On Time to the Party: Ghostbusters Sanctum of Slime

Posted in Uncategorized on March 24, 2011 by nairume

Hey guys, a new Ghostbusters game is out, so I’m going to give it a shot now instead of in two years because I fucking love Ghostbusters and

WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOUR FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE

I hate this game already.

LttP: Final Fantasy XIII- The First 10 Hours (of tutorials)

Posted in Uncategorized on March 18, 2011 by nairume

I’ve been kind of putting this game off for a while. A combination of bad press, middling impressions from friends, and a general annoyance at the development cycle of the game kind of left me kind of apathetic towards the game and the Square side of SquareEnix in general. I pretty much swore to hold off on the game until it dropped in price enough to hit that sweet spot to where I’d really not feel any buyer’s remorse no matter how bad the game turned out.

Whelp….the game is now getting to that spot, so I guess it was time for me to actually follow up on my promise and give the game a chance. Was it worth it? I still don’t know. The game certainly isn’t helping in that regard. I’m apparently still working through the “tutorial” phase of the game, and I’m already ten hours into the game. It took an hour for the game to start leveling my team up. I don’t mean grinding, either. I mean the party’s stats did not change, aside from a couple changes of equipment, until an hour into the game. Only Dragon Quest 7 could claim to be slower.

Two hours into the game was I able to start buying equipment. Ten hours in, and the game has yet to start providing me with a way to actually build up my funds, unless it expects me to throw the same items I’m supposed to be using for upgrading my weapons to the seller. It’s been telling me how to do everything else, so I’m expecting it to start saying “hey, this is how you earn money”. That point has yet to come.

Ten hours into the game, and I still can’t select my own party whenever there are more than three characters present (granted, this hasn’t happened for a while). I have also been yet to allow to even select who I control in battle. That decision is still being held from me.

Ten hours into the game, and I’m still walking down a long corridor. It’s a pretty corridor and it occasionally branches off and changes scenery, but it is still a corridor.

Ten hours into the game and I’m still forced to pay more attention to the annoying antics of local Aussie mystery girl Vanille than I’d like, while the game only occasionally allows a glimpse at the character I really want to play as.

Swoon

Ten hours into the game and I’m still putting up with this shit because the rest of the game is just somehow so enjoyable. Despite using auto-attack more frequently than I’d like, combat is amazingly fun. The music proves that Masashi Hamauzu is among the best musicians in the industry. Everybody not named Vanille is suprisingly bearable. Even Hope, who I was fully expecting to be the game’s Shinji Ikari, has been strangely not annoying. Though the start was rocky, the plot is growing ever more interesting. It even somehow manages to feel somewhat fresh, even though it really never hides the fact that it is borrowing queues and themes from VII and X.

Actually, that’s a wart that needs to be addressed. Within the first five minutes of the game, the game makes it very obvious that it wants to be FFVII. The order of events may be different and there is a slew of contextual differences in everything going on, but I could not help but find the game screaming “REMEMBER FFVII? I AM JUST LIKE THAT ONE!” when I saw the camera panning over a high-tech city cast in a greenish light, while the main character sits aboard a train that runs through a red security scan field, following which our ex-soldier swordswoman jumps out of the train, dispatches some guards, and is then commented to by a comical black man who keeps yapping about her status as a soldier.

At least this time they made the black guy Richard Pryor instead of Mr. T.

I'm not the only one making this connection

I’ve been growing increasingly jaded with JRPGs. Lately, I’ve found a few that have renewed my interest in the genre. This isn’t one of them, but, in all honesty, I’m kind of amazed that I’m enjoying this game as much as I am. Ten hours of tutorials and Vanille squealing should have been enough to scare me off, but I feel no difficulty pressing on. No obligation to make sure I get my money’s worth. I legitimately want to find out what happens next, and I am enjoying the ride to that point. I guess this is the power of lowered expectations.

LttP: The 1st Great DS Rundown

Posted in Blurbs, LttP on March 11, 2011 by nairume

Oh hi there. I forgot this was a thing. So, in the past year, I’ve kind of done some hardcore LttP gaming, both with my finally getting a PC upgraded to the point of playing anything made since 2000 and with my DS reigning as my biggest non-PC time sink (well, outside of grad school as well). So, let’s run through some quick DS related LttP thoughts:

 

Sands of Destruction: Holy shit this game is bad. I hate everybody involved with it, which is even worse since the pedigree behind it is supposed to be good. I mean, you got that guy that did the scenario for Xenogears, which JRPG nerds still are convinced is the bar for JRPG scenarios (it’s not, but it is better than most), and he’s done an amazingly unique story (You are a bunch of people out to destroy the world). You got guys that designed the Grandia battle system, otherwise known as the best JRPG battle system from a game that wasn’t made by Atlus. You’ve got Yasunori Mitsuda, who has composed some of the most beloved game tracks in the genre. And you also have a style that is similar to the Playstation era of RPGs, which J-nerds still consider to be the best (it’s not). So what the fuck happened? Seriously, I want to know. The soundtrack is terrible. The battle system is criminally awful. Everything about the writing is an absolute trainwreck. This game pretty much gets nothing right.

 

Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow and Order of Ecclesia: Remember when Symphony of the Night pretty much coined a whole new subgenre of gaming? Of course you do. How can you forget when Konami refuses to let you forget that they did by making the same damn game….what is it…..six times now. Sure, they slightly vary up the gameplay and you get a whole new castle every time, but it is all just feeling so tired by now. I think the worst part is that, Circle of the Moon aside, they can’t seem to let go of the stupid “Collect all of the Mcguffins to unlock the whole castle just like SotN!” formula. We get it, SotN is awesome. Let’s have something else now. Yeah, I’m not bothering with Portrait of Ruin. I’m tired of this formula.

 

Metroid Prime: Hunters: Woah, am I back in 1998 or something? This feels like a shooter from that era. Not that it’s a bad thing, but if I want Quake, I’ll play Quake. And I don’t want Quake.

Nostalia: Victorian-Era Steam Punk Skies of Arcadia. That’s what this game wants to be….and it pretty much is. Just not as good. While SoA was made better by its obvious influences from classic 16-bit era JRPGs, this one doesn’t seem to do as well of a job with touching those influences up enough to make the game not feel incredibly dated.

Soma Bringer: Why didn’t we get this again? Seems like American audiences would have eaten it up. It’s like a water-color hybrid of a Mana game and Diablo.

Disgaea DS: You can feel the lack of effort NIS put in this, as well as the bitterness that they’d have to lower themselves to working on a dredded Nintendo console instead of getting to shit out more crappy Disgaea spinoffs on the PSP. So, yeah, this is Disgaea. Again. Nothing to see here folks.

Henry Hatsworth: HarumphHarumphHarumphHarumphHarumphHarumph GOOD SHOW

Tetris DS: That the game has been long out of print and few more people will be able to enjoy its near perfection is almost enough to make me shed a manly tear. Almost. But not really.

Civilization Revolutions: OH GOD WHO PUT CIVILIZATION 2 ON A PORTABLE? MY FREE TIME IS FOREVER GONE. YOU MONSTERS.

LttP: Star Ocean 4 Continued, More Planetary Destruction than Previously Thought.

Posted in LttP on January 14, 2010 by nairume

Star Ocean 4 is finally finished, at least in the sense that the final boss (all three million hit points) is down. tri-Ace just loves to throw in a ton of post-game content, so I’ve got plenty more to play around with before shelving the game. So final thoughts:

I hate part of the cast, partially because Japan loves to cram anime tropes where they really shouldn’t go and parts of this game came out worse for it. Reimi is supposed to be the overly/obsessively protective sister character who is also the impossibly shy lover. I hate this when it happens in shows, and I hate it even more here because she’s always slowing the game down whenever she’s like “NOOOOO EDGE THAT’S TOO DANGEROUS!” or “NOOOO EDGE DON’T EVEN ASSOCIATE WITH OTHER WOMEN!” If this only happened during private actions, it’d be just short of acceptable, but this shit should not be going on during important plot scenes. Goddamn it Japan.

Meracle is a cat girl. Granted, she’s a throw back to a character that was in Star Ocean one, who was pretty much the same character. However, that character never went around during important scenes doing cat things. Meracle does. Goddamn it Japan.

While Aurmat never left the active party once he joined, the actual character himself was pretty annoying. He’s the typical “RAAA IMA WARRIOR WITH A DARK PAST LEAVE ME TO MY SELF DESTRUCTION RA!” He carries a scythe and calls himself death incarnate. His last name is also Thanatos. He’s also got some sort of super-cancer body that will kill him eventually, but it gives him superhuman strength. He’s also the leader of a military division in the anime-Vulcan army. Apparently, they are perfectly fine with having self-destructive cancer victims leading men into battle. Goddamn it Japan.

Serah was another mainstay in my party, as she’s an awesome healer. She’s also retarded. No, seriously, she has serious mental issues. Several characters even find themselves commenting on how they hope that she’s faking it. That’s actually kind of sad. Uh….goddamn it Japan?

Then there’s the big one: Deputy Director Shimada. I’d find a picture of him, but his girth would probably fill the screen. He is easily one of the worst and most improbable characters ever produced by Japan. I can’t stress it enough that Shimada is an important head in Earth’s military program. Further more, he’s a head figure in Earth’s military in a time of great crisis when SHIT NEEDS TO GET DONE. Instead, Shimada is a fat blob who open bitches about how anything the rest of the cast does hurts his chances at promotions. Oh, and that his steak isn’t warm enough. Seriously asshole? Earth is mostly a radioactive wasteland, humanity is on the brink of destruction, and there is an intergalactic menace that wants to destroy the universe, and all you can think about is eating steak (where did he get steak on the goddamn moon anyway?) and your position within the military ON A DYING PLANET. I honestly don’t know what’s worse, that Japan thinks such a person could exist in the military in such a scenario or that Japan thinks that his ass wouldn’t be discharged faster than he probably can put away a ham sandwich. I’m not even going to dignify this with a “goddamn it Japan”.

The rest of the cast is okay. I think I said my thoughts on Edge last time, Lym is pretty original as far as lolis go, Bacchus is a killbot, Myuria has breasts, and Faize is anime-Spock. Also, this game has a member of the Kenny family in it, though he is only an NPC. I have also decided that there is a correlation in the quality of a Star Ocean and the prominence of the first family of Star Ocean. SO1 had a Kenny as a party member, and it was great. SO2 had a Kenny as the main character, and it was fuck awesome. SO3 didn’t have any Kenny, and it was dog shit (and that’s probably being unfair to dog shit). SO4 has a Kenny as an NPC, and it’s above average.

The plots kind of a roller coaster. It starts out with a fairly strong premise, but quickly gets bogged down with terrible anime tropes. It’s like a cheesy episode of Star Trek, just with said terrible anime tropes. By the end of the game it moves into the territory of cheesy Star Trek movie, just with….you know. The last portion of the game returns to the strength that the opening had, even if it is ridiculously drawn out.

The game play largely got better as it moved on. Combat became even faster, and the bonus board got to be even more fun to manipulate. Plus, I love what they did with the synthesizing skill. It adds more customization than any previous Star Ocean ever had. I do have issues with the item creation system as of the end game. While the system itself is fine, you never really get to take advantage of it and make anything significant. The stuff you can make with it during the first half of the game really isn’t that much stronger than what you can just buy or find. Worse than that, the vast majority of the stuff opened up during the later half that you’d actually want to use require materials that can only be found during the extra dungeons that don’t open up until after you already beat the game.

By the end of the game, I think I really started to enjoy the game’s soundtrack. It’s far from Motoi Sakuraba’s best work, but it was fairly catchy. Plus, I really loved the remixes from SO1 and SO2. I also mentioned last time that the voice acting was decent. This largely remains the same, though I hate Reimi and Serah’s voices with a burning passion.

The game still looked nice throughout the rest of the experience, though I think I found myself hating the shininess even more. It got so bad at times that it was actually managing to obscure enemies. Not fun.

The level design also significantly improved after the much hated Cardianon Mothership. The final dungeon even managed to be one of the few times a teleporter dungeon was utilized without being obnoxious.

In the end, I think SO4 might finally have warmed me back up to tri-Ace. They’ve still done much better in the past, and they could have done much better this time around, but they finally managed to make a game that wasn’t bogged down in horrible and gimmicky elements that bog the game down and ruin the experience. They didn’t even acknowledge Space-WoW, which I definitely appreciated. I think even they want to leave that terrible twist in the festering black hole in which it resides.

PS, that black hole is Star Ocean 3. Sorry, I had to get one more dig in.

LttP: Devil May not be able to Play Correctly

Posted in LttP on January 13, 2010 by nairume

While the internet is presently gushing over Bayonetta, it dawned on me that I’ve not actually played Devil May Cry in any of its prior forms, outside of a demo of the okay DMC4. This is probably something I should have fixed and was quite very much intending to do. Thankfully, a friend had a copy of the PC port of DMC3, which I’ve heard is the best in the series, and I finally have a computer capable of running things that came out after 2005. So, what are my LttP thoughts on what is supposed to be one of the finest action games of last generation?

Well, I’m sorry to say that I can’t deliver on them when I’d like. Why do you ask?

Oh, that's why

Devil May Cry 3 is really not a game that can be played with a keyboard and mouse. I’m sure somebody out there will probably read this, stroke the scruff on his neck, and scoff that he played it perfectly fine with one. No, this is not perfectly fine. Its awkward. In fact, it’s so awkward the only way the experience of playing the game could be any more awkward is if Dante was played by Micheal Cera.

So, you are probably now thinking, “Well if it can’t be played with a keyboard all that well, use a gamepad! You’ve written about 360 games, surely you can use a 360 controller.” Well, the game apparently doesn’t support it, or at least in any manner capable of playing.

Ubisoft ported Devil May Cry 3 to the PC in the middle of 2006. Two Thousand and Six In the Year of Our Lord A Fucking D. The 360 was released in November of 2005. By the end of release weekend alone, the 360 sold enough to make it to where its standard USB controller was instantly one of the most available computer compatable USB controllers on the market, not to mention in homes. Seriously, the minute the 360 was released, any and all PC developers with brain one should have known that they needed to support it, even more so when porting console games that practically require a console-styled controller. Ubisoft apparently doesn’t have brain one. The 360 controller, along with what is apparently a long list of other controllers, wasn’t supported at release. Ubisoft’s idea of fixing it was to release a patch that included a controller config tool. Of course, Ubisoft is so incompetent that the tool doesn’t actually recognize the 360 controller.

The patch actually does allow the game to recognize the 360 pad. However, the catch is that the analog sticks are reversed, making the right stick move Dante and the left stick control the camera. I take back what I said before, this is more awkward than playing it with a keyboard while Micheal Cera kills demons.

So, in the spirit of wanting to at least see where Bayonetta’s origins lie, in the hopes that it clicks better for me, I’ll attempt to press on with the terrible keyboard controls. I’m just going to use this as further justification to shy away from Ubisoft.

LttP Altered Beast (arcade): Somehow making kicking zombies in the dick unfun

Posted in LttP on December 28, 2009 by nairume

To preface this, I actually have played Altered Beast before. I’ve had a copy of the Genesis version for a while now, and it was a pretty shitty game then. I figured, hey, maybe the Arcade version was better, but never really got a chance to play it until recently. Is the arcade version actually a good enough game to be the reason why this game has the reputation it does?
Here’s a hint: It’s not.

I would love nothing more than to go Office Space on this fucker

I don’t know what is more baffling. That Sega could make a game so terrible or that it has its defenders out there that are convinced the game is actually good. Now, I could understand fans. People can be fans of something in an ironic sense, like how Manos: The Hands of Fate and The Room have their fans. Nobody actually believes that either of those movies are legitimately good films. They manifest terrible in a form that even Lovecraft wouldn’t even dream of describing, and it is that aspect that attracts people to calling themselves fans and watching them every so often. If this was the case with Altered Beast, I could understand it. What I can’t understand is why people believed back in 1989 and even all the way up to 2009  that the game was legitimately a quality title.

For the five people out there who don’t know what Altered Beast is about, it’s a game about kicking zombies and other monsters in the dick. I say this because, while you are in human form, kicking is the only option. Said kick is a low kick that often hits enemies between the legs and they often double over as if they’ve been kicked in the dick. I did the math from there.

To be serious for a moment, the game is actually about Zeus’s daughter being kidnapped by some wizard. Since apparently the most powerful of the Greek Gods isn’t strong enough to shove a lightning bolt up the ass of some pansy wizard, he decides to bring some dead guy back to life and dick-kick his way across five levels of repetitive generic scenery and random zombies and monsters. Dead Guy isn’t really all that capable on his own. He can jump, but that’s really not that useful. He makes an attempt at what you could call a punch, but its range is pitiful and enemies typically can hit you before you can land one. All that’s left for Dead Guy in his normal form is the already-mentioned kick. It has a longer range than the punch, and it can hit both tall enemies and short enemies that the sort-of-punch can’t even hit. This kick is a swift low kick that hits most humanoid enemies squarely in the baby-makers. This is the closest thing to fun you will find in this shitty game, and it isn’t even all that fun. Some how, a game in which you go around kicking monsters in the dick isn’t all that fun. In fact, it’s not fun at all. It’s got about the fun factor of being the one getting kicked in the dick. Maybe it’s some sort of innovation that Sega came up with, where you can feel the pain of your enemies or some bullshit. Not as catch of a marketing tool than Blast Processing, I guess.

So, Dead Guy is kind of worthless in combat. This is where the “Altered Beast” comes into play. You see, Dead Guy holds a terrible secret: he’s actually a furry. Of course, he is redeemed by actually being able to become his fursona, rather than just writing terrible poetry about his animal form and trying to do animal emotes on shitty furry forums.  After collecting three floating orbs after nutshotting white wolves, Dead Guy undergoes his transformation into one of five transformations depending on the level (well, there’s only actually four transformations, as Sega lazily made the final transformation a faster version of the first).

I'm too lazy to come up with a Courage Wolf caption, so imagine it yourself

So Dead Guy turns into a Wolf, Dragon, Bear, Tiger, or a Wolf again, which gains him new attacks. The Wolf Forms can flying side-kick their way across the stage, the Dragon can shock things around it, and the Bear does some sort of weird Sonic-esque spin-jump. The Bear is probably the worst form in the game. I think I’d actually rather play as human Dead Guy than as the Bear. Since the point of the games is to achieve your transformation, you can’t fight the level’s boss until you do. This is a pain in the ass, because Dead Guy is so worthless at combat that he’ll often have trouble dick kicking the damned white wolves to get their magical testicles transformation orbs. This means that you have to keep going through the terrible levels until you can finally find a white wolf that stands still long enough for you to slowly ruin his junk.

What makes the experience so horrible is just how badly handled the combat. Dead Guy’s attacks are slow. Painfully so. They also often fall short of what most of the enemies are capable of. So you are going to get hit a lot. On top of this, because there is very little recovery time after being hit, it’s very easy for enemies to juggle you and plow right through your health. This is bullshit coin-munching of the highest order. Geese Howard would probably find it to be goddamned cheap. You might be able to get through the first, and maybe the second, level without much trouble, but there’s no way you can really finish this bullshit game without either memorizing everything or pumping enough quarters into it to pay of the national debt. Fuck you Sega. The beast forms really don’t add all that much to the fighting experience either. Since boss fights start soon after you transform, and those boss fights never last all that long, you never really get to toy around with what little they add.

Almost everything else about this terrible game is quite forgettable. The music is weak.  Outside of the large sprites, the graphics are kind of lacking. The colors are dull and faded. The artwork is uninspired, and the design of the sprites themselves are fairly generic. All that really stands out are the spoken “RISE FROM YOUR GWAVE” and “WELCOME TO YOUR DOOM” segments that the gaming community has latched on to, probably in hopes that remembering only those parts will help them forget how shitty Altered Beast really is.

Oh, wait, he was wearing a Fursuit all along.

Star Ocean 4: Earth-Blowing-Up goodness

Posted in LttP on December 15, 2009 by nairume

Oh, hey, looks like we get a sort-of positive posting for a change. Granted, Star Ocean: The Last Hope is still kind of on the wrong side of mediocre, but it’s better than the shitfest that was Star Ocean: ’til the End of This Terrible Game. Man, I could go on about how shitty that game was.  In fact, I think I will. It’ll make explaining why I’m actually liking SO4 a bit easier.
So, let’s get this out of the way. Star Ocean 3 had the most retarded plot twist ever. Even worse, it was a retconning plot twist that effects the entire series. Are you folks ready?

A good ways into the game, the universe is invaded by beings from “4d space”, intending to wipe out civilization in the region the game takes place in. The party finds a way to enter 4d Space and confront the 4d Beings. Upon entering 4d Space, they learn that their entire universe was actually a video game. Not just any video game, either. The entirety of the Star Ocean series  has been one big Massively Multiplayer Online RPG.

Yes, you’ve been playing a game in which takes place inside fucking anime WoW in space. It’s like .hack, but somehow even more retarded.

So the party confronts the lead designer of Space W0W because he thinks that the AI in Space WoW is getting too advanced and thus wants to wipe the server and start over . This is the final boss. Apparently, 500 years in the future,  game designers are high powered uber beings. This sure doesn’t sound like wish fulfillment by triAce, no sir it doesn’t. The game ends with some Descartes bullshit about “I Think Therefore I am” because the characters can think. If this is true, somewhere, Deep Blue is plotting its revenge, waiting to murder everybody who forces it to waste its talents playing fucking chess.

Seriously, though. Somebody wrote that plot twist. Somebody edited that twist. Somebody looked at it and thought it was a good idea. Somebody cleared it to be put in the game. Somebody allowed the game to be printed and sent to stores. Somebody also sold it to me for $20. Douche.

There were other things that made Star Ocean 3 shitty. It stripped out a lot of the fun elements of the previous games that made them stand out from other RPGs, and generally replaced them with inferior systems. The character designs were terrible. The main character’s name was Fate Linegod, which was only slightly made more berable in the US version where it was Fayt Leingod (which I guess is 5% less anime bullshit). When given the opportunity to make any weapon he could think of, the main character makes a sword (a weak one at that) because “lol it’s like a video game!” (HA HA HA triAce, with your goddamned foreshadowing….I hope you all burn). The voice acting was terrible. The controls don’t work nearly as well as they should (I don’t get why PS2 developers actually continued using the preasure buttons). Despite the whole point of the goddamned plot twist being that the AI was getting too smart, the actual party AI is borderline useless and they’ve largely stripped out all of the AI options Star Ocean 2 introduced. Characters with guns will run in to perform melee attacks, despite being far too weak to survive going toe-to-toe with monsters. Oh, and aside from having your HP reduced to 0 killing you like any other game, you die if your MP reaches 0 too. Somebody actually thought MP Death was a good idea. I hope they’ve been disallowed from game design, as well as anybody who shares a single chromasome with them. Can’t let any chance of that stupid getting anywhere near a video game.

I hate Star Ocean 3 and I hate triAce for making it. They should feel bad or something.
But this LttP is about Star Ocean 4! So let’s talk about why I’m actually liking it for the 30 hours I’ve put into it.

triAce knows that the fucking plot twist from SO3 renders any further game impossible to take seriously. They could even reboot the series, and you wouldn’t be able to ignore the feeling that the fucking MMO thing is still in effect, since a series reboot could be explained as a goddamed reboot of the game itself. Fuck triAce.

So, the series can’t be taken seriously any more. Thus, triAce decided that the best course of action was to go with a more light-hearted plot. Much of the game actually feels like a bad episode of Star Trek’s original series. That was pretty bad, so I guess that makes the stuff going on in Star Ocean 4 double bad. Twice more than originally expected. This isn’t such a terrible thing, because Star Trek was endearing in its cheesiness and SO4 is the same. At one point, the party even goes back in time, blows up a certain planet, and then return to the present to eventually move on as if nothing happened (at least, after Anime Kirk stops bawling about blowing up said planet). It’s all cheesy fun.

Oh, yeah, this actually brings up another good point about Star Ocean 4: it actually uses the goddamned sci-fi setting to a decent extent. Where as the past three games have largely stranded its parties on underdeveloped (re: typical RPG fantasy bullshit) and only really make little use of the sci-fi until really late in the game, much of Star Ocean 4 actually feels like it’s actually exploring the sci-fi universe that they’ve spent the past few games building up. You actually move around planets pretty frequently, and you only go to two medieval fantasy planets (at least as far as I can tell). Also, while some of the party resorts to using swords and other decidedly non-sci-fi weaponry, they at least give explainations for them beyond “lol, it’s a video game” (fuck you Star Ocean 3).

The cast seems pretty interesting this time around. Edge Maverick, the less retardedly named protagonist is pretty much anime Reboot-Kirk for part of the game, and he quickly is promoted to captain of the USS Enterprise SRF Calnus (actually a running ship name in Star Ocean, much like the Enterprise). He is joined by Reimi (the resident (s)mother hen to Edge), Faize (anime Spock, right down to the pointy ears), BACCHUS-D79 (a cyborg), and more I don’t feel like talking about.

The gameplay is also vastly improved. Skills are back (yay!), even if they aren’t as extensive as Star Ocean 2 (aw), so character customization is much better than SO3’s. Skills are often either exclusive to single characters or sets of characters, so it’s impossible to have a character learn everything. This also means that each character only gets one of the crafting abilities and one of the harvesting abilities. Because of this, you have to wait until you get a full party before you can really begin to take advantage of crafting or harvesting.  The crafting system is still kind of bullshit in comparison to what it’s been in the past, but it’s at least an improvement over 3’s. Harvesting is new to the series. All across the game, you’ll see little points where you use skills like harvest or mining to draw out resources. As your skill level improves, you can find more and better stuff.

Combat is much better, playing like an improved version of Star Ocean 2. Special attacks have been returned to the shoulder buttons, rather than being tied to pressure buttons, making them easy to pull off.  A new mechanic, called Blindsiding, amps the pace of battles, as well as giving you more to do. Party AI, though still lacking all the options that SO2 had, is much more reliable. Characters that are equipped with ranged weapons will now actually sit back and fight enemies from afar, rather than jumping into the mix of things. The game actually seems a bit easier because of it, since your party isn’t constantly in danger of dying. A rage-system has been thrown in, where characters who attack or are hit enough to fill up a little bar can go into a fury, where they have improved combat abilities and other perks. This is combined with the game allowing you to set your characters into two different combat styles, a defensive style that places along better with the fury system, and a more offensive style that goes more for the Blindsiding. Styles also have an effect on your characters stats. These two styles level up as you use them, unlocking better stat bonuses and other ability perks. There is a third neutral style. This one doesn’t level up, but it gives you the stat bonuses for your current levels in both styles, though you give up the ability perks. The combat bonus board has returned, and it’s much more managable. You don’t loose your bonuses as easily as you did in SO3, and there are multiple bonuses that you can get depending on how you fight.

On the down side, I hate the character designs for some of the characters. I don’t get this trend by RPG developers to design characters with busy outfits. Claude from Star Ocean 2 wore jeans, a black undershirt, and a tan military jacket. Edge of Star Ocean 4 has all sorts of different armor pieces all over him. I mean, look:

From this

To this

They try to explain Edge’s design away as being a quirk of a new type of spacesuit, but it’s just an excuse to keep with the typical anime designs. Can’t win them all, I guess. RPGs really need to go back to more simplistic designs.

The game is really pretty. Though the art direction blows the big one for many of the characters, the game’s different settings all look very neat, save for the one icey world and the alien mothership. The visual do have some minor problems. Most noteably, since everything is shiny, it’s way to easy to miss treasure and harvesting points. Honestly, if it weren’t for the automap, players would probably miss a ton of stuff and probaby even get lost pretty often.

The sound really isn’t anything to write home about. Much of the music is typical Sakuraba, so it’s all pretty interchangable. I will say that the remixes of tunes from Star Ocean 1 are pretty solid, if not really great. The voice acting is also fairly decent, especially considering how bad SO3’s turned out, so that’s a plus.

I think the best summary is that Star Ocean 4 is a mediocre but fun game that manages to at least overpower its flaws with its quality portions. It also won’t give you cancer, which Star Ocean 3 probably can’t say*.

*May not be scientifically proven.