Friday, September 30, 2011

Gaming White Whales: Final Fantasy Tactics Edition

So, you may have heard of this game of mild popularity and renown (I'm being facetious) in passing or the like, but if you haven't experienced it yourself or second-hand, you're really doing yourself something of a disservice.  Final Fantasy Tactics for me remains my most favorite thing to have the Final Fantasy Label on it to this day, and I seriously doubt anything else will be able to take its place in that.  Namely because I haven't really had much of a connection to the Final Fantasy series as a whole and each new iteration seems to...well, not live up to the previous one.  Versus is the only title that instills me with anything resembling hope, so we'll just have to see how that one works out.

And as the title would suggest, Final Fantasy Tactics is one of those games, much like Star Ocean 2, that I've started so many times but I've never beaten it for one reason or another.  Tactics' problem (well, it's -my- problem, in all reality) is that I get to the final chapter and the overall impact of the grind I've taken to this point hits me and I just....give up.  I always end up ridiculously overpowered so random encounters (done to your level) become the only thing resembling a 'threat' the game can offer (aside from a few choice boss fights) and I sort of get a foregone conclusion feeling.  I have the game 'won', I just don't go through with it, basically.  So I fall out of it.

The last few times I've taken up the mantle, I've chosen the names of friends to name recruits after at the start to grow with my character into beings of peerless destruction to make it a little more fun.  I've had countless combinations of this and that, and I guess it's had a thread of "Let's Play" in it long before I even thought of that concept as a thing, since I always make it a point to know what said person wants their virtual representation to be.  Makes it a little more interesting for me, since I don't just go with whatever's the broken-est and actually play around with classes that I might not otherwise.  So, this time around, since I have an outlet, I thought it would be nice to display just who is going to be fighting for me as what.  Which will possibly make it easier for me to actually finish this time!

Starting off, we have the Monk Class, which is what my main character will be.  If nothing else, this will always be the class that is "Gamed" the most, since, well, I guess it's a representation of -me- and how I tend to go at Final Fantasy Tactics.  It's practically lore in itself by now, but the 'classic' overpowered Monk is one who equips the Ninja's Support skill "Two Swords".  Under normal circumstances, Two Swords allows a class to equip two weapons for whatever their class is (provided it's a one-handed weapon.)  Monks, however, fight only with their fists, so this simply allows them to punch twice.  And Monks punch hard.  About as hard as any weapon would deal damage, so if you're worried about something of a trade-off, well, worry not.  Monks are generally going to be powerhouses and pretty sturdy themselves once they've gotten Chakra, which restores HP and MP not only for themselves, but for those immediately next to them.  Equipped with Two Swords and Move +# (Up to 3 if you really want to bother with a Bard) or Teleport, a Monk will quickly become a force to be reckoned with.  And that's the plan.

My first recruit is going to be named after my buddy Haplo, who you might recognize from the comments of several blog posts I've made.  He's really fought alongside me, so to speak, a lot, so it's always great to have him on the team.  (I'm pretty sure I've had him in my game before.)  This go around, Haplo suggested what I coined as a Grey Mage (It's not a Red Mage, goddamnit) which is a White Mage primary with a Black Mage Secondary skillset.  With access to just about every type of spell out there, he'll be, more or less, one of the most important members of the team, as, aside from the Monk's Chakra ability, I'll pretty much be neglecting healing altogether.  Besides, having someone who can toss out Blizzara or Thundaga every now and then will eventually prove to be indispensable, assuredly.  He will be an Aquarius Scorpio to my main character's Pisces (my sign), which I neglected to mention.  If you don't know, the Zodiac plays a big part of character interactions, but I largely just sort of....ignore it, I suppose.  But it's worth mentioning.

Next up is my good friend Saki-Chan (Sakura will be the characters name, of course) who has presented me with quite a challenge.  Samurai primary, which is fine enough, but as a secondary, she's chosen one of the two War of the Lions (the version of FFT I'll be playing, since I neglected to mention that as well) exclusive classes, the Dark Knight, which is....hands-down the hardest thing in the game to get.  I don't think anyone would really argue that point.  Half a dozen classes to level eight, on top of Black Mage and Knight both being mastered, as well as that unit personally crystallizing 20 human enemies.  The other issue is that I'm not quite sure if a Dark Knight's abilities work as a secondary class to a class that doesn't equip "Normal" swords.  These are just things I'll have to discover along the way, though.  Putting Two Swords on her is appealing and I might just go with that if just for the Miyamoto mental image.  Sakura will be signed as a Cancer.

When I asked my friend Kaseius about his and his just-recently-married wife's participation, he informed me that he wanted to be either a Monk or an Archer, to which I responded "Archer it is", as I really don't like doubling-up on a class.  Kind of makes it seem less special or something, I would say.  So Kasey the Archer will be the ranged portion of my team (aside from Haplo's spells) and will be appropriately thought-out for it.  Aside from being an Archer, I've been allowed a blank slate for him, so I'm honestly considering trying to see if Archers can use the Knight's 'Break' skills from afar as other classes can do with guns, as such an ability would be quite useful.  If nothing else, I'll take his first suggestion of Geomancer into consideration and put that in as a secondary since their skills are ranged as well and offer a good range of status effects to consider if you're lucky..  Being able to stop somebody with a Geomancer ability and get away just as they think they'll be able to invade your personal space (an Archer's worst fear) to then take advantage of the space put between their previous-hunter, now-prey with a well-placed arrow....that's the stuff.

My final member of the Main Team (I'll have a few secondary people hanging around for some other purposes, plus the Unique characters that I won't be using) is a Dragoon, so wished by Kaseius' lovely new bride, Emily.  Like Kasey, all I was really given was a class to abide by with the rest being left to me.  I've mentioned my plans for an Archer, but a Dragoon is honestly something of a blank slate for me.  This is why I enjoy doing this, of course, since I have really nothing to expect, to think of for a Dragoon, so it's not something I can plan for, simply something I'll adapt to.  A knight's break skills would make sense here if I can't have them on Kasey, since a Dragoon can attack from two squares away, rather than the adjacent square thanks to their spears, which means no retaliation for it.  If I can break things with an arrow, I'll think of something else, I'm sure; I do have plenty of other classes to think about here.  They've instructed me to sign them whatever I care to, which I will use as my other way to really game  Since Zodiac affects compatibility (and thus, chances with attacking, healing, etc.) I'm hoping there's a way I can set it up so Kasey and Emily are perfectly attuned to one another while also being a bane to the more prominent Zodiac signs in the game.

If I had the capability to do so, I'd love nothing more than to really take some screenshots of all this and do a real proper cataloging of what happens, but I guess I'll just have to stick with text only updates, as I do plan on doing updates of this playthrough every now and then.  Making it more of a project than a 'goal' might also help me see it through to the end, I figure.  Either way, as it always is, it'll be fun.  I'll do an update as soon as enough has happened, progress-wise, that I deem it necessary.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lots of Bite-Sized News Chunks

I'm pretty sleepy today, as I had a long day and didn't really sleep all that well.  It doesn't help that there's really not a whole lot of exciting news out there to really energize me, though there's a lot of news out there.  It's just that it's so basic, I can't really say a whole lot of it.  So I figured, "Well, I've done this type of thing before, so I can do it again" and I'll just throw out all the news that I've seen lately and let you decide.  I can't get too in-depth in a lot of it because there's honestly not a -lot- of stuff to cover on these bits.  You'll see what I mean, I guess, rather than me just reiterating that point.

First off, something that did manage to spark my vitriol is stupid Jonathan Blow (you know, the Braid guy) talking about his stupid new game "The Witness" which will likely be as fucking sub-standard, preachy and nonsensical as Braid.  If you can't tell, I am not a fan of Braid; I got it for half-price on PSN and honestly wish I could get that money back to put to something, anything better than it.  Like those stupid, cheesy premium themes that are $3 for no particular reason.  Or dozens of avatars for games I don't even like.  The point is, the $7.50 or so that I spent on Braid is something I really, really regret.

Anyways, Blow says "The Witness" is only coming to PC and iOS devices because consoles are too old and it's not worth it because he doesn't want to have to 'do tricks' to put it on consoles and pay for certification.  He's more than willing to 'do tricks' to put it on the iPad, however, which means he's a fair-weather cockwit and the last time we hear about him and his stupid games will be a time too many.  If there's one thing I just can't stand, it's a PC Gaming Elitist, and if there's another I can't stand, it's a Phone Gaming Elitist.  Having both as the same person is just too much.

Speaking of embarrassments and people who should learn when to shut up, Yoichi Wada went on record lately saying Final Fantasy 14 'greatly damaged' the Final Fantasy branding.  Which....let's be honest; it did.  It really really did.  But this.....well, this is not something you say.  We appreciate honesty from the top folks, we really do, but this is a prime moment for some good PR-Spin.  Don't say "Final Fantasy really, really screwed up", say "With the latest features we're implementing in Final Fantasy 14 (materia, chocobos, etc.), we feel it's quickly becoming the experience we envisioned when we decided to make it".  Because by many fans standards, Final Fantasy isn't even that strong of a brand anymore (especially after 13) and could honestly use all the rhetoric money could buy.  But that's just me and my opinion, I suppose.

And in other Squeenix news, (I've got a really good flow going here, huh?) Yosuke Saito, who was the producer of Nier (which you all know I loved) just tweeted something that suggests an announcement about Nier in some form is inbound this Friday.  (Which, I think is, well...-now- in Japan.  I guess it's a matter of hours, honestly)  "Will there be an amazing announcement on Friday? Perhaps," says he, with the tag of #nier that denotes, yes, it's about Nier unless he's a fantastic troll.  Which....wouldn't surprise me, given Drakengard and Nier.

I'm a little worried and a lot excited about this, perhaps inordinate amounts of both, if simply because the last time anyone who isn't the Cavia team worked on a project in the Drakengard template (which I'm including Nier in for....reasons.  I mean, I've said it's a spiritual successor a few times) we got Drakengard 2 which was crap.  Every shade of crap, aside from the inclusion (and how he was included) of Caim from Drakengard 1.  I'm still not sure how that whole thing resolved, Cavia being folded into this company and this and that, so I can only assume key members of Cavia are not, in fact, with Squeenix as Saito clearly is, being the director of Dragon Quest X and all.  I guess we'll just have to see what the project is and how it's being handled, I suppose.

Finally, keeping with the Winter theme (you'd have to play Nier to get it, but trust me, I have perfected flow in this post), Ubisoft just recently announced the oft-mentioned, never-elaborated title of "I Am Alive" for a 'Winter' release.  Interestingly enough, for anyone looking at the game, it's actually a PSN/XBLA title.  I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest it's not going to be your typical PSN/XBLA title in that it'll be $15, take about 10 hours of your time (if that) and generally leave you satisfied, but rather a "Skipping the disk entirely" release.  This isn't to say PSN/XBLA titles can't look -this good-, just that I'm suspect such a game can honestly be put out for the same price as everything else around.  I'm expecting a $30-40 pricetag, personally, but I can't say one way or another if it will or won't be worth it.  I just know that it looks fairly interesting and I'll be keeping an eye out for news, if only because it looks as close to Disaster Report 4 as we'll ever get.

Update!:  As predicted, the news just took a little bit longer.  It's a Nier concert.  For Japan.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Yakuza News! It's Only Been Three Days!

I'm sure you all can tolerate my extreme devotion to the Yakuza franchise and I hate that I've devoted five or so other posts to the series this month alone as you guys might be getting a little tired of it, but in the end, this is about me, about what I like and about what I get excited for.  And I get excited for anything that is Yakuza, we know this.  And this is most definitely news of the Yakuza variety if the logo wasn't a dead give-away.  As I know you can read, the logo, Yakuza:  Dead Souls, is clearly different than any other Yakuza game we've seen in the States or PAL-Land, so you might simply surmise that this is a new game announced for Japan, right?

Nope.  This is from a European trademark.  European.  As in, Not Japan.  So it's very clearly not a new Yakuza game at all, but an alternate title for one that's already out there.  One that's been mentioned before already, although with a very different name.  Essentially, what seems to be the popular (and, well, pretty much only) suggestion is that Yakuza:  Dead Souls will be the Western name for Yakuza:  Of the End which, while it makes more sense, it.....well, for some reason, I just don't like it.  Something a little more elegant could've been picked, or a little more ambiguous but neat sounding, really.  Yakuza:  Kamurocho Dusk or something, but, then again, that's more inclusive to people who are already familiar with the Yakuza series and this game is clearly an attempt to snatch new players.

Regardless, this is, clearly, great news.  Not only will we get one of the non-standard games of the Yakuza franchise (which means a very, very, very slight glimmer of hope for the others) but we got the one that was very clearly made with Western Audiences in mind.  This is why I always figured we would get it, but it being Yakuza and a Sega product, well, I could never know for sure.  However, the other good bit of it is the fact that this might also be a sneak peek towards Binary Domain as Daisuke Saito, director of said game, stated that were Yakuza:  Of the End to hit the West, it wouldn't do so in its current state, but with different, more 'western-oriented' controls which very well might mean 'better' controls.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to figure out just where "Shooting zombies with a shotgun as Majima Goro" falls on the list of things I wanted to do before I die.  Spoiler alert:  It's pretty high up there.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

More on This Floating Hand Game

I posted about this strange, new game for Playstation Move earlier this month, mentioning that it was a rather neat looking title from Plastic and Sony Santa Monica and that I am utterly and completely fascinated with it, on that one video alone.  Sure, I sort of made it out to be something it likely won't be, but this is something that's so new, so different that it sends my mind into overdrive just trying to process what I'm seeing, let alone what could come from it.  I bring it up now, of course, because there's new news about it, directly from Eurogamer who has a brand new teaser video for it.

Well....two videos.  Kind of.  It's a little hard to explain, so you'll just have to see the videos for yourself here and here.  I assure you, despite what you might think, it is imperative that you watch both if you watch one; it's apparently a very vital clue to the overall idea or theme of the game.  I'll let you do that before continuing...


Alright, watched them?  Good.  So you see the slight difference there with the whole pig thing.  Well, the whole mystery of just what to call this game might've already been cracked.  The folks over at iWaggle3D think there's a very strong possibility the game might be called "Datura" and their reasoning is, well....fairly sound, I have to admit.  First off, we have the cryptic clue from Plastic about the two videos, "Comparing them will give you all the answers about our upcoming title," which can be taken two ways:  First the obvious one in that the part with the pig shows deviations that might just be important.  Secondly, and this is the more difficult one, you have to take a look once again at those two videos.  The first one was published by "aautdr", while the second was published by "trdaua" which, well, are basically gibberish words that you could sit down and try and make something out of for hours.

I'll make it easy for you:  iWaggle3D surmises the word of import here is "Datura", specifically Datura Stramonium which is a flower that creates a rather familiar outline.

Yeah?  Yeah?  I'm pretty convinced.  The fact that Datura plants have hallucinogenic properties is yet another fact that lends itself to the game.  Whatever it's going to be called, I cannot wait for more information on it.

Update!:  After checking my post that I linked to here, that embedded the first video of this game, I noticed the title has been changed to "Datura - First Teaser".  I guess this theory is spreading rather quickly.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Review - Star Ocean: First Departure

(I'm going to try and have the Theme Song or Opening for every Review.)

So, I know it's a bit 'late' to be doing a proper review of Star Ocean:  First Departure, considering it's been out since October of 2008 (In the States, at least), but this is a game that I want to review, because of the fact that Star Ocean, as a series (I say that a lot) will probably always have a little place of importance in my gaming heart.  They're not great games by any measure, but they are really good at quite a few things and have laid a great groundwork for some other developer to crib off of; if any of them will do it already.  It helps that the first two games in the series were quite fun on their own merits, even if the stories are fairly.....forgettable is the nice term, but I'll get into that later on in this.

The important thing to note about Star Ocean:  First Departure (henceforth referred to as Star Ocean) is that, if nothing else, the gameplay is fairly solid and allows you to do quite a few things that are fairly unheard of in other RPGs, at least with the frequency that StarOcean allows.  As you may have noticed when I was speaking of the skill system in the other recent Star Ocean post, the system, with it's three-tiered approach is very rich and very varied, and while it basically serves to really empower the strengths of your characters and it can't make your characters do other things (I can teach Roddick the Symbology Skills that increase damage, reduce casting time, etc. but he's not going to learn Symbology) at its base, the evolution into Specialties and then Super Specialties is where it really shines.

As you may have noticed in the above-linked post, or if not, I'll explain here anyway, the Specialties offer you so much that the game itself honestly can't take it.  Or, rather, it can and was possibly planned out that way, since it technically does take quite a lot of work to get to the degree of power that I described as "Breaking the game" and it was from an era where your efforts were rewarded with ultimate power.  See:  Ultimate weapons in Final Fantasy Games, unlockable hidden characters, etc.  Whether you're for or against this practice, it lives strong in Star Ocean if you delve enough for it.  But at its base, it's not inherently broken and just sits comfortably on the level of 'useful'.

At modest levels, you can use Alchemy to make precious ores that you can then turn into accessories via Crafting to assist you in battle, as some accessories do quite well in that department.  Music can make your life easier with certain songs that refill your HP and MP while walking, prevents random encounters and raises your chance of success via Item Creation, while others you can use to help grow by summoning enemies, making random encounters more likely or similar things.  Of course, there's also Train that I mentioned that will give you more experience per battle in exchange for just a little cut-off access to your full potential.  Several other specialties are abound and the good portion of them are useful in -someway- if even just to create something for the explicit purpose of selling it.

The downfall or benefit to this is that Specialties all but require your character to have the required talent (or in some cases Talents, plural) to produce anything but the 'joke' item (pebbles for Alchemy, doodles for art, Books of 'Prophecy' for writing) with anything approaching normalcy.  The benefit being in that Talents can be learned through a few failings of the specialty that requires it.  After cooking so many burnt meals, you'll learn Taste and your meals will suddenly not turn out terrible, through careful composition of music and playing it, you'll get Rhythm Sense and Listening, and so forth.  The drawback to this is that some characters simply cannot learn all the talents, so some are doomed to fail at something no matter what.

That does lend to every character approaching unique, however, which is another strength of Star Ocean.  While most every character can likely be linked easily to any number of tropes and archetypes, they are also characterized and really developed as well.  Often, they don't 'evolve', but at least you get to know them better and you get to see why they are how they are and the like.  Characterization in Star Ocean is very, very important and this is made clear quite early.  This is done through the use of the Private Action system.

The Private Action system is....well, it's one of the elements I haven't really seen in a lot of other games and would like to, quite a bit.  Star Ocean recognizes simultaneously that your characters usually travel together so tightly that they use the "(Character) emerges from (Main Character)" approach seen in so many early RPGs, but they also allow everyone to have a little freedom; provided you do as well.  Upon moving towards a friendly town on the world map, a box in the upper right corner pops up that says "Private Action" and then displays a symbol indicating you should press square to activate it.  On doing so, you'll walk into town and split up to relax.  With only the main character in the party now, you can walk around and find other party members scattered around the town doing whatever they please.

Occasionally, you'll enter events with characters doing this, which will help build relationships, both good and bad between the many characters in your party.  And those events could even trigger other events later on when you gain more party members.  My stand-by example is, early on Roddick and Ilia are alone and Ilia can be found in an item shop that sells accessories.  She's eying one of the pairs of earrings and Roddick then has the opportunity to buy them, tell her she doesn't need them or simply act oblivious (I believe these are the options anyway).  I, wanting Roddick to be fairly smooth with the ladies, chose to have him buy them for her.  She then goes on to wear them for the rest of the game (they're not really an item, it's just flavor) which opens up two more events later on when you have more characters.

These types of little touches are the really, really important things to the characterization of everyone.  While they're superfluous technically, they really draw you in, really make you like these characters you have to use, when otherwise you may not.  Talking with this character and finding out more about the circumstances of losing his sister, or this character and learning just how he lost his arm makes them less a 'character in a video game that uses magic or stabs things' and more 'a character'.  Not even necessarily a character you can empathize with or anything, just something to appreciate as having a little thought put into them.  Maybe I'm a sucker for really caring that much for little details, but I really, really do because they're important to me.

There's quite a lot of downfall to the game unfortunately, which I've sort of alluded to a few times already and they vary from little irks to really big issues.  The above picture shows my first complaint which comes into play pretty much in the first hour of play and this is one of the little complaints, but it's one of those things in a game that really just grates on me.  If you'll notice the portrait shown, it's of a blonde woman in all black who is, quite apparently, not one of the sprites.  Except she is, unfortunately; she's the blonde on the left in the bright orange adventure clothes.  It ruins any sort of illusion of surprise to the knowledge that Ilia (and Ronyx, the guy with a friggin' quiver of arrows on his back) will eventually become part of your party and generally just indicates a lack of desire to go the little extra mile for seamless transition.

It's worse because it's not like she (and Ronyx) only spends a few minutes in their uniforms before switching clothes; it's closer to an hour or so of gameplay before they change.  There's even a private action that centers around getting Ilia new clothes!  And when I did it, I did it wrong on accident, so she didn't even take the clothes and decided she was going to keep her uniform 'for just a little longer'.  And then when we left, she had switched her portrait to her 'Adventure Gear' portrait for reasons that I can't discern.  It's every shade of silly and just seemed really, really sloppy.  The point I'm trying to drive at here is that they should have made alternate sprites considering how long those characters needed them.

The other problem is that, in general, the story is fairly weak and the driving narrative is weaker still; you'll always know what you have to do, but it's never driven in particularly hard and you'll be passively reminded if you activate Private actions when you show up and leave the town.  One of your characters will say "Aren't we supposed to go meet with the King of Astral?" or something to that sort, but there's absolutely no urgency.  Even towards the end of the game when the end-goals are clear and you know exactly where you have to go and why, the desire to do so is only driven by your own desire to beat the game.  Which, now that I say it, might have been why it took me so long to beat Star Ocean 2 in the first place; it only gives you the base reason as to why you should.

The other big thing that really drove into my side, and this might be a mild spoiler, was the fact that some enemies, especially late-game enemies were either resistant or absorbed damage from the strongest weapons in the game, rendering two of my characters, my main two at that, completely and utterly useless.  There's absolutely no way to change equipment once in a battle, so if you slash an enemy and green numbers pop up, you are screwed.  In both occasions, my only saving grace was the fact that my third damage-dealer didn't have a weapon with the same attribute as the other two, so she could take out the enemies with no real danger, though her damage wasn't that great.  So I ended up downgrading to weapons with 700 less attack overall just so I could reliably deal damage to every and any enemy to come my way.

Overall, there could have been a few more things and a little more effort put into the port, but considering it was done by TOSE, Squeenix's in-house Port Factory, there's not a lot one could expect.  I imagine if the situation was different and it was a NISA product (wholly), they would've taken a page from Star Ocean 2 and made a new story from Millie's perspective (as the second game does with Rena) which would have been really, really appreciated in the game.  What we got, despite my few complaints with parts here and there, was well enough, however.

The Good
  • Thanks to the Private Action system, the Characters are very well-defined and thought-out.
  • The Skill System and by extension, Specialty System, gives you quite a lot of variety in actions you can perform.
  • It's quite a pretty game and the spritework (what's done of it at least) is very nice.
  • There's a decidedly large amount of freedom in the game.
  • The combat system is fun.
The Bad
  • The story is almost an afterthought, filled with nonsensical religious connotations and cliche'.
  • Poor enemy design makes the game impossible to win with the best equipment. 
  • A few key oversights make for some really silly moments.
  • Getting to know all the characters requires several playthroughs.
  • Besides "Beating the Game" there's little other reason to want to...well, beat the game.
Mogs Says
Star Ocean:  First Departure does a lot right and offers an adventure worth getting into.  While you're not going to find anything inherently great, you'll find things that are genuinely nice and interesting and, if you're like me, you'll find a little inspiration in the fact that it exists because it means it could be implemented in something else and much better.  Unless your tolerance for nonsense is high, you might find reason to put this down early, however, and you might not miss out on much in that case.  However, the good might outweigh the bad for you, so I recommend you give it a shot if it interests you.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

So I Beat Star Ocean: First Departure

It's a pretty good feeling, having finally, completely taken down this series that has daunted me since days long passed.  While it wasn't quite as....hard-fought as Star Ocean 2, it wasn't a cakewalk either, thanks to the eleventh inning bullshit Tri-Ace threw in, though I'm not too upset about it really.  Though I am left with a bunch of conflicting emotions about the whole of it, as I usually am upon beating a game with no intention of jumping right back into the thick of it again directly after.  (Trophy hunting is mostly to blame for this, thanks to a lot of "Beat Hard to unlock Very Hard and beat it for a trophy" set-ups)

And even now, I'm not really sure about all I want to say here, as I am really, honestly tempted to write a review for the game.  I haven't gone through it as comprehensively as I did Ghost Trick prior to that review, but then again I'm quite sure I don't need to; thanks to my start-and-stop Relationship with SO2, I'm quite familiar with all that is Star Ocean 1&2 if you haven't noticed.  Still, restraint here would mean that I have that much more I can say in a review that isn't retreading information, and honestly, I think I'm going to go with that.  I need to write another one, anyways.

Still, I can say a few things here; namely that I really, really wish there were more games that do what Star Ocean tries to do.  Likely because other games would do it better, and quite so, but also because it's fairly untrodden territory as far as I know.  The mix of Sci-Fi and Fantasy is rather seamless, especially so in Star Ocean:  First Departure when a man of Science learns how to use Symbology, which is Star Ocean's universal term for "magic", basically.  And not only that, but the lengths it goes to characterize the...well, characters surpass the attempts of several other prominent franchises, even if the end product isn't very 'deep'.

This is a dangerous thing to say, but Star Ocean (possibly as a series, I don't remember much of 3 and never played 4) is entirely too steeped in Anime.  The problem with this is that it's not, generally, the best examples of them either, so you'll get a lot of archetypes that are characterized well, but they still never grow out of those archetypes.  They never really surprise you, which works both ways, I suppose.  At least you know a character when you know them and don't have to worry about them suddenly being opposite of what you know about them, which most games confuse for a 'twist'.

Still, Star Ocean:  First Departure and Second Evolution (and by extention, Star Ocean and Star Ocean:  Second Story, the originals) have good foundations and very strong concepts, but they don't always build on them in the best ways.  And that's why I wish somebody else would take this 'formula' and work with it, polish it into something that really, really shines.  But maybe someone already has; I admit, I'm not as into RPGs as I was at one time, and even then I wasn't as knowledgeable as I could have been.  All I know is what I've said already and since I'll have to reiterate that in the review, I'll just save it for that.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Haven't Heard About the Wii-U in a While..

Until now, that is, with Pete Hines, VP of Marketing at Bethesda stating that Skyrim on the Wii-U is a 'possibility', provided the Wii-U can support the game.  Which, I find a little funny, since it's a Bethesda game, and in all reality, nothing can properly support a Bethesda game since....well, this is a really long build-up to making fun of Bethesda for releasing buggy games, so I'll just kinda stop there and give away the punchline.  Because, y'know, Bethesda makes buggy games.  Buggy games that are, at times, really fun and offer a large variety of things to do, much more than most games, but buggy nonetheless.

Given that we still don't know when the Wii-U is actually going to come out, what it's going to really be like when it's completed, how the controller set-up is really going to work and a pile of other things, I don't really know how much weight needs to be put into this, since the console could very well not come out for a couple years yet.  When it actually comes out of the factory, all these games that have been shown as playable on it will be outdated heavily and it's only anyone's guess if said games will ever be put on the console, or in what fashion.  Maybe PS3-style dual-packs of 'classic' (at that point) games at a reduced price with additional Tablet possibilities?  I wonder if Nintendo is going to come up with some sort of mandatory thing for ports, as Sony/Microsoft have (Well, more Sony since Microsoft doesn't want your stinking ports.) or if they'll just sort of let devs do whatever (read:  As little as possible) and call it a day.

I guess this is why I don't do a lot of talking about the Wii-U; there's just too much that's not really concrete at this point, and rather than looking at it favorably like the Vita, I am every shade of cautiously optimistic, since Nintendo's strategies for their last 'advanced' product haven't been panning out too well.  (though again, I will re-iterate that the 3DS will be just fine, goddamn people, we know this already)  But, by contrast, at least with the Vita, I have/had something a little more concrete than we have with the Wii-U; which is basically just games from other consoles playing on it and looking just as shiny as it does on the 'big boys'.  And a couple Nintendo-made videos, which, you never trust those kinds of videos since they're videos and not games.

Really, that's...about it, for things I have to say.  Slow news this weekend, unfortunately, and I haven't done much more in Yakuza 4 aside from challenge work, so nothing really to gush about there.  I guess there is the fact that Star Wars: The Old Republic finally has a release date and a pricing structure is a thing, if just because it's turned me off to the game completely ($15/Month?  Well, we know my thoughts on this) if just because I don't have a PC to play it, nor $15 a month it.  I guess I'll just see how it fares from the side-lines and if I get a good enough computer and the cash to put into it, I might dip my toes in.

Friday, September 23, 2011

And Now, I Have Weathered Sega's Worst

So, I'm in the final stretch of Yakuza 4, and with that comes the end of sub-stories and of challenges, which brings rewards and the best challenges that can be offered. Finishing the sidequests is no exclusion to this and is actually probably the best example of when Sega really brings the thunder and puts the 'challenge' into it.  It does this as it has done for the last three Yakuza games (well, possibly five.  Dunno about Kenzan and Of the End) and how it will likely do it again and again for the next however many Yakuza games come from the studios:  With a bang.  A bang by the name of Amon Jo.  (By the way, this is technically spoiler-ish stuff in the very mildest sense, so if you're a purist...)

The backstory to Amon Jo, from what I can tell, is that he is an assassin who has been trying to take down Kazuma every year since he first came back to Kamurocho.  Obsessed with power, he claims that he and Kazuma must continually fight until one of them is dead, but Kazuma refuses to kill him and Amon never defeats him.  (Well, canonically, of course.)  He does, however, put up a hell of a fight; I remember my encounter with him in Yakuza 3 and it.....well, it's not something I'm looking forward to doing again, even though I must.  Not that I would want to do Yakuza 4's encouter again either.

See, now that Yakuza 4 has multiple characters, they had to change up the formula a bit.  By 'had to change' it, I mean, in fact, that they didn't have to change it at all and they just wanted to prove that they can indeed give you yet another reason to shatter a controller into a million pieces.  (Thankfully, Char has not received the same treatment as Sechs.  You remember Sechs, right?)  So when Kazuma gets the customary letter from Amon Jo telling him where to meet, he mentions that he'll be (conveniently) bringing his three apprentices for the fight.  While Kazuma wants to take on the Amon clan by himself, his three companions don't let him and go along with him to the designated meeting spot.

From there, there's a little banter that ends in the idea that everyone will take on one of the individual Amons and you run the gauntlet as Akiyama, Saejima, Tanimura and finally Kiryu.  So instead of a prolonged battle against Amon Jo, you have four, admittedly smaller and slightly easier fights.  Akiyama's fight, unsurprisingly, is based around speed, Saejima's is based around, er...power, in a sense.  Moreso that the game wants to reinforce that it hates Saejima, which I will explain about at a later date.  Tanimura's just kind of against a guy with guns, where Kiryu takes on Amon Jo, finally.  I won't spoil how the fight goes, but I will say that, as Amon fights go, it wasn't the hardest, but it was definitely the cheapest.  Which I guess makes it the hardest by default.

Regardless, the moral of the story here is that I beat Amon Jo and that is always, arguably, the hardest fight you'll face in a Yakuza game.  Sure, the rest of the game isn't going to be a cakewalk, but the difficulty won't come from battles, that's for sure.  If anything, I'm more dreading the next time I go into Club Sega than proceeding with the story for the eventual boss fights.  Goddamn crane machines.  And oh god, Bowling.....and darts.....goddamnit, Mini-games.

Directly after my encounter with Amon, I walked about as Kiryu again and encountered some left over gang members from Kiryu's Gang War challenge, which, compared to what I had just been through, was nothing.  In fact, it was almost annoying, but being able to finally tap into some of the more devastating Heat Moves that I couldn't execute against Amon was well enough of a reason to be good with it.  And to enjoy it, much as I did.  If anything, I should feel grateful though, since from now on in the game, I can feel like that much more of a badass.

Now, let's just see how many more of the side-quests and such I'll get distracted with before I finally just beat the game.  And possibly Platinum it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bonus Post - This One's For You, Chance

Grand Knights History is one of the most fantastic looking games to ever grace the tiny screen of the PSP, and currently only available in Japan.  That, however is changing 'this winter' when XSEED publishes the game in America (on both UMD and PSN) and Rising Star Games handles the PAL version, which I can only assume will have the same set up as the North American launch.

I'm gonna openly admit here that I haven't mired myself in information for the game as I was really.....well, I always figured it would get localized, but I worried that, perhaps, it might not and would rather be surprised than disappointed.  Luckily this isn't the case, and luckily I have quite the library of information to look through.  Now the tough choice is whether to spring for the UMD version for all the comforts of buying a game, or getting the PSN version to ensure I'll be able to play it on my shiny new Vita.  This is kind of an awesome choice to have to make.

On Star Ocean 1&2 And Why They're So Fun to Break

So, I've been playing Star Ocean:  First Departure on PSP as I claimed I would do for my next PSP game and I've had a lot of fun with it.  As we all know, the sequel to the game, Star Ocean:  Second Departure (Or Second Story, depending on which version you prefer) was one of my gaming 'white whales' for quite some time until I learned to relax and enjoy the game rather than the grind.  So when I started First Departure, breaking the game was, well, not really close to my mind.  This was something new, different than SO2, so I didn't need to really try all the different tricks to break it into little pieces and control it.

But, well, these things happen sometimes and you don't intend for them to happen, but you're just playing and suddenly you've constructed Gods of Destruction who have access to a near limitless source of money and have the answer to infinite power (read:  fairly reliable level-ups from one encounter) at your fingertips.  And you didn't really mean to do it, but, well, you did it and it'd be a shame to let that go to waste, you know?  For those of you who don't want to learn how to absolutely wreck Star Ocean 1 (and, for the most part, 2), perhaps skip the next couple of paragraphs.

The skill lists in Star Ocean 1 and 2 are largely intechangeable in both name and effect, so knowing that there's a skill in SO2 that, when purchased (up to a max of 10 times, as with all the skills) reduces the overall skill point cost of all other skills, I couldn't help but, y'know, save my SP up for that.  With that bought, and by that point I had access to all the purchasable skills, I used the rest of my SP bounty on skills that just so happened to unlock Train, which, when activated lowers your characters overall abilities slightly in exchange for more XP gained for each battle.  I guess, before I go on too much, I should sort of explain the skill system as it is in Star Ocean 1 and 2.

You see, it's sort of a three-tier system:  You buy skills with skill points after you've learned said skills from different skill guilds scattered across the land.  They sell you different skill-sets (there's four sets and three levels of each; each set offers a few different skills within) for Fol (money) and then, as I said, you purchase skills with SP which you gain, unsurprisingly, from leveling up.  After purchasing some compatible skills, you start unlocking specialties.  Specialties are sort of super-skills that let you make different items, whereas the regular skills basically only offer passive bonuses.  (Knife, for example, raises your strength with every skill level.)  Train is an example of a specialty since it, well, does something, same as Alchemy, Customization, and Music.  (All of which you should be interested in.)

Then it goes a level further with Super Specialties which are gained after a certain majority of the group learns the proper specialties.  Super Specialties, because of that, use the whole party, rather than just the individual and are harder (slightly) to get to Level 10 because of it, but these are your major bread and butter.  Orchestra (the next level of Music) will really help you in Item Creation, Group Appraising will let you raise prices at stores (when you want to sell something, thus making more money) or lower prices (when you want to buy things at a lower cost) at will, and Blacksmith will let you make some really outstanding armor.  These are just examples, of course, as there's quite a few.

Anyways, after getting the Train specialty on everyone, I just so happened to invest the right way to get my Super Specialty, Enlightenment, up to Level 10.  Enlightenment, as with Train, lowers your abilities while active (did I mention you can deactivate Train?  Well, you can.  Same with this.  Think of them like DBZ-Style Limiters) in exchange with netting you a good deal more SP per leveling up.  A string of coincidences, you see.  It was all very surprising to me, honest.  That served me well for....well, the most of the game, really.  I'm in the final stretch currently and will likely be able to finish it as early as tomorrow or as late as Sunday, depending on when I'm bothered to actually play it again.  And when I stop grinding.  Oh, right, the grinding.  Again, purists may want to skip, skip skip.

So, remember how I mentioned Alchemy as a Specialty?  Yeah, well, it's probably one of the more OP Specialties there is, topped only by Music and a couple others.  With a simple chunk of iron (which you can buy for 150 Fol) and a little luck, you can turn that iron into gold, mithril, and other various gemstones and ores all the way up to the mythological Philosopher's Stone.  Provided you have level 10 Alchemy, an item that will up the success of Alchemy, and the required talents (which I'm not even going to go into) you can create a few Philosopher's Stones out of every batch of 20 iron you buy.  Moreso if you use Music and even more if you use Orchestra.  Why go to the trouble, you might ask?  Because a single Philosopher's Stone will sell for 300,000 Fol at base.  Upping the cost with Group Appraisal takes that to the higher end of ~490K per stone.  I'm sure you can guess where this is going.

With this untold wealth, it's easy enough to go off and buy some nice accessories and some nice instruments (provided you haven't bought them all already) and use your resident music-lover to compose some musical pieces for them all, particularly the Silver Trumpet, which will cost you a pretty Fol.  After writing The Devil's Aria, you can perform it at any time on the world map, which will summon a boss encounter similar to that person's Music Specialty level.  8 is the sweet spot here, because with that, you'll summon a rather large phoenix that can go down like a bitch and net you 91k experience in the doing.  Over and over again.  I remind you that because of Train and Enlightenment, I'm not even using my characters at their fullest.

The process is rather similar in Star Ocean 2, though I'm not quite sure what specifics are different.  I assure you, some of them are, but that's really the bulk of it right there.  And, while many RPGs offer you the ability to become OP as hell, much as I described, somehow in SO it's different.  I'm not quite sure if it's because you're OP as hell with sealed off ability or if it's just the way you can just become as death pretty much with only a few hours work, but it's really, really satisfying.  And part of the reason why I never could beat SO2, because it was that feeling that I was going for but never really got until this last playthrough.  This time, with SO1, though....I was ready for the game.

The game was not ready for me.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Capcom Wants You to Hate Them

So, waaaaaaaaay back, Capcom announced HD Up-makes of RE4 and RE:C:V and everyone was like "Yay, RE4 HD and some other game!" except for me, who said "Oh boy, another version of RE4 I'm not buying" since my distaste for RE4 is well-documented.  (Though, not well-documented enough, yet.  Hint, hint)  Then shortly after, it was said that the game would be DD-only in NA and only a few people lost hype, but figured they would actually print the games on a disk -eventually- and announce it just before the DD versions came out to let everyone know your choice of media is doable for them.  But that hasn't happened and, with just how poorly Capcom has been doing lately, I'm not holding my breath on seeing a two-in-one disk coming out.

Resident Evil 4 HD just came out this week on PSN and XBL and has generated quite a few issues in the short time it's been out.  What some call a blessing, others, like me, call a curse is the fact that the gameplay has remained largely unchanged (except for the fact that Dash and Attack are mapped to the wrong buttons and unchangeable) which is not a surprise.  Usually, these HD updos don't do a whole lot to the gameplay itself, as it's more or less about the graphics, and that's generally where you see the biggest difference.  Though....apparently that's not really so with RE4 HD.  I've only seen a couple reviews and I haven't bothered to read them through, but they mention that the GameCube version of RE4 was clearly the basis of the game and the textures and graphics really reflect that.  While they're still HD they're only barely so and they do nothing to address the fact that parts of the game are just ugly and would need completely re-touched, rather than just upscaled.

Another issue, albeit a likely minor one depending on where you stand, is that, after promising "Full Trophy/Achievement Lists" for the games, RE 4 HD came packed with a whole 12 Achievements/Trophies.  The numbers are broken up enough on the 360 version of the game so that you'll end up with 1000 points upon completing all twelve tasks, so that's all...well and good there, I suppose.  But what about the PS3 version?  A trophy was certainly dropped in lieu of reserving a Platinum spot, right?  I mean, it's a full game.  Full Games get Platinum.  Well, no.  No it was not and apparently Capcom is strictly about the numbers.  And here's the numbers for you:  Of the whole twelve trophies, Nine of them are Bronze, Two are Silver and One is Gold.

After doing a little looking around, it would seem that the game also has some fairly noticeable audio issues (admittedly not from the best source, but honestly I wouldn't be surprised), and all of this honestly just has me wondering what the hell Capcom is thinking.  This rabbit hole goes much, much deeper, as I've only been talking about one single port of a game they just released.  I could bring up any of the multitude of other issues like how poorly their new IPs did (Dark Voooooooooid), how....honestly damaging they've been to their own reputation lately, and all of the poor decisions they've made in the clear and public eye.

Keiji Inafune recently spoke about the 'truth' behind MML3 and it's cancellation (despite never being green-lit in the first place) and said, basically that Capcom's antics were what drove him to want to get out of the company.  But, not wanting to leave his projects un-finished, he offered to keep working on them even at his new company.  Capcom was...less than thrilled with the idea, clearly as Mega Man Universe and Mega Man Legends 3 will likely never see the light of day.  It's quite unfortunate on both parts, really, as the former really would have lent itself to getting more people trying out these Creative Sandbox titles, to maybe think a little better of them and broaden horizons, whereas the latter would have...well, just made a lot of people happy.

In one of the classier statements out of this sort of situation one could expect, Inafune doesn't really point fingers, though he should, and says simply that he left behind "a great team" who he hopes somebody will step into his vacated role and really fight for these games and try to see them through Capcom's unwillingness to cooperate.  He's not too optimistic that anyone will fight Capcom as he did, but he's not really talking bad about anyone here, which seems a little hard to do, given the circumstances.  I guess saying that he had to fight Capcom to have his two projects even considered is sort of a strike against them, but he's being fairly diplomatic about it.

I don't have to be, though.  I, like many others, think Capcom's taken up the rotating mantle of "Game Company Insanity" and I'm not quite sure when they, or anyone currently wearing it, will give it up, but as we know, it is a burden that is able to be gotten rid of.  EA did for a while after their massive show of goodwill towards new IPs, creating both Mirror's Edge and Dead Space, as well as plenty of other moves that were, well, good ones.  Only Dead Space stuck (for now), but it stuck good and it's a good thing.  Faced with the prospect of Dead Space 3 is a great one, even though I haven't even played the second one yet, and Mirror's Edge hasn't been completely forgotten, though there's not a lot to show for the repeated talks that say as much.

I guess we'll just have to see how this pans out; eventually Capcom will be everyone's friend again, as the cycle starts anew, but I'm wondering at this point just what they'll have to do to make that happen.  It certainly won't be easy, but if you give gamers something they really want, it's hard to not win some good will; usually enough to forgive the past.  After all, if that wasn't true, then gaming would've died out long, long ago after all those bridges were burned.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Some Comforting Vita News

While I was unaware that it was a thing we even had to wonder about, knowing that PSPs and Vitas can play together (for PSP games) is, well, nice.  Again, I didn't think it was even an issue to be thought of, but then again, that's likely the first mistake anyone could make; never assume anything about the games industry and question everything.  The article mentions that the new PSP model is notably left-out from this, but I have to wonder (likely uselessly) if the new PSP actually can't communicate with anything, or if it still has local MP.  Since, well, that's....not the same thing as wi-fi, right?  Right?

Anyways, something oddly counter to the point being released isn't really surprising at this point and it's not what I want to talk about anyway.  I have been anticipating playing PSP games on the Vita online for quite some time now (specifically Phantasy Star Portable 2 and Metal Gear Solid:  Peace Walker, since I have/will have digital versions of them) and now I know that if people who want to play said games with me only have a PSP, it will not be an issue.  I'm restating that point over and over to try and figure out why it wasn't a given from the get-go and...well, not doing too well of it.

What I wonder about, which might also be a "Non-issue" concern, is how versatile the Vita's Multiplayer components will be.  Sure, we have Party, which is what everyone ever really wants, apparently, but I'm wondering if it'll let us do Multi-player through it, or if we'll have to rely on the already existing dedicated MP servers out there for games, like Phantasy Star Portable 2.  But what happens when those go down, are you just...stuck using Ad-Hoc Party to play them online?  And how does that translate into the Vita's usefulness re: PSP games?

Personally, I've been hoping that we'll be able to get an Ad-Hoc Party application in the Vita to let us play PSP games over the internet without having to bridge it through a PS3.  They've already shown that it's fairly possible on the PS3, as Monster Hunter 3 Freedom HD Nonsensically Long Title Whatever It Is has shown, with being able to run Ad-Hoc party (nearly in its entirety) in the background of the game to be able to play online with those playing the PSP version of the game.  Or...I guess other PS3 players, not really sure how that works, honestly, just that it's Ad-Hoc Party and works exactly like it with a Monster Hunter skin which had me all sorts of excited.

I'd imagine if they could work out an Ad-Hoc Party app like that, it wouldn't exactly work with the existing Party (which, it wouldn't need to, though it means you can't talk to people playing other games), but that'd be a necessary sacrifice, I guess.  But it would ensure that we get the most longevity out of our PSP games in the most convenient way possible.  I mean, I guess bridging the games through a PS3 wouldn't be too much of a hassle, but I hate having to do that.  I guess we'll see how that works out in December when it comes out for Japan!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Music! Yakuza 4 Edition

So, since I've been playing it tons lately and because I have a pretty bad headache that is preventing me from thinking enough to write something cohesive, I decided to showcase a few songs from Yakuza 4.  Originally, I was a little skeptical of the soundtrack after the intro song, "For Faith" didn't out to me.  But it grew on me, certainly, and I've heard some that are just quite good.  The challenge, of course, is in finding them since Yakuza 4's OST is apparently massive and requires two volumes.  Though I've learned Volume 2 is mostly just the karaoke songs, which.....aren't actually terrible.  But I probably won't feature those.

Now, in Akiyama's chapter, you'll eventually run across a character by the name of Saigoh who appears to be a rather military man and is, in fact, a mercenary-for-hire with no job at the moment.  After witnessing Akiyama's willingness to help innocent bystanders by fighting off their oppressors, he offers Akiyama some training to awaken his 'hidden potentials'.  Through the training, you get, well, some very useful moves, though the other benefit is the song that plays during said training sessions.  It's called, quite simply "Theme of Saigoh" s'far as I can tell.

It's fairly rockin', as they say, and while not being the most inventive track out there, I still get a kick out of it and it really helps one be in the mood to battle.  Which, well, if there's anything the soundtrack to Yakuza 4 (or any of the Yakuza games for that matter) does, it sets the mood for battle quite well with every song that needs to.

Next up is a song that I, unfortunately, forget where I heard it in the game, but it sounds neat regardless and could fit into several different portions of the game, really.  It's called "Rebellions" and carries quite a different sound from the rest of the soundtrack that I've heard so far.

The beginning is very...noir-influenced, I believe and carries a quite nice and distinct personality separate from the in-your-face-and-pumped notes that many of the songs on the soundtrack carry.  While the fact that those songs are as they are isn't a bad thing, some variation like this is quite nice and quite welcome.

And the next song, which is near-mandatory for me to include is, apparently, Goro Majima's theme.  (And that would be why it's near-mandatory for me to include it.)  There's....really not a whole lot to say about it.  Goro Majima is the goddamn man and his theme is equally great.  So, without further ado, this is "Receive and Bite You" which, well, I don't know why that is.  It'd make sense if he had a snake tattoo but he has, I believe, a Japanese Theater-style evil spirit on his back.  But hey, whatever, it sounds good.

I really like the build-up to the breakdown at the start, personally, and then it just goes wild.  Much like Majima himself.  So there, it's fitting.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Binary Domain and Why I'm Suddenly Interested In It

The screenshot above is what the tipping point for me to really want to look into Binary Domain.  I saw it over at Joystiq from their TGS screenshots line-up and, well, the fact that it's a bloody android isn't really what drew me to it, but the fact that it was a bloody android bearing a striking resemblance to a Stalker from the game of the same name that did it.  I, like many others, have been looking for a follow-up to Kojima's attempt at a Blade Runner game (okay not really but) for quite some time and the only news we've gotten is a radio drama, with help from Suda 51, named Sdatcher which is...well, it sure is a Kojima move.

Of course, it's not really enough, and while I can guarantee you that Binary Domain will be nothing -nearing- Snatcher (As it's more Third-Person Shooter to Snatcher's Near-Adventure Game set-up), it's something even if it's but a fleeting resemblance.  To be honest, the best style for a Snatcher game in this day and age (oh geez, what am I, 50?  Then again, Snatcher was released in 1988 originally.  I was One.) would be, ideally, in the style of Heavy Rain with some Third or First person elements, as fighting shooting Snatchers will likely have to take place at some point.  Heavy Rain's, er, modern take on the Adventure Game style of yore is really the best fit for a game like Snatcher in my opinion and Kojima's interest in Heavy Rain has given me cause to hope for a long, long time now.

Regardless, the knowledge that Binary Domain has been done by the Yakuza Studios team (That feels so good to type) assures that when it comes out in English, I'll be buying it from brand loyalty alone.  It helps, of course, that third person shooters are my favorite types of shooters and I have a fondness for Sega/Yakuza Studios particular brand of absurdity, so it won't be me buying a game I have no interest in purely because of who made it (which, believe me, I've done before), though I don't know quite what to expect.  Er, well, I know to expect shooting robots in third-person perspective, but that's about it.

The lack of fore-knowledge is comforting, however, as I like to go into all the Yakuza games knowing as little as possible (for obvious story reasons), so keeping that alive for another of their games only seems appropriate.  Though, with any luck, the trailers for Binary Domain will be in the same style as Yakuza 4's, because honestly, that voice.  Probably won't, but a man can dream, as I've done quite a lot of in this post, clearly.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Huzzah for Localization Announcements!

At TGS, Level-5 went and did the thing we all have hoped for for quite a while and announced that their crossover game with Studio Ghibli, Ni no Kuni:  Queen of the White Holy Ashes, is actually getting localized for America and will be out at some point next year.  Honestly, I said from day one that I was pretty sure we'd get the game, but there always was a little part of me that wondered, that feared we would not.  Those fears have been assuaged, however, and now all I can do is anxiously await an actual release date so I can start planning how I'm going to pay for it.

Thinking about the game, I'm pretty sure none of us know anything really about it beyond the fact that it looks amazing and is a cooperative project with Studio Ghibli (which would be -why- it looks so good, of course.)  If you're not really familiar with Studio Ghibli's works by the Studio name, you've likely heard of what they've made; the more prominent works being Grave of the Fireflies, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and most recently Ponyo.  And if you've not heard of any of those, then...well...go look them up.  Like right now.  Italics.  I myself have only seen Princess Mononoke and Ponyo, and they were fairly fantastic to watch.  If you're worried about quality, the rather difficult-to-please Movie Meta-Rating website Rotten Tomatoes (which I'm not a fan of, hence not linking) has all their movies (save two) sitting at 80/100 at the lowest.

From what I've seen, I can only expect Ni no Kuni to be an Action RPG, which would be just fine by me.  Looking at the Wiki article for it, all I can see is stuff about a magic book and using the stylus because it's only for the DS version at the moment, so yeah, I'm gonna go with Action RPG.  Still, pretty alright by me if the game is going to look as good as it does in screenshots.  In fact, it'll probably look better in motion, which is almost drool-worthy.  Is it shallow to be all over a game just because how it looks?  I think it is, in theory.  That's fine, I can live with being a shallow gamer for Ni no Kuni.

Also being localized is Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk. II, sequel to this year's Hyperdimension Neptunia (surprise!), pictured above, which won many awards for being the absolute weirdest premise to a game in quite a while.  Set in the world of Gameindustri (seriously), it has something to do with console goddesses and other such things that are representative of the Gaming World today (Seriously, the four Goddesses are based on the PS3, 360, Wii and a fictional Sega Console, the Neptune) and other things that I don't know about since my only exposure is a bit of livestreaming of the game in which I heard one of the characters call another "Thunder Tits" and resolved to buy the game at some point.

Some notable bits of weirdness in the sequel include Keiji Inafune being included in the game as a weapon and...a head that shoots lasers from his mouth.  I made the link as long as possible in hopes that you would go to it and see the pictures in it the article says, 'some things you just have to see to believe'.  If you need anything else weird to entice your curiosity then I....well, I think you may need some form of help, but there will also be cameos from, among others, NISA and Gust created characters, much like the first game, if you're into that sort of thing.  Honestly, though, it's not a game that you play because it's going to, great.  It's something you play to see just how absurd this hobby of ours can be and be uplifted by the fact that the playground is this open.

And while this isn't exactly localization based, and just, there is a new trailer out there for Lollipop Chainsaw and Chance got it first so go see it there.  Because it's Lollipop friggin' Chainsaw and it's going to be awesome.  It is totally Mogs Approved.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Other Vita Things

Before I start with anything, I just wanted to show the above which is apparently the look Sony is going with for the Vita Cases and Carts.  Basically like a PS3/Blu-Ray Case except notably smaller (comparison pictures are out there, I believe it's only about as wide as a 3DS case, if that) and the cart is....well, it's what it is.  I actually really like the case design for them, but I'm not too sure on the Blue of them since that might cause a bit of 'confusion' in non-gaming people.  (Seeing the blue case which before now has been only for Blu-Ray movies and thinking it's a movie despite being a much smaller case)  We'll see how it works out with that.  I should say that I like the blue of the cases, of course, but my mentioned misgivings took priority in mention.

Now, the other day when I was mentioning a good variety of the Vita news coming from TGS, I did in fact neglect to mention the battery life which has a lot of people disappointed and even more people going to absurd lengths to mock it which....well, I guess I get it.  Back when the 3DS came out and the battery life was mentioned at being what it was, a lot of people were (rightfully) disappointed at it, so to be on the same level as that would, in theory, generate the same amount of disappointment.  Of course, the problem here, well problems, is that it doesn't; if anything, people seem to be more disappointed that a device in dev at the same time as the 3DS with more power can't get more battery life than the 3DS if only because the 3DS was announced and specced first.

This is basically a compound effect and as we know, compound effects are usually bullshit since they only end up being used by Fanboys/Girls to further the ever-constant 'warz' over whose favorite thing is the best thing.  And 'best thing' generally begins to translate into 'only thing' when it comes to mobile gaming it seems, which is something I'm frankly tired of seeing.  So when I see shit like "The Hidden Costs of Playstation Vita: 3DS-esque Battery Life and Mandatory Memory Cards" I get a little annoyed that this stuff is -already- happening.  While I'm not saying the Vita having a 3-5 Hour (gaming) battery is a good thing, what I am saying is that it's fair to expect that whereas it would have also been fair to expect something better for the 3DS given the previous entries into the DS line.  The two things are not one in the same, is the point and using a device that inherently does less to anchor your argument that the battery sucks to the point of being value-less or to decrease the overall value of something (to the point of suggesting you need to spend that much more for it) is a little bit frustrating.

Basically, I'm just having a real problem here with Joystiq, as they wrote the above-linked article that portrays Sony as exploiting every facet of anyone looking to buy one (especially with the "Mandatory Memory Cards" part) in a way not unlike the famous GameCube argument, and -then- wrote another article about the Vita's external battery accessory that was quite sparse in information, but they were quite quick to link to the article about the 'hidden costs' twice which uses fairly shaky information to begin with, given that the prices are just straight conversions which, as we all know, are -never- used.  (If we did, the Vita would cost $324.80/$389 which is much much higher than the price of $250 which, at one point, everyone agreed it was quite reasonable.)  Granted, I know Joystiq isn't a single entity, and is several people writing, etc. etc, but let me be angry at hack-writing.

I'm just saying that since the prices haven't been announced outside of Japan (much less the accessories themselves, some of which likely won't see American shores like some of the PSP's) it's quite early to be dooming and glooming about all the 'additional costs' to a system that won't be out for quite a while.  Unless you're looking to import, since the Vita is totally region-free much like its predecessor and its grown-up relative of some sort, the PS3.  (Big brother?  I don't know, I was going somewhere with that, I think.)  While I may be am definitely biased on this, I don't appreciate people trying to pre-emptively harsh anyone's buzz about the Vita so far ahead of its release when most other things don't receive the same treatment.

This seemed to work out more like the "bad news" from TGS post aside from the "Good news" post I did last time, or more like the "Whinge endlessly about minor things" post, but it was just something on my mind, and something I wanted to really get out there since, well, it's the Vita.  And we know I love to talk about the Vita, no matter what the light.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Yakuza: Of The End Mention? Hrm...

Daisuke Sato, who is part of the "Yakuza Studios" team and, relevant to this discussion, director of Yakuza Studios' first game Binary Domain was recently asked about Yakuza:  Of the End and possibilities on it still managing to leave the land of glorious Nippon.  And, unlike the basic answer we got so many times with Yakuza 3 of "We have no plans at this time", Sato was a little more candid and stated that, if -if- Yakuza: Of the End was to get released state-side, it would get some controls tweaking to make it, er, 'More appealing' to the western gaming persuasion.  IE, be closer to the Western style.  Whatever that means, I'm inclined to frown a little bit when reading and/or typing it out of impulse.

Then again, from what I've seen, heard, it seems that Yakuza:  Of the End sort of controls more like Resident Evil (I'm assuming 4 and/or 5), rather than the much, much better Third Person shooters that have come out since the former and the latter both, so if they would be able to make it control, er, better than those that would be much appreciated.  I don't really mind either way, I'm sure you guys know this already.  I want to take Majima out on a Shotgunning expedition to wreck some Zombie brains and figure out what in the hell is going on in Kamurocho.

Playing Yakuza 4 as I have been, this offers a neat little bit of perspective, so to speak, as I'm kinda stuck on thinking about what Zombie Apocalypse Kamurocho looks like.  Like I've said earlier, I -know- what Kamurocho looks like.  I know the lay of the land, if you tell me to go to Theater Square from Pink Street, well, I know just how to get there without consulting the map.  Etc. etc.  Just to imagine that some spots might just...not work like they do now, roads might be destroyed or buildings toppled or stuff like's a little more real than it would be in just about any other video game, honestly, if just because this city, Kamurocho has actually grown with the people playing the series from 1 to 4, like me, and is honestly 'familiar' now in a way that is more than just knowing where Kyushu No.1 Star is without looking at the map.

The stressed part of the news here is that Saito said, specifically "If" Yakuza:  Of the End is localized that it -would- have changed controls.  The two different stresses and the whole of the hypothetical versus the stock answer of "Not answering at this time" is certainly uplifting and instills hope, but as I have I will remain cautiously optimistic on localization news.  Even though I'm still not too 'want' on getting your TPS in my Brawler, the story is likely still top priority for the game and it's one of the many many things I enjoy about a Yakuza game, so even though the gameplay is different, I'll still be getting the same quality of story, assuredly.

Of course, if the game gets localized, I'm going to want the DLC too.  Let's....let's work this out, Sega.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

All This Vita News

I've grown rather fond of this stock photo, actually.
Alright, I'm gonna level with you here.  I don't know where the hell to start with all this news.  Because there is a lot of news.  Mostly about the games that were announced, but also with some more insight to the features of the Vita itself.  There's just so much and I'm just all 'ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh' at the moment, as I'm sure you're quite aware of.  As that is my way, of course with all things Vita.

I guess the best way to start this off is by showing off how wrong I was regarding the new titles that were shown off/announced.  Because we know me.  We know that I am just super bad at predictions, so I really shouldn't have tried, but I did and now I have to own up to it all.  LittleBigPlanet Vita, admittedly was a long shot as was Killzone and Modnation Racers since they're...way western titles (though I'm pretty sure LBP has some penetration in Japan) so those weren't too surprisingly absent.  So all of that was just me being way too hopeful and the outcome being as it should have.

One thing I nailed however was, "He could just formally announce the Zone of the Enders HD Collection (And/or Metal Gear Solid HD Collection) for Vita, since the Collections will be utilizing 'Transfarring' and that mostly seems to mean "Moving saves from Console to Portable and vice-versa"."  I got that dead on and am pretty happy with that.  Though, of course, there was really no other bombshell announcement from Kojima or....honestly any other announcement from him, really.  He talked a little about the Fox Engine, and how he hopes it'll bridge the gap between Vita and PS3 so that the games look as identical as possible on both things, but nothing else.  Perhaps I was overshooting TGS' importance in the industry, expecting something as I was.

And I was spot-on with Squeenix's support as well, as they did more than just announce release dates for games we already knew about and head off.  Not only did they announce a brand new IP for the Vita in Army Corps of Hell (Like I mentioned yesterday), but they announced a sequel to Lords of Arcana named Lords of Apocalypse for the Vita as well as a full-on remaster (read:  port) of Final Fantasy X for PS3 and the Vita.  While fairly....out-of-the-blue and leaving a lot of folks lamenting the fact that FFX is A) "Not one of the good ones" and/or B) That it was only FFX announced (and not remasters of X-2 and/or FFXII as well), it's a pretty big thing I should say.  And while I'm not particularly a fan of X, I'll likely get it just....well, because.  Portable Blitzball isn't a bad thing.  Another point to explain as well is the fact that a lot of Remasters in Japan have been separate entities whereas their Stateside releases are bundled together (see Ico/Shadow of the Colossus), so an announcement of FFX-2 HD and/or FFXII HD isn't necessarily out of the cards.

Squeenix isn't really the only one who brought it either, and you can see the full list of launch window titles here (Warning, it's a .pdf, and isn't just a games list) or I can go ahead and point out the things others have pointed out already.

  • Ys: Celceta, Sea of Trees 
  • Lord of Apocalypse
  • Ninja Gaiden: Sigma
  • Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3
  • Hell's Army
  • DJ Max Technika
  • Katamari
  • Browser 3 Kingdom
  • Bass Fishing
  • F1 2011
  • Dragon's Crown
  • God Eater 2
  • Escape Plan
  • Sound Shapes
  • Sawari Makuru (translates to Touching Lots)
  • Super Stardust Delta
  • Reality Fighter 0
  • WipeOut
  • Ridge Racer
  • Zone of the Enders HD Edition
  • Metal Gear Solid HD Edition
  • Super Robot Taisen Series
  • Shin Megami Tensei Series
  • Gundam Series
  • Tales of Innocence R
So, that's a rather impressive list of things, and while the latter part of it features some things that aren't exactly....titles (Like all the series) the things shown off are quite tantalizing for sure.  Gundam series for me especially, as I'm not sure what that means.  Maybe some of the gundam fighting games they've had or something like that, but with KOEI liking the system, I'm hoping for a Dynasty Warriors Gundam game on the thing.  Among all the other things I'm hoping for already.  And I obviously can't help but wonder just what SMT games Atlus is planning on putting on the Vita.

And that's not even all of the news.  It's not even all about the games, here, as they showed off quite a bit about the Vita itself.  Like the fact that you'll be able to multi-task like crazy on it.  Being able to look at a web browser while in-game is a blessing unto itself, not to mention being able to have all sorts of other stuff running at the same time as others.  (Though likely while gaming your options will be a little limited.  Possibly just to web browsing.)  I just can't say how many times I've had to open the browser on my PSP to help me with a PS3 game so to be able to do that from the same device now.....yeah.  That's gonna be sweet.

There's likely other things I could say here, but honestly?  Do I need to say much more?