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Hautley and the Great White Chocobo



Salutations,

And welcome to another rare review from me, Punk_Kricket ~

Having been a member on this site, I've spent time skulking around the pages to see the various creations made by other users and one such creation that's given me pause time and again has always been the 'fan-game'. This isn't me saying that there's anything inherently wrong with fan-games, as some notable creations have been born out of love for other games, and such is the case with Final Fantasy Blackmoon Prophecy II, from UPRC.

Now, I'd like to preface my review by saying that I'm playing the two games in reverse starting with the sequel, though one of the pros to the sequel is that having played the first one isn't totally necessary as the game gives enough exposition and backstory to catch new players up, and manages on its own with what it gives you to go by. Do things have more impact if you had the knowledge from the first game? Of course! But it doesn't stunt the experience as a whole.

Now, allow me to break down the game in parts, starting with Presentation and the three major points under that being: Graphics, Music, and Story.

What the Blackmoon Prophecy titles manage to do as fan-games is take what's familiar and what was popular in the halcyon days of gaming and give it a face-lift, where what should feel familiar is now new, and locations and names of people and places don't carry the same meaning as they would if you encountered them in the games they'd come from. For BPII, that would be capturing the likeness of Final Fantasy 6, while incorporating elements from games further down the franchises entries.

What separates BPII from other Final Fantasy fan-games is that cities, towns, and some dungeons (namely ruins and lore intensive places) feel largely realized and whole, with a clear identity and purpose. You may have the transitional cave or underground passage, and yes, usually those have some history to them as well, but the aforementioned locations steal the spotlight in terms of locations due to the way they were designed. Mapping in BPII is strong, varied, interesting but more importantly feels like places have either been traversed and lived in, or are lively and interesting.

The cast of characters we guide through the journey are distinctive, and often times adequately expressive with only a few moments where modern day speech rears its head to disrupt immersion into the fantasy world, but it's far and few between when it happens.

That's not to say it's perfect – there are times where enemy sprites can look ugly, compressed and jarring in comparison to others before and after it. One such example is the battle against Jossley and the Duke's Knights, where Jossley's sprite had bright pink hair set to a drab soldier sprite, or how the other Knights were copy-paste with variations to set them apart. Does this ruin the immersion if you're invested into the story? Absolutely not. But it's noticeably jarring when it happens.

But what's a game without music? BPII has a mixture of source related music and originals, and I have to commend the original tracks for capturing an essence of what made earlier Final Fantasy soundtracks memorable while having their own sense of identity, and the use of music from other games is spaced out, and often times well set into where they play. So to the composer, I wanted to extend a heartfelt 'congratulations, you did an amazing job' because capturing what made earlier Final Fantasy music memorable and creating music to fit into that sort of motif isn't an easy thing to do, but you pulled it off!

You may be asking yourself now – Okay, well if the graphical and musical presentation is sound, what about the story?

Without diving into spoilers and giving away anymore plot related elements – the story has a pattern it settles into that keeps the game interesting from start to finish, and it's one you're not made aware of until the story begins to slow down and you start grinding for levels. The early game takes you through many 'go to point A, do event B, travel to point C, do event D' and it can be a bit long-winded as Zephyr and company grasp their barrings in the story. This is alleviated by having permanent access to a chocobo at all times, so long stretches of travel isn't horrible. Tedious? Sometimes. But you'll begin to notice the longer treks less and less as the story evolves beyond the scope of 'greenhorn recruit gets involved in local Esper-shennigans' to unraveling governmental corruption, facing off against a mystical race to procure weapons and save humanity, and the character-driven subplots that guide the story along. There are times where the party is mid-travel and the creator uses this time to build character relations, give us exposition and makes use of what is usually glossed over screen-time. Good usage of travel time, I'd say.

Which is another major strong suit of BPII – each party member within your roster will, inevitably, get their moment to shine, and their backstory and more revealed. Some characters take awhile to have the overall scope of their life and backstory revealed, as characters introduced early on can take time to reach their 'pivotal' moments, but they'll come and usually at well executed moments. The characters themselves range a spectrum, but some steal the show (Hautley, for example) while others will take time to grow on you (Sapphire and Bolt – with Sapphire being a repeat offender with her verbiage being a bit too modern for the setting, but it's not awful). There are characters I cared little for but their roles were minor, at best, by comparison. I've some nitpicks, and I'll address them towards the end, so let's move on to the Game-play portion, will largely cover Content and Mechanics.

Game-play in BPII is what you'd come to expect for a Final Fantasy game – characters have roles to fulfill, some are better than others, extensive lists of items, weapons and gear with some decent side-quests as it goes. You can expect to pour in hours grinding levels for your team, optimizing gear per character, and hunting down chocograph locations and more. So if you're looking for a game that is stuffed to it's gils with content, you couldn't go wrong with BPII (or the prequel).

Mechanically, though...there are some hang-ups. While each character is given a chance to shine and has their primary uses and are good at what they do, some characters are quickly and simply out-ranked by others. By end game, you may have your team kitted to the nines with the best of the best you can acquire, but some characters are stuck in support roles (Bolt, Trigger, Edric) while others become more useful in the mid-to-late game (nearly every damn melee fighter).

But one character in this game will, inevitably, dominate your battle party. And that's the residential grumpy mage himself – Hautley. What he lacks in raw physical power he more than makes up for with his magic, as he will single handedly churn out some of THE highest numbers in the game. Quite frankly, once he joins, just keep him in the party and keep him leveled and I promise you that bosses won't be a problem because Hautley, with some good gear, can nuke an enemy several times over before they can have a chance to act.

Your runner up damage do'ers are characters like Zephyr and Reiner will make for being bulkheads of the party with their ability to summon monsters, and you can't go wrong with having either of them in the party (though Zephyr eventually out-ranks Reiner in terms of gear); and with characters like Sapphire, Silas and more to cover whatever needs you have left? You'll be re-arranging to find the balance of party members that suit your play-style. But never omit Hautley. He's your backbone, even if his gives him grief, I'm sure.

Though I want to stress that you can heavily customize your party – anyone can learn black magic, though white magic is selective to those who come with it (though they can learn black magic too). Not everyone is created equally in that department, so it's best to have your primary mage, and a party balance of well-rounded fighters that can dish out magic damage.

One notable mechanic is introduced in the game's “Relaxed Mode” which gives you early access to a Moogle Charm, a “Relaxed Booster” which doubles your EXP (for the character, which bothered me to an extent because I would've preferred the effect to be party wide, not just singular, but I digress), doubles Gil and item drop rate as well as introduces Soul Wells in dungeons. Does Relaxed Mode ruin the challenge? No. It makes the grind less tedious as experience and gil payouts are on the lower side, which might be to encourage the grind when certain areas showcase enemy mobs prime for being nuked by your mage, as bosses will and can wreck you if you go in unprepared. Especially later on in the game.

One such boss fight is the Materia Hunter – and I will openly admit this is a bit of a nitpick, but the fight becomes unwinnable if you don't have a means to stave off it's rampant use of X-Death. Do you have the means by time this fight occurs to stop death? Yes. Is it cheap that the AI of the enemy seems broken to only resorting to firing off this one spell? Also yes. Maybe it was something I did as my characters had elemental defense but it's an example of how, if you go in unprepared, some boss fights have dirty tricks. Most bosses are susceptible to status ailments, which is another nice touch I'll give to UPRC – an actual use for the often useless status affect spells. Bonus points, too, because they do damage on top of the ailment affliction.

Another mechanic that's implemented is a clear notion of enemy weaknesses and the exploitation of such – as the game progresses you'll find that physical attacks don't affect some enemies, while magic won't have as much an affect either. This can be irritating if you under level some party members, but it's offset by how quickly you can catch members up to an average level.

Relating back to the world itself – Optional dungeons are a thing! And they are rewarding and often act as good ways to earn extra experience and money, as well as finding rare equipment (and in some cases, maybe even additional party members? I'll never tell.) So exploring and finding what's out there in the world is solely up to you, and you'll want to – because you miss out on some good stuff if you don't.

There's another side-activity I want to mention and that's the card game – if you've played Final Fantasy 8 and 9's card game side-quests, then you know what to expect – beating down opponents for rare cards, and destroying new players you come across. For when you need a break from bathing in the blood of whatever beastie you just fought, of course.

Or, if you fancy a bloodbath, UPRC has you covered there too! There's an arena in the game and, as is traditional for most JRPG arenas, you can acquire some top-tier accessories by battling here. It operates on a mechanic seen in Final Fantasy 7 where it throws random buffs or debuffs (or nothing at all) to you and the enemy party...though the wording for the 'elemental defense' buffs for enemies could be redone as instead of having a 'resistance' to an element, it straight up nullfies it. A small gripe, but one I need to make anyway.


That's the bulk of what I have to say about this marvelous example of how good a fan-game can be. There are some nitpicks I've addressed along the way, as I felt they were important to the segment they were in. There's one or two story-related issues I had that I'd rather not go into too much information with, but I will say the character of Orilion pre-Tiamat fight irked me, as he just came in and...yeah. Not a fan of ridiculously overpowered villain abilities coming out of nowhere just for the sake of plot advancement and to kill off some characters, but it was something that can be worked through as the story that follows further contextualized it.

Early on, some characters can be hard to pin-point a personality to – such as Zephyr. Sometimes he acts like a hapless tag-along to his own journey, and other times he's a voice of reason. That may seem wishy-washy at first, but as the story proceeds, you'll get a firm grasp on him as a character. Reiner, too, in case you aren't a fan of the 'grizzled hard-ass with a sad backstory'. Other characters, like Cid and Sapphire, have dialogue that felt out of place and, in the case of Cid, felt cringe-inducing because of how...out of left field it tended to be. But for how little story-time he's shown, it could've been much worse.

There are many moments of introspection and interaction between the cast that, in my opinion, are the real meat of the story. It's not that the story at large is thin, because it's not, but their reactions and interactions with one another is probably THE highlight of the journey. You get the notion that this rag-tag group has more unifying factors than what I saw in the first BP.

Is Final Fantasy Blackmoon Prophecy II perfect? No, but it comes damn close. It's a top-tier fan-game that lovingly borrows from it's sources and inspirations, and manages to weave a tale of intrigue, war, and those impacted by it using names and locations we've heard before, but with a brand new identity that makes it feel like it's all it's own. With several twists, turns, upheaves and reveals, I firmly recommend this game to those seeking something to easily sink more than 60 hours of game time into, and more so if you're a fan of the Final Fantasy 6 aesthetic.

And with that being said, I'm out! Giving Final Fantasy Blackmoon Prophecy II 4.5 nuclear Hautley's to the face.

I apologize if my review isn't interesting to look out - I was midway through the game and failed to take screenshots that wouldn't have been spoilers, and I'm too late now for screenshots to not be spoilers. I'll catch myself next time!

Posts

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UPRC
Exciting, but ultimately pointless.
6175
The boss you mentioned, Materia Keeper, only responds with certain attacks if you try to cheese him with magic/status conditions since he innately eats magic. I'll admit that having an NPC mention "this thing eats magic, so don't cast any spells on it!" probably would have helped.

Zephyr was always intended to not seem one-dimensional, able to bounce between serious and silly at the drop of a hat, like any person would in real life. Your critique on him isn't as harsh as others, but the fact that you mentioned it as well definitely tells me that I goofed up somewhere in trying to convey him the way I wanted.

Cid's all over the place because he was the first Augurer. Like Kefka in Final Fantasy VI, he was experimented on and came out kind of... weird from it. This comes up a few times, namely when Trigger comments on how bizarre and strange Cid is compared to when they used to hang out in the past. Unlike Kefka, Cid kept his good heart and isn't out for world domination. The man's just borderline insane at times. Good thing he's (supposed to be) good at his job.

Don't worry about not having screenshots, this review was still a great read! Truthfully I was expecting a 3.5 or 4, so a 4.5 warms my little heart. I'm very glad that you enjoyed the game!

If you dare to tackle the original after this, remember that it's much more primitive in terms of balance, operation and overall narrative (though the writing gets better towards the end, the original took 10 years of work off and on to make and latter half of the game is from those final 2-3 years).
author=UPRC
The boss you mentioned, Materia Keeper, only responds with certain attacks if you try to cheese him with magic/status conditions since he innately eats magic. I'll admit that having an NPC mention "this thing eats magic, so don't cast any spells on it!" probably would have helped.

Zephyr was always intended to not seem one-dimensional, able to bounce between serious and silly at the drop of a hat, like any person would in real life. Your critique on him isn't as harsh as others, but the fact that you mentioned it as well definitely tells me that I goofed up somewhere in trying to convey him the way I wanted.

Cid's all over the place because he was the first Augurer. Like Kefka in Final Fantasy VI, he was experimented on and came out kind of... weird from it. This comes up a few times, namely when Trigger comments on how bizarre and strange Cid is compared to when they used to hang out in the past. Unlike Kefka, Cid kept his good heart and isn't out for world domination. The man's just borderline insane at times. Good thing he's (supposed to be) good at his job.

Don't worry about not having screenshots, this review was still a great read! Truthfully I was expecting a 3.5 or 4, so a 4.5 warms my little heart. I'm very glad that you enjoyed the game!

If you dare to tackle the original after this, remember that it's much more primitive in terms of balance, operation and overall narrative (though the writing gets better towards the end, the original took 10 years of work off and on to make and latter half of the game is from those final 2-3 years).


I remember running into the NPC that told me about Materia Keeper, so I went in not using magic but all it did to me was spam X-Death xD I don't know if this was because I was kitted out to have full elemental protection or what, but that's all it did to me.

I don't think you goofed up with Zephyr - I put that there because I noticed there was criticism of his character and when I was playing, I could see some of the points but then I had to tell myself that Zephyr, as the story goes, doesn't like combat - it claimed the life of someone important to him and that was hard to grapple with. And being someone that handles hurt and pain with humor, it's why I said that the further you go, the more he makes sense retroactively. It's rough to write that sometimes so I think, in that regard, you did well. It was more a point to tell future players that he may SEEM a bit off, but keep playing and it'll all make sense.

I did warm up to Cid close to the end once I looked back on the journey as a whole. I do think, upon rereading my review, that I might've been a little too mean to the guy. I think I'll enjoy him more on a second play-through.

I often forget to take screenshots cuz I'm not used to thinking about them, even when I have the software for them open. But I can tell that you've improved with time because I remember playing up until coming across a wrecked village with enemy encounters in BP1 and then getting swamped hard by random encounters but then BPII had moments of struggle but it was better paced; and overall I think the experiences from making two giant fan-games, and the improvements between, speak for themselves.

And I hope people will be as excited as I am for the third game - because I've faith that you'll rope us in for more.
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