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  #361  
Old 03-03-2015, 03:41 PM
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Mogri Mogri is offline
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Let's never play Final Fantasy: All The Bravest again

Perhaps you are acquainted with Final Fantasy: All The Bravest, the way one is acquainted with pain. Perhaps you are not; that would be for the best.

Final Fantasy: All The Bravest (hereafter ATB) is a train wreck of a mobile offering from the world's premier source of games titled Final Fantasy: Square-Enix. The game is technically free to play. Typically, when one makes that statement, it is to throw into question the word "free." In the case of ATB, though, it is the word "play" that is questionable.

After a brief tutorial, the game thrusts you into a stage select, and the rest of the game consists of selecting a stage and attacking sets of monsters until you defeat all the monsters. Please take careful note of the last six words of the previous sentence; we'll come back to that later. First, I want to make note of the few things the game does right.

ATB is, at its heart, a game of fanservice. You get to revisit locales and enemies from the entire series. If you're willing to pay a few bucks (a topic which I'd rather not get into), you can even recruit some familiar faces. (Don't do this. It will only encourage them.) The stroll down memory lane is fun, and it brings with it a large selection of battle music from the series. You won't hear the music when you're actually interacting with the game, but it's there. Want to listen to Dancing Mad or Battle on the Big Bridge on your phone? ATB has you covered.

Let's be clear: that's the extent of what the game does right. It doesn't do it particularly well. While the game's stages ostensibly represent specific locales from the games of origin, the enemy sets don't match up at all: you'll often fight enemies from Final Fantasy 4 in locations from 3 or 6. At least the bosses are in their proper places. Compounding the issue is the game's incredibly lazy handling of the enemies. It's at least partially a localization failure (naming Cloud of Darkness's attack Wave Cannon, for example), but it's hard to tell to what extent it's also a design failure. As an example, you all remember Kefka's signature attack, Knock Silly? No? It's the same attack that the gigases use. Ringing a bell? Then you probably haven't played ATB. It would have been really, really easy to just copy the attack and rename it "Goner," but that requires a level of effort beyond what they were willing to put into this game.

It's a mistake to think that ATB's assets are entirely recycled. True, they mostly are (and that's part of the appeal, honestly), but the majority of the character sprites are poorly-edited Final Fantasy 5 battle sprites. Change the hair so they look a little less like Bartz. Well, at least they didn't give me a team of 32 Bartzes. (Jobs where the hair isn't visible, such as Dragoon and Ninja, could very well be untouched.)

But my complaint isn't that they recycled assets. The Crystal Defenders games recycle from Tactics Advance to much greater success, for example. No, my complaint is that they didn't recycle enough assets. They have one copy of each environment, regardless of which game you're in. Are you in the Baron Waterway? Here, have a picture of the FF5 water cave. Speaking of which, you fight Zeromus in one of those water caves. Why? Because ATB.

I have lasted this long without talking about the game mechanics. I had to save this rant, because there's probably no going back. First, let me describe the game in broad terms.

You are given a team of generic Final Fantasy characters. Monsters appear on the left side of the screen, and your team is on the right -- standard FF fare. To attack the monsters, you touch your team members. Since you have a lot of team members -- eventually 32 -- this means that you spend the entirety of the game vigorously rubbing the right half of your device in a manner too similar to masturbation for the irony to be lost on the creators. Once you touch one of your units, he automatically attacks an enemy at random, then returns to position until he fully charges and you touch him again. After you've started attacking the enemies, they will attack back. One hit is enough to incapacitate any of your units.

That is the extent of your interaction with the game. You do not decide your team composition (not that it seems to matter, since the damage output of your characters is completely unaffected by whom you're fighting). You do not get to prioritize your targets (although you can tap on them to see their names). You do not get to do anything besides touch your characters to make them attack.

I want to be very clear about one thing: they could have made a good game with these mechanics. They came reasonably close to making a good game. Occasionally, a battle will show up that gives the faint spark of hope that there's some sort of strategy involved. The best case for this is the Demon Wall. It doesn't attack often, but when it does, it wipes out an entire column of units. Here's the thing: units that are attacking are immune to damage. Get some units out of position, and you have some survivors in that column. Demon Wall doesn't get to eliminate your next column until there's no one in front.

See? That's reasonably clever. You can make a game of reaction, timing, and tactics out of those mechanics.

They didn't.

Someone decided this game was okay

There's no single terrible decision that you can point to and say, "This is why ATB is a terrible game." There are some odd choices, to be sure, but the truly execrable outcome is less than the sum of its parts.

Fine design choices
First, the choices that I can kind of get behind, even if I might have chosen differently were I in charge. Note that these are "fine" choices in the sense that I am doing "fine" today despite some mild congestion, not in the sense that they are truly fine pieces of game design.
  • You can't choose your party composition. Allowing the player to edit the roster would make the game drag. Making the party random is a good decision for the product they were trying to create.
  • Each character always uses the same attack. White Mages always cast Diaga, Beastmasters always release Bombs, and so on. Some variety might have been nice, but it's ultimately inconsequential. With the size of your team, it's not as if it would have been feasible to give individual commands anyway.
  • Units' effectiveness does not vary by enemy. Again, the context is important here. They're not going for an RPG, where half the decisions are made before the battle. Given that you can't edit your team, it's better than letting the dice decide if your party is a good fit for the battle.
  • Units die in one hit. You have 32 units. There's no reason to keep track of HP in a game like this.
  • Units only attack. Fighter? Attacks. White Mage? Attacks. Time Mage? Also attacks. It would be interesting to see some support classes, but it would also be frustrating to be down to a single support unit and therefore be unable to do anything.

Odd design choices
I have a harder time justifying these decisions, but none of them is outright bad in a vacuum.
  • All units are essentially the same. This is mostly a by-product of the above bullets. The game slowly gives you more classes, emphasizing each new one, which is odd because they're all inconsequential. (The premium characters -- $0.99 apiece! -- are the notable exception, since they have some actual variety. Area attacks, for example.) You occasionally get weapons that increase the damage of certain classes, but it's not like you choose what you're getting.
  • You can't lose. This is really puzzling, especially given the monetization-rich nature of the game. There's no need to grind levels because you literally cannot lose a battle without canceling out of it. A new unit arrives every three minutes. Should you suffer a party wipe, the battle is suspended until you get a new unit. Go do something else and come back in a couple of hours to get a fresh party.
  • Enemies have very little variety. I mentioned Demon Wall earlier. It's the closest this game ever comes to enemies having an attack pattern. Most often, enemies are bags of HP that knock out a few of your units every so often. Given the game's roots in the RPG genre, this might not seem out of place, but the series has no end of enemies with good, well-considered attack patterns (see: every boss in FF5).
  • You mostly can't respond to enemies. Once enemies have launched an attack, the affected units are already effectively dead. There's no anticipating an attack and reacting accordingly. Your best move is to keep swiping. This is the nail in the coffin, but only because of literally every other design choice listed above.

ATB had every right to be a decent game. It would have taken just a little love to make something playable with this premise, and "throw every game in the series into a blender" should have been a recipe for an instant win. It took some dedicated effort to turn this into an experience as bland as it is. There's something to be said for that, I suppose: ATB does not settle for garden-variety mediocrity, instead descending into the aggressively abysmal. I would not be entirely surprised if I were to discover that ATB was the result of a dare or a bet to see how bad a Final Fantasy product would have to be before customers would refuse to pay for it.

And that's pretty telling.
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  #362  
Old 03-03-2015, 06:27 PM
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JBear JBear is offline
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Default Let's Play Not Worth its Own Thread: Wall O' Text Edition

I'm so glad that I don't own a platform capable of playing this, because nothing you've said would dissuade me from playing it. It looks so fun...
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  #363  
Old 03-03-2015, 06:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mogri View Post
To attack the monsters, you touch your team members. Since you have a lot of team members -- eventually 32 -- this means that you spend the entirety of the game vigorously rubbing the right half of your device in a manner too similar to masturbation for the irony to be lost on the creators. Once you touch one of your units, he automatically attacks an enemy at random, then returns to position until he fully charges and you touch him again.
So, a refractory period?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mogri View Post
ATB had every right to be a decent game. It would have taken just a little love to make something playable with this premise, and "throw every game in the series into a blender" should have been a recipe for an instant win. It took some dedicated effort to turn this into an experience as bland as it is. There's something to be said for that, I suppose: ATB does not settle for garden-variety mediocrity, instead descending into the aggressively abysmal.
I call this anti-talent.
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  #364  
Old 03-03-2015, 07:38 PM
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Gerad Gerad is offline
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Excellent write-up, Mogri, thanks. I'm happy I got to experience the game vicariously through you rather than directly.

Now we need a Let's Play Not Worth its Own Thread: Text Edition.

FAKE EDIT: And now I see that JBear basically made the same joke. OH WELL, IT'S STAYING UP.
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  #365  
Old 03-04-2015, 04:20 AM
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I still kinda wish that I could try this, but the current Android version won't run on the Galaxy 5, which is what I own. It's nice to get an idea of what I'm missing, at least.
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  #366  
Old 03-04-2015, 10:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Torzelbaum View Post
So, a refractory period?
The game tries to bill this as an Active-Time Battle system, a phrase whose acronym may look familiar. The only real similarity is that bars fill up, which is about as superficial as you can get.
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  #367  
Old 03-16-2016, 09:34 PM
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Square-Enix thought this game was more important to bring to the masses instead of localizing the Dragon Quest games on 3DS.

Ugh.
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  #368  
Old 03-16-2016, 09:38 PM
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FF ATB was a barely interactive screen saver I used for like a week when shitting. It was kind of fun hearing the music and seeing the sprite art, but that was about it.

Then they made Record Keeper which is more of a "game" but I cannot stand, so I guess ATB was "better" ????
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  #369  
Old 02-04-2018, 08:45 AM
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Default Let's Play Alien Storm



Hello hello, and welcome to Let's Play Alien Storm! We'll be playing the Sega Master System version because that's what I played as a kid and what I recently got back into. If you watch the title screen closely at the end you'll see a letter S appear at the end. That's because I'm using cheat mode* to skip around to the highlights.



Here's the character select. The SMS version is single player and is missing the third character (Karen). I did a couple runs to get shots, so both characters will appear. Character choice makes no gameplay difference that I could see.



Mission 1's title screen. There are four missions, each of which has two to six stages.



Those of you who've read my previous LPs might remember that I'm not good at video games. Here's the robot taking hits from the easiest enemies in the game. My excuses: I got the roll and attack buttons mixed up, and I was trying to show off the different attacks. They're just different animations, everything in these belt scrolling stages dies in one hit (bosses aside). Which attack gets used is determined by distance from the enemy, so I took hits trying to get close for different attacks. The power ups at the end are energy for my special attack, which I'll use later.



This is less embarrassing. These trash can snails are the equal easiest enemies in the game, just coming towards you to be hit.



Here's the other character showing off his moves. Took me a while to find the right distance for that punch at the end.



Let's skip ahead to stage 2, the game's second gameplay type. You shoot at enemies and smash up the joint. Sometimes when you break a background tile a health pickup will drop. The green and silver enemies take two hits and will throw projectiles at you if you don't kill them quickly enough. The yellow guys only take one hit to kill, but attack so quickly that if your cursor is on the far side of the screen when they attack you can't get to them before taking a hit. The screen fading out isn't the end of the stage, it's just me using the cheat to skip to the next.



Mission 2 stage one is another belt scroller, I've skipped it for this running stage, the game's third gameplay type. These are the easiest, I'm not sure I've taken a hit in one outside of the boss fight in mission four.



These guys will probably take more of your HP than anything else over the course of the game. They aren't super hard, my performance here notwithstanding, but they can't be hit during their lunge. So you just wait for them to land, moving away if you need to, and then hit them. It's a bit tougher when you're backed up against the edge of the screen or they're coming from both sides, but remember that you can't be hit while rolling and use that to get to a better position.



Here are some new enemies that show up in mission 3. The worms are like the lunging guys from earlier stages but with a shorter jump. The purple guys (are they wearing robes?) just come at you and take a swing. They're pretty easy. Both have the potential to spawn the little heads, which move towards you but don't deal damage and drop health or energy restores when killed. The risk with the heads is that you can only hit one enemy at a time and your character seems to prioritise them over actual threats, so if you try to attack something before it attacks you and a head is underfoot you're gonna take a hit.



At the end of 3-1 we get our first boss. It just comes at you, and despite what you see in the .gif, it's not that hard to land a hit and then roll through it to get away. I gave up and started using the special attack (not recommended at this point if you're not cheating, it's more necessary later): ballistic missile. It kills all normal enemies on screen or does way more damage to a boss than a regular attack. You do it by hitting both buttons at once. All the rolling I do before the bombs start dropping is me trying and failing to activate it.



3-2's another shooting stage, mostly featuring the new enemy seen here, which appears and quickly jumps at you. Unlike the yellow enemies in earlier stages, it takes long enough that you've got a shot even if your cursor is across the screen when it appears, but they appear in much greater numbers. I skipped the stage pretty quickly this time, but it's actually fairly tense and engaging playing without cheats.



There's another boss at the end of mission 3. Again my performance is shocking and I wind up hitting the skip button. It's pretty easy if you're patient. Just move in to attack between lightnings and roll to the other side when you run out of space. This .gif features the robot's special attack, self-destruct. I assume the flashing background looks less terrible on a CRT.



4-1 has my favourite moment in the game: the ridiculous jump over the broken bridge. It's sort of reasonable when you're a robot, but what about when you're playing a dude:



Just ridiculous and sweet.



Here's 4-2 (I forgot to double-size my two still shots, whoops). You fight a few waves of enemies outside the alien ship, then the boss from 3-1 again.



4-3 is the hardest level in the game, and this is all I have to show of it. It's got spikes that come up from the floor in some places (not shown) and a new enemy that moves faster than anything else and has a projectile (also not shown). I save all my special weapon energy for the end of this stage when there's about a half dozen waves of that enemy. It's not enough to take them all out, but it helps.



At the end of 4-3 you can choose between two doors, leading to 4-4 or 4-5. Each is a boss fight. My recording stopped accidentally here, but I wound up bombing it into submission because having cheat mode on sapped me of the strength of character to do it properly.



4-5 is this guy. This is the route I took the one time I beat this without cheats, and I got here with only one spare hit but made it through (I had a continue left which got me through the last stage), so it's a fairly easy boss, again despite my performance in the .gif. Wait for it to use its explosion attack, then hit it, then run away and repeat.



The last stage! There's pretty much constant action in this one, but a lot of the enemies don't actually seem to do anything. I'm not sure if you have to shoot the brain at the back or just survive all the enemies to win.



The brain exploding. I win!



And the ending. There are more credits than this, but just the one image. Thanks for reading!


*On controller two hold up and press button 1, then 2, then 1 again to make the S appear, then in game press up on controller 2 to restore full health and energy or either button to skip to the next level.
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  #370  
Old 02-04-2018, 09:25 AM
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Loki Loki is offline
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This was really cool! I like a LP that's just a bunch of neat gifs. Is robot dude's attack really just taking off his foot and shooting a gun out of his ankle?
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  #371  
Old 02-04-2018, 06:59 PM
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Yimothy Yimothy is offline
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Thanks Loki! I was planning to just do little gifs of the various attacks, but as I often do I got carried away. The robot’s leg gun is one of my favourites.
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  #372  
Old 02-05-2018, 08:22 AM
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Your GIFs are the best.

I like the profile pic for Human -- he's got a Bruce Campbell look to him. But then, in a twist worthy of Metroid, the ending shows he had brown hair all along!
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  #373  
Old 02-05-2018, 09:05 AM
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This was a great LP, Yimothy. Thanks for taking the time. I never actually knew there was a SMS version of this game - my only exposure was the Genesis and Arcade versions, which I've enjoyed in five-minute spurts but never really given them the time they deserved.

I've definitely cracked up before during the "ridiculously long jump" sections on the belt-scrolling levels.
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  #374  
Old 02-05-2018, 09:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Mogri View Post
Your GIFs are the best.
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  #375  
Old 02-06-2018, 04:57 AM
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Yimothy Yimothy is offline
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You guys are too kind.
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