Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Apr 032024
 

Back when I played the Final Fantasy VII Remake, I quite enjoyed it, so I was disappointed when the DLC released in 2021 was PS5-exclusive.

Since I didn’t have a PS5 until late last year, it’s taken me a while to get around to it.

But after finishing Crisis Core a few weeks ago, I decided the other thing to do before moving on to Final Fantasy VII Rebirth was to finally get the DLC.

Final Fantasy VII Remake: Episode Intermission is a new story starring Yuffie, in which she heads to Midgar in order to steal materia from Shinra.

Joining her is a young man from Wutai named Sonon, and they team up with members of Avalanche (the larger group, not our primary Avalanche characters from the main game) to get the information they need.

Although Sonon joins you in battles, you only play directly as Yuffie, although you can issue commands to Sonon to have him use abilities or magic. Yuffie’s combat style took a little bit for me to get used to, with sort of a mixed melee/ranged approach, but eventually I enjoyed it. The combat system itself is similar to that in Remake, but with a new “synergy” feature that lets both characters attack together.

There are a handful of side quests, as well as a new mini-game called Fort Condor that I tried a handful of times and then vowed to never touch again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are people who love Fort Condor. It’s not the mini-game’s fault. But it’s real-time strategy, and that’s a genre I’m rarely able to enjoy.

So that was a whole aspect of the DLC I ignored, but I still managed to play for nearly 8 hours. My time would probably be a lot longer if I’d gotten into Fort Condor, so there’s a respectable amount of content here for the DLC’s $20 asking price.

The story is fine. While it doesn’t cover a whole lot, it was a nice look at Yuffie’s character and gave a lot more screentime to Scarlet as the DLC’s main villain.

Click for FFVII Intermission spoilers
It also gave a good role to Nero, from Dirge of Cerberus. Although he didn’t have much in the way of story content here, he was a tough and seriously intimidating final boss. My memories of Dirge are kind of fuzzy, but I didn’t expect Nero to come across like he wandered in from a horror game. I enjoyed his creepy portrayal here.

Meanwhile, the most interesting part of the DLC’s story was the very last scene, which showed Zack, seemingly alive. That scene made me lean more toward the multiple timelines theory, but I’m curious to see where Rebirth takes it.

Overall, playing Intermission reminded me of how much I enjoy Final Fantasy VII and its remake. Now that I’ve completed it, I’m more excited than ever about diving into Rebirth!

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Mar 132024
 

I haven’t started Final Fantasy VII Rebirth yet, and one of the reasons is that I wanted to finish Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion first.

I always regretted not being able to play Crisis Core, since it was a PSP game with no digital version and I never had a PSP. So I was thrilled when a remaster was announced.

But my feelings about it ended up more mixed than I expected.

Crisis Core follows Zack, who plays a significant role in Final Fantasy VII’s backstory (the best way I can describe it without spoilers). For me, the game is at its best when it expands on events from the original game.

I loved the relationship between Zack and Aerith; it was very cute. I also enjoyed the friendship between Zack and Cloud. Sephiroth takes a good role in Crisis Core, too, and seeing more of him before the incident makes the eventual events feel all the more tragic.

There are a lot of fun little worldbuilding details in Crisis Core, like emails you get from various sources throughout the game and fan clubs for different members of Soldier, and that was great.

But many of the story elements added for Crisis Core fell flat for me. Genesis and Angeal, two new Soldier characters, feel like they’d be interesting in concept, but neither really worked for me in practice. Unfortunately, since they’re an important part of the main plot, that means there was a good chunk of Crisis Core’s story that I didn’t enjoy.

(There’s also a new Shinra scientist character called Hollander who felt pointless to me. I think it would have been better if that part had been reworked so the experiments were previous experiments of Hojo’s.)

Now, let’s talk about the gameplay. Crisis Core features random encounters with action combat that’s fairly standard, aside from the slot machine mechanic. While you play, slots will roll in the corner with images of important characters you have connected to. Different combinations give you buffs, special attacks, and level ups. You’ll also equip materia for magic and other benefits, and a materia fusion system lets you combine materia to get new or stronger ones, which allows for a fair bit of customization.

The game is quite linear, although there are occasional times when you can explore and get side quests. I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more exploration, but it’s fine for the sort of game that it is.

Then there are the missions. Whenever you’re at a save point, you can choose to go on missions. Some of these are linked to side quests, while others are unlocked as you play. Missions reuse previous areas, but with a small section cordoned off with a number of treasure chests to find and a battle to reach as your goal.

When I started playing, I found these missions fun. They were basic, but I found it fun to do a few between story segments or while watching a video. I’d probably praise the missions if there were, say 100 of them. Maybe even 150.

But there are 300 of these simple, repetitive missions, and I got 37% of the way through the list before I got so sick of them I ignored them for the entire second half of the game.

Crisis Core is at its best when it expands on details from Final Fantasy VII and at its worst when it focuses on its original plot awkwardly shoehorned in alongside the existing material. I often love insane stories that other people find convoluted, so I hoped I’d be on board with Crisis Core’s more divisive elements, but I unfortunately wasn’t. However, I’m still happy I played Crisis Core, because it does have a lot of great moments despite its flaws.

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Nov 132023
 

Two years ago, I beat Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward and found it to be an exciting, enjoyable adventure.

I mentioned at the end of my review that while I’d be taking a break, I was excited to keep playing to see what would happen in the post-Heavensward patches.

But you know what happened at the same time that I finished Heavensward? The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles came out and took over my thoughts forevermore. (NEO: The World Ends With You also came out at the same time, because that was a crazy period of time for great games.) I’d finished Heavensward intentionally to make sure it wasn’t competing with those, but little did I realize the resulting break and Ace Attorney obsession would lead to Final Fantasy XIV once again being relegated to weekly check-ins for the cactpot.

However, the winner of this year’s Celebrating All Things Mysterious contest back in May chose the second Final Fantasy XIV expansion, Stormblood, as the game for me to review, and so I resumed my progress.

The post-Heavensward patches were exciting and wrapped up the Heavensward storyline in a satisfactory way. Then I began Stormblood proper. This time, the story returns its focus to the Garlean Empire, as our characters spearhead a move to free Ala Mhigo from imperial control.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy Stormblood as much as I enjoyed Heavensward, and not just because I prefer Ishgard as a setting.

The biggest reason, which I realized near the end of the expansion, is that it largely focused on a supporting character whom I just didn’t find interesting. Her development throughout the story fell flat for me, which meant it had a lot of moments that were supposed to be epic or emotional that didn’t have much of an impact on me at all. And the second big reason is that the story felt disjointed at times.

Stormblood is supposed to be about the liberation of Ala Mhigo, but the characters eventually conclude that the best way to do that is to free the eastern country of Doma from imperial control first. There is a link there, but the Ala Mhigo and Doma plots felt too separate to me, which gave the overall plot an odd feel.

Now, despite these complaints, the final few parts of the story were actually pretty epic. They made it feel like it was worth going through the rest. I also found a greater appreciation for the villain when I realized there’s some oddball humor to his portrayal.

Click for Stormblood spoilers
For example, partway through the final encounter, Zenos basically tells the player character that he thinks they could be best friends, and if you reject the idea, he says wanting to fight him is just even more proof that you and he are similar. It’s the funniest take on the “we’re not so different” trope, because it comes across like he’s not trying to persuade you of anything, he’s just really happy to find a kindred spirit (even if you don’t see it that way at all).

Anyway, I didn’t enjoy Stormblood nearly as much as Heavensward, but it did have some good moments. I’ve also seen people say it picks up a lot in the post-Stormblood patches.

I do want to highlight one thing that isn’t about Stormblood specifically, but was added with more recent patches to the game – the ability to play through story dungeons with an NPC party. I love this addition. I used to dread dungeons, because the party would always rush through and leave me no time to enjoy the dungeon itself. Now I’m able to enter the dungeon with story-relevant characters, explore it at my own pace, and even get some banter between characters! It’s a wonderful addition that really made that aspect of the game much more enjoyable for me.

I’ll be taking a short break from such devoted Final Fantasy XIV playing to focus on some other games, but I’m looking forward to getting into the patches and eventually reaching the much-praised Shadowbringers.

Now, I noticed while writing this that my Heavensward review began with me mentioning that it had been two years since I beat A Realm Reborn, much like this one began with me pointing out that it had been two years since I beat Heavensward. So… see you in 2025 to discuss Shadowbringers!

Kidding, kidding. I’ll put in my best effort not to let that happen again. In the meantime, if you’ve played Stormblood, how did you feel about it?

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