Note: These are my favorite games from among my favorite game series. Major Spoilers for all series mentioned.
Phenomenal indicates it is among my favorite games of all-time in no particular order. This title is for games I absolutely loved.
Great Games indicates that the game would have been among my favorites, but was just missing one small thing that prevented it from being one of my favorites of all-time. I adore them and highly recommend them, but there was just this one small aspect that prevented me from making it an all-time favorite.
Average is self-explanatory. They aren’t bad games by any stretch, but I didn’t really find them charming and they definitely never came close to the games ranked above them.
Below Average is for games that I found severely underwhelming and was totally disappointed by. They’re still good games, but I don’t find anything positive about them or what little I find positive is overwhelmed by all the negatives. They’re either boring or terrible to me.
Garbage is for games that I absolutely hated. Either due to its poor technical aspects that ruined any enjoyment, or because the story was complete trash, or an amalgamation of both. That being said, game developers sometimes have to take risks to prevent their series from becoming stale. Sometimes, they want to try a radical new idea that they think will work great, but doesn’t have they impact they desired. Or perhaps, they missed the mark because they wanted to reinvent their game with a new concept for a new iteration.
I’ll add commentaries for each series and explain my reasoning in brief. This’ll likely be a self-updating blog post over however many years it takes for a new game to grapple my heart and bewitch me. I don’t expect anyone to really be interested in this one as it is obviously just my personal tastes being shared about subjective content.
Dragon Quest Series:
Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride (DS)
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (PC)
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (PS2), Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen (DS), Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Sky (DS).
Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelations (DS)
Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past (PS1), Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime (DS), Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker (DS)
Of the Dragon Quest games that I’ve played, I’ve found the series to be largely phenomenal. I use to be concerned by arguments from people that Dragon Quest was somehow the same story in every game with no real changes in gameplay and plot, and I honestly have to wonder what the hell people were talking about. I had presumed these people had played the games, but over time I realized most didn’t even bother to look beyond the artwork by wrongfully accusing Akira Toriyama of plagiarizing himself. Also, I no longer understand how people can say the plots are all the same or generic. Dragon Quest V’s plot and events are far, far different from any other Dragon Quest. However, I do think that apart from Dragon Quest IV and Dragon Quest IX, the main villains don’t really have character development and motivations outside of some selfish desires or simply the desire to bring darkness to the world. Despite how much the player hates the leading antagonist of Ladja from Dragon Quest V, his motivations are simply serving his dark God, Nimzo.
Dragon Quest XI was a surprisingly good step away from that with the villainous motivations. Each of them fit the theme of the game, where the Light was used to signify working on improving from your personal failings to grow to be a better person, whilst darkness was allowing your personal insecurities to override your better judgment and to seek vengeance upon others due to an inability to deal with that pain. I found both Dragon Quest V and XI show that a silent protagonist can be depicted rather wonderfully in terms of motivations. Dragon Quest V more so, since DQXI falls back on the “But Thou Must!” trope to subtly hint at a particular plot point in its story.
As for the games listed as Garbage, I tried to get into Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker, but it was a horrible game that is completely obsolete compared to both Pokemon and Shin Megami Tensei. Rocket Slime, at least the first one that I played, is just a bad game and not very fun. As for Dragon Quest VII, I’m basing my ranking on the PS1 version that I played. I beat the main game in 123 hours and I just couldn’t bother forcing myself to do anymore. I really tried liking the game, but the plot makes no sense and completely falls apart by the end because of Melvin (the Hero) having random psychic and fire powers just to keep the story going after a major plot twist in the late period of the game. Unlike other casts of characters, none of Dragon Quest VII’s characters were interesting. Which is a huge surprise to me. For example, even without the party chat, Dragon Quest IV’s cast had a charm to them. Dragon Quest V’s cast is phenomenal. Dragon Quest 8’s was very good and endearing, while at least 4 of the cast members of Dragon Quest XI had great development throughout the story. But Dragon Quest VII seemed to gimp the development in favor of exploration and the exploration honestly felt like a giant chore in which I had to redo the same area twice; first the past, and then the present just for shard collections to get to the next point of the game.
However, I understand that Dragon Quest VII was an attempt to do something radically new, both with the upgraded job system of Dragon Quest VI and the massive story that expands throughout every single continent in a somewhat more episodic fashion. Dragon Quest IX attempted to be radically different too, but with more success. Both 7 and 9 seem to be the hit – or – miss games for fans. I can absolute appreciate that the developers wanted to try something truly new and unique for the series. I don’t recall puzzles and shard collections being utilized either before or after Dragon Quest VII. Despite it’s 2D pixels and old-school as fuck gameplay, Dragon Quest VII still stands out rather uniquely compared to Dragon Quest VIII which seems to have had its amazing graphics and gameplay wholly outdone by Dragon Quest XI. The gameplay isn’t entirely the same, but Dragon Quest XI certainly feels like a more upgraded advancement of Dragon Quest VIII’s system to me. To be fair, the overarching plot of Dragon Quest VIII still feels more unique and interesting as it’s premise and events. It felt as if you beat one game and started another during the major plot twist in the middle of DQ8’s plot. However, Dragon Quest XI’s characters and the presentation of its cookie-cutter plot is still done better and feels like a more complete journey. For me, the gameplay in Dragon Quest XI was the most fun of any Dragon Quest as the special attacks felt like they meant something significant and the double and triple tech attacks were amazing.
Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne (PS2)
Shin Megami Tensei IV (3DS)
Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse (3DS)
Persona 5 (PS3)
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey (DS), Digital Devil Saga 1 (PS2), Digital Devil Saga 2 (PS2)
Devil Summoner: Radiou Kuzunoha versus King Abaddon (PS2), Devil Survivor (DS), Devil Survivor 2 (DS), Catherine (PC)
Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha verses Soulless Army (PS2), Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers (3DS), Persona 4 (PS2)
I don’t think I’ve ever hated any MegaTen game that I’ve played. In fact, I seem to like them more than most people so I suppose I’m a diehard fanboy. The Shin Megami Tensei series is specifically my favorite among all JRPG series and probably among video games in general. There’s just this quality of honesty in the vast majority of MegaTen games. None of the dialogue ever feels hamfisted in the context of the situations. The plots of each Shin Megami Tensei Main series feels both creative and unique from each other. The philosophies of these games are far more intricate, far less convoluted, and presented with radically new interpretations in almost every iteration. There is just this incredible sense of honesty and thoroughness in understanding the implications of different philosophies. It’s not just a deeper delving into the human psyche, but also on the failings of theology.
Comparatively, I think the only games that come close to touching upon MegaTen’s general themes, do the best in providing really good counterarguments for some philosophies, but fail to be as multi-faceted in covering different philosophies strengths and weaknesses. For instance, Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age is a brilliant rebuke against MegaTen’s Chaos philosophy through the character of Jasper and later Mordegan. But of course, a core criticism and arguably failing of Dragon Quest XI is that choices don’t really matter. Conversely, the Shin Megami Tensei Main Series seems to try to do too much in terms of choices. Every path is its own canon, but then when you want to do narrative stories that are impactful like Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne’s True Demon Ending, it makes it feel as if the other endings are watered-down and meaningless. They attempted to change this formula around with Digital Devil Saga series having only one ending for each game as a more narrative-focused story and with Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse being based upon the Neutral ending and having a narrative solely focused on two opposing Neutral choices. The Hero of the previous game, Shin Megami Tensei IV, making different choices apart from Neutral having the implication that Apocalypse’s events never happened in his other routes because the main character of the second game never lived long enough for Dagda to find him.
Fans of the Main series argue that Atlus is too Neutral-biased, but that neutral-bias largely only exists within Devil Survivors 1 and 2, where the True Endings are always the more difficult Neutral Endings; both within the initial games which I played and beat multiple times and their 3DS re-releases which I checked reviews and videos of. I think the Main Series simply exists on a double-edged sword. Atlus wants to make narrative games, and players largely seem to argue that narratives don’t matter to then arguing the plots suck when the narrative doesn’t exist after finishing a game that lacks cohesive narratives, but it can’t do that for all paths due to time constraints, budgeting, and a lack of ability to make cohesive narrative pathways that would give satisfying conclusions for every ending. Writing good storytelling with interesting twists is hard work. Stories may be subjective, but the execution of plot points is also key to making an engaging story. I think Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne expressed the strengths and weaknesses of this the best. The True Demon Ending wasn’t simply the last scene, but the entire journey up to that point. It didn’t negatively impact the other paths, because the other stories had their own unique quirks and events. For example, if you picked the Musubi Route, you saw the utter failings of it with Isamu getting completely destroyed by Chiaki, who proved her own philosophy had more merits than players were willing to admit, in Isamu’s own route. This part was actually quite a shock-twist for me since both Yosuga and Shijima paths were presented more benignly in their own routes. Hikawa gives you a free demon and prays for your success. Chiaki says congratulates to you on your triumphs and says you were her truest friend. Isamu? He did nothing and his ending route has the implication that living in your own world is no different than suicide. It may seem appealing earlier in the game, but it’s actually laziness, an aversion to life itself, and makes death appealing than living with the actual struggles of life to find satisfaction in it like the other endings. Nocturne’s themes are largely based on Thus Spake; Zarathustra which is a philosophical novel by Friedrich Nietzsche. The entire purpose of most of the routes and endings is to find a meaning in your suffering. This theme extends to SMTIV and Apocalypse too.
Nevertheless, to make the endings less ambiguous and more impactful, Atlus had to change the formula and try new things. By Strange Journey DS, the formula had felt stale for many fans at that time. It wasn’t until Apocalypse that people wanted Atlus to revert back to it. I know because I was there for it all. I didn’t mind Apocalypse’s Neutral paths since I felt it was a good compromise to get a more narrative-oriented game, but I admit that I hated the Chaos / Law Bad endings even if it was understandable within the context of the plot. I felt the Law endings actually made sense as a bad ending within the context of the overarching story, but the Chaos ending was a complete disappointment. Perhaps, if there was an extra scene of Dagda, Tokyo Denizens, or the Bonds crew killing the main character in a chaotic fashion, it would have been better to emphasize the narrative of being held back by others. The joke ending of picking the Divine Powers route which only lead to a game over screen was amusing, but making an entire route would have been more interesting. So, there were definite shortcomings, but I honestly believe that the Anarchy and Bonds routes were masterfully done in both themes and story impact which is what compelled me to do a thorough analysis of them since I enjoyed them so much. It seemed peculiar that fans will readily admit DDS1-2, Nocturne, and Persona have themes but argue SMTIV and IV Apocalypse somehow didn’t, when they are present throughout the entire journey of both games. It made no sense and seemed to be an obvious attempt to hate on the newest game as is common in internet forums. The Anarchy path was definitely foreshadowed to death and not just in Apocalypse itself, but also the prequel game of SMTIV. Fans may be keen on arguing that the original idea of an updated re-release of SMTIV would have been better, but I find such a claim doubtful. An updated re-release wouldn’t have worked on the same system and would have looked like a cash grab with few interested in playing it. An updated re-release on the Wii U back then, or even the Nintendo Switch right now, would never have gone over well and it’s clear they didn’t have any intention of making what would be an entirely different game on another system. Now, to be clear: the following is just my uninformed opinion on the matter and nothing else. Please don’t take this as me somehow espousing false news. I suspect that, in terms of monetary reasons, the reason they never bothered with the re-release idea was because the PSVita was a financial failure. I’d infer, based on what I’ve read from Eirikjrs blog and MegaTen fan content that gave up-to-date news, the reason they really changed their minds was that the PSVita no longer appeared to be a lucrative option. And to be entirely fair to Atlus, they did a lot more than other companies in trying to make the Vita a system seller by making Persona 4 Golden. Other game companies didn’t attempt to do anything. Atlus cannot be lambasted like other game companies that didn’t give the Vita a chance. They gave a really well-loved game and they have plans to make Catherine: Full Body a Vita game as well. They certainly didn’t abandon it, but they may have modified their expectations and that seems to be more valid with confirmation that they won’t be bringing the Vita version of Catherine: Full Body overseas. The fact is that the 3DS was more lucrative.
As for the actual content, I actually disagree that it was radically changed. The entire Anarchy Path is hinted at from the latter-half of SMTIV itself. If Flynn was originally meant to travel to the past to undo the horrible future, then it could have been similar to Raidou 1’s plot. However, considering the alternate worlds and what SJ Redux provides as new endings (which was probably taken from what wasn’t used of Kazuma Kaneko’s original plot for SMTIV), I suspect the plot wouldn’t have really worked out as intended. The leading bosses would most likely have been Kenji and Kiyoharu transforming into some new demons or callbacks to SMT2 demons (similar to Ahazuya transforming into Beelzebub in SMTIV) and likely transformed themselves into Satan within YHVH’s universe after meeting their ghosts similar to Walter and Jonathan in IV Apocalypse. The alternate demons becoming Satan makes more sense than Lucifer, which was a major criticism from Mainline fans. Anarchy would have been the same, except we would be Flynn with Akira as the helper, and putting a relatively weak God on the Throne after agreeing with his ideology when going Neutral. Law and Chaos were either similar to the SJ Redux Endings or led to inventive bad endings like the doomed worlds of Blasted and Infernal Tokyo coming about anyway, since you didn’t go against YHVH. As for Bad endings? I suspect that Twisted Tokyo’s concept was suppose to be it. Perhaps with Flynn going mad and killing off Akira, Kiyoharu, and Kenji so that humans could only rely on themselves with the shock-twist that it ended-up with the annihilation of humanity. Pure speculation on my part, of course.
Anyway, as for the lowest ranked games. I did enjoy Soulless Army, Soul Hackers could have been so much better than what it was, and Persona 4 was just a horrible game. I think it really reveals a lot about the Reddit community in particular, when they’re so vocally defensive of a 1980s rip-off plot like Soul Hackers and defensive of Persona 4, which is an overly glorified Scooby-doo game but with Personas and a high school setting, but unwilling to give Mainline series any leeway in trying new directions. I loved parts of Soul Hackers such as its main theme and especially the Native American Vision Quests. I really hope Atlus reuses that concept for some future game because it was ingenuous, but the main plot was a cookie-cutter teens defeat an evil corporation storyline. Persona 4’s story is just a complete dumpster fire. You figure out Adachi is the killer immediately because he doesn’t act realistically like a police officer and his “oops” moments that run from beginning to end are utterly annoying.
By direct contrast, Persona 5 takes the same plot template and does it so much better. The character development is superior to anything in Persona 4 and everything from start to finish feels like an overarching story where you’re changing people’s lives for the better, questioning yourselves, and using actual logical thinking before making a judgment. The only downside to that was Ryuji and I ended-up liking even him by the end of the game.
As far as the Digital Devil Saga series, I think it’s the perfect example of why you should never ever read about spoilerific content or correct answers to game choices beforehand. Many people evidently read over how to get Persona true endings instead of just playing games for the surprise and mystery. I think it really damages people’s perceptions. For a game like Nocturne, mystery and open-ended interpretations are key, but most people look at one person’s idea of “demon generals” and “paimon” and just assume this one prominent fan’s viewpoints are the canon truth of the game instead of thinking over the material for themselves. It’s incredibly disappointing. I think it really misses the mark on understanding themes and plot. One of the best examples of this would be Digital Devil Saga 1-2. I find the message was about finding both inner peace and having compassion for even the worst individuals by seeing yourself in them. While the message doesn’t extend to non-violence, you do try to understand that others have been suffering and while helping them is often impossible, you try your best to understand and forgive them. Seeing yourself in them, letting go of your grievances, and understanding they were fallible human beings. Seeing yourself in them. Such a theme is denoted by it’s final words: Oum Mani Padme Hum, the path of compassion.
When I first played the Digital Devil Saga duology, I hated it from start to finish; especially Digital Devil Saga 2. It felt like the Karma towers of both games were a painful chore. I had played the game blind and hadn’t known that “correct” responses were needed for the best endgame benefits in Digital Devil Saga 2’s final dungeon. The second game was incredibly annoying and frustrating with its difficulty and I hadn’t played the extra content of the first game so I felt annoyed whenever content I missed unlocking from playing the first game came-up. It felt irritating and I forced my way to play through what felt like an exceedingly stupid trial. So, what made me change my mind about the Duology enough to make me rate it higher than the Raidou games and others?
In my humble opinion, the Digital Devil Saga Series is analogous to a reverse painting:
That is, you don’t fundamentally understand the importance of anything until replaying both games because of the lengthiest major cut scene of DDS2 before the final dungeon which gives you the plot twist to Serph’s previous self. That cut scene changes the entire dynamic and context of the story. Argilla’s disgust with killing is better understood because her previous self was a murderer who shot Heat O’Brian dead because she loved Serph, Serph’s previous self was a selfish sociopath out to use Sera as a means to an end which explains why the “right” choices in DDS1 are the best option because Serph is making his own identity apart from his previous self, and Heat valued strength and was infatuated with Sera because of his previous self’s love for her and his self-hatred at dying so pitifully when trying to save Sera from human experimentation is what pushed him to value strength above all.
Replaying the games seems to give you a better grasp on Schrodinger’s perspective since they’re a Seraph who is traversing different realities to guide other selves. You understand the significance of picking the right answers. You strive to defeat and free all the trapped souls in the Junkyard with a better understanding of everyone’s suffering. You have to be patient and diligent, understanding that battles will take time and opponents are far stronger and crueler because they harm themselves via their own ignorance, such as the Metatron fight. Traveling up the tower and facing powerful random encounters no longer feel like frightening chore. Fighting Demifiend teaches the player to accept defeat as a fallible set of characters and gives you one of the best JRPG fights ever. Plus, the Demifiend is totally awesome so losing to him kind of feels like an honor and not something to be mad about. I eventually beat him after my gazillionth try and it took me a week with various changes in my skillset to improve. By DDS2, the inner peace mantra and theme of both games is solidified. All of your trials in the previous game unlock rings that you can easily obtain and give you boosts that make the entire Karma tower of DDS2 a breeze. You see the themes of Law and Chaos that the opposing sides try to push as the falsehoods of selfishness, unlike the hamfisted ideologies forced into the game as I had initially thought of them to be. In particular, Jenna Angel feels all the more tragic because she’s given up and was unable to let go of her hatred, rage, and self-destructive behavior to the point her own supporters mostly gave-up on her.
However, I would argue that the true test of whether you understood and embraced DDS2’s message of inner peace and finding compassion for others; seeing their self-destructive behavior in terms of understanding their fallibility, forgiving them, and seeing yourself in them is . . . whether you accepted Heat’s point of view and took him back into your team. If you didn’t do that, then you failed to understand the entire message of DDS Duology. Heat is confused because he’s obviously told his feelings for Sera are fake just as Roland told the DDS party that their feelings for Sera were part of their programming (they were the most genuine part of him unlike the other characters), he went from being one of your truest friends and defending your comradeship to being used and manipulated into hurting you out of revenge for the tragedy that befell his previous life, and when he stabs you and asks in confusion why you didn’t dodge, the correct response is saying you’re comrades. You see yourselves as brothers and Serph sees himself in Heat. If you didn’t select “I do” when Heat asks if you know where he stands, then you’ve failed at understanding the entire message of DDS. After all, this is right after Heat’s true self helps you to defeat your phantom selves who seek to destroy you from within. Despite you having orchestrated Heat’s murder and Sera’s temporary madness that caused a global calamity, Heat forgives you and sees you as a comrade. But, did you choose to do the same for him? Heat acts as if you’re going into an ominous battle, the entire game does when Serph is alone and walking up to the location where Heat teleported himself. What happens instead? He dies in your arms and wishes you good luck. He just wanted time to reflect on his choices, his life, and his regrets because throughout it all, he is confused. He becomes a monster that Sera and the others have to defeat because of his confusion; because he thinks that he’s nothing but the leftover hate and programming of his former self. Accepting him back, despite all of the ways he annoyed us and pissed us off, and seeing him as our comrade, brother, and seeing ourselves in him; understanding he was just a fallible person and forgiving him is the true test of understanding DDS’s message. I love it for that. A message of finding inner peace, transcendence in looking above human social conceptions, and forgiving those who we trust who harm us the most. It’s why those who passed away join us as they finally let go of their human squabbles and embrace each other with compassion in the final dungeon. It’s a masterful theme of love, respect, camaraderie, inner peace, and transcendence that offers an incredible amount of respect and affection for Hinduism, Buddhism, and the Transgender identity before it even became a hot-button political issue at the forefront of public awareness in the world. I really loved the themes after replaying both games, but the gameplay still felt less free than Nocturne’s and I loved Nocturne’s themes of Self-overcoming, creating our own reality through meaningful suffering, and the Ubermensch philosophy of self-transcendence a slightly bit more than the DDS theme since it focused more on individuality. That being said, I highly recommend playing the DDS duology and SMT Nocturne as they’re all amazing PS2 titles.
Tales of the Abyss (PS2)
Tales of Berseria (PC)
Tales of Symphonia (PS3)
Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World (PS3)
Tales of Zestiria (PC), Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology (PSP), Tales of the World Radiant Mythology 2 (PSP), Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition (PC)
Tales of Hearts (DS / Vita), Tales of Legendia (PS2)
Worst Games In the Series:
Tales of Graces F (PS3), Tales of Innocence (DS)
When Tales games are good, they become absolutely brilliant games; I’d rank Symphonia, Abyss, and Berseria as among the best games ever. Unfortunately, Tales is often lambasted as a “trash” series because most of the games are just boring as fuck in terms of plot. Most Tales games aren’t the case of standard cookie-cutter storylines like Dragon Quest XI being presented incredibly well in a compelling narrative. As “generic” as Dragon Quest XI’s story is, the plot is executed phenomenally and the dialogue is far above average. Most importantly, the characters feel believable. By contrast, Tales of games like Tales of Hearts and Tales of Graces F have some of the most atrocious dialogue, terrible characters, and utterly boring plots in which every single character feels like a cardboard cutout instead of like a real human being. There’s no depth in most of them. While I gave Zestiria a pass on this, largely because I found the gameplay fun unlike most other players and I thought the hobby of Mikleo and Sorey were relatively interesting. I am utterly unrepentant in my hatred of Graces F. The storyline of Asbel in Graces F is the worst piece of crap I’ve ever been forced to endure. The entire childhood arc is so stupid that it’s hard to put to words sometimes. Having an adult father and head of a noble house argue with his 6-7-year old son about taking care of a girl who looks 13 years-old as if she’s a pet dog was so mindbogglingly stupid that I wondered what the fuck the story writer was on when writing and developing that scene. What was the takeaway from that? Child slavery? Having a pet child? I don’t understand how or why anyone would try to make such a scene or why it’s presented in serious terms and not some bad joke. Thankfully, after Zestiria, the idiot responsible for the terrible stories was fired.
By contrast, Tales of Symphonia seemed like a really good story which – although it seemed cliche at times – had phenomenal execution for most of its plot. Tales of the Abyss is a masterpiece and one of the greatest stories ever told in my opinion. Luke fon Fabre is among the most believable characters in all of gaming and he goes through remorse for murder, mass murder, a fear of impending death, and has to learn how to forge a meaningful identity for himself as he grapples with his own lack of self-worth after finding out that he’s nothing more than a clone. The themes of Tales of the Abyss tackle persecution, genocide, self-loathing, and self-worth in a tasteful and realistic manner unlike the Worst Game Ever, Chrono Cross. Mysterica Aura Fende is one of the most believable introvert characters; although, I don’t think people appreciated this aspect of her character much. Overall, I loved the entire cast of Abyss and the only thing I disliked was a side plot of Anise Tatlin’s storyline. Tales of Berseria I just totally loved from start to finish because you basically played the villain and hung out with pirates for the entire first-half. The latter-half was mostly alright with the game having Artorius follow Bentham’s philosophy of Consequentialism. I felt Velvet’s character growth and how she overcame her suffering and wanting to suffer in the place of those she loved — a very understandable feeling for those with either PTSD or Survivor’s guilt — made her character among the absolute best within any franchise in terms of development. She is absolutely my favorite heroine of all-time. That could change if some other character is developed better, but I doubt any other series except Tales itself can top Luke fon Fabre and Velvet Crowe.
In addition, having spent a large portion of my time going through Tales of Vesperia, I can say that while the gameplay is fun, the story is one of the weakest comparable only to Graces F. The characters don’t really develop, the driving force of the plot is having Estelle never having one simple question answered for the majority of it, and it wraps up with impossibilities and plot holes like the two joke characters from the Schwain squad being on a super weapon and yet somehow making time to save the poor people from the capitol when the capitol was cursed. The game doesn’t even question why the main villain had the super weapon pointed at the capitol where he was at all. Overall, Vesperia is the most disappointing and stupid story in Tales second only to Graces F. The entire game consists of backtracking in the same locations, having the party split up (and it being mentioned every time), Yuri Lowell asking for the opinions of everyone in the party after every small event, and then asking Estelle what she wants to do in a directionless, boring, and insipid “quest” of getting one simple question answered. By the end, Yuri shouts some random guy is “behind everything!” whatever that means. I’m so, so glad Hideo Baba is no longer with the Tales Franchise.
Final Fantasy Series:
Final Fantasy VII (PS1), Final Fantasy VIII (PS1), Final Fantasy IX (PS1)
Final Fantasy X (PS Vita)
Crisis Core (PSP)
Final Fantasy IV (DS), Dissidia (PSP), Dissidia Duodecim (PSP), Dirge of Cerberus (PS2), Final Fantasy 1 (PSP), Final Fantasy Tactics (PSP)
I really enjoyed Final Fantasies 7, 8, and 9. Yet, somehow, they each felt as if they were missing something important that prevented them from being among my all-time favorites. However, after an interview last year debunking the R = U Theory, I feel Final Fantasy 8’s story is a pile of trash. I still really like the game, but that disappointed me so much. It came the closest to being my favorite back when I thought the R = U theory had merit, but oh well. I feel the Final Fantasy 7 spin-offs, apart from Crisis Core, completely ruined the lore of the FF7 world. Both Dissidia’s were trash games that ruined beloved characters by making them into caricatures with an addition of shitty dialogue. FF1 is boring and a chore to play.
Final Fantasy 4 is the laziest piece of shit game I’ve had the displeasure of playing. It is just a stupid rip-off of Star Wars to the point Lucas Films should have sued Squaresoft years ago. The two moons are a copy/paste of the two suns of Tatooine and if you want to argue that is too vague; Cecil and Golbez are honestly just Light-side and Dark-Side Anakin made into separate characters with Cecil’s journey to the light-side being a watered-down knock-off of Luke’s journey to the cave in episode 5 of Star Wars followed by mostly Anakin’s storyline. The family plot twist is shit and isn’t handled realistically since they assumed Golbez was responsible for mass murder but somehow being Cecil’s brother takes precedent over that. It is just an awful game all around, to the point I consider it indefensible. Fans of the trash game will sooner summon moderators in internet forums because you hurt their feelings than actually defend the trash game. As for Final Fantasy Tactics . . . I tried, I really did on multiple occasions, but I just couldn’t get into the game because of the stilted dialogue and beginning. It bored me.
After beating FFX, and taking the time to do some of Yuna’s side quests, I’ve decided to change my views and rank it up as Average after just beating it and seeing the final scene of Tidus in the water. After thinking it over and discussing it in forums, while Tidus and Yuna’s love is very hamfisted and poorly done, I think the real problem with FFX’s narrative is Seymour. The parts of the story I dislike when Tidus and Yuna are involved are strictly in the context of their interactions with Seymour. Anything Seymour did to impact the plot seems incidental, reduced to background information, and he feels like a shoehorned side character plot that was forced into the main plot. The way the FFX party took down Sin also made no sense as they didn’t even have a plan and it made no sense for people for hundreds or thousands of years not to have figured out how to beat Sin in that manner. I suppose the religious teachings of Yevon may have played a factor, but you would think a culture like the Al Bhed would have been able to figure it out way before Tidus ever showed up. Seymour’s entire story seems poorly done; at first, we’re led to believe he has some nihilistic savior complex whereby he sees sending everyone to the Far Plane (the world of the dead) as a benefit for all humankind to free them from suffering, but the Anima side quest reveals that he’s obsessed with power. It may seem like the same motive at first, but they’re two very conflicting character motivations and if people want to argue they’re not in conflict, then we simply aren’t given any real information and Seymour’s own dialogue and actions don’t really comport to giving any further explanation for it. Yuna agreeing to marry him so that he’d go send himself to prison made no sense, Seymour wanting to marry Yuna to get her to fuse him with Sin made no sense, and the final fight with Seymour inside Sin creates a plot hole because Yuna sends off Seymour (who is an Unsent) but somehow Auron (also a self-professed Unsent) isn’t sent off too. Before, Yuna’s dancing ritual sent off dozens – possibly hundreds – of souls at a beach, but Auron isn’t effected when he’s standing right nearby her until the endgame when she does it again. Thus, Seymour being shoehorned into the plot actually creates a plot hole. Anyway, Tidus and Yuna are mostly good characters even if I don’t care for the Coming-of-Age story that both represent as it is not my preference, but the story involvement with Seymour specifically is the problem and it’s really more a problem with Seymour’s placement in the story than Tidus or Yuna. Seymour is inconsistent at best, the interactions with him by Yuna (and specifically Yuna’s plan) made no sense, and the impact of Seymour’s actions is reduced to short text blurbs. The attack where Seymour summoned Anima is revealed to be planned by Seymour in a short text way after the fact, Seymour committing a genocide on Kimahri’s tribe is said in a speech by Seymour with no cut scene or ominous impact (they wouldn’t have to show details of gore, just an ominous scene), and Seymour getting into Sin seems to be given no explanation apart from him being an Unsent and Sin randomly eating him. It really feels like a glorified side character was shoehorned into FFX’s plot because a lot of the impact of his actions isn’t directly felt and could easily be changed around with a few changes in the story without him needing to be there. I did think the scene where he reveals he had massacred Kimahri’s tribe was done well and Yuna’s reaction was a very good character moment in isolation, but when observing it along with Seymour’s other actions, it continues this strange pattern of FFX having Seymour’s actions only be background information with no visceral impact for the party as Kimahri’s reaction isn’t memorable. Even the wedding between him and Yuna could just be reduced to someone else kidnapping Yuna and it wouldn’t have made a difference. There’s no payoff in the narrative after they beat Seymour inside Sin either. After beating FFX, and even doing the Anima side quest, I’m confused why Seymour even exists. Apart from him, I did enjoy the side quests near the end-game and that brought my opinion of FFX up a notch. Overall though, FFX is just an Average game to me.
Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited (PS Vita)
La Pucelle: Ragnarok Remastered
Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten (PS3), Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice (PS3)
Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (PS2)
Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness (PS3), Disgaea Infinite (PSP), Disgaea 5 (PC)
Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories (PS2)
Prinny: Can I really be the hero? (PSP)
Some might be curious about why I separated the Vita edition of Disgaea 4 from the PS3 edition which is ranked lower. I felt the additions of all the DLC and especially the extra side story that fleshes out Artina and Valvatorez’s love was done incredibly well. In essence, what felt like a lackluster and generic romance over an arbitrary promise had a surprisingly mature twist to it. The “promise” between Artina and Valvatorez is heavily implied to be a form of sexual foreplay between the two characters. It’s a bizarre cat-and-mouse chase of “See, but don’t touch” with Valvatorez and Artina being implied to have heavy petting and make out sessions both when they mysteriously disappear from the group and during the night time when the others are asleep. Perhaps some may accuse of me of taking everything out of context or having a bafflingly wrong interpretation, but the game itself has a hilarious story portion where Artina says she’ll take a bath and Valvatorez swears to follow her and watch as she bathes nude to keep his promise of protecting her and potentially finding a way to scare her. They would not have made that joke, in explicit voice overs and with the insinuation of consensual romance, if what I just mentioned weren’t the implications of their relationship. Of course, Artina forgoes taking a bath if you speak to her after that scene, but she never gives the impression that Valvatorez’s advances aren’t to her own enjoyment or somehow non-consensual. The entire relationship is based on consent, mutual affection, and sexual foreplay. Also, they both end-up acting as adopted parents for Desco, Fuka, and Nagi Clockwork. By the end of the story mission when Nagi travels with Desco and Fuka to the future, it seems implied that not only do Artina and Valvatorez not mind playing adopted parents for the younger cast members who can’t rely on their own parents for help, since they readily accept Nagi into their ranks, but it seems to be implied that Valvatorez and Artina are simply much better at hiding the “lovey-dovey” aspects that Fuka was fond of knowing about within the present timeline. I really appreciate the Disgaea writers for adding that story arc as it feels just as heartwarmingly fleshed out as Laharl and Flonne’s friendship.
As for the Above Average ranking of Disgaea 1. I really loved the plot, but I feel that the strengths and weaknesses of the game even out as the newest Disgaeas make it feel dated (I got into the series in the PS3 era via Disgaea 3), but due to my love for the story of Disgaea 1 and it’s multiple paths, I see it was a in-between of Great and Average. I really loved Laharl and Flonne’s journey and their maturing friendship over the course of Disgaea 1.
Disgaea 5 had fun visuals, gameplay, and the story was mostly good but there was too much focus on “power of friendship” as a theme. Usually Disgaea has “power of friendship + Something else” as a theme, but Disgaea 5 only had Power of Friendship as the central focus. Surprisingly, the post-game, unlike all other Disgaea games, doesn’t seem canon at all as its bizarre that Void Dark would join the very revolutionary army that’s against him and there’s no explanation for how he survived his death unlike the very ending of Disgaea 5 which goes to great lengths explaining what happened to Liezerota. The tone and story of the post-game just doesn’t fit the main game; even the silver-haired demon girl, Majorita, coming back to life and being forced to make Usalia happy (only for it later to be implied she’s doing it of her own free will) just doesn’t make any sense for either the character or the narrative. Christos coming back and continuing to pretend to be a demon after going back to Celestia is also bizarre. Overall, unlike other Disgaea games, I don’t think Disgaea 5’s post-game is at all canon to the series.
La Pucelle: Ragnarok Remastered on Switch is the only version that I’ve played and I’ve written my thoughts and feelings on it on three occasions. After thinking it over some more, despite the somewhat standard tropes, I think the story is done well, helps explain the building blocks of the magic system of the Disgaea series well enough, and the plot events for most of the story are of sufficient quality that it has become one of my favorites. What I specifically like about it, thanks to the additional story details, is that it took the same “Disgaea tropes” that Nippon Ichi is known for and demolished them by showing their weaknesses. The power of love is great, but it can also spark jealousy when presumably not reciprocated. Family bonds are important, but family mistreatment can also be a source of one’s insecurities. You can try your hardest and fail because the people who were suppose to be there for you had only cared for their own self-interests and not your wellbeing. Three of the four Ragnarok endings depict these issues and these were definitely issues that I had wanted to see explored whenever games like Disgaea 2, 3, and 5 ceaselessly and uncritically kept yammering about the power of love and friendship. The original precursor to Disgaea had added story content by the PSP version that illustrated the weaknesses of such uncritical assumptions and we finally can enjoy that critique since the Ragnarok content is finally available for overseas audiences. The Ragnarok content is also much more satisfying as an ending too.