Mistakes Were Made

So despite my endless whining I found some leftover cash to purchase Dragon Quest IX last weekend and have put considerable amount of time into it since then.  Despite being only about 10 hours into it I think I can safely say that this is one the most enjoyable traditional RPG experiences I’ve had in a long time.  It’s also extremely interesting time to play it for me as well, seeing as I’m charging my way through Final Fantasy XIII currently as well.

These two games cannot be more polar opposites of one another and switching gears between playing the both of them can be quite disorienting.  Let’s start with the obvious differences first.  Dragon Quest being the portable game that it is goes for the simplistic graphical presentation, while Final Fantasy sticks with it’s roots, going for the bombastic epic HD experience.  I would like to say I prefer Dragon Quest IX’s style more than Final Fantasy’s because it does appeal to my tastes in colorful whimsical games.  But every time that battle screen loads up in Final Fantasy and I see my team standing there looking badass in HD, I have to say “Damn this is a fine looking game”.  Final Fantasy isn’t without it’s presentational flaws though.  They seem to rely heavily on copy and pasting areas until they have long outlasted their welcome.  I haven’t run into this problem with Dragon Quest, but like I said I’m only 10 hours in.

The battle systems are also two entirely different beasts.  The frantic, number-filled, 5 second battles of Final Fantasy take some getting used to.  It took me some time figuring out when to change my paradigms and what paradigms to use in the right situations.  The paradigms you use are so crucial to the game that if you’re not using the right one at the beginning of a battle, you can be wiped in a blink of an eye by your enemies.  Now compare this to Dragon Quest which uses the old tried and true RPG system of taking turns.  The battles definitely take a bit longer in Dragon Quest but I haven’t found this bothersome yet.  It makes it a little bit easier to keep up with whats going one and plan out you next move more efficiently.  This whole system wouldn’t work as well for me if it weren’t for them ditching random battles.  This is HUGE for the Dragon Quest series and makes it way more fun.  It’s hard to say which I prefer.  Final Fantasy’s seems to offer a lot more frustration, especially after being wiped out in a second and not knowing what happened.  For now I’m leaning towards Dragon Quest, but that could change as the game goes one.

Another pillar that makes up an RPG is the story.  This is also where these two games go in opposite directions.  Final Fantasy is all story.  You watch a cut scene and then walk and fight your way to the next cut scene.  Thats the harsh forum troll way of looking at it and I don’t really have a problem it, that’s the way most of the Final Fantasy titles have been.  I think their decision to remove towns and exploration from this game really hurts the story the most.  You miss alot of the secondary information about the world and the characters that these things would deliver.  I know it has the datalog, but that seems like a really lazy way to get that information to the player.  Dragon Quest on the other hand has a paper thin story and makes no apologies for it.  Before playing a game like Borderlands (also zero story) I would have thought that would have been a huge negative, but now I can see it’s advantages.  It puts a lot more focus on the battles, the exploring and the LOOT.

The loot,  Dragon Quest has it and Final Fantasy doesn’t.  That’s my biggest complaint with Final Fantasy.  It doesn’t have to have a robust item system like Dragon Quest, but it doesn’t even seem to try.  I’ve got some items on my character that have been equipped on them since the beginning of the game, they’re just leveled up more.  It just seems like another thing they streamlined that I enjoyed in the previous games.

Judging from all that I’ve written thus far it would seem that Dragon Quest has stolen my heart over Final Fantasy.  I would say thats somewhat true.  I don’t actively dislike Final Fantasy,  I’m just enjoying Dragon Quest more at the moment.  I will see Final Fantasy through to the end and maybe it will become more enjoyable after it opens up in Gran Pulse.  It’s pretty cool to play both of them together and see the different ways they go about the RPG formula.

I have also been bitten by the Scott Pilgrim but here lately.  After listening to the Retronauts episode about the game (mostly the books though) and watching the Giantbomb Quick Look,  I got throughly excited for the game.  I know they mostly bash the game in the Quick Look but that made me no less excited for the game.  I actually went to the local Barnes and Noble and read 3 of the books to get myself more familiar with the source material.  The story is ok,  but I do like how the author treats video game references. He uses them more like reference to movies or current events, they’re not throughly explained or done with a wink and a nod.  Hopefully I’ll get to try out the game when I can get on XBLA and give my thoughts on it.

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