Sam’s Scores: Box Score!

Welcome to a special edition of Sam’s Scores! This edition is going to be a little different, so let me jump right into the details and explain….

Back in January, I was on my normal thrift store hunt when I came across a box with quite a few items inside that peaked my interest. None of the items had price tags, so I decided to ask a store employee about them. The employee looked in the box and asked me if I wanted everything, short of some stray hangers and a few cassette tapes, the answer was yes! The employee looked at the box and shot me a price that I couldn’t turn down!

On the very top sat a Nintendo 64 and a Sony PSOne with it’s power supply. Inside the N64 was Mario Kart 64 and within the PSOne was Test Drive Off-road 3. Deeper in the box there were 3 more games for the N64 (Turok 2, Madden ’99 and San Francisco Rush), two different RF adapters (one for the N64 and a multiple adapter for Nintendo, Sony and Xbox), the power supply for the N64 and a PC controller. Sadly there were no controllers or other accessories for the systems within the box.

Everything inside the box needed cleaned but that doesn’t scare me as most thrift store finds do and I clean them all anyway. After some testing, the N64 works but the PSOne refuses to read discs. The PSOne might be an easy fix or maybe not, I will check further into it and possibly write an article about the fix. Even if the PSOne doesn’t work, I’m still happy to have gotten such a great score!

The whole box $10

Posted March 27th, 2011

OPINION: I like Dragon Quest more than Final Fantasy

Dragon Quest (DQ), also known as Dragon Warrior in the US, is my favorite RPG series. Final Fantasy (FF) can’t compare. Most people talk about them like they are equal games. I’m going to explain why I personally believe DQ is head and shoulders above FF.

Dragon Quest vs Final Fantasy

This isn’t an “I hate Final Fantasy” post. In fact, I loved the series up until #10. In my opinion, 10 and later strayed too far from what made FF a good game.

The gameplay in both games was largely the same throughout most of the games. What made the games different was the story of the games. Sure, both games have a main character that is destined to save the world. Very few RPGs don’t have that storyline.

What makes the stories different was the tone of the stories. FF often had a dark, gritty, serious storyline. DQ always had a story that felt like something I could relate to.

DQ isn’t afraid to try new story ideas. In one DQ game you even start out as a young kid. As the game goes on you get older, get married and have kids of your own and your kids are the heroes destined to save the world. You’re just there for the ride.

Crack Billed Platypunk

DQ has lots of humor. They name their characters amusing things. For example, there is a Bishop Jack of Alltrades Abby. The monsters you fight also have the funny names. With names like Crack-billed platypunk, Trauminator and Tyrannosaurus Wrecks, you know the developers have a sense of humor.

CapsichumAlso, DQ caused a law to go into effect in Japan. In 1988 Dragon Quest III came out on a week day, causing millions of Japanese workers to call in sick to work to stand in line to buy the game. The Japanese government was quick to make a new law stating it’s illegal for Dragon Quest games to be released on week days. Can Final Fantasy make that claim?

Posted March 25th, 2011

TVG Interview: Rinry!

The crew here at TVG enjoy the youtube personalities who share our love for video games, especially the classics! We thought it would be a great idea to do a short Q&A with some of them and see how their video gaming minds work. I’ve sent off many requests, some people have responded graciously, others not at all. Recently I had a chance to correspond with Rinry (aka RinryGameGame), not only is she adorable but she also enjoys video gaming! Through a few emails I had my chance to get to know her better and now here is the Q&A for you to get to know her better as well!

Q: Do you mind telling us what you do for your day job?
A: Surprise! I’m a preschool teacher.

Q: What are some other hobbies you enjoy, outside of video gaming?
A: I mostly read novels, watch internet videos and tv shows, and play video games. I don’t really have time for many engaging hobbies since I work all day and then work on videos at night.

Q: Do you remember the first gaming system you ever owned/played?
A: My older brother got an NES when I was four years old. I don’t remember caring too much at the time though. Especially since he was so much better than me.

Q: Do you have a favorite gaming system and why?
A: I love the SNES. I didn’t play one until around 2000, but once I did and I got hooked on all of those classic SNES RPGs (like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, and Secret of Mana) and haven’t stopped playing since. It is definitely the system that transformed me into a gamer.

Q: Do you remember the first video game you ever played?
A: I’m guessing it was Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt, but I don’t really have a distinct memory of the first video game I played. I played a lot of video games as a kid because my parents always had a computer and always provided us with a plethora of games.

Q: What is your favorite game/series and why?
A: I really like the Final Fantasy franchise. Even though some more recent installments have been close to lackluster, I still maintain constant enthusiasm for the series! For many generations of gaming they have provided gamers with the definitive RPG of that generation: FFI on NES, FFVI on SNES, FFVII on PS1, and FFX on PS2.

Q: What is your favorite gaming genre and why?
A: Guess what… I’m totally into RPGs. They have this ability to really suck me into a new and extraordinary world where I get to beat up creatures, talk to every single villager, and deck out my party in new weapons and armour in every new town!! It’s fun. I rarely talk about my love for RPG’s in my videos. Sidescrollers are definitely my second favourite genre, so that’s why I like to focus on retro gaming.

Q: Do you have a standout favorite video game character and why?
A: I really like Kirby. But don’t expect a grandiose opinion on him! I just think he’s really cute and has some awesome soundtracks.

Q: Do you own a certain game, system or other piece of gaming history that you are particularly proud of?
A: I have Chrono Trigger in mint condition with the box, booklet, and accompanying posters. It’s my favourite game of all time so it means a lot to me.

Q: If you could bring back any classic game for a sequel, what would it be and why?
A: Chrono Trigger. Chrono Cross wasn’t a real sequel. It easily could have been its own game, but instead they attached Chrono to the name and assassinated most of the characters from the first game!

Q: Were you also confused about why it was is Zelda’s adventure when Link was doing all the work?
A: Definitely confused as a child.

Q: What got you into doing online video game reviews?
A: I had been watching various web series for a while and decided that I could do it too. This isn’t uncharacteristic of me though. I made a couple of YTMNDs back in the day as well….

Q: Is there any vintage game or games that frustrate you?
A: TONS!! Mega Man, Ninja Gaiden… name any notoriously difficult retro game and I’m sure it has made me very frustrated. Sometimes I don’t know when to give up and try again tomorrow…

Q: Kids in the Hall, Red Green or Trailer Park Boys?
A: Kids in the Hall.

Q: Without saying too much, can you give us a hint for what may be in store for your next video review?
A: It’s another Non-Nostalgic review… my most recent PSN trophies are a dead give-away of the game I will be looking at!!

Rinry not only loves the classics, she loves video gaming in general, so her youtube channel is dedicated to all kinds of games both classic and modern. No matter what the content is about (my personal favorite is the Nintendo Board Games), her personality and knowledge about the items she reviews is always enjoyable to watch, so if you haven’t seen her before I highly suggest you take some time and check out her videos!

Posted March 18th, 2011

Soul Blazer

Ever wished that there was a game out there that crossed both the action and town building elements of Actraiser in a top-down action game like Zelda or Illusion of Gaia? If you missed it, your wish was granted back in 1992 with the release of “Soul Blazer” by Enix for the Super Nintendo. Published by Enix, Quintet was actually the company that developed it, the same people behind Actraiser. Given the similarities between the two, many people think of Soul Blazer as the true “Actraiser 2”. Where Actraiser was half side-scroller, half city-builder, Soul Blazer blends these 2 elements much more directly into one top-down Zelda-esque action RPG platform. The gameplay is quite similar in style to Zelda or Crystalis (top-down action) with a semi-grid style map (finer than “full square”, it’s more like “1/4 square”). It certainly leans towards more RPG elements however, as interaction with others and the story is somewhat important to the game’s progression. The story isn’t nearly of Final Fantasy uberness or depth, but is a little stripped down, easily understandable, and adds a nice touch and mood.

In this game, all living creatures in the world have been imprisoned by the demonlord Deathtoll, and you are an angel in human form sent by “The Master” (God, Gaia most likely) to release all creatures, large and small, from his clutches. You have the power to communicate with all living creatures, which is good because you will have to free not only humans, but all manner of woodland critters, sea critters, plants, and even sentient machines! You do this by journeying into dungeons (and in some cases dreams, paintings, models, machines, etc.) and defeating enemies and sealing their “Lairs” (Hello, Actraiser!). You must destroy the enemies that each Lair spawns, and when it runs out, you can step on it to seal it. Each Lair you seal (there are a lot of them!) will release a resident of the town near whichever area you are freeing, and will spontaneously rebuild parts of the town as well. In this way, you rebuild the world, and as you do, the residents will reward you with advice, gear, or insight into how everything fell apart. There are many points where the only way to advance in the dungeon is to free a specific individual to help you, so frequent trips between town and dungeon are a good idea. When you clear an entire area (with a few exceptions) you will then be able to move on to another part of the world that needs your help.

Throughout the game, you acquire new swords, armors, spells (8 of each), and a variety of unique items to use in battle or to progress. You’ll need them all, since many enemies are only effected by certain attacks, different armors help you survive different conditions/enemies, and most spells, even the early ones, are useful throughout the entire game in different situations. You can only have one weapon, one armor, and one spell equipped at a time though, as well as one of the many extra items, so you must pick carefully depending on your needs. You are also accompanied by a Soul Orb that is the focal point for several Angel spirits that will help you throughout your journey, showing you invisible enemies, secret passages, lighting up the darkness, etc.

This Soul Orb is also where most of your spells are actually cast from. When cast, the spell launches from the Orb in the direction you are facing, which gives an interesting tactical approach to magic. To use a spell, you must have enough “Gems” to cast it. Gems drop from enemies, but in limited amounts, so you can’t just spam spells at everything, and you may need to save them up to kill certain enemies and bosses. As you hoard Gems throughout the game, you can save up enough to use spells quite frequently later in the game, which is nice.

If the gameplay reminds you a little bit of Illusion of Gaia, that is no accident. Soul Blazer is the first installment of a very loose trilogy of games, Illusion of Gaia being the second, and Terranigma (a game that unfortunately never arrived in the US, and hopefully the subject of an upcoming article) being the third. The play style and themes are relatively similar amongst all three games, but with IoG being almost exclusively action oriented. As I said above, some people include Actraiser in this, but there are no solid links between the games, so it’s up to interpretation. I can really feel the heritage from Actraiser in the themes, story, graphics, and more though. I just discovered that the Playstation game “The Granstream Saga” was also created by many of the same Quintet people working under a different name, with the intention of it being a spiritual sequel to Terranigma! I’m gonna have to check that out! In addition, Soul Blazer also feels like quite a gameplay/character system successor to Crystalis in the main action aspect and the equipment system.

Overall, a very fun game for fans of Crystalis, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Actraiser, Illusion of Gaia, etc. The raw action element itself may feel *slightly* slower-paced in some regards, but not by much (and not always!), and is well made up for by the fact you make real progress rather quickly and consistently. On a first play through, the game can take many partial days to complete, but once you’re a pro at it and know everything, it could probably be beaten in a good day or two. There isn’t much grinding needed (or to be done) and progress is pretty smooth, keeping things challenging throughout, but not frustrating. Most bosses are more a matter of strategy than raw survival-of-the-fittest hack’n’slash, You’re not going to be bogged down for 40 hours of grinding/training to be uber-pro with this game, and is a good pickup for a short-medium romp through an action RPG!

Posted March 16th, 2011

Get to know the Gamers: William!

As you may have noticed, we have a new member of the TVG crew, William. I’ve known William for a number of years and we’ve connected most notably with classic RPGs. William and I talk about video games quite often and after some thinking we thought it would be a great idea to bring him along and add him to the team. William is quite knowledgeable in classic gaming and loves them just as much as we all do, so he will undoubtedly make a great addition to TVG! As a way to let the fans get to know him, I did a short Q&A with him to open his mind for you guys, enjoy!

Q: Do you mind telling us what you do for your day job?
A: I am a musician and a computer programmer. My brother and I are beginning our own electronics/software business focusing on music recording, and possibly electronics hobbyist products.

Q: What are some other hobbies you enjoy, outside of video gaming?
A: Umm, see question 1! I also consider myself an armchair game developer, and I’ve got quite a few ideas, but don’t know when I’ll ever be able to make a true attempt at factuating them. I have a rather elaborate medieval fantasy world I’ve created, with it’s own magic system, theology, history, eras, etc. If I had a gaming house that just needed ideas, I have enough stuff in just that one world to make at least half a dozen different games spread out over a few hundred years, including a Tactics game and an action RPG or two. I also have a post-apocalyptic, science-‘fact’ion future world I’ve worked on, but I think that would be best to go into one gigantic game. Sometimes I think it would just be more productive if I just tried to write novels, but someday I’ll get around to making a game!

Q: Do you remember the first gaming system you ever owned/played?
A: Those are two different questions with three different answers! The first system I ever played was my brother’s Atari 2600 when I was really little. My cousin got a NES for Christmas one year and he wouldn’t let me play it! I wanted one so bad that I bugged my parents relentlessly for one. Well, my dad picked up a Colecovision at a yard sale with some games, but daddy didn’t raise no fool! That was technically the first game system I owned, but I only used it to bridge the gap until they finally relented and got me an NES. Score!

Q: Do you have a favorite gaming system and why?
A: Mmm, that’s difficult. For ‘gaming systems’, I guess I would have to say the SNES, but to be perfectly honest, since about the mid 90’s, I’ve been primarily a PC gamer. I really love how much more control and how many more options you can have in a PC game. I had been playing consoles for many years before I really got into PC games, but it was a natural fit. After I got used to PCs, I found consoles to feel rather limiting and clunky somehow, and I’ve since migrated mostly to emulators.

Q: Do you remember the first video game you ever played?
A: I don’t remember the first one I played, but the first one I remember was Combat for Atari. God I loved that game! Mrrrrrrrrrrrr mrrrrrrr *pew!* …PSHHHHHHHH!!!

Q: What is your favorite game/series and why?
A: Overall, I’d have to say the Final Fantasy series. I was originally a Dragon Warrior fan, the first Dragon Warrior was what made me fall in love with RPGs, but the Final Fantasy games just started really outpacing the Dragon Warrior/Quest games in my opinion. To me, Final Fantasy IV, VI, and VII are the apex of gaming in each of their respective times. I’m also a total fan of the Final Fantasy Tactics games, and I wish they would make a genuine sequel to the original Final Fantasy Tactics that was released for the Playstation 1. I started losing interest with Final Fantasy VIII though, which I thought was rather awful. IX was an improvement, but I just felt the games were going somewhere I didn’t care to follow, and IX was the last one I played of the main series. On PC, I’m a total Diablo fanboy, and pretty much eat up anything Blizzard software throws at me. Except World of Warcraft. ME NO MMO!

Q: What is your favorite gaming genre and why?
A: Role-playing games, without a doubt. I also like strategy games and a few others, but most genres just feel like time-killers in between playing ‘real’ games to me. I mean a stand out game is a stand out game, and I can enjoy a romp through a good side-scroller too, or mash out an attempt at a fighting game, etc., but it’s just not the same. I love the depth and customization of RPGs, being able to sculpt characters and mold the world around me, and a great storyline is the icing on the cake.

Q: Do you have a standout favorite video game character and why?
A: Umm, not particularly standout. I’ve always been fond of Cecil and Rydia from Final Fantasy IV, Olvan and Lux from The 7th Saga (dwarves and robots are sorely under-represented in games!), and I of course adore Link!

Q: Do you own a certain game, system or other piece of gaming history that you are particularly proud of?
A: I have an Atari 800 computer that I really like having. It’s stowed away, but I have a lot of good memories from it. Heck, I learned how to type by playing old text adventures like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Planetfall, Enchanter, and Wishbringer. I was never too fond of the legendary Zork for some reason, but I did a good bit of keyboard practicing on it as well.

Q: If you could bring back any classic game for a sequel, what would it be and why?
A: Well, I already mentioned a Final Fantasy Tactics II, but early last year I was hooked on Final Fantasy IV: The After Years. I thought it would be awesome to do something similar to that with Final Fantasy VI and instead of making it a sequel, make it a prequel about The War of the Magi! It would probably market best if it was played like Final Fantasy VI, but I think it would work great as a Tactics-style game! There we go, two birds with one stone! Final Fantasy VI Tactics: The War of the Magi!

Q: How do you feel about the whole homebrew world?
A: To be perfectly honest, I’ve never really explored it much. I don’t even have nearly enough time to play all the games currently on my list! A couple years ago, I was exploring ROM hacking, as in doing my own hacking, but it was just for more minor tweaks and such. Conceptually, I think it’s fantastic that people can create games on commercial systems that are normally closed off to the public. That’s another thing I love about PC gaming, though. In PC gaming, homebrews aren’t called homebrews, they’re just called games! For consoles, there are true homebrew games, like a Hero Quest homebrew I found recently for the NES, and then there are elaborate hacks of pre-existing games. Since much of the underlying work is already done, they seem to be able to accomplish the most the quickest, but they also face the most opposition. A great example of that is the Chrono Trigger hack called Crimson Echoes ( that was shut down by Square Enix. I would have totally played that, but alas, ’tis no more.

Q: Are you more of a player or collector?
A: I’m a player. I have some older systems and equipment, and I like that I have it and would never part with any of it, but I don’t seek things out to collect. I like what I have, and there may be a couple things I wouldn’t mind having (like the Final Fantasy 2us cart that was basically stolen from me over a decade ago), but that’s about it. I just really love playing games.

Q: What are your thoughts on emulation over original hardware?
A: I love emulators! To me, playing console games on a PC is a dream come true! Whenever I have the option to play the original or the ROM, the ROM wins every time. Being able to speed up the game and keep your thumbs intact are enough reason, but save states are just heavenly. Playstation games are great too, since I can just pop in my CDs and play them on my computer! Well, it’s great now that I have a computer that can breeze through them.

Q: What do you think you bring to the TVG crew?
A: Wordiness? Truthiness? I have a pretty good store of knowledge built up over the years and have explored some realms of games that many haven’t, like a few more obscure RPGs and foreign games that were never released here in the US. I played the real Final Fantasy’s II, III, and V before most people knew that the SNES ones were actually IV and VI. I’m not sure how useful it would be, but I used to basically be a walking, talking walkthrough for dozens of games, and I know how to quickly find the answer to about any in-game question a person could have on games I’m familiar with.

Q: Do you have a favorite Sam’s Score?
A: I’m split between the Advantage controllers since I always wanted one when I was a kid, and the Sega Menacer because it’s just so obscure and awesome looking! Pew Pew!!

Posted March 12th, 2011

The 7th Saga

“The 7th Saga”, released by Enix for the SNES is one of my all time favorite games! Every time I run into someone else who’s played it, they get this wistful look in their eye, fondness tinged with madness at the game’s occasional (read: near-constant) difficulty and level grinding. Unless, of course, they loathe it for the exact same reasons. This can be one of those ‘Love it or Hate it’ kind of games.

At it’s base, it is a fairly traditional turn-based RPG where you start your journey as one of the 7 apprentices of King Lemele, sent out into the world to recover the 7 Runes of Power. Whosoever completes this quest shall succeed Lemele and become King (or Queen). This all sounds pretty stock, but there is some pretty heavy-duty twisting towards the end. Each character travels along the same basic path (with one or two exceptions), but will interact with the other apprentices throughout the game. Some compete with you to gather the Runes first, some want to team up with you (with a bit of care, you can form a party with any 2 of the apprentices, despite what the manual says!), and some just be general punks and try to fight you and take your Runes. Their attitudes change throughout the game and you should always save before talking to any of the other apprentices. When you have to fight other apprentices, these can be some of the most challenging fights in the game, especially later on, because while they level up with you, they also gain stats faster than you! At very high levels, some apprentices can be nearly (or literally) unbeatable, but you shouldn’t have to deal with them anymore that late in the game.

The 7 apprentices you can start as, team up with, or confront all have different strengths and weaknesses:

  • Kamil: A Human warrior that tries to be a jack of all trades. A competent fighter with average stats that can equip most gear and use some healing and fire magics fairly well.

  • Olvan: A Dwarven warrior similar to Kamil, but is a little slower, a little better in combat, and a little less competent with magic.

  • Valsu: A Human Cleric, he is very fast and has access to all of the best healing and support magics. He can deal a little bit of physical damage, and his only attack spell is a basic Ice spell, but it somehow works fairly well for him.

  • Lejes: A Demon War Mage, he has all of the strongest Fire and Ice attack magics and can also deal respectable physical damage, as well as weakening opponents. His stats are fairly similar to Kamil’s, but he has pretty light defenses, making him something of a glass cannon.

  • Esuna: An Elven Wizardess, she is the only female of the bunch. She is very fast and has a good spread of magic. Her healing is second only to Valsu, and while having fewer attacks spells than Lejes (focusing only on Ice), she is generally better with them because of her better magic stats.

  • Wilme: An Alien Fighter, he doesn’t use (hardly) any equipment, but is incredibly strong and fast, making him a powerhouse with his physical attacks. He has very weak magic however.

  • Lux: A Robot Warrior (a “Tetujin”), he is similar to Wilme, but is slower, can use some equipment way later on, and has better magic including unique Laser and Thunder spells no one else can use.

Through most of the game, you can go it alone, and you’ll level faster for it, but it can be rough going at times. Eventually, at a certain point, you’ll REALLY want to team up, but I’d rather not spoil the surprise! Just be sure to keep a backup save before anything that looks like it might be the end of the game!

Magic is a little unbalanced in this game in 3 ways: 1.) Higher level spells don’t do a great deal more damage than lower level versions (Ice 2 is only marginally better than Ice, for example), 2.) the Magic stat gets capped at 255 eventually (but only at VERY high levels), so magic stops getting more powerful while physical power keeps going up, and 3.) most monsters do not have different elemental strengths or weaknesses, so usually Ice = Fire = Lightning, unless an enemy is just resistant to magic period. All that said though, magic is great because you can attack multiple foes at once, and it is still quite powerful, even when capped. Healing magic is a real life-saver, especially after you can’t “freeload” anymore (nod nod, wink wink, say no more) and the buff/debuff spells are great! Nothing says howdy like: Lux: ‘DEFEND’, Valsu: ‘SPELL->POWER’, Lux: ‘PWN’! (Note: A technique that you’ll use often is to use ‘DEFEND’ with a character, then ‘ATTACK’ on their following turn. This will increase your damage while protecting you half of the time. Particularly useful against enemies with strong defenses.)

Battles consist of your 1-2 characters facing off against 1-3 enemies at a time. What’s unique about the battle system is that when you enter battle, you spin down to a 3rd person, Mode 7 battlefield, something I’m not sure any other SNES RPG ever did! For the time, it was rather cool and unusual! The battles can get pretty hard at times though. At first, things seem to go alright, but if you go to new places a little too early, enemies can really pummel you, so you need to be careful when exploring newer regions. You also need to save up money for the best gear you can buy in an area (unless you’re playing as Wilme or Lux), so there’s a little bit of grinding as you go along throughout the entire game. In the Japanese version, characters gained stats faster (hence why rival apprentices get stronger than you, they missed that part during porting!), making things go a little smoother. There are ROM hacks out there to restore this, but to a lot of people who’ve played (and liked) the US version, including me, the difficulty is part of the charm. I’ve never played it, but I hear the Japanese version is almost TOO easy.

As you travel through the world in your quest for the Runes, you run into various towns and kingdoms that have different issues you can help them out with, most of them actually directly related to finding the Runes. You even run into a lost civilization that becomes more than it appears. You overthrow usurpers and monsters (and the occasional rival apprentice) to gather the Runes and generally help folks out. At one point, depending on which apprentice you choose in the beginning, some of the paths diverge when you need to visit a new continent. Most apprentices follow one path, but a couple end up going somewhere completely different, and yet a third character can choose a unique path that only he can access. They all eventually re-converge, but where you go can have pretty special challenges. Many of the bosses along the way can be real treats, too! And by treats, I mean “WTF?!”

All in all, a very unique and challenging game for people who wish Dragon Warrior was much more complex, difficult, and better looking! Sign me up! If you like your first playthrough, this game has quite good re-playability since the characters are so different, many different teams will provide a new set of challenges and strategies.

Posted March 6th, 2011