Archive for the Blurbs Category

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.

Top Games of the Decade according to Nairume

Posted in Blurbs, Random Gaming on December 15, 2009 by nairume

10: Mega Man 9

One of the biggest criticisms of the Mega Man series is over how little they’ve changed over the years. Capcom decided to show everybody how this is hardly a bad thing by going all the way back to the basics, stripping out everything that they have changed since Mega Man 2 and creating a new game using that game as a foundation. What we get is surprisingly one of the best games in the series. For the same reasons that New Super Mario Bros Wii is also on the list, Capcom took everything that was great about the NES games, and improved upon them, rather than trying to throw in new mechanics to complicate things. Gamers that grew up on the NES, will feel like kids again after playing this. I know I did.

9: Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker

I’ll be honest, I was on the nay-sayers side when Toon-Link was revealed to the world. Like so many others, I was captivated by the short SpaceWorld demo promising an evolution to the OoT-styled Adult Link. Instead, we got a toon-shaded super-deformed hero. It’s a shame that I and so many other people initially avoided Wind Waker due to the more light-hearted design, because it’s one of the most inspired entries in the series. The deformed cartoony style really brought in a level of emotion that Link and so many other characters in the Zelda universe had lacked in the past. Even though he still has no real lines (other than yelling “C’mere!”), the Link of Wind Waker (and, later, Phantom Hour Glass and his great/grandson in Spirit Tracks) actually feel the most responsive to everything going on around them. The sense of exploration that makes the series so great is probably at its best here. Even series villain Ganondorf has his best moments in this game.

8: Mega Man Zero 2

Mega Man Zero was a fun game, but it had its issues. The level structure was really linear, throwing out the open ended level selection of pretty much every other Mega Man game. It was unfairly difficult at times, and it went out of its way to punish you for actually making use of some of the game’s mechanics (the cyberelves, mosty). MMZ2 came along and pretty much fixed every single problem that the first game had. It brought back the classic level selection, was difficult without being frustrating, and didn’t punish you for using the elves mechanic. Further more, it brought in a number of new mechanics. Similarly to an achievement system, doing certain things within game will earn you different forms, which change Zero’s attributes and moves. Giving purpose to the ranking system, keeping a high rank will net you boss attacks. Finally, the chain-whip weapon gives you new ways to move around level. The game also has a killer opening sequence.

7:  Breath of Fire IV

Seldom do RPGs actually get it all right. At the very least, one area of the game will be lacking behind the rest of a game’s attributes. So often do some RPGs feature pretty graphics and fun gameplay, but kind of have a weak plot. Or incredible plots will be brought down by weaker gameplay and music. Breath of Fire IV, on the other hand, was probably one of the few RPGs released this decade that got it all perfectly balanced,  even if the game isn’t perfect as a whole. The visual style is still impressive to this day. The split plot, following around two characters who are different halves of the same being, is something that still stands out as excellent writing. The combat is simple enough to where battles blaze along, yet it is deep enough to allow you to to pull off some awesome things if you put the effort into them. An improved Master system from BoFIII brings in some significant character customization, and the dragon system is much less convoluted than BoFIII (yeah, I don’t get the love people have for that game’s gene system). The soundtrack is also only second to Hitoshi Sakimoto’s work for BoFV.

6: Shadow Hearts: Covenant

Quite possibly one of the few times that a game continues from the bad ending of its prequel, Shadow Hearts 2 reveals that Yuri actually failed to save Alice from dying at the end of the first game. On top of that, he himself is cursed at the outset to an eventual death that he knows will take him by the adventure’s end. The adventure, by the way, takes place during some of the bleakest times of the first World War. The game doesn’t take itself too seriously, especially once you meet the homosexual shopkeepers who trade you equipment for gay porn or when the flamboyant vampire wrestler who moonlights as a masked superhero joins your team, but it manages to tell a compelling war-time fantasy that will keep you playing along. Also, much like BoFIV, this is one of the few RPGs of the decade to actually strike a fine balance of all of its parts, and it does it even better. The game is also such a significant improvement over its predecessor that it should probably win the decade’s award for most improved.

5:  Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne

Atlus tried several times before to get their Megami Tensei games recognition in the west, but it wasn’t until Nocturne hit that people started to really take notice over here. Perhaps it was the improved demon mechanics, where your demonic minions leveled up as you do,  as well as being one of the first games in the series to give you a serious level of customization over said minions. Maybe it was the introduction of the Press-Turn Combat system which has graced every MegaTen game in some form or another since, excluding the action-based Raidou games. It could very much also be the striking difficulty, being one of the first legitimately difficult RPGs in a decent while. The game also looked very pretty and had a really wicked soundtrack. Chances are, it was all of the above that finally got the series going in the west.

4: New Super Mario Bros Wii

Quite possibly my game of 2009, I had nothing but a smile throughout the entirety of this gem. Granted, very little of the game blazes new territory, yet it’s ability to mix the best elements from the best games in the series makes NSMBWii one of the strongest entries in the entire Mario catalog. Mix in fun stage design, great boss battles (in which the Koopalings make their triumphant return), and the game’s zany co-op make it a must-buy for the Wii.

3: Final Fantasy IX

You know that opera sequence near the middle of FFVI that, for so long , was considered one of the classiest scenes to ever grace a Final Fantasy? Final Fantasy IX tops that in its opening, and just keeps running with it throughout the rest of the game. After two games starring moping mercenaries that were all “serious business”, IX’s lead, Zidane, was a surprising breath of fresh air. Here, we had a charming rogue who is a part of a band of thieves that masquerade as a travelling Shakespearian theater troup, and the introduction to the character is right at the beginning of a heist to kidnap the princess of a major military power while distracting the entire populace with one of the biggest play productions yet. Several games later, and SquareEnix has yet to feature an opening with nearly as much class or charm. Zidane aside, much of the game’s cast are some of the most inspired characters in Final Fantasy history. Coupled with some of the best writing, one of Uematsu’s strongest soundtracks, lively setting, and fun gameplay, we not only have the best Final Fantasy of the decade, but we’ve got a strong contender against Final Fantasy VI for best in the series.

2: Neverwinter Nights

In the past decade, there isn’t a single game I’ve put more hour into than Neverwinter Nights. Ever since I picked it up the day after Christmas 2002, the only time NWN has not been readily installed on my computer has been whenever I’m either in the middle of giving it a fresh install or are switching to a new computer. Sure, the game has its issues. The main campaigns are kind of dull. Also, the version of D&D it’s based on is vanilla 3rd Edition, which was so bad that they actually had to relaunch an improved version (the less bad 3.5) only a couple years later. Still, in spite of its flaws, the shear amount of adventure you can have through the campaigns and the user-made adventures, as well as all of the multiplayer possibilities, Neverwinter Nights probably remains my favorite PC release of the decade.

1: Persona 4.

Most people who are going to put a Persona game on lists like this are going to put down Persona 3, largely because it came first and thus it was the innovator. I’m going with Persona 4, however, because it’s a rennovator. Persona 3 was a great game, but it had a lot of niggling issues that Persona 4 came right in and fixed right up. It’s quite telling when one of the most common comments on Persona 3 was that it was nearly impossible to go back to after playing Persona 4. There was barely two years between the development of the two, and P4 still managed to make P3 feel utterly archaic in comparison. Beyond that, the cast is significantly more down to earth and believable. The plot, though lacking 3’s impact, was a lot more involving and personal. I also vastly prefer the soundtrack.

Why is it the number 1 game on my list? Out of the tons of RPGs I’ve played and loved, I never really could go back to them until a significant amount of time passed. Even with other genres, I typically have to shelve for a good after completing them before I could go back tot hem, unless they are meant to be short and replayable.

Persona 4? I started a new file the second the credits stopped rolling and began working my way back through it all over again. This is a game that I had just put in over 90 hours, and I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to experience it all over again. That’s a damned good game.

Johnny-Come-Lately/The New Kid in Town

Posted in Blurbs on December 3, 2009 by nairume

So, I’m kind of cheap. Well, cheap is probably not the best way to describe  it. Gaming can be quite the pricey hobby if you are constantly getting new stuff. Further more, with the shortening length of games and the higher price, it’s getting harder and harder for me to justify spending $50-$60 on something I’ll have finished in a week. This is probably the reason I am overloaded with tons of mediocre JRPGs that my friends keep telling me I’ll never finish. I’ll prove them wrong….someday….

That’s beside the point. Unless its “guarenteed” to last long enough to get a ton of game time out of it, chances are that I’m playing it well after you have played it, beaten it, discussed it, and probably felt as if you might have been a little ripped off after walking out of Gamespot after trading it in. It’s not even a recent phenomenon, either. Outside of a brief few minutes at a friends house, I didn’t play Final Fantasy 7 until 2000, and that was probably typical for me back then.

Why bother writing about it then? Well, I figure that since most people played through a lot of the games that I’ll be discussing back when the hype from release was still there. Just as a new car, there’s just something appealing to new games. There are always going to be issues with a game/car, and you’ll recognize them, but that new car/game feel will make you just a little more willing to overlook.

With me, the hype passed in the time the game has been lingering on shelves. Plus, I’m not paying as much, so I don’t have to try to tell myself to ignore problems with a game. It’s all about perspectives, I guess, and this is just to offer a different take on it. Who knows, I’ll probably end up saying a lot of the same things that you’ve all said and heard, at which point I guess it’ll just prove that the stuff that you thought when you played it was right on the money.

So, how ’bout those games? I should probably get to ranting and raving. Bioshock’s up first.