does make an impact on me as a person and on my country as well.

On July of 2013, I bought a new laptop!  I was so happy about it.  I finally have a computer and I wouldn’t have to get frustrated by my desktop’s keyboard.  Plus it was mobile, which meant more writing for me.  Of course, it was also the month where I hated anti-theft softwares…especially the Intel (which is actually McAfee) one.  Holy crap that was one frustrating software that nearly deleted all of my story documents with its stupid encryption.  This was also the month when another one of my highly-anticipated movies was shown on the big screen: Despicable Me 2! Hurray for the Minions! :D  This was also the month when I got a new job, and this one is one where I feel appreciated (unlike my last one).  It is also a job that allows me to help people and contribute my talents and skills.

On September 0f 2013, one of my dreams became a reality when I attended the 34th Manila International Book Fair.  I got to meet my favorite authors: Melissa de la Cruz, Allyson Noel, and one of my all-time heroes who is an author, Margaret Stohl.  I almost had a heart attack when they were signing my books and talking to me…especially that moment when I handed Ms. Stohl a copy of my book as thanks for being one of the authors who inspired me and she asked me to sign it.  That memory is the happiest memory of 2013 for me–right up there with the release of my second book.  Even now, when I remember it, I still feel giddy. :D  It was also during that time that I met great people who share the same interest as me and whom I would like to call my friends.

On November of 2013, parts of the Philippines were battered by the most powerful storm to ever make landfall: Typhoon Haiyan.  We saw the tremendous damage this powerful force of mother nature brought.  A lot of lives were lost.  But, in the midst of this tragedy, the victims showed the world the unconquerable Filipino Spirit.  The events that followed–the number of aid from all over the world that reached our shores–it was a moment to be remembered, for it was a moment when the world show that it could unite and help each other in the midst of all the conflicts, all the disagreements.  That underneath all the allegiances, the races, the different beliefs that separate us, there is one thing we all have in common: we are the same in our humanity.

And so we come to this month of December.  A lot of things happened this month that made me even more thankful.  My second book became available, I got myself a PlayStation 4 as an early Christmas present, and I got to celebrate my birthday once more.  So, yeah…this year was a year full of blessings for me.  Even the bad things that happened taught me a lot and had a purpose that I now see but couldn’t comprehend before.

This coming year, I know I’ll be just as blessed–if not even more so.  I am claiming this year as my own once more and keeping a positive attitude throughout.  I have so much to look forward to, from meeting the other favorite authors on my list to releasing the third book in the Winged Saga.  I may not know what 2014 will hold, but I know it’s going to be a blast!

So, having said that, I am wishing you all a Happy and Blessed New Year!  May this year fulfill our hopes, dreams, wishes and aspirations!  Dream on; Fly on!

Posted in Personal Updates Tagged with: , ,

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