Fridgecrisis

On a related note, Skyward Sword is really good. It combines the best of Windwaker and Twilight Princess and adds really fun motion controls. This is the game you wanted to play when you bought your Wii back in 2006.

Guys. It’s a Phoenix Wright movie.

FFT vs. LUCT

vs.

The Short Version:

LUCT feels like an enhanced sequel to FFT, but it’s missing a few points that made FFT great.

The Long Version:

Those letters up there stand for Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions and Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, two very amazing games. I recently finished FFT again and I’ve played 40 hours into LUCT, and I think it’s about time to write a lo-ong post about ‘em.

Let’s start off by taking a look at the similarities between these two games, because there are a lot. Despite what you might think, these games are not part of the same series. They were, however, both developed by some of the same people, they’re both owned by Square Enix now, and they’re both medieval-fantasy-based tactical RPGs. This basically means that you’re doing turn-based battle with about 5-10 little wizards and knights on an isometric grid. Each unit can move a certain number of squares on its turn and take an action, like attacking an adjacent enemy unit or healing an ally with a magic spell. If all of this has you thinking about Dungeons and Dragons, you’re pretty close. The focus of these games is to develop your team in a balanced way and use your units’ specific strengths and abilities to your advantage in battle.

Outside of battle, you walk around on a giant map of the continent, stopping in towns to buy equipment and running into the occasional cutscene. Both games’ storylines also share many of the same themes: international conflict, religion, social class, friendship, loyalty, betrayal. Each game is split into about four chapters, each representing a major storyline arc.

If all of this sounds like something you’d like, I suggest that you check either game out. These are perfect left-brain games that make you keep track of numbers and develop strategies in a physical space, all while delivering a complex and engaging story (by video game standards, at least).

But which game should you play first? To find out, let’s take a closer look at the differences.

Since battles are so important to these games, let’s start with those. In most battles in FFT, you get to choose five characters from your roster of about twenty to bring into battle. The only time you are restricted to less than five is when there are guest units joining the battle. In LUCT, the number of units you can bring into battle varies more widely, and not just because of guest units. Random encounters allow you to bring in at least six units, but most story battles allow you to bring in ten. The maximum number of units you can recruit in LUCT is fifty, while FFT restricts you to about half that many.

Like most RPGs, each unit in FFT has its own character level. But here, each unit also has a job level. This is a basic representation of how good a certain character is at a certain job (Knight, Thief, Black Mage, etc). Experience points and job points are given out based on a unit’s actions. If a unit doesn’t act on its turn, it doesn’t get any points.

In LUCT, things work a little differently. Units do not have their own character levels; instead, every unit who shares the same class on your team is automatically set to the same level. After battle, experience points are given to each class that was used. If you bring in two units of the same class, that class will get a bigger share of the total experience. In this way, the focus of your training is more on the team as a whole, rather than your units as individuals.

In FFT, each job has its own unique set of skills that can be learned by spending job points, but once a character has learned a skill, they can take it with them into another job. For example, if you learn Cure as a White Mage, you can change your class to Knight and equip the White Magic ability command, and you will still be able to use Cure. This allows for some interesting combinations of abilities from across multiple classes, although there are limits: you can equip two ability commands (and the first is always the ability command of your current job) and one each of reaction abilities, support abilities, and move abilities, for a total of five. The focus here is on individual unit development, amassing a library of skills in order to build a more tactical unit.

Your units do gain their own skill points in LUCT, though. These are spent a lot like FFT’s job points, only there is a lot of overlap between classes. For example, each class that can cast healing magic can learn the Divine Magic skill, which is similar to the White Magic ability command in FFT. The Divine Magic skill can be taken from one magic-wielding class to another, but unlike FFT, it becomes useless if you change your class to one that can’t use magic. You are able to equip a total of ten skills, regardless of type, after unlocking the maximum number of skill slots. Most of these skills are passive abilities, like increasing your accuracy or defense.

In both of these games, your units are allowed to move and act once each turn, in either order. Skipping one or both means your next turn will come up faster. However, LUCT includes a third category of special skills that modify your main action. For example, the Berserker’s Berserk skill, when activated, allows his next melee attack to hit every unit in front of, diagonal from, and to the side of him. This can be used in the same turn as his attack, either before or after (for setting up a potential counterattack with the Berserk effect). The Cleric has a similar skill that makes her next healing spell twice as powerful.

One big advantage that LUCT has over FFT is that while both games allow you to charm monsters and add them to your team, LUCT’s monsters can earn skill points and learn new skills, while FFT’s monsters will always have the same abilities and cannot be customized, making it a waste to include them in your regular battle party.

Another difference between the two games is the way equipment is handled with regard to attacking. Unless you have the Dual Wield support ability equipped, there is no way to equip two weapons in FFT. Also, you only have one Attack command, and it always uses your equipped weapon to whack or shoot your target. In LUCT, units can equip anything they want in their hands, as long as their class and level allows it. Two swords, two crossbows, two shields, whatever. Even without anything equipped, every unit can always use both a melee attack (Punch) and a ranged attack (Throw Stone). But the biggest difference comes when you choose the Attack command in LUCT. Instead of it being a simple matter of attacking with your single weapon, you get to choose which piece of equipment to use. This even includes your shield, which does very little damage but has a high chance of knocking your enemy back one space.

The terrain in FFT is usually fairly open, and although height does play a major role in the gameplay, it’s difficult to form effective barricades with so few characters. Meanwhile, in LUCT, many of the maps are designed to be much tighter, and more characters can enter each battle. The effect is only made more extreme by a common ability, Rampart Aura, which stops the movement of any enemy unit passing by. Some classes even have the ability to create destructible obstacles on the map. All of this can make for some very crowded battles, and while some people might be frustrated by this, it allows the use of more creative strategies. Place a Knight with Rampart Aura in front of your Cleric, for instance, and you’ll stop any melee attackers from reaching your healer. Place an obstacle in a tight area and have your Archers shoot at your helpless enemies from afar.

However, FFT does a better job at allowing you to boost your characters’ movement and jump stats. Equip a Move +2 ability or a pair of Battle Boots, and you’ll be able to move farther during your turn. In LUCT, there is only a small handful of presets for these stats. Magic-using classes are lumped together under the “slow” category, which means they can all move three squares, and little can be done about this.

MP is also handled in an interesting way in LUCT. Instead of starting each battle with maximum MP, your units start with zero and have to earn it slowly throughout the battle. This means you can’t cast your most powerful and costly spells until you’ve charged up for a while. Once you’ve earned the MP, though, everything happens instantly. On the other hand, FFT requires charge time for spells beyond the turn that the user selects it. Some happen within one or two clock cycles, while the most powerful spells might take twenty cycles to charge. LUCT also includes TP that works almost like MP, but for physical skills, while most physical skills in FFT are simply free to use.

There is one feature in LUCT that I’m not sure how I feel about. It’s the Chariot Tarot, which allows you to go back through the previous fifty actions in battle and start again from any point on the timeline. While I appreciate the forgiveness it offers, it sometimes makes me want to go back and redo an action that just failed in a different way to make it succeed, and this seems a little unfair, although the game is challenging enough even with the Chariot Tarot. LUCT also allows you to retreat from battle, although you lose any items or units you might have lost during the battle, and if you make a habit of saving before every battle (do this, by the way), there’s little point.

Alright, enough about the battle system. The story in FFT is linear, with only a few sidequests available toward the end of the game. LUCT gives the player choices every now and again, allowing the story to go in dramatically different directions. But despite this, I feel that the story of FFT is more compelling. FFT’s story feels more present and easy to understand, whereas LUCT’s story occasionally feels like it’s wandering around without much purpose. I’m having trouble understanding who the villains really are, and while that kind of ambiguity can be interesting, I don’t know how I should make my character act and I’m worried that there won’t be a big emotional payoff at the end. To be fair, though, I’ve played FFT many times before, and this is my first playthrough of LUCT.

FFT and LUCT can both be downloaded directly to your PSP or bought on disc. FFT costs $10, while LUCT will set you back $20. Both of these games will easily give you three or four hours to the dollar, though, so your money could not be spent more wisely.

In many ways, LUCT feels like a sequel to FFT. I may be biased, but LUCT feels like a more complicated game with more to manage and unlock. Starting with FFT and moving on to LUCT might be the best way to experience these games, but both are fantastic and very engaging.

This is a surprisingly fun little game where you can play as a knight, wizard, or knave to slay countless hordes of little pixel monsters just by running around and pressing the space bar to jump or, in the wizard’s case, use magic. You collect gold by defeating enemies, then spend it on weapons and armor. The music is also pretty great. The rest of this guy’s site is pretty impressive too, so take a look.

Final Fantasy Tactics, Dissidia

Gaialite development has been slow this month. I’ve got a bunch of the new world’s graphics done, but I’m stuck on the music, and a bunch of new projects have sprung up in the meantime and demanded my attention. I’ve been feeling burnt-out for the last week or two, and it’s not looking like I’m going to get the new world done by October.

But I have been playing games. Rachel and I bought a PSP a few weeks ago, and the first game we got for it was Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions. We’re huge fans of the original PS1 game, so it’s nice to see a remake with better translations and a bit of extra content. The only problem with the game is that every time you use a skill or item, the game slows down. It’s not because the game is having trouble keeping up—it always slows down to a steady speed, regardless of the complexity of the animation, and as soon as it’s over, it suddenly goes back to full speed. I’ve tried looking into a solution, but it seems that the game is just hard-wired that way. It’s anybody’s guess why. Luckily, the problem isn’t bad enough to make the game unplayable. After we’re both done with this one, we’ll probably download Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. It looks very similar, but I’m looking forward to a new story and some new battle mechanics.

The other two PSP games we have right now are the two Dissidia Final Fantasy games. They’re basically every Final Fantasy fan’s dream come true: the heroes and villains from every main-series FF game together in one massive brawl. Unfortunately, the games don’t receive the series’ famous storyline treatment. The description I just gave you is really all the game is: good guys versus bad guys. There are a few little extras to give the battles a bit of context, but they’re weak at best. Basically, these two gods are locked in this eternal conflict, and they’ve summoned all the FF characters to do battle for them. If they die, they get reborn and start again. There are also manikins, which are basically the Fighting Polygon Team from Super Smash Brothers. Duodecim, the second Dissidia game, tries a little harder to have a storyline with the manikins at its center, which I appreciate, but it still sucks compared to all the great games these characters came from.

Luckily, that’s not the draw of this game. The point is battling, and it does that really well. It’s like a standard fighting game in that there are only two characters in a battle at once, but instead of staying mostly on the ground in a small area, these characters are flying all over the place on pretty big maps. It feels like you’re playing through famous FF cut scenes, with characters running up walls and flinging swords all over the place. It’s a lot of fun. The way you attack each other in the game is pretty innovative, too. Each character has HP, and as always, you lose if you run out of it. But most attacks don’t affect your opponent’s HP—instead, you attack their Bravery and add it to your own. Then, when you go for an HP attack, your current Bravery is subtracted from your opponent’s HP, and your Bravery goes back down to zero. There are a lot of neat strategies that come out of this, and plenty of room for either character to come out on top, regardless of how well one side seems to be doing.

I’ve also been playing some pretty amazing indie games on Steam lately, but I’ll have to leave that for another post. My PSP experience so far has been amazing, and it’s making me want to grab a Vita when it comes out. Nintendo ain’t the only ones who can do handhelds right, apparently.

I don’t usually like free little flash games, the ones you find in bunches on certain websites. No offense to anyone who develops games like that, but for the most part, I think those games represent the worst material the gaming industry (if those games could be considered part of it) has to offer.

There are a few exceptions, though, and the developer nitrome makes most of them. They all use adorable little sprites, and although some of their games are disappointing in the content department, they’re usually worth a play-through. If they would put out a longer, more engaging type of game and charge a couple bucks for it, I think they might do really well.

JoyToKey

While playing this neat little Game Boy-style remake of Super Smash Brothers for the N64 called Super Smash Land, I discovered that it came packaged with a handy little utility called JoyToKey. Basically, it lets you translate joystick input into keyboard or mouse input, and although it includes a lot of detailed options, it’s really quite easy to use.

I’ve wanted to use my XBox 360 controller for RPG Maker VX for a long time. RPG Maker does support joystick input, but the buttons are all wrong, in my opinion. On an XBox 360 controller, although the cancel button is B, the select button is X when it should be A. Granted, these things can be fixed by pressing F1 while playing and changing the gamepad controls, but there’s a second problem: the D-pad doesn’t work. You have to move your little 2D character sprite around a grid-based map using the analog stick. Frankly, that sucks. But JoyToKey fixes that by letting you map the D-pad to the arrow keys on the keyboard! Hooray!

JoyToKey is freeware, so if you think it might come in handy, give it a try!

A bit long, but a good read for those interested in game design. I think I fit somewhere close to the “Conqueror” style. What type of gamer are you?

Valve announces that Portal 3 will be developed in partnership with Nintendo!

No, not really.

But this IS a real game. It’s called Mari0, and you can find out about it here. Don’t miss “Not Tetris,” too!