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.
So, we went home for Thanksgiving, then it was off to the Caribbean for a long-needed vacation; we got back on the 5th and quickly settled back into old routines. My husband brought his DS and some games for the trip, though the only one he touched was the excellent Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime. He put some more hours into it over the course of the trip, though he still has yet to finish it.
Me, I didn’t bring my DS, or any portable system. Having been playing a ton of games during my year of mostly-unemployment, I needed a break. Any games I played were of the non-video variety at my parents’ house—the local paper’s Universal Sudoku and Wordy Gurdy, mainly. Also, as we don’t watch TV here, we saw some Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! and naturally, we all played along. Slight non-sequitur: Pat Sajak and Alex Trebek are definitely getting on in years, but Vanna White still looks fabulous.
Neither of us touched games at all once the vacation part of the trip got underway, though I did read more of the copy of Edge (issue no. 208) I’d asked my husband to pick up shortly before we left home at the start of all of this. As is typical, some of the articles were interesting (the TGS wrap-up, also the cover story; the columns and retro features, as usual; etc.), and others just made my eyes glaze over in a “I don’t care about this; why am I reading this?” sort of way (the Ninja Theory interview). The Inbox section concerned one of those topics I totally don’t give a shit about: story in games. This is the sort of thing I generally look upon with eye-rolling, as I do with the “games as art” validation-seekers, because most of the people arguing tend to miss the bigger picture. I still haven’t read the article that sparked this whole brouhaha, but I got the basic gist of what it was about from readers’ letters. However, out of all the mail and forum posts that were printed, I agreed with the last one the most, as its author really seemed to get it. Here’s an excerpt: Also, (Clint) Hocking speaks as if the entire gaming community is composed of MMOG, RTS, and FPS players… (T)he gaming market is broad and diverse, and there are many genres that simply don’t lend themselves to interactive storytelling and some that lend themselves better to linear storytelling. The highly popular Ace Attorney series couldn’t exist without linear storytelling, and yet it provides the unique experience of interactively exploring a set narrative, something that just cannot be achieved with other media. Bravo, Jose Bonilla; I couldn’t have said it better myself, and though you didn’t win Letter of the Month, I’d send you a DSi if I could.
Anyway, we’re back, and have spent the past week catching up on real life, as well as console gaming. Assassin’s Creed II is being played nearly every night by my husband; the meta-narrative gets twistier and twistier, while the controls continue to annoy. Meanwhile, I’ve started Radiata Stories, my first tri-Ace game. It’s one of those quirky types of RPG, and features things like nearly two hundred possible party members and a restricted sort of freedom. Of course, I plan to write more about it later. Oh, and a certain weird “bug” I kept noticing in Tales of Legendia might actually be my controller’s fault, as I think it briefly happened again in Radiata. What happens is that sometimes, usually right after a save file is loaded, my controlled character will just start randomly walking, usually to the right. It’s not bad enough that I feel the need to replace my controller, but fortunately, I have a new DualShock 2 still in the packaging if it comes down to that. Still, as I’m not 100% sure that I saw that same oddity in Radiata, it might really be a Legendia bug after all. We’ll see.
Special Stage: Had a lot of internet to catch up on once I came back, and have read even more since then, so here are a couple of the more interesting links. First off, there’s word of a new, serious gaming periodical on the horizon called Killscreen. I don’t know if I’ll get a subscription, but I love this sort of thing, so maybe. Second, Kotaku isn’t one of my favorite sites, but they do some good posts on occasion, and this time around, there’s two I’d like to share: Achievement Chore, the true tale of a housewife with a huge Gamerscore, and the 2009 Gift Guide, which includes suggestions from the sublime—I very much second the recommendation for the Cloud Strife and Hardy Daytona set, though their description of it leaves much to be desired—to the bizarre.
For gamers—or Cheap Ass Gamers, at least—one of the highlights of the holiday season is Toys R Us’ buy two get one (of equal or lesser value) free sale on video games. This B2G1, to use CAG parlance, is usually one of the best sales of any year, especially considering all the new releases that get thrust on us around this time. Me, I’ve only taken advantage of a Toys R Us B2G1 once, many years ago; it was long before I became a CAG and possibly the first time the chain had ever done such a sale. I remember Final Fantasy X being one of the games I picked up, and I think the others were Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4. I never beat the latter two, and even sold Vice City at one point, but played FFX through to the end, including that inane final battle. Since then, I tend to ignore the B2G1s since Toys R Us’ selection is fairly limited; that, or I just forget about the sale until it’s too late.
This year, it’s been a different story. Not only had Toys R Us had their annual sale, but other retailers have jumped into the fray with B2G1s of their own. Amazon was the first, with “select titles” being eligible for the offer, and Best Buy followed soon after, their deal covering all in-stock 360, Wii, and PS3 games. B2G1 sales were also spotted at some CAGs’ local Blockbuster and GameStop stores.
I missed out on the first Amazon B2G1, and wasn’t interested in the others, but a later deal caught my attention. Even though, once again, “select games” were the only ones eligible (albeit, there were a lot of them) and the entire offer only covered the three current-gen consoles, Amazon’s “spend $80, get a $40 promotional credit” deal was too good to pass up. The online retailer is already one of my favorite places to shop for games, due to a combination of wide selection, good prices, and great customer service, so it was a no-brainer, really. To cover the $80 requirement, I picked up Metroid Prime Trilogy and Super Paper Mario. Once I got the promo code, the $40 credit went towards Devil May Cry 4 and Rune Factory Frontier (it wasn’t eligible, but I also picked up Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story at the same time), which are currently en route. All in all, I spent, on average, a little less than thirty dollars on each game.
One of my main motivations in taking advantage of this offer was to add some variety to my backlog, which had turned into one that consisted entirely of RPGs. Yeah, I know that Rune Factory Frontier and the Marios I picked up could be considered RPGs, but they’re also different enough to stand out from the rest. Anyway, I started Super Paper Mario not long after it arrived; I was done with Legendia and was itching to play this new acquisition. It’s excellent, and I plan to write up my thoughts on the game sometime in the future. Meanwhile, I’ve also been shaping up my (literal) game plan for the rest of the year. Ys: Ark of Napishtim is on the agenda once I’m done with Mario, and I’m considering Radiata Stories for a possible post-Thanksgiving playthrough. Over Christmas, I plan to dig into the DS port of Chrono Trigger, and possibly Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story. My husband and I might also finally play Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles sometime soon. Once the New Year rolls around, I’ll still have a big backlog, but hopefully it’ll be a few games smaller than it is now.
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I beat Pokemon Ruby last night, after some dinnertime frustration forced me to abandon a Startopia session. I hadn’t intended to beat it, but that’s how things ended up. Pokemon Ruby has one of the toughest endgames I had ever encountered, and I’d lost track of how many times I’d attempted it, only to fail. With my trainer battle options dwindling, I used up some good-looking TMs (items that teach Pokemon specific moves), stocked up on healables, and took another crack at the challenge. Failure again. I dove back in, more mindful of certain elemental factors, and got further than I had ever been before, and I went even further than that. Thanks to some fantastic and hard-working pokemon (pictured at right with my trainer), I ended the game as the Best Trainer in Hoenn, and I watched, satisfied, as the credits rolled. My total time was 98:57, putting Pokemon Ruby in that tiny club of RPGs that I’ve spent over ninety hours on, sharing space with Dragon Quest VIII, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, and Disgaea, aka the only RPG I’ve ever cracked the 100-hour mark on.
Pokemon Ruby isn’t the only game I’ve beaten recently. This past Saturday, I wrapped up Samurai Legend Musashi, sending the titular hero on his final quest for the Mystics. The last dungeon was long, and although there were enough checkpoints so as to ensure as little frustration as possible, the only savepoint in the entire game is in Musashi’s living quarters, and this was a no-going-back type of mission. Anyway, after one botched, and prematurely aborted, attempt, I managed to get through it with plenty of healing items left over. A certain final boss scene notwithstanding, there wasn’t much to the ending. Actually, it’s probably the shortest, most succinct RPG ending I’ve ever seen. All in all, despite some minor fiddly imperfections, I liked this game. Sure, it was short and there wasn’t much to the story, and the battle system lacked the depth of that of, say, Kingdom Hearts, but it was decent enough. I understand that there’s some Brave Fencer Musashi fans who didn’t really like this sequel, but I never played that game, so I’ve no immediate frame of reference to draw from.
After Musashi, I took a break for a little while before starting up Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga on Tuesday. It’s one of several Megaten games in my already JRPG-bloated backlog, and was the one namatamiku recommended I start first. I’m not more than two hours into it, and am already seeing where the series gets its reputation. Set in a post-apocalyptic world more than a little reminiscent of Battle Angel Alita and heavy on Hindu iconography, it centers on a group of fighters who discover a Mysterious Girl™ and also gain the power to turn into freaky-looking, people-eating demons. As one can imagine, it’s pretty grim. So far, the battle system is very traditional, but not in an engaging way; it certainly has none of the rousing music and little of the visual panache of Pokemon Ruby, and it’s not Dragon Quest or Skies of Arcadia, either (to name a couple). It could ultimately be the lack of difficulty (the game’s been easy so far), but in general battles feel like they’re missing a little extra something. Unrelated, but I found it odd that the characters start battle in their demon form; one would think they would begin as humans and turn into demons. Either way, the human forms are pretty useless, so there’s no point in changing them back once a fight’s underway.
With the grim, disturbing nature of DDS, I thought about starting another game to counterbalance it, and will probably most likely do so now that Ruby has been beaten. I tried to start Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter that same afternoon, but whether due to my exhaustion or something about the game itself, I wasn’t feeling it and turned it off. Before that, I briefly considered Etrian Odyssey, as this would give me both a simpler and a more difficult game; however, I’d rather save it for the next time I’m on a trip. As of now, I’m leaning toward Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo’s Dungeon. It’s supposed to have some depth and challenge to it, and besides, those cute yellow birds make everything better.
Source sprites from The Shyguy Kingdom (tsgk.captainn.net).
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Last night I beat Klonoa (or rather, the Wii remake of Klonoa: Door to Phantomile if you want to be pedantic). As is the case with other games in the series I’ve played, I managed to get a lot of the extra level goals, but not everything, especially since the last three Visions cranked up the difficulty a good deal. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game with such narrow platforms as Klonoa, and the later Visions, and the next-to-last one in particular, had them in spades. Despite being spoiled for a mid-game plot point before I’d even bought the damn thing, I enjoyed it, though I think I prefer Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil, just a little bit more. It was my first Klonoa, which I think might explain my preference. Now I just have to get a cheap copy of Dream Champ Tournament…
Yeah, I'm still playing this damn thing.
Still plugging away at Okami as well. The story took a very odd turn about twenty hours in, and the pacing and gameplay structure since then makes it feel like I’m playing a different game altogether. I’m not sure if the changes made in this arc are an improvement—the chase bits are a little off-putting, actually—but considering that I’m now one brush short of the full set and have most of the world map explored, I think it’s safe to say I’m pretty close to wrapping this up. My overall opinion of Okami hasn’t changed much since I last wrote about it, and I don’t think it will. It’s very pretty and occasionally charming, but it’s also quite dull in bits and can’t settle on an overall tone.
Pokemon Ruby continues to be awesome. Right now I’m coming off another round of battles against Team Magma, and something very bad has happened. There’s still some stuff I have to take care of before challenging the trainers at the eighth gym, but hopefully my team can handle it. My regulars and alternates include Marshtomp, Mightyena, Absol, Tropius, Zangoose, Tentacruel, Swellow, and others.
Right now, I’m hoping to wrap up Okami sometime next week, and maybe beat Ruby as well. As for what I plan to play next, Secret of Mana definitely, and I’ll probably also delve into Rogue Galaxy, which is the game which has sat in my backlog the longest, IIRC.
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