Sunday, July 31, 2011

Platinum Get - inFamous 2

I finally did it today.  Dressed as Kessler, I ran Cole through the last levels of inFamous 2 one last time as fast as I could, and finally got that last trophy I needed, "Pain Brings Character", since Sucker Punch didn't realize adding a Difficulty Selector screen at the start of the game would have, oh I don't know, prevented a lot of headaches.  But I don't begrudge them for it; I love inFamous 2, present tense, so playing it again isn't a chore or anything of the sort.  I will say, however, that I'm willing to give up one or two more things I'm not entirely happy with, regarding the game.

We all grumbled at Assassin's Creed doing it five years ago, so I don't really see why inFamous 2 would get a pass here; unskippable cutscenes are dumb.  They always have been dumb, and they always will be dumb.  Of course, inFamous 2's cutscenes aren't very long, so you're only sitting there for a few minutes grumbling about how you're not at the other end of it already to simply play the game, but it's still something complaint-worthy, which is unfortunate.  Well, I should say that the in-engine cutscenes were the unskippable ones; the comic-style ones are entirely skippable, however why you would want to skip those ones, I'm not entirely sure.

My other grumble is that, honestly?  There weren't enough comic-style cutscenes.  I'm glad Sucker Punch go their act together and made the animations 100x better than the first time, and it's nice and all to watch, but there were just so many times in the game where I really would have preferred watching the outcome shown in comic book form, and pretty much all of them are spoilers, so I won't really paint them out.  I'm sure you can think of a few yourselves, anyway.  I guess I will say, since it's a fairly non-spoiler by now, that the part where you get your non-electric powers, that cutscene as a Motion Comic one would've been much better.

But for the positive, I still cannot put fully into words just how much fun it is to get around in this damn game.  Running around and being able to Ice Launch at any given time has provided the most 'freeing' experience in regards to mobility that I've ever encountered.  By the end of the game, I felt like a damn expert at it, with the way I was getting around and taking foes out.  I was nigh-untouchable, and that's not just hubris.  The amount of deaths I got on this last run (for what it's worth, I started from, well, mission 27, I think.  Zeke's Spotlights.  Vague enough so it's not a spoiler, mwahaha.) was far less than I'd gotten in either of my previous plays, which admittedly is logical, but I'm talking to the degree where you, as the person playing, really notice.

It's a great feeling, of course.

And all through this last bit of playing, I couldn't help but yearn for more.  More inFamous, more of this feeling of power, this mobility that you can only get from this series.  It's far too far off to get my hopes up for a threequel to even be announced, much less finished, but I did think of something rather enticing for the meanwhile.  We all know of my love for the Vita, and I've expressed the theory that if an inFamous game were put on it, my time would disintegrate, shatter into nothing but concentrated electric blasts on an OLED screen in the palms of my hands.  And it would, of course.

Doesn't mean I don't want it, though.  Of course, I wouldn't want inFamous 3 on the portable - Sucker Punch is not Sega, and for that we're all grateful.  But I'm sure Sony is itching for some installment on the system and a straight-port might not be the best route.  So my thoughts went to Uncharted: Golden Abyss.  An entirely separate adventure made just for the portable in the classic Uncharted style, and it's not too unfeasible that Sucker Punch could, or would for that matter, do the same.  Sucker Punch does take quite a few cues from Naughty Dog, after all, and good on them for it.

But there is a story yet to be told in the inFamous universe.  Several, actually, but one that is chief among them:  The story of Kessler.  Knowing what we know about him, it's not like the game would be unlike inFamous or inFamous 2, after all.  And as I pointed out quite a few times in my thoughts on inFamous 2's overall story (spoilers!), there are a few things in inFamous 2 that really don't add up, so further extrapolation would be nice, not only because it means more inFamous, but because the first game set such a great story, that it would be nice for it to remain that way.

I'm not exactly holding my breath on an inFamous side-story on the Vita, but it would be nice.  I'm near-positive we'll see something on the handheld, but only time will tell what it is.  It'll be wonderful, whatever it is, I'm sure.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

This Was a Good Week

So, I think I've covered it a few times in the course of this blog already, but I'm not really one to toot my own horn needlessly.  I'm a firm believer in the idea that you can make something and really like it without being overly proud of it or anything of the sort.  Which isn't an odd thing to say, really, unless you've ever really had a confidence problem with your own projects.  Which is to say, it is and odd thing to say, since I'm sure we've all been there at one point or another.  I know I was there, making things, yet looking at them as if they were terrible things, trash, something you'd never really want to be proud of, because why would you?  But at a certain point, you've got to stop being ready to trash your own things because, well, maybe they're not so bad after all.

And I'm sure we've all been at the point where you just kinda sit down with an idea in mind, eager to put it to paper, real or digital (so to speak), but as soon as you start, you quickly start to talk yourself out of writing whatever it was, because now that you're actually going to commit, it's not good enough to write out.  And that's really what was getting in my way, before I started this blog.  It's not completely gone, but committing myself to writing something at least every other day has done a lot for my ability to sit down and produce, and produce things that I can be happy with.  And that's what really happened last night, some time after I wrote my post about MMOs.  (It's just the last post, I probably don't even need to link it)

I looked at it, and looked at the rest of the things I've written for as many posts as this blog displays at a time and felt a real, actual sense of pride.  Because not only have I come this far, just shy of 200 posts, when I just started in January, but I think I've really worked up some form of consistency in writing fairly well.  Obviously I don't think what I write here is going to be the best thing you read anywhere, anytime, but it's something I can be happy with.  Something that will actually give me a sense of doing something well.  And what was just a thought of something positive turned into something almost negative earlier when I recalled that thought with something clear away from the positivity here - dread.

After thinking of the good I've done this week, for myself, I turned that around into going "Well, no way am I going to keep that going", and as I often do, I turned to a friend to try and work it out.  When I mentioned to my dear friend Saki-Chan that I was worried since I didn't really know what to write about and I didn't want to, well, 'ruin' the 'streak' I was on, she offered a simple solution: 

"Why not blog about you?"

She elaborated on that by saying that I should probably talk about how I'm actually happy with what I've written this week, and how I'm happy that I'm coming along nicely with my 'goal' for the blog.  And I said, "That's a pretty good idea", because it's all true, really.  I think I've pretty much covered that I'm happy with how I've come along, though.  And it's not even that I'm happier this week than I've been in past weeks, it's just been one of those things where I really sat back and took it all in. 

I did it the other night when I realized, quite out of the blue, that I've been writing something a night (with only hiccups here and there that are weather-related) for seven months.  It honestly feels like just yesterday when I was tying my stomach in knots wondering if I really should 'bug' Chance about the thought I'd been tossing around in my head after reading his blog consistently for quite a few months, about the the thought that I wanted to do what he was doing too.  I'd never really bought into the idea of a New Year's Resolution before, but this January, I just decided to go with it.  Resolutions are supposed to be about doing something positive for yourself, right?

I had another one of those moments way back at the end of march when Chance gave me this ringing endorsement, and a spot on his sidebar for his readers to come and give me a shot for keeping up 'the good work' for just under three months.  I should mention that I get a pretty steady flow of traffic from there, so anyone who's come to read this from there, I just want to say thank you, because it really makes me happy knowing that other people apparently like what I'm typing up of a night.  I don't have dozens of readers or anything, which is fine, since this is mostly a project for myself and until just earlier this week, I think Monday after I wrote my review for Ghost Trick, I hadn't even personally linked the site elsewhere, aside from my twitter and to a few friends in passing.  And while I imagine the 'goal' is to have, again, a lot of people reading what I've written, the more important part is that I can sit back and say that I have written, that I actually have 198 other posts before this one.

Before this blog, probably my biggest achievement in writing was actually letting go of all my reservations about writing a story and writing up 33 pages of one during a blackout last Summer.  We'd lost power because a windstorm knocked a tree on top of the power lines and it took a week for the county to send anyone out to take care of it so that the electric company could come out and get us up and running again.  My portable systems had long since run out of charge, and with no TV, no music or anything else to do, I read and I played solitaire.  And as I played solitaire, I kept thinking about how I wanted to write something, how I wanted to actually construct a story long enough for a book.  And when inspiration struck, I didn't bother with doubts, I just wrote.  I read every page over and over again whenever I didn't know precisely where to go next to keep myself immersed in the world I was making and managed to keep going on.

I still have it of course.  I hate to say that it's only up to, likely 40 or 50 pages (hand-written, of course, so much less typed) now, and that I've actually gotten myself stuck, since I'm not sure if I like the mood of it anymore, and I don't know what to put between the start and finish (which is really my big problem with writing something long; I know where I want it to end, and I can't help but think anything I put in between is just going to be filer), but I still have it, and I'm still more or less proud of it.  I hope to actually finish it someday and like to think I will.  But we'll see.

Anyways, I think the point in all this was that I really just wanted to sit down and type out how happy I am with what I've done so far and how it's really pushing me on to keep doing it.  I've said it time and time before, but thankfully, somehow, I've never felt negatively about doing this.  It's never been a 'job', it's never felt like a chore, and I think that's a good sign.  I'm not sure if this is really the 'perfect' capper to the week that I've put out this week, but I'm happy to type this out, and I hope it matches quality for anyone reading.

Friday, July 29, 2011

MMOs and Mogs Aren't Great Friends, No

We're just going to ignore the irony here, in that MOGs can also stand for Multiplayer Online Games, since we all know that I mean me.  Mogs.  Anyways, MMOs are, more or less, uncharted territory for me; be it limitations with my hardware or simply my eternal gripings with my terrible internet, they're just things that I have not really gotten to experience.  The above pictured WoW is, in fact, not something that will run on my computer.  Let that sink in for a moment:  WoW, the game that's more or less been made to be runnable on just about everything will not run on my computer.

Regardless, I'd like to think that I don't buy into the 'stigma' attached to the games, I respect their existence, but they're not something I can dip my toe into to test on the whole.  Not that I've honestly wanted to anytime in the past, though.  Sure, I got the urge to play WoW when it started to get big (and then never stopped), Guild Wars always intrigued me for being something that seemed to 'step to' the big kid on the block and not get knocked flat, and the Super Hero MMOs out there have their own allure of course, since who doesn't want to play a super hero?  Especially one that you can flesh out yourself?

About my only dip in, which is something I can confess here, is Maple Story.  A year or two ago, my girlfriend and I were looking around for things to do together, since we're doing the long-distance thing, and, being that we both do indeed game, games just sort of happened to come up.  But it's not like we were looking for something to buy, as I couldn't run much, and who knew if we'd even like it.  So a quick decision to try the Free-to-Play Maple Story came around.  And you know what?  The game isn't bad.  It's not something you'd really want to play alone for the majority of the time as, eventually, it does descend into a pure grind-fest (which, admittedly, if you have nothing to do is a nice way to pass the time alone) but it's something that offers a neat experience, especially when you play it with others.

And if anything, I believe my dip into Free-to-Play may have just spoiled me on 'the big boy' MMOs, since, hey, I got a mostly fun gaming experience out of something that I didn't have to put a dime into, despite cranking out three or four characters to mid-tier levels.  It wore out its welcome eventually, of course, but before then it was, well, it was gaming as one could expect it.  So, while the pay-to-play games might naturally offer more 'richer' experiences, what's to say they won't eventually wear out their welcomes to me as well?  Most MMO gamers complain of the jetlag eventually and have to put down the mouse for a while before they think about playing again, after all.  (I have no figures to back this up, just personal anecdotes.)

However, the upcoming Star Wars:  The Old Republic and Phantasy Star Online 2 have firmly kicked me out of my "Ehhhh, not really interested" mindset and put me firmly on the path of "WANT", though my reservations still stand.  Clearly, before I could play either, I'd need a new, better computer which may or may not happen in the near future, and I would still feel my internet deficiencies would get in the way, but would likely deal with it.  (After all, I play PS3 games online, I imagine it'll only be marginally worse)  But the real problem sticking between me and these two games is whether or not there will be subscriptions.

And that's a concern in many different ways, honestly.  Neither game has offered an idea for what you can expect to pay to play for the games (Aside from the initial purchase price of SW: TOR, which was announced recently) and though PSO2 is way off on the wayside yet, SW: TOR doesn't have that same luxury.  We've seen all types of games live and die in the recent years, and they've all offered different subscription types that don't seem to indicate what the 'right' thing to do is.  We all know World of Warcraft uses the, what now seems standard, Money/Month formula (In WoW's case, there's variations, but $15 for one month is the standard, more or less).  APB, which we all witnessed crash and burn in spectacular time, offered a variation on the Money/Month formula by letting you purchase 'hours', or simply pay for unlimited time for one period of 30 days.  And then you have Hellgate: London which offered a 'lifetime subscription' for a one-time cost of $150, but then ended up shutting down their servers in January of 2009.  Which certainly signaled the end of the lifetime of the game, but certainly not the players, nor their interest, nor their 'moneys-worth'.

It'd be the cases of APB and Hellgate that would make me wary of parting ways with money for the simple pleasure to play a game for a certain time inbetween server startup and permanent shut-down.  While I wouldn't exactly worry about it too much in the case of Star Wars:  The Old Republic (which might just be blind faith on my part), I'm not exactly sure if I'd be willing to pay Sega every month to play PSO2 if just because of the relationship Sega has with....well, any country that isn't Japan.  It's just the one stigma I've picked up, I suppose:  if I pay $60 for a PS3 game, I get to play that as long as I want, and as much as I want until either the PS3 breaks or the game disk gets damaged, too worn to play or anything similar.  But I can go pay $20 for the WoW Battle Chest, Install it, put in $40 or so extra, and only get about three or four months worth out of the game.  (After I hit level 20, of course.  Since it's Free-to-Play until then now.)

I sort of touched on it in my PSO2 post, and I guess it can be applied to non-MMOs as well, now that I think about it.  How much gametime equals $15 a month, was the question I posed then, and thinking on it now, there's really no definitive answer I guess.  Enough is the answer.  So, hey, maybe I'll find the 'right' amount of gameplay with SW: TOR or PSO2 when they come out and I get the chance to give them a spin.  If I get the chance.  We'll just have to see, I guess, but at least I'm willing.  The only question is, when it comes time, will my wallet?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

3DS Price Drop = Fanboy Raaaaaaage

I'm sure you've heard about it by now, either from Joystiq, another awesome blog, or Nintendo themselves, but the 3DS is going to drop to a 'reasonable' price come August 12th.  That's right, a scant four months after release, a price drop of Eighty Dollars has been scheduled to hit in under six months into the system's lifespan.  This is....well, for Nintendo, I'm pretty sure this is fairly unprecedented, and to most people, it could be seen as a bad sign, but come on.  This is fucking Nintendo; the 3DS wasn't going to push them out of handheld relevancy, nor was/is the Vita.  It was only a matter of how friendly this new climate of the Portable Wars would be to the Vita in regards to the juggernaut that is Nintendo's Handheld dominance.

And news of this price drop just makes the Sony side of the battlefield seem a little darker.

Yes, I stole this from Chance.  I regret nothing!

Which, I'm sure we can all understand that's exactly why Nintendo did this.  Sure, the 3DS isn't selling like hotcakes - but it was always going to.  It's a self-fulfilling prophecy that if you release a nintendo handheld, it will sell to people.  But this move just makes it seem like Nintendo's jumping the gun for very arbitrary reasons.  Well, from a purely consumer-oriented standpoint, that is.  It makes fairly sound business sense, Nintendo's moves usually do, but not as much sense as another, different move that we all expected would have.

I, as I'm sure most people, expected Nintendo to drop the price to $199.99 out of the blue, right before the Holiday rush to capitalize on the most sales as possible.  Quite simply because you don't announce a price cut in advance.  Which, hey, Nintendo did.  Doing that would have made sense, because, hey, it would've spurned on sales a bunch, moreso than it would have without the price drop.  And nobody ever expected the 3DS to go up against the Vita at the same price, unless Nintendo did a two game bundle or something.  "Increased value" and the like.

But a price drop this severe, this early, and this, honestly, poorly-thought-out is just really weird, really frustrating for anyone hoping the Vita would've had even ground from the start, since it just shifts the playing field for no other reason than to do it.  And it's really hard to actually say this is a bad move, because it really isn't, it's just a move that I, someone who you all know is looking forward to the Vita like a man obsessed, don't like because it's going to screw over the Vita in some fashion, whether it be just a mild effect, or whether it inspires DS vs. PSP levels of distrust all over again.

Basically, the core of my thinking, which is just what I should say to put it out there, rather than attempt dancing around it, is that this is the equivalent of Nintendo, in a Sports Car, shooting out the tires of Sony, in a....I don't know, a non-sports car before a race.  It's an unnecessary level of insurance that will have absolutely no real repercussions on Nintendo, because it's not a matter of People weren't sold on the 3DS, they were simply biding their time.  The Vita isn't as guaranteed to sell as the 3DS is.  So to do this, to cut the price of the 3DS so low that they're not even making a profit on it anymore, is unthinkable and honestly frustrating, as I can't stop saying.

I admit I'm openly flying my fanboy flag here; though I'm not saying it's specifically for Sony (even though well, I do swing more to the Sony side than anything as my lack of a current gen console other than the PS3 will attest to), but it's really for the Vita, simply because it's a nice device that I know will have games I want because Sony just so happens to have some great first and second party studios who are willing and ready to support this thing.  As long as it sells.  Which might just be in question now.

Sure, Nintendo's going to garner some flak from the 'Gamers-in-the-know' in a sense, but they're not actually doing a lot wrong here.  If you buy the 3DS before August 12th, you get free games for being a 3DS 'Ambassador'.  If you buy it after August 12th, you save $80.  For anyone involved, this is pretty much win-win, save Nintendo as, again, they'll be selling 3DS's at a (likely marginal) loss.  But they'll make it up and then some, so we don't have to worry about them.  It's just a weird situation.  Certainly not one I could've expected, and certainly not one I like.  We'll just have to see what sort of impact it has.

Edit:  For some reason, I kept typing September 12th instead of August 12th.  I blame rage.  Fixed now, though.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Look Ahead - Phantasy Star Online 2

Now, after the praise I've showered on Phantasy Star Online (through Phantasy Star Portable 2's praise), it should come as no surprise that the announcement of Phantasy Star Online 2 at E3 was one of the highlights for me, even though I may have neglected to mention it.  Basically, the only issues with it so far is that A) it's for PC, and B) until recently, that's all we knew.  So now that some info has come out, I think we can overlook the first deficiency and talk about it for a bit.  (Well, apparently this information was known at announcement?  I missed it.)

Anyways!  I should let the recently shown off Concept Movie explain the changes, and I'll recap after.

Good show, Sega.

Er, anyways, probably the biggest new thing that was pointed out in the movie is the fact that you'll be able to jump.  And not only jump, but jump attack.  That's two different innovations at the same time.  They're learning, I suppose.  There's something distinctly awkward about thinking about Phantasy Star Online with jumping, since it wasn't in any game as a function to this point, but I'm sure it'll work out.  I'm certainly not adverse to being able to jump in a game, even if it takes over rolling as a basic function.  Though, I'm sure we'll still be able to roll as well.  (I'm trying to remember if Rolling was even in PSO, and I'm not sure.  I don't think so.)

Something else that'll be quite noticeable is the inclusion of other NPCs in the field.  Apparently, you can sometimes come across 'mini-events' in the field, some of which would be, like running into another party of folks (I'm guessing NPCs, though maybe Parties of PCs) and joining forces.  Up to twelve characters can be in the same field at once time, which is more than the 4 standard for every game from PSO on.  This one'll be much more tolerable, I'm sure, and it might even just mean that if you have five friends, you won't have to shuffle people around, or form two teams of three and just imagine how cool it would be if you were all playing together, as in previous times.

Apparently, the guns in the game will offer a more traditional Third-Person Shooter aiming system instead of a stand and aim or walk and point in the same direction, hoping to hit (or lock on and hit) system, which, again, will be an awkward, but welcome change.  At some point we all have to remember that Nostalgia is nice and all, but good gameplay is something that's first and foremost important to the lot of us, and what good gameplay is changes faster than any of us really realize.  But once it's sufficiently outdated, it becomes a little painful to really return to.

I should say one of the more impressive changes would be the in-depth character creator.  If there's anything the Phantasy Star Online/Portable/Universe games have been good about, it's about offering ways to make your character yours, though some quite less so than others.  (Looking at you, Phantasy Star Zero.  Stupid Template builds.)  PSO's was good, PSP2's was good, and it looks like PSO2 intends on blowing them both out of the water; if what appearances let on, of course.  While fairly few people actually want to sit down and spend hours painstakingly crafting a character, as if from marble, to get the perfect visage at least the option to do so is there.  Honestly, character creation has been rather nice in recent games from what I've noticed, so this isn't so much of a surprise.

Thankfully (or not), Phantasy Star Online 2 isn't scheduled to be out anytime soon, as they haven't even entered Alpha Testing yet, (or if they have, it's fairly recent) so I have plenty of time to try and get my hands on a computer that will play this.  And in the meantime, I can hope upon hope that it won't be subscription-based, as I'm not actually sure if I'm capable of playing a Pay-Per-Month game; if simply because my gaming tastes tend to shift and I can't see myself finding the playtime value in a game.  What amount of gaming hours constitutes $14.99 a month (the figure that comes to my mind, at least, for pay/month subs), after all?  Everyone's opinion on that will vary, and it's something that's been on my mind a lot lately with Star Wars:  The Old Republic looming.  But that's a different story for a different post.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Some Playstation Vita Features Explained, Sound Really Neat

Just recently at Develop, some details about Live Area, Near and Party for the Playstation Vita were delved out for we, the public, to gobble up like morsels before a starving person.  It is the Post-E3 news drought after all, so the imagery isn't all that far-off I would say.  The article is really in-depth, and I'd recommend a read myself, but I can at least try and cover the big points here.

From everything I've heard, Near has been getting compared to the 3DS' SpotPass, which I unfortunately know next to nothing about, being 3DS-less and not caring to know about the system until it's in my hands.  Since, as we know I have to get one eventually.  But hearing about Near might push me to break that rule, as Near itself sounds like something that's really interesting if a little, er....not invasive but.....invasive.  No more than we've all become used to with Facebook and the like nowadays (If you choose to go around those things, of course), but still.  With Near, you'll be able to know where you were/are(?) in relation to other Vita users with Near active, the last five games they played and 'gifts' that they've registered.

The article then moves on to talk about how you can use Near to leave 'Gifts' for others to pick up, which, I'm assuming those things are what you see through Near's information.  Gifts look like they're something fairly, up to entirely, customizable, including 'a rare ship' perhaps for, like a....I...dunno, a game with customizable/purchasable ships, to 'in-game challenges or gear', which just brings about the thought of, say, a challenge track for ModNation Racers or a customized costume for your Sackboy in LittleBigPlanet Near.  Apparently, people who leave such gifts could even expect to hear from those who receive their gifts to thank them for whatever it was.  I'm sure dropping something 'on the street' that'll save someone a few hours in a game will make you a few friends.

Personally, the first thing I thought of when I heard of this system was Phantasy Star Portable 3 (Because I can dream, damnit) or a similar game, and leaving a high-level weapon you don't need anymore around for someone to pick up which, if that's something that could be done, sounds damn cool and would definitely be an incentive for me to walk about with mine active, even though I never really go to really public areas.

The other thing thing with Near, which I touched on already, is that someone will be able to see the last five games you've played on your Vita, which is a great way for games to get exposure.  Imagine someone who might not be as 'in-the-know' as we are, but equally enthusiastic still, who's gadding about with his/her Vita and a Near hit shows him some PSP games he never really looked into.  (I mean, I would hope Near shows PSP games, since the system will play it.)  Imagine selling copies of Valkyria Chronicles 2, Metal Gear Solid:  Peace Walker, Final Fantasy:  War of the Lions, etc. just by playing it and showing off that fact to others.  That would be a nice feeling, even though it would just be supposition on your part, I imagine.

Party is explained next, reaffirming that, yes, it is indeed platform-wide and will work exactly as you may (or, well, considering the devices in question, may not) be accustomed to, allowing you to invite up to three people into a Party room for Cross-Game Voice and Text chat.  From simply starting up the system, you can join a party and see what the others in it are doing and, should you desire, join them or do your own thing.  Maybe Person A's playing Uncharted:  Golden Abyss while Person B is playing ModNation Racers Vita, where the other two are just hanging out.  "Hey, want to do a quick race?" says Person B and C and D go, "Sure, why not, we like this game for reasons convenient to this explanation".  Apparently, so long as they have the game, they will just be able to load the game and join that Person B as simple as that without leaving the party or anything.

I'm sure we, who only have PS3's or primarily play PS3, can openly admit a little jealousy to those among us who primarily game on 360's and have used this functionality and enjoyed it for a long time already.  I sure can, so the fact that I'll be able to have this sort of thing now will be fantastic.  My only previous exposure to something of the sort being Playstation Text Chat parties, since those are cross-game.  While useful and fairly fun, I'm sure they can't measure up to what the 360 Party System, or now the Vita Party System, can offer.

LiveArea is up next, and I'm sure we're all familiar with it by now, even if we're not sure of it just yet.  In the above picture, LiveArea is just that - the thing that has replaced the XMB, which I admit to be a little more than wary of.  Simply because it doesn't leave a lot of room for a background, and I imagine I could get tired of the Playstation Lines after a while.  We'll see how that works out, however, even if it ends up like that, it'll be manageable enough.

I'm going to admit, I'm not quite sure what they're talking about with regards to LiveArea and it's purposes, so I'm just going to quote a few parts here and ponder aloud what it means, hopefully to get it explained a bit better to myself later.

There are three modes in LiveArea: Index, Live and Game. The top area you’ll see is the content information zone, which is the “landing point for when you start any game on PS Vita”.
The communication zone is where you “comment on people’s activities within the game as well as publish your messages”.
“Activity is a way for players to discuss progress,” explained Rogers. “The system automatically puts a few activities in there,” he added, such as Trophies and ratings. “That encourages people to then comment similar to Facebook style.”
“Publishers: it’s important not to spam users too much and to use it sensibly.”
Developers and publishers will be able to update LiveArea.
“When you ship the game it’s got the standard LiveArea that you bake into the game card,” said Rogers. But through updates “you can even customise it to the user” by pushing out different data.
Publishers can also “push data to users” by putting images on the LiveArea frontpage as well as announcements on the bottom part of the logo. “It’s a good way to push DLC,” said Rogers.
“So there’s new levels out, click, go to the Store.” It’s also a good way to push news about the game. But Rogers offered a word of warning to publishers that “it’s important not to spam users too much and to use it sensibly”.
The way I read it, is sort of like, Developers will eventually be able to customize what's on LiveArea depending on what game you've got in/loaded.  So as per the example, if you've got new DLC available for a game, you'll be able to broadcast that fact easily.  I imagine you'll also be able to 'de-clutter' LiveArea depending on what your game supports more openly than not (Like, say, a single-player game might push Party, Friends, Messages buttons to the 'Main' LiveArea) and/or make room for background images or something of the sort.  I could be misrepresenting that completely, of course.  Until we see someone popping in a Game Cart, and booting it up, I'm sure this whole LiveArea business will be a little hard to picture, especially from where we're coming from as is, since the PS3/PSP's XMB is fairly standard over both systems in what it offers specific to each game.

I'm sure a lot of developers will find some way to make this all wonderful (I'm really hoping for examples akin to what I mentioned earlier) and at the very least, it's served to make me more and more excited for the Vita which, I'll tell you, becomes more and more difficult as every day passes.  Can't wait to see more and more information come out as this baby gets closer to launch.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Review - Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

(As always with Youtube videos, if you open it at Youtube avoid the comments.)

There are a lot of bad places to wake up in and a junkyard is definitely one of them.  But that's not necessarily the worst thing that can happen - after all, if you wake up, it means you're alive, right?

Not always.

That's the lesson our protagonist, a ghost who eventually begins to refer to himself as "Sissel" learns when he wakes up as a ghost with no memories of himself or just what he's doing there.  But there's more pressing matters at hand; namely a woman being held up by a suspicious looking character wielding a golden shotgun.  Of course, our protagonist isn't really in a position to do anything about it, right?  After all, he's dead.

Just when it seems like there's nothing that can be done but watch the young woman perish, the voice of a tired, wise old soul communicates with our MC to inform him that he has the power to prevent this tragedy.  This is how Ghost Trick:  Phantom detective starts.  It's gripping from the start and it doesn't let you go, and it doesn't give you any reason to resist.

Right from the beginning, Ghost Trick shows off it's main features, the things that will make you fall in love with the game, which, upon listing them out is more or less everything.  Chiefly among them, however, is the art style, which I want to talk about first.  Now, it's a generations-old statement, something along the lines of, "If you have a great Art Style, the actual graphics don't really matter" and there's been many, many, examples of this.  Likely there will be many many more as well.  Because it's not about being picture-perfect - it's about making a clear, appealing style, which is exactly what Ghost Trick does.

It's not easy to make a good-looking DS game.  At least, a good-looking DS game with non-sprite-based graphics, but Ghost Trick manages to pull it off.  Sure, there are some sprites, mostly just for the 'talking heads' for dialogue cut-aways, but everyone has a three-dimensional model that shows a few jaggies, of course, but doesn't look like they cut any corners or 'settled'.

It's really just a pleasure to look at.  Above is, very obviously, one of the colorful characters you'll meet on your journey through Ghost Trick and arguably one of the best characters in the entire game.

Which leads me very smoothly into talking about the cast of characters you'll meet in the game.  Rich and varied, you'll meet some characters who are less tolerable than the others, much like any other piece of media, but this is from a time where Capcom apparently 'got it', a time frame that has obviously long since passed.  Only one of the 'bad' (as in a character you really just won't like) is featured fairly heavily, with the rest having bit performances here and there, leaving you to run through your experience with the best of the best, for the most part.  Of course, telling about them would be...well, telling and if there's anything you take away from Ghost Trick, it's that you don't want a moment of it spoiled for you.

Of course, the very start of the game isn't a spoiler, right?  Right, because it's the part of the game you got to play waaaay back when there was a web-based demo of the game.  (Unfortunately, it's long gone; I wanted to link to it yesterday, but the one place I found it just wouldn't load it.  It's -possible- that it's in the DSi Shop or even the 3DS eShop, so by all means, take a gander there)  The start of the game introduces you to the easy, but clever gameplay that you'll spend most of the game toying with and improving on as your knowledge of it expands.

It's fairly simple, as I said; at any given point in the game (barring cutscenes) you can click an on-screen button (or hit the L-button) to enter the Ghost World.  There, your soul burns with a blue flame to let you know where you are, and other blue spots, called "Cores" show up to give you options on things to reach out and possess.  Your soul can't just fly around willy-nilly, you're not that type of ghost after all, but the method of travel is pretty easy and even fun regardless.  Using the stylus (or the control pad) you can reach out to a nearby core to move to it.  The top screen will display just what you're possessing at the moment and what, if anything, you can do with it through the use of a "Ghost Trick".

Not unlike a poltergeist, you can turn on and off lamps, flip switches and roll most things with wheels.  Unfortunately, you can't throw a chair across a room or anything of that sort; more like you're just doing things with an object that it's used to doing.  The main idea of this game is that it's a puzzle game, so it's through this mechanic that you'll play most of the game.  Whether you're using it to simply navigate here to there, or something more dire, like saving a life, it's a simple, fun mechanic that doesn't wear out its welcome.

You do save lives, by the way, through the other really interesting story bit.  While not entirely original, it's original enough, this other mechanic:  You learn in short order that you have the ability to communicate with a recently departed soul and rewind time to four minutes prior to their demise, giving you a chance to manipulate the environment to ensure their survival.  It's not just a one-shot deal either - you can rewind back to the start (or a special point during the four minutes that's unlocked under certain circumstances) of your time as many times as necessary with no real repercussions.

There's very few negative things that can be said for the game, but in saying "very few", that is of course saying that it's not perfect.  Nothing is, after all.  While my complaints are very minor, I can't very well leave them un-said.  For the positive note about the life-saving mechanic, that it's fun, mostly original and mostly innovative, it also helps to make the game mostly linear, as once you start a save, you can't stop it.  And if you even could stop it, the game doesn't really offer many places to go otherwise.  It gives you a method of traveling long distances and then mostly gives you no reason to go anywhere but where it's very clear the game wants you to go next.  Should you chose to delay that and head other places, the most you can hope for it an amusing and/or mildly informative cutscene.

While there's nothing at all wrong with linear games, when the travel mechanic was introduced to me, I had visions of actually moving and investigating areas to figure out where to go next, which unfortunately never really panned out.  So maybe it's not really a problem so much as it was me hyping something up beyond it's clear usage.  My other complaint about the game is very simply that it ends without offering any sort of New Game + or anything beyond what is contained in the game proper.  Essentially, it is a story first, and once that story is done, it's done.  It's a wonderful story, however, and even knowing that there's nothing gained by playing the game again, I immediately started it again after beating it the first time, which I think is a firm indicator of quality, as when I really like a movie or game for it's story, my first instinct is to simply watch/play it again.  And again.

The Good
  • Quality visuals, especially from a DS game
  • Very nice, mood-appropriate soundtrack
  • Fun, easy puzzle gameplay
  • Some of the puzzles are quite clever, actually
  • The cast, save for a few exceptions, are all fantastic
  • All but one of the 'few exceptions' aren't heavily featured, letting you forget about them.
  • The story manages to never really contradict itself badly or create big plot holes
  • The story is fantastic and never really lulls, either
The Bad
  • There is one character that is incredibly awful and has a fairly decent-sized chunk of playtime
  • Not the longest game - I beat it in a single day, admittedly from several hours-long sessions
  • Unless you like retreading things, there's really no replay value
  • Some of the puzzles (One in particular, about halfway through the game) can require frustrating precision
  • Even though there's a good reason for it, the game is -painfully- linear 
Mogs Says
Ghost Trick:  Phantom Detective is undoubtedly one of the best DS games I've played to date and quite possibly one of the better games in general that I've played lately..  If you're all about a good story, and you don't mind leaving it just at that when it's over, you'll very likely enjoy it as well.  I really had to think hard to bring up things to put down as negatives for the game, and given that the game inspired me to actually, properly review it, I would very heavily suggest that it's something rather special, deserving of your time, should you be able to spot a copy of it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Thoughts on Reviewing Games Here

It's been my stance (my stance is in my comment, btw) in the past that I just don't know if I'm all that capable of writing up reviews for games as, well, as you might have noticed, I tend to get a little opinionated on things.  I like what I like, and I hate what I hate, with little room for a middle-ground.  Although, I do like to think that I've eased up considerably on that, to the point where I can actually be objective on something I like or don't like and be able to present it for all its pro's and con's.  Of course, I might be wrong on this, but at this point, the only way to know for sure is by doing; something that Ghost Trick:  Phantom Detective taught me quite in-depthly over the past day.

You might have noticed that I really, really became enamored with Ghost Trick, so much so that, over the course of last night during the lovely lightning storm we had, I beat it.  And then I immediately started playing it again to try and see every facet of it once more, because I got the urge to do something I've rarely had before:  I really wanted to review the game.  Properly.

And as I thought of that, I did get my usual aversion to it, but a thought entered my head:  "Well, it's not like I haven't already kind of reviewed a few things, in a sense".  And it's true.  I have kinda done it.  I haven't done numbers or anything, which I just will not do, but I have spoken to the good parts and bad parts of various games here over the seven months I've been doing this, so to say reviewing a game is out of the question is just something I can't say.  I just haven't made it official yet.

So, I may as well:  I really do think am going to write up a proper review of Ghost Trick either tomorrow or the day after, depending on the weather.  I don't know how I'm going to do it just yet (If my buddy Chance doesn't mind, I really do like the "The Good, The Bad, The Verdict" style of his reviews and may just be tempted to borrow that), but I know I want to do it.  Not just for Ghost Trick, and I can't say I'll be reviewing everything/anything I play, or that I'll even review recent games (I know one game in particular that I want to do, and it was released waaaaaay back in March), but I want to try my hand at it now.

So, Coming Soon:  Reviews.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ghost Trick is Wonderfully Addictive

While out and about today, I happened to stop in at Gamestop intent on picking up a PSP game or two, provided I could find what I was looking for (which was a long shot; Star Ocean:  First Departure was one of them.) and, as I am wont to do, I simply started browsing about after I checked the (slim) PSP selection and saw nothing I really cared to purchase.  I usually only intend on checking prices of games when I'm in "Browsing" mode, as I've really learned to curb my impulse purchase....impulses.  Well, sort of.  You see, when you run across a game you've only seen once, or in some cases, never before, it sort of trumps everything else.

So when I saw rather pristine boxes for Ghost Trick:  Phantom Detective and The World Ends With You for the DS, I just couldn't help but unleash my purchasing piece of plastic and walk out of the store ~$43 poorer.  I'd never even seen a copy of TWEWY in the wild, and if I'd seen Ghost Trick I don't really remember (the difference being that I'd never even seen TWEWY's box art, but I have seen Ghost Trick's, so I can't remember if I saw it in a store or just as a picture.) and with as many times as I've been into a Gamestop and other such gaming retailers, to have not seen either game until now was just a sign, you see.  And when I returned home, I grabbed my DS and popped in Ghost Trick with the idea that I'd play for a little bit just to try it out.

Five hours later, I looked up from the DS to my clock and noticed that it was 6:32, and that I had literally just spent five hours doing nothing but playing Ghost Trick.

Now, clearly, there is a reason for this, and that reason is that Ghost Trick is fascinating on every level.  I mean, I haven't beaten it, so I can't attest to the game as a whole obviously, but my experience with it just today was magical in a way that I'm not sure I can say any other DS game has provided me.  From the time I sat down to play to the time I broke its hold on me, I laughed, I grinned, I thought and most importantly, I had all sorts of fun.

The premise of the game is pretty simple, yet fairly great in the way it unravels; the game starts when a man 'regains consciousness' on a spiritual level only after being killed.  Or, in layman's terms, the game starts right after the main character realizes he's been killed and is now a ghost.  Lingering still at the scene of his death, he spots a woman being accosted by a man with a golden shotgun intent on killing her and, at the behest of a disembodied voice he doesn't recognize, explores his ghostly abilities of inanimate object manipulation in an attempt to spare the woman's life.  It.....doesn't go quite as planned, unfortunately.

All is not lost, however!  The disembodied voice, who eventually introduces himself with the pseudonym of "Ray", takes that moment to introduce our dearly departed protagonist his most useful tool in his special ghost ability arsenal:  the ability to rewind time to four minutes prior to the victim's untimely demise as many times as he wishes.  By witnessing the victim's death, the MC can then notice times where death is preventable and by using his ability to possess objects and use their inherent abilities (making a fan start, making a button activate, etc.) take advantage of those moments.  It's not the easiest thing to explain, but I assure you, the game does a splendid job of it.  Certainly better than I could.

From there, you join the MC as he investigates the cause of his own death, since unfortunately, he cannot prevent himself from dying.  Closure is the next best thing, after all.  And from there the story starts unfolding into something pleasant, clever and entertaining over the next, well, five hours.  After that, again, I can't speak for the game, not yet at least but to the point I left off was still everything positive that I've spoken of so far.

I simply cannot express how pleasantly surprised I am with the game.  Hopefully by the end of it, I'll still carry that positive feeling and I suspect I will.  And when that time comes, I'll be writing about it again, no matter what.  Who knows?  I might even (gasp) try my hand at writing a proper review, as I do think I can speak on the game in a way that isn't inappropriate levels of gushing.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy - Nightmare Chibis and Rhythm-Based Battling

 Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy is hardly new, but as we know, my reactions to Squeenix things are generally delayed if simply because I choose to ignore most Squeenix news like the plague for a while.  Of course, we all know this can horribly backfire if Squeenix puts out something genuinely neat like Type-0, but, hey, that's like a once in a blue moon thing, honestly.  The horrible backfiring ain't happening here with Theatrhythm.

It's hard to decide where to start here, in all honesty.  Of course, I'm lying, I know exactly where to start.

The character design is atrocious.  Now, I know Chibi style things have a place somewhere (my personal preference places it in the trash can, but 'opinions') but when you do Chibi, you have to do it right.  Those things up above?  They are not right.  They are soulless beings of pure nightmares.  Mostly because they're the exact same body dressed up in different outfits to denote the different characters.  The outfits are, admittedly, kind of cool, and there is something about it that's just not the characters themselves, which is kind of an important distinction.

It should be noted, if it's not immediately apparent, that Theathrythm takes place in the Dissidia universe.  Which is just.....yeah.  I guess they just didn't want to make another universe wherein a bunch of Final Fantasy characters got mish-mashed together for....some reason.  Why they're fighting monsters instead of Manikins or, you know, each other is quite beyond me, and I'm sure there's a perfectly logical story behind this ga-hahahahahahahahahahahaha, yeah, alright.  Clearly, this has to take place in the 12th or earlier cycle of Dissidia, as we can clearly see Lightning above who was only in Duodecim because prequels get more characters for some reason.  (I know the reason, but, y'know, spoilers.)

The above pictured Battle Mode features putting four character in a party (dunno if you get to choose or what) and using a Rhythm game to.....fight monsters?  I guess.  It honestly seems like a handheld (Instrument) Hero/Rock Band game, skinned with nonsensical things for some reason.  The premise honestly escapes me completely and I just don't....know where they're going with this at all.  I can imagine it being addictive, of course, but I'm not about to expect anything approaching genuine fun unless something different comes about in the coming months.

As far as we know, there's only going to be three songs per game from Final Fantasy 1 to 13, one for each of the Field, Battle and Event stages featured in the game.  Rough math indicates that is only 39 songs, which, last I checked, was smaller than 50.  Definitely smaller than more than 50 in such a case.  Yet, all reports indicate that the game will contain over 50 songs, so I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that they're just kinda...holding back for now.  Which, hey, whatever works for them.  Just.....just saying.  I'm sure there's a lot more depth to the game than these early reports point to.

That's about all I cans ay on the game currently, as this heat is destroying me.  Stay frosty, folks.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Music! Chrono Trigger Edition, Part 2

It's been a rough day.  I won't bore you with the details, but I just haven't been a happy camper all day, and when I sat down about half an hour ago, finally, to write a blogpost, I was so frustrated that I didn't know what to put out here.  And while I don't really have a lot to say tonight, I do have a lot to express, I should say.  I would like to express to you that music always helps.  And, in light of Chrono Trigger getting an ESRB rating for PS3/PSP again, hey, perfect timing to share one of my favorite soundtracks to a game ever.  I'm sure you all remember the last installment, of course.

I think I'll begin this one with the song that was ultimately edged out last time by two of the other songs.  While it's not my favorite, I will go out on record saying that I think it's one of the best examples of a "mood song" on the soundtrack as a whole, and that it completely, totally captures the essence of the character it represents.  Of course, I'm talking about "Frog's Theme".

It's an astounding blend of something regal, something driven, and something slightly tragic all in one and I just can't stress enough how fitting it ends up being.

This next song isn't quite as important, but it's just as fun to listen to.  I don't really know what it is about it, honestly; maybe just the complexity of the song considering how fast it is, or how upbeat it is.  Either way, it's a fun song, this "Bike Chase" is.

This next song is one of the many songs the game plays when shit goes down, as shit happens to go down quite often in Chrono Trigger world.  And to this day, whenever I'm in a fairly bad way or a time constrained situation, this comes on in my head, which makes things more enjoyable, but doesn't guarantee it works out all the time unfortunately.  It's the aptly named "A Shot of Crisis".

And the last song I'm going to use is a fairly hard one to use.  Not because it's not a great song, because it is, but it retroactively kind of carries the 'taint' of Chrono Cross (which, after reading a Screenshot Let's Play of the game just recently, I'm convinced people only tell themselves they like the game because the music is good.  Seriously, Chrono Cross is awful.) given how the sequel chooses to use some characters from the first game.  I apologize for this very slight spoiler, but it's a little hard to -not- preface it somehow.  The song in question is "Schala's Theme".

It's wonderfully airy and beautiful sounding, isn't it?  Every time I hear the songs from the game, I get to appreciate them more and more.  Sigh, good times.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Look Ahead - Lollipop Chainsaw

This is Juliet Sterling.  She's 18, loves pink, school spirit and cheerleading.  She carries around a chainsaw because her school, San Romero High School, has been overrun by zombies.  She also has a disembodied head on her waist because...


Anyways.  This was announced today!  Well, actually, it was outed all the way back in February, but somehow a Grasshopper Manufacture project called "Lollipop Chainsaw" went fairly unnoticed.  Games Journalism, everybody.  (I'm kidding, I missed it too.)  And actual screens and artwork went out for it as well.  For the eight screens I saw, only two weren't upskirts, and thus I don't have a lot of link fodder here.  I mean, there's nothing inherently wrong with posting that stuff, and it's not even that I have a personal opinion against it, but, eh.  Just don't feel like posting that here.  Not at this juncture.

For my part, I'm very willing to saw this looks delightfully absurd and outright crazy which, as we know, I quite enjoy.  And honestly, this does more than anything to make me want to go buy Shadows of the Damned if just to get a better chance at this getting localized.  I mean, I want to say this is a shoe-in for getting localized, since it kind of looks made for the west more than anything (And, hell it takes place in the West.  By the way, San Romero High School?  Niiiiiice.), but nothing's certain these days, and I'm sure we all know the things we want sometimes don't always come our way.

Obviously, not a whole lot of information on the game is out just yet, but what we do know is fairly vital; It's a Suda51 game (somewhat.  Enough.  I mean, look at it.), the protagonist is a pink, heart-etched chainsaw wielding cheerleader with a disembodied head hanging at her waist like an accessory, and you're going to kill a lot of zombies in a high school (likely city as well) setting.  I know I may be easy to please with bullet points, but tell me my faith is ill-placed at this point.  I dare you.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

LittleBigThings: I Think Sony Likes It Too

Mostly because they keep acquiring the developers involved with the games.  Last year, Media Molecule became a Sony First-Party Studio, and now Double-Eleven has signed an exclusive deal with Sony, ensuring they'll be around to fuel the Vita on (and possibly do something for PS3, if they so choose) for quite some time.  While not being wholly bought like MM, this is still something to ensure Double-Eleven will be around to show some support to the LittleBigPlanet franchise.  I couldn't be happier, of course, since this means my addiction will be fueled one way or another.

I admit, I was a bit worried when I heard Media Molecule is 'taking a break' from LBP, since, even though it is well-deserved, it means at worst, no LBP game for a while or another, possibly-unfamiliar studio mucking about with it.  Though, for whatever reason, Double-Eleven inspires confidence in me; confidence that I will decide whether or not it's placed well when I have LittleBigPlanet Vita in my hands.  From the looks of the game so far, however, I'm not seeing a whole lot wrong.  I don't even really know how you can muck up the game!

....Aside from doing what LittleBigPlanet PSP did, by cutting out the Multi-player, dropping out of post-release support early, taking major short-cuts with the design tool, and hampering the gameplay by taking out three whole layers of play.  (Two 'thin' layers and a 'walking' layer, I believe.  Possibly only one 'thin' layer.)  But even then, LittleBigPlanet PSP was fun!  Somewhat forgettable and frustrating at times, but fun nonetheless.  I'll have to dig it out again sometime and do a run through some more of the levels, see if I can't pick up the last bit of those items, since, without multi-player, the only obstacle in getting them is finesse which I appreciate greatly.

I should clarify before I end the post:  LittleBigPlanet PSP was quite wonderful, and I enjoyed my romp around with it.  Anyone who was eying it as one of their Welcome Back freebies was doing themselves a service; doubly-so if they got it.  But we all know that we quickly become spoiled with things, so when said things are missing, we tend to get a more harsh view of the overall product.  So when I couldn't sit down with LittleBigPlanet PSP's creator and make something with the ease of use as the PS3 version, I did get a bit put-off.  And some of the platforming levels are, quite frankly, balls-out difficult to Ace, to the point where I'm not sure I'm capable of doing so.  However, the charm was there and that's more or less what you want from a LittleBigPlanet game so, more or less, they accomplished their goal.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Capcom Hates You - Mega Man Legends 3 Canceled

Today, Capcom announced Mega Man Legends 3 development is being discontinued.  In a move that surprised no one, the company as a whole then went on to kick a few puppies between themselves and take candy from local babies.  (Note:  some of the previously mentioned activities are unconfirmed at this point.)  While it's not exactly surprising, given the recent shadiness about the project; namely the indefinite delaying of the prototype project entirely, and the fact that the game hadn't even technically been greenlit, on top of the fact that anything involving Mega Man Legends 3 had been recently removed from Capcom's website.

While I hadn't really had any personal attachment to the project, having not played either of the previous games (though I do loves me some Mega Man), and while I kind of saw this coming a mile away, I obviously derive no pleasure from this.  It's pretty much a dick move that I don't see what Capcom stands to gain from, so I can't even say they did it for the publicity.  And especially after all the fan-polls they conducted to decide this and that element for the game (New characters and Mega Man's overall look, I believe), it seems a bit premature to say the least.

In all honesty, I think the steam went out of the project when Capcom revealed they can't re-release Mega Man Legends on PSN as, if we know anything about Capcom, we know they like them some ports and remakes, so without that possibility to capitalize on MML3's release by reselling the games bring everyone into the Mega Man Legends universe at the same speed through all three games, profitability for the brand plummeted and they just really focused on figuring out how to get out of the project quietly.  I could be wrong, of course, and I may as well be, since we'll never know if I'm right, but I did have to at least try and offer something beyond soul-crushing disappointment.

Reasoning doesn't cushion it at all, of course, and this isn't even one of the times I can say "I don't like it, but I get it", because I honestly don't.  It's honestly hard to say where Capcom's going from here, but it's likely going to be a rough few months from here on while they deal with the fallout from all this.  I am interested, however, in seeing if this will impact anyone's perception of the 3DS or any other 3DS projects at all.  Doesn't seem like it would, but I do know of people who've claimed they only bought a 3DS for a scant few reasons at this point; Mega Man Legends 3 being chief among them.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Look Back - Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

I know it's a bit early to be referring to Uncharted 2 as in the past by referring to it in a "A Look Back" article, but the game was released in October of 2009.  That's like an eternity in gaming years, especially with the year I've had.  Since the basis of "A Look Back" posts is remembering a game fondly after 'enough' time has passed, well, I believe Uncharted 2 qualifies.

It's kind of funny; the only reason I brought it up tonight was because, at a gathering we had today, I was talking with my oldest nephew about games and he posed to me the question, "What company do you think makes the best graphics?  Rockstar?  Activision?"  And with a knowing little smirk, I shook my head and said, "No, no.  You don't know good graphics until you've seen the latest Naughty Dog games."  He seemed a little confused, "The Crash Bandicoot guys?  What are they working on."  And it was then that I resolved to show him the pinnacle of gaming graphics and Cinematography so far:  Uncharted 2.

....I'm sure you can guess as to how it went.

My nephew doesn't really show a lot of what he's thinking; he doesn't really react outwardly to things, so a subdued response to things is the most you can ever expect, outside of laughter.  So when he watched the opening scene with the train, I could tell he was a little impressed at how it looked.  "You know I'm actually playing it right now, right?"  He looked over at me and said, "Really?  Oh, wow.  Yeah, you are, aren't you?" when he saw that I was, indeed, moving Drake amongst the shattered parts of the hanging train that served as your climbing tutorial.

"That's really cool."

Yes.  Yes it was.

And it's funny; he wasn't the only person to be surprised by the game.  Even though I've played it at least six times through, and I remember everything about the game, it seemed fresh, regardless.  There was a pure joy from playing, even though I more or less remember every line, the cadence with which the lines are said, and how every scene plays out, simply because it's just that good.  Dare I say that it seems timeless?  I dare.  I dare indeed.

We both marveled at the way the game controlled; him because of how responsive it looked and how a headshot actually is a one-hit kill, unlike some other games, and myself at how relevant the gameplay still manages to be, despite everything I've played since, especially inFamous 2.  It's tight, it does what you want/need it to do, and it looks damn good while you do it.  I did stop a few times to point out things to him, like the dynamic water stuff; how Drake's clothes get wet and dry depending on where he's submerged and for how long as well as how varied the combat manages to be.  And the starting scenes make that perfectly easy to do, if I do say so myself.  Going from stealth to melee to actual gunplay (despite only with tranquilizer guns at first, then real ones) allows for a lot of variation and makes an impressive showing of all your options.

My one regret is that I completely forgot to show him the Iron Fist technique - shooting from the hip while you run up on a guy and finishing him with a solid punch.  And wouldn't it figure, as soon as I remembered the move (Long after my nephew had gone) and did it, Drake yelled out "Kitty Got Wet!" which if you remember back when, was a thing.  I could have explained the whole thing about it too; about how it was a thing Nolan North's son said and he just decided it sounded cool, so he decided to use it.  And it is kind of cool.  It's fun to say at least; I'll have to remember it better this time.

A part of me regrets not having played in the Uncharted 3 MP beta, as Uncharted 2's MP was surprisingly fun even if I was usually on the losing end of things because of my terrible internet.  But I think I made the right choice; that just means when I play the game for myself I'll have that much more to be blown away by.  As always with games that I speak fondly of, I would heartily recommend it to anyone looking for a good game, and folks in PAL-Land do have that Uncharted Twin-Pack coming up soon that includes both Among Thieves and the first game, Drake's Fortune.  (I checked, but I don't know if it's actually coming out in NA.)  Sounds like a perfect chance to get in on it if you haven't so far.

Then again, if you haven't, what the hell is wrong with you.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lazy Saturday? Valkyria Chronicles Time.

While I don't intend to talk about Valkyria Chronicles so much, I've found that, well, it just happens.  It's hard not to talk about the games, as they're rather fantastic.  Even though I've written quite a few posts about it already, some of them more positive than others, I find that there's, honestly, always more and more to be talked about, be it gripes, funny stories, or just all-around "Yes!" moments.  I guess to start, I do have one of those gripes, though; but it's not necessarily with the game itself, but perhaps the people writing FAQs for them.

While I won't link to it, it's.....not that hard to find, but a general FAQ about the game is out there, and it's the very same one I mentioned was no help the other day, which should have been a tip-off right there.  But, hell, I kept going with it because I figured the dude put all that work into it, he couldn't be completely wrong about everything with it, right?  Well, possibly not everything, no, but I have learned that the guide is pretty much 0/2 on helpfulness with me and my playing the game.  Perhaps it's a matter of two very different playing styles not meshing well with one another, or perhaps he's just....dumb.

You see, in Valkyria Chronicles 2 at least, you honestly never have to grind (for experience), which is sometimes said about other RPGs, but it's actually true in VC2.  Because levels don't really matter; all they do is slightly increase stats over a very prolonged number of levels.  Obviously, you'll be able to tell the difference between a level 1 Scout and a level 30 scout, but the more important part is classes, since there's absolutely no way a level 1 Scout can be confused with a level 30 Scout Elite, or even a level 30 Scout and a level 30 Scout Elite, they're all just different beasts.

Of course, the reward for grinding is there; you get new characters for getting your classes to their max levels, and you'll end up getting the credits you need, as well as parts for crafting new weapons.  So, if you're so inclined to grind, you'll want to have a good map to do so; which is where the FAQ came in.  You see, I already have a spot - Deadly Assault, a free mission in August - which is good for 90K a run-through and takes a minimum of three actions to finish.  Which is quite efficient I must say, but a little unsatisfying, especially later on in Class levels.  My Scouts take 300k for -one- level up now, and they're only in the early 30s; I need a little more, you see.

So when I checked the recommended Grinding areas, this is what I was shown:


  • (January)[1P] Combat Exercise: Classmate Missions


  • [Morris][1P] In Search of Moonglow: ~43,000EXP / Mrch / MrchII / MrchX

Post Game

  • (June)[Story] Retaking the Armory: ~47,200EXP / Mrch / MrchX / Certificate
  • (Paid)[1P] Ghostly Conflagration: ~280,000EXP / ArmsX / ArmsIIX / Diploma
First off, let it be known that my grinding area isn't in there.  There's tip-off number two.  But let's ignore that for the moment and focus on the important part here; the mission at the very end that grants you around 280K per run.  That's quite tempting, isn't it?  And you'd think, since it's listed as a 'grind map' that it's rather simple to complete, yeah?'s not, really.  Not at all.

Without spoiling too much, the mission in question has you in the Doerfin Mines which is just an -awful- map to begin with.  And it tasks you with taking down a powered up version of one of the more annoying bosses, while dodging super tanks in the process, of course.  Now, the character here can be taken out rather easily, but it's one of those 'Perfect Storm' situations where it's not really worth the effort.

I watched a video run-through of it, which showed that the person took a whole turn, the enemy turn and then half of their second turn before the map was completed, which isn't that efficient in my mind.  While it probably does stack up to my preferred grinding in terms of overall time spent, it doesn't work well on my nerves, since this boss character is the type to know you're standing a mile behind him, turn around, and shoot you dead with a sub-machine gun just because he can.  And if you manage to stop his attack by readying your own, he's more likely than not going to drop to the ground just to stand up and finish you off.  Given that snipers, the character you'll want to take him on with, are frail and you likely won't have a lot on your team, it leaves the chance for spectacular failure.

Maybe I'm just being silly, but I'm not really ready to risk it.  I'll just have to find some other method of going about grinding in a better way, as I want some more level 50 classes!  My Shocktroopers are lonely in their epicness.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Mish-Mash of PSP/Vita Things

It's rare, or at least fairly uncommon, when I find that there's actually a few things I can talk about in any one night, and less so when they all concern the same general subject.  So when that happens, I really have to jump on it, and when it's about the PSP and/or the Vita, I'm certainly more than happy to do so.  Because with every day that passes, I love my PSP more and more, and my excitement for the Vita grows and grows.  I just hope that the memory sticks for it won't be super expensive, since I'm likely going to need a few.  (I know I have at least three 4 gig sticks for my PSP floating around.)

Which, as a quick side note, I'm actually kind of amazed at how much 4 Gigs can actually hold whenever I load up my PSP as of late.  I usually always have a UMD in (Lately, Valkyria Chronicles 2, clearly), and then on the stick, I have:  Three Minis (Young Thor, Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess, and Dracula - Undead Awakening), A PSN Game (Patchwork Heroes), Two PSOne Classics (Front Mission 3 and Alundra), Two Demos (No Heroes Allowed! and Yakuza:  Black Panther or whatever it got translated as.  Japanese-Only Demo I got from some Japanese website (legit) a while ago) and a full PSP game (Phantasy Star Portable 2).  On top of that, I have save data for all the aforementioned, plus other games, and quite a bit of downloaded content for LittleBigPlanet PSP.  (Free costumes and a couple handfuls of downloaded levels).  On top of that, some videos (a couple of them being ~30 Minutes long), and some Music that's likely uncompressed.  And I still have 198 MB left.  If I got rid of my videos, I'm sure I'd be able to download Xenogears, which I need to do at some point.  (Y'know, after I buy it.)

Anyways, first up for the PSP news is something rather unfortunate, of course.  I can't ever start these things on good notes, apparently.  In a Playstation Blog post about White Knight Chronicles 2, "Miki", someone working for D3 who's publishing White Knight Chronicles 2 here in the states let it be known in a comment that there are "Currently no plans to release White Knight Chronicles:  Origins for the PSP" in the west.  Which isn't surprising, nor is it particularly damning, but it's not pleasant, either.  The possibility is there, of course, for someone else to publish it, but it's hard to figure out who would.  I guess, if nothing else, I can always look into importing from Europe (since it, you know, won't be in Moonspeak then), but I'm not sure how Online would work then, if at all.

I'll just go ahead and state it here, rather than wait til the end to bring it up:  I honestly have no idea why all these developers don't just go PSN-Only release for some of these games they're worried won't sell.  If you only do digital (which, I prefer physical copies, but I'll take what I can get at this point) you save a lot in costs from not having to produce the physical components (manuals, disks, etc.), and in this case, your game won't just be selling to the PSP audience, but the future Vita audience.  You can't say that in the first few months of the Vita's launch, people won't be heavily using the Vita's PSP Backwards Compatibility with PSN titles.  I guess there's a chance everybody's waiting for the Vita to get closer in launch so it's 'fresher' in everyone's minds, but there seems to be very little point in that.  Get your shit up early and wait for the adopters to come your way.

Moving on to stay within the PSP spectrum for now, let's touch on Final Fantasy Type-O.  I'm not going to lie, until today, I gave less than a shit about the game, simply because it's a Squeenix product and, well, I haven't been up on those too much lately.  Between the fact that Final Fantasy Versus XIII is still in Pre-Production despite being, y'know, six years old, Final Fantasy XIII having absolutely no draw on me to buy it yet (even though I've seen it at my impulse price - $20), and Final Fantasy XIV tanking, Squeenix has pretty much fallen off my radar.  Well, except for one other thing, which I'll point out next.  However, a post at Siliconera detailing a few aspects of Type-O has taken it from "Meh" to "Holy shit, what" in four videos that only amount to a minute and a half of footage.  I won't bother linking them; they're all embedded in the Siliconera post.  I will, however, speak on my reactions to them.

The first video shows off a fairly impressive battle system that serves by showing that you'll be able (be forced?) to have a party of three that you can switch dynamically between, infusing a bit of strategy into the game as, of course, all three characters have their own strengths and weaknesses.  It's not an original concept by any stretch, and has fairly recently been utilized in the Tecmo-KOEI developed Trinity: Souls of Zill O'll.  Still, always a fairly neat little thing.  The second is neat in its own right as well, showing off the "Kill Sights" mechanic that will allow most enemies to be OHK'd if you attack at the exact right moment, which will assuredly be useful.  The third is a bit confusing to me because of the language barrier, but it's mostly just showing off getting mini-missions every now and then.  But the fourth is likely the one that instills the most "WANT" in me of them all.

I don't know what it is about Overworld maps, be it the general lack of them in recent years, a nostalgic feel from it since they were in all the older games, or what, but for whatever reason, that's what really amped me up.  Three methods of travel are provided in the video:  On Foot, Chocobo and Airship.  It's hard to say if there's going to be others (perhaps a boat or something for the bodies of water) but that alone is quite enough really; just enough to get us all (or at least me) thinking about Final Fantasy VII when similar travel methods were included.  Hopefully Squeenix figures out how/when they're going to localize this one, since I'll likely be buying it early; something I never thought I'd express for the game until now.

Moving on to Vita news, recently, Hiromichi Tanaka who is involved with Final Fantasy XI (you know, the Squeenix MMO that isn't hemorrhaging money) recently said they're investigating a Straight-Port of FFXI to Vita.  Wait, what?  That's about all that was said about it, honestly, which, my taking of "Straight-Port" means "Let's reuse as many assets as we can" before they have to, inevitably rewrite and reconfigure a good portion of things to get it running.  Which isn't a bad idea and, provided there's cross-play with PC/Vita, would probably be pretty fun for the ones playing.  Of course, if Vita owners could only play with other Vita owners, it's hard to say if they could make it worth a subscription, which hopefully means there wouldn't be one!  Hahaha, right, right.  It's not even a 'project' yet, as far as we can tell, so maybe it's not even worth touching on.  But hey, it could be cool.

Shinobido 2 has been mentioned a couple times recently, getting a brief mention at Andraisang for the rename of the game in Japan.  The Japanese title will simply be Shinobido 2: Sange, which is all the information they mentioned.  Siliconera, however, has a bit more news namely that the game's taking a page from the other "Way of the" game series (Way of the Samurai, of course; Shinobido 1 was subtitled Way of the Ninja) and will feature a branching storyline that can end in a multitude of ways, depending on the player's actions.  Which, given how much replayability that adds to Way of the Samurai games (granted, most of it is repetition), it's likely that you'll get quite a bit of bang for your buck with Shinobido 2.  (Interested more or less, Chance?)

Ahh.  That was a satisfying post.  Now to kick back with Valkyria Chronicles 2, grind on Killer Assault some more to unlock the last two Classmate Missions, and see how willing I am to grind on the map that is recommended for post-game grinding.  Grind, grind, grind.  But still fun!