Sunday, March 28, 2010

Now Playing - "Harbinger of your destiny"

Sunday again and I've been playing way too much games this week. Should really be working for my upcoming exams T_T So I finished up Final Fantasy XIII (PS3) a couple days ago after leaving most of the marks for afterwards. Parts of this game I really like, for example just wandering around postgame grinding and looking for treasure and sidequests, but parts of the game...I don't know, they still kill this game for me. It definitely grew on me though as I went through, and I'm still gonna work on the sidequests and trophies in between other games. Speaking of which, I started up a game I'd wanted to play for ages, and was really hyped up for when it came out.

Mass Effect 2 (360) - this one was a bit soured for me considering I bought the special edition of the game and still haven't been able to get the DLC codes to work. I really hate that EA make you jump through hoops just to fuckin register the damn thing. So for now I'm just trying to concentrate on the game and not let that ruin my experience of it. 

My initial opinions are that the shooter aspects have definitely been improved upon and polished up, but it really seems like less of the RPG elements have been included (or their importance has been dumbed down a bit) The cover system frustrates me, its nowhere near the Uncharted 2 level, or better yet the Gears of War level of things (I still think the GoW games have the best cover systems I've played) 

It's pretty damn addictive at times, I'm only around 10 hrs in so far, but quite liking it.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor (DS) I've been slowly getting into this one, its a hybrid srpg/turn based rpg with a pretty cool demon recruitment and fusion system. Pick it up if you like SMT games definitely, or are just looking for a good story in a DS RPG. You'll need some patience though, as some of the battles have kinda cheap failure requirements (wrong word, but hopefully you know what I mean)

Anyway, I really wanna get back to ME2 heheh. Till next time =D

Friday, March 26, 2010

Final Fantasy music.

I miss the music of old, better be back for FFXIV. Some of the epic soaring songs from the pre-XIII games really put them up there among my favourite games. I should note before I start, I don't know an awful lot about music, so I'm not under any misconceptions that I am any kind of expert, but I know what I like the sound of, and I try to think about when things fit or don't.

Something about the latest outing in the Final Fantasy series lacks impact in places, but I do like some of the songs. The Chocobo theme is pretty damn cheery and uplifting, even if you don't get to stay in that area for long, it is a welcome change in mood. 


The XIII soundtrack is very varied, and it seems to have some of those bizarre choices from some of the other games like some of VIII's music (the Waltz, sure it fits in the actual dance scene early on, but not in the dark as heck lategame stages in space.) One example from XIII is the song that plays in some of Sahz's cutscenes. It is like this wierd harmonica blues style music..really bad choice. 

Its got a vast amount of tracks it seems, with each chapter having a couple of songs at least. Anything from rock, jazz, techno to drum and bass it seems, some of which fit in quite nicely, some of which are quite ambient and perhaps not quite memorable enough, some of which are remixes of other songs in the game, and some which just feel downright out of place. 

Like, I appreciate that they are trying to do something different for XIII, but I really don't think the soundtrack is as good as some of the older games.

I had meant to do more in this post, but its a couple days since I wrote this and kinda forgot what I was going to say...I guess you can enjoy these pictures at least. Epic stuff. 

I wonder what the soundtracks for the next Final Fantasy games will be like.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

RPG-a-thon update.

I've finished FFXIII now, and tried out Vagrant Story...but some its game mechanics pissed me off and made me ragequit, so now I've removed it from the marathon, and put a few other titles in. Here is the list as it stands.

Final Fantasy XIII (PS3)
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor (DS)
Mass Effect 2 (360)
Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga (PS2)*New*
Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2 (PS2)*New*
Jeanne D'arc (PSP)
Dragon Warrior Monsters (GB)
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox)
Kingdom Hearts II (PS2)
Yggdra Union: We'll Never Fight Alone (GBA)
Star Ocean: Till the end of Time (PS2)
Planescape Torment (PC)
Breath of Fire III (PSP)
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (360)
Suikoden Tierkreis (DS)*New*

Adding 1 more portable title like I said I would, and the Digital Devil Saga games which I got really far into, but never beat the first one.  Oh, if you're wondering where I'm doing this, head on over to the link.

WTF! Blazblue pushed back again...

OMG...I've preordered Blazblue for the 360 from Amazon (its still not out here, yeah...) and this is the 2nd time it has been pushed back. I think the release date keeps it won't be here till the first of second week of April....


I guess I'll play some of the games I have in the meantime..but I wanted to play Blazblue...

Devil Survivor is awesome, but ridiculously cheap in places... ¬_¬

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Now Playing - "must resist emo urges"

Sunday once more, time for some musings on the vidya games I've been playing this week. (Only its not Sunday anymore...I failed by a half hour or so. Tempus Fugit...)

I've been putting a fair chunk of time into Final Fantasy XIII on the PS3, I'm pretty far through now, to the point where it has opened up a bit and I have the chance to grind and do side quests. So it has grown on me a bit, but I reckon that is just because I have the opportunity to do some rather tedious grinding, probably partly due to the story as well. The story is pretty good, but not brilliant so far at least. The battle system is fun at times, but a lot of the time I feel pressured into hammering X to finish battles as quickly as possible with the auto-battle option to get 5* ratings to recoup some TP. Bit too 'arcadey' was one of my first impressions of the battle system and a bit too simplified. Its good, definitely but not one of my favourite battle systems. 

Overall, I think the game has grown on me a bit since the start, but I still reckon it is quite an average game. Even though it looks brilliant and has a pretty good story and battle system, the limitations, linearity early on and the characters, none of which I particularly like kinda kill the game for me.


I also joined up with rpgamer606's RPG-a-thon  on the backloggery. Have a look here. Since I love RPGs and that seems to be the genre I play most of the time, I thought I'd try get through a bunch of my titles as part of this.

I decided on a list of 10 at first, and then wanted to include FFXIII in it since I was enjoying the open nature of the part I was at, so upped it to 13 games, which are below. I'm considering adding or replacing some titles as I'll be going on holiday in a couple months, so might put some more DS or at least portable games on there, cos I'll have some long journeys getting there and back.

rpgamer606's RPG-a-thon

Final Fantasy XIII (PS3)
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor (DS)
Mass Effect 2 (360)
Vagrant Story (PS1)
Jeanne D'arc (PSP)
Dragon Warrior Monsters (GB)
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox)
Kingdom Hearts II (PS2)
Yggdra Union: We'll Never Fight Alone (GBA)
Star Ocean: Till the end of Time (PS2)
Planescape Torment (PC)
Breath of Fire III (PSP)
 The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (360)

How did I pick em? I just tried to have some short, some with more length to them, cover as many of the RPG subgenres as possible and cover as many developers as I could in the selection. Some of them are games I've wanted to play for a while now, hopefully I can have some fun with some of them. 

So I've started up Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor (DS) and got a couple hours in so far. It feels very SMT so far, and quite like The World Ends With You and Death Note. I'm definitely enjoying it so far. It looks to have quite a bit of depth to the Demon Auction and Cathedral of Shadows (liking that name) which let you bid on new pokemon style party members (only not so cute for the most part) and fuse new species if you so desire ...

OMG...I had loads more stuff written here, blogger thought it would be funny when I hit publish to give me an error message and chop the end off. Nice one.. ¬_¬

Monday, March 15, 2010

Anime Impressions - Noein

Another Anime Impressions post for you, and its another relatively old series I've been watching (since I've got a huge backlog of anime, and not been keeping up with many new releases.)

Noein (to your other self) (2005)

I was drawn to this series well...because I am a sucker for some good sci-fi anime. It starts off introducing the characters through a mainly drama/romance type show, but brings in some really interesting ideas to do with parallel dimensions. It really builds up into something quite intriguing as it goes on.

The art style is something that is very different from many other anime. It is very stylised at times, like in some of the fight scenes where they purposefully use a sketchy, scribbly style. Think that one episode in the Animatrix with the skateboarding kid. Quite a few other shows use this style in fast, dynamic scenes for great effect.

The characters are quite nice in terms of design as well. I've seen some anime and western cartoons using this kind of sketchy shading and really unusual character ideas. The character of Atori in Noein jumps out at me, I like quite a lot of the characters from Lacrima, especially Karasu who just kicks ass. Here's a pic of Atori looking suitably maniacal:

In terms of story, as always I don't want to give away too much of the later story, but it is mainly about a bunch of school kids who are good friends and it goes on to develop their relationships, trials and hardships they go through. They have to deal with studying for exams to get into colleges (or some kind of middle school equivalent) and all kind of minor stresses kids have to deal with (*facepalm*), yeah so its inevitably got a bit of emo-ness coming from Yu (one of the main characters) early on, but thankfully as the series goes on, it gets less mindnumbing and peters out. Its got quite a Ghost in the Shell/Matrix idea when it comes to the alternate dimensions and how they pass between, so if you like that kind of thing, check this one out.

So what about my rating for this one? Aside from the slightly dissapointing ending (but many anime have quite poor endings, so I can forgive this one a bit, since it ain't too bad) there really aren't that many things I didn't like about it.

I'd give Noein a 8.5/10 just because it had a LOT of potential, and I had heard really good reviews but it never really got me addicted exactly and I reckon they could have done some more with the rich atmosphere they had built up. Perhaps a couple more episodes or a second season could have been very good for the series. Still, its recommended from me.

'Till next time. =D

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Now Playing - "insatiable interest in fashion."

Its mainly Final Fantasy XIII (PS3) I've been playing this week since I've been looking forward to it for so damn long, even with all the hype and negativity it received from the Japanese release. 

So what are my thoughts on it? In a nutshell, its not that bad really. Sure, there are flaws and limitations to it, but as a whole, it seems to work on some levels. I'll keep the spoilers to a minimum, but be talking about some of the mechanics.

Firstly, the graphics are amazing. This is probably the best looking game I've ever played. I had thought initially that Uncharted 2 was better than it, but I've slowly changed my mind on that. Its definitely up there with some really graphically games anyway. It also has really nice art direction in places. Some of the enemies, characters etc have really cool designs. Some are just a bit crazy however, some of the Eidolons...are just insane. They must have wanted to really redesign all the FF staples and take them in new directions visually. Some of the results are pretty damn cool, like Odin (one I always liked) but apparantely some are more outlandish.

As far as the battle system goes, I am liking it so far. Initially I felt there wasn't much depth but they keep adding little bits on, the Paradigm shift class change thing you can do in the midst of battle, 3 way battles, Summons (very much like FFX) and a few other things. I've not got everything yet, as I'm in Chapter 5 but I'm impressed with the fluidity of the commands, menus and animations in battle so far. Still, it does feel like there is some depth missing, probably moreso from the other gameplay mechanisms.

The game seems to be heavily influenced by Final Fantasy X, as it is very linear, which bugs me slightly but what it succeeds at doing is firing you through the game at a very quick pace. Another thing that kind of adds to this is the fact that your characters get fully healed after every battle, so you aren't necessarily using up Phoenix downs and potions every so often. There aren't any towns from what I've seen so far, but at the moment I am heading towards Hope's hometown so there might be 'hope', but I've got a feeling it will just be a linear path full of enemies based on what I've seen so far. The characters said when we reached the Woods area that it was very easy to get lost in this place, yet so far it has been pretty much all 1 way along a barely curving path...

The Crystarium and the Upgrading systems are two more things that really cry FFX to me. The Crystarium is very similar to the Spheregrid system-each character gets an amount of CP from each battle and you can use these to progress along the different paths in the Crystarium. (I say different paths, that is a bit misleading since there is only really 1 path most of the time, with some nooks coming off it.) You have different Crystariums for each character's different Classes, or Roles as I think they are called, ie. Commando, Ravager, Medic etc. Yup, there ain't no class names of old..(no Black Mages T_T)  As the game has gone on, it has got a bit harder to max everything out, but the game does through times at you when you can not progress in the Crystarium, as you unlock certain items, additions to the ATB and the ability to progress in the Crystarium as you beat bosses or progress through the story.

Story wise, it is quite compelling. I don't particularly love any of the characters, but I am interested to see how the story goes from here. There are definite aspects of FFX's story here to me, perhaps the ideas of futility and the cyclicity of things, its got a similar love story to me as well. Overall, I'm quite impressed so far despite some of the limitations.

Other than FFXIII, I finished off Flower (PSN). Its only a couple hours long to finish, but its different from most games out there, and I'm really glad I put down the £6.30 or whatever it was for it. Its really relaxing, with the exception of 1 level, which brings in this dark atmosphere. Although I am really glad that level was there, as it started to really make me think about what the game represented in some ways, in terms of themes and messages. The dark theme and shadowy, dangerous twisted metal structures and pylons kind of made me think about urbanisation and the relentless way in which we have used the natural resources up, scorching the earth and burning the skies. It really ends on a hopeful note though, with the discordant sounds of the 2nd last level giving way to really uplifting music. Its such a beautiful game, try it out if you want something you can just kick back with and relax.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Some Science programs.

I've been watching a couple programs on BBC iPlayer about cosmology and science that I found interesting. Here are the links. - Horizon: Is Everything We Know About The Universe Wrong? - Wonders of the Solar System: Empire of the Sun

I think they might be on youtube or elsewhere if you can't get iPlayer to work for some reason. Cosmology and Astronomy have always interested me, and I love watching programs like these and reading up on stuff like this. There is so much left unexplained, and so much that is so complicated and confusing in the theories we have come up with. But it is amazing to think we have come so far in terms of our understanding in such little time on this planet.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Final Fantasy Challenge roundup.

Thought I'd do a bit about what my recent runthrough the Final Fantasy games has shown me.

I didn't play all of the games recently, just some of the ones I hadn't beaten. So here is a list of the games in the series I have, and their statuses. (B=Finished, U=Unfinished) Bold and Italics are ones that I played as part of the challenge.

Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls

Final Fantasy III

Final Fantasy IV

Final Fantasy V Advance

Final Fantasy VI Advance

Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VIII 

Final Fantasy IX

Final Fantasy X 

Final Fantasy X-2

Final Fantasy XII

Final Fantasy XIII (just arrived)

Spinoffs/other games

Final Fantasy Tactics Advance

Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions

Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII 

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII


I played through the ones above, got to the very end of Final Fantasy X and got stuck on the boss. That kind of put a halt to the finishing of the last 2 in the series, I will go back to them at some point after I play XIII which just arrived today. =D

I've found that the series doesn't necessarily evolve a whole lot. I guess you could say the series is similar to Dragon Quest in that it really doesn't want to let go of a lot of the concepts and recurring ideas. This is arguably a good and bad thing-some of the games feel way too recycled in my opinion, with more or less the same character types, summons, espers, spells, items etc all cropping up in each of the games. However, you could say that if it isn't broken, don't fix it. 

The early games (I think of I through V as a group) have similarities between them, and follow the same kind of progressions of story, questing, exploring (with ships, airships, etc) and the battle systems seem all very similar in a simple oldschool turnbased way. I and II to me are very similar, III and V are similar in terms of the job system, which adds a lot of customisation to the game, and makes for hugely replayable and grindy games(in a good way). IV is maybe more like VI, but with an oldschool flavour. After those ones, I think FFVI tried to take things in a new direction, putting life into the characters, improving on the level of scripting from the older games. (IV and V had tried this, but not as effectively in my eyes) The way that VI is scripted really impressed me-the characters have nicely fleshed out back stories and personalities (amazing when you think about the number of characters, only 1 or 2 of which have little story behind them), couple that with the soundtrack(who many consider one of the best in the series, if not the best), and one of the craziest, most sadistic villains in the genre, perhaps in gaming as a whole, and you have a really incredible game. FFVI and the subsequent games all seem to have some kind of love theme somewhere in them, quite often right at the forefront, like in FFVIII, IX and X. This for me adds an immense emotional charge to the games, and is a welcome additionin terms of a recurring motif(even if they do make me cry sometimes =p)

Building upon the success of VI, the PS1 era of Final Fantasy could begin, and this is where many consider the true gems to lie. FFVII brought in cutscenes to add to the atmosphere and move the story on in ways that RPGs before that didn't. I remember playing this for the first time at my friend's house way back when it came out. I knew after that, I had to have a PS1 and this game. Something about it amazed me, this was at a time when I really hadn't played many jrpgs. I love the way that all the way through the story of VII you are constantly chasing Sephiroth, it builds the story up into a climatic final battle, to put an end to the terrible things he has done. (Like killing Aeris T_T) As for the FFVII spinoffs, well...Dirge left me a bit dissapointed, but Crisis Core really clears a lot of things up and adds to the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII very effectively through Zack as the protagonist. Many people consider VII to be among the best of the Final Fantasy games, and I am among those people. I couldn't help but be drawn into the world which is being torn apart by the Shinra Corp's exploitation of the lifestream. They paint a cold, grim futuristic environment. The characters as well, I really felt for the characters and the ordeals they go through. (Aeris is dead, time for some SNOWBOARDING) It is quite a sad tale. One flaw with the game is perhaps the translation. PSX era JRPGs are known for their poor translation of the scripts, and this is no exception ("this guy are sick"), to the extent that many people are completely put off the game, regarding it as a confusing mess. I would say that VII is slightly overrated in some cases, but still it is up there among my favourite games. =p

So this brings me on to FFVIII, which for me seems like one of the most experimental out of FFI through X (I haven't touched XII, and not enough of XIII yet to comment.) They had a lot of ideas for this one, and mashed them together. The resulting divides opinion to say the least. It seems to be one people either love, or hate. I am somewhere in between, but I like more about it than I dislike. A lot in VIII is really unbalanced, or seems kind of broken, perhaps. Or maybe it is just easy to get through in a multitude of different ways, which I like. There are so many ways to strengthen your characters and succeed if you are able to grasp the awkward gameplay systems.

I'll be writing up a review of FFIX at some point soon as I really enjoyed it, and was planning to review all the games I played as part of my challenge. IX is one where they take things back to the roots, cliches and all, and polish everything up. It has great charm I think, memorable characters and really intriguing locations. 

I've still to finish off X and XII, but will go back and give them another go after XIII at some point.

So have my feelings for this series changed at all since I've played a couple of them back to back over the past few months? Not much, I still love the series, but I think its golden age has passed. The games each person played first seem to have a special place in their memories, and it usually them that stick out among their favourites. That is probably the case for me, as I like VII and VIII, but through this, I realised there are a lot of gems in the series, especially the often overlooked VI and IX. Critics of the series might say that it really isn't very unique and doesn't change an awful lot, which is true in some cases. They might also say that the series is average for the most part compared to other JRPGs. I might agree with this some of the time as in some cases some of the battle systems and gameplay mechanics are very simple, and some of the characters and other aspects feel recycled and bland, but for me, I have had a lot of fun with the games, and I really hope that the series doesn't fall into mediocrity. Now, the interesting thought comes when you think about this, has it already fallen from grace? Is it evolving as a franchise at all? If it is, is it taking things in the right direction? I'll leave that thought there, and leave you with some lists.

Favourite characters

Final Fantasy IX-Vivi, Freya, Steiner, most of the characters in this game I liked

Final Fantasy VII

Favourite endgame battles

Final Fantasy VI-This is just gorgeous, one of many amazing moments in FFVI

Final Fantasy VII-Climatic, dramatic and powerful. When One Winged Angel started up, I was blown away.

Final Fantasy VIII-So much unique in this game, and I really liked the idea behind the story in this one. 

My 3 favourite Final Fantasy games

Final Fantasy VII (the order for these changes all the time in my mind)

Final Fantasy IX

Final Fantasy VI

Monday, March 8, 2010

Now Playing – “ I'm sweating like a hooker in church!“

I got a PS3 the other day to make sure I could play Final Fantasy XIII when it arrives. I preordered the PS3 version a while back when I heard about some of the differences, but I'm not exactly sure which is the better version, or even if there are many differences. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3) was the game I chose to come with the console bundle, and I'm glad I finally got to play it, even if I haven't played the first game much. I might pick it up if I can see it cheap, but I heard it doesn't do a few things as well as it's sequel. 

I got to say, this game is really intense. It is so addictive, I played it through from start to finish, as well as some of the multiplayer all in a day and a half or so. I like how dynamic some of the platforming bits are, like when you are climbing up the train as it hangs off the cliff, and bits of it are falling off and the whole stage moves as you go. I didn't think I would like the game as much as I did, but I was really pleasantly surprised. It looks amazing, especially on the HDMI cable I've got plugged in.

I've got Disgaea 3 as well on the PS3, but I want to wait till I play FFXIII and probably the 2nd Disgaea game before I go onto it, so I downloaded one of the games I had my eye on for a while, since before I had a PS3. Flower (PSN) is a cheap downloadable title on the PSN, and it is a really unique game, where you take control of the winds, and blow petals around a drab grey environment, bring flowers into bloom and colour to the world. Sounds...not as good as it is. Try it out, its only around £6 and it has received a lot of awards.  

Golden Sun (GBA) I had wanted to go through this game again, and had started it up last week, got about 4 or 5 hours in, only to find that my data deleted itself for some reason. I'm not sure if its due to a problem with the cart, or my original DS...which kind of sucks considering I want to transfer some data onto the 2nd game. So I dropped this game after those shenanigans. I don't want to get to the end of the game only to find the game decides to shaft me once again.

When I was away over the weekend, I played some more of Dissidia: Final Fantasy (PSP) trying to get some more characters to lv 100, and work on items for the shop completion. I've got my Cloud of Darkness to 100 now, and my friend got the FAAAAAABULOUS Emperor to around lv 90 in a few battles by doing the Exdeath 'exploit.' 

I'd heard good things about Beyond Good and Evil (PS2), so started it up the other day. I'm a few hours in and it seems to have a lot of atmosphere, but its yet to hook me in. Gonna try play some more as I think the story is starting to pick up. I like the photography side of things, as it seems well integrated into the game.

Perhaps best of all, I got to play a little bit of Final Fantasy XIII (360) on Saturday at D-Con, a free anime/art convention I was at over the weekend. Graphically, it looks really nice. Some of the character designs are very nicely done. The technology for the hair was one thing that really jumped out at me. The battle system was something that could take some getting used to. Its very dynamic, the characters are always moving, and you can move the camera to some degree. In the 10 or 15 mins I had with the game, as well as what I saw from other people playing it, I couldn't exactly tell if it was nearer to a turn based or action type battle system. It looks like there are charge up times similar to FFIV, like some kind of ATB mechanic. Some people have already receieved their preorder copies, which I am annoyed at..mine has been shipped according to Amazon, I'm really looking forward to playing it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Dragon Age: Origins is finished!

I finally beat the main story with my Human Noble Warrior today, and man this game is epic. Its bloody addictive as well, I played it for at least 6 hours straight last night until 6 in the morning, woke up today and kept playing to finish it off. Something about this game keeps me captivated. 

Go out and play it if you haven't already, its REALLY good. I've still got tonnes more quests and achievements to do, so I am gonna do some other playthroughs at some point, perhaps before Awakening, but I doubt I'll have time. I actually missed out like 2 or 3 of the playable characters..

I'll post some more about my time with DA:O on Sunday in the Now Playing post