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ASKA me anything: talking about tri-Ace

spines

behold my godlike
(she/her, or something)
kicking up a thread here, because even as i've been enjoying checking out all of these playstation 1 and 2 rpgs i never played before lately, tri-ace's games from the same era have long been favorites of mine. since they're not so active these days (if they were ever a huge deal in the first place), i imagine we don't need tons of threads for star ocean, valkyrie profile, and so on.

well, i definitely want to get some playthroughs of the vp games going at some point, especially since covenant of the plume, which i finally played this year, was fine, but ultimately had some of that mobile game-like "i'd rather just play the original games..." feel to it, particularly because of the art elements featuring the same style as the first game and most of the soundtrack being songs from it reconstructed out of ds-quality samples. but star ocean: till the end of time is a long-time favorite of mine, and one which i'd felt intimidated to come back to. i played it a lot as a teenager, and i really felt that if i was going to play it again, i'd likely spend an enormous amount of time on it. whether i simply wanted some new accomplishments in the game's "battle trophy" system, a kind of predecessor to the hd consoles' achievements which here apply only to combat feats but also unlock features like difficulty levels, character costumes, and easter eggs, or just to reach the stunning heights of skill in battle, performing nearly-perfect fights while controlling multiple characters, which i've only seen in others' recorded videos, it'd be quite a long journey. needless to say, that was a pretty daunting thought. plus i misplaced the memory card with the trophies save on it moving last year. i think i must have tried especially hard to put it somewhere clever, which of course i can't remember anymore. so that didn't help.

but as the reality of the world has really sunk in for the past six months (that i won't be going out to the barcade for shmups, or the other arcade to play mahjong and bemani games for a long time to come), and i find myself spending so many nights at the ps2 like i haven't since that time i dropped out of college...well, i really felt like it was time to give it a try and see how i even felt about it at this point, so i started my first new playthrough of the main story late last week, and even without skipping scenes, found my way to the end of the game already (i still remember a lot, once i'm actually doing it). i'm actually kind of surprised by how much my opinion of a lot of it hasn't changed, although since this is the first time i've watched all the story scenes since my first playthrough it's a lot more obvious to me how awkwardly paced and staged they are. the dub itself is pretty funny/corny for the most part too, but i don't mind that so much. and the characters all looking like people wearing those kigurumi masks isn't really so great either, although i guess it was kind of always like that and just sticks out as more bizarre/disturbing in my mind now. even by the time the hd consoles came out i remember thinking it was a pretty unfortunate attempt to capture an "anime" style in that kind of 3d (without a lot of lighting or other effects to help out; it definitely feels like smoothness in battle was their first priority for art design), but now, it's just...god, oof. i'm actually really curious what i'll think of radiata stories (which uses a lot more shading) and vp2 in comparison by now.

and some of the dungeon puzzles are among the most bizarre i can think of in any post-90s jrpg. i felt completely baffled by most of them back on my first playthrough and even now i don't think they're very clear, it's just that most of them are lodged deeply in my brain, or at least i remember enough of the concept behind them to stumble through them fairly quickly. that combined with the general meanness of non-boss encounters-especially after the first third of the game or so, i think there are quite a few you can get in which are possibly more difficult than the nearby bosses-really defines this game to me as one that's really unfriendly on a first play, and gets so much more enjoyable when you know both a lot of the critical path stuff and some tricks to smooth out some of the trickier parts of the game.

otherwise, i love this game so damned much, and especially with the sequels still being really nothing like it i really can't believe how it comes together. back when i was first playing it a friend told me to look at the gamefaqs board, where there was a community of incredibly skilled players, many of whom were also huge devil may cry 3 fans. and i feel there's a lot of similarities, although one is certainly that they're both pretty unforgiving to get into, with the super powerful defensive and movement options in each case requiring a lot of effort to master. obviously this game's a lot easier in a way, since there's not as much convoluted execution when you're controlling a single character, and engaging more and more with the rpg elements to get stronger offers a kind of sliding difficulty scale which can trivialize the even the postgame dungeons until the highest difficulties. but the moveset diversity across the cast (all of whom can take all of the regular bosses on alone successfully, if played well enough) and ability to use your characters' teamwork in various ways, from very directly comboing off each other, to powerful gameplans involving separate roles like tanking or control, or even aggressively micromanaging in a manner somewhat similar to final fantasy 7 remake (which is also fantastic in terms of characters being different to play) offers a tremendous variety of experiences. while the postgame is basically just a lot of dungeon crawling and features a fair number of recycled bosses before getting to some really difficult ones which can be pretty frustrating to learn, one of the areas that opens up changes based on the endings you got, and has always been one of my favorite parts of the game in terms of fights and aesthetics.

there's also a great system where you get extra rewards from battles, but only by continually winning in a streak, without loading, fleeing, or dying. (you can also lose it in battles you don't lose, but those are the main limitations) in the post game this mostly means finding an easy spot to farm out for a while, but in the main game there's a really fun risk/reward element where you can run all you want, but are incentivized to stay and fight even something dangerous for the chance at huge powerups and maintaining the streak. when you can get rolling you can rubberband SUPER hard even when you've been running away a lot, or want to level up and use characters who join very late and start out pretty weak by comparison. i think i gained about 20-30 levels across my party in about five minutes with a short sequence of boss fights and then a few enemies in the area leading to the last dungeon.

compared to 1 and 2, i think that the process of item creation for its own sake is downplayed a lot, even as the framing and process of recruiting other inventors elevates it to an entire minigame section slash all-consuming sidequest in the game; pretty much everything you can make has some kind of direct combat or dungeon-crawling relevance (or is just useless). stuff like the music and illicit money-making from the first two games isn't really present in the same way as far as i know, not to mention the axing of virtually the entire sub-skill system which unlocked crafting in that game. there's a lot fewer items which feel funny, strange, and rare, so the process of just doing gachapon with it like i've done so much in second story especially isn't as satisfying. and the gold saucer-esque area's minigames aren't really that compelling for me either.

i guess it may sound like the combat is the only thing i really like, at certainly that (and sakuraba's incredible ost, which i think is one of his absolute best and certainly one of the most varied) is the big draw that always keeps me wanting more. but i think the story's enjoyable enough, and i'm really fond of most of the main characters. the villains hamming it up is fun too, and certainly really memorable to my mind. and the variety of areas (combined with the music, where pretty much everywhere i go i just find myself thinking "i love this song!") makes it enjoyable to coast through and explore the areas and towns when i'm not getting crushed by battles. and the special (optional and slightly hidden) midgame dungeon from the director's cut version (the only one released internationally) is really cool. the puzzle design there, instead of feeling arbitrary, is very clear, but you have to decide which of the multiple objectives on each screen to pursue before finding a solution to reach it.

i've never played the versus minigame it unlocks.

i still really feel the game's pretty misunderstood, although since so much of what i feel is appealing and beautiful about it is a huge undertaking not unlike any other highly technical action game it's a lot more obvious to me now that i have a personality that it appeals to, particularly because of the multiple-character-controlling elements. likewise, it makes more sense to me that people who wanted to approach it much more straightforwardly (since stuff like the super polished fmvs and amount of content in general give the feeling of a final fantasy x-like game, which would only encourage that) would mostly be frustrated. but for now, knowing that for myself i've only scratched the surface of this one again, i'm really thrilled, just like i was the first time.
 
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Mogri

Round and round I go
(he)
Staff member
Spines, you're writing about stuff that interests me, but I have a much harder time reading large blocks of text if there's no capitalization. At the end of the day, I know you aren't writing for me in particular, and I won't take it personally if you decide you like your personal style too much to abandon it, but I wanted to throw that out there.

I too am a big fan of tri-Ace. Valkyrie Profiles 1 and 2 are among my favorite games of the era. Covenant of the Plume is entirely whelming, but it's enjoyable and there's nothing especially bad to mention about it. The SNES Star Ocean was also fantastic -- they got a lot out of the hardware.
 

Beowulf

Let the Mystery Be
(He/Him)
I have yet to find a Tri-Ace game that the gameplay really worked for me. Star Ocean: Til the End of Time was the closest I got to "enjoying" one of their games (I actually really liked the plot twist, which I know is unusual), but I found the combat difficult at best and was never able to finish it, even on the easy mode. I've tried a little of other Star Ocean games and found the combat system impenetrable; neither Radiata Stories nor Valkyrie Profile really drew me in. I don't think they're bad games, but there's some disconnect between what they make and what I look for in a game that I've never really reconciled.
 

spines

behold my godlike
(she/her, or something)
Spines, you're writing about stuff that interests me, but I have a much harder time reading large blocks of text if there's no capitalization. At the end of the day, I know you aren't writing for me in particular, and I won't take it personally if you decide you like your personal style too much to abandon it, but I wanted to throw that out there.
ha, to be honest, with the change of scenery here and the fact i've been typing more outside of very casual/fast venues like twitter and discord again i actually found myself having to really affect it a lot more than on the old forums, so certainly for my longer kinds of posts i agree it's probably worth reconsidering. i sort of loathe feeling like i sound too serious but i guess when it gets to repeatedly writing 2000 words about 15-plus-year-old games that ship has kind of sailed
I too am a big fan of tri-Ace. Valkyrie Profiles 1 and 2 are among my favorite games of the era. Covenant of the Plume is entirely whelming, but it's enjoyable and there's nothing especially bad to mention about it. The SNES Star Ocean was also fantastic -- they got a lot out of the hardware.
yeah, i liked covenant, the game's original aspects (story, tactics mechanics, the sort of "evil" twist on the vp character staples) are pretty solid. but in that sense i feel like more unfortunate that it leans on the nostalgic elements elsewhere, since i think the rest is good enough to have totally stood on its own. it still wouldn't have been my favorite game or anything, but it wouldn't have hurt to be reminded less of the first game, since not many things are going to come off too favorably in direct comparison to that for me
This thread needs more Resonance of Fate
i'm pretty sure i still don't actually understand the game. i really enjoyed it, but at the same time i've always found it pretty stressful to play and finicky, hahaha. i know this team's made some hard games even at default difficulties, but i feel like it's probably not supposed to feel so severe.

also it's kind of long
 

MetManMas

DNM-123
(He, him)
I wish that Star Ocean: Integrity & Faithlessness had been a better game, I really wanted the series to succeed. Might try actually finishing the game instead of faffing about, I would like to see the rest of the game world even if I do have to backtrack over a lot of it.

Maybe if we're lucky Square-Enix will eventually decide to port the remaster of the Star Ocean 2 port to Switch and it'll actually get to see the light of day in other regions. It's the one (non-GBC) holdout on PS4.

Really should get around to getting First Departure on Switch...
 
i'm pretty sure i still don't actually understand the game. i really enjoyed it, but at the same time i've always found it pretty stressful to play and finicky, hahaha. i know this team's made some hard games even at default difficulties, but i feel like it's probably not supposed to feel so severe.

also it's kind of long

I don't recall it being that long, heck I was having so much fun I did all the side-quests after a point which I never do. It can be a bit confusing to wrap your head around for sure though.
 

Rascally Badger

El Capitan de la outro espacio
(He/Him)
On my replay list is Radiata Stories. I played it back in the day, but I didn't really understand it at all, so it wasn't a great experience. I really like everything about the look and the world of the game, though.
 

Mightyblue

aggro table, shmaggro table
(He/Him/His)
I got most of the battle trophies and cleared the coliseum in SO3 which was not an experience I'd wish on anyone, tbh. Lots of bullshit challenges and exploiting the GUTS mechanic to not have your fragile linchpin caster get instantly vaporized by the superboss about 50x over. Honestly, the MP kill mechanic is just there to make it easy to kill PCs and to disincentivize the use of techniques and spells. There's not too many ways for the PC party to effectively do MP damage to monsters outside items, and they're all sorta orthogonal to the main gameplay experience.

That said, tri-Ace seemed to make worse games the more they focused on the visual polish and presentation over the amazing hot gameplay messes they were famous for.
 

spines

behold my godlike
(she/her, or something)
I got most of the battle trophies and cleared the coliseum in SO3 which was not an experience I'd wish on anyone, tbh. Lots of bullshit challenges and exploiting the GUTS mechanic to not have your fragile linchpin caster get instantly vaporized by the superboss about 50x over. Honestly, the MP kill mechanic is just there to make it easy to kill PCs and to disincentivize the use of techniques and spells. There's not too many ways for the PC party to effectively do MP damage to monsters outside items, and they're all sorta orthogonal to the main gameplay experience.
Offensively, yeah, there are a handful of fairly easy-to-execute tactics which also happen to be fairly effective ways of doing MP damage (particularly the elemental sword buffs and some of Maria's laser attacks), although for the most part only enemies with disproportionately low MP totals are really going to die faster to them even if you're using those. wWhich only includes a handful of bosses through the game, most of which you'd need some kind of foreknowledge to actually know it'd be that useful. For grinding it's a bit more relevant, especially really late on when you can really steamroll some encounters by holding down Maria's giant death lasers.

On the other end the ultimate bosses definitely get obnoxious, but i feel that comes more down to the interaction of the ally and enemy AI concepts and the fact that they're much harder to react to than enemies in the rest of the game defensively (while also doing way more damage) than the quirks of the life systems. One of the big things I remember from my old playthroughs and reading was elements of the higher difficulty AI that are pretty abusable since the enemies focus on straightforwardly "optimal" choices, particularly running down characters who are actively spellcasting as a top priority since they can't move away and avoiding using blockable attacks if your characters guts are over a certain threshold (about 90%), but it's also not especially fun to deal with for the same reason. I really like the Convert Damage skill though, and the ability to have casters tank to some extent via their ability to draw aggro and use a "mana shield"-like spell, although not reliant on the MP death system, is really cool to me.

But I have been playing Unlimited Saga lately so I guess I'm also just especially inclined to view HP as more of a strange dream than a real rule.
 

Gaer

chat.exe a cessé de fonctionner
Staff member
Moderator
Spines I love this post and your streams of consciousness.

This thread has *also* made me realise that the psp remake of Star Ocean was released on Switch.

i really needs me some bullshit jrpg right now
 

spines

behold my godlike
(she/her, or something)
i didn't pick that up since it came out about the same week as saga scarlet grace, haha. i really want to now, since i haven't played any version of 1 since the psp version was new. i did watch demi play the snes version a few months ago, which i still think is gorgeous even if i've never entirely gotten along with the controls by comparison to the newer games (and the snes version of tales of phantasia).
 

spines

behold my godlike
(she/her, or something)
i finished my full galaxy playthrough. i ended up totally cheesing out freya with the invincible mirage setup because it was getting late and i wanted to just finish the game before going to sleep, but i had a ton of fun before that. postgame ended up hitting my nostalgia buttons a lot harder than the main game even, haha. storywise it's just fourth wall breaking nonsense and chibi-lenneth summoning some of the bosses you killed in the game to fight you again, but for how self-serious the main story is i still really enjoy disarming that for a bit of fanservice from the previous games and general jokeyness. already extremely happy i played this again, since it was such a reminder of how much i love the game. it's kind of satisfying when i realize i don't hate everything i liked in the 2000s.

i might try getting through most of a universe playthrough in a month or two. but there's a lot of stuff i want to play, so i'm not sure.

========================================

Anyway, the fifth main game came out a few years ago, and after how much I'd disliked The Last Hope I really wasn't ready to pay full price again. But it's like $20 now and that's a fair chance for me. So I started playing it last night. Although I'm certainly ready to have my impression of the game upended at any time, I'm currently cautiously enjoying it. There's still the weird mashup of AAA-ism and overcomplex tri-Ace jank, but that's clearly just the series' hallmark at this point, and it works a lot better for me than TLH's, albeit with some oddities. One of the big ones is the way that NPC dialogue pops up as you walk around, but as compared to something like FF7R it's not voiced, so the boxes just appear and you have to stand around a sec to read them (and depending on where you're standing sometimes move the camera...) But overall changing a lot of the cutscenes to more organic dialogue stretches is working for me so far, and the encounters similarly finally have a modern feel, where you see all enemies on the overworld and transition directly into fighting them on the local terrain when you get close. And it seems like Private Actions are maybe kind of back? Instead of the Mass Effect thing from 4 where you just talked to the characters on the ship between plot points. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing in either game, I think in SO4 it kind of makes sense from the perspective that most of the events you get that way focus on backstories that are never explained in the game otherwise, but it felt very dry compared to 1-3 where there was a lot more joy in sort of exploring the towns for events and stuff. There's a "role" mechanic that lets you affect characters' stats and battle AI, and considering I've already gotten access to a role which seems to have kind of weird effects (character fights less, but you get more money for winning the battle) this could be a pretty interesting system. And specialty skills from 1 and 2 are...probably not entirely back, but seem like they're going to be a bit more fleshed out at least in comparison to 3 basically only paring them down to crafting and attack boosts and 4 introducing gathering mechanics to complement that. To me it seems to be a sort of "greatest hits" approach, like the developers looking at some of the better parts of each game and trying to combine them while adding in a few new things. For a series that's been as all over the map as this one, I think that's not such a bad idea.

...and speaking of which, the battle system is very obviously building on 3, with a lot of expansions that make it friendlier. There are similar foundations, with the "guard weak attacks, break guard with strong attacks, dodge strong attacks or hit with fast weak attacks to interrupt them" system coming back, as well as holding buttons to activate special moves (which is one of my favorite "feel" things, and I'm very glad to have back), though with guard just on a button (instead of being based on the stamina system from 3) and the counterattacks and combo system both being completely changed, it feels totally different. Which is fine, because the movement, pacing, and stuff like character switching also feel totally different. The main character's basic moveset is modeled on Fayt's in 3, which is pretty comfortable and is giving me a lot of optimism about later characters (one of whom was in my party briefly, but I spent that short stretch of the game exploding everything with magic) feeling pretty different. And while I haven't entirely figured out the combo system yet it seems like you can chain each input (each combination of weak/strong, normal/special, and close/far once in a sequence for increasing damage each time). Maybe it's a bit more limited than that. The limitations that 3 had again only made sense in the context of the stamina bar existing, so. It's different, and I think that's fine this time. So far. There's a lot of ways it could go kind of sour, especially because it's so easy so far that I'm sure a huge difficulty spike is coming eventually.

For the most part I'm digging the aesthetic and presentation otherwise. Character models are a little weird (or...very weird in Fiore's case :| I find the concept sort of funny as 2D art, if not very appropriate for a game like this, but it's significantly more uncomfortable as a full 3d model), but the environments are fantastic. So again, par for the course for the 3D era of this series. The main characters are from the fantasy planet for the first time since the first game (2 I'm not counting since of the two choices there's one each way), which I'm also mostly liking; I think that the whole anachronism/"encounters with aliens (who are Earth humans)" premise is a lot more appealing than the "Earthlings become stranded in a real-life isekai (yes, I know that the literal meaning of that word makes it an oxymoron) for half of the game or more" thing. Especially with the fantasy planet having some elements of a Central Asian aesthetic, with some of the outfits and in particular the most gorgeous rugs I've ever seen rendered in a game. A Bride's Story with laser guns? Pretty sure that's a 7/10 minimum

kind of joking, but I imagine I'll be playing a lot of this next week, since we took it off
 

Paul le Fou

AAAAAAAA
(He)
Tales of Destiny* is still one of my all-time favorites, and I played a lot of Star Ocean 2 back in the day, too. Resonance of Fate is on my radar due to recommendations too, mostly from this forum. Was Radiata Stories a hidden gem too, or am I thinking of Radiant Historia?

*Huh, I just looked it up, and that's not actually Tri-Ace - though the founders of Tri-Ace worked on Wolf Team, which did make Tales of Phantasia, so they're like spiritual cousins (and SO1 and ToP/D definitely have a lot in common). Well then!
 

Pajaro Pete

(He/Himbo)
Was Radiata Stories a hidden gem too, or am I thinking of Radiant Historia?

i don't think you're thinking of either of them tbh. radiata stories was like... suikoden meets majora's mask by way of tri-ace and significantly less than the sum of its parts. i guess it isn't really much like majora's mask aside from all the characters keeping a specific schedule, and the suikoden comparison is mostly that there are a bunch of characters to recruit (though i believe all recruitable characters come As Is so a lot of characters are just... literally useless).

i do genuinely like the aesthetic, the characters designs and the towns and the sepia filter, but the massive gameplay issue is that the only permanent save point in the game is in the main character's house, and going back to his house during certain hours of the day is what triggers story missions, so there's a lot of "let me just leave the game running until it's like midnight or 9 pm or whenever so i can save without starting the next story mission so i don't miss out on the sidequests that will disappear if i proceed to the next story beat"
(i guess that wouldn't really matter if you're playing it via a thing that has save states)
 

spines

behold my godlike
(she/her, or something)
Tales of Destiny* is still one of my all-time favorites, and I played a lot of Star Ocean 2 back in the day, too. Resonance of Fate is on my radar due to recommendations too, mostly from this forum. Was Radiata Stories a hidden gem too, or am I thinking of Radiant Historia?

*Huh, I just looked it up, and that's not actually Tri-Ace - though the founders of Tri-Ace worked on Wolf Team, which did make Tales of Phantasia, so they're like spiritual cousins (and SO1 and ToP/D definitely have a lot in common). Well then!
yeah, the tales of phantasia team kind of split after the release of that game, with a lot of the cause to my understanding being conflicts due to the concessions made to namco to get the game published. "cousins" is a good description, and it's funny to me that the SO series really follows from the original version of phantasia in some ways, while phantasia was remade to more fit the direction that the tales series started in with destiny. (and so that the in-game characters would look more like the fujishima art that was made to be the "canonical" character designs) i do totally view the super famicom release as a tri-ace game, as gotanda was in charge of it, and they named their hd engine "ASKA" ("tri-Ace Superlative Knowledge-based Architecture"...hence the thread title), which seems to me to be an acronym engineered to refer to the phantasia summon of the same name

radiant historia is probably the game that you're thinking of if you've heard about it through this forum, though i'm a fan of radiata stories, and those two games also had a pretty fair share of shared staff as i understand.
i don't think you're thinking of either of them tbh. radiata stories was like... suikoden meets majora's mask by way of tri-ace and significantly less than the sum of its parts. i guess it isn't really much like majora's mask aside from all the characters keeping a specific schedule, and the suikoden comparison is mostly that there are a bunch of characters to recruit (though i believe all recruitable characters come As Is so a lot of characters are just... literally useless).


i do genuinely like the aesthetic, the characters designs and the towns and the sepia filter, but the massive gameplay issue is that the only permanent save point in the game is in the main character's house, and going back to his house during certain hours of the day is what triggers story missions, so there's a lot of "let me just leave the game running until it's like midnight or 9 pm or whenever so i can save without starting the next story mission so i don't miss out on the sidequests that will disappear if i proceed to the next story beat"
(i guess that wouldn't really matter if you're playing it via a thing that has save states)
yeah, i pretty much agree with all of this. most of the super strong characters do require getting a lot of prerequisite characters to recruit, but also the game is largely easy enough that there's not a major need to get them anyway. (though elwen is cool as fuck, so)
 

Mightyblue

aggro table, shmaggro table
(He/Him/His)
Wolf Team broke up prior to the release actually; iirc primary development was pretty much done but they had to go hunting for someone to fund the cart production due to the wild expansion chip they had to use for graphics compression to get it all to fit. Namco was the only one willing to bite on it as they didn't have a flagpole RPG series to compete with Square or Enix at the time, but they stipulated a bunch of changes major and minor; all the obvious Namco references, and the whole Gungnir mini-story is an extended Legend of Valkyrie reference, etc.

Given the magnum opus nature of Phantasia, this sorta pissed off a good chunk of the studio, and when management went ahead with the Namco deal they resigned in protest. And then somehow managed to develop and ship Star Ocean 1 in less than a year (with it's own crazy enhancement chip, funded by Enix this time).
 

spines

behold my godlike
(she/her, or something)
the whole Gungnir mini-story is an extended Legend of Valkyrie reference, etc.
hahaha, i don't think i ever realized that. the rest of the game spends enough time referencing norse mythology that, while that bit suddenly pulls the main character away from the story while it's happening at a pretty arbitrary point in the game, it doesn't exactly not fit in overall
 

Mightyblue

aggro table, shmaggro table
(He/Him/His)
It's more of a post-facto thing to me, especially after I played Symphonia the first time and learned more about Namco's gaming history. No actual gods ever show up there.

Valkyrie shows up as a bonus boss/summon in Destiny 1 as well.
 

spines

behold my godlike
(she/her, or something)
I finished the story. The scenes are about as trashy-anime as I remember of 4's, though in different areas/ways so it's a little hard to compare. Don't think I liked any of the characters as much as Bacchus and Myuria from that game, but i used all my instant-affection-changing items to get Anne's ending. She's cute, loves cats, and has all my favorite anime-punches from 3. There's some stuff I think works a lot better though, including a few reveals kinda early on I thought were set up pretty well.

Otherwise, as the streamlining, scope, and simplification of the game started to become really clear, it felt a little less...shiny, but it's just pretty fun and breezy to play, so I had a hard time putting it down each night. It's definitely janky in some funny ways (my favorite being how easy it is to accidentally run away from battles which are far beneath you at the end of the game if you aren't controlling the main character. also the sound design starts crying once everyone is spamming huge attacks constantly, it's a real cacophony) and super easy, I even set up to just not receive experience for about 1/3 of the game so I could level up all the specialty skills faster and felt super overleveled by the end despite that, as well as beating a boss who was probably supposed to be more of a "start of postgame" thing (since the weapon I got afterward was about twice as strong as the tier 7 crafts I was able to make...got copies of a few of those crafted weapons in the last dungeon as well). I did do about 90% of the sidequests which probably helped cause that, but compared to the back and forth/wait for openings styles of 3 and (in a different way) 4 you mostly win by going in constantly, or sometimes baiting weak attacks to block if the AI uses them a lot or has heavies that are slow enough to react to.

Most of the characters do benefit a lot from combo changes though, Victor in particular has Albel's normals from 3 and being able to cancel the strong ones instead of being locked into his zigzag walk or the slow recovery from his close double slash is a tremendous buff. Kenny isn't as strong as Maria offensively, but between his nonsensically far normal attack range and having a half-decent walk speed means you can just hang back from super far and kite anything that decides to aggro you for way longer than you should probably be able to. Mages are also super strong in this one, it's not as fun of a playstyle for me without other attacks to mix in, but they're very useful even aside from the overpowering aoe healing you get at the end of the game. a lot of times it felt like i was almost done but the ability to claw back and stabilize from only one controllable character being alive is enormous in this game, even before you start busting out premier crafted consumables.

Overall, it's pretty effortless and fun enough to play, there's some fun and extraneous mechanics which do nothing "useful" (they even let you level up Oracle again!), the mystery bag style of item creation is back (but largely optional), and there are some weird ways to optimize grinding, so I'm pretty satisfied with the breadth of the game's mechanics as a trade-off for depth. There are also a ton of dialogue scenes that seem to be unskippable, PA scenes I don't want to watch over and over, and sidequests you have to do to unlock major skills/features, that it's almost definitely a game i won't play many times, if i go at it again at all. I did start on the post-game (which is...just a destination on the ship's teleporter map as soon as you get back to it from your clear save), but I might take a bit of a break before really diving into it. I don't think it'll change my opinion much anyway.

Would I recommend it? Not really, just play either SO1R, or 2, or FF7R again probably? Like, the former two are better mashy games with a lot of random stuff to do, and the latter is just a much better AAA action rpg. I still liked it tons, but overall it's one of the most junkfood games I can think of; very immediately satisfying for me but without anything truly filling. I guess mostly my opinion of the team in the HD era has kind of...stabilized, and I'll probably have to play TLH (international, obviously) and IU again sometime (I've picked up a copy of the latter recently...), on top of all the others I've been meaning to. At the time it was like "wow, these guys went from making a bunch of the coolest games I've ever played to...this" and now I have a lot more perspective on why that happened and what these games are, and really I remember Undiscovery being like 20 hours which isn't a bad length at all for a little RPG to play. At the time though, both of those games were just incredible disappointments for me, but now that I have a better recognition of and appreciation for overambitious jank (which, yes, their PS1 and 2 games also obviously have in spades, but I didn't recognize it as such in the same way at the time)...well, I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy Undiscovery more, at least. Honestly it's probably WAY the fuck more like this game than I remember, just thinking about the fields and the party mechanics and the huge battles where you have like a dozen party members out there at once.

And if they get to make a real game again I'll once again buy it fearlessly. Probably. this is one of those times that ONE FEAR meme would be relevant, but i'm not exactly sure what that one fear is. vp3 starring chibi lenneth and freya from so3?
 
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I kinda wish I could've stuck it out for Integrity and Faithlessness longer than I did but the simplification hit me hard and fast within about 2 hours of an absolutely glowing first impression. I dropped it shortly after and followed your exact advice of playing SO2 again instead. I picked up SO1R and I really need to actually get around to playing it.

Radiata Stories is one of my favorite PS2 rpgs despite its clear faults though. I wish it went for the Chrono Cross gimmick of eventually being able to get THE WHOLE ROSTER. I would've been so hype to have Elwen in the same party as my other favorite characters.

But my deepest wish relating to tri-Ace is that some day Valkyrie Profile 1 will finally become available on a platform I don't hate using. It was only last year someone here told me it was on iOS and Android after thinking it got totally left in the dust for years, but why the hell isn't it on anything else? I couldn't afford an original PS1 copy even back before 2010 when it was still only around $100, much less now.
 

spines

behold my godlike
(she/her, or something)
god, i know though, i'm fortunate enough to be living with someone who owns one anyway for a currently indefinite amount of time, but i've virtually never had enough money to justify buying one of my own otherwise. i did at one point have the umd version, which despite its own flaws was (for many years, anyway, i guess it's also gone up) pretty passable for the price, but now that i don't have a working psp and it's never been available for download onto my vita, doesn't feel like much of a real solution either

there's a game store up in the college town a half hour away with the japanese LE though, and every time i've gone for the past couple years i've gotten closer to buying it. i did buy the one for 2 they also had earlier this year, not because i necessarily like the game more (or less, i think i have pretty equal but different love for them), it just seemed to have cooler stuff to look at.
 
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