Question time: Final Fantasy IXs 15th anniversary

Final Fantasy IX is an important game in Square Enix’ history. It was the last of its era of PS1 FF games, but it was a celebration not of its most recent peers, but of the first six FFs. It’s a classic story in a colorful world with gameplay that manages to be engaging without being overly-intricate.

Well, FFFIX turned fifteen years old this month. The game originally released in Japan on the 7th of July in the year 2000. For the 56th episode of SLink FM, we’re saying happy birthday. We’ll discuss our favorite moments and characters from the game and discuss it’s place in the tapestry of Final Fantasy.

Please, take this week to send us your questions and share your own memories of Zidane, Garnet, and co.

Episode 55: “…”

Some say that words are very unnecessary, as they can only do harm. However in the case of an RPG, that’s clearly not always the case. In this Episode we discuss silent protagonists and compare/contrast them with voiced protagonists. Silent protagonists offer the ability to let the player self insert, while voice protagonists are actually fleshed out characters. We discuss the strengths and weaknesses of both, as well as which we prefer overall.  Hope you all enjoy it!

Download Link (Right click + save as)

Thanks to Serah for the title card.

Check out our social media pages:

All music from the Podcast provided by composer Alex Roe, check out his work here:

We’re available on the itunes store, just search “S.Link FM” and subscribe! Also you’d be doing us a big favor if you gave us a review on itunes.

Question time: Silent protagonists vs. voiced protagonists

The mechanics of an RPG may wildly vary from title to title, but they share a common ground in that the genre is generally known for telling great stories. How the stories are told however also varies just as much as the mechanics.

For the next episode, we want to talk about silent protagonists and contrast them with voiced protagonists. Which immerses us more, and which is better for telling a story. A small example would be between how Final Fantasy IX tells its story versus Mass Effect. Final Fantasy IX has an excellent script that sort of goes above and beyond to convey it’s tone to the player. We don’t know what Zidane sounds like, but he has such a clearly defined voice anyway. On the other hand, a game with acting has nuance on it’s side. You have conversations with Garrus in Mass Effect and you never really get terribly lengthy answers, but you can understand where he’s coming from really well because of tone. A character like Legion might not work without the voice work because his style of speaking is so stilted. You would see him as just a robot to start and that might never change, but of course the whole thing with Legion is he’s more than that.

So if you want to add to the conversation or ask a question, place do so in the comments below!

Episode 54: A Podcast Reborn

When you’re taking part in a passion project like S.Link FM, there comes a time where you have to either change things up, or lay it to rest. In the case of this podcast, we’re doing the former. Yes you may have seen this coming, but it’s official now: S.Link FM is switching from solely a Persona podcast to a more all encompassing RPG show.

Let’s be clear about this though: We still love Persona, the show wouldn’t have gone on two years if we didn’t. However after 50+ episodes, it’s getting a little difficult to come up with new topics that are entirely Persona-focused. We love a ton of RPG franchises from Final Fantasy to Mass Effect, and to keep things fresh(and fun) we decided to make this change.

So hopefully you’ll stick with us as we change things up. Listen to the latest episode below to hear the team’s thoughts more fully.

Download Link (Right click + save as)

Thanks to Serah for the title card.

All music from the Podcast provided by composer Alex Roe, check out his work here:

We’re available on the itunes store, just search “S.Link FM” and subscribe! Also you’d be doing us a big favor if you gave us a review on itunes.

Episode 53: Final Fantasy – Fabulous Novus Crystals Part 2

The long wait for the second part of our Final Fantasy centric ‘cast is finally over! In this Episode we discuss the current state of Final Fantasy, as well as the future. Lots of talk on Type-0, A Realm Reborn, and the XV demo.

Download Link (Right Click + Save as)

Thanks to Jintor for the show outtro.
Thanks to Serah for the title card.

Piano tracks from the Podcast provided by composer Doug Farrell, check out his work here:

We’re available on the itunes store, just search “S.Link FM” and subscribe! Also you’d be doing us a big favor if you gave us a review on itunes.

Episode 52: Final Fantasy – Fabulous Novus Crystals Part 1

We’re taking a brief break from celebrating Persona and using an episode to discuss a series the whole crew loves — Final Fantasy.  Several of us found our way to Persona and other RPGs through Square’s iconic franchise, and we would like to share those origin stories.

Join us for nearly two hours as we mispronounce every single name in the series. Is it Teedus or Tyedus?

Download Link (Right Click + Save as)

Thanks to Jintor for the show outtro.
Thanks to Serah for the title card.

Piano tracks from the Podcast provided by composer Doug Farrell, check out his work here:

We’re available on the itunes store, just search “S.Link FM” and subscribe! Also you’d be doing us a big favor if you gave us a review on itunes.

Question time for Final Fantasy ‘cast!

FFcast

The long awaited Final Fantasy cast is going to record this Friday, and surprise it’s going to be two parts! In the first part-we’ll be discussing what it is that defines the series for us, and what out personal favorites are.

The second part will be what we think of the current state of Final Fantasy and what the future holds for the franchise. So if you have any questions at all pertaining to the franchise–please leave them below! Remember that part 1 records this Friday(April 3rd) so get them in soon!

Episode 51: 2 Year Anniversary

It’s hard to believe, but as of today the podcast is officially two years old! To commemorate this occasion, we’ve put together this episode to highlight some of our favorite moments in the show’s history.

Whether you’re a long time fan, or only just started listening, I can’t thank you enough for your support. It’s been such a wild and fun ride doing this show, thank you. -Levito

Download Link (Right Click + Save as)

Thanks to Jintor for the show outtro.
Thanks to Serah for the title card.

Piano tracks from the Podcast provided by composer Doug Farrell, check out his work here:

We’re available on the itunes store, just search “S.Link FM” and subscribe! Also you’d be doing us a big favor if you gave us a review on itunes.

Episode (5)0

It’s really hard to believe, but after almost two years we’ve made it to Episode 50! Much to our good fortune, Persona 5 also received an incredible new trailer too. This episode is fulll of analysis, speculation, and predictions regarding Persona 5.

5 hosts, 5th game, 50th episode. Not much else to say, get hype.

Download Link (Right Click + Save as)

Thanks to Jintor for the show outtro.
Thanks to Serah for the title card.

Piano tracks from the Podcast provided by composer Doug Farrell, check out his work here:

We’re available on the itunes store, just search “S.Link FM” and subscribe! Also you’d be doing us a big favor if you gave us a review on itunes.

Episode 49: A Motivational Dance with Dale North and Atlusprime

Want to hear tips on how to get into the games industry? Or how about to win internet dancing contests? If neither of those float your boat, then surely you’re interested in hearing all about how awesome Shoji Meguro is, right?

Well regardless, all of this in more is in Episode 49 of S. Link FM.

Download Link (Right Click + Save as)

Thanks to Jintor for the show outtro.
Thanks to Serah for the title card.

Piano tracks from the Podcast provided by composer Doug Farrell, check out his work here:

We’re available on the itunes store, just search “S.Link FM” and subscribe! Also you’d be doing us a big favor if you gave us a review on itunes.

Question time with Dale North and Atlusprime

It’s a new year and season 3 of S.Link FM is about to begin. We’re coming out guns blazing this season with the next episode. For episode 49 we’re honored to be joined by Dale North and John Hardin! Dale is a long time games industry veteran, composer, and big SMT/Persona fan. And well, if you listen to this podcast you surely already know John as the PR manager at Atlus USA.

This episode will probably be a mishmash of topics, so  ask us about whatever you feel like. We will be recording on the 24th, so you’ve got plenty of time to get questions in!

Episode 48: Holiday Special 2014

After 25 Episodes of the podcast this year, season two of S. Link FM has come to an end. In this Episode we go over our games of the year, and look back on everything we did on the podcast this year.

Thank you all so much for listening, see you in 2015.

Download Link (Right Click + Save as)

Thanks to Jintor for the show outtro.
Thanks to Serah for the title card.

Piano tracks from the Podcast provided by composer Doug Farrell, check out his work here:

We’re available on the itunes store, just search “S.Link FM” and subscribe! Also you’d be doing us a big favor if you gave us a review on itunes.

Episode 47: What is Love?

Episode 47 Title Card

Arguably the most difficult emotion to represent in gaming is love, or at least in any sort of meaningful way. Developers like Bioware and P-Studio have been tackling the challenge for some time now with varying degrees of success. In this episode we discuss both the representation of platonic & romantic relationships in gaming; while also comparing and contrasting the Persona series with franchises like Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Baldur’s Gate.

We ended up running fairly late with this one so we weren’t able to get to nearly as many questions as we should have, apologies in advance for that. Regardless though, this was one of the best episodes of the podcast to date.

Download Link (Right Click + Save as)

Thanks to Jintor for the show outtro.
Thanks to Serah for the title card.

Piano tracks from the Podcast provided by composer Doug Farrell, check out his work here:

We’re available on the itunes store, just search “S.Link FM” and subscribe! Also you’d be doing us a big favor if you gave us a review on itunes.

Question time: Love is in the air~

Portraying love in a meaningful way within a videogame while also giving the player agency in how a relationship plays out is something developers have struggled with for years now. Unless a game tells a linear narrative focused on love like Silent Hill 2 or Final Fantasy VIII, often games tend to trivialize it. There’s long since been a debate as to what developers and franchises “get it right” and of course Persona is in the heart of this discussion.

In the next episode, we plan to discuss the portrayal of love both in platonic & romantic ways  in Persona, and compare/contrast it with the likes of other franchises like Baldur’s Gate, Mass Effect, and whatever else may come to our minds. So if you have any questions or comments, now is the time to get them in!

(Header image by CJ)

Episode 46: The name’s Bond, Friendship Bond

Disclaimer: This episode is a spoilercast for Ultimax, if you haven’t finished the 3 story modes to might want to before listening to this episode.

On this Episode we discuss the bonds that bind us together, and what happens if someone has no bonds. Without any friendship bonds, a bondless villain might rise up and try to take away our bonds.

Download Link (Right Click + Save as)

Thanks to Jintor for the show outtro.
Thanks to Serah for the title card.

Piano tracks from the Podcast provided by composer Doug Farrell, check out his work here:

We’re available on the itunes store, just search “S.Link FM” and subscribe! Also you’d be doing us a big favor if you gave us a review on itunes.

Question time: Ultimax Spoilercast is happening this weekend

Well now that Ultimax has been out for a good while, it’s about time we do a podcast going over the events of the story mode. We’ll be going over the plot(s) of the three different campaigns and which will probably entail bonds, bonds, bonds, friendship, bonds, and bonds.

So if you have a particular question about the story mode or would just like to voice your thoughts in general, but all means post ’em in the comments section below.

Episode 45: Casual Saturdays – Destiny

It’s time for another installment in our off topic series, this time Destiny is the topic at hand. We talk all about its faults, how important narrative is in gaming, and how Bungie has successfully created “Third Wheel: The game”.

Download Link (Right Click + Save as)

Thanks to TrueSelf for the title card.

Piano tracks(for every episode but this one) from the Podcast provided by composer Doug Farrell, check out his work here:

We’re available on the itunes store, just search “S.Link FM” and subscribe! Also you’d be doing us a big favor if you gave us a review on itunes.

Episode 44: Persona (Q)uestions with Nich Maragos

For Episode 44 we had the great pleasure of being joined by Nich Maragos, one of the key members of the localization staff over at Atlus USA. We talked all about the upcoming Persona Q, Nich’s encounters meeting several of the big names from Atlus Japan, and even the discussion of honorifics came up.

Apologies for the tardiness behind getting this episode out, but rest assured it was worth the wait!

Download Link (Right Click + Save as)

Thanks to Jintor for the show outtro.
Thanks to TrueSelf for the title card.

Piano tracks from the Podcast provided by composer Doug Farrell, check out his work here:

We’re available on the itunes store, just search “S.Link FM” and subscribe! Also you’d be doing us a big favor if you gave us a review on itunes.

Review: Persona 4 Arena Ultimax

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax (Playstation 3[Reviewed], Xbox 360)
Reviewed by @Levito

Satiating the desires of several different communities with a single game is a difficult task for any developer, and it is one Arc System Works and Atlus have dealt with in their Persona 4 Arena series for some time now. The challenge being creating a title that appeals to the hardcore fighting-game fan well-versed in Arc’s history, while also satisfying the fans of Persona‘s traditional RPG roots. The first game attempted this and it was successful in varying degrees, depending on who you ask of course. Now Arc is taking another jab at the concept with Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, and it is time to see if it fairs better than its predecessor.

Note: Slight spoilers for the first Arena in the following couple paragraphs

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax’s narrative picks up immediately after the events of the first game, with both the Investigation Team and the Shadow Operatives heading their own separate investigations to discover the true identity of the elusive antagonist of the first game. Though there’s not much in the way of investigation to be done as Inaba becomes engulfed in a layer of red fog that gnarls the landscape into something sinister. General Teddie returns to announce that another P-1 Grand Prix is about to take place, insisting that if the entrants do not participate that the world will come to an end. Also, a mysterious young man named Sho Minazuki seems to be at the center of all the wrongdoings.

If you are one of the people that was not a fan of the story of the first game, Ultimax is not much of a step up in regards to the quality of the writing. While I believe it’s undeniably better than the first game, it’s certainly not up to the standard of the RPG series from which it originates. My biggest issue is there is not a lot in the way of character development, particularly on the P4 side where it feels like some characters have even regressed from the growth that occurred in Persona 4. The story mode certainly has its moments, especially on the P3 side, but overall you should probably approach this with a “dumb fun” mentality rather than expect a truly gripping narrative. While normally I would never expect an excellent story from a fighting game, it stings a bit because they tried to set up a big overarching plot line over two games and in the end it just leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

Probably the biggest improvement to Ultimax’s story mode over the first game is its presentation. In order to see the entire story of the first game, you had to play through every single character’s individual story route. Normally that wouldn’t be an issue, but each path was more or less the same plot points retreaded over and over with lots of fluff in between. This time around however, Arc opted for a more concise approach to how the story plays out. There’s a large branching tarot card tree that basically allows the player some degree of choice to see how the story unfolds, with each tarot card representing a small portion of the story you can choose to play. That’s not to say that the narrative has a lot of branches and it’s affected heavily by play choice, but it cuts things up into smaller bite-sized chucks while also removing the repetition that plagued the story mode of the first game.

While Ultimax’s narrative is lacking, the things it *needed* to get right like the gameplay, it got absolutely right. Now anyone that listens to the podcast knows that asking me about the intricacies of a fighting game is like asking GWAR advice on how to keep an audience civil during a concert. However, despite my lack of knowledge with regards to the technical merits of the actual mechanics, Ultimax succeeds where most other fighting games have failed for me: it genuinely filled me with the desire to learn all about its inner workings. Whether you decide to play through the story mode at first or just start with the basics in the wonderfully helpful tutorial mode, the game does well to not overwhelm novice players like myself. Furthermore, things like auto combos will help you to not feel useless in your first few bouts with other players; though make no mistake, a skilled player will laugh at your attempt to auto combo your way to victory. It’s a game that is easy to learn on a fundamental level, but you’ll have to really work to understand it to actually be any good. My advice for players just starting out would be to choose either Chie or Mitsuru as a starter just to get a feel for combat, as both of their attacks have quite large hitboxes. Of course you should experiment with everyone on the roster and choose a main that really accentuates your strengths, and more importantly, someone that you enjoy playing as. In my case I’ve taking quite a liking to how Yukiko plays– big fan of the zoning game she’s got going on.

Like with most fighting games the majority of your time spent with the game will probably be with others, and for someone like me it can be difficult playing with others as there is not really a local fighting-game scene where I live. Thankfully the netcode for Ultimax is pretty freaking fantastic. In the numerous hours I have spent battling with others online, I can count the amount of awfully laggy matches on one hand. When you initially start an online match, there’s a brief stage intro that will play that seems to act as a bit of a time buffer for players to smoothly connect to one another. Usually these stage intros will stutter a lot initially but will progressively smooth out as both players get a decent connection. It’s a great way to compensate for the initial lag build up. There’s also a multitude of different lobby systems that help easily bring you and your friends together to keep the pace of matches smooth.

Earlier I mentioned that the presentation of the story mode was an improvement from the first game. Well that excellent presentation extends over to the visuals in the game too. Ultimax sports some of the most gorgeous 2D sprite work that Arc has ever put into a project. The new playable characters really highlight how much better the animation is over that of the first Arena. Rise in particular is the standout; her standing idle animation is perfectly in line with her personality, and all of her moves are like throwbacks to Elvis Presley’s stage antics. All of the characters’ personalities are well defined in their sprite work, it’s really a testament to how excellent the art direction is. Even despite the fact that the game is only available on last-generation hardware, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is one of the most gorgeous games released this year.

Ever since the original release of Persona 3, the series has become well known for having excellent soundtracks. A tradition that carries over to Ultimax as well, for the most part. The main theme Break out of…” sung by Hirata Shihoko & Lotus Juice is arguably one of the best songs in the history of the franchise. There have been several instances where I found myself just sitting at the title screen listening to that song. Probably my only real complaint with the soundtrack though is there isn’t quite enough new music, or at least not enough that resonates the way the main theme does.

Probably the most surprising thing about Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is the fact that it’s absolutely brimming with content. The story modes for the P3 and P4 casts (and Adachi’s campaign if you download him) are likely to run you around the 14-18 hour mark. Not to mention the strangely addictive RPG-like Golden Arena mode where you can level up and increase the stats of whichever character you choose. Really though, when it comes to “bang for your buck”, Ultimax delivers and then some.

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax walks a fine line in its goal of appealing to both the hardcore fighting-game fan and the fan of the Persona RPG series. Obviously I can only really speak on behalf of one side of that duo, but as a whole I would say the game is quite successful in what it sets out to accomplish. More than that though, for the first time in years a fighting game has hooked me to the point where I want to learn all of its intricacies.

8/10

Episode 43: Cosplay n’ Coffee with Priscilla Kimm

As promised, for Episode 43 of S.Link FM we had the pleasure of being joined by cosplayers Cerulean, Woodwarder, and of course Priscilla Kimm! This is a shorter episode, but it was pretty informative and a lot of fun too. We went over cosplay culture, what’s particularly appealing about Soeijima’s character designs to cosplayers, and several other topics. If you have ever wanted to put together your own cosplay but were too wary to do so for whatever reason, now you can hear from a bunch of pros how to overcome any hurdle.

Thanks again to Cerulean, Woodwarder, and Priscilla for coming on the show.

Download Link (Right Click + Save as)

Thanks to Jintor for the show outtro.
Thanks to TrueSelf for the title card.

Piano tracks from the Podcast provided by composer Doug Farrell, check out his work here:

We’re available on the itunes store, just search “S.Link FM” and subscribe! Also you’d be doing us a big favor if you gave us a review on itunes.