Monday, October 31, 2011

More Signs Pointing to New God of War

You may remember that, once upon a time ago, there were rumblings of a possible new God of War title in the works, with multiplayer aspects no less, and at the time it seemed so awesome because I let my hype get me all giddy.  Granted, my hype is still high because my hopes have not been the least bit dashed, but it was high then too.  I mean, I've said in the past that I'm not entirely too keen on Multiplayer aspects of wholly single-player games, but should my idea come to pass, I would make an exception.  But that's neither here nor there, and the point here is that there is new news regarding a new GoW title

The extent of the news is, basically, that they're looking for a new Concept Artist.  A Senior Staff one, at that; I'm not really sure where the distinction lies, but okay.  I'm guessing the Job listing says "unannounced God of War title" as it's in the Joystiq header, but well, that's not always truth in advertising.  Considering I'm actually typing this while my internet is being the dick of all dicks, I can't actually check it either.  Which is....rather unfortunate I'm sure you can guess.

Anyways, the good thing about this new development is that we get to speculate even more about the new God of War that may or may not be, to consider just what and/or where the series can go now.  Without spoiling too much (though I'm sure the internet's done that much for you), we all know that God of War 3 pretty much closed up that whole era and pantheon, so to insist on keeping with calling a continuation in the series is a bit puzzling unless they're intending on either A) Prequeling the series once more or B) just starting an entirely new series with a new protagonist, but keeping the brand name attached for marketing reasons.  I wouldn't be surprised on either suggestion in all honesty, though I suppose I am sort of inclined more towards the latter.

Alright, I'll level with you:  I really just want to take on the Norse Pantheon.  I want to kick Odin in his missing eye, take out Loki, and climb on some Giants only to stab them repeatedly.  The Multiplayer aspect I discussed in the above linked article about the MP taking place during Ragnarok (Sort of an Assassin's Creed Brotherhood take, I guess, in that you're not playing the Main Character during the MP) would just be icing on the cake.  Sweet, sweet icing.  So hopefully that's what we'll see, or at least something equally entertaining on concept alone.  I'm just pretty sure that we are out of Greek Gods to kill, more or less.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Time - How to Celebrate?

So, it is the season and while I'm not much of a celebrator of the holidays, aside from Christmas, Halloween certainly adds an interesting temptation that not a lot of other times could offer.  I figure that I've changed a lot of how I normally do things this year, so why not actually get into the spirit of the times and do something?  Of course, the question this poses is just what do I do?  And, aside from going out and causing mischief or begging for candy, there's not a whole lot associated with Halloween that immediately springs to mind, but luckily for us there are certain other things associated with the spirit that counts.

The immediate thing that comes to mind, of course, is the Horror that's so commonly associated with the principle of Halloween.  I guess the way I could go about this would be to watch one of the few Horror movies I have or toss in Dead Space; the latter would likely cause the desired effect over the former, though, since Dead Space always knew how to send a chill up my spine no matter what.  Especially since when I left off, I believe I was trying for my Impossible trophy and the One Gun trophy at the same time, which is tailor-made for "Oh shit" moments, I would suggest.  That's sounding more and more appealing now that I mention it..

Then there is the possibility of finally sitting down and giving the Vampire:  The Masquerade books I bought a look over as the game has come up a lot lately in conversations I've had with others.  Not really in a sense that a game was to get organized, but more in the sense that people were talking about it and I could do no more than sit by and listen with a nod every now and then since I have, really, no knowledge on the subject.  And that's something I would love to change, since the lore and the mechanics of the game seems rather rich and detailed.  While I not play a game of it myself (outside of the off-chance of playing the PC game at some point), just knowing about it would be nice enough.

Hopefully I can find something to get me excited enough to really celebrate a day.  It might be a little obvious from my posting (or, recently my decision to skip a couple nights) but it's been a little rough lately, and while I'm not saying that for sympathy, I can't -not- acknowledge it.  The majority of this post has been me looking at the page and wondering just what to say next, which got a little easier, admittedly, towards the end.  Still, something of genuine excitement amidst the grind that I've been going through (both life-wise and game-wise) would be a nice change of pace.  Here's to hoping for one!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Look Back - Legacy of Kain (Part 1)

I had intended to make this post at an undisclosed, later date when I'd re-familiarized myself with the Legacy of Kain series (Read:  Went through the Screenshot LPs of them in the SA Archives) but the series has been on my mind a lot lately, and with good reason.  It's Halloween, after all, so if there's any time to be thinking about Vampires, it's now.  And it's only appropriate that I capitalize on this prime opportunity now while the getting's good, but I still want to leave it open for myself to write on it again, hence the (Part 1) you may have noticed in the title header.  I thought it would be rather neat to do a post on the series as it is in my memory now (As in, I don't remember a whole lot), and then another when it's fresh; not only so I'll be able to be more clear on some of the more interesting aspects, but so that I'll be able to properly tell what was reasonably awesome and what's more nostalgia than anything.

It's worth noting that my only exposure to the Legacy of Kain series has been in fact only to the Blood Omen games and Defiance.  This is the first thing that I enjoy so heavily about the series in that it was told over two different protagonists and told in an incredibly smart way.  The Blood Omen games revolved around Kain, a Vampire who changed the world, where the other side to it, the Soul Reaver games,  followed Raziel who was more or less collateral damage in Kain's ever-growing acquisition of power.  The last game, Defiance, was a hybrid of both game types and, over the course of the story, changed you from controlling one character to the other.  It was, and remains to be, honestly brilliant to this day, in my opinion.

I hadn't even owned a copy of either Soul Reaver game until I happened upon them both at a garage sale for an exceptionally modest price and picked them up.  Being for PSOne and PS2 respectively, there wasn't a lot of chance that I'd actually play them, especially considering the latter portion of my collection of the games (Blood Omen 2 and Defiance) are both for the original XBox which I have no desire to plug back in anytime soon (and if I started the series, I'd likely want to play through them all again) but it was nice to actually have them.  Though, it's not as if I put a heavy amount of playing into the games of the series I had owned prior to that; in truth, I've only ever finished Defiance.  Which I find a little funny, considering that does nothing to prevent me from loving the series from nearly all aspects.

It's hard to tell whether or not that ignorance has made LoK better for me than it has a right to be, or if that devotion is well-earned; personally, I would swing towards the latter.  It's honestly the whole concept of the series that I love so much, the two-pronged approach (in a way that isn't a money-grab) and that the writing, direction and character work is all fantastic.  Should you have any reservations to accepting that at a base level, this would be the part where I bring up the fact that Amy Hennig, Head Writer and Creative Director of the Uncharted series, had her hands about that deep into the LoK series.  It's no wonder that the only game I don't see her listed in as Director and/or Writer for in the LoK series is Blood Omen 2, which I seem to remember being the, er, 'black sheep' of the games, if you will.  What I'm saying here, basically, is that the LoK series has the pedigree to back up my words, which could have been seen as mindless praise without something like that being brought up.

I imagine it is a bit unfortunate that my only time with Raziel was spent in Defiance, since at the point in which I started playing him in the game it was all so alien to me that I wasn't quite sure if I enjoyed it or not.  While the mechanics of both characters are somewhat similar, they're quite different as well and take a lot of getting used to, as I remember it.  That Defiance basically incorporated two entirely different games* into one for the finale is nothing short of really, really amazing to me, and one of the main things that really really blew me away when I first played it.  Of course, I was always a bit of a Kain fanboy, as I always embraced the philosophy of enjoying the good Bad Guy, so I really don't think I allowed myself to be properly introduced to him in all honesty.  Though I've inferred it, I should state right here that Kain, insofar as the overall series went was always the 'Antagonist' where Raziel was the 'Protagonist', despite the fact that you played as both of them (not only in both series, but in Defiance) and fought the other a lot.

I've strained and thought of it, but I can't really think of another game that's effectively done what the LoK series did, in letting you play as two characters that were 'fated' to go against one another as Kain and Raziel were.  I could suggest one game, but it would likely be a non-related spoiler, so I won't state it directly.  (But the clue would be a Capcom RPG in a series that has, unfortunately, fallen off the face of the earth)  But regardless of that, such an epic (and I use the word literally here, since that's what I would consider the overall story of the series to be) undertaking in this style hasn't been done since that I know about and it's honestly a damn shame.  To use an over-exaggerated idea, it would be akin to Nintendo making and releasing a game where, rather than Link, you play as Gannon(dorf), fresh off a recent defeat and aiming to regain his lost power.

Who wouldn't play that?

Friday, October 28, 2011

More Collections! Jak and Daxter's Turn

Between the Devil May Cry Collection being announced, the Splinter Cell Collection just releasing recently (after several delays), and the Metal Gear Solid Collection on the horizon, you may be a little sick of hearing about all these collections.  Maybe.  I'm not, I know that much, especially because of the fact that some of these collections include games I've never even touched.  Much like the Sly Collection before it, the Jak and Daxter Collection that was classified by the Korean Ratings Board (that we all knew was coming) will be something completely new to me.  I'm not quite sure -how- I managed to avoid three of Playstation's best franchise series (Sly, Jax and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank) completely, but it happened, and well, now I'm reaping the benefits of it.

Now, one thing outing a game or console has never, ever been concrete evidence of anything, despite being, well, very very accurate in the past, so I may really be jumping the gun here.  With any other game (save a few), I might very well just dismiss it as a rumor, but this is Jak and Daxter; it and Ratchet and Clank are basically the two series left that are very nearly guaranteed to have the Collection treatment.  So what I'm saying here, basically, is that we know it's happening, even if this Korean Ratings Board thing proves to be a false lead.  After this is out and the eventual Ratchet and Clank Collection, it'll be pretty hard to guess what, if anything, comes after that, but I'll certainly be looking forward to anything else.

Again, my exposure to Jak and Daxter is completely non-existent, so trying to find something else to say about all this is a bit trying.  That the games are the predecessors to the Uncharted games (as were the Sly games to the inFamous series) are inspiring but also fill me with a bit of dread thanks to all the parity that's coming of the situation as I consider it.  If you'll recall (I'm not going to link them all, but I had a -lot- of posts about the Sly Collection) my experiences with the Sly series started positively and very slowly started to descend until the third game where it kind of went up and down quite drastically.  I kept going at the games thinking "How did they go on to make inFamous" and I get the sinking feeling that I'm going to take to the Jak games in the same way.  The coincidences are too numerous for me to consider otherwise.

Still, I've been eying the series ever since I saw the PSP spin-off for Daxter (Much the same with Secret Agent Clank and the R&C series), but I've simply deigned to wait for these collections to start off the series and then end up with the two spin-offs on my Vita.  I'm told they're not very good, but, well, I'm just -that kinda guy-, where once I get into a series, I generally have to stick it out unless I really really start to dislike it.  And besides, who doesn't love a good old-school platformer every now and then, what with that genre ending up on the downswing for a while?  It's making a comeback, sure, but it's assuredly not quite the same as it used to be.  If anything, I imagine it'll make me appreciate the advances we've made more than I do already.

Update!:  Well, this one's confirmed by SCEA via Joystiq via IGN or something.  Regardless, it's confirmed, gonna happen, but that's about all the info right now.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


So, I just wanted to say here that tonight and tomorrow night, I'm really, likely not going to be in a well-enough place to sit down and write something out that's, well...something I'd be happy to say I wrote.  Without saying too much, there's things occurring and they're honestly a bit too big for me to just kinda set off to the side for a couple hours both nights and tap into my creative wells or what have you to put fingers to keys.  I was just considering doing a tweet about it, since that's usually where I broadcast my normal "Hey, not going to be on" or whatever things, but eh.  Can't embed videos in tweets and I was figuring on throwing something in here.

For the record, I'm not getting sick again, there's not another virus on the computer (that I know about) or anything like that, I'm just going to be physically and mentally worn, I'm sure, so I'd rather warn ahead of time than after the fact.  So, yeah.  Not like there's a lot of news today, though either.  Anyways, with that said, here's some random K-Pop that I just can't stop listening to no matter what.  (Protip:  Skip to about 1:30 in, because there's a lot of frivolous music video nonsense that isn't the song before that point.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Grand Theft Auto 5 Officially Announced

Let's all put on our best surprised faces.  Really, I'll wait.  No, I'm kidding, I'm not going to wait, because this isn't a surprise at all.  Timing-wise, perhaps a bit, but we all knew GTA V was going to be a thing eventually and it more or less was just up to Rockstar on when to begin the hype engine.  And now it has begun and I'm sure we're all awaiting with at least the slightest bit of optimism, no matter what your opinion on Grand Theft Auto IV was.  Personally, I squeezed a lot of enjoyment out of it, playing through the story twice (once right after launch, the next post trophy-patch to, well, get the trophies) and while I understood the criticisms, they personally didn't hold a lot of weight with me personally, so I, obviously, can't fault the game them.

Of course, I did end up, as most people did, feeling that there was at least a little lacking from the game on a fundamental level, which didn't improve with The Lost and Damned at least.  (If you'll remember, The Ballad of Gay Tony has been tossed onto my ever-growing "To Play" pile where it will languish for a while, I'm sure.)  Not having played Red Dead Redemption or L.A. Noire (only included because I'm not sure how big a role Rockstar played in sending the game out) I can't be confident one way or another that they've learned their lesson or not, so I can only hope that, come release of GTAV, that lacking feeling has been dealt with.  The few details that have been tossed around as 'rumors' are fairly inspiring, however.

Apparently, the game is set to take place in Los Santos, the Rockstar version of Los Angeles, previously seen in Grand Theft Auto:  San Andreas.  This is a pretty ballsy move on Rockstar's part, as setting this game, directly after the eventual mixed reception of IV, in roughly the same area as the 'best' GTA game will draw a lot of parallels, and a lot of them are going to be very, very direct and near-unforgiving.  I'm hoping this is a calculated risk, rather than, er...for lack of better term, arrogance on Rockstar's part as this game is going to be released under the gun, and I think we all would like to see as few reasons for everyone to latch onto and complain about as possible.  Since, well, I think we would all like an 'undeniably good' GTA game again, much like, well, every non-GTA IV game, apparently.

Obviously, the architecture of Los Santos is going to be very different, as was Liberty City before it, which will likely be for the better.  Should they decide to go with as big a map as San Andreas had, I would personally hope that a lot of the rolling wastelands would be less, er....empty and generally useless to explore, aside from looking for Sasquatch who was always faked.  Granted, there was a -lot- out in the deserts, but then again, there was always more desert that was nowhere near as interesting or useful.  Perhaps in Multi-player such an area would be more desirable, I'll concede and it's obvious that GTAV is going to have Multi-player, so I guess we'll just see.  Whatever we end up with for the map will likely not match any preconceived notions we have about it so arguing what would be good/bad for it is a bit moot at this point.

Also mentioned in the article linked above, is the possibility of multiple main characters in GTAV.  Whether this means in a style Rockstar game (Yes, I know it happens, yes, I'm angry it was spoiled for me) or something more like....well, Yakuza 4 (run through each story, eventually able to switch them out), or a self-contained layout like GTA IV and its DLC packs, it should actually be a fairly refreshing change of pace for the series.  This isn't even considering -who- the main character(s) will be, merely musing on how they'll be introduced/utilized.  While there's no actual news beyond "Hey, we're just announcing this game, trailer on November 2nd", there's certainly a lot to think about for the simple fact that Grand Theft Auto V is happening.

Remember what I said about the hype engine?  Wasn't kidding.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Aaaah, Japan, Learn to Trophy Design!

I believe I've mentioned it here a couple times, but it bears repeating, especially for this post; lately, I've been playing Dynasty Warriors 7 again lately to pick off the last few trophies I need for the game before Xtreme Legends comes out.  I imagine Xtreme Legends will have it's own Trophy List and when I get it, I'm not really going to want to play vanilla 7 because, well, with Xtreme Legends, I can load in vanilla 7 and make it more with Xtreme Legends.  That's how the whole thing works and has worked; you put in Xtreme Legends, set it up to 'mix' with the base game, switch disks to load it, and switch back.  It's a convoluted process that hasn't gotten any better, unfortunately, but the end result is generally worth it, since Xtreme Legends on its own tends to not be 'enough', whereas, after you've played with it, going back to the base game without it is a bit rough.

The rough thing here is that Dynasty Warriors 7, like a lot of games right out of Japan, have the philosophy that you have to do literally every single thing to get all of the trophies.  To the extent that some gamers look at Trophy/Achievement lists and scoff, going "Welp, never going to get a Platinum or 1000/1000 on that game!" because it's honestly just too much.  In the example of Dynasty Warriors 7 here, the few trophies I'm still hunting down are:  Audio Collector (Bronze), Consensus Builder (Gold), Meticulous Collector (Gold) and Seal Collector (Bronze).  (and the Platinum, of course)Notice, two Golds, Two Bronzes and I'm going to tell you right now that the amount of work involved with three of them is roughly the same among each other.

Let's start with the descriptions/unlock conditions for them, shall we?  Audio Collector:  Unlocked all Officers' voices in the gallery.  Consensus Builder:  Maxed out your bond with every officer in Conquest Mode.  Meticulous Collector:  Unlocked all possible items in the gallery.  Seal Collector:  Unlocked every seal.  I'm sure you can understand which ones are the ones roughly equivalent with one another, but if not, I can point it out in so many words.  Meticulous Collector is the outlier here as it's pretty much going to be the last thing I unlock before the Platinum, I'm sure.

How you unlock these things is clearly the issue here, really.  To unlock all the voices in the gallery, at this point, I need to make sure every character learns all the skills they can possibly learn, which is a harder task than it would sound, as some skill trees include skills that take 840 Skill Points to unlock.  For one skill.  Just to give you a rough estimation here on how much of a grind it becomes, I've worked out the most efficient way for me in running "Sishui Gate Defensive Battle" (I think that's what it's called) in which I can take out 9 Enemy Generals to complete the level in just under five minutes.  I say enemy generals because they're the only ones that matter, as they're the only ones to drop Skill Points.  At base, they drop 10 when you defeat them.  (Recall, I said 840 skill points.  For one skill.)  However, everybody has a skill that, when purchased, adds two more points to that, and then you can have a seal on your weapons, appropriately called "Skill Points Up" that adds another two, which you can have on both the weapons you take into battle to stack.  So instead of 10 points per general, you get 16.

Nine generals.  Sixteen points each.  One Hundred and Forty-Four skill points every five minutes.  Works out to just under six if you divide 840 by 144, so I have to run that one level, basically, six times to get enough for just one skill (if said character has that skill), and at five minutes a pop, that's, well, half an hour.  There are 62 characters in the game.  I won't bore you with the math there, but trust me, it makes big numbers.  Now, it might sound incredibly daunting here, and rightly so, but it's not quite that bad.  For one, going through story mode, all skill points accrued go into a 'pool' so that, towards the middle or early middle of every story, you'll end up having enough SP to pump every character (that you can't switch, unfortunately) full on their skills at the start of their battle.  Which means, a good few officers already have had all their skills bought by me.  Additionally, if you have a second controller, you can pop in a second player in Conquest Mode to stand around in a safe place while you, player one, runs around and does all the work.  In Two-Player Mode (Offline at least, not sure about Online) every time one defeats a general, both get the skill points, so you can, essentially, grind for two characters at a time, effectively cutting that grind in half.

Mind you, the above I've talked about for unlocking skills?  That's just for Audio Collector which is, as you saw above, a Bronze trophy.  Of course, its completion goes towards Meticulous Collector as well, since the voices are for the Voice Gallery, so there's that at least.  The other thing in question here for Meticulous Collector?  Getting all the characters bond up to max, which unlocks either a final Wallpaper or their other Voice Gallery (yes, they all have two Voice galleries, one for general things, one for Conquest Mode phrases) I forget.  Remember the other gold trophy, Consensus Builder?  Yeah.  This is why Meticulous Collector will likely be the last trophy, as it literally requires you have to have gotten other trophies for collecting, well, everything.  Meticulously.

Upping bond requires you to either fight alongside the officer you want to gain bond with (either by selecting them as your Sworn Ally (read: Bodyguard) or by happenstance of ending up with them in a Conquest map) and win, or fighting against them and winning (which only gives you a little fraction of bond, but it's still something.).  Unfortunately, the above method for skill grinding cuts out your ability to have a Sworn Ally, and you don't gain bond with whoever the second player is.  Still, you can get enough with the right seals and by ending up with them on random maps.  (For instance, the Sishui Gate map I mentioned will always have four unique Commenders that you can bond with (read:  Non-Generics) one on your side, three to defeat)  So at the very least, you're grinding more than just one thing at the same time, but that doesn't make it happen any faster.

So, the outlier here now is the Seal Collector trophy that I mentioned earlier.  Seals, which I should've really explained better earlier than now, are enhancements you put on your weapons to, well, enhance your character.  Attack/Defense/Speed Increases, the aforementioned Skill Points Up, Congeniality (which increases the amount of bond you get), the 'Master' skills, etc. make up the entire list.  At this point, all I have are some Master skills which, when equipped on a weapon, means you treat that weapon as if you had 3 Stars (out of 3) in handling, regardless of whether you did or not.  Having 3 stars and "Master" basically makes it so you treat it differently; either your attacks do more damage, are faster, you can dash, etc.  They're useful, but not useful enough to throw on as a seal unless you want to have Xiao Qiao using Lu Bu's Sky Scorcher effectively for the laughs.  Most characters end up with "(Weapon) Master" skills in their skill lines for their chosen weapon anyway.

Still, I have to get them and, wouldn't you guess, they take the longest out of all the seals to get.  If you've ever played Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (Perhaps Final Fantasy IX used the same method?  Thought I heard that somewhere), then the concept isn't -too- foreign; you equip and use the weapon and the more you use it, the closer you get to unlocking it.  (Random Mooks and Generals alike give 'AP' towards 'learning' the seal, and once you've learned/unlocked it, you can equip it to whatever weapon you want)  So keep in mind, at the same time as I'm grinding skill points and, inevitably bond, I'm also trying to get these last few seals that I've yet to unlock.  (For my own sanity, I have five different weapons languishing at the Blacksmith's which give them a little more towards unlocking said seal with every battle, cutting the amount of eventual work I'll have to do down dramatically.)

...Anyways, the point in all this was to discuss the different 'philosophies' that seem to be in place where it concerns trophies/achievements for games from the west and games from the east, not whinge exclusively about my current situation.  What I was trying to establish is that everything I've said for Dynasty Warriors 7, all this effort and the like, is largely the same across other Japanese games.  Take Star Ocean:  The Last Hope (International) for example; we all know I have something of a fondness for the Star Ocean games, but there is a goddamn line, alright?  Looking through the trophy list, I see "Dutiful Deliverer (Silver) Complete 100% of all quests.", "Arms Addict (Bronze) Collect 100% of all weapon data.", "Monster Master (Silver) Collect 100% of all monster data.", "World's Biggest Welch Fan (Silver) Create 100% of all possible items.", etc. etc.  Like I said, Japanese games seem to want you to do everything possible in a game which, on one hand is kind of understandable.  If I made a game, I'd want the players to experience everything about it, but on the other hand, I wouldn't 'force' them to do it.

That's not to say that Western design philosophy is any better, of course, because Western design offers a lot of 'fluff' as well, just in a different way.  Where Eastern games want you to experience/collect everything, Western games want you to get ass-deep into their multiplayer that's oftentimes tacked on integrated into what, in a different age, would be a wholly Single-Player experience.  The flaw here being that some people just straight-up don't like Multiplayer by-and-large, and thus don't really want anything to do with it.  And the other issue at play here is that, Multiplayer Trophies/Achievements are essentially on a timer, as developers don't leave their servers up forever and once a server's gone, your ability to get that Trophy/Achievement goes with it.  Didn't get 10,000 kills in Ranked Competetive Matches in Resistance 2 before they take the servers down?  Too bad.  If anything, I'd argue that this is actually worse than these "Unlock every.  single.  thing." trophies since, well, at the end of the day, the possibility to get the latter exists roughly indefinitely.  EA's already rendered swaths of games 'uncompletable' by taking their servers down for them (Old Madden versions, NBA, etc.) and while Developers on the whole seem to be a to the quandary, they're not going to keep their games up forever.

I guess it's hard to say what the happy medium is, really, since in the end, you have to have at least a good portion of Trophies/Achievements mean something beyond "you beat the game, have a gold star", or else those of us that care about them will, well, stop caring.  Trophies/Achievements should be the prize at the end of a long road, not the carrot on a stick attached to your head just out of reach.  All the examples I've mentioned her, in one way or another, more closely resemble the latter, whereas the other 'widespread' trophy, I.E. the Chapter/Game Complete trophy seems not even the former.  I'm unfortunately not in a position to suggest what the perfect in between would be, as I can't remember any trophies I thought were 'just right', but I'm sure there's some out there.  Hopefully, developers will continue to work on it and really figure it out.  Until then, we all have a bit of grinding to do yet in some form or another.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Doublecast of Final Fantasy News

So, as is the usual with me, when I see some piece of news the interests me, I gauge whether or not I can wring out about four or five paragraphs of talking on it before I decide whether or not to write about it or keep it in mind if I'm going to do a news dump post, or a post with just a couple pieces of news.  The latter case happens usually when my initial reaction is 'no, I can't write about this alone', which is exactly what happened today.  So, of course that piece will be the -second- thing I write about here, as I went on a search for other Final Fantasy Related news and found something I can also talk about.

It was just said yesterday that there are even -more- plans for Final Fantasy XIV, including cellphone, Vita support and a possible 360 version which line up perfectly with the plan I would've done to make Final Fantasy XIV successful.  Okay, I lied.   I lied a lot, just there, since my plans have, well, nothing to do with mimicking WoW even further than it's suggested they might.  Specifically, the Cellphone/Vita support would come in the form of being able to access your inventory, arrange purchases and manage auction house sales while not sitting in front of your PC or playing FFXIV on your PS3, which, as you might have guessed from how I prefaced it is something WoW has near-verbatim.  (At least if a friend of mine who just got out of WoW is to be believed since he had said app)  Not, you know, actually playing the game on your Vita, as it's been suggested might happen with FFXI, but being able to micro-manage equipment.  That's....that's great.

The article also outlines, as I said, the possibility of a 360 version, insomuch as it seems like Squeenix really really wants to make a 360 version -now-, but they want to 'focus' on the PS3 version first.  Now, I'm not the expert here, but I can't see this ending with a PS3-exclusive launch (for consoles) any more unless Microsoft flat-out refuses to let them make the game for the 360.  Which, I don't see them doing unless Squeenix's 'promise' to focus on PS3 first means that the 360 version would come out later, in which case, well...there's something of a history there, unless the mentioned Policy only relates to Live Arcade stuff and not on-disk releases.  However, I cannot think of one game that's launched first on the PS3, only to later show up on the 360, so it very well might be that much of a blanket.

I'm...not exactly sure which way this one's going to turn out, in all honesty.  As Squeenix, you want FFXIV on as many things possible to cast the widest money net as you can make, and after FFXIII's strong sales on both the PS3 and the 360, it's reasonable to think that the game will be bought on both.  However, I'm sure we all remember the 'outcry' and the 'betrayal' of everyone after FFXIII was announced as being Multi-platform for launch and doing the same thing again with FFXIV (as I suspect they might 'have' to do) this far after all these 'promises' and the just sounds like a recipe for further disaster which is the exact thing the game does not need at this point.  Then again, this is Squeenix, and a possibility to do something incredibly dumb and damaging, so I think the writing's on the wall already.

But onto the good news and the important news, which is the Final Fantasy Type-0 news.  A few new details were just announced today, and include Chocobo breeding, Split-Party dungeons and Multiplayer, which, well as the comments to the article say, just make a great game sound greater already.  I'm sure we all have -some- fond memories of Breeding Chocobos in Final Fantasy VII before it inevitably became a chore, so to be able to relive that, hopefully in a better, more refined way likely breeds (heh) more excitement.  It does in me, at least, as there will be, apparently, several different breeds of Chocobos you can get, so it kind of sounds like the old experience on the surface at least.

Also mentioned in the part about the Chocobo system is a reminder that, hey, the game has a World Map or an Overworld, depending on what you used to call them in the days of yore.  As if there weren't enough reasons to mark out for the game, yeah?  I would imagine the different breeds would, like Final Fantasy VII's chocobos, be able to navigate different terrains differently, though I hope it wouldn't be as black and white as it was then; where Yellow Chocobos could hardly go anywhere, black ones could traverse more, etc. etc.  Maybe even if it were as simple as altering the speed at which you could travel on certain breeds through certain terrain, rather than just outright going invisible wall on you.  Still, I'm sure I won't mind when I'm running about on the World Map because I'll simply be enjoying the fact that there is a World Map too much to care.

The Dungeons mentioned seem like a neat addition as well; if just for the gimmick that goes along with them.  You may or may not know that Final Fantasy Type-0 has the whole Three-Character Party system going on, which allows you to quickly switch off to a teammate if you should feel the need to.  Well, the dungeons take advantage of that mechanic by, well, invalidating it for the entirety of them, meaning that you'll have to split up your party to explore it.  I don't know if this means you'll go through it all one at a time, so you sort of go through it three times, or if it'll be more like you pick which character you want to control and you can support your two teammates somewhat, depending on how the dungeon is set up, until you all three reach the end.  Or maybe you just pick one person to run through it and the other two sort of magically appear at the end.  I don't know, but still, it sounds cool.

Multiplayer is worth mentioning, of course, even if my excitement for that kind of waxes and wanes.  Basically, when you beat a mission in the main story, you'll be able to take it into MP and do it again with friends.  (I would imagine this is on top of -other- MP missions, of course)  On the one hand, this game is looking like a game that's set up for some Phantasy Star Portable 2-esque multiplayer which is good, but on the other hand, the single-player draw is so very there and so very gripping, that I'm not sure if I'll -want- to invest in the MP beyond playing with a friend or two every now and again.  I'm sure when it comes out, though, I'll end up splurging and playing MP all the time anyway, since it'll be -fun- and I'll likely be doing it on the Vita (for one reason or another) so I'll be able to take advantage of Party for even more fun.  Now to wait some more for the details about the inevitable Western Release to figure out just what form it'll come over in.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I Am Obsessed with Making Characters Pt. 2

So, I was talking with Saki-Chan, as I do a lot you'll notice, last night and I brought up my ever-shifting plans for starting up Demon's Souls.  Instead of saying 'this week' or 'soon', I'm just going to say 'eventually' now, since a lot just....gets in the way.  Like me seeing a chance to get Dynasty Warriors 7's Platinum trophy and taking the opportunity even though it, much like other Japanese Games with Trophies, isn't so much difficult to get, so much as it's time-consuming to say the least.  I'm really really close, though, and the trophies I have left (5, though one is the Platinum) will sort of fall in line with another.  As in, when I get one, I should get another, and the same with the other pair, or it should be a little closely related, at least.  They should be a sweep rather than individual mountains themselves, is what I'm getting at.

Anyways, one of the big things that gets in my way when I'm going to start a game where you customize your character is that I never know what I want my character to be, going in.  Unless it's territory I've already navigated, ala Final Fantasy Tactics, because then I generally have the gist.  But when I start a game, I don't know what's going to be good, what's not, and while that's supposed to be half the fun, and you're not really supposed to let power-gaming get in the way, I....well, sometimes, I do.  And it's not even that aspect of the character all the time; sometimes it's more that I just don't know -what- to make the character, appearance-wise.  That was my big tripping point with White Knight Chronicles, as I went into the game -knowing- I had to make an Avatar, but never really thinking about it and then when I was in the Creator, I spent about an hour or more dicking around with it to see what I liked, didn't like, etc. and eventually ended up with an elf-looking guy with green hair.

I'm not disappointed with my character or anything, of course, and I always intended on remaking him when I got back into the game (eventually), but that was always going to be -something-.  A lot of people know or have 'identities' in mind when they go ahead and make something, but I rarely ever do.  Until now, since I actually made up a plan for the next few games I'll play that involve customizing a character.  Unfortunately, that only really pertains to Demon's Souls and Final Fantasy Tactics for now (remember when I said I might have 'extra' characters?  Spoiler alert:  I'm going to.)  This is all kind of ironic with the knowledge that I've professed to enjoying creating characters out of nothing before, and I still enjoy it, but I'm finding that it becomes more and more difficult to do the more I do it, since I end up not.....caring, I guess would be the word.  Not that you're supposed to 'care' about a digital avatar in any way that matters to anything, but I'm sure we all do sometimes.

So I ended up talking it over some more with Saki-Chan and I brought it up to her that I made a character 'family' a while back, mostly for funsies, in the context of a Final Fantasy Tactics time/setting, and that I thought it would be a neat idea to draw from that and expand that family to work out my character issues.  This way, I'll always have a design in mind and will always be able to make a character that A) I 'get' and don't have to feel out a personality for and B) have my own little 'developments' for the characters so that if I ever get to really writing again, I might be able to draw from those scenarios, since, well, I'll be able to really have something done out, rather than making a whole structure on my own, which might, admittedly, leave a little bit lacking.

Where I'm going with all this is that it means, when I finally do start Demon's Souls in that timeline of "eventually", I'll be able to make -my- character and get right into id without worrying about it and playing around for an hour to eventually make something that I have no idea about.  I won't be making a 'elf-looking guy with green hair' that I then have to figure on in my head for my own personal reasons (of enjoying making 'characters' in the sense that they are characters with histories and personalities); I'll be making Mikhail Metzinger, eldest son of the Metzinger clan.  He's going to be a Mage, possibly dabbling with stabbing dudes, and he's going to be awesome.

Likewise, the 'extra' character I'm already planning for in my FFT game is the character I initially planned the Family out for, which is its youngest member; Minerva Metzinger.  When I made her, it was mostly a play off the character of Marion Siegbahn from Valkyria Chronicles 2 since, let's face it, she's one of the best characters in the entire game.  I like to think she's evolved a bit beyond that and I don't really want to get into the big scope of it, since it's something I'm working on, but I'm pretty happy with the character, and with the amount of 'work' I put into making her family 'make sense'.  Don't be surprised if I don't talk about her in the next FFT update, however, since my main focus lies with the main team still and the 'extra' people probably won't show up until I have everyone more or less on their Master Path, to keep levels and progress as close as possible.

I still have a stable of about four other characters I can use at any point in the future when presented with customization, so I can't wait to actually get more chances.  I'm sure I'll end up detailing them here, even if it does nothing more than make myself happy with the amount of work I'm able to put into making fake things that, in the end, don't really matter or make up a lot.  Unless I end up writing about them and having a proper story made or something like that.  Then that would be something to, er, be 'happy' with, I'm sure.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ezio is All Set for Stabbing Soul Calibur

So, it was announced today that Ezio Auditore de Firenze is officially appearing in Soul Calibur V as a guest character after pretty much the entirety of the internet knew already from rumors and leaks.  Not to mention the Penny Arcade comic that put the idea into people's heads that likely don't even keep up with game news.  While I would've liked the header image here to be of Ezio actually in Soul Calibur V, IGN's gone way out of their ways to appear incompetent today and have confused me greatly as to their whole image situation here.  I guess I can off off on a little mini-whinge here for a moment since it's still topical.

This is the IGN article that announces as much as the Joystiq article above (admittedly with more text and less video), which, hey, it looks fine, right?  Pictures, somewhat, then on the sidebar you have where it says "Latest Images" and you see two thumbnails of pictures with Ezio in it.  Of course, right?  News broke, they wanted to update the database of images and the latest images section reflects that.  (By the way, I understand that a month, hell maybe even a week from now, this entire whinge will be irrelevant, but as of this writing, this is how it's set up)  So I click the latest images section on the lowermost because I like that picture the most of the ones I saw.  It takes me to the images section....where the latest image was uploaded August 17th.  Which presents the thought that if those thumbnails are not actually being hosted from the Images section, where the hell are they being hosted?  It's....honestly and absolutely ruined my thought process.

Anyway, onto the actual issue itself being discussed rather than my annoyance with IGN.  I brought it up with Saki-Chan that I was a little surprised that it was just one Guest character this time, rather than a couple or the, er...."Console exclusive" situation from Soul Calibur IV again and we talked about it a bit before reconfirming that The Apprentice (I'm not calling him Starkiller because 'The Apprentice' sounds lowlier and that's what he deserves) sucks as a character.  Not....quite sure how we got to that point after bringing up Ezio, but here I go again getting distracted.  I guess the point here is that I care....but in a sense, I -don't- care.

When it comes to fighting games, Soul Calibur as a series has always been one of my favorites simply because I have fond memories of playing the first three alone and with friends before I decided that, as a whole, fighting games just aren't for me.  That fact surprises even me sometimes, but whenever I think about chaining combos together and having strategies and preferred characters and this and that, I just....I can't be brought to care, really, since at that point is where the fun kinda drains out for me.  Regardless, I still like the series and I want to see it succeed, I just.....I'm not putting too much stock into my ability to support the game personally by getting it and getting into (shudder) online matches.  Which, nowadays is half of a fighting game's purpose it seems.

Ezio's inclusion to the franchise, in all honesty, is pretty much one of the few that really make sense (I would suggest Kratos in the PSP Soul Calibur is the Guest Character that makes the most sense) if only because he matches the 'period' they're really trying to create as setting.  While it's hard to argue such a thing as a timeline exists when it comes to Soul Calibur, they do make a real effort for it (especially in V, as several of the characters are going to be either older or replaced by their offspring...or perhaps fighting alongside/against their offspring, hard to tell) and the setting is always kind of the same era as the Ezio series of Assassin's Creed games.  Why Ezio would be going after the Soul Edge....well, that's something I have a harder time trying to try and justify unless he's looking for another sword for the armory at the Auditore Manor.  (Just saying, since his appearance, from what I saw, looked to be his Early-Mid AC2 design)

While I wouldn't put it past Team Soul to have another Guest or two in the wings, I would imagine they'd have announced it by now if that were the case, so it's hard to say if we'll have someone a little more out of place when the game comes out.  Still, as I said, Ezio is a pretty smart addition even though I don't exactly care for him as a character for my own reasons that have entirely to do with the entirety of Assassin's Creed 2's story line, and I can't help but hope that Soul Calibur V is well-received so we can start to wonder on just who the guest character of Soul Calibur VI is going to be.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Touch My Katamari is a Thing, Hilarious

So, today Namco Bandai announced three of their Vita titles that will launch alongside the Vita when it comes out on February 22nd, 2012.  Those three titles are, Ridge Racer(rrrrrrr), Shinobido 2:  Revenge of Zen ( certainly a sub-title), and the above-mentioned Touch My Katamari.  So named because it's going to fully implement usage of the touch panels on the Vita for you to be able to stretch your Katamari to go places that would be inaccessible otherwise, such as between cracks and...possibly under cracks?  I don't know.  I haven't really thought about it a lot; just that it's named that and that it has any bearing whatsoever on the gameplay itself seems valid enough to point out.  The article says that it's also so your Katamari can gather more things at once, which makes sense, as if your Katamari is stretched wide, he'll be able to reach more things.  I would assume (hope, even) that the downside to this would be a slower gait.

While I've never actually played a Katamari game, it's not for a lack of desire or interest, just that I've always felt I've had 'other' things to play than a game where you roll a ball around and pick up things with it to make it bigger.  While I'm not going to suggest it's not a great game, because I don't know, the premise has always seemed just a little too simple for me to give more than a passing thought to.  ....Which sounds wholly negative of me to say and not what I was going for at all.  It's sort of like Nobi Nobi Boy (for good reason) in that, the game, the premise of it is quite simple and it's a blast to play, but when you're not playing it, you can only wonder why you would play it, if that makes sense.

The simple answer would be, basically, "Because it's fun", of course.  But a lot of things are fun; shooting dudes in Uncharted 2 is fun, Punching guys in Yakuza 4 is fun, creating Murder Engines in Final Fantasy Tactics is fun.  They're all -fun-, it's just that the latter examples offer something a little more engaging, whereas the former would be something you play when you just don't feel like playing anything else.  That's when I loaded up Nobi Nobi Boy anyways; I didn't feel like playing anything else, but I wanted to play something, so I had Nobi Nobi Boy, stretched around a bit, wrecked some days and just generally chilled out.  I guess they're chill games you turn to when The Sims, Harvest Moon and the like prove to be a little too 'hectic', even.

Anyway, the point to all this was me leading into surmising that I might check out Touch My Katamari when it comes out or shortly thereafter.  I would hope, along with the policy that every game must have a digital version, every game would then be at least "Suggested" to put out a demo as well, when the Vita comes out, because if there is, I'd definitely check it out.  As I said, I've always kind of wanted to check out the series, but just never have, so hopefully the portability of this one will also add in a little more accessibility, as this type of game (one to have around for times when you don't want to play anything else) seems just a fit for a handheld.  Especially this one, since I'll likely never go anywhere without mine.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Problem with Procrastination

I don't just mean regarding me posting this post fairly late in the day, either.  While true that apparently all news has temporarily died out with the release of Arkham City (Well, anything of real interest, at least), meaning that my pool of topics I can post about is drastically reduced, I theoretically should have something to post about now.  Namely, my experience with Demon's Souls.  ....Unfortunately, as the above image of Ding Feng from Dynasty Warriors 7 might indicate, I've yet to start Demon's Souls in lieu of taking up the mantle of Ancient Chinese warriors Murder Engines, simply because damnit, I will get all the trophies in DW7 on day.

The issue here is that Dynasty Warriors 7's trophy list includes such trophies as "Reach 1,000,000 Fame in Conquest mode" and "Recruit every officer as a Sworn Ally" and other such things that take a lot of time.  Remember, this is a Japanese game, and Japanese games mean that if you want this arbitrary reward, you have to work to the bone for it, which, not -dis-agreeable, I'll say.  I don't like just being handed a Gold Trophy for beating the second to last story chapter in a game, but I also don't appreciate doing something for 15+ hours for -one- Bronze trophy, either.  (Not saying either of the mentioned trophies are Bronze, as I don't know off-hand, just saying.)  I'm only at 700,000 Fame, and my method of gaining it is....a bit lacking, I suspect, so it's not going to be a short task.

Still, it's not a task that's hard or anything, merely time-consuming and when you're playing a game you enjoy, it's honestly not a waste.  And enjoying DW7 is exactly what I'm doing, thanks to Ding Feng's nearly-all-grapple moveset (that also includes a lot of punching~) and his amazing second musou attack.  Still, I think there's a difficulty here in me drawing a line where A) I acknowledge that gaining 300,000 fame in Conquest is something I'll have to do -later- and B) I put off starting Demon's Souls because I think something in me doesn't want to be absolutely crushed by the game.  I need to play more of my games, honestly, so that I can make room in my progress for other games, but I also don't want to power through them and lose out on any and all enjoyment I could get.

What I've been dancing around here about is that it's a really delicate balance, unfortunately.  Not only do I want to play more of the games I -own-, but I want to play more games that came out this year so that I have at least 10 games of this year to speak on come January 2012.  I still need to pick up a copy of Dead Space 2 and ball-up to play it, but I'm really wondering/worried about whether or not I'll still be able to get Dead Space:  Extraction if I buy a Limited Edition copy somewhere for ~$30.  (I still only see Limited Edition copies)  While it's not a deal-breaker, I have Move, Extraction is something I'm interested in, and I'd like to be able to get it as it claims I'm able to for buying a Limited Edition copy of the game.  Depending on how my monetary situation goes, I might be able to swing a couple of other games that are on the cheap now, but the problem is finding the time to play them all.

Oh well.  I'll get to it eventually.  Here's hoping for cold weather to keep my PS3 cool for long enough periods of time that I may enjoy gaming like it was supposed to be enjoyed.  Now that I know when the Vita comes out, I feel like there's a calm before I start gaming up a storm because that's exactly what I'm going to do.  My Vita is going to feel violated by the end of the week because of how much I'm going to put it through; not only with the actual Vita games, but PSP/PSOne games, checking out the internet browser (mainly seeing if Youtube works on it; it's been long enough and if it's the PS3 browser it honestly should) and other such things.  If I didn't enjoy Christmas so much, I'd be really impatient right now.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bonus Post - Playstation Vita Official NA Release Date!

In a post I'm sure most of us aren't actually able to miss thanks to it posting the night of the PS Store Update, which is, quite possibly because of this news, really really late, the Playstation Blog has officially announced that the Playstation Vita releases in NA on February 22nd.  It's quite a bit later than I'd hoped it would come out (Really was hoping mid to late January), but being that close to March only makes it better for me, personally, since it's that much closer to my birthday.  And let's face it, things close to your birthday are always better, s'long as you don't dislike your birthday or anything.

No real details beyond what we already know were spoken of in the post announcing it, but eh, we have the release date now on top of all the other information we already know.  Now I have to -really- get into a Gamestop and slap down $50 for a pre-order on one.

Capcom Doing Non-Terrible Things? Buh?

So you might've seen it when Chance let us know about it, but if you haven't, then Capcom finally announced the Devil May Cry Collection.  Now, I openly admit I had my worries about how this exercise was going to play out, figuring that they would, unfortunately simply release all three titles with minimal retouching separately for $15-20 each on the PSN and XBLA services.  I believe I'm fairly well justified in fearing as such, given how Resident Evil 4 HD and Resident Evil Code: Veronica HD turned out, and since Capcom's been on something of a 'downward trend' lately, I believe it was perfectly imaginable.  Luckily, my fears have been put down, as the Collection will actually be on-disk, containing Devil May Cry 1-3 for $40, and be available for both PS3 and 360 which is surprising or unsurprising, depending on your perspective.

While it's the optimal outcome for me personally (and probably a lot of other people as well), I'm sure there already people cringing and grumbling at the thought of even trudging through Devil May Cry 2 once more, but I'm not too fussed.  I survived it once already, I can do it again.  I just hope I find the guide I bought all those years ago for it before I do, because I'll be damned if I put anymore effort into it than is necessary.  Though, to be fair, it's the same way for me with DMC3, since I didn't particularly care for that game, personally.  Though I think it's more about how I couldn't wrap myself around the controls right away, which really punishes you in those first couple areas if you can't absolutely beast it.

That's not all the good news from Capcom either!  Just announced today was the fact that Mega Man Powered up and Mega Man X Maverick Hunter are going to be released as a dual pack along with the PSP Monster Hunters (Specifically Monster Hunter Freedom 2 and Monster Hunter Freedom Unite) for anyone who couldn't find the former games which became incredibly rare -somehow-, or anyone who still hasn't dipped into the latter.  (Unfortunately, it's been pointed out that one of the games in the dual pack is the other game and -then some-, but still, you can have it for collector's value)  The downside to these would be that they're going to be UMD-Exclusive and, on top of that, GameStop-Exclusive, so they're really only catering to the people who couldn't find them.  (I imagine the Mega Man Pack has a lot to do with the issues surrounding why Mega Man Powered Up isn't on the PSN yet)

While I haven't played Powered Up, I have played Maverick Hunter, and I quite like it.  It's a really competent remake of the original Mega Man X, and even had a lot of extras (including an entire mode where you could play as Vile, who was X's Rival for, er, that one game) and had a really nice style overlayed on it.  Helps that the original X was probably my favorite since it didn't get to over-complicate things, but at the same time, it was a bit -too- simple.  Or maybe it's just because I could mostly remember which bosses were weak against what weapons and didn't have to refer to something else.  Still, it's classic Mega Man X gameplay and it's a shame that Capcom only saw fit to give the remake treatment to the original, when there's at least two more good X games to pick from.  Ah well.

Still, that's a lot of news that came out about Capcom without any real boneheaded moves and I'm really surprised that I don't have a lot of negative to s-Oh.

So, er, remember when Monster Hunter 3G was announced for the 3DS and it was announced alongside that silly slidepad accessory so you could actually play the game on a 3DS instead of anything else?  Remember how the 3DS is supposed to be really trying to support online play and stuff?  Remember how the last few Monster Hunter games have really really flourished on Online Play?  Capcom apparently doesn't.  Monster Hunter 3G for the 3DS is not going to have Online Play and, since it's not on the PSP, there's also really no workaround like Ad-Hoc Party for it either.  So if you're one of those folks who enjoys the MH games for the ability to go online and hunt with your friends, well, here's one less reason to really care.

Still, two out of three ain't bad for Capcom.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Review - Yakuza 4

(This isn't quite the opening theme, but I don't want to use the intro video, and there's like 5 versions of "For Faith".)

This has been a long-time coming, I'm sure you all realize, and while I'd like to say I'm going to be able to be completely objective about this (and, actually, I think I am), I might not be as I am, clearly, a giant Yakuza fanboy.  Take this review with the normal grain of salt you'd take from any other, but realize that I like these games because I think they're good games and not the other way around, here.  Anyways, enough with that disclaimer, and more with the reviewing.

Yakuza 4 is the first game in the series to have a really noticeable departure from the last three games, in that you do not spend the entirety of the game playing as the series lead character, Kazuma Kiryu.  Granted, if you count Yakuza Kenzan in this then it's the second, since Kenzan took place as one of Kazuma's ancestors who just happens to look exactly like him, but Kenzan doesn't count right now.  Anyways, the big thing that's been played up for Yakuza 4 is that instead of one character, you'll be able to step into the shoes of four over the course of the game, which is pretty convenient for the naming, right?  No seriously, something that I want to make clear here is just how obsessed the game is with "Four".  Fourth game in the series, four characters, main title song (for the localization at least) is "For Faith", whereas there's three other tracks for the game titled "Four Faith", "For Face" and "Four Face".  It's very much pushing the line from endearing to confusing, but doesn't quite cross it.

The 'mechanic' of having four different characters is a really great idea, honestly, and adds a lot of freshness to the series, while helping Yakuza Studios really focus on what they want to happen.  Rather than make Kazuma become increasingly more and more ridiculously agile and/or powerful, we now have -other characters- to do that for us, which means Kazuma can take the last three games-worth of moves and focus more on what they want his style to be, rather than giving him every move.  However, where this kind of gets a little grumbly for me is when you notice that a lot of the characters have moves Kazuma -also- has (actually at some point, the three characters who are not Kazuma get to do a sidequest where they get two more of his moves) which kind of dilutes their originality just a touch.  Or it could be argued that they're unique enough that giving them Kazuma moves just makes them better.  Regardless, I don't expressly dislike it, but I'm not sure if I really like it, either.

Still, as I alluded to, every character has their own style and their own strengths which is so very refreshing and welcome.  Akiyama (your first character) is known as a "Speed Star" (rough translation, I imagine they more mean Speedster) in that his attacks hit fast and he's really focused on being agile.  Saejima is your go-to power guy, whose fighting style relies on you really charging the power attacks to make hard-hitting combos to bounce your foes around.  He is also the only character in the game who can grab and throw any regular enemy in the game (as in, including the large enemies, read: fat, and the 'sturdy' enemies, read: broad) which is something you really need to utilize for him since he's a striker, not a sweeper.  Meaning that he really hits only one enemy at a time, for the most part, but he hits them -hard-.  Another relatively annoying trait about him is that a lot of his moves rely on fighting with a flashing red health bar, which means he's fairly borderline on being knocked out.

And then we get to Tanimura.  There is a lot, and I mean a lot that I can say about Tanimura, but a lot of it requires going really into the story and picking things apart in a really spoilery manner.  I may still do that at some point, but for now, I'll stick to the strictly gameplay aspects of him.  Now, I don't know if it's just because his fighting style meshes well with me, or if I'm just really good (I'm betting on the former, personally), but I was kind of hesitant to get to the point where I would play as Tanimura since a lot of the fans of the series complain about him in FAQs, message boards, etc.  They say his style is too slow and such, which I can acknowledge that his attacks swing slower than the rest of the characters, but I never had a problem with him.  In all honesty, I think Tanimura is actually a little overpowered, because at no point while playing as him (except for the end, for very specific reasons) did I even come close to losing.

Where Akiyama and Saejima are about Speed and Power respectively, Tanimura is more about "Flow" in both an offensive and defensive manner.  Not only can he block, but his opening window for a block actually allows for something of a reversal where he grabs his foes fist and steps around it, sending them to stumble a few steps forward.  I didn't make too much use of this, but it certainly speaks for his style at least and when it happens it always helps.  His real strength, however, is the offensive flow I mentioned; through the upgrade system, you can eventually purchase a skill that lets you add on a Heat action at the end of a combo finisher (Square x2-5, with a Triangle attack to end it) which absolutely destroys everything.  He has a ridiculously big Heat capacity and fill rate as well (when fully upgraded, but even just going through level ups and the base stuff) which means you stand to be able to use these attacks a lot.  If you use those attacks a lot (you will), they even unlock follow up attacks, which means you'll unleash a combo, use a Heat action, and then use the second Heat action.  Most enemies won't even -last- that long, so you end up going into pure overkill.

After Tanimura's section, you finally get to step into the shoes of the man himself, Kazuma Kiryu, whose style is the one I find the most difficult to define with just one word.  It's a clear symptom of the fact that his style keeps getting changed and moves tacked on haphazardly until they realized that Kazuma is not a Kung-Fu master, but his random assortment of crazy moves isn't a detriment in the least; it just makes it hard to categorize.  If I had to use a word, however, I'd charitably go with "Versatility" since Kazuma seems to have a Heat move for every situation you could hope for.  Guy on the ground?  Heat move.  Guy standing up?  Heat move.  Picking up a guy off the ground to stand him on his feet facing away from you?  Heat move.  Decide to have a mid-battle smoke?  Heat move.  Etc. etc.  Akiyama has a similar devotion to situational heat moves, but they see far less, well, 'versatility' than Kazuma does, as they need you to be fighting around rails, poles, or the like.

Beyond the actual fighting mechanics is, obviously, the rest of the game which is still quite rich and varied beyond running around and fighting and doing story bits.  For those moments when you don't want to punch guys (because you're crazy, I guess) or you don't want to advance the story yet, there's all sorts of Mini-games that you can take part in to get that 'authentic Japanese experience' with, I'm sure.  Arcades provide a few games for you to play in the form of a couple arcade games and a crane game, rhythm game based Karaoke singing (pictured above, clearly) lets you have a few laughs at seeing someone capable of stomping on a man's face, sometimes twice in a row, sing a touching melody to a hostess you decide to bring along or to no one in particular, alongside several other type of games.  It's honestly a bit too much effort to list out everything you can do, since there's baseball, bowling, golf, table tennis and fishing on top of everything else mentioned as well as several other things.

Having so many side games to be able to do is kind of a double-edged sword, depending on how OCD you can be when it comes to 100% completion of a game.  Sega is a little more merciful to this than some other japanese companies, only requiring you to play a good portion of the games and achieve a specific goal (get a turkey in bowling, hit two panels with one ball in baseball, etc.) if you're looking to get all the trophies, but actual in-game completion is a little more stringent.  One such example, as I pointed out to a friend just last night, is the Pachinko side game, which is so foreign to me that I don't even know what.  It's kind of like pinball in that you have a board somewhat like a pinball table, but rather than skillfully trying to bounce a ball around to get a good score, you're more trying to direct a flood of balls in a specific direction to give you a chance at winning a jackpot of...more playing balls.

The trophy attached to Pachinko is earning 3,000 balls (and quitting the game before you feed them all back into the machine to try and get -more-) and taking them to the prize counter to exchange for a Pachinko trophy.  Yes, you get a trophy for buying a trophy and it's so goddamn meta it hurts.  So if you're only concerned about trophies, there you go; you are now officially done with Pachinko.  However, if your aim is to have full mini-game completion, you'll look into the category for it and realize that it says 3000 (or whatever amount you ended up with)/5000 Balls because to qualify for completion on that level, you have to win 5,000 balls, rather than just 3000.  So if you cared, at this point you're likely cursing Sega's name because goddamnit you have to play Pachinko again.  And play it well, even.  And there's several, several instances of this, clearly.

Of course, there's also Mini-Games with a little more meat to them if playing Golf or Table Tennis just doesn't offer you enough stimulation.  There's the Hostess Maker game I've talked about before at length as well as the more manly equivalent of Fighter Maker where instead of making sure your girl knows the right way about tricking a man out of his money, you put a fledgling combatant through his paces with the eventual goal of winning a tournament in the underground fighting ring.  (Which is literally underground, and not just a turn of phrase.)  While they can be compared to one another easily, given their nature as "Maker" games they're actually different enough to make them both worthwhile, though Fighter Maker requires a lot more planning out, surprisingly enough, since some of the fighters you get simply benefit way more from some training regiments than others.  There's also the satisfaction of being able to select "Sparring" to raise your students abilities by absolutely wrecking him if you need to vent about his latest loss or skipped training.

While I could go on and on, I'm sure you get the point in that there's a -lot- of extra stuff to do beyond fighting mans (this isn't even counting the 60+ actual side-missions), so let's move on to the actual meat of the game:  the story.  Now, I'm sure with the knowledge that the game unfolds throughout the perspective of four different characters, you have to wonder how the story manages that.  It's not one of those games that gives you multiple characters and bases their stories around conveniently happening at the same time, but rather tells the overarching story of the game through those four characters in sequence.  It's still a little coincidental for my tastes as it basically means Akiyama has three or so eventful days, then nothing really, Saejima has a couple eventful days, etc. etc.  It all makes sense within the context of the story happening, really, but the flow doesn't quite work for me.

Really, the story isn't handled in the best way, which is unfortunate, but not to the point where I'm willing to use adjectives as "weak" or "unfocused", yet I'm sure others will do so in my stead.  The issue with telling one story through the perspective of four different characters is that you want to also tell the stories of the four characters themselves, which Yakuza 4 does perfectly; too perfectly, even.  I got so invested in the stories of the characters themselves that I couldn't really get into the overarching story that sort of grew from the piecemeal parts you gather over the course of the game.  It all just doesn't mesh as well as it could, but it's not, again, a detriment, it's just telling that the personal stories were far more interesting than where they ended up.

Would you believe that my other complaint about the story is that, despite me putting 70 hours into it to beat it twice with a modest completion, it's a bit too short for my liking?  The bulk of those hours were spent chasing non-story content, of course, or watching the plentiful cutscenes that the game has to offer to deliver the majority of the story.  My second play-through, which was an Extra Hard run for the trophy associated with that, I skipped all the story and ran through the text as fast as possible and ended up beating the game rather quickly (after pressing through the entirety of Hostess Maker to actually -beat it- this time), far too quickly for my liking, really.  Some of the chapters, if you don't rely on the story for the most of its 'content' are really, really short, which I think speaks more for the outcome of the overarching story than anything.  Still, I guess a lot of games are really short if you take out all the cutscenes and story added in.

The Good
  • The fighting system is visceral and varied; every character brings something unique to the table and you'll find yourself longing for them when they're gone before you're beasting with your new character
  • While the overarching story is hard to connect with, the personal stories of each of the four characters isn't, and are very very interesting in their own ways
  • Because of the personal stories, there's a lot of character and personality in the game that is entertaining and easy to connect with
  • There's no such thing as a "bad" character, as far as the ones available; you may find one difficult to play, but only as you're learning
  • The music really grows on you and you eventually leads to increasing the impact of some of the scenes and battles
  • There's so much to do in the game, and will give you a lot to handle if you're a completionist
  • Seriously, the fighting is pretty much the best anyone could hope for in a brawler or, really, any combat-oriented game
The Bad
  • As I said, the overarching story isn't the best in the series and isn't the best point of the game itself
  • If you stay away from everything but story content, the game will be a bit short
  • It is very 'Japanese' so if you're not a fan of that, you'll likely find the game off-putting
  • The Mini-Games, numerous in number as they are, also have very stringent completion goals, which will eat at you if you are a -real- completionist
  • While I didn't mention it in the review, for story-spoiler reasons, the game really doesn't like Saejima which makes his sections the hardest
Mogs Says
Staying to what I said earlier, I like Yakuza 4 because I think it's a really good game, and not the other way around.  The story is presented in a very slick, stylized way that is highly enjoyable, as is the combat of the game itself, which will always leave you wanting to find that next fight because it's that good.  It could very well be called an RPG masquerading as a Action/Brawler game with the amount of extra content it holds, which, in my opinion is a bit too rare these days, so if you're looking for a great game to hold your interest for a while, this is definitely something to consider.  It's definitely one of my favorite games of the year, so look for it towards the top, if not -on- the top of my list come January.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Music! What I've Been Listening to Lately Edition

So, while I'm not going to say I've spent all my writing ability for the week on the last three posts I've made here (though I am really happy with them), I'm also drawing a blank as to what to write about tonight.  There's simply no news of any real import that I can find.  And I really don't have the resources ready for my next big post, which I hope to make tomorrow or the day after, -and- I just don't really have anything interesting to write about, in my opinion.  As I've said in the past, I don't like to say my Music posts are my last resort because they're not, but a Music post is all I can think about.  Thankfully, I have some good music to share!

First up is something I've heard thanks to Dark Souls and my good, dear friend Saki-Chan, who linked me to the Dark Souls trailer that absolutely blew my mind.  I'm sure those of you in the know know exactly where I'm going, but bear with me.  I generally don't watch a lot of trailers unless it's for a game that I am super excited about, partly because I'm worried a good trailer will convince me to add a game to my purchasing list that I simply don't have room for, but if I'm linked to one, I'm pretty much bound to watch it.  Anyways, I liked the song in the mentioned trailer so much, I looked it up to find that it is, unsurprisingly named "Bartholomew" by The Silent Comedy.

It's quite good, and I really like the folk-ish sound to it, but I think I prefer the mix used for the trailer since about halfway through the song the good sound of it sort of tapers off and they don't really know how to end it well.  Still, the more important part of a song is that it grips people and makes them want to seek it out, to listen to it, and they covered that quite well.  Besides, it reminded me of another song that I haven't listened to for a while, which gave me the opportunity to do so again.

The next song is, quite obviously, a song that I am reminded of because of Bartholomew, and there's actually a little amusing story to go along with it.  As I've mentioned before, I don't generally like discussing music tastes with friends as I'm always worried I'll let my inner snob come out again or something, since, well, I am a very opinionated person sometimes.  Shocking, right?  Still, I was talking about songs I was listening to with a friend and she told me she'd been listening to this song called "Grounds for Divorce", and I was like "Heh, that's a pretty neat name, why don't you link me?"  So she sent me to the music video (which was hosted on a non-Vevo channel, AKA the good old days) and I watched/listened to it and was like "This is fantastic!".  She was genuinely surprised that I didn't recognize it because it was, apparently, featured on an episode of House which is how it got 'popular'; a fact she was a little obviously bitter about.

She was surprised, of course, because I watch House and she knew that.  I watch House a lot.  I really enjoy the show, so that I saw it and didn't recognize the song was a little distressing to me.  However, I'm pretty sure it was just on an episode I missed.  Anyways, I thought it was amusing at the time, but sort of failed to capture that in words.  Without any further jabbering, here's "Grounds for Divorce" by Elbow.

It's got a similar feel to it, in that they're both really laid-back, chill-out types of songs with some really powerful vocals that just draw you in to listening to it.  I'm not sure if it's just the influence of the music video for Grounds for Divorce speaking or what, but I am very tempted to call it a "Pub Song" as it's, well, something I'd expect to hear, should I go into a nice, authentic little pub somewhere.  (Despite still not being British.)  Which doesn't say a thing about its quality one way or another, but rather that sort of laid-back, 'cool' atmosphere it carries.

Switching gears completely for my last song, I can do nothing but completely blame the fact that I heard it on my good friend Haplo.  He linked me to it one night and I went absolutely crazy for it because, despite the novelty factor, it's actually kind of neat.  It's just a level under professional, unfortunately, and it's his best work which speaks a lot for my disappointment after I went searching for more, yet I can't help but listen to it and appreciate it somewhat.  I suppose it does require just a little explanation firsthand, however.

A popular thing to do on Youtube is to do these "Mashups" and Remixes where you essentially take the background music, the beat, or what have you from one song, the vocals from another, and combine them.  9 times out of 10, it just doesn't work, and that 1 time is usually a little lackluster anyway.  It's not exactly the pinnacle of creativity, really, and the novelty wears fast.  However, there's just some times where it just works, and the fact that it does pretty much defies all logic.  Anyway, this fellow (as several others have) took that idea and ran into a rather silly place with it, taking anime vocals and putting them to rap beats.  I know, I know, but for some reason this one (and one other, but it's quite short) just works and I've been listening to it a lot.  He's got it titled as "Hidamari Sketch vs. Wiz Khalifa" and I don't friggin' know.  You can figure out how to get to his channel, I'm sure.

I'm really not sure either.  If you're curious, the other one that I like (sometimes depending on my mood) more than this one is this one which just falls short of being -really- good.  Still, I can enjoy it regardless.  Perhaps you can too!