Sunday, August 7, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up in Gaming - July 31 - August 6

Some of you (Chance) might remember waaaay back in January when I made a post of games that weren't my GotY contenders for whatever reasons, Darksiders was featured prominently under the label of "No Time", as I bought the game in December, but just couldn't get to it before years-end.  And clearly, that was no empty statement as it wasn't until this week that I cleared out enough of my backlog that I decided it was Darksiders time.  And as I started playing, there was only one thought going through my head.

"This is good.  This is damn good."

Now, the game has quite a bit of praise abound, both from proper reviewers and just people whose opinions I can trust, but I like to at least try going into every game with no expectations, or at the very least, willing to give the game the benefit of the doubt.  It generally allows me to enjoy whatever I play in one way or another, even if I do eventually draw some parallels to other games to compare it to.  So despite the praise and the good things I've heard, I went in expecting nothing and managed to get blown away.

I don't believe I'm very far into it, as I've only taken down one big boss, but there's just so many good things to be said about this game - chiefly, the spectacular voice cast that the game possesses.  So far, the most prominent voices of the game are those of Liam O'Brien, Mark Hamill and Phil LaMarr, any one of those being enough to drive near any gamer wild with excitement, not to mention the effect all three have.  And while I can't confirm this, I swear one of the smaller bosses that I fought was voiced by TC Carson, better known to most by his most prominent role as Kratos from the God of War series.  I could be wrong, of course, but I really don't think I am.

Regardless, thankfully the voice cast is just the most prominent positive the game offers, rather than being the only one, as the gameplay itself is quite fun and familiar.  I, as many others have noticed that the gameplay seems like it cherry-picks the best elements from a few other games to push it all together into something fantastic, and while we may complain about this very thing in other games, there's no real complaint for it here with Darksiders.  I'm not sure what it is; maybe that it takes just a little from multiple games, rather than clones itself to just one or two, or maybe it's just the rest of the game being fantastic that lets us not worry about it so much, but the truth is the truth:  Darksiders, for me so far, is definitely Devil May Zelda of War and you know what?


It's by no means a mark against the game and only enhances what is already a more-than-competent work so much so that I am actually kicking myself a little for waiting this long to play the game.  But that's been remedied and hopefully my playthrough of the game will continue to be as fantastic as it started.

It's always strange to play the sequel to a game before playing the first in the series, and it's something I like to avoid at all costs since it usually results in wondering just how the first game spawned a sequel, since the gameplay of said sequel usually outclasses the first in every way.  Which, that's kind of what's supposed to happen, of course.  Though there's always exceptions to this, where a sequel seems more like a step to the side rather than a clear rise up (Resistance and Resistance 2 being my prime examples of thise) the case is that usually people are vocal enough about what they like and dislike about a game that the developers know what to improve on.

So it's no surprise that when I started playing Phantasy Star Portable 1 this week, I was..a little less than enthused.  It's definitely earlier PSP work; the game looks a bit muddier, fighting is a little stiffer and under-realised, and there's just a lot of things that I miss dearly from the sequel that I can't blame on the game itself, since they were clearly ideas that spawned from the release of this game.  But I kept with it taking Tenzin, my Beast Hunter (As in a Hunter who is a Beast, not someone who hunts Beasts) through the first story missions and a few open missions here and there and I'll say I've gotten pretty used to it.  Things are clearly different, but I've found a way to work around them and enjoy.

And I must say, despite some of the characters looking like feet (more design than graphical capability issues) that I'm enjoying the story, possibly even more than the one the sequel holds.  Phantasy Star Portable 2's story was, honestly, not really much to write home about when I think back on it.  Not bad, but not great, just enough to service the game from Point A to Point B while forgetting that there has to be an escalated sense of scale somewhere and deciding to throw it in right at the end. 

The story of Phantasy Star Portable 1, playing through it now, does seem to step up here and there, but a lot of it is unfortunately wasted on me.  You see, Phantasy Star Portable 1&2 both rely on the canon of Phantasy Star Universe which I never played as the main story placed you with a fixed character, leaving the multiplayer as the only place where you could make your own, and considering my PC couldn't handle the game, my PS2 wasn't internet-ready and I had no 360 to speak of (much less the proper internet, as I stated earlier), I felt it was a safe pass.  Previously, my only exposure to the series, especially this 'branch' of it, was Phantasy Star Online, so I was very attached to the idea of making my own character.

So when the game trots out obviously important characters from PSU, expecting a gasp or a surprise reaction from series players, I just sort of recognize that they used to be important and brush them off, not really caring about them or having an attachment whatsoever.  And what's humorous is that the game also trots out characters that I already know from the sequel, who I would actually like to like, but the ones I've run across so far are so damn terrible yet (because they haven't been, y'know, matured through the story) that I just don't care about them either.  Still, characters are by no means the only important part of a story, so for what it lacks there, it still makes up for with the general plot.  While it's nothing too grand yet, it's involving enough to keep me going out of interest, rather than simply completionism.

As far as I can think of, those are the only two notables in my gaming this week, but I'm sure we can all agree they were note-worthy enough to talk about.  So until the next one of these (I should probably stop calling it Weekly, huh?), that's it for now!

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