Saturday, December 26, 2015

Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride (NDS)

Dragon Quest games are some of the most simplistic and straightforward RPGs on the market and there is still a need for this series.  Yes, the combat has not evolved much but each title tweaks the formula just a little bit to make it a little bit better.  This title is no different.

Although the combat is the same as the previous title, there are a couple of new ideas here.  Along with the standard idea of selecting a command and watching combat unfold, there is also the concept of monster recruiting.  At the end of battle, some monsters may join your group.  These monsters are the replacements for party members as the game lacks anything outside the main protagonist and his family.

The story is very simple but does follow the main character through a large portion of his life.  It is interesting to see a character grow up and to follow the complete story from start to finish.  Some of the events do happen quickly and the ending is definitely as sappy as they come but it was an interesting tale to say the least.  Along with this story, the game has all the humor and puns from previous titles.

The music is pretty much the same as previous titles and the enemies are not much different either.  This game seems heavily recycled from previous adventures but that adds to the charm of the series.  It makes everything so familiar that you can't help but remember how to deal with certain monsters or just what each enemy will do with each situation.

As a fan of this series, I can say that this game is much more fun than Chapters of the Chosen.  The story moves at a nice pace with a couple of rough spots and it is kind of easy to get lost but the monster recruiting makes up for it.  I loved having a slime knight with me for most of the game and even using it to beat the last boss.  It is a great thing that a monster you find so early in the game can be useful the whole game.  More games should remember that.  If you are an RPG fan, definitely pick this up, you won't be disappointed.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Metroid Prime (GCN)

This game and Super Smash Bros. Melee were the first games I had received for my Gamecube when I got it for Christmas one year.  I still have incredibly fond memories of this game and enjoyed every minute of this.  This was also the first First Person Shooter I ever played.

The premise is simple, Samus finds herself on a planet after losing all her abilities when attempting to escape an exploding space station.  Throughout the story, the player is introduced to the world and learns some secrets about Phazon.  It is definitely a good start to a trilogy.  It gives enough backstory so that the player is invested through the games.  A lot of what happens is fun and there are even some scary moments.  I still remember my heart racing while doing the section of the Phazon Mines that has to be done with the heat visor.

Just like a typical FPS, the player points and shoots at things.  This game differs in the fact that the action is not the main appeal but exploration and puzzle solving is.  It is a fairly simple game in terms of challenge but there are times where it can be tough.  Each of the bosses are no pushovers and there is definitely planning to each of them.

I still remember this game fondly and would love to play it again with higher resolution textures.  I don't think it needs much to make the game better.  The only really painful thing was getting all the scans but that was more of a challenge than anything else.  The focus on exploration and problem solving rather than running and gunning was a major plus for me.  If you have a chance to play this game, please play it.  It is a great game.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Minecraft (PS3)

How do you review a phenomenon?  A game that has no clear ending and is really only limited by your imagination.  Simply put, I can't.  I'll just speak with  my experiences with this game.

It started slowly, I built a simple house our of wood pretty close to where I spawned.  I didn't know what to expect.  I had seen the game before but never experienced it.  Little did I know that this game is addictive.  Just one more cave, one more block, one more chest.  Once I learned what to look for, I was getting my first set of diamond tools and trekking into the Nether.

That is the joy of this game.  Sure there is a last boss and it does take some work to get to but that really isn't the draw of the game.  The draw can be from building whatever you want to learning how to survive that first night easily.  Yes, the game isn't perfect and creepers are annoying but there is so much to enjoy from something so simple.  This game calls to my need to explore.  I wanted to see everything that my world had to offer and learn where everything was.

I think that is what makes this game so great.  A player can start with nothing and get everything just by looking.  They can build a house and do whatever they want.  There isn't really a set goal and there is no pressure to do anything.  It is the ultimate sandbox and I feel that it is really a good example of just how simple a good game can be.  It isn't the prettiest game in the world but it is fun.  I think so many developers miss that with the discussions about the best graphics and 60 frames.  Focus on making the game fun, if a game is fun.  I don't care how beautiful it looks.  Stop making beautiful boring games and just make something fun.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Secret of Evermore (SNES)

With my love of Secret of Mana, this game is very close to my heart.  I remember watching my older brothers playing this when I was growing up and it stuck with me.  From the B-movie inspired setting and story to the great music.  I remember lots of this game.  It isn't the best game but just like the inspiration, it has its moments.

Let's start off with the premise.  The player is a kid and his dog that accidentally wander into a laboratory of a scientist while an experiment is being conducted.  They are whisked a way to a place that is ruled by four great rulers.  Each area is set in a different time period: prehistoric, Egyptian, Victorian era, and distant future.  With each area, the dog changes forms.  It is the players job to unravel the mystery behind this place and return home.

The combat is fun and very easy to get used to. Unlike Secret of Mana, there are only a few weapon types like sword or spear.  There is a bazooka as well.  The key draw is the alchemy system.  By combining various items found around the world, the player can unleash powerful attacks or cast buffs on themselves.  Some of these alchemic spells are difficult to use as the resources to use them are very limited.  But it is a fine system once you have the right items.

The music for this game is something that still sticks with me.  I often think about it while staring off at the distance at work.  My favorite track is definitely from the prehistoric town you visit.  It has a great set of percussion that has stuck with me for most of my life.  The graphics are solid for an SNES game and I don't remember much in terms of flaws.  Other than the major glitch I experienced in my file which lead to me being unable to fight a certain boss and missing out on the chance to get the bazooka weapon.

If any of this sounded like something that would be fun, I say play the game.  It does have moments where it is easy to get lost and the map is not the most helpful thing in the world.  The game is worth it though.  It is fun and light.  Just a simple journey of a boy and his dog.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Super Smash Bros. (N64)

This game.  This was the game along with Ocarina of Time that convinced me to get an N64.  I had never seen a game like this before.  It was a mixture of platforming and fighting that I just hadn't seen as a kid.  I had always been a Nintendo fan but when it was time for me to get a console of my own, my parents picked a Playstation.  Now, I don't regret that at all but this game made me want an N64.

When I eventually got this game and an N64, I had more hours of fun than I could remember.  Trying to unlock the four hidden characters, making my own matches and brackets.  Playing mirrors with my friends to see who was the best with each character.  It was the perfect party game.

The premise is a bunch of Nintendo characters are gathered together to fight each other in various themed arenas.  From Mario to Pikachu and Donkey Kong to Samus, the heavy hitters are all here.  Sure, the roster was small but it had favorites for everybody.

My favorite character to use was Kirby.  Throwing items, using special abilities, and his throw were just so much fun.  It wasn't all about fighting though.  Each character could go through an arcade mode to fight Master Hand or play Home Run Derby with Sandbag.  Or even attack targets or jump on platforms.  There was always another challenge to take on.

Even today, this game holds up.  If you can't get an N64, it is on the Virtual Console of Wii and Wii U.  It is a fun game that is sure to make at least one person nostalgic at any party you play it at.  Just make sure to have all the characters unlocked before inviting your friends over.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Dissidia 012 [duodecim] Final Fantasy (PSP)

I've been a Final Fantasy fan since I was first given a PSOne, Frogger, Chrono Cross, and Final Fantasy IX one year for my birthday.  Since that time, I have played all the main non-MMO Final Fantasy games.  When this game came out, I had just completed the last one I needed to in the list.  I have to say, even if this is mainly a fan game.  It is still a fairly competent fighting game as well.

To say this is strictly a fighting game is a little limiting.  This game is more about how to use various effects to your benefit.  Sometimes spamming HP attacks just isn't enough.  The player will have to plan which attack to use when.  The player have to know the ranges and the patterns of each attack.  In this state, the game is a fighting game.  But then they throw things like stats and equipment.  It reaches the level of an almost Final Fantasy level RPG element.

The combat is fluid and often times it is very easy to setup an unbeatable combo.  Other times, the player will be utterly destroyed by the computer players.  The camera also is terrible at times, getting stuck in corners and not showing an ultimate attack coming at you from above.  Still, it is incredibly fun to play and each battle is different.

The story in this game has no bearing on the series as a whole but is kind of a prequel and sequel to the first Dissidia game. It tries to pull of a complete storyline but kind of just falls flat.  The new additional characters are kind of nice but they should have tried a little harder to select better characters.  Tifa was a good selection as we hadn't had a character like her before.  Vaan was not and was often the best training dummy I had.

If you are a Final Fantasy fan, I would suggest getting this game even today.  It is fun to settle stupid fights like who is better Zidane or Cloud or even listening to Kefka spam the same attack at you a million times.  I will never grow tired of hearing TO THE VOID! from Exdeath and Cloud of Darkness is still annoying no matter how good I get at the game.  I eagerly await the next game in the series as I have seen news about an arcade sequel to this.  I loved this series as a fan of Final Fantasy and of fighting games.

Friday, July 10, 2015

God Eater Burst (PSP)

Throughout my many years in gaming, I have never been too keen on games that fall into this genre.  I didn't really find it till I bought Monster Hunter Freedom United on the PSP and it was okay.  I picked this game up because I was told it was much faster than Monster Hunter and not as difficult to learn.

I'm glad I picked this game up.  Though it took me a very long time to finish this game, it grew on me.  I did have to wait till I could improve the controls of the game using the Vita.  See, on the PSP, moving the camera involves using the D-pad.  This means you had to take your thumb off the control nub to play it.  With the Vita though, I could remap the controls and make the game incredibly fun.

Let me talk a little bit about the story.  It wasn't the greatest story but it had moments that were pretty good.  Pretty much humanity is doomed due to lifeforms called Aragami. The last hope for the human race is the God Eaters, people that can use God Arcs to defeat the Aragami.  The game really takes a turn at the end and honestly, I wish they had stuck with the theme of survival.

The combat is fluid and fast.  Switching between gun mode and blade mode brings in a whole aspect that you just don't get in other raid type RPGs.  If the enemy is too dangerous to get close to, retreat and use bullets to bring it down.  Enemy too fast to shoot?  Switch to blade mode and whack at it as you dodge.

The missions are varied but always usually boil down to killing your prey.  Some of the Aragami are unique and fun.  Others are just annoying to fight no matter what gear you have.  They each have weakpoints that if you focus on, will net bonuses.  The best aspect though is being able to devour your enemies to gain boosts and special Aragami bullets.  Some of these bullets are powerful and feel great to fire back at the enemy that you are fighting.  The game does drag on sometimes with some of the later Aragami having way too much health or no viable weakpoints for your weapon to exploit.

I really with this game would have been more popular.  From what I have seen of the sequel in Japan, it looks like even more fun.  Although, I'm not big on these types of games.  I had fun with this one.  It is fast enough and there is not a super ton of grinding for rare materials like other games in this genre.  If you want to play this game, I suggest putting it on your Vita.  The PSP is passable but the Vita makes the game so much easier to play.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Super Contra (PC)

To be honest, I don't really remember too much about this game.  I do remember being incredibly terrible at this game though.  That is the thing about Contra games, the player is either very good at them or very bad at them.  So far I have yet to see anybody be mediocre.  These games are unforgiving and difficult.  This of course is no surprise though because the game has its roots in arcades.

The music is the most standout part of this title.  The energy the player gets from the soundtrack carries them through each level and gets them pumped.  As they blast their way through each level, finding power ups and making difficult jumps, the music is there with a certain sense of urgency.  The story though is pretty much the same as the previous title, it is about killing everything that moves and not caring about what is actually going.  It is mindless fun.

If you are looking for a fun afternoon of punishing gameplay and rocking tunes, go ahead and pick this one up.  I don't think I ever beat this game and the Konami code was not really a help this time.  It doesn't grant the usual 30 lives and it was not near enough for me to complete the game. I still have fun with the game from time to time but it has blurred from my current memory.  Definitely a must for any retro-gamer though.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Metroid (NES)

The original adventure of Samus Aran.  A classic example of how to do an action adventure game that has been copied, built upon, and loved by many.  This is one of the most iconic games on the NES and I feel that it should be played by every gamer at least once in their life.

The premise is simple, the player is tasked with getting to the big baddy at the end of the game.  They are dropped into a world with very little direction to go and no map.  I think that the limitations of the time are what made this game so great.  The games that have tried to imitate this all have improved upon the formula but they don't hold the same sense of isolation and adventure as this game.

Simply put, you are alone in this game.  There is no guide, no arrows telling you where to go, and no clues as to what you should be doing.  This is the essence of the NES game era.  Lots of times players would be stuck for weeks just trying to figure out where to go or what to do.  There weren't online maps or message boards to visit.  You had to have a friend that had done it and ask them for the knowledge or you had to figure it out yourself.  Sure this can be frustrating but back in the day, this is how a game was played.  A player would play till they figure it out, I miss that feeling.

In truth, this game hasn't aged well.  The lack of a map does hurt the game but I feel that a dedicated player should challenge themselves to playing this game with minimal help.  Sure, I understand that today it is frustrating to wander around and not know what to do.  I've been there in lots of games.  I don't like the feeling either.  This game is a classic for a reason though.  I feel everybody should play this game without help at least once.  Even if they don't finish it, just play it.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Blazblue Chronophantasma (PS3)

The wheel of fate is turning.  This is one of the few fighting game series that I have actually gotten into.  I'm nowhere near good enough at it to be playing anything other than the CPU fighters but I have attempted to play against friends in previous installments.

Just like the other Blazblue titles, this game is about Ragna the Bloodedge and what is happening to the world around him.  If you haven't played a previous title in the series, I suggest you at least pick up the EXTEND version of the previous title to catch up.  Most fighting games don't put a lot into their story modes but this is the exception to this rule.

That is one of the reasons I enjoy this series so much.  Each character has decent enough depth that I can actually figure out who is going to be doing what and why.  Sure, they are often twisted at times but each character has a quality that is humanlike.  That said, the main plot is kind of confusing because it deals with time travel that isn't really time travel.  There are different arcs for each of the different characters and it kind of ends well.

One of the shortfalls with this title is the fact that two of the newer characters are kind of just there in the story and not much is made known about them.  Bullet is searching for answers about what happened to her in the past and Amane...I have no idea what Amane is doing.  He is just chasing Carl Clover and not much else.  I think both of these characters will get more integrated into the story in the next game but for now, they are kind of just there.

As always, the soundtrack for this game is superb.  Just like Guilty Gear, there are lots of metal riffs and a few more playful songs.  A lot is recycled from the previous title but each character's theme fits them and after a while you really look forward to fighting certain characters just to hear their theme.

The fighting is decently balanced and there hasn't been much change other than the new characters.  I did notice the story mode was a little bit easier this time than Continuum Shift but it still had enough challenge to be a good introduction to the battle mechanics.  The meat of this game is tied to the online fighting which is fun.  Even though I only played once, I still had no issues with connecting and the lag was not bad.

If you are a fan of Blazblue, this is a title you should definitely not ignore.  The new characters add a lot and fan favorite Kokonoe is finally DLC but still playable.  The story does add to the series and will leave you wanting to finish the saga.  I honestly cannot wait till the next game.  I really want to know how this story is going to progress.  Definitely a good game to jump into and have hours of fun with.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Code of Princess (3DS)

Early in the 3DS's life, there was a very good but unknown game by the name of Code of Princess.  It was a fun beat'em up with multiple dimensions to move across.  I didn't know it at the time but this was actually the spiritual successor to another title that I had never played.  This game was fun but frustrating.

The story is pretty straightforward.  The princess is ousted from her kingdom by an evil force.  As she travels around the land trying to figure out what to do, she meets various characters and they join for various reasons.  As the story progresses, the loose ends basically get tied up and there are a few plot twists.  Although most of them are pretty predictable.  This game wouldn't get the highest marks for it's story but it does drive the game along and gives the player something to think about while beating up enemies.

Fighting is the heart and soul of this game.  Each character plays differently and has their own weaknesses and strengths.  I mostly stuck with the princess, Solange because it was easier to level up one character than it was to redo every level.  See, characters level up and as they do, the stats get better.  Levels are important till a certain point.  See there is a certain point in the game where the enemies just get so ridiculous that it is a rush to win each battle. My major gripe with the fighting engine is the fact that I was often stunlocked to death with no means to escape.  Getting punished like this was often frustrating and really left a bad taste in my mouth.

The music is fun and fits the theme of the game.  Each character has a track and the main enemies all have themes as well.  My personal favorite is Tsukikage's theme.  It has an interesting mix of flute and strange jazzy sounds.  It was great to get the soundtrack with this game.  I still listen to it to this day.

For the longest time, I couldn't see the appeal of beat'em ups.  I had tried series like Double Dragon and Final Fight but they lacked something.  I didn't find it in this game either but I had a better time with this game.  There is a lot to do in this game and if you are looking for a fun romp through an interesting tale of a princess setting out to save the kingdom, I would suggest this title.  Although the combat gets rough later in the game, it is certainly possible to beat this game.  Yes, I had to abuse several of the game mechanics to do it but I had no other choice.  I hate losing a battle because I didn't dodge an attack that came from off screen.  Then being unable to move after the attack and being swarmed by more attacks.  I still had some fun with this game.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk (PS3)

I've always had a thing for games with item creation systems.  Be it simply boosting current equipment to creating things from scratch, it interests me to create things from the junk you usually get through a game.  Loot is always fun to get but doing nothing with the loot is lazy.  Luckily, this series exists for this reason.

Atelier Ayesha is a game about two things, time and resource management.  See the premise is that the player is an apothecary that dabbles in alchemy, Ayesha.  Ayesha has lost her sister to some mysterious force and now she is living a simple life.  While picking herbs in her normal spot for picking herbs, her adventure of self-discovery, becoming an alchemist, and saving her sister begins.

The story for the most part is pretty straight forward.  There are not really any huge twists and it is pretty easy to follow.  The part that shines is all the character interactions.  Be it from the tomboyish mercenary with a pickaxe to the fledgling witch, each character grows through the story and you start to appreciate them for their quirks.

The gameplay is broken down between making things in the workshop to help you in battle or move the story forward and going out in the field to gather materials or fight monsters.  This is where managing what you are doing comes into play.  See, there is a time limit to how long the player has before the story ends.  It is never rushed like previous games in the series but it does drive the flow of the game.

Alchemy is the central way by which items are created.  These items are used for combat, story progression, or for cash.  It is easy to spend months in the workshop trying to make the best item possible or just spamming bread.  The only downside is that some of the recipes open too soon for the items that are available and it gets confusing as to what to make.  The menus work well and I never got confused as to how the item I was about to make would turn out.

Combat is simple but there is more strategy involved in this entry.  Positioning the party is an important part of each battle and some monsters will destroy the player if they did not plan accordingly.  The game does progressively get harder at times and there are lots of times where a boss will be too hard to defeat.  Luckily, these are few and often easy to pass with newer equipment or better items.

The shining piece from this game that still sticks with me is the music.  It is full of memorable tracks and each area has a theme.  Wandering around the land  and listening to these tracks makes for a great experience.

For the start of a new saga, Atelier Ayesha is a great start.  The developers have learned from the Arland games and realized that the time management in those games was far to frustrating at the pace that was set.  The pace in this game is much easier and makes for a much better experience.  Having said all this, I would recommend this for anybody that is looking for a simple RPG to play.  It is relaxing and hardly ever frustrating.  Sure some of the super bosses are difficult but the main story is a fun journey through a young woman's coming of age story.  If you want to relax for 40+ hours, just sit back and enjoy the ride.  Special props go out to Linca and Marion as the two best characters in the game but you only find out more about them the more you play.  So go play it.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Legend of Mana (PS)

I'm not going to lie, I have always been a fan of the Mana series.  Secret of Mana is my favorite game and this game is a very close second.  Everything about this game is superb.  The music is great, the combat is simple and fun, and the story while a little light fits with the series.

Let me get started with the music.  This game has a very simple soundtrack but each track fits with what is going on.  It is often that you will find yourself in very intense moment in the game and the music will match it.  It can be light when it needs to be or make your blood rush when wanted.

The key thing I like about this game is the gameplay and especially the combat.  Being able to use so many different weapons helps keep the game fresh.  Find a weapon type you like, keep with that type and just upgrade your equipment as you need.  The game allows you to strengthen your weapons using a smithing system.  Although I never understood what a lot of the effects that you would get from the system, I would play around with it for hours.

The combat also rewards you by giving you all sorts of abilities ranging from a quick backstep to a high flying moonsault.  These are not only important because they help you get around on the battle field and avoid damage but they also can be combined at times.  For instance, if you equipped certain abilities, you could learn new special attacks for the weapon you were using or even a new ability.

While fighting, you can make your own combos and unleash some very awesome looking moves.  The special attacks are awesome and each one feels unique.  Each of the weapons plays a little bit differently and if you want to play around with them, you can.  But one of my favorite features is having a pet or golem come with you into battle.

Pets are monsters that you grow in the monster ranch.  They can come on your adventure and many of them have some great abilities.  If you stay close to your allies, they will give you a link ability.  My favorite being the spring ball monster, which when you are touching him you are invincible.  Comes in handy in some difficult fights.

Golems are creatures that you essentially create an AI for using leftover equipment and you equip the golem with these things like a Tetris puzzle.  You only have a certain amount of space to put in attacks and abilities for the golem to use.  They can be very powerful allies if you give them the correct equipment.

Monsters and Golems aren't the only things that can join you in battle.  Throughout the story, you will get access to certain characters that are important to the story.  They range from a magical child with a frying pan to a legendary gem knight.  The story branches off at times and a lot of the side stories are great.  It can sometimes be a little hard to figure out what to do in a particular story quest but I made it through the whole game without looking at a guide.

There are a few flaws that I feel I can't overlook though.  First, monsters only get experience if they touch the EXP crystals when an enemy dies.  This can lead to some very underleveled monsters and make them useless at times.  I have fond memories of me fighting a boss over and over just to get my Rabite some experience, trying to push him into the crystals.

The other major flaw is the fact that you can lock yourself out of several areas and quests because finding or completing them is incredibly esoteric.  If took me 5 playthroughs just to find out how to get to the legendary jewel city that I forget the name of now.  Some side-stories can be completely missed and may be hard to trigger at times.

Looking back at this game, this was the first game I played through more than twice.  I loved every minute of this game.  I trained every monster I could get.  I mastered every weapon I could.  Sure there are times where I was completely lost but the game is just so beautiful and fun that I overlooked it.  If you have a chance, play this game.  Yes, it is not as good as Secret of Mana and many claim it is not as good as the Japan only Seiken Densetsu 3 but it is a great game.  Sadly, this is the climax of the series.  The games that followed this game sullied the series to the point of it being reduced to a mobile game at this point in time.  Would I love to see a game like this again?  Of course.  Will I ever see another game like this?  A game with so much lore and beautiful artwork?  I hope so but not likely with Square Enix in the state it is in.  Which is just a heartbreaking thought.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Doom II (GBA)

First review of 2015 and I get to do Doom II for the GBA.  Yes, Doom II for the GBA.  This doesn't make sense to me at all either but it is there.  I'll keep this short at least.  The game is simple, works well, and is fully featured.  You don't lose much when you move from a PC to a GBA. The game just works.  Not the best version of Doom II I have played but it gets the job done.

If you don't know what Doom II is, you obviously haven't been playing games long.  It is an FPS that is basically the grandfather of FPSes.  Go play Doom and then Doom II.  Seriously, these games still hold up today.  They are fast paced, simple, and fun.  Sure there are some dark themes but honestly, if there was a gate to Hell on Mars.  Well, it is an interesting premise to say the least.  Go play this game if you haven't already.  If you have, pick this up if you can find it.  Portable Doom action is always fun.