Ever since late January, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4‘s been eating up most of my gaming time. I finally beat it yesterday, but am going to put off writing about it for now (and I will write about it, promise) to get some reviews out of the way. Like the previously reviewed Paper Mario: Sticker Star, these are all games which I played when I was not preoccupied with Persona 4.
Before that, though, I just want to note that the links page has been updated for a couple of friends’ sites and a Let’s Play. I also want to note that the Kickstarter for “Frog Fractions 2” is currently going on and that you should pitch in, if you haven’t already. That’s all for now, so let’s get to it…
After beating Sticker Star, it would seem odd that my next “secondary” RPG would be another one based around platformer mascot characters, but that’s what it was. Sonic Chronicles, which is perhaps most famous for being made by BioWare, is the first and only RPG in the Sonic franchise. Given the rocky history of Sonic games and the unusual choice of developer, I both wasn’t quite sure what to expect and didn’t keep my hopes up. This proved to be a wise tactic.
Sonic Chronicles follows the title hedgehog and his friends on a quest to rescue a kidnapped Knuckles from a group called the Nocturnus, and eventually, save a whole lot more. It uses some prominent bits of Sonic lore in telling its tale, and many series regulars make appearances, including Amy, Shadow, Big, and Cream. There are dialogue trees sprinkled throughout, though they don’t really affect what direction the story takes, as well as a sprinkling of humor and pop culture references (the Soundgarden one was the most out-of-left-field of the latter). Aside from some bits of dialogue that could’ve done with much tighter editing, and every single human NPC being a white male of some sort, the story works well enough, both for the Sonic universe and in general.
However, the game controls in exactly the way one would expect from a big-name developer who had never made a DS title before: every action requires touchscreen input, including starting the game. There are only two actions that have button-based alternatives (the field abilities and opening the menu), but if one has to use a stylus for everything else anyway, there’s no point in using anything else. This touchscreen gameplay is fine for the most part, but gets tricky when using the special POW abilities during battle, all of which require precise timing. Most POW moves will thankfully let you do at least some damage if you mess up the inputs, but healing and other support actions will fail outright in such cases. This being the case, the support characters are pretty much useless until one obtains a certain very rare Chao which lets you bypass the timed inputs—and even then, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll ever be able to get this Chao, as which ones hatch from what eggs is apparently random.
The rest of the game is a mix of polished and clunky. For example, while some of the music sounds fine, albeit generic, other pieces are dinky and an embarrassment to the franchise; one of these happens to be the only piece that I recognized as being from a previous Sonic game, a bare-bones cover of “Diamond Dust Zone, Act 1”, originally from the Genesis version of Sonic 3D Blast (what’s odd is that Richard Jacques is in the credits, presumably for this piece, when, to the best of my knowledge, it was actually written by Jun Senoue). The graphics fare better, though the 3D character models are kind of ugly when seen head-on, and the POW move icons are a bit more pixelated and jaggy than they could be. Taken as a whole, it’s an odd, quirky entry in a franchise that’s no stranger to the occasional odd, quirky entry. It might be worth a look if you’re a Sonic fan and/or into such curiosities (I fit both criteria), but it’s hard to recommend as a good RPG.
Speaking of playing similar games so close to each other, my next secondary title was a high school-based life simulator, much like the non-dungeony parts of Persona 4, but such was my mood when I started up this doujin game. Published by Capcom, localized by Nyu Media, and developed by 773, Cherry Tree High Comedy Club puts the player in the shoes of Miley, a high school student who dreams of becoming a professional comedian. To help achieve this dream, she has set out to recreate a school club that two alumni, now famous comics, were originally members of. Unfortunately, she needs a minimum of five club members in order to make it official, and she only has herself and her roommate. Thus, the goal of the game is to recruit those last three members before the deadline for new clubs closes.
The format should be familiar to anyone who has pursued Social Links in Persona 3 and/or 4: when not cultivating her knowledge of conversational topics (ranging from pets to politics) through reading or other activities, Miley talks to people around town and nurtures friendships with a specific subset of them. If she becomes close enough friends with any one of the six available candidates, they will join the club. Carrying out your search for club members day to day in this way can be repetitive after awhile, but given the format, it’s to be expected. It’s not a very long or difficult game, though some strategizing is required. I should also note that recruiting all six candidates seems to be impossible for a first playthrough; fortunately, there is a New Game Plus mode.
The music and story are bright and cheery, as are the graphics—save for some issues with text on characters’ clothing when their portraits are flipped—and the UI is very well designed. However, the one part of the game that stands out in a negative way is the localization. Although the writing itself is fine, typographical errors frequently appear throughout the dialogue, and I even caught a misspelled word in the user interface. It’s clear that this game would’ve greatly benefitted from a thorough round of copy editing/proofreading. Aside from that, there’s a quirk to this localization that is peculiar to Capcom-published visual novels: it’s rewritten to be set in the United States. Aside from the Westernized names, two noteworthy changes are that a certain pair of foreigners are now from Sweden instead of Canada, and the town’s shrine is explained as being a gift from Japan. Granted, this is not usually a major issue with me, but things like the shrine, not to mention the castle visible from the town’s park, are so obviously Japanese that one wonders why they even bothered with Americanization in the first place. These changes have also led me to wonder if the game itself (and by extension, worryingly, the gameplay) was altered so that there’s no school on Saturday in the English-language version, but I couldn’t find anything on 773’s site that seems to indicate this. Either way, the technically inept localization is a disappointment compared to the rest of the game, which is an enjoyable, lively diversion.
Not long after starting Miley’s adventures in club recruitment, I got The Itch and started up Hammerwatch, one of the few light-on-plot hardcore dungeon games left in my Steam backlog. It was one of the first things I had ever voted for on Greenlight, but I didn’t get around to actually picking it up until the last Steam Holiday Sale. After playing it, I’m kind of glad I didn’t pay full price.
The story is very simple: while escaping from a castle with your fellow adventurers, you alone get trapped and have to find your way out. The game is divided into four areas of three floors each. Each area has a boss, as well as minibosses, regular enemies, enemy spawn points, loot, treasure chests, traps, upgrade and potion shops, and secrets—lots of secrets. Most of these secrets take the form of hidden areas that can be found by attacking the right wall, pushing the right buttons, or solving puzzles, and lead to money, “vendor coins” (special items that lower the prices at shops), extra lives, and strange planks. Unlike most other games with such secrets, finding these goodies in Hammerwatch is practically required if one wants to make decent progress through the game. While I appreciate the focus on discovery, it seems a bit misguided to me to have so much of the game’s accessibility be dependent on what should be optional.
Aside from that, the castle floors are massive and very well designed, though having to go through them again and again after failed playthroughs leads to a sort of boredom settling in. As for the enemies, although some interesting things are done with them from time to time, for the most part, they’re pretty brainless, and will just swarm straight to you once you’re in their line of sight.
There are four character classes to choose from (all male, which is a bit weird), which are all well-balanced with their own distinct strengths and weaknesses. Although I tend to gravitate toward melee classes for these types of games, after trying out all the classes on the Medium difficulty, I ended up beating Hammerwatch with the wizard, whose basic fireball attack struck the right chord with me. Playing any one of the classes is an exercise in repetition, though; no matter which class I was, I found myself using very similar strategies on most of the regular enemy types throughout the game.
As far as aesthetics go, I have no major complaints aside from an iffy loop point in the background music. The options for graphics, controls, etc. are very good, although controller support is limited. Hammerwatch also has a co-op multiplayer component and modding tools, which sound promising for anyone who’s into those sorts of things. However, if you’re like me and want a solid single-player dungeon crawler first and foremost, this isn’t bad, but you could do better.
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Welcome to the home of PAX Prime, the Washington State Convention Center in lovely Seattle, WA!
This was where we spent much of our weekend—attending panels, checking out the cosplayers, and going hands-on with upcoming games in the massive Expo Hall(s). Actually, we didn’t get to play as much as we liked, since the lines for popular titles, most memorably Star Wars: The Old Republic, were incredibly long. As with PAX East, panels were our main priority.
However, we did watch a lot of games being played, in all sorts of genres, and checking out the booths themselves was also enjoyable. The booth that was hardest to ignore was the one for FireFall. They were a major sponsor of the show this year by the looks of things; in addition to the huge booth, there was an animatronic display near the Expo Hall entrance (Prototype 2‘s booth was also in that area), FireFall branding on the PAX swag bag, ads on the escalators, and more. Clearly the goal of FireFall‘s publishers was to get the name and look of the game firmly entrenched in our minds. As for the game itself, I didn’t get to play it, but it looks like an MMO action game of some sort. It is also highly derivative in its aesthetics—even the logo is StarCraft-ish.
Bethesda’s booth was impressive as well, thanks to a large dragon that loomed over the area dedicated to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Bethesda also had some Prey 2 stuff as well as Rage in playable form. Save for some canned, stiff animation, Rage looks absolutely stunning, though I seriously doubt that my computer will be able to run it.
Although I didn’t see anything of the game itself, the BioShock Infinite display was marvelous, and the most unique thing I saw on the show floor. There were a few other standouts scattered about, including a plant-like thing for Rift, the inflatable Normandy hovering over Mass Effect 3, the secret society quiz terminals for The Secret World, and Sega’s Rise of Nightmares prison cell. For the Kinect version of Just Dance 3, Ubisoft had a simple stage, but dancing con-goers added the extra hook.
Some people tend to forget this, but geeky non-video games have a large presence at PAX as well. There were a lot of areas dedicated to board, pen-and-paper, and trading card gaming, including a whole branch of the Expo Hall. Publishers of such games had their own booths, plus there were a handful of booths selling games, gaming accessories such as dice, and even dedicated pieces of gaming and collection furniture.
Other vendors included Seattle import specialist Pink Gorilla (which had plenty of import games at their booth, but strangely, no PS2 ones) and artbook localizer Udon, who shared space with comic book publisher Oni Press. There was also a booth selling general anime merchandise, but I was immediately turned off once I noticed that the Nendoroids and certain other items were bootlegs. Square Enix had Deus Ex: Human Revolution Play Arts Kai figures on display at their booth but, much to my dismay, the company wasn’t selling any of their collectables at the show.
Upstairs was a sort of annex to the main hall, where indie game publishers and lesser-known PC hardware manufacturers lived. This room saw a lot of traffic thanks in large part to the presence of Mojang, aka the Minecraft developer. Meanwhile, there was the Handheld Lounge, a land of beanbag chairs occupying hall space on two floors, and sponsored by Nintendo. Although Ninty had a large booth in the Expo Hall, they showed additional games here, including two upcoming Kirby games and Dragon Quest Monsters. Unfortunately, I had somehow forgotten to take photos of both areas.
I could go on, but to describe everything I saw would double the length of this post. Therefore, I’ll close out with brief impressions of the games I actually played.
Kirby Mass Attack for the DS is one of the most unique platformers I have seen in some time. The entire game is played with the stylus, and up to ten Kirbies can be controlled at once. These Kirbies are obtained by eating food found on the field (Maxim Tomatoes, as expected, are the “strongest” of these foods), and some areas can only be reached with a certain number of Kirbies. Though the game is being released very soon, the copies available for play in the Handheld Lounge were in Japanese. I guess the localization wasn’t ready for the show.
Kirby’s Return to Dream Land and Fortune Street were the only Wii games shown in the Handheld Lounge. The former supports up to four players at once and is as madcap as one expects from the studio that also makes the Smash Bros. games; unfortunately, the other characters aren’t as versatile or as necessary as Kirby, which is this game’s greatest weakness. Fortune Street is the first of the Itadaki Street games to be released outside of Japan, but I don’t think it will do very well since, for a board-style party games, it is way too complicated.
Pokedex 3D is neat, and I’ll probably download it once/if I get a 3DS. Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 is about what I expected, which is to say I’m still planning on buying it.
At the Microsoft booth, I played around a little with Sonic CD, which thankfully has an option to turn on the original graphics, since the “new” ones look horrible. My husband and I also tried out Trine 2, which looks and plays very well, and Pinball FX 2 which is great save for the fact that the balls blend into the playfield a bit too much.
The main indie game I tried at the show was Path of Exile, a Diablo clone with not much to it. The user interface reminded me of Torchlight‘s, but having the health and mana meters on opposite sides of the screen was inconvenient.
That’s about it for the Expo Hall. In tomorrow’s post, I’ll talk about the panels and certain other events which I attended.
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This afternoon, I’ll be boarding a plane to California for a personal trip. What this means is that, for the past week or so, I’ve been tying up some loose ends beforehand, so I wouldn’t have to deal with them when I got back. The usual errands notwithstanding, this has meant returning to the final, postgame stratum of Etrian Odyssey.
One of the monsters I didn't fight.
I had originally begun tackling it last year, immediately after beating the main quest. Unfortunately, the most advantageous stat boosts required me to restart with new characters at Level 1, and thus, a lot of grinding was required. I took up the grind again earlier this month, and eventually maxed out the five stat-enhanced characters I had created way back when at Level 70. When my party was strong enough to venture into that last stratum again, around Level 60 or so, I began mapping it out thoroughly, finding it an even more devious bastard than the snippets I had seen last year. In the end, I never got through the whole thing due to some insanely tough bosses that I would’ve had to have defeated. Still, I’m glad that I got as far as I did, even though I had to spam the items and abilities that cut down on random encounters after maxing out my party and building up my cash hoard, as fighting monsters was a waste of time by that point.
In general, the plan was to be “done” with Etrian Odyssey so I wouldn’t have to take it along with me, but I also wanted something new to play on this trip, since Pokemon Platinum by itself would get a little boring after awhile. Thus, I ordered Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes, which I’ve had an eye on ever since its release. (It’s also, I believe, the first Ubisoft-published title I’ve bought since Grandia II for the Dreamcast, which says more about my tastes than the company’s games.) Yeah, another RPG, but with more of a strategy and puzzle bent from what I understand. I’m looking forward to playing it.
I also picked up the issue of Edge that’s currently on the US newsstands, because that’s what I do nowadays before a long trip. It’s the June issue with Little Big Planet 2 on the cover. I wouldn’t be surprised if I have every Edge cover appearance of LBP by this point, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if I’m missing one or two. Something interesting I’ve heard about LBP2 is that the gravity is adjustable, which might mitigate my one major turn off from the first game: the floaty animation. You can bet I got sick of seeing all those Edge covers (and stories) real fast after seeing the original LBP in motion for the first time…
Anyway, that’s all for now. See you again in a little over a week!
Beat Devil May Cry 4 last week. Not the best game in the series, but certainly had its high points. All the hallmarks were there: bishies, hot chicks, gothic interiors, death metal songs that play during battles, and occasional violations of the 180° rule when moving from place to place. Unlike the others, Dante is not playable for much of the game. Instead, the player takes the role of Nero, a young man with similar fashion sense and slightly less campiness than Mr. Sparda. He also has a glowing arm, which can be used to grab far-off enemies and unleash brutal attacks on them. These attacks vary depending on the enemy, reminding me of Quick Time Events, though not in the traditional sense. As such, Nero is a fun character to play. Dante controls much the same as always, and is also tougher to control compared to Nero, due to the lack of Glowing Hand.
Although Rune Factory Frontier is mad addictive, this is what I'll be playing today!
As for Rune Factory Frontier, I’m still plugging away at it, and passed the 100-hour mark this weekend. All that has been ever said about JRPGs and linearity doesn’t quite apply to the Rune Factory series. Yes, there is a single storyline and a set progression in terms of unlockable areas, and no, you can’t fully customize your hero character, but everything else is wide open. There’s tons of things to do—farming, fishing, crafting, cooking, and much more—and like any good Harvest Moon, there’s also a wide range of girls to hit on, and eventually, marry. It’s rich and immersive in a way that JRPGs traditionally aren’t, and despite the glaring flaws, I’m as hooked on Frontier as I was with its DS brethren. Can’t wait for Rune Factory 3‘s localization (please let this happen!).
Apart from games themselves, I’m getting a little weary of CAG’s forums again and am ready to take another hiatus from them, largely due to the fact that there’s hardly any humor in them. This seems to be a problem with many gaming forums, where games are Serious Business and there’s little to no room for levity. Perhaps this also explains why Shimrra won Best CAG Blog in this year’s Cheapy Awards, even though his regular Daily HaHa posts are mainly just images ganked from the likes of 4chan. Humor is in very short supply amongst gamers, it seems.
Anyway, looking forward to PAX East at the end of this week, and have been going over my options for what to see and do. Meanwhile, I will be playing Cave Story. On my Wii.
I apologize for the lack of posts lately; it’s been a busy holiday season. Since I last wrote here, I’ve beaten Radiata Stories, read most of the holiday issue of Edge (purchased in large part because I wanted to see why they gave Bayonetta a 10[!!!]), did the Christmas thing (Ratchet & Clank was my sole game gift, but just everything else I got was great), played a lot of Planet Puzzle League, started playing the DS port of Chrono Trigger (which is excellent), played with pets, did the New Year’s thing, bought my first game of 2010 (Forza Motorsport 2, Platinum Hits version), came back home, ordered pizza, put stuff away, and now… here I am again. Oh, and I played the Torchlight demo this afternoon; good stuff, but I have a tendency to drop Diablo-style games after awhile, so I won’t be getting this one, at least not right now, even though Steam’s $5 sale price expires after today.
There’s a lot I want to write about, and plan on doing so throughout the month. For now, though, a backlog update. I usually do these things in the spring, but I figured that it would make more sense to move these posts to the beginning of the year, which is when I’m setting my gaming goals and starting the year’s Beaten Games Tab anyway. So, yes, I have a lot of games to play. Again. And I think Rogue Galaxy is now in its fourth or fifth year of having gone unplayed.
With that said, here’s my must-play games for 2010:
• Rogue Galaxy – For obvious reasons.
• Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story – The other DS RPG I brought with me to play over Christmas/New Year’s. Sadly, I haven’t gotten around to starting it yet.
• Chrono Cross – Sometime before March, or PAX East, at least.
• SMT: Nocturne and SMT: Persona 3 FES
• Tales of the Abyss
• Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer
• Halo – I’ve had this in my PC stack of shame for years. Figure it’s about time I pop it in and see what all the fuss is about.
Out of my twelve 2009 must-plays, I managed to beat eight of them, gave up on one due to annoyance (Billy Hatcher), and never touched the final three (the non-Digital Devil Saga MegaTen games). Not too shabby, methinks. And while I’m at it, here are all of the games I beat in 2009. If all goes well, the 2010 Beaten Games Tab will be posted on my LJ account tomorrow.
More later, including my annual Roundup. Stay tuned…
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There hasn’t been all that much going on with me lately, gaming-wise. Since my last post, I beat Etrian Odyssey and began delving into the postgame stratum, a set of floors with some especially tough monsters. As they approached or hit the level cap of 70, I knocked each member of my main party (a Landsknecht, a Dark Hunter, a Medic, a Survivalist, and a Troubadour) back ten levels for the privilege of being able to reassign their skill points. Then, I decided to retire them and start over with their apprentices back at level 1, taking advantage of certain stat benefits. With this new party, I’ve plowed through some of the optional quests I never took on, including what has to be the single most tedious one in the game. They’re now in their 40s, level-wise, but it will still be awhile before I can enter that postgame stratum again without worrying about being annihilated. As one can imagine, this grinding has become rather tedious, and thus, it’s since replaced Planet Puzzle League as my mainstay “laundry day game”.
Best. Podcast. Ever.
I’ve also taken to listening to the game’s sound on laundry days as well, which I never did with PPL. When playing the latter, my headphones would instead be hooked up to a crusty old iPod Mini loaded with episodes of Listen UP. I listened to their last-ever show in two sessions (three hours makes for a long podcast), the second being on Monday, as I folded my laundry (as opposed to washing and folding). I can’t recall exactly when I first started listening to 1UP Yours—sometime last spring, I think—but I loved both it and its successor, Four Guys One Up Listen UP, and downloaded the latest episode every week. Now there’s no more Whacha’ Been Playin?, John’s iPhone Game of the Week, Four Minute Warning, “weekend confirmed”, or “we are ghost”, but despite the team’s separation (with Garnett now at Shacknews, John gone to GamePro, and David still at 1UP), new, separate podcasts are being promised (and maybe with at least a couple of those old elements intact, as hinted at in the last episode?). Looking forward to whatever you guys come up with, and thanks for all the great shows. Also, congrats to Garnett for finally starting Yakuza 2!
What else has been going on lately? Well, I’ve been trying to stick to a daily routine in Wii Fit Plus. The “My Wii Fit Plus” feature is a fantastic addition to the regular Wii Fit formula, and there are a handful of other tweaks and additions that I like as well, most particularly the routines. One thing that’s particularly annoying, though, is the lack of drag-and-drop flexibility in the Custom Routine feature (I think this problem might also plague the pre-set routines, or rather, the part in which you can string many of said routines together, but I haven’t fiddled around with that enough to know if that is the case). If I want to add a new exercise to my routine, I can’t simply place it wherever I want. Instead, it automatically gets tacked on to the end. Therefore, if I want my exercises in a different order, I have to delete them and reset the whole routine. If there’s something I’m overlooking and drag-and-drop can be done, please let me know. Anyway, despite that and other nitpicky flaws, it’s still a great upgrade from Wii Fit, especially for $20.
There’s also been Tales of Legendia, which I beat back in September. I’ve finally went back to it this past weekend to start the Character Quests in earnest. I’m only a few hours into them, and so far, they’re very cutscene heavy, but all right. Even though much is familiar, the monsters are now tougher, several features that weren’t available to me in the main game are now, and there’s a certain change in my party’s makeup (which might be kind of spoilery, so this is all I’ll say about it). Though I’m enjoying them, I hope that these quests don’t take too long to get through; my backlog is still fairly big, and I need to whittle it down before getting certain games I’ve been holding off on buying. It’s the classic hardcore gamer’s dilemma: too many good games and not enough time to play them.
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