Weaving a Beautiful and Complex Harmony – Playstation 2 – Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song – 2005

TitlesRomancing SaGa: Minstrel Song
Playstation 2
Square Enix
Genre: Role-Playing
2005

The SaGa series is a lot like the Final Fantasy series in a number of ways. This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the golden era of Squaresoft and its catalog given the series’ roots being marketed at first as Final Fantasy Legend on the Game Boy. When game designer Akitoshi Kawazu joined Square and helped in the development in the first two Final Fantasy titles, he may not have specifically known that he was going to end up in charge of directing another one of the company’s longest running series when he was made the director of the Legend series.

Romancing SaGa hit the Super Famicom back in 1992, creating a niche in the role-playing genre that was off-beat enough to stall the series from reaching US shores under this name and with its current mechanics until five years later with SaGa Frontier. After the relative success of that game and its sequel, the company got to work on bridging into the next generation of gaming on the Playstation 2 with two more SaGa titles under the banner- Unlimited SaGa and a title simply known as Romancing SaGa.

Being familiar with the infamous reputation of Unlimited SaGa, I recently decided to turn my attention to Romancing SaGa (with the silent subtitle of Minstrel Song, I assume to discern just a bit further between the PS2 version and the original) as it’s been sitting in my collection for some time. The first time I attempted the game, I was lost. I hadn’t gotten the first idea of how to proceed even having been a fan of SaGa Frontier at the time. I’ve grown a bit since then and have had a lot of exposure to the series; I can’t even begin to describe how excited I am for the release of Romancing SaGa 3 coming to us soon. In my excitement and with new information under my belt regarding how to proceed with the series, I decided to give Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song another whirl. Continue reading

Atelier Series Overview – Part 3 – The Mana Duology

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Nearly the entire
Atelier series is broken down into trilogies of games taking place in the same world with recurring characters and events. Only two of the series’ groupings were duologies: the Japan-only Gramnad Saga and the Mana Khemia games. Both of these pairs featured on the now-obsolete Playstation 2. Where the Gramnad Saga followed the naming conventions from previous titles with Atelier Judie and Atelier Violette, Mana Khemia took a step away from the usual trappings, at least externally.

Featuring the ninth and tenth games in the Atelier series, both games still exercise the mechanics of the series. Synthesis is still vital to progress throughout the games though there is a bit more emphasis on strategic combat through abilities rather than item-slinging. There are a couple of other adjustments that find their way into the formula of the series and stick, creating a foundation for the next generation of Atelier offerings to build off of and improve upon as the series grows.
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A Victory Lap Years Later – Super Nintendo – Super Mario Kart – 1992

Super Mario Kart (U) [!]000Super Mario Kart
Super Nintendo
Nintendo
Genre: Racing
1992

There are a few genres in gaming that I don’t talk about a lot. I haven’t played many sports games since I was a kid. I’m not really into the ‘4X’ strategy games that some of my friends gush over. One type of game that I’ve regularly played, though, and haven’t brought up is the ‘racing’ genre.

Nearly all of the major franchises from the 1990s ended up with some kind of racing title. Sonic Drift, Crash Team Racing, and even Final Fantasy had Chocobo Racing. One of the forerunners of this trend, of course, was the Mario franchise. When Super Mario Kart came out on the Super Nintendo, its colorful and chaotic cover art promised some new adventures involving a variety of characters from the universe we had all come to know and love. Given the number of spinoff games the franchise would receive, one could argue that Super Mario Kart opened the gates for the dearth of games we would see later on like Mario Party and Mario (insert name of sport here).

Even as a kid getting this game, though, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Playing as Mario without jumping on enemies and trying to navigate perilous worlds to save something? It was such a strange concept to me back then. Now, it seems as natural as any other idea given how many games bear the Mario Kart moniker. With the amount of time and refinement the games have gotten over multiple consoles and years, heading back to the beginning worried me. It could easily have been an undertaking of frustration that could decimate my nostalgia for the game.

Needless to say, I popped it in recently and gave it a whirl. What’s the worst that could happen? Continue reading

Missions Off The Grid – Game Boy Color – Resident Evil Gaiden – 2002

REGaiden Title
Resident Evil Gaiden

Game Boy Color
Capcom / M4
Genre: Action Horror
2002 (2001 in PAL region)

I missed out on the Game Boy Color for the most part so a lot of the games that were designed for the system are still mysteries to me.  Somewhere between the Game Boy, the Super Nintendo, and the Super Game Boy, this little handheld slipped right under my nose while I moved from console to console.  When I find games that would have snagged my attention back then in the current day, I immediately try to jump on them so that I can see exactly what I was missing.

Having loved Resident Evil since my friend described it to me on the original Playstation years ago, I spent hours with Chris and Jill on their flagship venture through the Spencer Mansion.  Resident Evil 2 also became and continues to be a favorite of mine.  I remember briefly seeing something about a Game Boy entry of the series in some magazine, but I couldn’t tell you which magazine it was or how deeply the article explained it.  I never saw it on the store shelves so it slipped from my memory pretty easily, especially since it had come out in the PAL region before coming over to the US so I had no idea if I would even see it.

The next time I ran into Resident Evil Gaiden was on a random shelf at a Wal-Mart down the street from my house well after they had stopped selling GBC games.  I didn’t pick it up then, either, but I was always curious about it. Part of the Resident Evil experience had to do with the scope and the narrative, both of which were things I hadn’t experienced on the Game Boy.  Having the chance to play Resident Evil Gaiden recently, I finally got to see how I would feel about the ‘lost’ chapter of the series.
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Adventures in Collecting – The Journey Begins

To be candid, I’ve wanted to collect video games for a while.  It’s a daunting thing to think about, though.  There are just so many of them and when certain titles start to rise in price, they reach some serious heights sometimes.

At first, I took to the tactic of picking up odds and ends here and there.  I don’t have a ton of income and there are only a couple of retro video game stores in the area.  This meant I could moderate how much money I spent and slowly build up my collection with titles that I may not necessarily be seeking out but would bolster my number of pieces.  That worked for a while but felt aimless.  Also, I managed to double buy not once but twice, making my still tiny collection redundant.

That was when my new objective came to light to give me a little more direction in the midst of this new quest.

There are a few series that have made a huge impact on me but haven’t seen the light of day on stateside shelves.  In past overviews, I’ve made it clear that I absolutely adore the Fire Emblem series.  It hits all of my sweet spots- large casts, intrigue and grounded plots dressed up with strategy battles.  I also recently started my Atelier series overview which is another group of games that I’ve fallen for.  Given that they just reached their nineteenth entry (with the twentieth just announced as Atelier Nelke), the heavily anime-inspired crafting RPG has preoccupied me heavily over the past few years and was a big part of the bonding between myself and my husband.  Then there’s the Shin Megami Tensei series.  Specifically, I’ve been enamored with the Persona series, but every piece of gaming under the Shin Megami Tensei brand has enthralled me with their mature themes and modern day/post-apocalyptic settings.

The ‘trouble’ with these series is that a large number of their offerings live overseas and need to be imported to get them.  This actually benefits me, though, because I’ve settled on not purchasing a new game until the one I’ve ordered arrives, placing a few weeks in between orders.  It also means that I have more direction and the products I’m going out of my way for really mean something to me personally.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’ll still be picking up other games along the way when I can.  This method fits my style a little better, though, and I’m excited to check out some items I wouldn’t have seen just perusing retro stores near me.

Much to my excitement, my first purchase arrived a couple of weeks ago in the form of Fire Emblem Gaiden for the Famicom.

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There were so many interesting things about receiving this game, not the least of which is that it is the first Famicom cartridge I’ve ever come into contact with.  The box itself seems like it’s about 2/3 the size of US packaging for Nintendo, and the cartridge is a rectangle rather than a square (I know this might be old hat for other collectors out there, but my mind was kind of blown!).  The game was also in near mint condition with only some damage on the corners of the cardboard containing the contents.

Now to be clear, I can’t read Japanese.  I dabble in playing around on Google translate to help with phrases here and there but that about sums up my ability to read kanji.  There is very little chance I will play these foreign titles and as of this writing, I haven’t even gotten a Famicom system and don’t have plans to do so yet.  That doesn’t change the awe I had looking through the manual and over the packaging.

For the personal note on this one, I loved Fire Emblem Gaiden since I played the fan translation a few years back.  Seeing some of the roots of the series I had become mildly obsessed with was a treat, and I loved the story of Celica and Alm.  It played a lot like Sacred Stones, one of my favorite Fire Emblem games, and it had a lot of interesting mechanics for its timeframe.  I was pretty ecstatic when Fire Emblem Echoes was announced so finding its source material at a reasonable price on eBay felt pretty fortuitous.  If I was going to start off with this mission, this felt like the right ‘first blood’ to be drawn.

My next purchase is already on the way and should be here in the next couple of weeks, though I do have another piece to write about in a few days.  My plan is to fill out these series as I can and to talk up some fun facts about the experiences as I can so I hope you’ll enjoy the journey along with me, collector or not!

(Also, if you’d like to check out more information on this game, check out the first part of my Fire Emblem Overview that goes over the first two games in the series here.)