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Warning: I'm around regularly, just not actively editing. If you need admin input/action, just leave something on my Talk.

Bluestarultor Orbs.png
Name Bluestarultor
A.K.A Blue, Blues, Bluesey...
Job Class Blue Psychic
Home WI
Height 5'9-3/4"
IQ ACT average of 32, 98th percentile
Weapon Staff, 3-section Staff (self-training), Bow, Sword, Sword & Dagger, Unarmed
Spells White Wind, Angel Whisper, Aqua Breath, Thrust Kick, Banish, Mighty Guard, Blaster, Random Bullet
Summons Brothers, Kujata, Alexander
Limit breaks Generation Next

Random Realization:
LeBlanc clearly takes Yuna's Summoner form after stealing her Sphere Grid. That means, with it being canon Rikku got Yuna her Gunner outfit as actual new clothes, that there has to be a Summoner Dressphere floating around. Why is it never used elsewhere? Simple: it's useless. The Aeons are done. There's nothing left to summon and Dresspheres generally don't mix and match abilities.

Hi, and welcome to my user page. Bluestarultor, at your service, but people call me Blue, Bluey, Blues, Bluesey, Bluestar, and a million other personal variants. As long as it contains "blue" in there someplace, I'll assume you mean me. It's my name everywhere on the Internet and I even answer to it in real life.

P.S. If you don't see a shadow on this, you are using a shit browser. To remedy this, download Firefox.

Quick Look[]

If you'd like any of my custom userboxes, feel free to grab the code and use them for your own page. Just keep in mind that certain ones use either graphics from my Photobucket or information specific to me that you need to change. I'd appreciate it if my personal graphics were changed out for your own, since those are my work and my bandwidth. If you do sprites or games, show off your own work. ;)

37 This user has been a member of the Final Fantasy Wiki since November 12, 2009.
FFVI iOS Gestahl.pngThis user is an administrator on the Final Fantasy Wiki.
FF6 IOS Imperial Brown.png This user is a Recent Changes patroller.
FF3NES-Griffon.gif This user is a WikiGryphon.
Special:Editcount/Bluestarultor So far, Bluestarultor has made [[Special:Editcount/Bluestarultor|Special:Editcount/Bluestarultor]] edits to this Wiki!
Special:Editcount/Bluestarultor/Main So far, Bluestarultor has made [[Special:Editcount/Bluestarultor/Main|Special:Editcount/Bluestarultor/Main]] mainspace edits to this Wiki!
Userb e1000.gif This user has over 5000 edits.
Userb enon.gif This user believes that an edit count doesn't necessarily reflect on the value of their contributions.
Aeris Portrait.jpg This user identifies as being at
Gainsborough Level 3
Cactuar.gif This user spends WAY too much time here and really needs to get off the computer...after one more edit.
WikiGriff components:
Ffxiirw gnoam.png This user is a WikiGnome.
FFI PSP Black Wizard Map.png This user is a WikiWizard.
FFT-enemy-Uribo.gif This user is a WikiSloth.
Zack Tactics Edit.png This user is a WikiPuppy.
Userb male.gif This user is a male.
Christianity.PNG This user identifies as Christian.
American-flag.gif This user lives in the United States of America.
Strago Magus small.pngThis user is a Blue Mage variant. user is an amateur game designer. user does all his/her own sprites.
Music-harp.gifThis user does all his/her own music and sound effects.
Red XIII HowlFF7.pngThis user is a Red XIII fan and considers him the best character from FF7.
FFVII Aeris Battle.gifThis user is an Aeris/th fan and cares not what you call her so long as you know she can do front row.
FFVII Cait Sith Battle.gifThis user is a Cait Sith fan and doesn't understand how people find him useless.
ZackCGModel-CrisisCore2.pngThis user is a Zack fan and hates Square for making the puppy's death so hard to watch.
Quistis-ffviii-battle.pngThis user is a Quistis fan and calls her one of the best Blue Mages of the series. EFF YEAH, TURRET!
Zell-ffviii-battle.png Rinoa-ffviii-battle.pngThis user is also a fan of both Zell and Rinoa (not as a pair, mind you). Everyone else can eat it.
ViviMirror-FFIX.PNGThis user is a Vivi fan because this user at one point WAS Vivi.
ZidaneMirror-FFIX.PNGThis user is a Zidane fan and is thankful he had his own Zidane to help him.
Auron Art.pngThis user is an Auron fan because he reminds him a bit of his dad.
FFX Kimahri Art.pngThis user is a Kimahri fan because Blue Mage + Lancer = ROCK.
FFX-2 HD Paine Render.pngThis user is a Paine fan because of her sarcastic wit and badass awesomeness.
FFXIII-Sazh.pngThis user is a Sazh fan because he's just plain awesome and great in battle.

I classify characters by how much I'd like to be around them. This is just a selection.

Would Befriend Would Meet More Than Once Would Meet Once Would Not Meet
Zack Fair, Vivi Orunitia, Zidane Tribal, Zell Dincht, Red XIII Yuna, Aerith Gainsborough, Edgar Roni Figaro, Sabin Rene Figaro, Laguna Loire, Sazh Katzroy, Reeve Tuesti Paine, Cid Highwind, Rinoa Heartilly, Setzer Gabbiani, Shadow, the Turks, Oerba Yun Fang, Auron Seifer Almasy, Balthier, Vincent Valentine, Terra Branford, Lightning

About Me[]

I'm not big on the wiki model as a contributor due to not having much in the line of news sources, but I figured if I was going to be following the new games coming out, I may as well join. I'm a programmer by trade and am an amateur game programmer, pixel artist, and writer. Helixrain is my younger brother (I am so sorry :P). All of my own sprites are done from the ground up, pixel by pixel, although sprites I've done for other people have been recolors or have used bases. GraphicsGale and are my allies in this, Gale for grabbing the colors from the palette and PDN for pretty much everything else, since layers are just so gosh-darn convenient. ;)

Aside from that, I do my music and sound effects in Anvil Studio, which is free MIDI software. Having the sheet music is really great for composing. For music I listen to, game music is always good, I like music ranging from 60s rock all the way through disco and into the 80s, and a lot of Japanese and other Asian pop. Girls' Generation's Gee is like crack and f(x)'s LA chA TA is great, but the group I always come back to is Perfume. No matter what happens, even if nothing else does it for me, Perfume is my feel-good band. Their music is great and they're fun to watch just because it's clear they love what they do, and you can't not have fun along with them.


  • Although I never got into any kind of divination, it's creepy how well astrology and numerology describe me. Even the Chinese Zodiac.
  • I have extremely good pattern analysis skills.
  • My favorite element is water because to me it represents both finesse and power. Water flows, but it doesn't take much to overwhelm something. My least favorite element is fire, because I see it as too destructive. Fire consumes what it touches and spreads. No other element has the same utter lack of control.

Finally, I abuse emotes. I know it might make me come off as immature, but I think everyone should. Text is a barrier to meaning and things said in jest can come off totally wrong without any indicator of it. Especially if people don't know you well. I also tend to invent the occasional emote if I think it helps express my meaning more than a traditional one. Just, I dunno, flip your screen on its side or something and figure it out. XD

Origin of the Class[]

Blue Magic pretty much had me at FF7, before I even knew what it was (7 was my first FF). After I got FF5 in Anthology, I was pretty much hooked on the idea. It also helps that my favorite color has been blue for years. XD

That alone wouldn't have been enough to solidify the "psychic" half of things if not for the fact that I'm incredibly perceptive. Face-to-face, I've always been able to tell if someone was lying and read their emotions bordering on psychic empathy. I also notice a lot of stuff others don't and can make fairly accurate predictions into the near future of things like how a relationship is going to go (I can proudly claim I got a guy happily married via my advice) and how busy things will be at work to the point my co-workers started joking about it and the idea just took off. It's kind of like that series where the ex-psychic investigator just "pays attention." The info you can get by doing that is pretty extensive.

Thus the concept of the "Blue Psychic" was born and the character Jay was created to be my avatar - an overall nice guy who just has a few triggers and is a little too good at returning fire in subtle, but often embarrassing ways when people trip them, allowing me to rant on things that bug me without making an unlikable character. Jay's a little guy with a lot of power, not much to spend it on, and no real sense of his limits when he needs to use it, since he usually doesn't have to worry about running out. Most of his repertoire consists of subtle psychic tricks like empathy and basic commands that aren't much good offensively and some of his gained "Blue" abilities have prohibitively specific applications. He's half a farce of the source material, but also lets me get creative to show how seemingly silly things can be adapted into practical applications with a bit of ingenuity for the other half.

Most of this has stayed put at Nuklear Power Forums, but the title's followed me here. ;)

Character Backstory[]

Those floating orbs on my sprite actually have story importance. When I still had an interest in making sprite comics, the explanation was that Jay got each one from a different person in a way as they taught him about himself and the orb left him. They are, in order:

  • Red - Fighter
  • Green - Monk
  • Black/Purple - Black Mage
  • Yellow - Chromomancer (color magic)
  • Blue - White Mage
    • Clear - Bard (generated at basically the same time)

The colors are less related to the class and more related to the person. Jay was considering becoming a Bard when Troy finally found him again (he was absent for years for reasons I won't go into) and, as his guardian angel, told him that he was a Blue Psychic. So Jay got the White Mage orb by learning about himself, while the Bard orb fell away from him without ever being used. Jay is able to class change back to any of them at will and continue to grow them, or he can draw the powers from them directly without class changing at the dubious cost of using the MP of the person he got it from. This would normally mean that White Mage is free because it comes from his own stores, but because of how it was generated its skill set is reversed, which means that the only thing it has to work with for a good many more levels is an incredibly powerful healing spell that explodes anything that's not already dead, but can revive things from basically nothing if need be.


My l'Cie crystal, shown to the right, is based on something out of one of my oldest stories and has diverged quite a lot. The S shape comes from something I used to do with my hands to stretch in middle school and it became a piece of an emblem of the main character of a book that's still quite important to me. The idea was to have that flat pane behind a gold cross as a sort of symbolic thing since I was a Catholic writing a Catholic character, but since his name was Trey Smith, the cross eventually became a gold T instead, which it remains for him to this day. In the overlap, I borrowed it for an avatar elsewhere because, again, of wanting to have a bit of a religious thing for myself, but also because I'd started taking on several of my characters' traits for my persona over there, many of which my avatar sprite still retains. This is a very recent update to the design of it, turning the S from a flat pane with a lighter, brighter outline into a solid-color, rounded gel/crystal thing, and the cross has been taken from solid gold to a more star-like crystal. It's basically just made a turn for the modern, and I also took myself out from in front of it. I suppose you could also say that it now represents Light and Water, my two preferred elements, although that's just a realization on my part after the fact. In all honesty, I didn't start out intending the S to be so gel-looking, but I'm not good enough in image-editing to really get the roughness of the crystals in FF13 and the symbol looks pretty good on its own as a standalone.

My alternate l'Cie crystal is based on yet another avatar I used to use a lot. It was one of my earliest and was originally kind of crappy, with my sprite with a hand-pixeled glow floating translucent in front of a yin-yang. Eventually I got tired of that look, but liked the concept, and instead turned my sprite bluescale (although for some reason to this day the skin still looks pink to me) and did a glow effect on that for more of a ghostly look, which oddly enough creeped me out a bit at first when I put it up. The symbolism behind that was that, being honest, I was in a bad place and kind of miserable, more so when I redid it, and the worlds of my characters and stories seemed more appealing to me than real life. I've always thought of my characters as people and the yin-yang symbolizes two of them who are very important to me. So it kind of represented an inversion where I was they shade and they were real. When I wanted to do another crystal, that was the obvious choice, and while my sprite has been removed from the equation, the concept of the shade standing in front hasn't, unlike with the first one. The humanoid form is actually an upscaled version of the basic human body from Ruby with an outline applied and quite frankly a lot of work done to make it look decent. I know the lighting on it isn't realistic, but I happened to like it more than other things I tried. I learned a bit more doing it and honestly think it turned out better than the first one lighting-wise. I suppose you could say it's ironic that my main symbol is one that I took from a character and my alternate is one I did purely for myself, but honestly I never hated either of them, and still don't, but I'm a little less emo now. ;)


As maintainer of the SacredMinotaur IRC bot (click the link in the sidebar for easy access to the section and a link to the main page), as well as being fairly regular on the channel, I guess you could say I've established a presence on the #FFWiki IRC.

If you have any questions you want to ask in private, like, I dunno, for me to make someone an Eidolon as a secret gift or something I'm often hanging around in the channel. While I tend to get distracted by other things, assuming I don't have my speakers off for some reason, sending me a directed message or query gets my attention with the sound.

Look for Bluesey or, less frequently, Bluestarultor to find me. ;)

Best-of Stellar Arena[]

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Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon.png

Special thanks have gone out to:

  • Clarent (formerly Kayreeed Caliburn) - a gold award for being the first voter minutes after the arena went up!
  • Leon95 - a silver award for being the second voter and the first to vote in both fights!
  • SilverCrono - a bronze award for third voter, first to get an award in a fancy bubble, and last to get an award!
  • SilverCrono - a white honesty award for making a liar out of me, but not out of himself having used my table code for DSS' arena.
Platinum awards for my
first proper tournament:
Blue steel awards for my
first proper tournament:
Stardust awards for my
first proper tournament:
Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon.png
Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon.png

Non-Wiki Projects[]

I recently came out with my first public release: MediaAlarm! It's free, but if you like it, you can donate whatever you feel it's worth.

So, yes, as a programmer, I write programs, do web site coding, etc. I've written small tools like a die-roller and something to generate colors in hexadecimal, but most of my current projects are games.

The real purpose of this section is for you to follow that link in the heading. I have projects for the future you might think are cool and comments are always welcome. ;)

You can find additional info in the form of a sales pitch at:

Wiki Projects[]


Real Emotion - sweetbox Jade Valerie

Some services I offer on the wiki include:

  • Talk bubbles
  • Custom signatures
  • Coding help (as I learn more of the wiki's code)
  • HTML & CSS help
  • Anything else you might poke me for to the best of my ability

For actual projects...

FF13 Eidolons[]

I give this one its own subsection because it deserves it at this point. Born from my personal effort to translate Brothers into Eidolon format, I have since done another one for my real-life brother and a third, incomplete, one out of boredom. But, most importantly, I did two for Sorceror Nobody's personal l'Cie before finally becoming one and making it my Focus. If you are one of his branded l'Cie and would like me to do up pages in the style of FF13's Eidolons for your claimed summon, simply ask on my talk page. This is my own project to flex my design skills, but it's also there to flex my ability to work with others, so the process will be as follows:

  1. If you want one, simply ask on my talk page.
  2. I will look at your Eidolon and role proficiencies and come up with your Eidolon's abilities and Gestalt transformation.
  3. When I'm happy with a first draft, I'll direct you to my Eidolons page to look it over.
  4. You can then come back to me and ask for changes.
  5. I'll then implement some changes based on your feedback and come back to you again.
  6. Repeat the previous two steps until you have a product you like (or make me give up in frustration, which, trust me, takes a lot - no jury in the world would convict me :P ).

Is your Eidolon already in FF13? No problem! I'm prepared to come up with a new appearance based on other incarnations and new attacks to work with it. The incarnation used is pretty well at my discretion, since I'll be picking forms that I can see a transformation in. Consider it semi-canon, since I'm designing FF13 Eidolons based on non-FF13 bases across the board. Summons change appearance across the series and FF13 is no different. ;)

If you're not a Sorceror l'Cie, I'm not against making something up for you, too, but l'Cie will be given preference. In cases of non-l'Cie, I'll need to know what three roles you feel represent you best at minimum, and preferably what rough order they're in. In the case of a rough tie, the tied pair counts as one, but remember l'Cie can only have three specialties, so no more than one tie anywhere in your top 4 of 6 m'kay? ;)

Furthermore, it's unfair to ask me to do other people's Eidolons without their permission (or unless you're doing it as a gift or something, at which point, please ask me on the IRC so it remains a surprise). If you're not a Sorceror l'Cie, please check this page for which summons are and are not used.

With that, ask away, and please be patient. I'm only one man with limited time.

FF2 PS Walkthrough[]

Yep. Just happened to see it and figured it would give me a reason to play. The tone will be humorous and probably deprecating to the game. Does that make the game bad? Well, no, the game does that quite well on its own. :P

Seriously, though, this will be something to slowly work on, maybe to make my second Focus. Maybe. I'm juggling a lot right now, so this will likely be the first to go when time gets short.

Sorceror l'Cie[]

Yes, after all this time of refusing, I'm giving in. Don't all flatter yourselves; it wasn't your collective poking that finally made me cave. :P My foci (yes, I already know I'll be changing it in time) will be things I'll be doing anyway, and what I want is accountability to other people than myself. SN retains the right to edit this section as necessary, and I promise not to mess around with his template. This user is a cursed l'Cie, bound into the
service of
Sorceror Nobody for eternity
Branded: December 15th 2010 Eidolon: Brothers
Role proficiencies:
Having completed their Focus, this user is currently in crystal stasis

Rant of the Moment[]

For previous rants, please see my Rant Archive
I now have a blog! Most topics will be covered at going forward. However, due to content rules, some rants will remain here.

Changes to my posting[]

I've had a new blog for a few weeks now and have been moving my posts over to that. You can find it here. The reason for this is because it hasn't felt like anyone's read anything over here in a long, long time, and I just am not as active around here as I used to be. This community is not a blog. I'd like to keep more of my activity here a bit more useful to the community, even if that means my activity here is reduced. As my banner says, I'm still around quite a lot, but I'm doing a lot more reading than editing and have for quite some time. Maybe the occasional gnoming. Maybe a little more than occasional... But I haven't really been all that active in the community or decision-making and while I'm happy to perform any admin action I might be needed for, attempting to jump back into actual decision-making has always been overwhelming every time I tried to do it. There are users who have been active for years now and become faces of the community that I don't know from Adam and trying to catch up with all that is just daunting, especially because my social life has changed a lot since I was first added to staff in college. I mean, inasmuch as I have one, most of it is on Mastodon, and a lot of it is just at home, though my last remaining housemate is looking to move out. Having a sort of built-in social life has been in many ways good for me, even though a lot of it ended up turning toxic over the years, mostly between everyone else rather than anyone having real conflicts with me personally. At the same time, I've done the "living in a quiet house" thing before and I'll manage. I don't know if that will mean I come here for more of my socialization, but it will certainly be different as I try to find a new balance in life.

Anyway, it won't really change how much I'm lurking here, but it will mean that if you want more of me, you may have to look in a new place. If you actually read my stuff, please do comment. Not having comments just made it feel like I was shouting into the void and that's ultimately what made me look elsewhere to start posting my stuff. I won't say I'm happy with how that's going, either, but at the same time, I still feel like there's potential in it. If it ends up a failure, then I guess I'll probably just save it for here again and limit my blog to more serious pursuits, if only because I'm comfortable with Wikitext and it's an easy workflow for the types of things I normally write.

This isn't goodbye; it's just a bit more of a "check out my new blog!" But, like, not that disgusting. XD

Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition announcement impressions[]

Well, I called it. Chrono Cross has been announced. This rant has been in the work for weeks now amid several others and having that many irons in the fire means all of them will be pretty late to the party, so the goal is really to get this out before the game is out. I can't say I'm really happy, but I'll buy it. And, to be really honest, I should have seen it coming, but as far as enhanced ports go, it's not really hitting the level of enhancement I really wanted, which is really just my own inflated expectations. It's a step beyond S-E's other remasters, but I'd really, really struggle to call it an "enhanced port." So, here's what I'm going to grumble about as I shell out for the game.

I really wanted voice acting

This is like the #1 thing I really hoped for after the voices were cast for the mobile crossover. Like, it's a pretty big ask for a budget title, but at the same time the whole game would have been more than covered by just the Additional Voices credits from FF7 Remake and given the praise heaped on the actress for Kid in particular, it's disappointing that she's not going to strut her stuff in a whole game where she could really shine. I mean I'm not surprised; just disappointed. S-E is handling this remaster just like all its other 3D PS1 remasters, which is to say it's going to be adequate, but not much above that and nothing so lazy that people won't buy it. And to be fair, so many of us, myself included, are going to buy it because we know if we buy this in large enough droves we MIGHT someday get Chrono Break.

See, this isn't happening in a bubble. S-E has a pipeline for this stuff where the game just needs to be redone in Unity with whatever upgraded assets they feel like and batch converted graphics for whatever they don't because all of the original 3D assets that got pre-rendered to 2D are 110% toast at this point. They did the exact same thing with FF9 and FF8, for the same and different reasons, namely that PS1 architecture is not friendly to modern architecture and because they lost the original assets. These are brand spankin' new games done from the ground up in an easy and mature pipeline, just with all the design and writing work already taken care of. They can choose to work from whatever they can rip from the game and whatever new models they create with the same animation skeletons, if they even reuse the data, which does indeed still exist if they're so inclined, but their past PS1 remaster efforts have shown that (especially with animation data) they're just as comfortable redoing things from scratch. Seriously, there are side-by-side comparison videos for summons and stuff and the timing is different between every version.

Point being, this is effectively a new game in Unity and the decision to make a change or not is a purely deliberate one, because history shows they're doing almost everything from the ground up anyway. Exactly nothing would stop them from adding voice acting, especially in a game that would be fairly manageable for it due to a surprisingly limited script, even if a lot of it was the same lines in various accents. They could claim that it isn't true to the original experience, but then neither are the debug tools they're leaving in as toggles. They just added vocals to FF6 Pixel Remaster for the iconic opera sequence specifically because Nobuo Uematsu wistfully mentioned it to someone during development and they decided to surprise him. Nothing is inherently sacred and anything can change if the right person says something. The will just isn't there. They could add or remove whatever characters they wanted, add voice acting, change all the instruments to whoopie cushions, etc. They chose to do a straight remaster instead of an enhanced port, even a mid-range budget title sold for a reasonable price (not that most of the gaming public knows what to make of a mid-range budget title anymore), and while I'd like to say that's fine, I can't help but feel a little cheated given they already had cast the main characters and made such a fuss about it in Another Eden.

Really, given the timing of the announcement, I have a feeling they made a business decision to just get it over with because people's expectations were growing with their silence and the rumors around why it wasn't happening, never mind how big it was implied to be in the initial leak. If they'd done more to get ahead of the hype machine, maybe I wouldn't have had such great expectations, but I guess in the end I'm glad they didn't let it go for longer, too. If they legitimately had waited until after whatever is in queue for FF16 like rumors held, I think fans would have rioted that it wasn't something bigger, so while I'm disappointed and maybe a little embittered now, at least I'm not, like, actually angry. I would have been thrilled if they'd outright gone for a mid-range budget remake instead of a simple remaster, but as things stand, given Nexus Mods has a ton of stuff to put Cloud in a dress for the whole game, maybe someone with ambition will make something to add voice acting to the Steam version. It might actually be the kick in the pants I'd need to play a PC game again.

The graphics are very plastic

The models have that same Barbie-like appearance I didn't like about FF8 Remaster and that's really a disservice, as it always is, because Chrono Cross is a game that's both full of and about life, which made the realism it offered to the style feel important. Nothing felt painted on, where here it's just sort of baffling the way they went so far as to remove the highlights from some characters' eyes and messed up a lot of metallic lighting. The game was of course heavily stylized, but the issue I take here is that the models don't follow the original styles, which admittedly varied quite a bit from pseudo-realism in battle to being very deformed in the field to a sort of realistic half-anime in the cutscenes, and while battle looks okay under the unified pseudo-anime look, the field models especially just feel very strange trying to stick a more realistic larger head on the spindly bodies that worked just fine in a more deformed style. Don't even get me started on what this means for everyone's BMI, because someone already calculated that. Of course if we're talking about BMI, why not just dive straight into crystals and aura colors? Just about as medically sound (though it might actually be an interesting side rant if you consider Innate to be within a certain range of aura colors each). Anyway, this may sound petty, but the original artistic intent being lost takes away something that makes a game special. I will die on the hill of "Squall having boy band hair instead of something grown too long and pushed back with a hand doesn't even fit his basic character." The changes aren't nearly as egregious here, primarily because they had the good sense not to mess with the designs, and in no small part because the anime styling is much more forgiving than the FF8 goal of realism and simply good choices in how blinking is handled giving things a bit more emotion, but it just doesn't look right for so much to look like plastic. Chrono Cross aged so well specifically because of its style and this is going to age very, very poorly, especially because the lazy A.I. upscales of the backgrounds look at best like they're smeared oil paintings. That style could have worked quite well, but what it really needed was a human touch to make intelligent decisions to hit the realism the original enjoyed on CRT. The models look like plastic; the world generously looks like plastic that got left in a hot car. Square needs to learn to do better. You can't tell me there wasn't money to have human artists touch the 2D assets up instead of leaving it to AI or that there wasn't space to have both sets of assets in place. Yes, the original assuredly used 3D models that got rendered down to 2D assets, and I'm sure those original 3D assets are long gone, but you can't tell me they couldn't have leaned into the style like they did for Legend of Mana, whose 2D backgrounds are simply gorgeous and obviously were redone by hand. If you're going to make it look like an oil painting, make it look like an oil painting, but own it. As it stands, the backgrounds just look like a smudged mess where not even the basic shapes come through correctly. Writing an upscaler makes sense if and only if they plan on using it again later, and I assume this means they will, but that isn't encouraging given the results. And I sincerely hope there are updates to the game if they make the upscaler better down the line. It's not like fans haven't already done some pretty darn good mods for the original for free. Square can at least pop out the old library and plug in the new one down the line.

The 2D elements don't fit the original style, but at least aren't terrible

Square really, REALLY needs to knock it off with their use of condensed fonts. They're hard to read and just not very appealing to most people in the first place, and to add insult to injury, this one has bad kerning. As far as it goes for replicating the original, I'll give it a pass, and it's not the most condensed, either. But even worse than that is the portraits got replaced and the new ones are by all indications not terrible, but definitely not in anything approaching the original style, taking much more of an oil paint than watercolor style. I probably didn't mention it, but I wasn't hot on the style of the Another Eden crossover and it seems that style influenced the art here, which takes a form of anime styling that was sort of realistic and replaces it with something very much more anime. Harle's portrait being closer to the original isn't bad, but Kid's really highlights the difference and Square just, I don't know, needs to find people whose style I personally like better because this is my column? Like the art is fine and it even tries to replicate a bit of the watercolor look that the original style had with large, white highlights in certain spots, but at the same time it's very hard-lined compared to the sketched quality the original art had. I'm sure it will grow on me despite some of the disparity in certain details. But seriously, I really don't get it. All of this stuff had art before and this isn't in the style of the original art. It just feels like they're replacing something that shouldn't have been replaced because there was already something perfectly good there they could have built from. It's maybe most comparable to all the "live action" stuff Disney is doing only The Lion King isn't anything remotely "live action" and all of them are shot-for-shot remakes anyway. Some things are just insultingly unnecessary.

The cinematics are showing their age, but it could be MUCH worse

The biggest thing they did that shows promise is show off the cinematics at 4:3 resolution, which I hope means they'll leave them that way rather than chop them up. Unlike what they did for FFX|X-2 Remaster, I'm sure it wasn't an option to re-render all of this to add in rather than remove data. Slicing off the top and/or bottom of a square to fill a rectangular screen loses information and while sometimes that's okay, most times it's really not. So at least that's not getting messed up here.

That said, it looks like they're just being stretched to fill the equivalent HD resolution, which means they're blurry. Granted, I'll take blurry before I'll take whatever an A.I. upscale with their engine would do to them given what it did to the backgrounds, but it's still noticeable and fan projects have done 4K 60FPS stuff that looks mostly fantastic literally for free. I don't understand why S-E as a multimillion dollar international corporation is having so much trouble. Granted, that linked video does have issues with warping and phantom stuff in the frame data, but that's probably more on the interpolation that makes it 60 FPS, which isn't a necessity, though admittedly there are also problems with shadows. But overall it's a stunning fan effort.

Retro mode will be a Godsend

As much complaining I have set aside for all the rest, they DID keep the original portraits and it looks like they've been hand-smoothed, which is a lot more than can be said for the backgrounds. I will eat my words if it turns out they used the same upscaling tech, but for right now, that at least looks like I would have expected and I'm happy for it. the pixel font doesn't look quite like the actual original, but it's not awful, either. Given that all the original stuff will be tied to what sounds like a single toggle, I'll take it. I'll miss the original music, which it's been revealed isn't making the cut, unfortunately, but if I'm really that desperate I have the PS1 version and have been playing it fairly recently. It's not the end of the world, or at least I can't imagine they could manage to completely ruin one of the foremost OSTs of all time after the excellent work they did with the Pixel Remasters.

The game being 4:3 keeps what's most important

There are things you can do and things you can't when it comes to making a 4:3 game 16:9 and in this case it would have involved a lot of painting empty ocean or even trying to figure out what to paint of neighboring islands. I know others have complained the game isn't filling the screen, but that's really in its best interests and I have to commend S-E for making that decision. It's always better to add information than subtract it. Unfortunately, when you're dealing with 2D assets, whether it's pre-rendered video or just a 2D map, the option isn't always there to add anything, and certainly not without the original or replacement assets like generally comes to save the day in 3D. Square is slowly learning what makes for a good remaster. It's kind of a shame that there was so much carnage along the way, but give them a few more games and they'll probably have it. I mean I don't know what will be left at that point, but I'm sure people will love it and I'll probably be happy to buy it.

In conclusion, there are a lot of issues I take with this where I feel S-E could have gone further or in some cases maybe just went too far where redesigns were concerned. I think ultimately that they introduced inconsistency into the style that caused more problems than it solved and in many cases redesigned things that would have been better left alone, but the worst offender of anything HAS to be their upscaling tech and a lack of a human touch on backgrounds, which we're going to be dealing with for roughly half the game's play time. Will it be as noticeable in the living room as it all is in front of a desk? I really hope not. But at the very least it will all go away with the flip of a switch.

Chrono Cross remake update[]

So, word on the street is that the new Chrono Cross is going to be a budget title, with conflicting reports on whether it's going to be a remaster or a remake, just not to the extent of FF7 Remake.

I'm going to point out that we used to call these "enhanced ports" and elaborate, and reiterate, why this makes sense. I was going to do this as an update to my previous rant, but it may be enough for a new one.

So why is an enhanced port seeming likely?

Well, to start off, as I mentioned, it doesn't make sense to record a new theme song if you're only doing a fresh coat of paint. The existing theme song could have just been re-orchestrated or even left alone unless they were doing something more with things in general.

Second, they may not have the original art assets including models and the 3D bases for the pre-rendered environments. They COULD have them, since it was about when Square started saving those things, but they may also have been lost the same way the FF8 assets were. And at this point we're over 20 years into the future on HD screens. As good as the 3D models are, they would definitely need TLC. And even if they did use them as a base and lean hard into the anime stylings, that doesn't mean that there's not more they'd want to do. In any case, it might just be easier to start from scratch on the graphics. Square-Enix is even quoted on how when they were salvaging stuff from Final Fantasy X for the PS3 version that in many cases it would have been easier to start over. I can't imagine the PS1 being easier to work with knowing what I do about the PS1's graphics pipeline (seriously, I really should do a whole rant on that someday) and what it took to even move a quad in FF7. They may have gotten more elegant in later games, but "rudimentary" is generous.

Third, really, no matter what, as I said, you're looking at redoing it from the ground up anyway like they did for both FF8 and FF9 in Unity. Square-Enix has a workflow for that and Unity is a mature pipeline that you can throw newer devs into easily. This isn't like if they were just going to emulate it. Good PS1 emulation is almost as old as Chrono Cross itself, but that doesn't let you actually do the HD thing modern gamers would expect. So if nothing else, there's every opportunity to make changes.

So really, you already have a combination of opportunity and evidence and the fact that it might just well be easier.

But if it's likely, why does it make so much sense?

I go back to what I said about there being an apparent desire to more stongly link Chrono Cross to Chrono Trigger, in that Chrono Trigger also got some enhancements to pay the story forward to Chrono Cross. With the seeds planted years ago now, there are things from the cutting room floor that would pay off those changes. Not going all the way with it wouldn't really do things justice. And without having to cram the game on 2 CDs, there's going to be physical space to do it in. In fact, Kato hasn't exactly been shy about sharing what he knows about the cut content, playing peanut gallery in the official art book and confirming various items. Some interesting stuff and even new characters might come out of the woodwork.

Additionally, as I said in my last rant, the scope is inherently small, so you can make enhancements pretty easily without having to add a whole lot. The entire map is small enough to walk or paddle your way anywhere, and a lot of it is sweet, merciful open sea, so you really only have to worry about the islands, which are small, cozy little places. Seriously, the world available to you is tiny, even if there are 2 versions of it, and for the most part those 2 versions don't have a lot in the way of physical differences. And you explore all of it, unlike Midgar in FF7. The entire thing is laid bare in the original. Art is the #1 biggest time and money sink in any game these days and having a limited amount of it and so much of it that can be done with standard assets saves a LOT of money on a project. This really gets down to that famous quote, paraphrased, "a rock is a rock; a tree is a tree." You can spray standard palm trees pretty liberally and use the default water asset in your engine and have a sizable chunk of the world made. More importantly than even that, unlike FF7 where they found that they couldn't faithfully recreate it because physics would have prevented it with the inconsistencies, Chrono Cross is actually quite consistent, if only because it sacrificed some of the interest in camera angles to attain it. You could largely build any structure in the game, which is exactly what you need for a 3D game. Having an excellent base to work from is always good.

And the story also just isn't that expansive. While they did have to cut some significant items to get it on 2 CDs, the whole thing is just a smaller, more personal affair than your standard RPG where you save the world. Frankly, for a good chunk of it, Serge is just trying to save himself, or people around him, or the occasional potential party member trapped in a cage. That's not a bad thing; it's very effective at it. Lynx ranks as one of my top villains specifically because he gets incredibly personal with his activities in ways most villains would never dream of. The whole story moves in several directions over its course, from humble slice-of-life beginnings to a sort of extended mystery before diving into some real mind-bending stuff. But all of it takes place in a relatively small world, leveraging the two sides of the coin smartly, and the expectations of the story aren't quite as daunting as typical world-saving RPG fare. Estimates peg it at about 40 hours, which is pretty short for a JRPG. The thing is, it doesn't need to be much bigger than that. We may not be used to budget games anymore, but provided it's a 40-hour game plus replay content, and is sold for a reasonable price rather than as a full-price game, I could see it being well worth $40, especially provided voice acting.

So what would I like to see?

Voice acting, for one. It's not like there's any shortage of quality voice talent on Square-Enix's short list. I think adding that would be the biggest win you could ask for.

Otherwise, cut story concepts would be ideal just to fulfill some promises made in later versions of Chrono Trigger. There don't necessarily need to be "surprises" like FF7 Remake wants to offer, but in total I think adding back a few items here and there would make some fans very happy. And piss off others in the same way they were pissed off by Chrono Trigger changes, but die mad, TBH, because...

Good sales will hopefully lead to Chrono Break, which I think fans can all agree on definitely needing to be a thing.

I'll probably update this a bit more, but for other news, it looks like there's probably going to be a team-up event in Another Eden, a mobile game also written and scored by Kato and Mitsuda, respectively. News on that is apparently coming on Dec. 4, so we'll all hear about it Saturday.

Chrono Cross remaster[]

So, I called it on Mastodon, but Sony is working on a big remaster and it's now been leaked that it's Chrono Cross. Previously it had been thought it would be The Legend of Dragoon, but as happy as I'd be with one, Chrono Cross makes more sense for multiple reasons that I'm more or less going to repeat here from Mastodon, but with maybe prettier language.

So, let's start with why people initially thought it was The Legend of Dragoon.

Hopes and dreams, really. On one hand, it would make sense for Sony to be remaking a Sony first-party property, and fans have been clamoring for something for longer than some of you reading this may have been alive, with tons of online petitions with tens of thousands of signatures. The PS1 version sold well both initially, becoming a Greatest Hits release during the PS1 era, and on PSN years later. Financially, people have supported it quite well. People also pointed to the opening theme as something right up the Irish singer Ava's alley when she announced she'd recorded a Celtic theme for a remake. Unfortunately, that's about where evidence ends. LoD fans have been recently primed by hints from Bluepoint on a remake they thought would be LoD, but turned out to be something else. And it doesn't take much to prime the LoD fanbase.

So what's against it?

Basically everything else. The LoD theme, "If You Still Believe," isn't strictly Celtic and remains perfectly serviceable. And it's not like the original singer fell off the face of the Earth. Her name is Elsa Cornish/Elsa Raven and she was just in Song for Our People in 2021. In fact, to my knowledge, everyone involved with voicing the English translation is alive and well, even if not all of them have done much or been active in anything recently. So for peak authenticity, everyone is right there.

Additionally, unless those hints from Bluepoint set off a fan reaction that was somehow able to get Sony's interest where decades of petitions amounting to probably hundreds of thousands of signatures didn't, much less the sales of the PS1 original in all its forms, it doesn't track that they'd decide now is the time. LoD actually had a planned sequel for PS1 that was canceled for unknown reasons, so it's not like it didn't make itself enough money at the time or potentially justify more. That and fan reaction to Dart being canceled as a DLC character in PlayStation All-Stars doesn't give a lot of hope that Sony actually cares. In fact, it seems counterintuitive, but Sony has put a lot more effort into squirreling away anything that could ignite the fans than one would consider normal, like they're afraid of the demand. They've been avoiding it like a public figure taking the back exit with a coat over their head for decades at this point. As well as the game has done on the platforms it's been on, Sony would probably really just prefer everyone forgot about it and stopped asking.

On top of that, its defining battle system is rooted squarely in the turn-based setup, which is simply not what anyone is making right now. The only way it could succeed is if the battle system was used to differentiate it from FF7 Remake in particular and the market at large, but "turn-based" is a dirty word right now and I don't think Classic difficulty in FF7 Remake is a sign of the pendulum swinging back so much as an accessibility feature for old-time fans who would not otherwise have bought in on their sure sell. The AAA market always copies each others' homework. Right now they've decided that action combat is "in" and are going to ignore the turn-based crowd for the foreseeable future. Studios collectively do this all the time: decide based on no evidence that there's just not a market for something and proceed to not make that thing, only to be surprised when someone (usually an indie) makes that thing and the whole market clamors to buy it. Sony could make The Legend of Dragoon as a turn-based RPG and shock the industry with the sales, or it could do what everyone else is doing and surprise no one. Sony is almost certainly going to wait on an indie like everyone else.

But the biggest strike against it is Final Fantasy VII Remake, which would only invite similar unfavorable comparisons that it suffered to FF7 back in the day and be labeled as a cynical cash-in. Sony is probably in no hurry to try to eat one of their biggest partners' lunch in between releases of a remake of a game that's definitive to them both. Especially not when it would only mean a brief window for it to make its money back, because it would also be competing with Final Fantasy XVI in the Medieval fantasy RPG market. Bear in mind, LoD is a large game with a LOT of cutscenes (ask any detractor and they'll call it "a movie you play like a game"), and remaking it to the same scope as FF7 Remake would likely be a similar multi-game effort. Even if it had fewer installments, you're starting from the ground up because exactly none of the original art assets are salvageable if they even still exist, and art is always the biggest effort in game development. The art was optimized as all heck, do not get me wrong, and the level of detail is stunning when you get to enjoy it, but the biggest problem is that it's not single-skin and that invites a host of problems to a modern audience, especially with how frequently and prominently some of the graphics leave gaping holes or clip or just break, which was partially hidden by the low resolution, but would not be accepted in a remaster if all they'd otherwise intend to do is re-paint it all. From a technology standpoint this was excellent for optimization and didn't matter as much back in the day because CRT was exceedingly forgiving of seams and small imperfections, but a modern audience will play with Lego if they want to see Lego. Even if it was just a remaster rather than a full remake (in which case a new opening theme wouldn't even be necessary), it's still a whole new game. The likes of FF8 and FF9 are not actually just upscales of the PS1 originals; they had to be entirely remade in Unity. Making a remaster of LoD would be just as much effort to a public that would certainly buy it, but maybe not as much as it would take to justify for the reputation damage it could cause Sony. There have been better times to do it and there will be better times to do it, but unfortunately now is the absolute worst time imaginable.

And finally, on a personal level, LoD doesn't actually NEED a remake. Okay, the translation is a bit rough, but that's about it. It has a fully-fledged story with a beginning, middle, and end and plenty of it across 4 discs. The towns may be a bit small, but it doesn't actually feel like there's a whole lot more of them that needs to be explored unlike Midgar in FF7. The pacing is largely okay. A remaster would be welcome, don't get me wrong. The level of detail in the game would actually have room to breathe on modern hardware. But I personally believe that the game really needs a prequel more than anything else. The Dragon Campaign would make for a fascinating game given the glimpses you get of it. But other than a fresh coat of paint, particularly in the translation, I don't think LoD actually needs anything.

But on to Chrono Cross.

Firstly, I firmly believe Chrono Cross DOES need a remake, because it's clear that Square-Enix wasn't able to make the game they wanted to. With additions to later versions of Chrono Trigger making motions toward legitimizing plans that ended up being cut for time and disc space in Chrono Cross, it really feels like there's a contingent who are still holding out on unrealized intentions. Unfortunately, the game was hampered by budget constraints and other factors and while I love it, it's easy to see where it could have been so much more.

But as for why it makes sense, going back to Ava, and newer evidence that links her to the original composer for CC, in large part CC DOES have Celtic musical influences along with Mediterranean ones. Strong ones. The goal was to make a game with a maritime score. And if a full remake is in order, as would be indicated by a new vocal theme, it would make sense to have an Irish composer working on it like the one who asked her to sing the new theme.

Promisingly, for a full remake, or even an enhanced remaster, the scope is very achievable. CC takes place in a relatively tiny archipelago off the coast of the mainland enjoyed by Chrono Trigger. Everything is traversible either on foot or by catamaran. The environment is largely small fishing villages and lots of nature. And trust me, telling an environment artist that they only need like 3 buildings and to spend the rest of their time spraying palm trees with a fire hose cuts down development costs significantly.

And it's not like Square-Enix isn't remaking everything else these days. Even if they're getting Sony's help, it's not even the first time they've reached out to another studio for assistance. Heck, they did it for FF7 Remake and while they didn't like the results, Sony might well present a much more enticing partner in it given the two companies have enjoyed basically an open marriage for years now. As a second-party studio, Square-Enix has enjoyed Sony being quite lenient on their perpetual exclusivity deal, with The Last Remnant in particular coming to mind where it failed to hit a Sony platform for a whole console generation. I could see the level of trust between the two being sufficient to make something like Chrono Cross happen. As a key consideration, it wouldn't be competing against anything else because it's not like anything else. The game's maritime influences and general themes make it most adjacent to FFX and that ship is comfortably over the horizon. Even if they were both hitting market at the same time, their similarities are largely superficial and the worst damage FFX would really do is distract attention away from it. The two enjoy considerable distance from each other, both aesthetically and thematically, as well as chronologically.

Importantly, Chrono Cross has a battle system that would be very friendly toward making it action-oriented as is dominant in the market today, especially given that your light, medium, and strong attacks all build up your Element Grid in a similar manner to how FF7 Remake handles the ATB. The fact your Stamina meter can actually go negative from using an Element would add a dimension to combat that would make using abilities a very tactical choice that could leave a character or even the whole party vulnerable if abilities are overused. In fact, doing that is a major concern of the original battle system and multiple status ailments target Stamina directly in differing and dangerously additive ways. But given the fluid nature of the attacks and the real martial arts behind them, it's not a stretch to see everything working very well in a modern action combat environment, or even one similar to the FF7 Remake Classic difficulty, while providing its own specific take on it to set itself apart.

And then there's the fact that despite a small contingent who continue to malign the game, it sold and was reviewed incredibly well. This can be hard to fathom when all the fan efforts to continue the series are squarely rooted in continuing Chrono Trigger, with some diehards preferring to strike Chrono Cross from Chrono canon, but Chrono Cross earned itself a Greatest Hits release and a spot on PSN, and it still constitutes what's widely considered to be one of the best soundtracks of all time. In its heyday it was generally recognized as a potentially amazing game held back by running out of time, money, and disc space, and while attempts to change Chrono Trigger to be more inclusive of cut content in Cross got some detractors' blood boiling, it's been long enough that I think everyone's pretty well cooled their jets about it. Ultimately, when you make a sequel to one of the greatest games of all time and deviate too much from the original, there will be backlash, but except for the most adamant detractors, people generally recognize it's a good game, even if it's not a good Chrono sequel. And frankly, the most adamant detractors are the ones who simply didn't understand the story and haven't taken the intervening 20 years to actually understand it. But if you're reading this, rest assured your faves are alive and the ghost children are completely different beings.

And finally, unlike The Legend of Dragoon, whose sequel content was never announced and may not exist anymore, Chrono Cross has a sequel in the wings with a name and everything: Chrono Break, or Chrono Brake in Japan, with a lead writer who is very much still interested. While the trademark was allowed to lapse in the US, it's still active in Europe and Japan. Chrono Trigger has been released quite a few times and doesn't need much introduction among RPG fans, but if you're planning to finish out a trilogy, it makes the most sense to do it by hitting the second story in the series to get people up to date. Also Chrono Trigger is a $10 Android app now, so it's not like it lacks common availability.

Of course, there are also arguments against it.

First, Chrono Cross not being a first-party game, and the rumor of a mutliplatform release, can be hard to swallow for a Sony first-party studio to be working on as rumored. This is a reasonable concern and I really have no solid refutation of it. It's a bit of an ask to think that Sony and Square cut a deal on a Square game and that that game could go to competing platforms. There could maybe be some smoky back room deals between Sony, S-E, and Nintendo over licensing of the series, but that's all just conjecture.

Second, not having the team all together is one of the main reasons Chrono Break didn't happen in the first place. The writer has been doing freelance for years now and Chrono Team was tied up in Final Fantasy XI Online with no end date in sight for many years, if the original team hasn't long since left the company. Given the personal significance of the series to the team behind it, and the feeling that it needed all of them to keep it going, it would be a tough business decision to take a crack at it with other people, especially if the goal was to prove that the original team was unnecessary, which would not sit well with a subset of fans and could very easily kill the series and a lot of reputations all in one go. On the other hand, the original composer may well be involved, which could mean the writer was hired on from his freelance position to add his touch to the project. At some point you need to realize that getting everyone together may no longer be possible, and may not strictly be needed. After all, Sakaguchi isn't attached to FF7 Remake and it's been very well received. Recreating the magic may feel very important, but at the same time, magic can still happen with the right people. We'll see how that pans out for FF7 Remake with Nomura once again being torn away from his baby to work on Kingdom Hearts, but assuming he doesn't lose it completely and burn Square HQ into a Keyblade-shaped pile of ash after what they did to him with FF15, we might see the results by 2023. And if anything, the Pixel Remasters are showing that a little supervision can go a long way, especially with the music.

Third, even if the world map is small, the large cast could be seen as prohibitive. In a full remake where voice is expected, you're going to need either a very large voice cast to cover the 100+ playable characters and significant NPCs, most of whom are going to likely have very similar lines for the bulk of their work, or you're going to need a still large, but not quite AS large cast of veteran voice actors to each take as many characters as they can handle, which is probably more than you'd expect, but probably fewer than a modest production would hope for. Either way you can absolutely forget about hiring someone out of Hollywood, because voice acting is going to be a large chunk of change. The only other alternative would be to prune the playable cast, but doing that is guaranteed to exclude any number of favorites and is highly problematic considering how many of them are load-bearing figures in the story. The whole point of the game was you could largely choose your team and travel with everyone from the austere local governor to a pink talking dog. And as ridiculous as a pink talking dog sounds on paper, she's probably not even the weirdest party member available in practice depending how you slice it. Regardless, it's a lot of voice work. Only, actually, that 100+ playable characters and notable NPCs is kinda where it ends, specifically because of how many of them are load-bearing. The playable cast may be massive, but they're also a large chunk of the world at large. You meet and even fight many of them multiple times before they end up joining you. The world is pretty darn vibrant, but in total roughly 50% of it ends up in your party. When you boil it all down, really, in some ways it's pretty efficient, since so many of the party double as bosses or major NPCs and a good chunk of them do it while a copy of them is in the party, often with special conversations when they meet each other, plus whatever twins and adult siblings are running around (of which there are a few notable pairs) that could just as easily use the same voice. When you get right down to it, The Last Remnant had a fairly extensive cast at ~50 voice actors for English. I could see getting in enough talent to swing that given so much of it is character work. If everyone took an average of 2 roles, you'd get it to around 60, and it's not uncommon for an actor to be able to play at least 2 roles or more. Or to put it this way, if Scott McNeil could audition for literally every role in Beast Wars and get roughly half of them (a hallmark of his work on many shows), it's reasonable that a subset of talented actors could play multiple roles to shore up the number a bit to a practical level. Aside from that, FF7 Remake has nearly 60 voices just for the named characters and over 175 just for Additional Voices including names like Johnny Yong Bosch, Tara Platt, Matt Mercer, Crispin Freeman, Ben Diskin, Kim Mai Guest, and James Arnold Taylor. That's Ichigo from Bleach, Mitsuru from Persona 3, Cole Cassidy from Overwatch, Winston from Overwatch, Haida from Aggretsuko, Shalua Rui, and freaking Tidus. Seriously, the Additional Voices section alone would be more than enough to fill a whole game with some of the most notable talent in the industry. For that matter, one of them is Travis Willingham, who voiced Torgal in The Last Remnant and would probably do a damn fine Lynx or Guile with the same voice. Like it or not, voice casts are kinda just getting big these days, though not necessarily as "fuck money" big as FF7 Remake was able to afford. It might be a stretch for a modest remake, but both Sony and Square are in a place where they could absolutely afford it if there was a will. The world of Chrono Cross simply isn't all that big in any dimension you look at. It wouldn't take a whole lot to fill it with a modest peppering of additional voices.

One could also point out that it wouldn't have anything salvageable from the PS1 version if you're looking strictly at a remaster, but I think it would be more salvageable than one would think, provided any of the assets survived, which they might well have since it was after Square's wake-up call with FF7. While CC never got a PC version, the reason it ran out of resources was largely due to being siphoned for FF8, which did go to PC. The FF8 assets were of course famously lost, but that doesn't necessarily mean CC didn't fare better. CC is a very notably pretty game with the advantage of single-skin models that outshone early PS2 titles in the graphics department partially through stylization and partially through just throwing all the assets the PS1 could handle at the screen. I don't think it's unfair to say the models are highly detailed in ways more comparable to FF9 than FF8 and that the fidelity is pretty incredible for the time. If all they're doing is a new coat of paint, they could very well tidy things up for resolution and call it a day, because things were optimized quite well. Maybe shave off a few corners. Maybe throw the cutscenes at an A.I. upscaler. Nothing drastic, really. More importantly, Square already has an established workflow for that operation that Sony could follow.

Overall, I think the reasons against it being Chrono Cross are mostly easily answered.

Obviously, time will tell, but Chrono Cross just seems more likely given the info we have. And you really never know. With FF7 Remake having such an extensive catalog of talent in it for additional voices - far more than really seems reasonable - it could well be that it really DOES have the cast of a whole separate game hidden in it. I hate to say it, but if you're feeling out voice talent, having them say a few lines in a mic just to get a feel for their range isn't the worst use of both your time. I would be happy with a remake of either Chrono Cross or The Legend of Dragoon, but with this leak, and my own assessment, I will say I'm pretty confident in which makes sense.

Personal Growth[]

Some of you may have noticed a few light edits to the BSA. I unfortunately really don't have time, interest, or ideas to pick that back up, but there are a few minor things I wanted to remove because I looked back on them and cringed. I've grown as a person since posting some of it and frankly, I don't want people to stumble in there and be hurt by those few items.

Nobody is perfect and a lot of harmful things can come from ignorance. Honestly, I was fearing it would have been a lot worse than the couple items I did find. It's not the first I've said something regrettable in ignorance and it won't be the last. Personal growth is a never-ending journey. The best you can do is apologize, try to fix it, and most importantly learn to be better.

To be quite honest, it's a real task for Millennials. I had planned on making mention of this in multiple other things I have yet to post, including a review of Rogue Galaxy, but we were raised in an environment that has not aged well. One where being offensive was the brand of humor du jour and things like ableist language were not only normal, but expected. We grew up with the likes of Ren and Stimpy on TV next to shows like Doug and we STILL have South Park, which was considered so violent and offensive on its debut that it ended up on the nightly news. The '90s and 2000s don't seem like that long ago, but a lot has changed since then in society for the better and much of what we loved simply has not aged well.

Part of this is cultural backlash from the '80s. You can watch something from then and find it strangely wholesome. Coverage of certain topics like LGBT+ issues were certainly misguided by modern standards, but they were well-meaning. Part of this is owed to TV censorship. Advertisers, TV execs, and other parties in the industry had the general opinion of "don't piss off a block of buyers for no reason." The '80s, despite us seeing them rightly as a time of excess, were surprisingly censored, and a majority of it was self-censorship, even though censorship boards definitely existed for most media, with the exclusion of games before the ESRB. Nintendo in particular was known for its censorship outside of Japan, but much of that was to regain confidence in the American market. There was a level of wholesome they had to be to do that. SEGA capitalized on this greatly in the '90s when the pendulum swung hard the other way, painting Nintendo's censorship as weakness in light of a cultural environment that had abruptly decided it was done being nice. SEGA wasn't a driver of this by any means. SEGA of Japan was terrified of this approach, but trusted SEGA of America to do what was best for the market area. And SEGA of America read the room. If you look at the PlayStation and FF7 in particular, seeing the 2-page spread of the Junon canon with a tagline saying the competition deserves a blindfold and a cigarette is pretty edgy by TODAY'S standards. But the '90s were like that. Everything was "TO THE XTREME!" We laugh now about how ridiculous comics characters from the period are, but we forget that EVERYTHING was like that. If you weren't pushing some boundary somewhere, you were doing it wrong. The harder you could push that boundary, the more attention you were going to get. For crying out loud, Creepy Crawlers were an Easy-Bake Oven for rubber scorpions and half of every toy for boys involved some form of slime. There was exactly zero self-awareness involved.

That's why many Millennials struggle to remove words like "retard" and "lame" from our language. These words were everywhere. They were everywhere specifically because they were the worst things people could think of. Ableism wasn't a hot-button issue back then and without a movement to fight for disabled people, it was an easy target. But then so were LGBT+ people and "gay" was also a common insult. That one actually got media attention and a campaign against it with a series of PSAs. Honestly, if it hadn't been for Will & Grace, things could have taken a much different cultural turn. Things were quite frankly in a very fragile state at the time after Ellen Degeneres destroyed her career by coming out and say what you will about Will & Grace and how it's aged, but it did a LOT to rehabilitate gays in the media, and in many ways did it by striking the right balance of wholesome and offensive it needed to in the public eye at the time.

I'm not saying I was ever one to use a whole lot of that language, but then I was usually on the receiving end of it. That's a whole rant of its own, but growing up on the spectrum before autism actually was well understood or got proper attention was not kind. If you look at the stereotypical nerd in media, you see a lot of autism traits. We've always been here; we just didn't have a diagnosis. Maybe a rant on that another time.

Having been immersed in that culture means there's work to do. I have things that I still have to unlearn, and a lot of people in my generation have even more. That doesn't exempt any of us from doing the work. When you look at offensive old people and think "they're just old and from a different time," it's easy to give them a pass because you think that time is past. But it's not. It's passed ON, today, when younger people hear that stuff. Those older people didn't take the time to grow, learn, or better themselves. They're not from a different time. They're from now, but they expect to get a pass because they've always gotten a pass. I'm not saying anyone needs to try to save them, because the older they are, the longer they've had to engage in that personal growth and chosen not to, but isn't the goal for every generation to be better than the last? Boomers are hitting retirement age. It's Gen X and younger who are inheriting things soon. That puts us in the hot seat. And it's doable. It always has been.

I come from a family that I have always been very proud of. My grandfather recently passed away shortly after his 96th birthday. We was a World War II veteran. He was born into the Great Depression. You look at old cartoons and how much casual racism there is in them, you get an idea of what was acceptable at the time. But he was never like that. Grandpa recommended a Black man as his replacement when he left a good municipal job. And that Black man was surprised, because back then, people didn't DO that. Grandpa put that recommendation in for him because he was a good worker. Grandpa was never racist. If a man who died four years short of a century can spend his whole life not being racist, people today can have the same kind of empathy.

As people, it's wrong of us to abdicate responsibility by saying "that's just how things were." We're not frozen in amber. We can grow and change. We can accept that responsibility and improve ourselves, knowing that it could take years to fully escape the problems we were molded with, or that we might never totally escape the possibility of slipping up. Being better is a choice. And it's an effort.

But it's always better to be better.

Video Game Graphics[]

This is something I've been thinking about a bit and posting a bit on Mastodon. Simply put, graphics in gaming are treated as this bizarre end-all-be-all that drives everything from frustration with Bitcoin miners hogging all the good graphics cards in PC gaming circles to an obsession with polygon counts and lighting effects in gaming in general, but especially consoles (cue Todd Howard's "These are the best pixels you've ever seen.").

So why do we obsess with 60FPS when it's been a thing on everything from the PS1 to the original GameBoy? Why do people insist 4K is this huge deal?

Well, because everyone forgot what it meant in the Bit Wars. Let me explain...

The Bit Wars[]

Back when consoles were young and SEGA was still bitter rivals with Nintendo, the Bit Wars were this weird competition for the most powerful system. Forget "SEGA does what Nintendon't," the number of bits in a console was this huge thing because more bits meant more POWER!!!1!one! Only no one knew what the hell a "bit" was or why it mattered. Cue graphics. "Oh, that old NES is an 8-bit console. Get rid of that dusty old relic and upgrade to the SEGA Genesis! We have a 16-bit console!" "Why should I do that when I already have all these games?" "Because ours looks better." "OMG! These graphics look so real!"

It's hilarious how many times we screamed "graphics will never be better than THIS!" in my lifetime. I was blown away by 256-color VGA as a kid on PC. To be fair, there are some GORGEOUS 256-color games, but then there are some simply astounding 16-color games like Loom. There are 8-color PC Engine games that are positively stunning! Artists use the tools at their disposal to make art and there are artists out there who basically do that thing in that one episode of Doug where Roger paints a gorgeous full-color sunset using a piece of cardboard and leftover blue paint from a random freaking trash can when he gets paired with Doug for a school mural. You can do amazing things understanding the technology at your disposal, from abusing CRT artifacts to cram in sub-pixel detail to dithering for transparency and color blending to implying colors by throwing as much as a flesh tone in a black void to express brown eyes. There have been games that looked utterly horrid because they didn't know how to use the additional colors (Loom in 256-color is a travesty, especially compared to 256-color Monkey Island) and the massive draw of early 3D sure as heck wasn't because those beginner-level origami models looked better than the gorgeous 2D sprites those same systems were capable of in the same release window. 3D wasn't better because it was prettier or even halfway decent; it was better because it was something an older console couldn't do or was noticeably worse at. When the PlayStation came out and was like "it does 3D!" (which wasn't even real 3D), that was the huge selling point. It didn't matter what it was ACTUALLY doing was letting you as the developer pre-calculate all of your triangles as best as possible on a chip that couldn't do fractions and then go "PBBBBBBBBT!" with them onto a blank frame literally in such a rudimentary manner you were personally responsible for getting the order right, the mere ILLUSION of it being a 3D system was all it needed for marketing. Granted, some later PS1 titles ended up being prettier than even early PS2 titles (I love you, Chrono Cross!), and the arbitrary order, aside from accidental clipping, allowed for some really trippy non-Euclidean games, but the fact remains all of it was making the best of a system slightly less primitive than using resizing tools in MS Paint. The PS1 was a 32-BIT CONSOLE, DANG IT and that was all that mattered.

So on to the PS2[]

Honestly, the PS2 era is by far the greatest graphical leap we've ever seen and the biggest we will ever experience as humans. I know I just said the PS1 had better-looking late games than early PS2 games, but those were really the exception rather than the rule and besides that, the PS1 itself is a fascinating machine for a number of reasons I won't go into here (things like variable resolution helped a lot with performance and just OMG, I could spend a whole rant on the PS1's features and quirks, but not this one). Regardless, comparing even FF9 (which was supposed to be on the PS2) to FFX, like, FFX is a really pretty game. When they were doing side-by-side vids with the PS3 remake, there were plenty of people who honestly mistook the PS2 side for the PS3 side because the models just looked so much more HUMAN. PS3 Tidus got some serious duck lips and the lack of alpha transparency made the HD remaster look in many cases demonstrably worse than the PS2 version (like the dead plant they made out of Rikku's hair). The PS2 was capable of some really nice graphics. Maybe you had to make some sacrifices in lighting to get your polygons going or other graphical trade-offs (like the awful flicker/flicker filter in FF12), but when a dev got it right, you had some absolutely stunning games.

When I say that generation was the biggest leap graphics ever did or will take, I don't say it lightly. Compared to what came before, the capabilities of the generation's hardware were really top-notch and honestly reading some interviews back then with the PS3 coming out, devs were like "but we still haven't even topped out the PS2!" So what did the PS3 do?

In my opinion, it mostly held things over into the switch to HD.

Put down your torches and pitchforks. Yes, I know the PS3 was really good with water effects and procedural lighting and junk because of its in-order processing (which is why A.I. was dumb as a brick that generation), but other than that specific aspect of it, if you look at FF13 on a flatscreen and compare it to FFX on a CRT, you'll see what I mean. CRT did a lot to smooth over the corners and sharp edges of the models. Obviously the polygon count is much lower when you have them on the same hardware, but people weren't playing the PS2 on LCD screens. If you put a PS3 game on a CRT, which as a reminder you can totally do with it (it was the last one you could), side-by-side, you're really not gaining a whole lot over the PS2. Maybe subtler things like draw distance and lighting effects, but it's not the night-and-day difference the PS2 was over the PS1. The PS3 was maintenance. That whole generation was maintenance to bring what the previous generation brought on CRT to the clear pixels of LCD displays. And we've gone back to iterating from there.

HD, 4K, and 8K[]

HD is basically where things made a real break. Without starting a debate over 720p vs. 1080p vs. 1440p for PC monitors, suffice to say all of them constituted a technical hurdle for games that had grown very accustomed to CRT technology. CRT and the various connector types all came with nuances and quirks and tricks you could use. It was decades of knowledge that all came crashing down with the advent of the pixel.

Now I know, "What? HD didn't invent the pixel!" Actually, on the hardware side, it kinda did. Pixels are just picture elements, and while computer graphics were DONE in pixels, they weren't DISPLAYED in pixels. Those images were sampled at regular intervals and whatever was there was fed to an analog beam that went "PBBBBBBBBT!" all in a beam and whatever it hit, it hit. Okay, so color used THREE analog beams, but the point stands that all of them were fire hoses that had exactly zero hardware to understand what it was doing. Much like the PS1, all that thinking had to be done ahead of time and it was spat out onto what was ultimately a flat (or rather spherically or cylindrically curved) surface. Depending on what your console or video card was doing to scale things, that could mean it fell on intermediary colors that weren't strictly on the palette, or on one color or another in a zig-zag, or whatever. The CRT didn't care. It didn't use square pixels. If the sample fell on some weird in-between color, the beams would spray whatever RGB values were for that color and whether it actually hit a phosphor was totally up to chance. Some older sets didn't even have an equal number of phosphor dots between red, green, and blue, and they certainly weren't required to be in any given orientation. Some screens used a hexagonal pattern of phosphor dots (which got especially weird with phosphor numbers), others used Triniton technology and had all vertical lines of color phosphor in bands across the whole screen, and, most commonly in newer sets, some used trios of red, green, and blue phosphor segments that could literally be offset from each other any which way. In my own house, I checked three of my own CRT TVs and none of them match. One has squares of red, green, and blue bands arranged themselves in a honeycomb pattern. Another has the same bands all offset from each other by a certain amount so none of them line up. A third has them all almost square across the whole thing except that each color starts a tiny bit below the last in a shallow sawtooth pattern. It doesn't matter in the least where the electron beams fire because each of them uses the same technology to catch them in a completely different pattern. The whole thing is like a carnival game where you use a water gun to knock over plates and the strategy is to just spray everything on the shelves left to right, top to bottom. It doesn't matter how the plates are arranged. There are obviously differences in how each of my TVs look when you get up close, but when viewed from a normal distance, the nuance is largely lost. The warm glow of the CRT hides all the sharp corners and individual color dots of the original image in a sea of color that makes sense to your eyes when viewed from an appropriate distance.

This is decidedly not the case for LCD. An LCD, or OLED, or whatever HD technology you're using knows EXACTLY what a pixel is. And because of that, all the old techniques broke down. No longer were there artifact colors, or easy color blending via dithering (though dithering is still used in many cases for LCD, just more obviously), or the warm glow of the phosphors hiding all your sharp edges and corners. The models that looked fine on CRT are now noticeably angular and just look like ass. Suddenly a pixel mattered.

That's why I say the PS3 generation was maintenance. Of course if you took a PS2 game and put it on an HD screen, it would look like ass, but that was because of a change in format. It's the same way Spock's rubber ears look like ass in HD, or how all the culmination of 100 years of makeup and prosthetics totally break down in a 30FPS movie. Everything was built for a specific technology and now a different one is revealing the cracks. It would be like a race of bee aliens coming to Earth and saying all our art sucks because we didn't paint any of it in proper UV colors, building us UV goggles, and pointing at everything and then pointing back at everything painted or printed for all of human history and saying it was wrong. Obviously we could start painting things in UV colors and appreciating the new dimension of beauty to be had, but it doesn't make everything else ugly, just built for a different format. We could just as easily build them UV filter glasses and then point at all our art and then point at the world and they'd be like "oh." And maybe pity us for missing out on the best parts of everything, but they'd see it in the format it was made for. This is why I so strongly advocate viewing media in the original format. A lot of people simply don't understand what things actually looked like anymore. Also holy snipes the larger speakers you could pack into a giant CRT set sounded awesome, even on cheap sets! You can argue against the quality of CRT, but speaker technology is based on the same physics as ever and there's a reason nobody ever used to need a sound bar.

So even though from a technology standpoint the PS3 was incredibly superior to the PS2, when viewing on the medium it was intended for, really, the biggest thing you were gaining was width. The PS2 when viewed on a CRT was already basically photorealistic depending on what you did with it. Or at least as photorealistic as anything was on CRT.

We've been back to iterating since then. Things have gotten prettier in HD, and 4K came along and frankly your mileage may vary. On a PC where you're close to the screen, sure, it makes a difference, but in the living room at 9 feet away in the average household, exactly no one can tell the difference unless you've got a gigantic set. Even a 50-inch set is discernible from HD 6 feet away at most, and most commonly at only 4 feet away. 8K makes even less of a difference. All this hype serves to do is push the power of the system in the way we've all been trained to accept for the last 30 years.

Into the future[]

8K is an endgame. Nobody needs 8K for anything but a projector screen. Games are literally as pretty now as they will ever be. We did it folks. We made it. This is literally the last time in my entire life I will ever be able to say "graphics will never get better than this!" Maybe they'll do more with ray tracing somehow, or physics and lighting calculations, or just stuffing ever more polygons onto a character, but the truth of the matter is we've made it. The resolutions we're talking about are too small for our eyes to perceive. We have basically as many colors on screen as the eye can differentiate. When a dev wants to make something look real, they can. Short of changing the core functionality of screens as we know them to adjust the colors to allow for more or different than RGB, there's not much more we can do graphically (though there are interesting discussions to be had about how much of visible light is lost in the RGB gamut and must be approximated, especially violet tones and a ton of the green range, some of which is being recovered by LEDs in certain applications with interesting developments in professional lighting).

Sony already was fishing for the next big thing when marketing the PS5. When graphics no longer serve as easy shorthand for a system's power, they need to figure out how to sell it on other features. Sony's 3D sound and controller enhancements seem to be darts thrown at a wall to see what sticks. Because when games are as pretty as they'll ever be, and all you're left with are more subtle things like number of enemies on screen or draw distance or the lack of need for LoD, where do you go from there? Sony knows they're at the end of the game. From here on out, VR is going to be probably one of their biggest selling points. Sound for immersion is going to be huge even outside of VR and they already set up ray tracing as part of that. 60FPS is going to be trivial to pick up, and 60FPS isn't even a metric of graphics so much as just an option to have for responsiveness, really, that has been achieved on many consoles from the past several generations, from the beefiest of the day to antiquated handhelds. More frames beyond 60 aren't going to matter much. Get your 120FPS, but for what? When you have everything you could ever want, what more could you possibly need? We have reached the limits of our bodies to appreciate anything more.

I'm not saying this will be the final console generation. Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft will always find something else to sell us. It's just not clear WHAT at this point, to them any more than to me, or so it seems. I guarantee they're all already designing the next generation, or at least changes to this generation. How to sell the next generation might be far more about peripherals than features. And it definitely won't be on graphics. People won't be able to tell the difference. Maybe Nintendo will bring a new version of R.O.B. to the table as a robot companion. Maybe Sony will just go all-in on VR and sound features. Maybe Microsoft will get a version of Kinect that works.

Sorry, I had to. :)

But seriously, I think that Sony especially would be wise to get a handheld on the market again as a companion device to the PS6. One that could easily act as a controller for the system and let you take the game with you, like they had for the Vita, as underutilized as it was for second screen functionality. Really, Vita's resistance to hacking should have put some confidence back into triple-A developers and it was an indie darling. With Nintendo seeming to be on their way to exiting the handheld market, there's going to be room for others. Nintendo isn't going to do exactly another Switch for their next console, either, if they learned anything from the Wii U. They're going to need to clearly differentiate their next offering and show their audience what it's for. If anything, Microsoft seems to have put the least thought into what their next selling point will be. Backwards compatibility is fantastic, but it's not a console seller. Integration with Windows might be a "nice to have," too, but I don't think it's enough to push sales. Ultimately I get the distinct impression they're leaning on gamers just continuing to buy whatever they sell because that's where the new games will be, but I don't see that attracting a whole lot of developer interest when they could just sell to the existing install base. Consoles have to sell to developers, too. And they live and die on the games the developers make. If there's no financial incentive to jump to a new system, most developers won't. Without a killer feature in a new avenue, the old avenue is going to be much cheaper to develop for, push more sales, and be a much better financial decision. Alternatively, a competitor system with a great feature that would enable something interesting is going to be much more attractive than "the old one, but with more compute units." Sony is wise to be working with interesting new features instead of just a raw power upgrade.

But honestly, it's kind of sad this is The Question™ at this point. Graphics as a shorthand for increased power has been the go-to for so long that it's become the hill so many gamers will die on for their preferred platform. It's a frustration for PC gamers because Bitcoin miners have monopolized modern graphics cards to turn energy waste into Monopoly money, when those cards could be going to making Minecraft run better somehow. It's the first argument Sony and Microsoft fans have every new console that's announced because by gum, they have to know whether they won this round or not before it's even started. It's the first thing everyone who isn't a Nintendo fan goes to to shit on Nintendo while ignoring that Nintendo has been feature-focused for over a decade now. "Mine is better because it looks better" has been the easiest explanation for so long, ignoring quality experiences and other hardware features, that people have trouble thinking about anything else. What happens now that eveyone's look the same? How do you change this idea that's been engrained for as long as many people have been alive? What do you tell an adoring audience who looks up starry-eyed for this one thing that you can no longer give? 16K @ 120FPS? Who's going to use it? Why would it ever matter? How can you tell someone the thing they showed up for peaked the better part of a decade ago? How can you convince them this thing that consumed their life no longer matters? Technology may not have limits, but humans do. We have fleshy eyes that can only see so much. We have fleshy hands that can only react to so many enemies and move so fast to time a frame. And we're at that limit now.

And honestly, it's even sadder that people have lived their whole lives in the trap that graphics were what they should care about when they don't equal FUN. Remember fun? The Wii should have knocked everyone out of that mindset. Yes, it was full of shovelware, but it was something literally anyone could enjoy with the better games. Someone could find Super Mario Bros. equally as fun as Sonic the Hedgehog despite the vast graphical difference. Graphics don't matter. Fun does. The fact that people will have to transition to thinking about fun rather than how pretty something is is...

Actually, it's kind of tragic.

Blues Reviews[]

For previous reviews, please see my Review Archive.
I now have a blog! Most topics will be covered at going forward. However, due to content rules, some reviews will remain here.

Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition first impressions[]

Okay, I've banged on about this for long enough up to release and it's been released and I've played it. And I have to say, it's not quite as bad as I'd been afraid of. Still not without problems, but not downright awful.

The first thing I noticed when I booted into the game was the opening cinematic wasn't nearly as blurry as I'd been afraid of, probably because that one was made from enough important cutscenes and unique footage that it had been rendered at a higher resolution to begin with. I examined it for telltale signs of an A.I. upscale and didn't find any. By all means, outside of a few of the shots, it really didn't look blurry at all, or at least no more blurry than it looked on a CRT, which means no, the lines weren't absolutely pixel crisp, but if you aren't focused on it, it's definitely acceptable. The only one small thing I DID notice was they sneakily replaced the logo bit straight after the flash to make THAT actually modern so it could fade seamlessly into the logo. The only other bit that's not strictly original was the text in the opening moments, which was completely replaced by modern text or at least overlayed with it to hide whatever wasn't sharp enough. Otherwise, the entire thing was original render or so subtly upscaled it evaded discerning examination.

TL;DR: the opening cinematic looks great.

The undersea bit after that looked fantastic and added some real definition to what I had long been unsure of being either bubbles or jellyfish and eventually decided were bubbles only to find, nope! They're jellyfish! Not quite box jellies, but not being a jellyfish expert, that's the closest species I know of. Regardless, they look fantastic. It also was really revealing because the segment showed some of the seams of the game, in a good way. The models had received shiny new textures, but had not gotten updated polygons. And I started noticing a few things, including a characteristic shimmer. Yes, folks, this game, surprisingly, reused not only many of the original assets and animations, but it's basically emulating the PS1 itself, just on a larger scale. You see little bits of where things snap to a grid. A much more generous grid than the PS1 was working with, to be sure, but it's unmistakable to someone who was playing the PS1 version mere weeks ago.

This reveals itself even more when the game goes into its attract mode and you notice that all the filters are applied on a per-polygon basis and the polygons are largely as huge as ever with things like the giant oars on the ship and the Hydra as it rises out of the marsh. In fact, the oars reveal the seams just a tiny bit because they aren't able to stay 100% in sync with the background as the ship as a whole bobs, which means while the PS1 animations were close enough for the pixel density that it wasn't noticeable, increasing that pixel density reveals where things simply don't quite exactly match.

This is further confirmed when you get into the game itself and can view the models. They have the exact same characteristic clipping issues as the original.

This all sounds like a problem, but I honestly wouldn't have it any other way! The models in Chrono Cross already had a fantastic level of fidelity and other than replacing the heads, all of that was allowed to stay in place at exactly zero detriment to anything. Okay, maybe things like the legs were also redone a bit where they otherwise had very few polygons, but the weapons remain untouched because they were already fantastic just the way they were. The animations as well have a level of fidelity that's more than enough for a modern audience and the characteristic bob of the bow tied in Serge's bandanna is intact, which tells me just by knowing it from years of familiarity that either the original animation was considered just fine or somebody lovingly recreated it frame by frame. The fact of the matter is this is using a souped-up PS1 rendering engine, and I know this because of the quirks of transparency, lighting, and imperfections that are just too faithful for it to be anything else. And that's great! The only one thing I noticed that might be using something else is the Field Effect, which now has a transparency effect on it that looks way too much like a modern additive effect that I'm 99% sure the PS1 wasn't capable of to be authentic, but the rest is as true to the original as it feasibly CAN be and still be HD.

Anyway, getting into the game, the intro to the dream sequence is actually a slightly extended cut and it's incredibly grainy, but then it was incredibly grainy on the PS1, even on a CRT, so no real emergency there. It's only when the game starts that you start to notice the characters' animations cause them to bounce around a little and realize that it's yet more of them adhering to a pixel grid of some sort. I'm playing on a 1080p PlayStation 3D Display, so I don't know what this pixel grid actually amounts to on a 4K screen if you have one, but frankly I don't care, since it's part of that PS1 authenticity. I'm going to guess that they chose a specific grid size that was easy to multiply to any resolution needed, including the original graphics' resolution, which I'll admit I haven't tested yet, but would be an excellent reason why they needed a grid at all if all of this was done in the name of compatibility.

The first thing I noticed otherwise is that the game will pause for a blip whenever it has to load anything. This happens in battles and unfortunately it's the entire game that does it, including the sound. It's not the absolute worst, but I would have rather it managed to keep the sound going and maybe chug a bit on the frame rate like the original rather than just stop.

This is most apparent in the battle transitions, which, while they nominally keep the same camera angles, move at a MUCH faster clip than the PS1 original, meaning your small tour of the area just became much less scenic and much more of an afterthought. Rather than feeling like the same sweeping, swooping entries into combat, they're more of a swing into place. I know I should probably feel like I'm having my cake and eating it, too, and modern gamers are depressingly time-pressed and will probably appreciate them being much shorter and sweeter, but I feel like it removes the whole point of them being there in the first place: tourism. There are a lot of ways to hide your loading on the PS1 and tourism was an intentional design decision. They're so short now, in fact, that the timing simply doesn't line up with the sound effects anymore, so when you're past the intro and to Lizard's Rock, the sound of seagulls has no relation to any implication of seagulls because by that point the camera is already squarely fixed on your first party member. It really ruins the effect, because in the PS1 version, that would be right about the time you'd be seeing a lens flare from the sun.

The A.I. upscale that I complained so much about isn't actually all that bad, except when it is, and then it's even worse than I was afraid of. In most environments, the upscaler is able to tell some basic materials like wood and such apart, but then it breaks down on something as simple as rolls of netting, making them instead appear suspiciously like rolls of quilted plastic wrap, which are completely anachronistic here. A lot of it is good enough to not be distracting, but if you actually focus on something like a flower in a vase, it becomes immediately apparent that it's completely lacking in detail, like you'd expect having to deal with any A.I. generated background in our deepfake-laden Hellscape. Some of all this looks painterly enough that it can earn a pass as a stylistic choice, but it strikes me that the A.I. was not trained on the types of things this game actually employs as scenery or in fact specifically trained for this game or its general time period at all. Where they should have been able to throw a ton of corals and barnacles and sponges at it along with fishnets and palm trees and whathaveyou, they seem to have just not, leading the game to be something of a trypophobia hazard. It's the maritime elements especially that suffer, which is a shame because this is *checks notes* almost 100% a maritime game. There are parts of the game that do okay because enough of it is similar enough to plates or maybe shelf mushrooms that it seems to manage okay, but the upscaler largely just seems unable to tell what the heck much of the game world is, especially and obviously whenever it has to figure out any kind of hole, which it seems utterly incapable of coping with, leading to an unfortunate wealth of misshapen pitch black hexagons and such all over the screen and a lot of dungeon hazards that are just sort of vague blobs. The world map is immediately and especially off-putting because the entire thing looks less like a painting and more like it got into a fight with a paint roller and lost, by which I mean it is completely bereft of fine detail. You'd think something as important as the world map that the player is going to spend like 10% of their play time looking at would warrant a finer touch. Generally speaking the upscaler handles materials well, and all of the water, wood, stone, etc. looks fine in towns and dungeons, at least from a passing glance, but the level of detail simply is not there for any small details like flowers or just basically anything on the world map. I have to wonder if this thing is less something S-E wrote and trained and more something they bought off the shelf and were unable to throw anything additional at, because it would have benefitted from watching a few hours of Blue Planet.

Oh, and someone had something ass-backwards, because the music seems to be permanently locked to the original soundtrack, not anything that immediately jumps out as having been redone. The only thing I really take issue with is the sound effects seem to have been unified into the echo versions and GOD BLESS do they ever echo! It's actually somewhat unpleasant, because battle sounds like it was recorded not so much in a bathroom as in an indoor pool. It's not even SUPPOSED to echo in battle! So, like, someone accidentally flipped the switch on in there. The only place the echo is actually supposed to happen is in the parts that aren't actually in the game: choosing new game or continue, saving, and loading. Everywhere else is supposed to be the clean sound.

But to get back to some positives, I have to say seeing the game laid bare really makes me appreciate the level of effort that went into the animations. When Serge first wakes up, the first thing that struck me was just how flat on the floor his feet were. I know that seems like a ridiculous detail, but Serge's room is seen from one of the lowest angles in the game and that really does show off just the level of care they had when making sure physics worked.

Having higher fidelity models when and ONLY when required is an absolute joy for me personally, because replacing the heads was basically the biggest thing they needed to do when moving to HD, and just looking at Poshul, big ol' jelly bean she is, tells me they probably didn't even do anything with her. The textures of her collar are still surprisingly stretched out and the fidelity is still what one might potentially expect for a game of this price even today, which is to say the fidelity for this game, which is at this point old enough to drink, is still largely acceptable by modern standards for the style it's in and that's something I've frankly always appreciated, but if I can blow a few minds with that, awesome!

And for what it's worth, the models look WAY less plastic on an actual TV. I don't hate them! In fact, I kind of want to keep playing just to see what all the characters look like now, despite other complaints. And the new portraits actually look like they belong in the game! I don't hate those, either! Which is good, because I thought I'd have real issues with them.

All in all, the game has enough issues that I mostly prefer the PS1 version and will likely continue playing it on my PS3 on a CRT, but if you aren't lucky enough to have that kind of setup, this remaster is a worthwhile entry point into the game.

PlayStation VR, first impressions[]

To preface this, I skipped lunch to get off early on launch day so I could pick up my pre-order after having a sparing breakfast. Seeing as a "normal" breakfast for me is a 10-ounce glass of milk, a "sparing" breakfast (one bottle of Boost™ and later a breakfast bar at about 10:00) was not my most ingenious decision. While I did get something to eat afterward, I'd been feeling sick since about 11:00. To its credit, the VR actually made me feel LESS sick by immersing me in what little I tried before I decided games in general were probably not the wisest decision in my condition, nor was starting this review, but sometimes sacrifices must be made. I've been working on this slowly for the past several days as I normally do between other things. How is it so far? Pretty good!

To start off with how things look in VR, the answer is sufficiently pretty. There is a definite resolution drop when playing games in Cinematic Mode, which works nicely with Episode Duscae, but the effect is mitigated by anti-aliasing and concentrating detail in the center of the field of view where you're most likely to look. Oh, come on, you didn't honestly think that WASN'T going to be the first thing I tried it with, did you? I was hoping to have FFXV in my hands by now and this was the best benchmark I could get for how it will look to play as Prompto. While text consistently looks a bit pixellated, the rest of the game actually looks pretty good, though detail is quickly lost on distant objects. It also blurs a bit when you make fast movements with your head, such as shaking it "no," but the screen remains in position and it's unlikely to be an issue other than testing since you normally won't need that kind of motion.

The only real issue I had during my run was that Cinematic Mode's virtual screen is so big, it's a little TOO easy to get immersed right away, and I found myself trying to look around and unable, which became very dissonant with the camera angles games simply take for granted. I actually had to focus on the edges of the screen to rein myself in. Once I was in control, things felt much more natural, and the camera following Noctis felt surprisingly normal, almost like he was yet another NPC party member I was following. Following through to the battle tutorial, I felt very much like a puppeteer more than anything. Noctis was following my commands, but the camera's movement was my own. Rather than feeling like a passive observer, it was an entirely new type of agency in games which is hard to describe in words. It doesn't feel godlike, but it does feel powerful. Where those who watched my streams heard me say "pick me up" when Noctis went into "danger" status, I think in this state I would probably say "pick him up" instead. Feeling like you're in the game that way radically changes your perspective when controlling a character in third person. In a way, it removes a barrier and adds one at the same time, because while it quickly removes a barrier between you and the environment, it just as quickly puts one between you and the little man who happens to always be going in the same direction you are.

Overwatch also put me straight in the game, though playing as Winston in the training map made me feel like I was riding in a fanny pack like a joey. The presence makes it clear the camera is not where his face is, but doesn't interfere with gameplay once you re-learn how to judge distance. White text looked fine, but red text suffered unusually much for some reason, which made it impossible to read enemy names and even had a large impact on the standard messages, making them a pixellated mess, though still legible. Despite that, the rest of the game looked fine.

I did get a second opinion from a friend (she's actually the one I can thank for having it, as she let me know they were going fast at her store and sold it to me herself), and she tried it with Overwatch. She did take notice of the lower resolution, but agreed it still looked nice and that the virtual screen was big enough that it put her straight in.

I finally broke down and tried my first VR game, The Playroom VR, and have to say it works beautifully. Maybe a little too beautifully. While certain high-contrast effects do reveal the "screen door" of the resolution, for the most part, the "normal" items are crisp and the lower resolution is acceptable, though it does appear to get blurry in at least one of the minigames, possibly owing to aggressive anti-aliasing and bloom. While it was fun to futz around the menu and go into one of the games only to realize it was a claw game and back out (I suck at claw games), I had to cut my exploration short because the only other single-player game has an early tightrope section that tripped my fight-or-flight response because of a recent ziplining experience. I honestly don't have a fear of "heights" since as long as my feet are on the ground and I'm not too close to the edge, or there's a railing, I'm fine. I quite enjoyed the Grand Canyon, for example. But as I tried to pull what looked like a Zelda-style hook shot bridge back to me, though, things went sour. After missing several times, raising my stress levels, I finally connected and tried to pull it back, only for it to simply detach my tether. After the second try, I got concerned, and when I connected the third time, questioning how we were supposed to get across, I drew the conclusion of "ziplining" and fell into a panic when I immediately realized it would require a perilous short climb up to the ledge. Despite ziplining having been my favorite at Discovery Zone, the trip I took this summer was decidedly not fun, since it was higher than I was comfortable falling until the last jump of 12 and sent me careening up to 55MPH (88.5KPH, 24.6m/s), which, let me tell you, is VERY different than when you're in a nice, safe car. That's not to say I was bad at it. I was actually quite good at it. I was just terrified the whole way down. Even so, it had been platform to platform, with no climbing up involved. It did help slightly when I hit X to see if I was using the wrong input and my little robot companion jumped on, but being primed like that did not do me any favors as I floated across behind him. I even looked down as I went over the gap myself to cement my levitation, since I do have a lot of flying dreams and have no issue with the concept, but it didn't help at that point. Even though I was flying, even simply floating in dead air, I was not able to calm myself down.

The interesting thing here was that I was just as concerned about my tiny robot falling as myself, more so after I took steps to assure my own safety, which was pretty much the nail in the coffin. If it had just been me, I probably would have been able to get through it, and I did get him over the tightrope because I knew logically that it wasn't going to let him fall off, but looking ahead at the narrow beam I'd have to navigate him across and the small space we had to work with to defeat enemies and I pretty much had to close the program to calm myself down. I was panicked for myself, AND the paternal instincts had kicked in, and my conclusion was that I was in no condition to safely guide the tiny being I'd been entrusted with. I was able to go back to it later without panicking, and then again with next to no stress, though I still haven't passed that point largely because by the third time, I was kind of getting bored and wanted to try other things.

I think it's a testament to the power of VR that it could both trip that kind of fear in me and also help me overcome it so quickly. Which is not to say I'd go ziplining again, but I can definitely watch a little robot walk a tightrope as I float safely behind.

The demo disc it came with would be better if it had any indication of what anything was, and other than what you can assume from the small bars of logo and box art, there's not a good way of telling what anything is until you enter the intermediary screen, which in many cases tell you nothing in their own right. No descriptions, no animated objects, no nothing, though they will throw up a warning if it's rated M, which was the only clue that Thumper, a rail shooter, wasn't just another horror game, of which there are already a few. But you can buy any of them before you even try them by either hitting Triangle with them selected or once you go into the intermediary menu, which I found rather galling. I was outright insulted how many of the games aren't even demos; just purchase screens with no option to try before you buy. With something like VR where the danger of a physical reaction is very real and there's no telling what will affect you as an individual, the ability to try before you buy, especially digitally, is massively important. There is no indication of which, if any, games will send your lunch to the far wall, so when I'm offered a demo disc, even if it's FREE, I want it to be an honest demo disc, not just a glorified storefront. We have PSN for that.

Despite my complaints, some of them are pretty neat. I tried Rez Infinite because I'm familiar with the series, but forgot that some parts of Rez (of which Infinite is an enhanced port) are set in twisty-turny hallways, as much of Rez and Child of Eden are either straight shots or open areas. You can probably guess what they chose to represent the game. While it was fun, as the level progressed, the odd camera angles and increasingly fast and numerous sharp turns through the corridor started leaving me disoriented, but not really dizzy or sick. While I could have kept playing, I decided enough was enough once it threw a number of blind turns at me before finally dumping me in a hallway upside-down and unable to trace back how I got that way. Rez is a great game, but it's also a 15-year-old game that was never designed with something like VR in mind and got to be a little much. Child of Eden really would have been the better choice because of its consistently open environments and flight-like movement, and also because it desperately deserves a fix after the arm-rending motion control fiasco that was the PS3 version. I seriously love the thing, but its unique ability to physically hurt you for playing it means I never got very far before moving onto less abusive attractions.

There's also a music visualizer in The Easel from Harmonix which is pretty nice at first and demos a tropical area with some pleasant reggae before allowing you to play around with "Easel Mode" where you can draw in 3D using a pair of Move wands, basically letting you surround yourself with some neat 3D effects that pulse and/or light up to the music. The third mode is a nightmarish party thing where you animate the lumpy dancers, which was a bit unsettling as they looked around like they were trapped in their own bodies and felt outright sick and twisted when I sent one gyrating by dragging his limbs around, mechanically acting out my hamhanded test while still glancing about in a way that suddenly seemed like desperate silent screaming before the song mercifully ended a minute or two later. It finished off by more or less literally dropping a steaming turd with a tunnel-style visualizer that couldn't end fast enough, because its pulsing, irregular shapes and ugly colors did not do me any favors after its predecessor and I did end up feeling a bit ill by the end of it, if only because the effect would be gross even without VR, reminding me most of flopping, twitching organs in colors heavily featuring shit brown, raw liver maroon, inner cheek pink, and damaged flesh white, notably avoiding any blood reds because they KNEW it was horrific and figured being that overt would make sure no one ever, ever bought it, as no one ever, ever should. I will say I was a bit disappointed even before being outright revolted, as I was essentially expecting something more like Guitar Hero, but as music visualizers go, it's a neat concept hampered by half of it being strikingly unpleasant.

Otherwise, there are plenty of horror games, because of course there are; a neon rhythm rail shooter in Thumper; a few team shooters and driving sims including RIGS; and Gnog, the biggest waste of VR of anything I tried, and a supposed puzzle game that came off more like a Fisher Price toy which I eventually got so bored of poking and prodding looking for anything I could meaningfully interact with that I outright turned off the PS4 and went to do other things.

The games I've tried so far were functional, but not particularly special. None of them had technical issues, but none of them were really a selling point for having VR, either, with most feeling like tech demos or else having made no real use of it. RIGS might change my mind about that when I do a full review (I bought it on disc, but want to demo it before opening in case it makes me sick), but for the most part, having avoided horror games, and not having tried the various driving and piloting games since the only one I ever was good at was S.T.U.N. Runner, I have yet to find the serious gaming experience I was hoping for. Rez really stands out as one of the heftier experiences and makes probably the best use of the technology, but that's because it was already a full console release twice before and has a 3D motion-controlled sequel to boot. If you're not a horror fan, chances are that there really isn't anything out there for you yet that you can really sink your teeth into and can't get somewhere else.

The hardware itself is enjoyable. The headset is surprisingly light, but doesn't feel flimsy, which is something that everyone I've shown it to agrees upon, right down to my housemate's 6-year-old, who outright laughed when she picked it up because it was so much lighter than she was expecting and she'd overcompensated. The pressure from screwing it tight far outweighs the weight of the unit. It comes with a basic set of earbuds with rubber bullet plugs in multiple sizes for wider appeal than the DualShock 4 earpiece. The earbuds are actually pretty nice quality, so while I've seen no end to people suggesting gaming headphones, and having employees outright try to upsell me on a pair when I picked it up, I honestly don't think it's necessary.

While the number of cords is almost comical, almost all of them are off on the console side, leaving you with only your tether, which after the extender is slightly thinner and much more flexible than a standard power cord, and the delicate earbud cord, which plugs into the volume and power button box for the VR. The Processor Unit ends up with a power cord, the existing HDMI from the TV, a new HDMI between the Processor Unit and the PS4, a USB cable between the Processor Unit and the PS4, and a combined HDMI and proprietary "AUX" connecter coming out the front into a thick double cord that meets the headset cord halfway. The PlayStation Camera also needs to be factored in if you don't already have one, but has its own port on the PS4 as always. The only cord it DOESN'T seem to have is an umbilical cord. While none of them are in a position to get in your way, you'll probably want to hold onto the twist ties they come wrapped with to keep everything organized. For that matter, you'll probably want a means of charging your various controllers if you've been relying on the USB all this time. Move charging stations can be found dirt cheap online, and I've found this DS4 charger crazy convenient both because it routes the USB ports to the back and out of the way, and is just plain satisfying how good it looks and how easy it is to pick up a controller with no fuss. So, bonus review on that: it plugs into your PS4 easily, the lights tell you when things are charging, it doesn't ruin the look of the PS4, and the bits that plug into the controllers stay out of the way while playing and have yet to pose a problem in any fashion, even if they do go in a bit hard. Just remember to set the PS4's USB ports to remain powered on for 3 hours and you'll never have to fight with locking stations or USB cords for your DS4 controllers again. Absolutely worth $20. All there is to say, really.

Back to the VR, pushing the power button on the mid-cord control box will turn on the PS4 as an added convenience, and if you have your TV set up to turn on with the PS4, that will chain from it. It will also chain back when the PS4 is powered down. Turning off the VR will leave the PS4 on. While the headset turns off, the Processor Unit only goes to sleep since it needs to act as an HDMI passthrough and turns on whenever the PS4 does to do so. This makes sense when you consider the Processor Unit and headset actually have their own processing hardware. The headset has its own motherboard according to Sony's official teardown video, meaning the VR's actual operation is split between the PS4, the Processor Unit, and the headset itself when playing VR games, likely explaining the need for the USB and AUX connectors to let all the pieces communicate properly.

The mid-cord control box is easily operated by touch, as the power button is recessed, the mic mute button is flush, and the volume buttons are raised, with the volume up button additionally having a small nubbin to tell it apart. The mic is not on the earbuds, but instead is on one corner of the eyepiece of the headset, providing a consistent fixed position that I'm sure will work wonders for cheap streamers like myself compared to the coin toss of the PS4 default mic or the environmental noise of the PS Camera.

Setup is a breeze, as Sony has strived for the PS4 in general, and takes about as little time as the PS4's initial setup, excluding the half of it teaching you how to put it on. There was a day 1 update from version 1.01 to 2.0, but it didn't take very long. The setup mentions it will be getting regular updates similar to the PS4 itself. Unlike the PS4, it doesn't have its own Internet connection, so it does need to piggyback on the PS4's as another reason to leave it connected.

Aesthetically, it's definitely focused on the headset. The Processor Unit has only 2 LED colors as opposed to the PS4's, well, 4. It uses red when sleeping rather than for error codes like the PS4 (those are displayed in text), and uses white when it powers up and is on. I won't say it's the end of the world, but it does seem a bit inconsistent, and I'd have liked to see it match the PS4, even though the PS4 doesn't have the best color scheme. At the very least, the red could have been made amber with no cost difference based on cursory research (same materials, different spacing!). The box itself is a nondescript little thing, with the front designed to have the wires flush, meant to sit innocently on the shelf unlike the PS4's bold lines. Its only nod to its big brother is the break that allows you to slide the right ⅓ of it back to more easily plug in the wires out to the headset and the same matte black color and valley around the middle of the larger block. Even the light strip on it is a single dull LED, intended to downplay the box rather than draw attention. If the PS4 were the attractive CEO of an international corporation, the Processor Unit would be its babyface-in-a-suit younger brother in middle management who comes up with good ideas, makes the mistake of sharing them at family get-togethers, and ends up coordinating them while his brother gets all the credit, weeping bitter tears because he's been making them in his garage up to that point.

In contrast, the headset would be their manic pixie sister in Marketing who immediately says "UGH!" when she sees the design, shaves off all the edges and corners with a straight razor, and douses it in Apple white and soft lights in a whirlwind that leaves everyone confused and sputtering until the last of the tigers are offstage and the commercial pops up on the TV moments later. It's rather ironic that the piece you're supposed to see the least of is by far the most exciting to look at, but of course the whole point is for OTHERS to see you using it, much like how the iPod was advertized with white earbuds swinging around rather than with a bunch of close-ups on the tiny square running them. Up until I got it out of the box, I wasn't even sure how it would be connected or if it would be wireless somehow, because everything you see is headset, headset, headset. The headset is pretty unisex in design, in defiance of its competetors either looking like they came straight out of Splinter Cell or otherwise being bulky black goggles with boring lines (Gear VR also has the choice of bulky black and white goggles with boring lines). It goes a long way toward avoiding the "toys for boys" attitude that computers and gaming have had essentially as long as consoles and affordable home computers have been a thing. It looks like it would be at home on men and women, boys and girls aged anywhere from 4 to 40, though it would certainly look odd on your grandparents and is quick to tell you it's for ages 12+.

The overall product is well-designed and works nicely, and can be easily recalibrated with a quick press-and-hold of the Options button, which will snap the Cinematic Mode screen in front of your face regardless of where you're looking. The Playroom VR does the same to let you re-orient the controller, which it loses the horizontal rotation (yaw) of pretty easily. Other software seemed much smarter in their ability to keep the orientation of everything in place. Head tracking is great and I have yet to have an issue with it losing position. As stated earlier, you will get slight blur from fast movements. And if you use the PS button, you can access other options in the new side menu, including the option to display the Camera's output to view your position and check for errant pets/small children/giant spiders OH GOD DON'T TAKE IT OFF THEY'RE WAITING TO SEE THE FEAR IN YOUR EYES BEFORE THEY STRIKE! Small children are terrifying like that.

Even though some reviewers have made a point of bashing the Move controllers, I've found they work like a dream, having ditched even the slight lag they had on PS3 so any lag that does exist is negligible. As for their operation, they operate with the same functionality as ever, so while hiding the ball does reduce the accuracy, it's nothing we didn't already know about. While some software does track them with better grace than others, overall, I've found them as accurate as they need to be. I honestly hope that this breathes new life into the Move for VR and non-VR experiences alike.

As a bonus, it seems to have a way of automatically detecting your eye span. If you have trouble, you can take a picture in the settings and use crosshairs to let it measure manually. This setting of course is tied to your user profile, so if someone else is playing, they'll probably need a profile of their own similar to controller handling.

The only real thing missing in the launch lineup that I've seen so far is Vita integration. On one hand, Vita is quietly getting new titles like World of Final Fantasy, but at the same time, Square can't single-handedly save the Vita in the public eye (ironically, Nintendo might if they dump the 3DS down the line, which you can read in my Nintendo Switch rant). While Vita is still going strong for indie games, I'd honestly like to see some of Sony's promises come true with games using its second-screen functionality to allow 3 different views for players with unique roles in the gameplay. The launch lineup has mostly focused on single-player experiences or online co-op, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but does limit your ability to do more than show off how much fun you're having to your friends as they sit on the couch not having fun of their own. The Playroom VR really does things right by having plenty of ways you can share the love, though I wish there were more single-player options. What it doesn't do is show off the 3-way integration Sony said was possible, and if Sony isn't committed enough to do it in their own admittedly cute tech demo, I'm not holding my breath on others jumping on it. In a way, Square has been Sony's biggest supporter, managing to re-inject some life into the Vita, particularly with FFX|X-2 HD pushing more units than probably any other single release since launch, and adding PS VR integrations into not one, but TWO Final Fantasy titles, but even Square didn't go so far as to push the triple-play despite being the only triple-A who still cares about Vita in the first place.

I guess what this whole review comes down to is that PS VR is a great piece of hardware that really needs a great piece of software to justify buying it. For me, that great piece of software will undoubtedly be FF15, but for others who are neither horror nor JRPG fans, the wait is going to be a bit longer. Which is not to say it's not on the horizon. With heavy hitters like Fallout adding support, it's only a matter of time before there are experiences worth having, some of which are already in your hands. But at the same time, the VR really needs a grand slam. At the moment, it really doesn't have the bases loaded and a heavy hitter of its own to knock it out of the park to bring all four of its major-league players home. Specifically to YOUR home. FF15 is definitely going to be one of those players on base with its own separate mode for Prompto, but unless that involves two-player co-op, I don't think it's going to be that final crack of the bat, nor is Fallout going to be that must-have experience (though if it does well, we can probably expect the next Elder Scrolls to follow suit (whenever they get down to making it (PLEASE start making it))). With plenty of games coming out in the next few months, and big names like Tekken and the ever-tantalizing Ark: Survival Evolved on board at some point in the future, there looks to be no shortage of things to do in VR, but at the same time, there isn't a must-have VR experience yet that will really push system sales. Sony seems perfectly aware of that and is expecting slow adoption, which is very frustrating as a reviewer who REALLY likes the product. I certainly won't be bored having it, and it'll be a joy to use on all the wonderful games that are slated to support it, but I can't in good conscience say it's something you need to rush out and buy if you weren't already at least intrigued by the idea.

I still dream of a motion-controlled Elder Scrolls game. VR would be the next step above that, which I never even considered. To have Final Fantasy in VR is something I never dreamed would be a thing and I'm incredibly happy it's going to be in my grubby paws in the course of a few short weeks. I suddenly find myself wanting a game like White Knight Chronicles where not only do I create my avatar to mingle with the party, but also play that avatar in first person to watch them move around and feel like I, the player, am a part of it in at least some small form. The PS VR and the games coming out for it are like a dream come true, only Sony utterly beat me to even dreaming about most of it. The entire thing has been a series of skipped steps from what people have thought VR would need to get into the living room, a dream that seemed to have died with the arcade crash having been sleeping under a newspaper on the couch the whole time. For me personally, it's effectively taken a look at what I've hoped for, and with a warm smile at my naïvety grabbed my hand and ran with me into the future, with me looking around in awe as I stumble in my attempts to keep up. A look at what lies ahead is filled with things I never knew I wanted, and yet I feel so SIMPLE because all I can compare it to are things that already exist, or that I already thought of. For the first time in my life, my creativity is being outpaced by the impending reality, and I'm tearing my hair out because there's nothing I could say or do to SHARE that. No one thing I could point to as a reason for everyone to join me in it. As someone who grew up with VR heavily ingrained in the public consciousness as a thing that was totally going to happen in the near future, raised on the likes of Batman Beyond where even in a future decades down the line VR was confined to arcades (and mind you, they were doing VR floating in spheres of hard light), to have VR in my literal bedroom right now, seemingly years ahead of schedule, seems like magic.

And yet I have no way of sharing that magic, because it's something you've either carried your whole life or you haven't. It's a specific nostalgia for a future promised to us, and that future is beginning right now. I see a bright future ahead, as do Sony, it seems, but everyone who's seen that future knows there's nothing they can SAY. It has to be said over and over by enough people that it awakens the magic in others where it lies dormant.

So for me, having been on the wild trip and seeing the shining golden light of things to come, all I can really do is sit down, relax, don the headset, and hope to find things to tide me over until the things I want are in my hands. Because ultimately, if you don't share the same nostalgia for the VR future we marinated in since childhood, there's nothing I can do to give it to you, and even if the nostalgia is there, the games just aren't quite yet. I can't tell you to rush out and buy a $400 peripheral based on future potential.

But the PS VR itself is the real deal, as far as hardware goes. And maybe, for now, that's enough.

Final Fantasy VII[]

I figured in light of the remake and starting a new file more or less after losing all my saves when my first PS3 died and my Disc 1 of the PC version (which is around somewhere, hopefully in one piece that I may eventually find it again), it would be as good a time as any to review this game. I'm putting it to my Objective Review System because otherwise I'd just yammer on about it without going anywhere, and this review will combine aspects of when I first played it with how it holds up today and by the standards of the time. I think we can all agree it's not a bad game. Maybe not the best of the series, but certainly a solid title that was right to win the hearts of many. I've realized a shortcoming of my standard format while writing this, so I've combined Setting and Plot into one to make way for the return of the Writing section.

10: Flawless. It will ruin you to anything else.
9: Amazing. You will ignore major flaws elsewhere because of it.
8: Great. A selling point of the game and will compensate moderate flaws.
7: Good. Stands well on its own and may compensate minor flaws.
6: Interesting, but not particularly special.
5: Uninspired, but passable.
4: Lacking, but tolerable.
3: Annoying, but may be compensated elsewhere.
2: Bad, but not a deal-breaker.
1: Deal-breaker. You will cringe at every occurrence.
0: Reason enough not to buy this game on its own.


Setting and Plot:
FF7 is set in what fans have determined is the world of Gaia, though the game greatly favors simply calling it "the Planet," generally in terms of it being its own entity. Beyond that, anything goes. FF7 is unique in that it takes many of the normal fantasy RPG locales and gives them a modernistic twist. It's the first game of the series to come off as truly futuristic rather than steampunk, though some flavors of steampunk do remain with lots of industrial pipes in some areas. The world ranges from the dirty, decaying, industrial standing ruin of Midgar to the idyllic island locale of Mideel, with an equal amount of barrens, grassland, forest, and snow, give or take. It's a world focused more than ever before on realism, and the people have real problems resulting from it. The individual settings tick off nearly every box of early JRPG locations, but the path between them makes the progression natural, since for the most part you move from one location to the one next to it as the story progresses, unlike older games that couldn't wait to show off the snow area right after the volcano and would find any excuse to have you travel great distances to fetch some MacGuffin because you got the ship an hour into the game. This more organic approach gives the world a very real sense of scale, and the sheer size of some locales helps the player understand just how big the world really is.

Dominating most of the civilized world is the Shinra Electric Power Company, who have made life convenient by siphoning clean energy from the ground and condensing it into a power source or condensing it further into Materia orbs which allow even the common person to produce magical effects. Unfortunately, said energy is the source of all life in the world. Shinra has a monopoly on energy production and enforces it with its own military, serving in practice as the government of much of the world with its base in the center of a 16-city metropolis divided into 2 levels and renamed as 8 sectors, excluding the central "Sector 0" hub dominated by its own facilities, with the second-biggest settlement in the world having been built up as a military base and serving as a major satellite branch. While the common people have little love for Shinra, their ubiquity has made most of the population disenfranchised and complacent. Despite this, Shinra is seen as a desirable place to work either as a civilian or in the military, with the elite SOLDIER being the goal of many hopefuls. Shinra employs many scientists and office workers to keep things running smoothly, and those on the company's payroll live comfortable lives, with few having any more knowledge of the company's shadier activities than the people living literally in the company's shadow in the various slums.

The story follows the exploits of an eco-terrorist cell and their early efforts bombing power plants, which later cease because they've been driven from society, causing them to focus on hunting down and murdering a military hero who they feel also poses a danger to the Planet's natural resources. In the end, their efforts result in the ambiguous extinction of all humanity. And those are the GOOD GUYS. With the remake coming out post-9/11, you have to wonder how much they're going to downplay all that, because they're directly responsible for what is stated in-game as thousands of innocent deaths just from the first of their 2 successful bombings. But in all seriousness, you're expected to pretty much forget about that because you don't actually see the burnt and bloody corpses, and it's disturbingly easy to miss it altogether. So yes, at its core, FF7 is a game where the terrorists win, and you make it happen. In practice, once your bombing spree is over, the moral high ground quickly switches, since Shinra responds by destroying not only an entire city in the slums, but also the entire city of the rich above it when they drop the floating plate between them into the hole, resulting in probably millions of deaths in one fell swoop. This is not to say either side is in the right for killing, just that bombing two power plants is at a lesser scale than destroying two entire cities by smashing them into each other in hopes that it would kill six specific people along with everyone else. But I digress. The justification that the player characters are the good guys comes in that Shinra and its pet hero are way more murderous and have been for years, and since the party only really kills said corporation's employees and said soldier, they can't be accused of killing indiscriminately. In the end, this is the darkest the series has ever been and probably the darkest it ever will be.

Score: 8/10. I can't in good conscience give it higher than this, but the sheer variety of locales in this game gives you plenty to enjoy. From the brassy barrens of the tribal Cosmo Canyon to the Japanese propriety of Wutai, there's something for everyone buried somewhere in here. It's easy to forget just how dark this is since it blows its wad early on and then delves into interpersonal stuff to hold up the rest of the game, and honestly, it's rather threadbare as far as plots go, but I really wanted to highlight just exactly what's going on here for some perspective. This game could end up downright terrifying in the remake, since the cartoony graphics do a lot to soften what is ultimately a ton of ultraviolence, especially early in the game.

Plot Execution, Dialog, and Writing:
Let me just say that the return of this section is not a good thing. All three of the named concepts have issues.

For the PS1 version, there's more than its fair share of Engrish. I have to say Aeris seems to take the brunt of this and if my first impression hadn't been the PC version, I'd probably hear her as a stereotypical Asian lady. Aside from that, there are plenty of errors in capitalization and punctuation to go around even when there isn't anything quite that humorous. I honestly didn't remember things being this rough, but I played the PC version first and most, which did an apparently pretty extensive job of cleaning up the result of Japanese people translating a game to English in-house rather than hiring a professional. Woolsey may take a lot of crap for his creative localizations, but he was able to make a coherent story and characters.

The plot has trouble balancing the threat of Shinra and the threat of Sephiroth, and the transition is both protracted and awkward. Shinra serves as the main villain for the first several hours and then suddenly a new threat is introduced that ends up becoming the primary objective as the player continues learning about him, with Shinra being all but forgotten until it's convenient for them to be brought up again. This leads to awkward sections like Sephiroth on the cargo ship doing battle with the party and Shinra not taking notice of it until after they'd already docked. It just wasn't convenient for them to be meddling at that point even though top brass were present and in direct danger from both their enemies. The Turks in particular make regular appearances when it's been too long between Sephy gracing everyone with his presence just to give the player a tangible enemy. They are the filler of the game and they're not even "evil" all the time, with half of their appearances being on neutral or even friendly terms. You ultimately fight them as many times as Sephy/Jenova despite this for no other reason than to obstruct your progress for a few minutes because RPGs use boss battles to keep things interesting and Shinra top brass have a bad habit of dying for good when you fight them if they don't run away or get hit by a truck first.

Certain things also happen for pure sake of convenience even when it doesn't involve balancing Shinra and Sephy. When the team realize there's a traitor in their midst, Cloud outright states that he can't fathom any of them being one, despite the fact that Cait Sith had LITERALLY JUST JOINED, and by forcing his way into the party to boot. Aside from that, no one bears Cait Sith any kind of ill will for kidnapping Marlene and they pretty much forget about it immediately after because it would be inconvenient to, say, rescue her or something. It literally never comes up again. It's also never explained how Dyne made his way back up from Corel Prison and shot everyone up without Dio knowing about his existence and ability to do so, or why Dio would implicate his own mascot in the crime (there are only so many Cait Sith-moogles in the game, and 2 of them are around the stage in the date sequence). Cait Sith may have also been a proper staffperson given he had an in with other staff for a free hotel stay, and throwing your own worker into prison without hearing him out is not a good way to attract hired help.

Then Shinra in general deals with their enemies radically differently and often disproportionately. They had no compunction against murdering everyone in Corel and burning the place to the ground because of the damaged reactor because the townspeople were a convenient scapegoat, but when the Gongaga reactor exploded outright, they didn't do much about it and just left the people to bury the dead and live in a town half wiped off the map. Despite this, when Sephy burned down Nibelheim, Shinra decided the logical solution was to rebuild an exact replica and staff it with actors for the next 5 years. It makes you wonder why they didn't just say the increased monster activity had overrun it and tragically burned it down rather than wasting all that effort for a town so remote nobody who visited knew the difference. Shinra also had an entire war with Wutai over Materia, but Wutai is still standing somehow, because crashing their economy was just as good, I guess? Despite this, they had no compunction with murdering two cities' worth of their own citizens as long as 6 specific ones were among them. This comes down to the villains being evil for the sake of it, because trying to nail down their reasoning for nearly anything they do is impossible since it's so inconsistent.

The dialog tends to be very dramatic, and I mean that in the teen angst sense. There's a good deal of posturing from many characters, especially early on, and it's not going to be challenging your vocabulary much. The villains don't come off at all human, and the Shinra staff end up quite shallow and boring because of it despite their freakishly evil actions. Sephiroth as a person in the present makes just as little sense as Shinra over their years of activity, alternately hurting and helping the party, showering them with gifts and information for no adequate reason, and in particular ends up being quite cordial towards Cloud at times. I get the guy is insane, but it shouldn't be in the multiple personality sense given his ultimate goal never changes.

As a final consideration, the dating mechanics leave a lot to be desired. Bear with me, because it really is a writing problem, and that problem is that there are 4 potential people to date and only 2 of them are any sort of right answer. The only way to get Yuffie is to find some means of treating everyone else like garbage and drip-feeding points into her pool, since she earns the fewest for any given option, or sacrificing oodles of cash to abuse the fact that you can do her intro sequence as many times as you want and fail the last question to build up the points. That scenario ends with Cloud pretty much treating her like garbage, too, even though she's the only one to be forthright enough to kiss him. I can understand the logic behind that, because by that point, the player has put forth a mountain of effort to get there, most likely at being terrible. It's appropriate for their final reward to be lacking. However, it's actually easier to end up with Barret, and that turns out even worse. You skip the play segment altogether as a cheap shot of "Here's our lucky 100th couple! Oh, wait, never mind," which boots you out of the area in literal seconds, and then on the gondola, all Barret has to say is that you should have chosen one of the other 3 love interests and bitch that he's out there watching fireworks with you when Marlene deserves it more. I get it, Barret is straight. He was married. His date point logic incorporates a preference toward women. And ultimately, he does come off as a bit "confused" and very nervous, which some people might find cute, but that's the culmination of their efforts, and they never get to see anything more come of it. To have the player work for hours only to get such meager returns on it is deplorable writing. If you're not going to give a reward for the player investing their time, don't give them the option. So the only "right" choices are Aeris and Tifa, as if the manual didn't already say as much. I honestly went into the Barret video expecting some sort of humorous scene and left with a bad taste in my mouth because of how blatantly it punished the player for making the "wrong" decision over the course of several hours which they will never, ever get back, and could be encountered fairly innocently, since a quick review of the points on date mechanics shows that Barret gets some pretty hefty boosts from very simple dialog options just by being in the party, and that's without being particulalry terrible to either Aeris or Tifa, especially since Tifa's options almost always oppose Barret's for equal value and the "Barret" option often is the "nicer" or "cooler" option. Remember, YouTube didn't exist when this game came out, so the only way to see this was to play up to that point or hack it. That is a failure of writing, and a failure of game design. If it were some sort of midpoint to the relationship, it would work much better, and to be honest, all but Yuffie's come off as a midpoint. But as far as the story goes, the only two options are to tragically lose your love interest or to end up with Tifa, which means half of the options aren't in any way acknowledged.

Score: 3-5/10. Playing through the PS1 version, the translation is just laughably bad in places and I almost wondered how this ended up being the most popular game of the franchise before I remembered they had Cloud and Aeris on flipping McDonald's cups. The amount of marketing for this game was unprecedented at the time and is still extensive by today's standards. That combined with spoilers of Aeris dying, which was not something American audiences had really seen before since main characters dying was rare enough and female ones dying was unheard of, and the amount of hype behind this game was obscene. I give the PC version a 5 because it honestly doesn't deserve more than that for having a competent translation, which is what games are supposed to have. I'm sorry, but you don't take home the gold from having what you're supposed to have as a baseline. Even the PC version is severely lacking in quotable lines and snappy writing in general. When one of the best lines you have is about drinking tea, you're getting a C. That said, the writing has its moments and remains at least competent throughout. I won't give lower because while the PS1 translation is lacking, it's never unintelligible. I find myself less annoyed about it than disappointed, and it was good for a laugh with a fellow RPG fan in the office, but if that was the first version I'd played, I'd probably have never gotten into the rest of the series.

Of the playable cast of 10 characters counting a temporary character, exactly half of them were experimented on by Shinra, and exactly a third of them watched everyone they knew die as their hometowns were burned to the ground, excluding the one who did one of the burnings. There is some unfortunate overlap in all this. So when all but one of them have a legitimate beef with Shinra, it's pretty understandable.

Some characters get significantly more screen time than others. Two of them are purely optional, but one of those two actually gets a good deal of screen time and is really well integrated. That one happens to be Yuffie. As annoying as she can be with the various ways she screws the party, Yuffie is one of the best examples I can think of when it comes to integrating an optional character into the cast, and she really feels like she belongs there. Vincent is another matter and doesn't do or say much. Part of that IS his character, but where you get to see Yuffie move around and do some pretty kooky things, Vincent doesn't even get opportunity to stand in a corner looking cool, because by the time you get him, the events where the party splits up and does stuff to relax have dried up.

Cloud is a great example of player choice, since your chosen dialog options do a lot to determine his personality. Despite this, many choices have a ridiculous amount of weight. All the nice things you can say to Biggs, Wedge, Jessie, and Tifa can get completely overridden by giving the flower to Tifa instead of Marlene, whereas giving the flower to Marlene requires you to treat everyone else like crap to get the same effect. Overall, though, despite what ultimately happens in the game, Cloud is a pretty upbeat character, which is something severely lacking in the modern market to the point they rewrote his whole personality in Advent Children to match what they felt audiences would expect. I sincerely hope they don't back-port that change into the remake, because removing the type of agency that can so much as determine Cloud's sexual orientation would be a real loss that's in grave danger of happening based on what the team has said, even though they've promised to keep some of the more lighthearted moments of the game itself.

However, other characters ended up only serving to reinforce the story as a whole or Cloud's story in particular. Tifa's main function is to forward Cloud's personal arc by directly tying into his past, and there's not much to her outside of that. She never mentions anything of what happened while Cloud was away, never had any other romantic interests, and her personality tends to be a generic female stock for the most part with little to characterize her past "female" and "nice." The moments she really shines the brightest are when she's interacting with people other than Cloud, particularly Aeris, but the opportunity doesn't come often. Aeris herself is a pretty good character who demonstrates a willingness to try to keep up with the others even when she's not physically up to speed, and she can be downright manipulative in the most positive way that can be meant, playing off her own femininity and cuteness to push people in the right direction at times. However, as one of the first three characters conceived for the project, it was almost immediately decided she'd die to forward the plot. Similarly, Red XIII exists mostly as a convenient way of tying in a lot of exposition, and much of his allure comes from how little we end up knowing about him despite him being one of the better-fleshed characters. The saddest part is a lot of his backstory ended up on the cutting room floor. It's not that they didn't have plans for him; it's that almost none of it made it into the final game. Cait Sith doesn't have a whole lot to him, though in his case, it's understandable given his role as a puppet, and he does get some shining moments.

That said, despite some of them being somewhat stock, there's a lot done to make them interesting. Barret's being a father and rebel leader does a lot to enhance his Mr. T stock, and Red XIII remains one of my favorites because he really is just a kid trying to act like an adult and it often shows through in subtle ways. The characters mostly get ample time to move around so you get to know them and there's plenty of fine detail to their histories and personalities that adds up over the course of the game.

Score: 7/10. Despite some of the characters being railroaded, it doesn't stop you from getting to know and care about them. The party is serviceable and their colorful vibrancy means everyone will find a favorite stock and grow to appreciate them as nuance is added.

Story average: 6-7/10. FF7 didn't get popular without a decent story to pull you through the game. That said, the PC version is definitely the better translation.


The game doesn't have a whole host of systems like some games, and in a way there's strength in that. It really does let the game focus on the ones it has, which are rock solid. Minigames happen once during the course of the game and are then generally playable by choice in the Gold Saucer. Beyond that, most of the real systems are centered around battle. Limit Breaks got their formal debut here after the team decided Desperation Attacks in FF6 were too unreliable, and the team decided to use them to really differentiate the characters. The Materia system allows you to assign skills to any character without having to worry much about the character's individual abilities, and further allows you to customize for your own play style, especially as things open up. They really are color-coded for your convenience, and you can easily mix and match, or choose a color and load someone down with magic or load them down with skills or load them down with buffs or not load them with anything, and all of them are valid tactics.

Magic in general is quite useful, though. Summoning is pretty much a standard action in the game in the later stages, but is an important addition when you get it early on for softening up bosses, and the way it's handled, intentionally limiting the number of times you can do it in a battle, keeps it well-balanced throughout the game. Enemy Skill is one of the most useful Materia you can get, not just because of how many spells it can learn, but because some of those spells, like Matra Magic, are quite useful just on their own. It's also the only Command Materia that costs MP, and things like Steal and Manipulate give useful effects for no cost at all and allow you to mix and match abilities freely that often were bound to job classes in previous games while adding an equal number of new effects.

Status is also an important consideration in the game. There are plenty of ways to inflict it and some Materia are purely status-based. Other attacks have status attached, and Bio is the earliest elemental magic you find outside of Fire, Ice, and Bolt, providing Poison-elemental damage and the Poison status fairly early in the game. Hades is a useful summon for its ability to pile on the status while also doing damage, either by casting it or pairing it with Added Effect on your weapon. You can get by just fine without it (status is just not my play style), but the game very much enables those who prefer to leave their enemies in a quivering heap before finishing them off.

Score: 10/10. The Materia system alone earns this. I struggled with giving this a perfect score, and started saying I couldn't justify higher than Great, but Materia remains one of my favorite systems of all time, offering a simple, but flexible method of customizing your party, and there are enough Materia types that you could play the game your entire life and never have to do things the same way. FF7 is rock-solid in the systems department, which made up for many of its flaws, including an error-prone initial translation, and adding the various minigames at certain points in the game kept things interesting. The ability to replay most of them any time you want is a great feature. I'll admit that as a kid, playing every subsequent game in the series just left me disappointed that the ability systems paled in comparison to Materia until I got over it sometime between when I first started FFX and when FFX-2 came out.

The default control scheme for PS1 wasn't changed from the original Japanese, and this can be a headache when you've just come from most other games. The PC version using the numpad was a pretty neat way of keeping things simple and my family actually got the overlay card the PC version came with laminated. I played on PC growing up and have to say it worked well, and you can redefine your controls in the PS1 version, which suits me just fine. The game plays just fine.

Another benefit comes in that it's very easy to move around environments because of them being pre-rendered 2D. There's no clunky steering controls, no fighting with a camera, and despite that sounding like a given, there are other games that mucked it up. The simplicity allows for more creative level design to be executed cleanly, so things can be hidden up ledges you climb or through a tunnel puzzle without it being obtuse, enabling and rewarding exploration.

Otherwise, it's a menu-based RPG, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's also nice you can customize not only the order of your items, but of your spells as well, allowing you to prioritize everything based on your play style.

Score: 7/10. I'm bumping it up a point because of the PS1's key define and the overlay from the PC version, respectively. So many games don't allow you to define your controls, and including a help card was something that Square and Eidos really wouldn't have been expected to do, but really helped me play as a kid. I hate to say it, but 6 is about as high as a standard JRPG control scheme can really get, since it's mostly menu-based. Otherwise, the minigames have sensible controls which I feel are worth another point for the PS1 version and the numpad was worth a 6 itself for PC. The action-oriented sequences work well and the controls do what they need to. So both versions walk away with a 7.

Let me just say that FF7 is one of the many games I never actually finished for various reasons. I've lost my saves an embarrassing number of times over the years, but if you grind like I do, it's plenty long. I can proudly say I've maxed out the clock.

It's also one I don't mind starting over on when it happens. I mean I'd rather not, but every time I end up starting a new file, I end up finding something new. There's plenty of detail in the game to see that you probably missed at some point.

Score: 7/10. I can't really say there's replay value for any specific reason which would rate this higher, but it's definitely long enough and you're likely to find something new every time you play like I have. A bit of NPC dialog, or dating a different character, or taking the other path invading Shinra HQ, ranging from the obvious to the little touches. If the divergence your choices create didn't abruptly dry up after Disc 1, I'd happily rate this higher.

Gameplay average: 8/10. For me, it was the gameplay that really sold this game. The story is nice enough, but if it didn't have as good of gameplay as it does, it wouldn't have become the phenomenon it did.


The game looks like nothing else in the series, and I think that's a good thing, because it represents a big break for Nomura and ultimately is what brought the series into 3D in a good way. Amano can be a good artist when he gives a shit, but his FF art is so phoned in compared to what he's capable of it's almost criminal, and his style naturally gravitates towards the magical rather than the mechanical. Nomura's more modern attitudes ultimately made the series what it is and cut out all the effort that went into trying to cram Amano's excessively detailed style into tiny sprites and just outright ignoring him half the time. Don't get me wrong, now that we have the polygons to throw at it, Amano's art would be possible to translate more directly and it would be gorgeous, but it would be so foreign to how the series has always looked that it really couldn't be an FF game. Nomura is just better capable of designing iconic characters in the first place, which relies on bolder shapes and recognizable features. I think giving this to Nomura was a good idea because he better understood limitations and was able to work within them to create a varied and interesting cast. It's also a big win in that Nomura designed both the party and the enemies. Nomura had been an enemy designer even while Amano was still designing the cast, and a look at the technical nature of their work shows Nomura is very big on shape and silhouette, while Amano's lines are a mess and his focus tends to be on color when it comes to his work on the series. The increased fidelity made shape much more important, and Nomura's care in that department as opposed to Amano's method of "good enough to give the idea" meant that Nomura did most of the work for the graphics artists and allowed them to focus on implementation.

The world is in a state of decay in places, which is not something the series had really done before, but I think the biggest accomplishment was that Red XIII and Cait Sith are the only animal party members to appear in a science fantasy setting, and Red works so well in it that he could easily have worked with minimal adjustments in FF8 and FF13 from an appearance standpoint, while Cait bridged the gap by introducing two series icons into the third dimension without being afraid to make major changes. Like have you LOOKED at that moogle? While FF6 is the only game prior to include the pom-pom, FF7 took it further by giving that thing tusks, and it lacks a nose, which appears on other moogles in-game. The thing is outright an abomination. Animal characters in the series tend to be fluffy and chubby and non-threatening, and even the Bangaa originally appeared much more friendly than they were redesigned for FF12. Red is different in that he's lean and might actually be threatening if you met him in a dark alley. I mean, I can't speak for that, because somewhere along the line I ended up losing any fear Nature intended of things like big cats, but I assume that a normal, sane person would probably brown their shorts a bit if faced with something like that. Cait himself is not threatening, but assuming you saw the moogle first, you probably wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of that, either. The only reason it's not terrifying is because it's always wearing a big, dumb smile. That sucker looks perfectly capable of stuffing you in its mouth and I played enough SkiFree as a kid to be wary of anything that fits that bill. Anyway, animal characters are very much a holdover from older games and are conspicuously absent from newer ones, so to marry the old with the new like that is pretty great, and I wish modern Square had more bravery in that department. Even with FF11, they've been downplaying, hiding, or even removing the more animalistic traits of their non-human races in official art and it reeks of them being afraid to have that stuff around because, I dunno, furries or something. Believe me, you're not going to dodge the furry bullet, because if it's not your catgirls and beastmen, it's your monsters. Furries are not that picky.

Otherwise, the game ranges from the rusted-out industrial ruins courtesy of Shinra to the verdant greens of untouched lands. There is no "perfect place" in the world where people live. Some of the places are pretty nice, such as the idyllic Mideel, but Mideel is an idyllic shanty town. The closest is really Kalm, whose only issue is the Zolem disrupting their mining. Wutai is a close second, since it's the only other one not in some form of disrepair, and even that is stated to be a shell of its former self. Costa del Sol doesn't count, because the only living space there is sitting empty unless YOU buy it. Otherwise, places are half destroyed, placed in environments which were irreparably fucked (Icicle Inn is in perpetual winter because of North Crater sucking up the lifestream to heal), or shanty towns with no bathrooms. Seriously, Cosmo Canyon has exactly zero toilets, 2 fridges, 5 beds, and 3 sinks, and Bugenhagen is the only one who has a real house and one of each, with the rest of the populace in shacks propped up in the air and Red living in a storage room connected to a bar and inn which itself has 1 sink, the mini-fridge, and only 2 beds with a couch set up as the third, and the other 2 beds are prison cots in the stores!

(*pant* *pant*)

And to be honest, I wouldn't have it any other way.

The Planet is suffering and that's brought through by all the people more or less suffering with it. The only place in the world other than Kalm that might be cushy is the upper plate in Midgar, and you never get to see that. Anywhere that isn't half falling apart either physically or spiritually is a tourist trap or owned by Shinra, and anything that's owned by Shinra was built on top of someone else, whose home then gets flooded with the upper city's pollution and waste, or in Nibelheim's case was rebuilt on top of the ashes and staffed by actors. Kalm is the only place in the world that suffers none of that, and as such a sleepy little town, it ends up being more or less boring. You're more or less expected to head directly there, stock up on the shops, watch a flashback, and leave, and it wasn't until after the original Japanese version that there was any reason to go back (the Kalm Traveler was added for the North American release). Cosmo Canyon remains one of my favorite locations because of how badly the people actually live. This is the knowledge capital of the world when it comes to ecology and the people who live there or are visiting to learn are ostensibly pissing off a cliff and only washing their hands when they visit the mess hall since that's the only public sink. It's a place full of hippies living dirty lives without most modern amenities, including one of the elders not even having so much as a sleeping mat in his room. Nobody has their own space, and everything is doubled up. Despite being the only guy in a real house, Bugenhagen has a telescope and planetarium that he has no issue showing people and his home doubles as presentation space and probably a crash pad with the futon in the bedroom. The store owners live in their stores when there's any visible living space at all, though technically, the item store owner is the best off of anyone but Bugenhagen, since his actual living space is in a separate room. Red's own room is a mess of feathers and a metal bar haphazardly strewn on the floor and his blanket-bed is blackened, probably from everyone stepping all over it to get to the storage units, with the room lined by what are either filthy pillows or hopefully burlap bags in a state of minor disarray. It's a terrible place to live despite being so highly revered.

Score: 8-9/10. FF7 takes the steampunk feel of FF6 to its logical extreme and draws a stark contrast between nature and artiface, and the more nature there tends to be in a place, the worse it really is to live in by modern standards. It's a constant reminder of the exchange between comfort and the destruction of nature. The details of the world really did sell the game. I'm waffling on giving this a 9, so have a range on this. I really do think the design of the world is one of the things that ultimately put the whole series on the map, since prior to FF7, the series was very niche, and would have never gone mainstream with a traditional fantasy setting as present in earlier games or even the steampunk fantasy of FF6. FF7's mixing of the industrial with the natural gave the series a world that was at times familiar and at times foreign or even drastically alien. With the tech boom of the 90s, it was a wise decision to incorporate modern elements, as well as to warn what might come of it.

Let me just say that the visuals were never impressive. It's not that it hasn't aged well. That would imply it was ever considered pretty by the standards of the time. There were overall prettier games at the time including the Crash Bandicoot series which made better use of the graphics hardware, and even the pre-rendered cutscenes use blocky models. Despite this being one of the first games I ever owned for anything but DOS, which my brother and I begged my mother to buy us on PC, I was never impressed by the field graphics, and a good deal of my begging was highlighting how simple the graphics were so our underpowered machine at the time could still handle it. My first thought once we finally got it was that battle looked pretty good and I couldn't fathom why it wasn't like that all the time. Thinking in purely technical terms even today, I can't think of a good reason why the chibi models had to be used, because there's rarely more field models on screen sucking up polygons than the equivalent GPU burden of larger monster groups in battle or more complex single enemies. While field models wouldn't have needed the same level of detail as battle models, there's no adequate reason they had to be as crude as they are other than that they fit Square's comfort zone. The chibi style was chosen not because they couldn't have done them in more realistic proportions, but because they felt the larger heads would make them more expressive. You can see the logic extending straight out of how FF6 and Chrono Trigger were done, but the FF7 models don't emote in such a cartoonish manner that would benefit from it and the faces at most blink anyway and you're rarely close enough to see it, netting exactly nothing in expressive gains. For those who came off FF6, it would have been a natural progression, but that wasn't the reason behind it and Square admits they could have made better and consciously chose not to.

In addition, even in battle, many animations are stiff and lifeless. The summons suffer the brunt of this, but many enemies have limited animation as well, such as the Formula. This is a major reason why FF8 was visually impressive when it came out. The FF8 summons actually moved around and had life to them, where the effort wasn't put in for the FF7 ones and they have very basic movements for the most part, even as they produce complex magical effects. Don't believe me? Do a comparison on Shiva, Ifrit, Odin, Leviathan, and Bahamut between 7, 8, and 9. Their summon sequences are almost exactly the same respective length between the games (please note that our videos have differences in the lead-up and aftermath to account for), but in FF7, they spend a good deal of that time staying mostly still as particle effects fly around. Don't get me wrong, Odin is head and shoulders above the others in terms of dynamic camera angles and dynamic animation and I was pretty impressed as a kid, but even that gets put to shame in FF8 alone. I hope the remake keeps their original designs, since I frankly hate what they've done with Ifrit lately and there's nothing wrong with the FF7 designs. They're based on tried-and-true classics and there's strength in the simplicity. But at the same time, the animations are largely based on what used to be static sprites and I'd like to see a little more life go into them, even if they keep the spirit of the original animations. The summon animations were impressive at first when I first saw them with no reference point, but they quickly became boring for the most part, since aside from a couple which boast different camera angles like Shiva, you're watching the same stiff animations over and over with no variation. In contrast, once the FF8 sequences blew them out of the water, I found myself getting distracted from Boosting them even toward the end of the game because the sequences are an utter shame to waste focusing on a little icon in the bottom corner, and they kept me engaged for as long as I played.

This isn't to say it's all bad. The character animations are enough to keep battle interesting when combined with the many enemies throughout the game and many actions have special animations that further set the characters apart. The spell animations do a good job of keeping things dynamic and the drip-feed of new spells over the course of the game as you get new Materia and your old ones level up ensure you don't have opportunity to get bored of them the same way you do of your summons. Setting the camera to Dynamic is probably the best decision you can make to keep things interesting because it means every action has more ways to show itself happening than you can easily become bored with. Battle models also often have tiny details that show a level of effort that wouldn't have been required.

There's also nothing wrong with the environments either in battle or in the field. Battle environments take place in a relatively small box and the only thing that will ever show the edge is Choco/Mog. They did a great job of doing the walls like a matte painting and "open" environments look like they could go forever.

Score: 4/10. While battle deserves higher, the field screens where the story happens are bogged down by the decision to make it all chibi. Even some of the cinematics use the style and it reeks of laziness. Some of the most emotional scenes in the game are performed by tiny, low-poly actors that don't have the fidelity to emote properly in a realistic manner and aren't animated in the cartoonish manner of the sprites they were modeled after, making it sometimes difficult to tell what's going on with the in-between treatment without text cues, especially while you're trying to read the text and missing half of the motions since they often don't wait and only are mentioned after the fact. To make matters worse, the emotes are often too slow to be realistic in any manner and combined with the wide motions they end up losing most of their visual impact as everyone moves through molasses. This can make even key scenes ride completely on the music, and if the music weren't as good as it is, they'd have no weight at all. Worse yet, the minigames use even lower-poly models to the point things can become unrecognizable. 3D for the sake of 3D has never been a good argument, and if you can't do it properly, use sprites. It's not like the game doesn't rely heavily on 2D planes for the bulk of its spell effects as it is. The Fort Condor minigame in particular would have been much better off if they hadn't been set on using 3D models so rudimentary they struggle to even imply a humanoid shape. They look like placeholder graphics. Even with full-3D minigames, other games with the same and even previous release years looked miles better with similar things going on. Ultimately, the graphics mostly get the point across, so I won't give it lower than this, but the inexperience with 3D shows. I also have to say the limited resolution with the PC version is not doing it any favors. It's not Eidos' fault, but rather Square's for having destroyed the original assets, which could have been used to re-render the environments for the higher resolution.

To be honest, the music is among the stand-out OSTs of the series. Most of it isn't amazing, just taking home the bronze compared to what the rest of the series has to offer, which there's no shame in when the series is on its 15th entry of the numbered titles and countless spin-offs, spiritual successors, and retroactive inclusions at this point. However, it does deserve credit for doing things so differently. Most of the anthems that pervaded the series are gone or heavily modified. The battle music is the first ever to break away from the traditional bassline. The Chocobo Theme was turned into a surfer rock thing called "Electric de Chocobo" which is punctuated in the beat by chirping sounds and it's honestly my favorite rendition even today because of it. The music is quite varied as a whole and provides a great atmosphere regardless of the situation. In particular, variations of certain themes are used to express emotion and are quite effective in doing so. What isn't great on its own earns points for being so different from what came before or since. And personally, I was shocked when I went back and played the older games to see how much FF7 had broken the mold, because it wasn't until I'd started files on 4 of them that I realized ALL of them shared many of the same themes and leitmotifs.

Aside from that, the ingenuity used in creating some of the songs is astounding. The chirping in "Electric de Chocobo" is actually a guitar fret noise played at an unusally high pitch. How do I know this? Because I'm a MIDI composer myself and I'm familiar with the available sounds. Guitar Fret Noise and Breath Noise are both available at the head of the sound effects block for those who want to give their music a more organic feel. Square played this straight in their PS1 remake of FF1, but here it was used for a sound effect.

Score: 8/10. When you're judging as much music as this game has, you have to make some averages. As a whole, the music is very effective and there are an unusual number of fan-favorite tracks in the title. Part of that is the sheer volume of music in the game, but another part of it is there's so much variation that it's easy to find something you like and the wide range opened up genres that hadn't really been allowed before. The effect was lasting and some of the music in FFX sounds like it was ripped from FF7.

Voice and Other:
Being as old as it is, voice isn't really expected, though it is the first game of the series to feature voice acting. (FF5 is actually the first of the series to feature digitzed voice as a shout during one of the tracks.) However, it's not much to judge on, and doing so is hardly fair.

Otherwise, the sound is purely descriptive. Every spell or attack makes one and it's pretty much always some low-fi sample related to the action being performed, and while it's not always a real sound that the action would make, it generally implies it well enough that the creativity feels limited. The quality of the effects also just isn't that good. I was never wowed by it, even as a kid first playing.

That said, I do appreciate the fact that they added special sounds for critical hits, and while they range from awful to okay, it's something they wouldn't have had to do and it really highlights the fact that you're hitting harder than usual.

It's also neat from a technical standpoint that, at least in the PC version, there are certain sounds that were stored as uncompressed WAV format, including the recurring wind and heartbeat sound effects, so you know the devs somewhere along the line felt they were too important to skimp on.

Score: 5/10. I can't really give either version higher than this. Despite a couple nice touches and points of interest, the sound effects are just not that good. What they lack in quality, they make up for in quantity, but a lot of middling effects still deserves a middling score.

Aesthetics average: 6-7/10. The game wins some and loses some, but ultimately the things it got right were done well enough to prop up the things it didn't do as well.

Total Score: 8 + 3-5 + 7 + 10 + 7 + 7 + 8-9 + 4 + 8 + 5 = 67-70/100.

96-100: A must-have for any collection.
90-95: An experience to gain new fans for the genre.
80-89: A must-have for fans of the genre.
70-79: Worth buying to check out.
60-69: Rent before buying.
50-59: Worth a rent, but not buying.
40-49: May gain a cult following.
30-39: Likely skip this one.
0-29: Avoid at all costs.

FF7 for PS1 is, well, an anomaly. With so much that people hadn't seen before in a game, as well as aggressive marketing and extensive word-of-mouth, the game had so much hype that people definitely overlooked its flaws. However, the PC version fixed the worst of the issues while also dealing with its own and ultimately is the better experience overall, though it doesn't exactly put the original to shame. However, FF7 is also over-hated, and while it's not winning the gold, it's a competent game for the most part. While it has several areas with lower scores, they're propped up by the things the game did well, including solid systems and a great OST that carried scenes the graphics couldn't.


I know it's become a meme of sorts to do the punctuation around both sides, but I'm too lazy to go copy it from someone else and I want to be more serious about this. To be honest, I think it does some things right and some things wrong, so let's get started.

First off, the entire outside perimeter has been rearranged. Volume has been moved up to the top screen opposite the 3D slider, which seems to be the only thing to have kept its spot. The stylus is now in the front instead of the side and is a centimeter shorter than everything that's come before. The game carts also go in the front left, and the headphone jack is in the front center. The front also houses the power button now, and if you thought it was hard to press on the face of the 3DS, you're in for a nasty surprise. Start and Select are now roughly where the power button used to be, putting it back in line with the DS, and the Home button has been reduced to a third of its size on the 3DS and taken away from the edge. The power cord now plugs into the dead center of the back and the lanyard holes have been changed to one on the back face from the 3DS' front corners. The IR port has been bumped a bit more toward the center of the back to make way for ZL and ZR, but remains on the same side. L and R have been reduced in width by a bit, too, but it's subtle and I had to compare side-by-side to confirm. The hardware switch to turn off wireless communication has been removed entirely. The cameras are unchanged.

The face has also been slightly adjusted. The left side is totally unchanged from the 3DS XL, but the right side has bigger face buttons and they've broken the tradition of arranging them in a perfect square diamond into one that's stretched a bit wider. The new analog stick is just kind of tossed above the upper left of this arrangement and there was so little room they actually had to create a divot in the hinge to make way for your thumb. It's very haphazard. It's also less a "stick" or and more a "nubbin." Those who remember laptops from the late 90s and early 2000s might remember this as what we affectionately called the "mouse nipple" placed dead center in the keyboards. It was a special time for both technology and slang.

As for how it feels in your hands, the answer is surprisingly familiar. The net result of all the rearranging brings it to a hybrid between the DS and 3DS and the volume being placed out of the way is a lifesaver. While it's slightly larger than the 3DS XL, it's also a bit lighter and everything is relatively easy to reach in terms of buttons, other than the power. ZL and ZR are placed in such a way that you can use your fingertips for them and the next part down your finger for L and R. It's basically the one feature I've been wishing the Vita had since forever.

As for how it plays, the new nubbin is surprisingly responsive without being touchy or jittery. It's perfect for camera input as evidenced by Final Fantasy Explorers (review to come once I play more). The rest feels more or less like you're right at home. The head tracking for the 3D is a great feature even if you need to set a constant distance to play at, but the auto-level backlight is a bit of a pain. It seems like playing at night with a ceiling light leaves your screen consistently too dim and I really wish you could manually set a level like on the DS instead. The new colors on the face buttons would be easy to read on a white background, but the unit I got is the same charcoal black as my DS and 3DS and the blue and green of the X and Y buttons are too dark to be easily read.

As for the software, it's a 3DS. I mean that in every sense. The whole package is a 3DS with a few more inputs, since the Circle Pad Pro failed so miserably. Sure, it has more under the hood, which helps with load times and such, but there's nothing that separates the actual software from what the 3DS has. It's the same system with the same OS, just a bit beefier. It's almost disappointing, because I was almost hoping it would be one of Nintendo's famous half-steps like the DSi, but it's not even that, or even a quarter-step. More like an eighth-step. The extra inputs are a nice touch, but it's nothing you absolutely need, unless you're like me and not having a dedicated camera stick makes action games essentially unplayable. I plan on using it interchangeably with my normal 3DS. And I guess at the end of the day there's nothing wrong with that.

Grandia updated early impressions[]

So I've played a little bit more and have a feel for the battle system and how things are handled in the field. Let me just say the base is there for the series, but again, it was tweaked to be better in later games. I wrote this a while ago and never posted it, but since I ended up putting it down to focus on FF7, I'm leaving it as-is.

The systems are most akin to Grandia II, with you walking or running about the field with monster groups represented by avatars in the field. It's 2 monsters to every 1 displayed in the field, which gives you a good idea of what to expect. Like in Grandia II, you initiate battle by making contact with the enemy. If one party gets the other from behind, they gain the battle advantage. The thing is the enemies are fast enough and aggro far enough out that it's difficult for you as the player to do that. As soon as you get within 10 feet of them, they almost automatically know you're there and bum rush you, lighting up with red to indicate their aggro. This means you can generally expect to break even and nothing more. I did discover that you CAN turn on the analog sticks, and let me tell you, this is a lifesaver. Why the Vita defaults to Digital Mode, I have no idea, but it definitely makes it easier, though far from trivial, to back-attack and even avoid enemies. I can admit when I'm wrong and I was wrong about the controls, and trust me, I'm glad for it.

I've also seen more of the graphics and I just have to say the Vita does not handle PS1 games well. Or at least not this one. There seems to be a special palette that combines primary red and yellow, and it's used on both your Gold symbol and the gold pieces and shading bright yellow with bright red just looks like crap, and outlining with it does things few favors, such as on the ring icon, which looks like it's half selected at all times, which is starting to bug me even more now. In fact, the use of bright red in general is pretty atrocious, because it's pretty much everywhere, being used to shade enemy ATB icons, the party, and 90% of all equipment icons. Even though they've done a great job of hiding it for the most part, primary red permeates this game and now that I noticed it, I can't unsee it. The thing is this is very much a Vita problem when it comes to it staring you in the face. For whatever reason it seems the Vita brightens the reds far more than they appear on a TV, which I actually adjusted based on the Vita, which I may have mentioned talking about the FFX|X-2 HD Remaster. Everything looks just fine on the TV, and I actually modified this to pull back now I know it's not really the game's fault.

Combat is unfortunately the game's fault and is a great way to get either a seizure or motion sick, because they went with a dynamic camera that's constantly zooming in and out and panning back and forth on what amounts to a 2D field, and as a result of the various rounding errors and lack of anti-aliasing, all the sprites in the field jitter around. I found myself getting motion sick, and I'm the type of guy who can read in a car for hours. I only really get motion sick on the more extreme carnival rides, and the first time that happened was in my late teen years, which absolutely sucked, because, well, would YOU want to develop the urge to hurl doing things you never had trouble with before? Don't get me wrong, it looks very 3D, but only because the ground tiles are painted that way, with certain 3D features around the edges for flavor. The environment is well-designed, but the sprite handling leaves something to be desired. Things generally aren't kept at 1x maginification, which turns some nice sprite work very ugly very quickly. This is all really the PS1's fault rather than the game's, since with a bit more smoothing, the entire effect would have been great, but the PS1 just did not have the power for that to happen.

On the other hand, the field and combat music are great. The field music has more of a jazzy feel than the rest of the series, but it's not a bad thing. The combat music is much more dramatic than that of the rest of the series, adding a lot more of a feeling of danger to the normal encounters, and sounds much more like a boss theme for the normal music and an even bigger boss theme for when you get surprised. It almost makes me wonder where the boss music can go from there, but there's still a little wiggle room left. It shows a clear base for the rock-based themes of the series, but at the same time is unlike them, even more so than the Latin stylings of the Grandia Xtreme battle theme, which is more upbeat to match the other PS2 games.

The 3D graphics are a much better showing than how the 2D was ultimately handled, and while things are still relatively simple, there is a lot of detail on things like the small tree/bush things that look a bit like a spruce, if you painted it yellow-green and pared out enough branches that you could see them all individually. I'm not sure what it's supposed to be (probably just a fantasy plant), but I like it. Actually, it kind of reminds me of the bushes in Pokémon X, so maybe it's based on a Japanese shrub of some sort. At any rate, I did find a floating banner in the field depicting a bird, and it looks great. All it does is give you a bird's eye view of the immediate area (like the "map" in towns), but it doesn't seem like anything has replaced the functionality on the Select button yet, so all it did was take away a feature I should be able to use freely and put it on an action point.

The combat system set the baseline for the series standard, using a ruler to track the various units on their ATB. You have the turn lead-up, battle pauses to select commands, then charging time and finally execution, with whatever cooldown there might be sitting at the end before starting over. The characters are able to finish battles pretty quickly without needing to use special abilities so far. It is, however, a lifesaver to have a Bow equipped, because it will help close the gap between you and the enemy quickly and ultimately reduce your attack time by cutting out running animations.

I also have to say it's kind of interesting that bugs were split into multiple types in this entry, because they're not in later ones. The centipede enemies use a scorpion icon I'd never seen in later games and I looked it up only to find it's a completely different classification of "long insect" as opposed to just the normal "insect" and additional research shows there seem to be a lot of classifications that were later merged into more fundamental groups. It's interesting and is sure to add flavor and maybe even a little additional clarity, but I'm not sure it was necessary and can see why it was streamlined, since none of the items or weapons make much particular use of it according to the lists I've seen, which in itself is probably for the best.

Despite my complaints, the game has started winning me over. While there are graphical issues, ultimately combat is pretty fun and shares the same tactics with the rest of the series, and even seems to have the benefit of decent pathfinding and step counts high enough that you can reasonably expect to make it to your mark, which are the bane of the later games, where two units can end up colliding and running side by side until both simply run out of steps and are too far away to reach anything useful, or can simply run out of steps in what looks for all the world like striking distance and just stop and do nothing. The stat setup is actually very different from the later games in general, and it's proving not to be a bad thing, even if it is slightly (only slightly) more complex. There's a fun game buried under the problems and while I'm still very limited by being in the early game, I think it's worth pursuing.

X Rocker Spider gaming chair[]

I never thought I'd be reviewing a piece of furniture, but here we are. This will be updated as I'm able to experience it better, because to be frank, I'm pooped between handling this and putting my Syba sound card back in after my Creative card appears to have died. Here is a link to the product and store I got it from. At time of writing, this is a $270+ chair on sale for just over $170, and I got an extra 15% off for Cyber Monday, paying a bit under $150 for it.

To start this off, this thing is HEAVY. Whatever you're imagining by looking at the picture, double it. It's also a lot bigger than I expected. Mine came in just a couple days despite being 9 day economy and greeted me in the hall, where I tried to lift it and ended up having to treat it like a Zelda block-pushing puzzle to get it through my hall and into the kitchen for working space. From there I started taking pieces out to discover that while the chair itself is moderately heavy, it accounts for less than half the weight of the package. The arms alone are like 10 pounds. The base is probably 15, matching the chair itself. The 2 parts that connect the chair to the base are easily 20 when combined, being noticeably heavier than either the chair or the base. And the stops for the arms (they swivel) are at least 5 pounds together. The sum total including the cords and other junk is somewhere between 60 and 70 pounds added up, and cumbersome. So at least you know it's sturdy.

I have yet to fully assemble it, but as a standard rocking gaming chair, it leaves a bit to be desired. It's a rather stiff seat, but once you settle in, it's very comfy, and feels more "supportive" than "hard." The balance is way off, though, and where most gaming chairs allow you to remain upright fairly easily, this one is "neutrally buoyant." It's trivial to end up staring at the ceiling in this thing, and without a person sitting in it, it leans unusually far back. It also is too short even with the base to be more than a gaming chair. I bought this for my desk, but it looks like it will ultimately be shorter than the kitchen chair I have in place now, which in turn is a bit short for my fancy corner desk.

While I haven't assembled it yet, I have tested the sound, and it comes with a small Bluetooth broadcaster powered by 2 AAA batteries or a power cord (neither is included). This can broadcast on 3 different channels, allowing up to 3 of these things to be used independently, or probably up to 7 to enjoy the same experience within a stated 65-foot radius. You can daisy chain a wired connection between multiple seats as well, so you could probably fill a 21-row theater with these things if you wanted. The chair needs to be plugged into an outlet to work, but seeing as it replaces a 2.1 speaker system, that's not the worst thing in the world. In my case, through wiring that is an affront to God and man, I managed to hook it up to be my bass and rear speakers in my 7.1 setup. I'd post what I had to do to get my setup as it stands working, but I don't want sound engineers worldwide to keep me up with their maddened screaming, so suffice it to say the 2.1 sound balance appears to favor the bass on the left channel despite coming from the right side of the bass/center port, and the extra splitters and combiners provided miraculously were enough along with an extra one I had on hand. Putting it on the other channel puts the volumes of the 2.1 out of whack. Once I had that figured out, the sound was pretty darn clear from my testing with it outside my bedroom door using both RCA and Bluetooth, and there are dials for master volume, bass, and vibration on the side of the chair itself, as well as a headphone jack, which just seems like missing the point. Chair-to-chair chaining is done through RCA, with a cord provided for this purpose. Also provided is a cord to come from a headphone jack for handheld devices like the Vita or 3DS. The chair is advertised as being compatible with all PlayStation and Xbox models, but it's really only compatible with any device that uses RCA for sound or has a headphone jack, meaning the latest entries of the PS and Xbox rely on S/PDIF to interface in.

That's all I can say for now, and I'll be updating this over the course of the coming week as I get it assembled and get to use it at my apartment, since I need to clear some space around my desk before I can use it in my room. As a final thought until then, it's pretty neat that the seat itself folds in half for easier storage and transportation, but once it's on the stand, it strikes me that the space savings are less than the marketing material suggests. You save a lot of vertical space, but less on the horizontal. This also exposes the bass apparatus to all the dust that could possibly fall on and into it, so if you do need to put it away for an extended period, I recommend a sheet or some other cover.


So, I got this thing assembled and tested it out properly, with me sitting in it and playing with the dials as the intro for Phantasy Star Universe played last night and additional testing today. I have to say, it's a bit of a mixed bag.

To start off with the assembly, it was actually piss easy to get the thing together. Either I lucked out or the company listens to feedback and corrected the issues in their hole drilling. Or, enough people are stupid and don't read instructions (which are almost entirely pictorial) that they messed up the arm assemblies. Whatever the case, my assembly went without a hitch. I have an inclination to write my own (abridged) review on Hayneedle just to say that, because a large chunk of their reviews claim they had to send these back one or more times before they were able to put one together, and I was seriously worried, as it turns out, for nothing. The worst I ran into was a couple of the bolts were a little stiff to screw in, and even then, I started every last one of them by hand before switching to the Allen wrench. The setup itself is so easy that half of it didn't even require the instructions, and I used them more as a reference just to verify what I was doing was correct as I went on my merry way.

As for how the chair sits on its stand, I was surprised how upright it is when I finally flipped the seat up as the final step. Thankfully, it can rock back, which I recommend, since it's much more comfy than sitting like you have a pole up your ass. It's nice that the arm rests can flip back to free up some elbow room, and that when flipped down, they're well-padded and at the perfect height for elbow support when holding a controller. Somebody did their homework on this, and lots of it. It's also taller than I anticipated, at a comfortable height for my 5'10" self to lean back and still have at least one foot firmly planted on the ground, though to be fair, I have proportionally long limbs (long enough I can pull off FF7, not long enough for xxxHOLiC). Overall, it's about the height of a kitchen chair between the base and thick seat, and the back rest goes high enough that the pillowed head part actually reaches your head. In fact, I realized while sitting at my desk today that it's at the exact height I have my work chair set to, so this thing is practically made for me. The back gives it a lot of vertical space when free standing, and with how upright it is, folding it down saves no horizontal space whatsoever, though it does halve its vertical profile.

The sound and vibration controls are easy to reach from sitting and are pretty intuitive to use from opposite the side one normally faces. Using them feels very natural and the peg on the master volume dial is comfortable to use to lazily adjust the volume with precision. It's casual to the extent it's almost like twirling the phone cord around your finger like a woman in a commercial, and while phones with cords died out in the Great Cellular Meteor Strike years ago, I'm sure YouTube has something for anyone young enough to have not seen one.

They also did a magnificent job of hiding the speakers. The bass is obvious in the back because it has to be, but the left and right are embedded at the top and I honestly couldn't tell where they were without getting out of the seat and looking for them. Every part of the seat is squishy and pressing on it doesn't reveal the location of the shields I'm sure are protecting them by touch, though it does cave in the area above a tiny bit, and I regret doing it, because it seems to be permanent. I was able to readjust the foam to better re-hide the worse of the two sides. There's only so much you can do and still protect the speaker, so I recommend taking my word for it if you get your own to keep it pretty. Despite my stupidity, it's great workmanship that borders on magic, because despite being so well buried, the sound isn't muffled at all, and the speakers manage to direct the sound into the cups of your ears even in a comfortable slouch, which is a pretty neat trick for coming from behind.

As for the sound and vibration, the sound is just as good as I said before, with a caveat that you'll get occasional crackling if you shift around too much, which I have determined is from the power cord being a mite touchy, though how that works is beyond me. It may also be because I accidentally closed mine in the car door, but it works fine unless you bump the plug itself, so it may also be the socket. Either way, it's fine during normal operation sitting in front of a screen. It takes a little adjusting for the sound to be coming from behind you rather than from the TV, but after a minute, you can easily be lost in it. It's a perfect balance in that it isn't distracting for it to be in its intended 2.1 setup, but for my own personal use, I think it also will work great as back speakers with other sound sources to keep me oriented.

The vibration is another matter. I started with it cranked all the way up under the thought process of "How bad could it be? It's vibration!" I almost immediately turned it all the way down in a panic when it kicked in, though, because the fabric of my seat was literally flapping behind me. I have to write that down as a disappointment, because at no point is it actually a vibrating chair in the sense of a massage chair like I expected. You control a single motor, which I'd hazard is a big one, embedded in the foam of the seat. It's actually rather uncomfortable, and while it would be great for increasing tension in something like Skyrim or a dinosaur game as a giant beast approaches, it's terrible for music. This is compounded by it only being in the lumbar area, and I am not really a lumbar kind of guy. I like me some full-back action, and I prefer the upper back if given a choice.

Another disappointment is it only activates for low-range bass and even then only when it's loud enough, so listening to music is only going to give you vibration on half or less of a bass part, and the cutoff is quite sharp. Unless your preferred band is heavy on timpani, you're not going to get a lot out of it. This seems specifically geared to sound effects rather than music, which is fine for a gaming chair, I suppose, but utterly fails to live up to the marketing. Again, the effect is terrible for music. You actually get a pretty comfortable full-back vibration from the bass itself if you have it cranked, which is consistent with the music, where the motor seems to register almost randomly throughout even a bass-heavy piece like the PSU theme and is just distracting. I also tried Tomba! and barely got anything, while Chrono Cross registered consistently, but to tones low enough I couldn't even hear them, revealing some sort of background talking drum part all of my years of enjoying the game had never revealed without the cue and which was only partly audible regardless, AND which put it off the audible beat considerably, and I know my low-range hearing is at least human average. It was so strange I had to turn the game off. In contrast, since my Vita decided to download Curses N Chaos, which I apparently purchased and pushed at some point, I decided to try it blind to see how the chair would react, and the result was "not at all" for the chip music and "beautifully" for the gameplay, confirming my suspicions. However, testing other games shows that you're not going to get much out of a JRPG or even most PS1 games, since very few of them use sound effects that low. Even the Thunder Plains in FFX, where I happen to be, didn't budge the motor on max. In fact, of the PS1 classics I tested, the only one to touch the motor outside of the opening theme was Grandia, and then only in the dungeon music, which incorporates, you guessed it, timpani. There were a lot of sounds I expected to be low enough to kick the motor into gear that didn't, so I fully expect this to do better with newer games in general, since they tend to have more realistic effects. Again, I'd expect this to be great in something like Skyrim, but it's pretty much lost on the more colorful fare of my available catalog, especially since I forgot to pack my standard PS2 travel library this week (I'll have a lot of time to play PSU, which was in the PS2). The vibration from bass itself is strong enough to be pleasant and will do a lot to carry the experience even when the motor fails to activate, but is not strong enough to be therapeutic like a massage chair (though it can get close at the right frequency), and overall I recommend turning the vibration off for your tunes and classics and on for your modern games, since that's how you'll maximize the benefits of each.

To comment on the look, since I didn't before, the black vinyl and mesh combined with red mesh gives it an edgy look and I wouldn't trade it for any other highlight color. It somewhat evokes the image of a black widow when combined with the name, but beyond the color doesn't have the overtone and is reminiscent of an arcade chair of sorts. The arm rests are car-like in their ability to flip up, but look sporty because of their gun-like shape and ring architecture, which is heavy and solid despite being 50% empty space. I have to admit I spent a minute making "pew-pew" noises playing with them before I put them on and it was shamelessly satisfying. The design means business. This is something they'd put in front of a racing sim where the crashes produce explosions. In comparison, the round, tapered base is disappointingly banal, like they got everything set up for a floor chair and then someone in Accounting decided it needed to swivel just before it shipped and designed it himself. The color is a lightish matte black that doesn't quite match and doesn't really go well in any respect. It lacks the aggressive lines and looks like an oversized lamp stand the likes of which you'd see in a rich person's house in a soap opera, and is about as edgy. To make matters worse, it's basically attached directly to the rocking apparatus for an ugly, clunky, abrupt transition to the chair itself, with the generous post recessed almost to the floor within the center of the base. This makes it stable as anything, but is a poor finish to a great appearance, like a model wearing the perfect outfit except for mismatched argyle socks leading down to your grandma's shoes. The whole apparatus is short enough that it disappears beneath the seat when looking at it from any sort of height, but when you get low enough to actually view more than the outer edge, it just doesn't go. This is a case where a more aggressive "X" base would have really done the trick visually, though I'm sure the round base is much better equipped to handle the weight. Like I said, the chair is heavy, and with 90% of the weight teetering over the post, I doubt an "X" base would be able to hold it without doubling the weight a round base can get away with to reinforce it or being outright a solid block. On the other hand, looking down on it and seeing the edge of the round base is pleasant, where looking down and seeing a couple legs poking out looks a bit strange in my mind's eye. I suppose that with a truer black and a more angular shape with an edge before dropping to the floor, even if it were just a plastic cosmetic, would have done the side profile more favors than the gentle sweep does.

Overall, it's a worthy purchase at such a heavy discount, provided you want a good gaming chair for a good price. While it's not perfect, every aspect of it earns a passing grade. It's stylish, sturdy, sounds great, and when the vibration motor is given the raw materials it needs, it works beautifully as an immersive device, with the bass acting as a vibration fill for an effective hybrid approach.


So, this thing is finally back in my room, and I'm actually typing this from my desktop. This marks the first time I've actually been comfortable enough at my desk to sit down and type something like this.

A couple things I didn't note at my apartment:

  1. Sitting in this thing is cold
  2. The base does NOT come apart after it's together!

I noticed this in my apartment, but between the very flat faces of the chair and it being largely made of vinyl, this is not something you'll be comfy with in a cold room. I'm actually bundled up in my trusty cloak typing this since it's late and my metabolism is running down. That said, it's not a deal-breaker. It was uncomfortable enough it made me favor my bed a bit in my apartment, but once it's warmed up, it's fine for the most part. Although I do have to wonder how it will be in a hot, muggy summer if this coming year is anything like the year behind us. Basically, except for those parts of you in immediate contact with it, you're at the mercy of the temperature of the room, so if you'd be cold sitting on a kitchen chair, you will be cold in this, especially until your body heat warms up the vinyl, and even then vinyl doesn't conduct the heat far past the immediate source.

Otherwise, the base simply does not come apart after it's been sat on. Looking at the parts, what appeared to be innocent welds now seem to have clamped down on either side of the post, so to transport it back home, I had to unbolt the base from the chair, and found that they'd actually loosened up over the course of the week, which was less than encouraging.

Once in two pieces, the chair was no harder to transport than it had been in its component parts. Well, easier, technically, as a whole, but the chair part of the chair was no harder to transport with the arm assemblies than it had been without them.

That said, the bolts went back in the way they'd gone in in the first place and I got to do a "real" test of my sound. The verdict? My Syba card is a LOT quieter than the Creative was, but as for the chair itself, it's going to serve the exact purpose I bought it for, giving me reliable back speakers in a chair that I can sit in long enough to enjoy it.

Awards Given[]

Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon.png
Bluestarultor Rays.png
Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon.png

Five Portal-Star Award

This shining blue text is to announce that Bluestarultor thinks Bluestarultor is a five-star editor. Bluestarultor's contributions to the wiki, and/or to Bluesey's efforts, deserve recognition and accolade.

Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon.png
Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon.png
Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon.png

Given to:

  • Sorceror Nobody - for being my go-to guy when looking at wiki code, amassing a horde of l'Cie, and being one of the few people I've come to really know and trust here in my relatively short time editing.
  • Drake Clawfang - for being my go-to staff person, doing more for the wiki daily than I could ever hope to, and being another of the few people I've come to know and trust in my short time here.
  • 8bit BlackMage - for helping for weeks on end with implementing some CSS for the wiki, agreeing to let me remove him from the bot's ignore list, and generally being a patient and understanding individual.


Bluestarultor Rays.png

This shining blue text, from me to me, is to commemorate having introduced glow text to the wiki, which has found its way into signatures, logos, and even other people's awards. I'm pretty proud to have given everyone something they like and use!

Bluestarultor Orbs.png "HAPPY B-DAY!" This is commemorate the day of your birth. Not your Birthday? Too Bad! It's your early present!

Anyway, I only give these out to people who desevre it, by doing stuff. Stuff like: Being Awesome, helping me out, etc... Take this, Bluestarultor Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon.png BSA, and post it on your wall! We only print a few of these a year, ya know?

PS-For being epic coding win and (hopefully) making a valiant effort for a new irc bot.


-Made with love by Kupohunter, and his pal Gil

Ramuh (FFXI).png Ramuh: My master would like you to have this...
My master, Clarent  (talk/ contribs), would like you to have this award, as you definitely deserve it because you had helped her so much on the wiki, with wiki markup and other stuff. If you want to talk to her for whatever reason, you are more than welcome to post on her talk page.

Ramuh (FFXI).png Ramuh: My master would like you to have this...
My master, Clarent  (talk/ contribs), would like you to have this award, as you definitely deserve it because you had helped her so much on the wiki, with wiki markup and other stuff. If you want to talk to her for whatever reason, you are more than welcome to post on her talk page.

Yep! Got it twice! "YOU HAZ WONE ONEZ INTERNETZ Congrats, you can have this lolcat and post it on your page. You have gotten it for...

Being amazing at coding/making cow

-Awarded by the epic guy known as Gil's Page - Colosseum - Master - Blog - Talk

You got this epic award at 18:56, June 7, 2011 (UTC), and now you are 5 (or I guess 4) away from 1up-ing SN's amount of internets. GOOD LUKZ! "YOU HAZ WONE ONEZ INTERNETZ Congrats, you can have this lolcat and post it on your page. You have gotten it for...

For realizing that Cid is younger than Mr.T Barret

-Awarded by the epic guy known as Gil's Page - Colosseum - Master - Blog - Talk

You got this epic award at 18:56, June 7, 2011 (UTC), and now you are 4 away from 1up-ing SN's amount of internets. GOOD LUKZ!

Wiki Code[]

This is pretty much mostly for my own benefit so I don't lose them, but if you need to poke around to see how things work, feel free. I'll admit that I did to make them. ;)

Bluestarultor Rays.png
Bluestarultor crystal.png
Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon.png

User:Bluestarultor/BluestarultorSig - My normal signature (Bluestarultor Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon.png BSA)

User:Bluestarultor/FF13Sig - My Command Synergy Battle signature, most often used for arenas. (BluestarultorBSA  talk)

User:Bluestarultor/BotSig - Reserved for SacredMinotaur for breaking ties in user arenas. If you'd like to use it for yours, see here. (GFMinotaur and GFSacred, IRC Bots Brothers.png)

User:Bluestarultor/Sig - See below.

Yes, I used the sig1/sig2 trick. I have no idea if it actually provides any benefit combined with putting it as my custom signature (it automatically does it when I sign with four tildes). If you want help setting that, I can walk you through. Just ask on my talk page.

User:Bluestarultor/BSA Sticker

From a humble sticker to the navigation bar you see at the right. Feel free to poke around and try to figure it out. Just be aware it's a total mess of code. If you want your own, I might help you with it, depending on my time, energy level, and what you want with it. I reserve the right to decline, though, as I have other responsibilities.


Since people have already expressed interest in them, these are the boxes often floating at the bottom of my pages. The first one is the box, the second is the template where I place the boxes just for easier updating. If you'd like to use them, please, PLEASE leave a message on my regular talk page. If you leave it on either of the talk pages for the templates, I don't get notified, and silence on my part is not tacit approval. Those things are the result of tons of complex work and I'd like due credit.

User:Bluestarultor/Page Header - because I decided to expand the widths of my pages from Oasis' 660px and got sick of going through every page to change it as complaints poured in.

User:Bluestarultor/5-Star_Award - An award from me to the cut-above of the wiki. ;)

Notes to Self[]

Current Projects to Work On[]

  • Some potential ideas for other l'Cie's Eidolons:
    • in code (please do not look if l'Cie)

Things to Tinker Around With[]

  • Table coding as for an arena.
  • Possible matches if I ever get the time and don't feel like I'm hopping on the bandwagon (for the "Best-of Stellar Arena"):
    • Best Summon Siblings (Shiva Sisters (the motorcycle) v. Brothers (rock, paper, scissors))
    • (more to come)

Non-Wikia Stuff[]


  • Java can handle MIDI directly, where Flash and C# need external libraries (C# can use WMP; Flash needs outside stuff).
  • For the most part, lack of alpha means Java's transparency issues aren't important. Battle still needs to go in C#.
  • Flash has a deal-breaker. It can't handle MIDI. With all the music I have, that's a lot of increase in file size to convert it all to MP3. C# can at least use WMP and I'm already familiar with how to do that (XNA does not, in fact, support MIDI). Lucky for me, I saved everything. Back to C#. I'll just render the cutscenes from Flash into AVI and stick a media player behind the faceplate and screens. That should make for 3+ media players: 2 to ensure smooth looping of the music, 1 for video, and maybe 1 or more for sound effects if I can't make them all WAVs.