Happy Martin Luther King Day, humans! Today marks the celebration of one of the greatest men your species has ever produced. King’s dream may not yet be a complete reality, but one of the reasons that I still allow your existence as a whole to continue is that you seem to be stumbling ever closer to achieving it. Though I sometimes wonder at the steps back that you take *glances over at US election results* but I’m still encouraged enough overall to not wipe you out. Yet.
Today, I have a special treat for you, my groveling little minions – not one, but TWO reviews. And the first even comes with a little background story. You see, young ones, even old EWE could occasionally make a mistake or two in my younger days. (Editor’s Note: His last mistake was literally five minutes ago. He got Windex in his eye.) Not listening to you! As I was saying, many years ago, I skipped numerous lunches in order to save up enough money for a copy of Chrono Trigger for the SNES. Now, as anyone with a passing knowledge of RPGs can tell you, Chrono Trigger has gone down as one of the greatest games in the history of gaming, and if you never played it on the SNES, it has been remade for the Nintendo 3DS as well as iOS and Android, and you should drop what you’re doing and go play it. Now. I’ll wait.
But this isn’t about Chrono Trigger. You see, and I know this may come as a shock to you, but I was, and still am, a nerd. Stop laughing right now or I swear I will roast you and serve you to your family member for dinner. (Editor’s Note: He will.) So as I reached the threshold amount of funds, I also managed to achieve straight A’s in school and my mother saw fit to reward me with a rare gift of a video game, as we were quite poor and she could not often afford to do so. And so it was that now I was in the extremely odd position of having money for a SECOND SNES cart of my choosing. So after selecting the ticket for Square’s Chrono Trigger, I glanced through the other games in the aisle until seeing one made by Enix, the creator’s of Dragon Quest and the other dominant console RPG studio in Japan. What could possibly go wrong with that choice?
Whomever developed Paladin’s Quest at Enix was quite clearly treating it as stand-in for that one girl that you just can’t get out of your head or resolve your feelings for. You know the one – she somehow at the same time inspires both a need to impress her with your talent and flair and also burning, punishing hatred for never appreciating you enough. The game has certain aspects to it that are quite laudable, but it’s maddening aspects drag you down the path to mind-breaking insanity. The sum total is a RPG that is incredibly unique in artistic style and even somewhat groundbreaking in its gameplay for the time, but with a maddening difficulty level and some downright bizarre design decisions that leave you scratching your head and wondering how it and Dragon Quest came from the same place.
The first thing that will reach out and grab you about Paladin’s Quest is it’s vibrant, colorful graphical design and world. It’s almost as if Enix intentionally designed a world as polar opposite from its prior Dragon Quest games as it could possibly could be. The architecture, flora, fauna, and character designs are all alien, the color schemes are filled with pastels and clashing hues – it simply can’t be overstated how unusual the visuals were for the time, and still remain to this day. But while this is definitely one of the game’s strengths, it can almost reach nauseating levels at times.
Dungeon design retains the alien, sci-fi aesthetic, though it is somewhat less original than the other visuals in the game, taking tremendous inspiration from Square’s Final Fantasy IV and VI. That isn’t really a negative – those are two of the greatest games of all time – but it isn’t executed with the same level of expertise that those two titles have gone down in history for having.
Now, then, let’s talk about the gameplay – or rather, let’s talk about how this game is going to make you wail and scream in frustration as it kicks your ass from one end of the planet to the other. This game is hard. HARD. You read my last entry about Dark Souls III? Don’t think for a second that difficult RPGs started with that series, kiddos. Literally ever random encounter in Paladin’s Quest carries the very real possibility of killing your party and ending your game. First of all, for a world in which magic plays an integral part, there is no MP. An NPC in your hometown even lampshades this. Instead, every spell or skill you use is cast from hit points. This in and of itself isn’t so extreme – you just need to keep a close eye on your HP and pragmatically heal often in order to progress, right? Oh, wait – healing can only be done via use of an extremely limited supply of consumables that are very difficult to replenish. And that wide variety of different schools of magic spells? Well, if you want any of them to be worth a shit when it comes to battle (and you do) you’re going to have to SLOOOOOOWWWWLLLLLYYY grind away in order to skill up the spell’s corresponding school of magic. Oh, and other than your PC Chezni and his ever-faithful companion Midia, those other two spots in your party? You’re going to have to fill those with expensive mercenaries, many of which have specific requirements to recruit and can easily be permanently missed, and often come with their own crippling weaknesses as well.
The story itself is a sci-fi take on a classic fantasy tale. Chezni, living a safe and sound life in his hometown and attending the Academy there, is asked by his friend Duke to sneak into the nearby Forbidden Tower. Because, as the main character in a RPG, Chezni is a complete fucking idiot with absolutely no common sense, he obliges, climbs the tower, and unseals the world-demolishing evil contained within. The rest of this village, rather than admit that perhaps locating an Academy full of curious children DIRECTLY NEXT TO such a place might have been a less than stellar idea in hindsight, instead banish Chezni and instruct him that now it’s his responsibility to travel the world and find a way to stop the hellish beast he has released. Because Chezni has obviously displayed fantastic judgment and intelligence up to that point. Chezni is quickly joined by Midia, who probably just couldn’t bear to see someone so abysmally stupid wandering around on his own. The tale as it unfolds isn’t “bad” by any stretch, but it isn’t anything you haven’t heard before, and it unfolds at a snail’s pace because of the copious amounts of grinding required to overcome the high difficulty curve of the game.
Battles (which you will engage in VERY OFTEN) are of the standard turn-based variety, with each party member choosing to attack with a weapon (which includes using healing items as they must be equipped) or a spell (of which you can choose between the four equipped to a character), defend, or flee from battle. Turn order is essentially impossible to predict once commands are entered, except for the old favorite that the enemy is almost always going to beat the shit out of you before you’re given a chance to respond in kind. Boss battles feature the kind of spike in difficulty compared to the minions leading up to them that you can easily find yourself moving steadily through a dungeon with little in the way of danger only to end up being completely destroyed in a single turn by the boss. It’s not a question of IF this will happen to you; it’s simply WHEN and HOW MANY TIMES it will happen over the games 20-40 hour quest.
One bright spot for me during my time with Paladin’s Quest was the music. While I won’t sit here and compare it to the phenomenal work done by Uematsu in the Final Fantasy series, but the tunes were a pleasant surprise and even though I was forced into spending hours grinding away, the music made that chore a bit less unpleasant than it could have been. But while that surprise was nice, the positives in this game just aren’t enough to overcome the sheer levels of frustration that the drawbacks inspire.
THE VERDICT – EWE SAYS:
Now, after a game leaves you feeling that broken (Editor’s Note: or in EWE’s case, when literally all of life leaves you feeling that way), you need a drink. And something to eat. And probably a good, long cry. As for the first two, I’ve got something a little different for #OmNoMonday – rather than tell you how to make shit on your own, I’m going to tell you where to go when you just say “Fuck it, I want someone else to make it.” And that place is BJ’s Brewhouse.
Now, I’ve been to a few different BJ’s locations on quite a number of occasions, and I can honestly tell you that I have not yet once been disappointed in either my food or drink. The bar is extremely well-stocked, and there is an impressive rotation of craft beers on tap at any given time. But the best part about BJ’s, what sets it apart, is that they also brew several of their own craft beers as well. Whether your taste is for lighter, American-style pilsner, amber ales, or heavier porters and stouts, there is a house brew aimed at you. As a fan of beer from the medium to heavy end of the spectrum, I love the ales, porter and stout, but my absolute favorite is the Jeremiah Red. Now, while all of the food that I’ve had is delicious, my favorite has to be their pizza. BJ’s has a wide variety of deep dish, think crust, and flatbread pizzas and they are all fantastic. A particular favorite of mine is the deep dish BBQ Chicken Pizza. Lastly, for dessert, if you don’t get a Pizzookie (deep dish, warm cookie with ice cream on top) you aren’t living your life right.
THE VERDICT – EWE SAYS:
And with that, boys and girls, #OmNoMonday draws to a close. We’ve learned that while not all classic RPGs are worthy of the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia, at least they can be helped by the beer goggles of hilarity. And that, my friends, is the secret of life. – EWE