4 Reviews liked by RahulBhatia10
I don't think I played a game that broke me as much as LovePlus. This dating simulator caused me considerable grief during the majority of its playtime, but at the same time made me curious enough to see what else is available in this game. This review is primarily focusing on my indecisiveness on how I genuinely feel about LovePlus because the truth is that this game does so many things, both right and wrong, that I can't help but try to communicate my feelings towards it in this writeup.
The game is divided up into two parts, "Before Confession" and "After Confession." In "Before Confession," you're set on a time limit of a hundred days to try to get a girlfriend while in high school or else you'll obtain a game over. There are 3 main heroines that you can romance in LovePlus; Rinko Kobayakawa, Nene Anegasaki, and Manaka Takane. They are the representation of shallow with their backstories being overly predictable, but there is a purpose to their simplicity, which I will talk about later. The game takes a Persona 3/4/5 approach in which you fill your day up doing various activities, leveling up one of four stats in the process; Fitness, Intelligence, Sense, and Charm. A single event can raise one stat while lowering another, so there's a unique balance on how to carefully handle your time on building your stats while getting closer to the girls in the game. Sometimes the game has checkpoints for one of your stats to see if you're at a suitable level to continue romancing a particular girl and if you pass it, you'll gain significant affections towards that heroine.
One of the excellent points this game has is that every single line of dialogue (besides the main character you play as) is spoken. The fan translators do a great job conveying certain tones by the characters, making the gaming experience more immersive as a result. Another intriguing aspect is that the main girls are modeled in 3D. Sure, you get to see some CG art every now and again depicting "important" moments in their character arc, but 95% of the time, you'll see these ladies as very detailed models (at the time). Besides all the quirks this game has to offer, it is overall a very barren dating sim that can be finished in about 5-7 hours with accepting one of the heroine's confession.
Except you haven't really finished the game. This is where "After Confession" comes into play, and this has two types of gameplay to choose from. We'll first be talking about what is called Skip Mode, which is the same as what you've been doing in "Before Confession," with a few exceptions. In Skip Mode, you can now go on a date with your girlfriend by picking a (limited) selection of locales and spending a part of Sunday with her. The stats that you spend day after day developing don't have downsides anymore and increase much more rapidly, which is very useful considering that your stats reset after going on a date. Beyond that, however, LovePlus becomes an open-world game, not in a literal level but instead in a mechanical sense. The game turns its barren wasteland into one of the most versatile dating sims in recent memory. You can now call your girlfriend, research online for more potential locations for your dates, explore those areas to see if your girlfriend will like to go there, hold your lover's hand while heading to/leaving from school, the list goes on. Then there are the lovey-dovey aspects of dating where you can touch her in certain places for extra affection, and that can lead to her wanting to kiss you. Kissing then becomes a minigame of its own where you can majorly fuck up and have your girlfriend be mad at you for the rest of the date, and there's nothing you can do about it.
It's such an overload of information that you'll end up looking up online in real life how to kiss your girlfriend, which I did. You then plotted out the date as best you can since your girlfriend is still indifferent towards you, and you want her to be happy. What ends up happening is that the engagement turns into a stunning success in the worst way imaginable. If you become an expert at this game, these dates can last up to 45 minutes instead of the usual 10-15 minutes because your partner will want to kiss you in every imaginable moment possible. And every fucking time she does this, you go through the same minigame and kissing sequence that lasts about five minutes in total. By the end, it feels as though you actually went through the date yourself, and you'll become exhausted.
I haven't even mentioned the second type of gameplay to "After Confession," which is called Real-Time Mode. Now instead of spending a day in Skip Mode in about one minute, you use your actual time corresponding to morning, afternoon, evening, or night parts of the day by using the internal DS clock. This mode I haven't tried yet, but I will when my girlfriend's birthday comes up because you can set dates on specific days on the calendar than looping a generic week over and over again with the date always happening on a Sunday. This game works exceptionally well on a handheld device because the "Post Confession" mechanics goes in line with the advantages the DS has.
There are also little details that make the dating experience more immersive. Whenever you go on a date with your partner, she can wear something to your liking, and it'll be different every time you go out with her. She can even change her hairstyle before you meet her at the dating site. That aspect took me by surprise that I was actually speechless, and I condemn the developers of this game for not adding a dumbfounded dialogue option in response to her different hairdo. The dialogue between the two of you when walking to/from school is different every single time, with the typical small talk being the topic. There could be an arc with one of the teachers in the school and the student body's opinion of their instructor or the progress of your lover's plushie that will give to you when it's completed. The lack of characterization during "Before Confession" is made up ten-fold, and it makes me want to play the game more to see if there's an end to it. Lastly, you could go to the same dating location multiple times that could yield different results. For example, let's say you go to the theme park and get on the Ferris Wheel; the first time on it you can have a chance to kiss your partner while in the cart, but on the second time, your time might get cut short due to the Ferris Wheel stopping at the top.
It's details like these that make me question whether this game is a hot piece of garbage or a hidden gem. You could spend hundreds upon hundreds of hours in LovePlus that, at a certain point, you can't live without it. For me personally, knowing how dangerous this game truly is, I'm limiting my usage of the game to once a week since any more would be entitled to abuse.
LovePlus could honestly end up on my game of the year list. It's not because LovePlus is a fantastic game, but that the experiences I had or will have will be ingrained in my mind for years to come through the unapologetic hollow gameplay in the beginning to stress-inducing dating mechanics and the tribulations that come with it. There's nothing quite like LovePlus, and I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing. This game just consistently baffles me, yet at the same time, I just can't stop thinking about it. After this review, I'm immediately going to play other games to clean my gamer pallet before I jump back to LovePlus next week.
I don't think I can recommend this game to anyone. The two and a half star rating isn't indicative of the quality of the game (it can either be higher or lower depending on the individual) more so on how split-in-the-middle I am about LovePlus. This game is something else.
EDIT: Removed the rating since I'm still affected by this game in both a positive and negative light that a score would not accurately represent how I truly felt with this game.
Final Fantasy X
Final Fantasy X is an epic road trip romance fantasy, sci-fi mystery conspiracy thriller, part-time sports drama, full-time daddy issues simulator, spiralling rumination on the nature of death, grief, hope, and forgiveness, Japanese role-playing mind-bending politico-navigational adventure. It is a masterclass in world-building and plotting. It is the heart on the sleeve of the video game industry.
To play this game is to refuse despair. To play this game is to engage with, and battle against, notions of racial supremacy. To play this game is to target systems of higher power and tear them down, one suit and tie at a time, until all of the historical abuses, lies, and hypocrisies are laid bare on the dirt for everyone to see.
Final Fantasy X unironically frames friendship—friendship tested by ingrained prejudices that have been expertly woven by the powerful, so finely that you can’t see the stitches, so long ago that you can’t begin to know where their commands begin and your opinions end—as the solution to depression, oppression, and cyclical violence maintained by the wealthy and the powerful. It frames friendship as radical. It frames friendship not only as a political choice, but as the political choice. Embrace the alien or kill them. Love the foreigner or hate them. What do you choose? And how do you turn that choice into action, rather than empty words? Friendship is a political pressure that, when applied radically, can and must snap the status quo in two.
That is what Final Fantasy X is. A manifesto of hope. An agenda of friendship. A fearless reaching out of hands across the border.
It presents this thematically through its magnificent plot and character interactions, while also presenting it mechanically through its rapid-fire rotational party member system. We can overcome even the insurmountable monsters of this world by working together, it is saying, by covering each other’s weaknesses and by building upon each other’s strengths. We can bring about real change with our revolving cast of radical friendship warriors. No matter the first impression, no matter the lies that we have let ourselves believe about one another in the past, we choose to work together, now, and to love each other, forever.
In a similar vein, Final Fantasy X is also about taking charge of your own life, being the change that you want to see in the world, and standing firm in the face of despair. Again, it is about choice. “Now is the time to choose,” the elder of the group, Auron, tells his comrades at one of the most heart-stopping, pivotal points in the story, when the lies, hubris, and the violent depths of those in power are undressed fully before you. “Die and be free of pain. Or live and fight your sorrows. Now is the time to shape your stories. Your fate is in your hands.”
Our lives often appear prescribed by those in power over us, by parents, bosses, and politicians, by the wealthy, by the trappings of poverty, by manipulative and violent headlines in the press, by the black and white messages we consume in television and film, by the hopeless voices in the back of our minds whispering, it’s no good, there’s no point, nothing will ever change. Yet, armed with the radical belief that anybody can be our friend, and backed up by the foreigner, the queer, the outsider, and the beast man with the broken horn, we can overcome anything, everything, no matter how high the climb or big the monster. We can bring about change. We can demand better than the endless spiral of abuse, lies, and death that is inflicted upon us by those in control.
This is Final Fantasy X. This is your story.
With regards to covering the Midgar portion of the original Final Fantasy VII, this remake does more than just do justice to the original but the expansions here are more than welcome.
I think that given how much could be happening within just the Midgar portion of the original, it feels nice to be able to explore a lot more - even if this new take leans more towards being incredibly sidequest heavy, but there's never a moment where I ever felt bored with taking on new "Odd Jobs" either. It feels nice to be able to get to know more of the people who live within Midgar, considering the expansive lore of Final Fantasy VII, but the fact that this game allows you to revisit that section at any time given as the original game blocks you from revisiting it until a certain point of Disc 2, it just feels nice - as a capsule of nostalgia and a means to show how expansive the worlds are.
The combat system has its charm, though part of me prefers the active time battle combat system from the original. But nonetheless, it brings back memories of playing through a battle from Kingdom Hearts, which was also a lot of fun in its own ways - and admittedly I do miss the random encounters that came by as it was a staple of the Final Fantasy games. That said, I do appreciate the fact that this revamped battle system is far more forgiving compared to the fact the original always leaves you wandering around looking for save spots, for you can always restart at any time before the battle to better accustom yourself to what comes ahead.
Count me excited to see where the rest of this story goes, because I'm definitely on board with what we have here so far. While I think the simplicity of the original, especially for a game for the first PlayStation still has my heart, the fact that a new generation will be introduced to Final Fantasy VII, revamped for today, will always be a plus in my eyes.
Final Fantasy IX
Somehow it took me over ten years to actually beat this one, but I think after having finally completed the main game I feel more than confident enough to say this is one of the best games of the Final Fantasy series - and an instant all-time favourite.
As a series retrospective, bringing back many familiar elements from the older games while mixing them together with mechanics that came from the preceding games, Final Fantasy IX feels like an entirely new game on its own. Yet just like the best of its series it always remains a highly engrossing narrative experience.
But if anything else best sums up what these games can do best, there's a bittersweetness to the journey of Final Fantasy IX that hasn't quite been matched by other games in this series. When it comes to how this game approaches the concept of what it means to live, especially as one knows their lifespan is limited, it's bound to make any player feel misty-eyed - even as you get a taste of the satisfaction that comes forth from beating its final bosses, this mood still lingers and just creates a more emotionally resonant epilogue, especially if you found yourself so deeply attached to these characters (all of whom have magnificently crafted arcs, as one can expect from Final Fantasy).
If it weren't for Final Fantasy VII, this would easily be my favourite of the series.