Wednesday, August 31, 2011

In Which I Curse Sega and Love Sega at the Same Time

Yakuza news is afoot!  I already kind of brought up part of the news with a tweet I made the other day (that I can't link to at the moment since Twitter is apparently overloaded.  Which, well, that sounds fantastic) but at the time I hadn't heard that there was really more information to it and as such kind of glazed over Yakuza information.  This, as is always the case, was a poor choice, since the news is in all honesty probably the best news one could expect.  Well....second-best news that is.

First off, the creator of the Yakuza series (known as Ryu ga Gotoku in Japan, which I believe translates roughly into 'Like a Dragon') Toshiro Nagoshi has formed a "Ryu ga Gotoku studio", as in a studio that is specifically named after the game series he started which would indicate that the series will continue, despite the last game in the series being called "Yakuza:  Of the End" (roughly) and the concerns at it's announcement that it did, indeed, signal the end of the franchise.  Of course this Ryu ga Gotoku studio won't -only- make Yakuza games, since the first game they'll put out is actually Binary Domain which is some sort of shooter that I haven't really looked into much since it's probably not getting localized.

Of course, if the name of the company wasn't indication enough of the series continuing, Nagoshi actually went out and said that Yakuza 5 is currently being developed.  They're actually quite early into it as they just started work on it recently; Nagoshi says that they had lengthy discussions on just where to take the series next and I'm guessing they picked something out, since, well, they're working on it now.  Unfortunately, that they've just started likely means Yakuza 5 will be a little late into next year, comparatively speaking, so I'm already worried that the Western release will go up against something batshit ridiculous rather than release earlier in the year.  Then again, the earlier bits of the year tend to have some big names too....well, anyways.

Speaking of Western Releases, the above-linked articles also announce that a Yakuza:  Black Panther 2 is in development for PSP, which is.....well, it's good news.  In a sense.  But given that the first game has never even been hinted at seeing a Western release, I can't in good faith really get excited whatsoever for the sequel as it's also on the under-utilized PSP as was the first and given that other Sega games have yet to be localized, I'm not really going to hold my breath on this series.  It's rather unfortunate that Sega is deciding to split things up that way, but, well, they wouldn't be Sega if they didn't make incredibly bad decisions now would they?

Strictly speaking, my only real exposure to Black Panther was playing the japanese demo about a dozen times and enjoying it, despite the fact that it heavily relies on you understanding japanese (which I, of course, do not) for anything beyond punching and kicking guys.  But the stylized take it has for cutscenes (since a PSP can't very well put out PS3-quality cutscenes) was just amazing and I really had hoped it would have seen an outing in the west, even with the barest of localization aspects (English sub-titles, Digital only), but short of Sega doing a dual-pack localization once the Vita is out and in everyone's hands, it's looking highly unlikely for the Panther to strike in America.

Which....again is just a shame.  While writing that last paragraph, I decided a playthrough of the demo of Yakuza:  Black Panther was in order again and so that's what I did.  As I type, the introduction cutscene plays (at least, I imagine it's the introduction cutscene, since it gives you a lot of information on the main players) on the PSP and I keep looking down at it to admire the Manga-inspired cutscenes that play out like a digital novel or a motion comic, fully voiced in traditional Yakuza-style (Which, after typing that, I can't say what is Yakuza-style about it, but I'm keeping it because why not) while wistfully wishing I knew what they were saying.  Aside from the random english here and there to introduce fighters in the cage fighting and such.  I guess in Japan, they say "On the head" and "On the tail" rather than "In this corner".

The fighting is more...I'll call it Arcade-style as the camera is in tight on you and your opponent(s) rather than the wide angle that effectively sets the barriers of battle from the console Yakuzas.  It's definitely not the same style, but it's not a bad thing, per se.  It's just...well, different.  Perhaps there are some nuances I'm missing, given that I can't read anything being said here, but I can get the gist of the tutorials (since I completed them without FAQing it or anything) and it's a more....confined experience.  I guess it's to show off that, since he's younger and not as awesome as Kazuma (or any of the main characters of 4), Ukyo Tatsuya (the main character of the game) is more than capable of taking down any street punk he runs across.  (I've only fought a max group of two people in this demo thus far)  But really, platform constraints, etc. etc.

You still get to roam around a (fixed-camera infested) Kamurocho which is more than welcome, but the visuals of the game leave a little to be desired as they tried for a style on it as well, which involves putting it through a grain filter to look....uhm...different?  Super-realistic is not the look they're going for here, is basically my point.  Regardless of my complaints, I would buy and play this game -tomorrow- if it were made available in English just to experience it as, I'm sure, the story will be all levels of wonderful, as the base Yakuza stories are.  And as we know by now, I really like game stories

Regardless, Sega seems to have acquiesced to giving us the main installments of Yakuza proper, so I'm not too worried about Yakuza 5 hitting American shores.  And the fact that there's a dedicated Yakuza studio up and running now is only giving me one more reason to wake up every morning (or, you know, afternoon) from now on.  Here's to you, Nagoshi and the rest of the Yakuza Studios team.  I'll buy every game you sell, so try and give me some good options, yeah?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mmm, Yummy Atlus News

Andriasang got their hands on an issue of Famitsu for this week and spared no detail in delving into the delicious, delicious information within, as far as it concerns Atlus.  And they're all Persona-flavored which, depending on your tastes, may just be the best flavor.  While my dips into the pool that is Persona and, well, Shin Megami Tensei in general have been shallow at best, more Atlus news is always good, as Atlus is always good to us.

The first, and possibly most exciting announcement of the bunch, for me at least, is that Persona 4 is getting the portable treatment like Persona 3 before it, but unlike Persona 3 Portable Persona 4 will be a Vita title.  Now you see where the excitement comes from right?  Right, of course you do, because I am pretty damn transparent and am not at all mad at the fact.  But it also does come from a place of genuine curiosity as well, since, well, I haven't played Persona 4.  I own it, in possibly one of my few instances of gaming excess, but I have yet to start it since I have been told on numerous occasions that playing Persona 3 after Persona 4 is, for all intents and purposes, less fun than to do so in the proper order.

Of course, that would suggest that I have to play Persona 3 to completion, which I just haven't done yet.  Despite owning one of the first run of Persona 3 prints, what with the art book and CD that came with it, as well as FES, which I found at a garage sale from a nice middle-aged couple who had simply exhausted it for themselves, I just have not sat down and played Persona 3 from start to finish.  Mostly from crippling Game OCD, since I know that there is an incredibly hard-to-get Persona towards the start of the game that you have to follow a stringent set of activities in which to obtain.  After trying to follow said set of activities, I quickly burned out and burned hard and drifted off to play something else.

With my PS2 time almost non-existant, I'm forced to look towards the PSP/Vita time for playing versions of these gems, so I imagine at some point I only have to purchase Persona 3 Portable and play it that way since I'm sure I'll find it much more manageable that way.  Which.....seems a little strange and/or irresponsible but oh well, this is why I like the portable market since I can play it whenever I'm not playing consoles proper.  Which....ends up being a lot of time, honestly!  If I could rig up one of those handy portable console deals to play PS2 on whenever I wanted, I would be all over that, but instead I'm just having to rely on the generosity of developers to sell me their games on multiple platforms.

That said, the information on Persona 4 Portable, actually titled Persona 4 - The Golden, is fairly light.  We know kind of what's going to be included, but details like if the game will be more like Persona 4 proper and less like Persona 3 Portable (basically in regards to losing the non-battle maps and, as such the barest of free-roaming aspects) haven't been really clarified.  Then again, this is the first piece of information put out there about the game.  Still, what we know is that, in true re-release fashion for the Persona series, there will be a new character, a girl named Mary as well as more voice-acting, new movies, some more elements that "fans of the original have heavily requested" whatever that means, and a neat-sounding wireless feature that will let you call out to your friends (nearby only?) to save you from certain peril in the dungeons.  Somehow.

Also of note from the Famitsu information is that Atlus has decided to team up with Arc System Works (makers of the Guilty Gear and BlazBlue games, the latter pictured above) to work on a 2D fighter (surprise!) starring characters from both Persona 3 and Persona 4, taking place after the events of Persona 4.  It's going to hit arcades first (surprise!) and then hit PS3 and 360 later on, but in what form, I'm not too sure.  I'm....imagining they can't get many characters for a game, and as such I don't know if they'd do a disk version, but maybe they'll manage to flesh it out enough to make it worth that rather than a PSN/XBLA release.  This, of course, might be showing my fighting game ignorance as well.

The article closes with the tidbit of information that Persona 5 is in the starting stages of development.  That's.....about all that's been said about it, really.  The usual Persona team is working on it, which is comforting, but no details on the game itself, platform(s) or anything else of the sort have been said.  Just that a Persona 5 is indeed on the way.  Honestly, do we need much more than that at this point?  I mean....that alone is pretty sweet.

Update!Siliconera has some screenshots of Persona 4:  The Ultimate in Mayonaka Arena, which is the above-mentioned but never-named fighting game Atlus is working on with Arc System Works.  They look rather nice, I must say!  (I would embed one in here, but Siliconera links always go down and I am far too lazy to rehost it.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Main Characters - When is Enough Enough?

Something that I think a lot of us don't really think about when it comes to games and gaming stories in general is the focal point of it all in the main character.  They are our input into the game world and they allow us to do what we want (and sometimes force us to do exactly what we don't want) so it's easy to think of them less as a character and more as a tool for accessing this world.  Some games allow this feeling moreso than others, but regardless of whether you're playing Uncharted 2 and having Drake jump off a cliff for your own amusement, or having Point-Man in slide across an office just because, it's likely that in every game, you're going to do something that the main character isn't going to do.  There's always that disconnect, even when you feel more or less attached to an MC, and even though the story generally centers on them, we don't always feel that way because, well, it's a game, we're supposed to do what we like.

But the strange thing about that is that we're so particular about our Main Characters after we've played them and grown accustomed to them.  To the point where even subtle changes to a character's design, or even big ones, like Cole from inFamous 2 big will inevitably drive some people insane no matter what.  And no matter what you do, people will notice.  If tomorrow Mirror's Edge 2 was announced and there was a design on Faith's gloves, someone will find a reason to go into a tirade about how that's a bad thing.  I guess we leave a little bit of ourselves in them in the memories we've gathered while playing as them, so even though we might not really consider their main story or their overarching goals or anything of the sort, the minute we learn that they won't be there anymore it really strikes a chord.

Honestly, this line of thinking was brought up with the recent announcements of Mass Effect 3 being Shepard's last outing, while Halo 4 is a sort of 'new beginning' for Master Chief.  As a random side-note, the quote of "343 wants to sell "the fantasy that Master Chief is an 800-pound hero that is part tank, part jet fighter" with the Reclaimer Trilogy."" is quite possibly one of the dumbest things I've read all week.  But anyways, it got me thinking about main characters in video games in general, and it brought me to the question of "When is enough enough?"  Is there honestly a tangible amount of screentime one main character can get before he or she is truly not needed anymore?

It's a hard line to walk, honestly, as some would argue that certain games just wouldn't be what they are without their main characters (Uncharted series, inFamous) while the same was said for other series but then the general consensus was that it is in fact possible to be a good game and a good addition to a series without the same MC (Metal Gear Solid, for example.  No, not Raiden, Big Boss) so long as the game remains functionally similar.  Some series of games seem to only get better with a new Main Character (Going from Altair to Ezio in Assassin's Creed, though that could be argued on several levels, I'm sure) at the helm.  And then there's series where the change in character....well, didn't really seem to make a difference at all.  (F.E.A.R. series is what comes to mind first, but really, a lot of games that aren't known for their narrative could go here)

So what's the difference between this series and that when it comes to how the Main Character can or cannot be switched out?  Is it only okay when the narrative provides compelling reasons and a satisfying end to the character?  That would likely be the most agreed-upon answer we're likely to get out of the question, in all honesty, since it's an opinion and thus not something that can really be gauged as true or false.  But it is an interesting point to question, regardless, since for all we know, the next game in our favorite series could be the next one to roll out a completely new main character to spark the whole debate again and again.  I know if inFamous 3 starred someone besides Cole MacGrath, I would have some grumblings about it.

And for my own interests in this, I will say that there are some games for me, personally where the idea of a new character is quite possibly the worst way to go (I could have made a better Drakengard 2 in an afternoon), whereas on the other hand, some games have gotten it just right, (Zone of the Enders:  The 2nd Runner springs to mind, eventually) but I don't subscribe to any particular theory of which is 'right', when it comes to keeping a character or making a new one for a sequel as it's mostly a case-by-case basis.  And this is not to make mention of the Legacy of Kain series, of course, which has gotten it the most right of any series in my opinion.  But that's a point I plan to elaborate on at another time.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up in Gaming - August 21 - August 27

Earlier this week, I managed to finally beat Darksiders.  It was a long, oftentimes difficult journey, and at parts, I wasn't sure that it was honestly worth it.  I didn't really care for the last.....hour or so of gameplay prior to the end-fight as it just seemed a little....not arbitrary, but it could have been considered a little better.  Even when I took to the final boss fight, I couldn't help but find a thing or two to complain about, but when I won?  When I finally got that ending, all I could do was sit back and tell myself that yes, it was indeed worth it.

That said, there were quite a few cracks in the armor that only seemed to get bigger and bigger as the game went on, which only frustrated the whole experience more than necessary.  Again, I know the core of most of the frustrations were that I was trying to play the game on Apocalyptic first clip (and, well, -did-, getting like five trophies when I beat it for my efforts.  That was almost worth it alone.) but some of them were very, very clearly design.  Design like the previously grumbled about Voidwalker sections, and, well, every part after that.  (Which isn't much.)  It's hard to say much without spoiling the ending, but I will say that a collect-a-thon is something you base the start of a game around, or throw in towards the start or middle, not something you throw in at the end as a 'key' for the final boss encounter.

Then the final boss itself honestly lacked the sense of scale and grandeur that even some of the other, less-important fights had.  Admittedly, the first part of it was fun for me, if a little paint-by-numbers, but it just went off the deep-end there at the end in a way that honestly would have been better served if they took a page from the pages Uncharted:  Drake's Fortune and made the final boss less about 'fighting' the boss and more about 'getting' to it.  But oh well, it honestly wasn't too challenging, offered more good than bad, and lead directly into the amazing ending that was wholly satisfying.  Even if the whole of Darksiders was 100% worse than it was, that ending alone would have been enough to place Darksiders 2 solidly on my radar, so suffice to say it is there.

In a move sure to surprise no one, after I felt I was sufficiently done with Darksiders for now (Got the Abyssal Armor, but didn't have the desire to go for more than that with the Lifestones and Wrath Cores and such), I took it out, looked at my games, saw Yakuza 4 and remembered "Hey, I shelved that for DW7, and then got distracted" and quickly sought to remedy this by throwing it into the PS3 and starting a new game.  I mean, sure, I was only at the end of Akiyama's section with my last game, but this was an excuse to start the whole game over again, and that's not an excuse I'm going to overlook because, despite not playing it months(?), you all know the Yakuza games are my bread-and-butter.

And honestly, that's why I think I haven't played it for so long.  It's one thing to say you love a game and play it compulsively, but it's a whole other thing to say you love a game and not have to play it to prove as much.  Jumping into Yakuza 4 again just feels natural.  It's a game where I'm not going to get rusty at it, I'm not going to become disinterested because of the passing of time or anything, it's just a game that'll always be there, ready for me when I'm ready for it again.  Other games are challenges to clear, things to get through to see what the hype is about, or things to enjoy, but, much like inFamous 2, Yakuza (of any number) for me is just pure, condensed fun.

And it proved that much when I started it again and won my first (non-tutorial) fight by kicking bicycles at a guy until he fell over, unconscious, walked over to him, grabbed the sword he'd been carrying and proceeded to take out his partner by engaging in a HEAT action, slamming the hilt of the sword into the back of his head over and over again until he fell to the ground and spiked it against his head. (Not the blade part, Akiyama apparently doesn't know how to use a Sword in HEAT)  Grinning in glee, I went around, looking for my next fight and had a right bit of fun by throwing the guys I encountered around a few times and soccer kicking their faces in.  I'm not sure why I had my reservations about Akiyama the first time I started Yakuza 4, honestly; the dude is a fucking boss.

I think one of the best things to say for the game is that it's not a chore to look for sidequests/sidestories like it could be in other games.  Sure, you don't know where all of them are without extensive searching or checking a FAQ, but that's not really an issue as Kamurocho is just a wonder to explore, and I honestly know more about the map layout there than most of the surrounding areas.  Which is....kind of hilarious really.  At one point, the game is like "Go here" and I said to myself "Oh yeah, I just need to make a left here, go straight for a while and then right", like I was telling someone else how to get to the store from my house.  There's just that level of familiarity there which I find a little amusing, personally.  Of course, it won't be that way with the new areas for quite a while, the rooftops and the underground malls and such, but that just adds to the thrill.

I also put some more time into Phantasy Star Portable 2 this week, but, well, that's been the same as always.  I'm slowly edging towards higher levels (My MC is now level 94) but the keyword is 'slowly' and it's not without frustration.  You might have noticed a recent tweet on the sidebar yelling about how everything has a ton of HP and, well, it's true.  It's really rough throwing down against a single enemy for the amount of time you apparently have to, not to mention the damage they deal, but I've been managing to do so enough times to get by.

So, there's that!  Been a pretty good week this week, I should say.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Lollipop Chainsaw - Now There's Gameplay Video(s)

I think it's kind of funny that the two biggest things that get my excited right now are the Playstation Vita and Lollipop Chainsaw (which is not going to be on the Vita.  But Oh God, if it was).  There will be days where I have something in mind and say "Yes, this is what I'm going to write about today", or nights where I say, "Well, I could write about that, it'll be a nice challenge to make something of it..", but when there's Vita news or Lollipop Chainsaw news, this tab is opened, and this blank screen is not blank for long.  Even if it's basically just me going "Aaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!  LOOK LOOK, LOOK HOW EXCITED I AM!" in a...much more eloquent fashion for five or so paragraphs.

In all honesty, I have two videos here that I can post, and that I'm going to post, but there's one that I just.....I don't like it.  The guy in it is just not....really making a lot of sense and is just being completely uninteresting and unfunny.  His enthusiasm seems a little forced or he's really really bad at expressing it.  Also, there's terrible cosplay.  Oh, and also it's Destructoid.  I am not really a fan of Destructoid whatsoever, so I'm just....really not too happy with posting something from there, but I may as well just do it and get it over with since, at the very least, it does show off a little more than the -real- video, and gives us the hilarious-sounding formula for one of the boss characters.

It may not be quite as bad as I made it seem, and like I said, you do get valuable insight into the Punk Rock Zombie boss-fight, which just....just sounds hilarious.  (Also proves this guy can't read or has a bad memory)  But then again, terrible cosplay, and this guy who manages, somehow, to make everything in the game just seem not funny whatsoever unless you're also seeing it in the game.  Still, whatever it's a video, and it's actually decent quality, so I will take it.

This next video is two minutes and thirteen seconds of pure, unaltered demo gameplay from PAX taken by someone holding a camera up at the TV in terrible LP fashion while two other people blather on in the background.  It's really nice that you can appreciate the game because it makes you laugh guy, but, y'know, maybe Shut up for two minutes when someone is clearly recording the footage.  I mean, I imagine whoever was recording this was standing there, holding his camera out in the most obvious fashion, and the sound of the people was close enough that they had to be just standing right there.  Common courtesy, people!


First thing that comes to mind when I see it is "Yessssssssssssssssssss, this looks much better than the gameplay in the debut trailer", because, well, it does.  It's smooth.  It flows now.  And you can see the more 'advanced' techniques coming into play already, what with the Escaping QTEs and showing off all the different ways you can attack with the chainsaw itself.  As well as showing off, somewhat, (like the previous video did) that your chainsaw is not your only weapon, merely your primary one.  That wasn't so much unknown as it needed pointing out just because I needed something else to get excited about.

I also really, really like how clear the style is now; in the first vid, mostly, you can actually really see the animation style which has the very, very subtle comic book style colors and lines like we've seen in screenshots, not to mention that the UI practically screams Comic Book style.  I mean, look at the frigging Score part.  Straight from the pages of any comic book you could find, I'm sure.  And that's good; I like that the game has something besides it's amazing set-up that it can hang its hat on.  I'm sure, in the end, a lot of us honestly value great art direction over the most amazing graphics out there, though the latter is definitely nice as well.  (Note to self:  Why haven't you pre-ordered Uncharted 3 yet?)

This all sates me for now, but I cannot wait for the next breadcrumbs of information to get tossed out into the gaming wild, because I will pounce on them like.....something that pounces.  Fast.

Not a shark.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Zeboyd Games is Making Penny Arcade Adventures Episode 3

It was just announced today via PAX that Penny Arcade Adventures:  On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness (Not typing that out again) Episode 3, previously thought to be dead forever, is now not only a thing, but a thing that will be released next year on, quote, "as many systems as possible".  And while this is, in fact, immediately good news in a sense, I've had quite a few sudden thoughts since reading about it (half an hour or so ago) that have.....well, not soured my outlook, but has put caution in my heart, lest it be broken from hoping too much.

Obviously, having Zeboyd games at the helm of a game that is, by design, supposed to be a work of comedy and parody is the exact right move to make.  I've talked of them before back when I brought up the surge of Indie Games and, while I haven't played their games (as I'm not a PC gamer, nor do I have a 360), I can acknowledge that they are, in fact, probably pretty good.  With as much praise as they get, and the low-low pricetag they carry, the only reason to not play them would be if you're, well, in my position.  Granted, it's a position that will be changed sometime, but I'm sure I'm not the only one stuck like this.  But it's because I'm in this position that I had a thought which gave me a reason to hold my celebrations.

While I don't have an exact link to it, Robert Boyd has gone on record several times saying that there just isn't going to be PSN versions of Breath of Death VII/Cthulhu Saves the World.  I forget if it's because they don't want to do all that extra work, if they can't get a hold of a PS3 Dev Kit (either because they can't afford it, or they don't meet the requirements), some other reason, or some combination of reasons.  So clearly I, whose only console outlet for gaming is the only one they don't have access to (that we know of) am a little concerned that even though I threw in my time and money for PAA 1 and 2, I won't be able to continue that experience as everyone else will.

That also moves into my next concern, that PAA from it's beginnings was obviously meant to be a seamless episodic entity in which you could keep your character constant (and also bring along some episode-specific items).  Obviously, the fact that the staff of Zeboyd Games does not include Mike from PA (though I imagine he'll have something to do with the project) will likely mean a completely new art direction (more akin to Zeboyd's previous two games if this shirt is anything to go by), so bringing along your character might be a little difficult, not only for that reason but for other, much more obvious reasons as well.  PAA3 will likely be quite a different game and, hopefully will be touched upon by the plot in a way that makes sense, rather than just switching and hoping nobody will notice.

That PAA3 might, in fact, be so drastically different is not its only problem of course.  The fact that the entire story of episode 3 is out there already might also be a big thorn in the side of the idea as well.  At this point, it becomes a question of whether they take that story (Written by Jerry, as the first two episodes were) and Video Game it, or make a whole new plot for the game to match the drastic change in....everything else.  At the point where it has a whole new plot, is it even Penny Arcade Adventures Episode 3 anymore?  If it's worked on in conjunction with Penny Arcade proper, does that make it any more or less of a proper installment of the series, despite how it turns out?

By no means am I trying to go all gaming purist, elitist or even doom-sayer over PAA3, and in fact I'm quite excited by the news.  But someone in my position, well, any of us in the position of having to wait this long for an Episode Three in this series when it's quite possible that it'll be drastically different have to have some concerns.  That I might not be able to play it on my system of choice (or, at least the system I own the first two on) is a kick to the gut (despite the sudden realization that I don't have the saves for it anymore) and my concerns that it wouldn't be a proper expansion on the previously established experiences have me resting with my optimism steeped in caution so I can only be pleasantly surprised rather than crushingly disappointed.

Update!:  I found a teaser image for the game (which is actually just the back of that shirt, but as an image)!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

News Dump - New Games and New Info

This is another one of those nights where there's just quite a few topics one could bring up, but each one doesn't really offer a lot of a basis to make a full-fledged post over, yet still are big enough that they necessitate being brought up at the very least.  So, seeing as it's the only thing my drug-addled mind can push together (goddamn allergies), it seems as good as anything.  This is also another one of those nights where, despite my willingness to post, and post something substantial, it's just not a thing that can be done, so apologies for that.

First up is something that is, honestly, something that's been on my radar since last year, and one could only hope that a recent interview (rather, a recent interview that Joystiq made an article about) points to a long-awaited PS3 version of Deadly Premonition (in Non-Japan).  While not the first time he's gone out there expressing his desire to do more, make more games and really take off, he seems to have more concrete plans in mind and, hopefully, some financial backing.  Or hopefully his concrete plans will bring financial backing, or something.  Point is, somebody needs to help Swery make some more goddamn games.

Quoted as saying, "Trying to think of ways to create a sequel, that's definitely on the table, trying to create a prequel is also definitely on the table; and also a project to have more people play Deadly Premonition." in regards to his current plans on Deadly Premonition, it's clear that he wants to make Deadly Premonition a thing that is a series, and, thankfully by the way he set the game itself up, a Prequel nor a Sequel would feel 'forced'.  And also, clearly, the last line would be the indicator of his intent to port Deadly Premonition proper to other systems; the only question is what.  (Psst!  Swery!  Vita Dev Kits are pretty cheap!)

We'll just have to take a 'wait-and-see' approach to whatever comes of this, since, hopefully something will come of this.  I mean, I'd be willing to put down money on something happening, honestly.  It's just always the waiting (and seeing F.K. in my drinks) that kills me.

Second up is some rather surprising news from the lands of Skyrim.  At least, surprising to me, as I haven't been following the game, but I'm sure at least part of it is a surprise to, well, most everyone who hasn't already read the article, seen it on the internet, or read it on Twitter (which is on the internet as is the article but semantics) is the news that not only will you be able to get married in Skyrim, but said marriages can be same-sex ones.  Now, while I'm not really of an opinion either way and without getting too political about it, this is honestly pretty cool.  Marriage in general is a neat, if unexpected, step in the game direction, and going right from that to same-sex is a rather bold step if nothing else.

I'm not really sure as to what the proponents of marriage include, as you can't just marry anyone, if I'm interpreting the text of this tweet correctly, but the people you can marry are marry-able (it's a word now, Blogger isn't listing it as misspelled.) regardless of your race or your gender.  This....well, this could turn horrific really quickly, so I'm going to skim away from this rather swiftly, but, again I wanted to point it out at least since it's neat.  I have to wonder what the benefits (in-game) are to getting married, and what could happen to, er.....nullify it, should you get bored of your nagging Orc husband.

We've been over this again and again, Japan.  You really, really need to stop with the awesome PSP games because all it's doing is making me sad that I'll never get to play these games on my american PS- wait what?  It's being localized?!  I....Hrm...I'm not sure what to think here.  Let me collect my thoughts here for a moment....


Yes, NISA.  Yes.  You're doing good things here, and it would be a reaaaaaal shame if you just stopped with Black Rock Shooter in the whole localization department, if you know what I mean.  (Please give us more PSP games)

Anyways, my own personal knowledge of Black Rock Shooter (The Game) (Well, the series it spawned from too, but, really, nobody's going to call it Black Rock Shooter:  The Game) is....beyond limited, but the simple fact that it's a PSP game that's been announced this late in the game and is definitely hitting American shores is almost enough to guarantee a purchase.  The fact that it's apparently a third-person shooter/RPG is mere icing on the cake.  The deliciously portable cake of...girl robots vocaloid(s?) shooting rocks from cannons at stuff or.....Erm....

...Okay, it's just really nice, alright?  And it makes me happy.

There's other bits of news out there, like 'Malicious' getting an enhanced Vita port, GameStop literally losing their -minds-, and Gabe Newell continuing to harp on XBox Live, but I'm not really attached enough to any of those stories to write up anything near meaty enough, so hopefully you'll be able to read and form your own opinions there.  But that feels enough for tonight, so I will try to resist taking another Zyrtec and relax with some youtube videos.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Dream Game, Part 2

It's kind of funny to me that I write my post about trying to parse out my dream game, which holds a lot of decoration and similar aspects, and the very next day, we get an announcement (or, at least, I noticed it) saying that Home (which has the decoration aspect I highly enjoy) is going to expand to have a more game-like feel to it.  Not that I suggest my dream game would be Home, nor that Home could possibly expand into something that I would describe with the term, "Dream", just that elements I'm drawing from is striving to become even more than what it is currently.  I'm, er...easy amused.  (I had a way better reasoning out going on in my head.)

I've still been thinking about it, clearly, and I figured the best way to go about trying to explain it would be to break down each part and do it like that, since flailing around and saying this and that didn't really work when I read it over again.  So I'm going to focus more on the smaller details this time, the personal decorating aspect before moving out and up to the grander levels of it all.  Which is why I brought up Home, since for all the games I've tried that let you personalize spaces (which, I think is basically Home and Phantasy Star Portable 2, possibly a few other things), Home is the one that honestly grants you the most freedom.  You get to place up to 40 items (I believe) and you get to place them wherever the hell you please.  Set up a ramp on a table by hovering a flat item over the edge of the table and placing it, which hands it over to gravity and drops it as it would drop.  Provided the floor doesn't allow it to slip, it'll stay there like a ramp and, last I checked, you could then even use it as one.

Wall items don't work quite as well, as they were introduced after spaces had been pushed out, so the system (for now) seems to be (certain) spaces have pre-determined Wall spots that you can cycle through when you want to put up a poster or a picture frame or what have you.  The rotation of the item is up to you, so you could, theoretically, get a Deer Head ornament and put it on the wall upside down, so even though it's a little restrictive, it still allows for a nice touch of freedom.  But that's still not what I would like, as I would prefer a 'Snapping' method, where you could place an item against a wall and, well, "Snap" it in place.  Or even to another item that you place or that adds flavor to the space.  (A chandelier for instance.)

The alternative provided in Phantasy Star Portable 2, which will quickly explain why I prefer Home's method to it, is by offering about a couple dozen different rooms with predetermined grid areas where you can place things.  Each (most?) room has four wall spots, and then the better part of the floor is divided into a grid, where most items take up four squares.  Additionally, you have a set amount of Decoration Points which is a fairly near hidden number.  You enter Decoration mode to display the grid, and then walk to the area you want, select it, and put down the item, rotating it to face North, West, South or East at your preference.  It's serviceable and does allow for a goodly bit of personalization, but it's too Sims 1 for my tastes, and we've moved beyond that, clearly.

Ideally, each house that you can decorate (and, prior to that, build) would have a realistic amount of rooms (something that Home fails to do, unfortunately, opting to create big 'spaces' instead of actually 'Homes') that you can decorate individually with the amount of control as you would have with a Home room, given the provisions I made additionally.  This way you can create a theme to go throughout the whole house (which would, again ideally raise the overall appeal or value of the place when you're courting outsiders to move in) or, well, just do whatever you want.  Creative freedom above all else!

Your own home would adhere to the very same rules of course, and through upgrading it, you'd be able to personally select what the additional rooms are made of, the sizes and shapes of the rooms, etc.  And, of course, the items you place could be either copied from somewhere else (perhaps 'purchased' via a point system that you fill by killing monsters and/or gaining experience through sidequests?) or just bought straight from a store in a different city.  (Or, eventually from a store opened up in your very own city.)  Additionally, trophies earned through various points of the game (maybe to reflect on the 'meta' trophies you get by playing the game:  Literal trophies if PS, Achievements elsewhere, etc.) that you could put down wherever to show off.  After all, if you killed the Thief King, displaying his bloodied cloak (or whatever the 'trophy' for that would be) is a necessity, of course.

Hopefully this rambling is coming across better than it is when I reread it.  I'm just trying to make the game in my head seem like something tangible rather than a bunch of randomized ideas floating around.  If nothing else, it gives you an idea that I really like games that let you personalize spaces.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Home To Get Remodeled

Today in the Playstation Blog, another revamp in the ever-shifting entity known as Playstation Home was announced, set to take over somewhere in the timeline of "Fall" of this year.  Before you roll your eyes and move along, I should point out that the things mentioned are actually fairly cool and, if executed properly, might just do a little to raise general opinion of  App?  Social Networking device?  Which, in the end, could only be a good thing, clearly, since developers seem to think Home is still worth cursory support (given that Sony and everyone involved actually likely makes a good bit of money.  There's a reason MMOs can survive on micro-transactions alone, you know.) and I'm sure at least some of us would like to experience those side efforts first-hand.

The breakdown of the update is that there's a huge overhaul in progress so that the areas you've come to know and...k...know (or not, should you have never ventured into Home) will likely be gone (the first-party areas, that is; Central Hub, the mall, etc.) and will be replaced by areas bigger and shinier and newer, where the existing games and game spaces will be moved to different parts of what I'm calling "Home Island" because, well, look at it.  Sure, you kinda see the picture branching off into land at the back, so it's probably not an island, but Home Island sounds better than Home Peninsula.

The above appears the be the revamped Mall section of the "Hub" area which....compared to the (semi) current mall is pretty much a stark improvement in every way.  (For the record, yes, I did, at one point, just run around in Home and take pictures with the in-game(?) camera you got to show them off.  Sorta did a mini-Let's Play (Explore?) of Home for a friend a while back.  That's why I have some pictures to share.)  Admittedly, I don't quite remember how the Mall had changed from that picture to the last time I was there, but it wasn't too much of a change, which it certainly needed.  Still had eight storefronts (Or ten.  Man, I am abusing parentheses) some posters here and there, the video board and the four lonely chess boards at the top that were either always occupied or never occupied.  There was never any only one game going on, they were either full or a ghost town.

I know with this whole map set up above, that I'm hoping for areas that actually....well, link to each other.  The old/current Home did/does a fairly good job of it with the first-party things, as your apartment links to the Central Hub, and the Central Hub links to the Mall, Movie Theater and Bowling Alley.  But there were other areas that were just designed to be Home hang-out areas that just never were connected, despite the possibility of it and the actual design of the areas.  (Doors off on the borders of the areas that could have lead somewhere, etc.)  Basically, the map has never really felt cohesive, since to get most places, you had to whip out your PSP Tablet Computer thing and pick a spot from the XMB-themed menu to teleport there.

Not a lot of information has been shown off besides the pictures linked here (and a few more in the article proper) describing, in only the barest of bare details, the surrounding areas of the Hub where most of the games will be located come Fall.  In the comments of the article, the Director of Home did his best to assure everyone that the spaces paid for/downloaded and etc. will all still be available past the update, so I would imagine the game spaces that exist currently (inFamous' Empire City area, Uncharted 2's giant mini-game extravaganza, etc. etc.) will all still be around, just shuffled about.  How they'll be 'blended' into the environment is beyond me, of course, so we'll just have to see how that works out.

On top of that, another little detail was slipped out ever-so-slightly, that a "questing system" will be implemented into Home itself, allowing for a more game-like feel to Home itself, for those who need incentive to actually do something in Home after starting it.  If there's anything to be excited for, or at least look forward to from this upcoming update, it would be this, as, if there was anything Home needed, it was clearly direction, which hopefully the questing system will put in.  And not in a "Go play some mini-games" way, but in a way that truly bids you to go out and check it out, see what it has to offer and, perhaps even appreciate it for what it is.

Behold!  My decoration skills!  (Kind of.)
If you haven't guessed it already, I've always had something of a shaky relationship with Home as, in all honesty, Home has the stigma of "having little to do in it" for a reason, though admittedly an exaggerated one at this point.  There are, of course, mini-games to do, reward items to earn, and places to visit, if just to see how it all looks, but there's no real incentive to do it unless there's an item involved, and then the only incentive would be if you want that item to decorate with.  Unsurprisingly, I enjoy having options while decorating, and we know I enjoy some decoration, so I did find myself going through the motions, doing this and that to get the virtual items, even if I was never going to use them.  Because, hey, who knows!  I could have used them.  I still can, all things considered.

This is why I may, admittedly, be looking at this upcoming update to Home with a little more optimism than most.  Then again, with the way the 'gamer crowd' has panned Home (as we have panned so many things in the past, like Cell Phone games and achievements), it could be that others are just looking forward to this with entirely too much blind pessimism and aren't even looking to attempt it after it's changed; simply falling back on prodding at it because Home manages to be one of the things you can still make fun of and not really face much opposition.  We won't really know how to make heads or tails of it until it's out, of course, so until then!

Monday, August 22, 2011

My Dream Game

As gamers, we're all faced with the very real possibility at one point or another that no game will ever be tailor-made for you, that no game will ever have everything you want it to have, mostly because with everything we've played, the variety would simply be too much to code and program.  Or it would face some other sort of limitation, surely, even when we play a game we enjoy, we get certain feelings, "If I could change anything I would..." and then we list off one or a few different things we'd add, take away, or alter to more perfectly fit this image we have in our heads.  It'll never happen, of course, but yet we still dream of this dream game that we could create.

Take a little bit of this game/series, a little bit of that game/series, mash it all together and come up with something fresh that, hopefully won't end up causing people to dredge up the Homage vs. Rip-Off argument ala Darksiders.  Because, of course, if you do it right, your game will only be called (Game)-Like, (All isometric dungeon crawlers are apparently Diablo-like, despite not needing you to click five thousand times to get from Point A to Point B to open a chest), all run-and-gun military shooters are Call of Duty-Like, etc. etc.  Regardless, the genre isn't what's important to the dream game, but rather what you want it to do and want it to have.

Obviously, I've been thinking a lot lately about what my 'dream' game would be, and clearly I don't have the finer details parsed out (for reasons that will become almost immediately clear), I do know, at least, mostly what I want from it, and I want to put that out there, if just to sort of cement it in my mind or maybe even reason it out a little more.

If you know me (which, if you're reading this, you likely do by now), you know that I enjoy the prospects of building and....for a lack of a better word, 'decorating', and often bring it up as something to get excited about.  Indeed, as you'll notice above (and, well, further above), are two very real, existing methods of 'building' in games:  The nearest being the GeoRama system from White Knight Chronicles (cribbed straight from the Dark Cloud games, of course) and the one at the top being Monteriggioni from Assassin's Creed 2, the village that housed the Villa de Auditore, from which you could 'restore' the village building-by-building.  While the GeoRama system is closer to what I enjoy (rather, I'd prefer something more to the Sims where I can actually just design and build, I can make the concession for a wide variety of buildings pre-made or building parts), I do like the 'Hub' part of Assassin's Creed 2's village, and in fact would go so far as to say that that whole experience was my favorite part about the game.

My dream game would give you this location where you (your character, rather, fully customizable of course) lives, surrounded by blank, flat land, ripe for construction.  This is not the only place you go to, but it's the most important, as it's a literal blank slate.  Why it's that way is really of no concern, but it's not some sort of apocalypse, and the land hadn't been populated before and wiped out; there's other towns and cities that you'll be able to visit.  But this one rather large section of the world, large enough to make a city, is just blank, to be shaped however you want.

Not alone, of course, and I'm not even willing to say shaping the land is your main goal, as, honestly despite the inherent "not sure if want" factor Open-World games take on, I would want it to be Open-World.  In a perfect world, perfect dream, it would be about as open as any of The Elder Scrolls games, but well, again we may have to be at least semi-realistic here.  I'd like it if you could take or draw your building elements (buildings, trees, etc.) from the rest of the world, since it would honestly give you a good reason to explore the land.  Not to mention you'll need people to not only build this town/village/citiy/what have you (and upgrade your house), but to live in it as well.  (I would like to imagine you could decide whether you want to hire people to build, or use slave labor 'recruit' monsters to work, ala Rune Factory.

Combat would be relatively simple enough; I don't know if it's because it's what I'm playing now, or if I just prefer it, but Phantasy Star Portable's style (picking up weapons from all sorts of varieties and assigning them to your person, able to switch to any one at any given moment) seems like a perfect fit for what I'd want, since versatility, obviously, is key to the experience.  A nice, wide variety of weapons would be nice, with varying levels of 'unique' design, as one of the many house upgrades would ideally be an armory/trophy room (again, ala Assassin's Creed 2 Villa) so you could show them off to....well, I guess yourself.  Would be rather hard to put something this large-scale on Multi-player, but it would be nice if there was some sort of synch option to 'share' your City.

It's hard to really articulate what I want here, because 1) It's not exactly possible in the form I'm thinking of, since it's honestly, still too grand a scale than what we can handle yet (thus making some of it sound too dreamy and silly) and 2) Because, well, putting out what would be your 'perfect' anything is hard, since wants/desires shift, so what you want today, what's perfect today, might not be tomorrow.  But for my 'dream' game here, Large-Scale is almost an understatement since the goal would be that you could not only design/build/manage your own citiy (populate it however you want, decide the prominent flora/fauna, decorate the houses, etc.) but be able to visit the pre-existing cities in the game and be able to explore them to any degree.

Then, on top of that, everything needs to feel 'alive'.  You'll need sidequests and a story for those who don't really care to build to such a degree that it's the 'fun' part of the game, so that's where your bit of Elder Scrolls games kicks in which means more locales to explore, loot to be found, etc.  It is, in fact, just too much game.  And I don't feel I've even adequately explained what's in my head, but hopefully, I've impressed enough of it, because I'm entering the portion where it's almost seeming redundant now.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Akinator is a Goddamn Wizard (Genie)

If you've ever played Twenty Questions with a friend or a relative to pass the time, or even because, in certain conditions, it's fun, then you can only consider that training versus the evil known as the Akinator.  This thing takes Twenty Questions and turns it not into a challenge, but a goddamn blood sport because it's so good at it.  Rest assured, that smug face of the genie will haunt your dreams should you dare challenge him because, in all likelihood, he will chew you up and spit you out the first few times you try and go up against him.

You go in and think, "Psh, this thing probably doesn't know all that much" and figure on a character from a video game that you're either playing currently or have played recently.  The first ten questions go by with no real incident, all fairly generic questions really.  No way in hell this genie could possibly be able to guess by question twenty that you're thinking of Cole MacGrath from inFamous, right?  I mean, it's a Playstation 3 exclusive game, albeit a popular one, and it hasn't even asked if your character is a super hero.  Question two was just, "Does your character wear shoes?" for crying out loud.  Maybe it'll get closer on, like, question 24 or something, but right now?  Psh.  Not even close.

And then, on question thirteen, Akinator stares into the depths of your soul with the smuggest grin you've ever seen and says, "Does your character produce electricity?"


You have no choice, of course, but to answer "Yes." and then question fourteen just cements it:  "Does your character climb walls?"  ".......yes."

"You were thinking of.....Cole MacGrath!"

Yes, Akinator, thank you.  I was thinking of Cole MacGrath and the fact that you figured that out in thirteen questions has me questioning just about everything I believe in, honestly.  In submitting to the fact that he is, indeed, correct, there is a moment of gloating before you see the "Play Again" button shining like a beacon.  CHALLENGE ACCEPTED, Akinator.

This time I bust out the, quote-unquote 'big guns' as I am wont to do, with Caim.  (Who, in general terms of sheer murder levels, could always be considered the big guns, of course.  Unfortunately, this is not a murder scenario.)  All the questions go fairly smoothly, and he even looks a bit frustrated to learn that my character is not blonde and not from the Final Fantasy series.  But as soon as he learns my character has a sister, that smugness is back, and after the twentieth question is done and answered, the image of Caim, sticking his tongue out to show his pact mark, slowly fades into focus on the screen.  Appropriate, really.

This happens again and again, I try Father from Nier, Trogdor (because honestly, that's been, what, six years ago now?  More?), Afro Samurai, over and over again, I try to stump this genie, a task that is not impossible as I've done it before in the past.  But this time....this time, victory eludes me.  But I have to try at least once more.  Unable to think of anything but Valkyria Chronicles for some reason, I make a decision for my next, and final, character.

Marion Seigbahn, possibly the best character from Valkyria Chronicles 2, is likely an easy pick, but she's my favorite, so let's try it anyway.  Defeated at this point, I slog through the questions, figuring he'll pick it up fairly easily and when his first guess at question twenty is Edy Nelson, I go, "well, this shouldn't be much longer".  But, in a strange twist, his line of questioning branches off in such a way that suggests, perhaps, the first twenty questions have been ignored or something.  When the second guess, at question thirty is some character from Trauma Center (the game), I have to wonder just what the hell happened.  Revitalized, I continue all the way to question forty, answering as honestly as possible when it finally comes to the last guess.

Once again, it was close, but no cigar.  Alicia Melchiott is not Marion Siegbahn, Akinantor!  IN YOUR FACE!  After a graceful loss, he bids you to inform him of your character, and as such I did.  No doubt some time in the future this will come back to haunt me and others, but for tonight, I taste victory once again.

And that's what I did tonight instead of anything important.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Too Many Games

It's about that time again.  Fall time, that is; when everyone starts staying inside more and more, and as such, game developers release more games to give you more reasons to stay inside.  And I am just....just not ready at all.  I had wanted to start a backloggery for the longest time to get this all sorted, but for a while there, it was unavailable for new registrants while the guy running it updated the servers and dealt with some health issues at the same time.  I imagine he's gotten over them, as a little while ago, I noticed the site was back, but I hadn't ever bothered to register.

Well, at least until about five minutes or so ago.  Off the top of my head, I could think of 18 19 21 22 (would you believe that I've thought of more games this many times during the typing of this post?) games which are shown in my profile I have to finish, and that's without really going and looking at my stack.  That....that is a lot of gaming.  I might change a couple of those to Null (Like PSP2) since I'll likely be playing them for a time longer without really figuring on a 'complete' goal, but for the most part, these are games that I haven't even started, much less put anything resembling completion into.

It''s difficult.  My main issue right now, in all honesty, is my PS3.  I do not trust the thing.  I feel like it's on its last legs for some reason (most of that being that whenever I turn it off after playing Darksiders, it does the three-beep "I was still doing stuff, you jerk" turn off, which, no, it is -not- doing stuff, the light isn't blinking) and honestly, if it breaks, I don't know what the hell I'll do.  I don't really have the cash to shell out for another $170 replacement, much less spend $250 on a brand-new one.  If I had $250 to spend, it'd be in an account labeled "Playstation Vita" anyways.  Given that I've been jerked around by a YLOD already and the bullshit accompanying it, it's not a thing I would like to go through again, and with summer being as hot as it is, I don't want to tempt that fate once more.

Is it any more avoidable by not enjoying my PS3 for the simple pleasure of looking at it and saying "Well, it's not broken at the moment"?  I'm not willing to say it is, really, since I hate not playing it.  And while I've had a few bouts of "Fuck it, come what may", with the fall/holiday crunch coming up, I can't really afford to be that gung-ho.  But on the other hand, I can't exactly afford to just let all these games that I paid for sit unplayed when there's just going to be more coming out that I will buy and, I guess, not play.  Thus, the Sisyphus image above.

I guess the upside is that my list of games I'm looking forward to with any sort of certainty of purchasing is rather short at the moment.  Then again, I haven't done a lot of research.  But I know that I'll have to track down Dynasty Warriors 7:  Xtreme Legends, Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection, and the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection.  Of course, the Zone of the Enders HD Collection is on my radar as well, but it's release seems a little less tangibly close than MGS'.  I'm sure there's plenty of other games that I want, but I'm reasonably sure, out of all the releases coming out relatively soon that these are the ones I 'need'.

And of course, this is neglecting the fact that there are games already out there that I 'need', off the top of my head, Dead Space 2 and Catherine, which I -would- like to purchase and play at least one of those before the end of the year, as my list of games that I've played from 2011 is....well, not up to par, and doing a top ten Games of the Year for 2011 series of posts will be a little difficult if I don't have 10 games from 2011 played!  (I think I'm up to six or seven currently.  Btw, did you know Ghost Trick was released this year?  I didn't, until I started thinking about the games I'd played this year.  I have -no- idea where it's going to place.)

There are worse things to complain about, I suppose.  But still, this is rather unfortunate!  Hopefully with the backloggery and Fall (and with it, colder temperatures) coming, I'll be able to kick my gaming into a higher gear and get through this list.  And now that you have the link, you'll be able to follow along as well!  I guess.  If...y'know, that interests you.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Phantasy Star Portable 2 - How It Compares to the Original

Now, way back when I did a similar article for Rune Factory 3 and Rune Factory 1, I hadn't considered that I would, well, ever do such an article again.  I don't normally try to compare sequels, and when I do, I normally just put the game by its own merits or something, perhaps bring up what the first game did better a few times, but I rarely gauge a game by the game that preceded it.  And I don't know if I can actually make this comparison thing a thing (If I did, I'd certainly do Resistance:  Fall of Man vs. Resistance 2 next), but it's something I've been tossing around lately for PSP1 and 2 for a fairly....well, obvious reason.

A lot of people who have gotten their hands on copies of Valkyria Chronicles 3 mention that, well, it takes a lot of maps, if not all of them, from Valkyria Chronicles 2.  I....find that a little odd, but whatever.  It's only after playing both Phantasy Star Portable games that I realize this is just Sega's thing.  You see, every map in Phantasy Star Portable is present in PSP2, as well as the new maps PSP2 brings to the table.  And....some (I don't know what level this goes to) of Phantasy Star Portable 1's maps came straight from Phantasy Star Universe.  You see, friends, Sega is just...well, basically stealing from themselves.

It's hard to show this off in screenshot form without spending a ton of time looking (ton meaning more than the 10 I just threw out there, obviously), so instead, let me just drop this youtube search results page here and let you decide for yourself.  The mission in question is called "Plains Overlord", was present first in Phantasy Star Universe on PC, PS2 and 360, and remained a staple through Phantasy Star Portable 2.  Through all three versions it's been, for all intents and purposes, the same map.

While I may paint this in a negative light, it's not exactly a bad thing of's just not a good thing either.  After sinking time into Phantasy Star Portable 1, I'm guessing that it has the least maps of all three games, honestly, as I had a little trouble finding a couple maps through that cursory youtubing for a comparison page.  But it does help when you're playing the next game, of course, provided you played Phantasy Star Portable 2 after 1.  Which...I didn't do.  But that does work conversely, of course, as the map knowledge gained from PSP2 helped me through PSP1 as well as teach me a few things about some of the different bosses that appear in both games, but go fairly unexplained in PSP2.

Which, if anything would be one of the (few) strengths the original game holds over the sequel.  While Phantasy Star Portable 1's story is considerably shorter than what the sequel offers, it's also much much more aware of itself and grounded.....more or less.  Without having played Phantasy Star Universe (which as I said before, is direct canon for both PSP1 and 2) I'm still missing out on a little bit of the story, but where Phantasy Star Portable 2 really really hopes you played the original to understand more about the monsters and such that act as bosses, Phantasy Star Portable 1 plows through and explains it anyway.  So in PSP2 where the Dimmagolus was just some giant douchebag monster with bat wings, in PSP1, it's explained and also pointed out that the wings are a giant weakspot which makes it 10x easier to fight.  PSP1's smaller, more contained story also ensures that it keeps a lot of the fluff out, which, PSP2 has a few sections that seem to be only fluff.

Another plus for the original is how it handles the main character.  While it's a...very minor thing, I have grown far too tired of games where your character doesn't have natural dialog, yet talks to everybody.  It's sort of a mutation of the Silent Protagonist trope brought about by the widespread acknowledgement of the Silent Protagonist trope.  Which is entirely too fucking meta.  In PSP1, they are aware of the Silent Protagonist trope and make extensive use of it.  You see, your character in PSP1 is, at times, offered different choices for what to say in certain circumstances.  That (aside from battle grunts) is all your character ever says, which is oftentimes pointed out by the other characters.  And it's always amusing.  This is, of course, pure and simple personal preference, but I enjoy the mental image of my character being, pretty much, an anti-social jerk who just wants to kill monsters.

But the rest of the characters in PSP1 are, ultimately, one of the many downfalls of the game.  While I like the main character and, in general, like the game's story itself, it does not handle the characters well.  The first one you meet, Laia Martinez is your superior and your direct Guardians instructor with whom you take on a mission or two with at the start (and your partner, Vivienne) and then she completely disappears and ceases to be relevant whatsoever.  She's not the only one who does this, of course, and even the characters that are cameos from PSU have bit parts and are then promptly forgotten without so much as a word to why.  It's....well, it's fairly jarring.  PSP2, on the other hand manages to have all the major players be relevant to the end (which, in the case of a few characters is a detriment, actually) without being tossed to the wayside unceremoniously.

In terms of Gameplay, there simply is really no argument:  Phantasy Star Portable 2 is a clear improvement.  The only issues with PSP2 is that you can only carry half the amount of healing items you could in PSP1 (as well as the enemies hit harder.  Of course) and Skills level up in PSP1, whereas you just find higher level disks in PSP2 (which, if I recall correctly, was how techs were handled in PSO anyway, so precedence wins).  I was a little partial to leveling up skills and techniques rather than just stumbling across a level 15 disk but I'll take what I can get if it means I can use all three combo attacks of a special technique at level 1 rather than grinding it to level 30.

Phantasy Star Portable 2 manages to handle the PP (I'm guessing power point) system better and worse all at the same time as well.  In Phantasy Star Portable 1, PP was on each individual weapon which, on the plus side could have meant that it had a ton of PP which means a lot of Special Technique usage (and you don't have to mess around with chains to make it stronger, even) but the downside was that you could find a boss-as-hell weapon with, like, 36 friggin' PP.  Dump stats like that just make the weapon completely undesireable and will likely just put you off from upgrading even if the new weapon has 200 ATK on your current one.  The downside to PSP1's system is that PP doesn't restore when the weapon is equipped, and when it is equipped, it restores really slowly unless you attack normally with it, which will cause it to fill a few points with the hit, rather than a point per three seconds.

Of course, with guns the normal attack is the attack that uses PP.  So once you've used up a gun's PP (and you will) unless you want to stand there for half an hour to let it charge, you're stuck with either A) switching the weapon out, B) stumbling across a Prism Box that lets you buy your PP back for your weapons (A paltry sum, always worth it, and they're usually found before a boss fight), or C) Using a Photon charge, an item that will completely recharge a weapon's PP and is found fairly commonly.  So there's really no reason -not- to use a Photon Charge, aside from the fact that it's, well, annoying.

In Phantasy Star Portable 2, your PP is tied to the character and your techniques just draw from that.  It also restores way faster when you're loitering, so you're not going to sit around for ten minutes waiting for a fully charged PP bar again.  I've noticed that hitting things normally does recharge it a little more as well, but it's hardly as noticeable in PSP2 as it was in PSP1, mainly since it was damn near vital in the first game.  On the downside of this, heavy PP-users are still fairly difficult to use, as when your PP is low, you're -still- just running around waiting for it to refill and there's actually no Photon Charge objects in PSP2.  At least, not that I know of.  Still, it's a lot more manageable in the sequel.

Gameplay is not only what's better about the sequel, but all the other things put into it.  They managed to implement a full online mode through the Playstation Network so you can play with your friends wherever they are (and not use Ad-Hoc Party) but also Commons maps (well, -a- map) that you can actually walk around in to talk to people, get sidequests (also new to PSP2) and shop, versus PSP1's static image maps with important circles.  Bringing over the room management from PSU as well is a nice touch, though most, if not all, of the rooms are straight from PSU.  Still, you all know me, I likes me some decorating in video games.

So after playing both extensively (I have a level 61 character in PSP1, where the level cap is 100 for reference, whereas my Main character in PSP2 is 89 with a max of 200) I feel fairly qualified to speak on them both, and it's easy to say that the sequel is a clear improvement in all areas, or at least the ones that matter. It's always refreshing when that happens, I think, since it speaks well for the way the series can grow as, these days you can usually hope for a 'next one' especially with franchises like Phantasy Star Portable/Universe/Online/etc.  Personally, I'm still looking for PSP3 on Vita.

It would be like heaven.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Not All Absurdity is Good Absurdity

I've made it fairly clear here at various points that I love absurdity.  I live and breathe it and love to see it in games, since that's one of the few forms of media that it's okay to have it in anymore.  (The others mostly consisting of Cartoons)  But, as with all things, there is a line, and absurdity is only good and all when it's done properly.  Now, I'm not saying what brought on this article is bad in the way it chooses to deliver, but it's certainly not on the level with something more recent that's caught my attention.  Just because there's being absurd to be funny and there's be weird.  A trailer I saw today for a newly announced Playstation Vita game, called "Frobisher Says", brought this to mind immediately.

Now, like I said, it's not bad, so much as it's out-there enough to be a little off-putting.  Admittedly, british humor has always been very hit and miss for me (and that's what this is, very clearly) so maybe I'm not exactly the best judge.  And while there are a few parts to it that are....approaching endearing, I'm not sure just what to think.  The article that brought the game to my attention said that it appears to be a sort of WarioWare-type game, but I myself have never touched a WarioWare title so I do not know of its ways.  It appears to be a mini-game collection, which I'm fairly.....well, they don't generally interest me.

But on the other hand, it is a Playstation Vita game, and depending on the number of minigames it has, I'm sure to find a few that I like, yeah?  I guess I'll just have to file this one under "Wait and see", since I'm nowhere near prepared to decide on it one way or another.  Besides, I'm sure my Vita will be plenty busy when I get it anyway.  I've been itching to play through Peace Walker again, but I'm deliberately holding off until the Vita to make use of the second stick.  (Since apparently it'll be one of those PSP games that will be able to use it or something)  Not to mention Uncharted:  Golden Abyss, Gravity Rush (If it's a launch-title), and whatever else I end up picking up.  Still waiting for a 'concrete' launch list, of course.

A list that will then be posted to this blog, since I am all about the goddamned Vita.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

All Sorts of Vita News....Mmmmm...

I'm sure you guys all know that if there's anything I like, it's news about the Vita, something that I grow more and more excited for every day..  So GamesCom has been quite a thing for me, what with all the things confirmed, announced and shown off for it.  And even though my allergies are making these words crawl through the haze in my head to get here at the moment, I still want to point out the more noteworthy bits of news that we learned about.  (Which are, of course, all of them.)

First up, and arguably the most forgettable of the news, is the fact that there will be downloadable apps for Facebook, Twitter, Skype and Foursquare which is....well, not great news, but pretty good.  I know I use my PSP to check my Twitter and update it, which, well, you all know as well, and while I don't have much use for the other three apps, the fact that they'll be available for download for free is nice.  Note that "Available for Download" is key, since it likely means they won't come pre-loaded on the Vita so you can just pick what you like rather than have a useless Foursquare app staring at you every time you go onto that app page or however this UI is going to pan out with all these apps and buttons.

Seriously, before today, I had never heard of Foursquare.  And this news did prompt me to wiki it which...well, it looks interesting.  It's like a sort of meta-game you play with your friends and/or the entire internet, that lets you log where you go and give you points and awards for visiting the same places again and again or something.  Like I said, it's fairly interesting, but the wiki article does, of course, point out the inherent, er, issues with such a service, and I don't know if those have been addressed or anything properly yet, but while interesting, I doubt I'll be using it, especially since it sounds like Near far outperforms it in terms of prizes for going out of the house.

Secondly, which is....kinda sorta less necessary to know for those of us who just intend to play on the Vita, is the knowledge that Vita Dev Kits are dirt cheap (comparatively speaking).  Where the PS3/PS2 dev kits were/are fairly expensive (The figure shown in the article is "PS2 and PS3 devkits cost €20,000, while PSP ones cost €15,000", but those may be long out-dated numbers.), the Dev Kits for Vita in Europe will start for a paltry 1,900 Euros plus tax.  I don't know the exact exchange rate or anything like that, but four figures seems, all in all, pretty nice, especially when that four figures is on the low-end of it all.  Hopefully this means that it'll never be 'too expensive' to develop on the Vita and as such, we'll never have such a drastic games drought.

Finally and most importantly, was all the wonderful games news that we got, not only updates to games we knew about but also brand-new reveals shown off just recently.  Clearly, we all know that I'm going to show off the trailer for LittleBigPlanet Vita, right?  Right.  This one focuses a lot on the fact that you'll be able to take pictures and inspiration from anywhere you go and shows it off in, well, a pretty good way.

Of course, the end result isn't exactly what was built and would take at least a little while longer of tweaking, but still it's seeming fairly user-friendly.  I imagine the sticks will be what you use for a little more precise work but more methods of input are always good, I say.  Also, that music.

Up next is my second most anticipated game for the Vita at this point, Uncharted:  Golden Abyss.  Finally a trailer that shows off how the game looks in cutscenes and in-game.  Which, unsurprisingly, both look exactly the same.

If I had to pick any one thing out of that that I didn't like, it'd just be the girl's hair; something about it looks slightly off.  But, eh, such is the issue with video game hair, unfortunately.  The rest?  The rest is spectacular.

And while I'm going to be looking forward to Resistance: Burning Skies and Gravity Rush (newly named), the announcement of Escape Plan is something that is fairly interesting, so I thought it would bear reason to show it off.

Maybe it's the music playing (really, how many times has that song been used to show off a game?  Yet it works every time.) or the Clerks font on the in-betweens, or just because the game really shows off some form of character with just what we've seen, but it looks like it'll be a contender for our attentions.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Perils of Old People and Technology

So, I apologize for not having a post up early tonight.  I really wanted to post about something, especially something Vita related and I might just do that as a "Bonus" post, but for the past three hours, I was assisting my mother in setting up an account and doing a family tree on some website.  For a frame of reference, I started at 9:01 PM exactly, when we went out and turned on her laptop to get her on the site and this and that.  (I'm specifically not mentioning the site out of spite.  For who, I don't know.)  It is now, as of this writing, 12:20 AM, though I came back to the computer.....maybe about ten minutes ago.

First off, this site isn't really that intuitive.  (Maybe that's why I'm not linking, since I don't want to give a negative impression out of frustration)  I mean, sure, as we went on it got easier, but it doesn't work like the commercials/impressions would indicate, in that you can just sort of throw a few facts in and then get half of your extended family.  It just does not work that way and not once did we find a member of the family tree that we didn't already know about.  Hell, we had trouble finding records for one of my mom's siblings, and never did end up finding anything for them just yet.

So, for all those three hours of work, we ended up with a Family Tree that has...four tiers.  Overall, about 15 or so people.  And...that's it.  Those were all just people we knew about, we got absolutely no 'hints' towards other family members or anything like that.  We'll see what happens next time, but I'm not anticipating some grand sweep.  The search parameters used for locating family members seems entirely too wide, as you'll enter one word and end up with something different.  Like, using the example of "John Smith", we could probably end up with "John W Smithe", "Smith Johnson" or anything like that.  It's just not....concrete.

But it's not just simple things like website navigation.  I'm, frankly amazed at the mere thought that folks in elderly homes are able to turn on a Wii, much less play it without instruction (and as such, doubt a scenario is possible), as my mom needed written, step-by-step instructions on how to turn on/off her Wii.  Two years after purchasing it.  It's just.....urgh.

You know when you were in school and the network went down or your classroom's computers were acting weird, and so the teacher sent you off to find the tech dudes, and they always seemed frustrated?  I get that now.  So much so that I could almost go back to the school I went to and just apologize to that dude for all the times I had to go get him to figure out something.  Because I truly understand the sheer hair-ripping rage brought about by these sorts of scenarios.

So yeah.  That is why tonight's post was late.  Apologies, folks.