2019-07-09

Xbox 360 Exclusive JRPGs on Xbox One

Given it wasn't a big player in Japan (or Asia in general), JRPGs that were only available on the Xbox 360 are quite a rare breed indeed. Even rarer, then, are those that are included in the list of backwards compatible titles for Xbox One.


Exclusives

The only 3 titles that I know tick both boxes (360 exclusive AND backwards compatible on the Xbox One) are:

Infinite Undiscovery

Infinite Undiscovery

Lost Odyssey and Blue Dragon enjoy reasonably high profiles, but I have a soft spot for Infinite Undiscovery. It seemed to mainly exist as a test game for the new Star Ocean engine but is an enjoyable fantasy JRPG with a solid cast and good battle system. It also features a New Game+ mode, which bumps up the difficulty.



Multi-platform Titles

Then there are a few more which are backwards compatible but are available on other platforms:


Star Ocean: The Last Hope

As an example, Star Ocean: The Last Hope (TLH) had a brief window of exclusivity (1 year, from memory) but then moved to PS3 and was updated as TLH "International". New features included Japanese or English audio and a choice of Anime-style or CG character portraits. TLH was later re-released on PS4 and Windows as a "4K & Full HD Remaster" edition.


Backwards compatible but also available on other platforms:




Not backwards compatible (but available on other platforms):

Eternal Sonata, known as Trusty Bell in Japan



There may well be a few I've missed - feel free to comment if that's the case.

Here's the Wikipedia list of backwards compatible titles - as far as I can tell it's as up-to-date as the official list, but I find it easier to read-through.

Lastly, an honorable mention to Child of Light, which is a JRPG at heart, even if it wasn't made in Japan. It's both backwards compatible and available on just about every platform.

2019-07-03

Lunar Eternal Blue play-through - part 2

Part two of my Lunar Eternal Blue play-through for #JRPGJuly


After getting to the bottom of the Blue Spire and subsequently having Lucia weakened, it's time to make our escape. Unfortunately, the guardian statue at the entrance as come to life and isn't in an accomodating mood.

(Part one is here)


Best not to fight the Guardian until Gwen learns Rust Weapon!

If Gwen has reached level 12, he will have access to Rust Weapon, which will negate the guardian's otherwise powerful physical attack (it buffs periodically but Rust Weapon cancels it out nicely). Gwen learns Rust Armor earlier, which also cancels out the guardian's armor buff.

Poor Lucia's 1HP means she doesn't stand a chance if she's in the wrong place at the wrong time...

After getting past one guardian, the ante is well a truly upped with 4 more appearing. This is what they call "fighting a losing battle" but Leo and his battleship come to the rescue.

Leo to the rescue. Bit of a jerk about it though...

Despite being too weak to move, Lucia is still adamant about continuing her mission. Gwen suggests that Ronfar/Rong-Fa in the town of Raapa/Larpa might be able to assist and so Hiiro is on his way again.

Ruby gets possessive of Hiiro (again)


Sailing to Larpa

Larpa presents something of a change of scenery


Meeting Ronfar
After meeting Ronfar, he challenges Hiiro to a game of dice. Naturally, it's un-winnable and Hiiro is forced to give up. Lucia manages to move to the story along by collapsing, at which point Ronfar catches her and takes her to his house to rest.

Leo again. Fortunately, Ronfar is there to deflect his attention.

Our heroes can't get a break and Leo turns up to speak with his friend Ronfar. Luckily for them, Ronfar doesn't rat them out and, once Leo is gone, decides to help them out. He challenges Hiiro to another game of dice but this time rigs it Hiiro's way.

Ronfar pushes aside the chest of drawers to reveal a secret passage and *bam*, it's dungeon time again! That's as good a time as any to take a break and finish this post...



As a side-note, I couldn't remember who voiced who so I looked up the list of voice actors and was quite surprised to find that softly spoken Lucia was performed by Yokoyama Chisa [横山智佐]. She's famous for such roles as the loud and cheerful Sasami from Tenchi Muyo and also did the loud and in-charge Ryoko from Nadesico. She's also the voice of Sakura from the Sakura Taisen series - probably her most notable game role.

While I'm on the topic of voice acting, Lunar EB really does feature some top talent. In addition to the above we also have Hisakawa Aya [久川 綾] as Jean and Hayashibara Megumi [林原めぐみ] as Lemina.

#LunarEternalBlue #JRPGJuly

2019-07-01

Lunar Eternal Blue play-through - part 1

I decided to start off #JRPGJuly by continuing the replay of Lunar Eternal Blue that I'd recently started (I was only 45 or so minutes in, so I'm practically starting from scratch here).




Apart from the opening, this is the first significant dungeon of the game. There is a healing statue near the mid-point and HP and MP potions are also available (in chests and as drops), so it's a good introduction to combat without being overwhelming.

Hiiro's first AoE special attack - very useful early on

"Hey, a shiny crystal. I wonder what's inside?"

*gack*

[un-impressed expression]


Hiiro is immediately taken with Lucia but she has no time for idle chit-chat - she wants to be taken to the Goddess Althena right away. Hiiro doesn't really know how to accomplish this but offers to help anyone. Anything for a pretty face, huh? Ruby is suitably un-impressed with her lovestruck partner.

Look at those stats! Shame they don't last long...




Lucia casts one of her totally OP spells
Lucia is initially completely OP and demolishes her way through enemies without needing any help. This is a good spot to pick up some bonus EXP, as your party is pretty much unstoppable. An extra level or two is always handy.


Leaving the tower with a now severely weakened Lucia in tow

Upon leaving the Blue Spire, Zophar makes his first appearance and saps Lucia of her superpowers, leaving her weak and unable to do much of anything by herself. Hiiro and crew escort her away from the spire to (relative) safety.

#LunarEternalBlue

Happy #JRPGJuly

It's #JRPGJuly - the time of year to really focus on those JRPGs in your playlist or backlog and share some screenshots, anecdotes and (quite possibly) rants.



I've been nursing along several JRPG play-throughs recently but without any strict focus due to travel, other things on the go, and my crippling inability to focus ;)

Here's a quick list of possibles and probables:


  • I have my umpteenth play-through of Suikoden II [PSX] nearing the end - 30+ hours in and with all 108 characters recruited.
  • I've also spent some time re-playing Grandia [PSX] with the (relatively) new and complete un-dub patch.
  • Feeling nostalgic, I started a replay of Lunar: Eternal Blue [PSX] last week
  • Lufia II [SNES]. I'm several hours in but stopped playing for a while due to how formulaic and "samey" things were feeling. Might be worth going back for another look.
  • Phantasy Star [SMS]. Holds up incredibly well for a Master System game. Warrants some more hours of play.
  • Phantasy Star IV [SMD] - I've put some time into this one over the years, spread of different re-releases/Mega Drive compilations.
  • My thousandth (possible exaggeration) replay of Final Fantasy VII. I should say "replays" here, as I'm 30-odd hours into the PS4 re-release but also 5 or so into the re-translation patched PSX game.
  • Yet another replay - Final Fantasy VIII (Windows) with some nice graphical mods that make it look a bit prettier. 6 or 7 hours in at the moment.



As for the backlog, some titles that I've been wanting to play for years and have only half-heartedly poked at:

  • Super Mario RPG (SNES). I've only played for 30 minutes or so, hope to get back to it some day...
  • Breath of Fire (any of them - I think I was leaning towards 4).
  • Finally finishing Chrono Trigger. I've started and played for a few dozen hours but over both the SNES, DS, and PSX versions.
  • Wild Arms. Similar to Chrono Trigger, a couple of restarts, plenty of time put it but not finished.
  • Albert Odyssey (Saturn). Couple of false starts, I haven't seen a lot of it but I feel I'd like to.

2019-03-24

I think airport trains hate me

I managed to experience a rare double today - there were issues with the airport trains both at my departure airport and at my destination!

Hong Kong's Airport Express had an issue with overhead cabling between Tsing Yi and the airport, so that meant queuing up for replacement buses - about 30 minutes to get on a bus, then a slower than normal trip out to the airport. Fortunately, I'd allowed some padding but I still only managed to make it to the check-in desk 5 minutes before the cut-off.

Arriving at Narita, I headed down towards the trains, only to hear an announcement that Narita Express services had been suspended due to an accident. I initially tried to get a bus straight to Shinjuku but the operator warned me that traffic was so bad that I was better off taking one of the other train options.

In the end I took the Keisei Skyliner to Nippori then changed for the Yamanote Line to (slowly) finish my trip. With all the going back and forth and queuing, I wasn't even on a train until 17:42, after arriving shortly before 16:00! I finally checked into my hotel, about 10 minutes walk from Shinjuku station, a little after 19:00.

So, a stressful day's travel - pretty much the entire day gone, only traveling between Hong Kong and Tokyo.

My favorite airport train story remains the time I was headed home from Sydney airport when the driver went though a red. This meant the train had to be reversed to the preceding station and everyone had to get off and wait for the next train, which ran a modified service (which changed again en-route). The already glacial 2 hour trip blew out to nearer 4.

2018-12-25

2018 Travel Year in Review

I thought that 2017 had been a big year but 2018 has surpassed it in almost every way. Visiting the USA twice, spending time in England, Wales, Germany, and the Netherlands along with visiting Hong Kong, Vietnam and Thailand.


This is what it looked like on a map:





I managed to tick a few things off my wish list on the way.
  • First time flying Business on: Singapore, Qatar, Cathay Pacific, and Emirates
  • First flights on the shiny new A350-900
  • Visiting Snowdonia NP, Wales and walking the Llanberis path (in the snow)
  • Returning to Zion NP, Utah and ticking off Angels Landing and Observation Point - amazing hikes, both
  • Visiting Bryce Canyon, Utah for the first time - and experiencing it covered in snow
  • Trying out Virgin Australia's Premium Economy SYD-LAX
  • Ticking off all the art galleries and museums I'd most wanted to visit on the US East Coast
  • Visiting some parts of Australia I'd missed out on over the years - most notably the wonderful state of Tasmania
  • Hiking up to the summit of Ben Lomond near Queenstown, NZ - an incredibly beautiful place
Bryce Canyon National Park, red rock covered in snow



Statistics


  • Flights:  55
  • Distance:  93,994 miles
  • Duration:  8 days, 2 hours, 32 minutes


Top 10


Routes 

MEL↔SYD    6
ADL↔SYD    2
SYD↔TMW    2
SYD↔LAX    2
BOS↔JFK    2
DOH↔SGN    2
PER↔SYD    2
SIN↔SYD    2
LST↔SYD    2
PPP↔SYD    2



Airports

Sydney, NSW (SYD) 30
Melbourne, VIC (MEL) 8
Singapore (SIN) 4
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (SGN) 4
Doha, Qatar (DOH) 4
Salt Lake City, UT (SLC) 4
New York JFK, NY (JFK) 4
Los Angeles, CA (LAX) 3
Queenstown, New Zealand (ZQN) 2
Adelaide, SA (ADL) 2


Airlines

Virgin Australia 18
Delta Air Lines 9
Qantas 7
Singapore Airlines 4
Qatar Airways 4
Flybe 3
Tigerair Australia 3
Cathay Pacific 2
Emirates Airline 1
Thai Aiways 1


Planes

Boeing 737-800 16
Boeing 777-300ER 6
Airbus A330-300 3
Airbus A350-900 3
Airbus A330-200 3
Airbus A319 2
Boeing 717-200 2
ATR72-600 2
Embraer E195 2
Airbus A320 2

2018-12-06

Growing Up PAL


Without wishing to make too much of what is very much a first world problem, it was a bit of a miserable experience growing up as a fan of JPRGs in Australia (end elsewhere in PAL territories).



Limited local releases


It wasn’t that we missed out on obscure or fringe titles either - the “big hitters” of the genre, Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest were completely absent from shelves. The very first Final Fantasy to see a PAL release was VII on the PlayStation. Dragon Quest took even longer - the PlayStation2’s Dragon Quest VIII was the initial appearance for the series (the number was even dropped from the title, something that also occurred with the EU/AU/NZ Nintendo DS releases of Dragon Quest IV, V and VI. Presumably this was done to prevent any confusion but I like to imagine marketers saying “what other Dragon Quest games?” while whistling innocently.

Interestingly, some titles did still slip through the cracks. Lufia II [SNES] appeared as simply “Lufia” (the first game, which comes second chronologically, never made an appearance). Suikoden [PlayStation] was the very first JRPG I played, rented from a video store (remember those?) on a whim. It’s still one of my favourites and is largely responsible for getting me into the “scene” (?).



What about imports?


With such scarcity of local releases, this meant importing was the only way to obtain most of the titles. Of course, this was before Amazon, VideoGamesPlus, Play-Asia, and the like, so I remember nervously ordering Lunar 2 [PlayStation] from a small online game store that was willing to ship internationally and crossing my fingers that they were legit. Thankfully, they were, and I still have that gorgeous boxed collection on my shelf.

Apart from the issue of actually getting the game in your hands was problem of region locking. The SNES used a lockout chip AND the cartridges were a slightly different shape (PAL used the same slightly rounded shape as the Super Famicom, while the US cartridges had squared corners. Getting around this involved an adapter to, firstly, make the cart fit and, secondly, defeat the lockout. This was done by having a second cartridge slot on the adapter, into which was placed a local game. This game was presented to the lockout chip, passing the region test.

On the CD-based consoles like the PlayStation and Saturn, there were a few workarounds. A common one was a mod chip soldered onto the motherboard that defeated the region lock. Another was the “swap-trick” for PlayStation, whereby a local game was started with the lid open (lid sensor depressed to fool the system into thinking it was shut) and swapping the import game at just the right time - after the region test but before the game itself started booting.

There were also universal adapters of various types - one for the Saturn that sat in the cartridge slot (normally used for the Memory card or for RAM expansions) or boot CDs for Dreamcast and Gamecube that function like a more elegant version of the swap trick. The tool would boot, get past the region lock, then load to a menu which prompted the user to swap the disc.



Good things come to those who wait


Eventually, the PAL markets started to see local releases of most of these missing titles, in the form of re-makes for the PlayStation and then the GBA, DS, and PSP and also via backwards compatibility (e.g., PlayStation titles released via the PSN store - playing the North American version of a game on an Australian console merely required setting up a US PSN account).

Some of the bigger titles kicked off this wave during the PlayStation years, with games such as Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy IV, V and VI making an appearance via collections. Eventually all of the series was locally available in some form. The Dragon Quest series was a similar story, with the earliest titles appearing as GBA re-makes, while IV, V and VI appeared on the DS. Only VII (PlayStation) was still waiting on a physical release - which finally eventuated in the form of the 3DS port.


By the end of it all, the number of versions of some games was almost overwhelming. Take Final Fantasy IV, which now appeared on the PlayStation, GameBoy Advance, NintendoDS, PSP, Mobile, and Windows.


The Present


Of course now, with the advent of a variety of emulators along with a nostalgia driven boom in re-releases, re-makes, and re-masters, most of these titles are more accessible than ever. In fact we are spoiled for choice in some cases - choose a platform, choose a version, choose an emulator, choose a translation (professional or fan, re-translation, re-localization or re-write), choose one or more mods.

Even after settling on a version of a game, then an emulator, there are things like scaling, filtering, and shaders to consider. Go for the authentic look or try to make it look more modern? Then come any patches or hacks put together by fans - some longstanding bugs have been fixed by committed folks while other groups have added new content or characters.