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.