Saturday, January 08, 2022

12 new and old games I want to play in 2022

I did a pretty good job of spreading the love around last year in terms of playing a variety of games on a variety of systems. Sure, the majority of the games I played were played on my Switch, but four were played on my Vita, one was played on my 3DS, and three were played on my DS.

I'm going to try my best to keep that up this year, as the following list of old and new games I want to play in 2022 should make clear.

7th Dragon (DS)
I've wanted to play this Imageepoch-made DS RPG since it was first announced due, mostly, to its adorable character designs and Yuzo Koshiro-composed soundtrack. Hopefully they'll be enough to overcome 7th Dragon's annoying components, of which I've heard there are a few. I'm no stranger to old, frustrating RPGs, of course, so fingers crossed that experience helps me out a bit, too.

Bravely Second (3DS)
I've started this Bravely Default sequel twice since I got my hands on a copy in early 2016. On both occasions, I walked away after just a few hours of play, feeling decidedly disinterested. Will this third attempt be the charm? I have my doubts, but after thoroughly enjoying Bravely Default II (and having a similarly positive experience with the original release), I'm willing to give it a try. If things don't click this time, though...

For the Frog the Bell Tolls (GameBoy)
Oh, look, another game I've tried a couple of times. I don't remember ditching For the Frog the Bell Tolls, or Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru, because a lack of interest, though; rather, I think my previous attempts simply began at the wrong time. That said, I do recall finding this GameBoy title's battles a bit curious, so here's hoping they--as well as the rest of this retro adventure--strike me as appealingly curious during my next go-round.

Fuga: Melodies of Steel (Switch)
I've yet to play the other two games in the Little Tail Bronx series, so why am I champing at the bit to play this one? For starters, I'm intrigued by its tank-centric gameplay. I also rather like how it looks. That's it, really. Now I just need the game to (finally) go on sale, as its $40 asking price is a little too steep for me.

Katamari Damacy no-Vita (Vita)
Truth be told, I'd rather We Love Katamari be ported to the Switch so I can play that game portably. With that being an impossibility (for the moment, at least), I'll settle for giving this Vita entry in the series a go. Don't worry, I'm well aware it pales in comparison to earlier releases. It's still Katamari Damacy, though, right?

NEO: The World Ends with You (Switch)
Being the serious TWEWY fan that I am (though I only finished it for the first time last year), I was beyond excited when this sequel was announced in late 2020. NEO: TWEWY released at a weird time for me, though, and so instead of playing it right away, as planned, it was unceremoniously ushered into a closet to be played at some future date. That future date is going to be sometime in 2022, if I have anything to say about it.

Okaeri! Chibi-Robo! Happy Richie Oosouji (DS)
Chibi-Robo! totally is a "me" kind of series--and yet I've only ever played a bit of its very first entry, released for the GameCube. I'm going to attempt to rectify matters by diving into this direct follow-up (I think?) in 2022 thanks the English fan translation that's been available for the last five or so years.

SaGa 2 (DS)
I was enamored with this game, known as Final Fantasy Legend II in my neck of the woods, as a kid. Mind you, I was enamored with reading about it, not playing it. Oh, I bought and played it, and of course enjoyed it, but I never quite got into it like I did its predecessor, which I played for hours on end. Hopefully a second attempt in 2022, via this DS remake from 2009, will prove more compelling.

Undernauts: Labyrinth of Yomi (Switch)
Here's another game that I eagerly anticipated playing last year as soon as I got my hands on a copy, only to drop the ball when that happened due to the timing of the release. I continue to think this dungeon-crawler looks masterful, especially its intriguing, near-modern-day setting, so don't expect me to ignore it for much longer. 

Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars (Switch)
I can't muster much interest in Square Enix's major productions these days, but the company's smaller efforts? I nearly always adore them. I suspect that trend will continue with this card-themed RPG, especially since its demo impressed me to a surprising degree. In particular, I appreciated its slow pace and mysterious vibe. I can't wait to find out if I feel the same way about the full, final product.

Weapon Shop de Omasse (3DS)
I adored what I played of Level-5's inventive Guild series games back when they released here in 2012 and 2013. Attack of the Friday Monsters! and Crimson Shroud were my favorites, but I also enjoyed The Starship Damrey and Aero Porter. One Guild release I've yet to experience is this "rhythm fantasy RPG" that has players forge weapons for would-be heroes to rent for upcoming quests. 

Yomawari: Midnight Shadows (Vita)
Although it occasionally irritated me, the original Yomawari impressed me overall when I played through it last year. I especially liked its compact setting and its cute-but-also-plenty-unsettling aesthetic. I've been meaning to take a stab at this follow-up ever since, but the timing's never been right. I'm going to force the issue soon, though, due to the fact that a third Yomawari game is releasing in Japan this April.

Monday, January 03, 2022

How I spent my time with video games in 2021

Although I played and finished a lot of games in 2021, I didn't spend as much time with those games as I did with the games I played and finished in 2020.

Last year, for example, I put more than 80 hours into three different games. This year, my most-played game topped out at just over 75 hours.

Despite that, I'm plenty happy with how I spent my time with games in 2021. In particular, I'm happy that four Vita games made the cut this year, as did three DS games and one 3DS game. I failed to finish the 3DS game (Etrian Mystery Dungeon), admittedly, but that's how it goes sometimes.

I'm much more bummed about the fact that I only managed to put three-ish hours into Shin Megami Tensei V between its release and the end of 2021. I didn't dislike the time I spent with this Switch RPG, so my current indifference to returning to it has me stumped.

Who knows, maybe I'll finish it in the new year and it'll appear in my eventual "how I spent my time with games in 2022" post.

  • Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk (Switch) — 75 hours, 30 minutes
  • Bravely Default II (Switch) — 72 hours, 20 minutes
  • Dungeon Encounters (Switch) — 43 hours, 25 minutes
  • SaGa Frontier Remastered (Switch) — 32 hours, 40 minutes
  • Airship Q (Vita) — 28 hours, 35 minutes
  • Gnosia (Switch) — 24 hours, 45 minutes
  • Shiren the Wanderer 5+ (Switch) — 24 hours, 30 minutes
  • Spelunky (Switch + Vita) — 24 hours, 25 minutes

  • Ripened Tingle’s Balloon Trip of Love (DS) — 23 hours, 40 minutes
  • Poison Control (Switch) — 16 hours, 50 minutes
  • Gravity Rush (Vita) -- 14 hours, 40 minutes
  • Pikmin 3 Deluxe (Switch) — 14 hours, 15 minutes
  • Pac-Man 99 (Switch) — 11 hours, 50 minutes
  • A Kappa’s Trail (DS) — 10 hours, 40 minutes
  • Captain Toad (Switch) — 10 hours, 30 minutes
  • Deltarune Chapter 1&2 (Switch) — 8 hours, 40 minutes
  • Mon Amour (Switch) — 8 hours, 05 minutes
  • Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir (Switch) — 8 hours, 00 minutes

  • Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind (Switch) — 6 hours, 55 minutes
  • Tearaway (Vita) -- 6 hours, 50 minutes
  • Etrian Mystery Dungeon (3DS) — 6 hours, 00 minutes
  • Umurangi Generation Special Edition (Switch) — 6 hours, 00 minutes
  • Princess Debut (DS) — 5 hours, 20 minutes
  • Liquid Kids (Switch) — 3 hours, 45 minutes
  • Shin Megami Tensei V (Switch) — 3 hours, 45 minutes
  • Overboard! (Switch) — 3 hours, 25 minutes

How did you spend your time with games in 2021? Feel free to share your own play-time stats, or simply list your most-played titles, in the comments section below.

See also: how I spent my time with games in 2020

Thursday, December 30, 2021

One sentence about each of the 21 games I finished in 2021

I somehow managed to finish 21 games this year. I say "somehow" here because for all of 2021 it felt like I played fewer games than I did in 2020.

Actually, it's possible I did play fewer games in 2021 than I played in 2020. And I surely spent less time with the games I played in 2021 than I did with the games I played in 2020, as my next post will make clear.

As for this post, it features—as the header above hopefully suggests—one-sentence "reviews" of each of the 21 games I completed this year.

Also, they're organized according to when I completed them. So, Shiren the Wanderer 5+ was the first game I "beat" in 2021, while Umrangi Generation Special Edition was the last.

Shiren the Wanderer 5+ (Switch)

I didn’t realize just how much I’ve always wanted to pillage towers at extreme threat of violence and even death until I dug my teeth into this beautifully complex roguelike.

Captain Toad (Switch)

Captain Toad is a cute and (mostly) chill puzzle-action game that I can honestly say I enjoyed more than I've enjoyed any of the proper Mario titles that have been released over the last few years.

Princess Debut (DS)

A fluffy and rather childish otome game that features a barebones rhythm component—via simple ballroom dance sequences—and attractive, manga-inspired art.

A Kappa’s Trail (DS)

An instant-classic, hidden-gem, touch-controlled, puzzle-action game from some of the same devs who gave the world Mother 3, Magical Starsign, and Fantasy Life.

Pikmin 3 Deluxe (Switch)

Exploring the game’s beautifully realized environments while capturing towering "enemies" and corralling similarly giant pieces of fruit is great fun; doing all of those things while watching a clock tick toward zero is not.

Bravely Default II (Switch)

Yes, it’s yet another RPG about those damned “four heroes of light,” but this one tweaks the formula, gameplay (the battles, especially), and aesthetics just enough to make it all seem fresh and exhilarating.

Gnosia (Switch)

I started this game expecting it to be little more than Raging Loop set in space, but what I got was an addictive Werewolf simulator with a thrilling drip-feed story—the opposite of RL’s, basically—and a swoon-worthy OST.

Poison Control (Switch)

Poison Control is a curious and snappy mashup of a dungeon-crawler, a third-person shooter, and Taito's classic quartermucher Qix, all set to a surprisingly dark assortment of stories and a subtly brilliant soundtrack.

Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk (Switch)

Come to this dungeon RPG for the 40-member parties (kind of, but kind of not), stay for the in-the-end-touching story and the interesting traversal elements.

Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir (Switch)

An attractive and captivating whodunit that occasionally frustrates due in large part to a clunky interface that sticks a little too close to its late-1980s roots.

Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind (Switch)

Another modern remake of an old adventure game that originally graced the Famicom Disk System, though this one is more suspenseful and has a slightly more appealing setting and story.

Ripened Tingle’s Balloon Trip of Love (DS)

A point-and-click game starring everyone's favorite emotionally stunted oddball, Tingle, and sporting a story that's a silly riff on The Wizard of Oz; believe me, it's every bit as great as it sounds.

Gravity Rush (Vita)

Although its increasingly nonsensical story and always-aggravating combat regularly attempted to take my attention away from it, I don't think I've ever felt more like I'd stepped into the shoes—or spandex jumpsuit—of a superhero than I did while playing this gorgeous "gravity action" game.

Tearaway (Vita)

Tearaway is a breezy, Kirby-esque platformer that makes impressive and creative use of the Vita hardware and, as such, feels more like an amusement-park ride than a video game.

Airship Q (Vita)

Take Terraria, make the protagonist a cat, add a save-your-catnapped-sister story, and toss in a few honest-to-goodness, pull-your-hair-out-by-the-roots moments of jank-prompted frustration, and you have Airship Q.

Deltarune Chapter 1&2 (Switch)

This Undertale follow-up may or may not be a better game than its predecessor, but either way, it's a joy to play thanks to its wall-to-wall witty and silly text and its decision to fully lean into bullet-hell gameplay.

Mon Amour (Switch)

If you've ever wondered what Flappy Bird would look, sound, and play like if the creative geniuses at Onion Games (Black Bird, Dandy Dungeon) had made it, here's your answer.

Dungeon Encounters (Switch)

It's best to ignore how Dungeon Encounters looks, especially before you actually play it; instead, think of it as a minimalistic, top-down Etrian Odyssey that has you solve riddles to find new abilities, party members, treasures—even the final boss.

SaGa Frontier Remastered (Switch)

Although the stories that hold SaGa Frontier together are on the simple side, every other element of this Japanese role-player is out of this world: the eye-popping array of party members, the exotic enemy designs, the extraterrestrial locales, the electrifying battles, and—last, but certainly not least—the extraordinary soundtrack.

Liquid Kids (Switch)

This side-scrolling Bubble Bobble—basically, though the protagonist is a roly-poly platypus rather than lime-green dinosaur—is an arcade game through and through, with cheap deaths around every other corner, but it's also a blast to play thanks to how fun it is to throw "water bombs" everywhere and at everything.

Umurangi Generation Special Edition (Switch)

If Gnosia is a Werewolf simulator, Umurangi Generation is a document-the-end-of-the-world-using-a-DSLR-camera simulator—and a damn good one, at that.

Friday, December 24, 2021

My favorite games of 2021 that weren't actually released in 2021

Although I played and loved a lot of games this year that were actually released in the last 12 months, I also played and loved a lot of games that came out before 2021.

In particular, I played more Vita games in 2021 than I have in yearsthree of which are highlighted below. I also played a handful of DS games.

A Kappa’s Trail (DS)

This Nintendo DSiWare game is a breath of fresh air for several reasons, though the most noteworthy are that it makes full use of the DS system's touch screen (in fact, the machine's directional pad or face buttons are disabled during play) and it forces players to figure out what to do right from the word go.

Granted, I'd hardly call this digital release one of my favorite games of 2021 if all it offered were a lack of handholding and slick, stylus-centric controls. On that note, A Kappa's Trail is also quite a looker, no shock given the wizards at Brownie Brown (of Mother 3 and Magical Starsign fame) made it. Its lead-a-big-headed-kappa-to-the-end-of-each-winding-stage-while-avoiding-myriad-pitfalls-and-perils gameplay is unique, too, not to mention tense, thanks to the creepy disembodied hand that slowly stalks you and threatens to cut short your otherwise jaunty journey.

Don't worry, the latter isn't overly off-putting; instead, it injects the game with a welcome dose of drama that elevates the experience beyond "pleasant but boring."

Airship Q (PC/Vita)

When I imported my copy of this game many moons ago, all I knew about it was that it was supposed to be Terraria with cats. In reality, that description isn't entirely accurate. Airship Q is a far more straightforward title than Terraria, though this doesn't mean it's constricted. On the contrary, it's as open as you could hope for it to be; however, there are times you'll be forced in a particular direction to advance Airship Q's rather meager story.

Now to throw some cold water onto this little "review": Airship Q is a bit janky. In particular, its block- and physics-based world regularly does its best to spoil your progress and fun by trapping your craft or keeping you from reaching your intended destination. This usually induces laughs rather than rage, but don't be shocked if it causes the occasional fit. It shouldn't prompt you to huffily pull the plug on your playthrough, though, or at least it shouldn't if you do like I did and think of this aspect of the game as charming instead of irritating.

Gravity Rush (PS4/Vita)

Gravity Rush is one of those games that are filled with brazen, brilliant ideas that never fully gel. The characters (Kat, the protagonist, especially) and steampunk-ish setting fascinate, and its soundtrack alternatingly soothes and soars. Speaking of soaring, dashing and falling through the air as the aforementioned Kat is one of the more exhilarating experiences I've had in a game in eons.

Dashing and falling into one or more of Gravity Rush's low-key nightmarish enemies, on the other hand, tends to be tiresome rather than breathtaking, and it didn't take me long to both dread and even detest such tussles. Fulfilling the game's many missions gets old quickly, too, though not as completely as its battles.

Perhaps appropriately, the story in Gravity Rush veers wildly between riveting and ridiculousalmost like it exists to meld the game's positive and negative attributes. It leans toward the former more than the latter, though, and that was enough for me.

A ringing endorsement, right? Maybe not, but the fact is I'm still thinking of my time with Gravity Rush, and I'm also already contemplating taking another stab at it. In other words, its pros outweigh its cons, or at least they did for me. Considering how bold Gravity Rush is overall, putting up with its handful of quibbles isn't such a difficult task.  

Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk (PC/PS4/Switch)

I avoided starting Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk for ages because screenshots of it intimidated me. Specifically, the number of party members depicted in said screens got me thinking this dungeon-crawling RPG would be far too convoluted for my feeble brain. After finishing and putting more than 75 hours into it, I'm glad to report it's not. In fact, its multi-character battles are far more conventional than initial impressions suggest.

Which isn't to say Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk is traditional to a fault. It actually offers up several innovations that make it seem surprisingly fresh. Two standout examples: you can jump over pits while exploring its many maze-like dungeons, and you can break through walls to examine previously inaccessible areas.

Building and customizing your party, which can eventually include as many as 40 members (each of whom are puppets, not humans), provides a similarly unique thrill. Unfortunately, it's a bit too deep to delve into here. The game does a decent job of explaining it as you go along, thankfully.

Another area in which Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk excels is its story. Hell, a dungeon role-playing game having anything more than a barebones backstory is worth noting, but the one included here wouldn't be out of place in your typical JRPG. That it ends up being rather poignant only adds to the allure.

Ripened Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love (DS)

Ripened Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love is such a bizarre mashup of ideas that I'm frankly amazed the powers that be at Nintendo greenlit its development. It's a point-and-click game that stars everyone's favorite jumpsuit-wearing oddball, Tingle, and sports a story that parodies The Wizard of Oz.

Actually, there's more to Ripened Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love than just pointing and clicking. You solve puzzles, complete mini-games, and even woo some ladies, too.

Whether or not you tend to enjoy this genre, it's worth checking outin large part because it was developed by the talented crew at Vanpool, an offshoot of the renowned Love-de-Lic (known for cult classics Moon: Remix RPG Adventure and UFO: A Day in the Life).

Spelunky (PC/PS4/Switch/Vita)

Admittedly, my obsession with Spelunky began after I bought the Switch port that released this past autumn. I quickly moved over to the Vita version, though, and that's where I spent most of my time with this masochistic title.

That I enjoyed it enough to play it for more than 20 hours is a near-miracle, I must say. This type of platformer has never been my cup of tea for all sorts of reasons I won't bore you with now. What's different about Spelunky? For starters, I feel like I'm at least slightly more in control of my destiny while playing it than I do while attempting similar efforts. Also, dying in Spelunky rarely devastates me. And even when it approaches doing so, I still typically end up laughing at the comedic cruelty of it all before moving on to just one more run.

If you're wondering why I or anyone else would willingly go through such hell over and over again, well, my only answer is that I like the challenge of it. Success, at both the individual stage and overall game level, always seems within reachif only I could do this next time, or not do that. It's easy to blame yourself, rather than the game, for failing, though never so harshly you give up and move on to something less taxing. 

Friday, December 17, 2021

My favorite games of 2021

Although I played a lot of games in 2021, only about half of them were actually released this year. And even then, most were far from the AAA efforts that tend to fill similar GOTY write-ups. 

Still, I hope those who read this post will enjoy the thoughts I share below on what I consider to be my favorite games of 2021.

Something to consider as you scroll: I've sadly yet to experience a good handful of 2021 releases that I expect would've made this list had I gotten around to playing them. Among the games in question: Fuga: Melodies of Steel, The Great Ace Attorney ChroniclesNEO: The World Ends with You, Undernauts: Labyrinth of Yomi, and Voice of Cards.

Bravely Default II (PC/Switch)

You're probably already aware that the character models in this Bravely Default sequel are less visually appealing than their counterparts in the original. Bravely Default II's soundtrack doesn't hit the same highs as the previous game's either. 

Even so, I found Bravely Default II to be enormously compelling. The claymation-inspired, diorama-esque world is a joy to race around, and its battles exist somewhere within the same exhilarating realm as those found in the first Bravely Default and the oft-similar Octopath Traveler.

The cherry on top of this sadly divisive RPG: the bonkers story, which becomes more and more compelling--not to mention bizarre--the deeper you delve into it.

Deltarune Chapter 1&2 (PC/PS4/Switch)

I dragged my feet on plunging into the first two chapters of Deltarune until late this year because, frankly, I couldn't fathom how they'd even remotely reach Undertale's splendorous heights. Boy, was I wrong. I don't know that I could declare Deltarune chapters one and two to be better than the whole of Undertale, but I also wouldn't argue with anyone who makes such an assertion.

For me, the main area in which Deltarune bests its precursor is combat. Battles in Deltarune have more depth and are more strategic than those in Undertale. I also found them more fun, truth be told. I can't quite say the same about Deltarune's characters, story, or soundtrack. In particular, Queen and Lancer pale in comparison to their Undertale counterparts, Sans and Papyrus, though the former are by no means duds.

Whatever. All I know is I'm itching--desperately--to play Deltarune's remaining chapters, however many Toby Fox and crew decide to release into the world. For me, that makes the whole "which is better?" discussion moot. At least until the next time I play through Undertale (wink wink).

Dungeon Encounters (PC/PS4/Switch)

Dungeon Encounters offers up a terrible first impression, looking like one of Square Enix's lowest effort titles ever. Give it a whirl, though, and you're sure to realize, as I quickly did, it's a minimalistic Etrian Odyssey viewed from a decidely different perspective.

Even that sells this digital RPG short, though, as I enjoyed playing Dungeon Encounters more than I've enjoyed playing any Etrian Odyssey title to date. I also managed to finish Dungeon Encounters--something I've yet to do with Etrian Odyssey's many releases.

Why? The sense of mystery and exploration is strong in Dungeon Encounters. Not only do you map out floors of a dungeon, but you solve riddles to find new abilities, party members, treasures, and even the final boss. Also, the game practically begs you to break it in various ways. Once you've acquired certain abilities, you can jump around the 99-floor dungeon nearly at will. As you might expect, there's a risk-reward element to this play style, but that's yet another feather in Dungeon Encounters' cap.

All in all, if you're usually an RPG fan and you're up for tackling a tough one (though not unfairly so) that dares to stray from the norm, give serious consideration to Dungeon Encounters in 2022.

Gnosia (Switch)

Raging Loop was among my favorite games of 2020. One of the main reasons I loved Raging Loop so much was that it deftly blended aspects of the social-deduction game, Werewolf, into what is otherwise a spooky visual novel.

Gnosia also incorporates aspects of Werewolf into its gameplay. It's not a VN, though. Rather, it's more of a Werewolf simulator. The end result is every bit as gripping as you might expect if you've ever experienced Werewolf in some form or fashion. If you haven't, the gist here is that you're on a spaceship with a slew of extremely colorful characters (literally and figuratively) and you need to suss out which are Gnosia, alien-like creatures who will, without intervention, kill all humans aboard.

The thing is, you don't play through Gnosia just once. You play through it many, many times. A single loop may take as little as a few minutes or as long as a quarter-hour or more. While working your way through a particular loop, you'll regularly encounter event scenes that expand one or more characters' backstories. Only after you experience all of these scenes can you access Gnosia's true ending.

Really, though, the ending is the icing on this pixelated piece of cake. The real joy comes in the journey to that point--getting to know your crewmates, using what you glean there to your advantage (or their disadvantage), and figuring out what you need to move the overarching story toward its satisfying conclusion.

Mon Amour (PC/Switch)

After I played Onion Games' Mon Amour for the first time following its release, I thought, "this is cute, but I probably won't spend much time with it." I returned to it the next day, mostly to give it a quick second chance before moving on to something more my speed. Instead, I got wrapped up in its silly quest to rescue Princess Mona and her multitude of servants. I intended to only save a few of the latter, but by the time I'd done just that, I was hooked--or at least I was hooked enough to continue on rather than prematurely pull the plug on my Mon Amour adventure.

I'm so glad that happened. Because that's when I discovered there's more to this little gem than its Flappy Bird-ish gameplay, plethora of rescuable "mon-a-girls," and appropriately zany soundtrack. Notably, it's surprisingly strategic once you realize how your actions affect the playfield. With that knowledge in mind, you'll likely have as hard a time as I did putting down Mon Amour until you've saved every citizen, climbed the high-score list to an acceptable degree, or both.

SaGa Frontier Remastered (Mobile/PC/PS4/Switch)

I've been enamored with SaGa Frontier since first laying eyes on Japanese screenshots of it in some old gaming magazine or other in advance of its late-1990s release. For me, it was far closer to what I wanted from Square Enix (then Squaresoft) during the 32-bit era than Final Fantasy VII was.

I'm even more appreciative of what SaGa Frontier brings to the table today, thanks to the fact that it's now portable and sports a cleaned-up--and thus less confusing--localization. As it always was, SaGa Frontier remains thrillingly exotic, with locales, characters and battles that inspire awe while also getting the eyes popping and blood flowing.

True, SaGa Frontier can be brutal, with death lingering around nearly every corner. But even that is a positive, in my mind--considering how common it is for battles in RPGs to feel yawn-inducingly superfluous.