Sunday, January 31, 2010

Now Playing - "Jason sans les Argonauts"

Here's what I've been playing this week, more of the same, still slugging through 3 RPGs, as always it seems. I'm really enjoying all 3 though, so perhaps 'slugging' isn't the word I am looking for.

Final Fantasy IX (PS1) - I progressed a bit further into disc 3, where the mysteries of the story start to unravel. Things are starting to get interesting, as I have a lot of good abilities and equipment on my characters. They can deal a LOT of damage each turn. Zidane dishes out 3500+ each turn with his normal attacks. And Vivi has some kickass spells-Flare, Comet, the 3rd level elemental spells. I think I'll be able to finish off disc 3 pretty soon. Depending on how long Disc 4 is, I might beat this before the end of the month, but I dunno.

Saturday: Onto disc 4 now, and I'm probably going to try and race on with the main story becuase I am quite confident with my levels and gear, but not entirely sure. I've not played through this before, so who knows? There could be a massive difficulty leap on the last disc.

Dragon Quest: Hand of the Heavenly Bride (DS) - I started playing this not too long ago, so I had something portable, and I've quickly put in over 10 hours to it. So far it has been very similar to DQIV DS, with lots of religious themes(I think though, that is the case for all DQ games) and charm in abundance. I love the names of a lot of the monsters: Eyepod, Combatterpillar, Moosifer..etc heheh. Some are ridiculous, but kinda awesome. There is something about the Dragon Quest games I really like. They are very old school, simple, but quirky RPGs that are really fun. Of course, they are not going to be for everyone. Some people are really put off by the grindy nature, but I enjoy the combat, especially given that in this one, you can recruit monsters occassionally after battle. That is one thing that could easily add on some depth, and put on a couple extra hours here and there to your play time.

Dragon Age: Origins (360) - I haven't put much time into this since last time because I've been trying to beat FFIX before the end of the month, and any time I am out on the bus or whatever, I've been playing DQV. So although its been on the backburner a bit, I've been trying to progress in the Fade section of the Circle of Magi quest.

I'm playing it as a write this actually, I don't particularly like having to fight all these enemies with just my protagonist. Staying alive is quite tricky when they gang up on me. So I've put the difficulty down and I'm seeing how that is gonna affect things.

I just got the Spirit Shapeshift ability in the Fade. Cool stuff! Looks like some kind of wraith =p And now I have the Burning Man and Stone Golem shapeshift abilities. I hope I get my party back soon.... T_T

Sunday: I've pretty much been playing this all day today =p Its somehow really addictive at times, its really well written and very compelling. I finished off the Circle of Magi part of the main quest, blitzed through the Shale DLC and now I am going through the Wardens Keep DLC. Good stuff, I really am impressed with the codex and the amount of sidequests. 

Kind of related, I spent most of Friday trying to hunt down the collector's edition of Mass Effect 2. For some reason, I didn't think I would need to preorder it, and it is only being sold in Game and Gamestation stores apparantely. I asked the staff in all 4 of the stores I went to and it seems it was pretty much they got just enough for the preorder numbers, and then after that, they wont be getting them in again. 0_o So...I went on ebay and absolutely skinned myself for it...I had it in my mind that I was going to get what I set out for. I will preorder next time. Let us never speak of this again. lol... *better be the best damn game ever*

Anyway, some of the stuff I'll possibly be playing and talking about soon(incase I forget)

Resident Evil 4 (Wii), Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII (PS2), God of War (PS2), Castlevania: Judgement (Wii), Doom (PS1). Those will be secondary to the Final Fantasy games for now though, I still have a bit of IX, X and XII to get through before XIII hits. If I get a bit bored of the games I'm playing, I'll probably stick on one of those short(ish) games.

Oh, if you are wondering why I say "Saturday" and "Sunday" above, its because I started writing this on Thursday or Friday, and its kind of an 'as I play' thing. Hmm, I might actually do another diary/blog style review or playthrough of a game, like I did for Dragon Quest IV. I quite like that idea.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Upcoming Games.

Here are some of the notable games coming out in the ridiculously busy February/March period. I really don't see why they don't just change a few of the dates. Some of the titles are definitely going to get overlooked. There is only so much money in people's paycheques.


Dante's Inferno (360/PS3) - EU February 5th, 2010

Bioshock 2 (PC/360/PS3) - EU February 9th, 2010

White Knight Chronicles (PS3) - NA February 2nd, 2010, EU February 19th, 2010

Blazblue: Calamity Trigger (PS3/360) - EU March 5th, 2010 [We EU'ers finally get this! =D]

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (PC/360/PS3) - EU March 5th, 2010

Final Fantasy XIII (PS3/360) - March 9th, 2010 for NA, EU, AUS

Yakuza 3 (PS3) - EU March 12th, 2010, NA March 9th, 2010

Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening (PC/360/PS3) - NA, EU March 16th, 2010

God of War III (PS3) - EU March 19th, 2010

Fragile: Farewell Ruins of the Moon (Wii) - EU March 19th, 2010

Pokemon Heart Gold and Soul Silver (DS) - NA March 14th, 2010, EU March 26th, 2010, AUS March 25th, 2010

Infinite Space (DS) - EU March 26th, 2010

Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey (DS) - March 23rd, 2010 for NA

RPGamer are calling it '2nd Christmas'. Can your bank balance handle it? I think I'll be picking up FFXIII, Pokemon Soul Silver, SMT: Strange Journey(import), Blazblue and the Dragon Age expansion. Gah...think I'll hold off on the PS3 titles, although I will be getting a PS3 before then, and getting XIII on it.

Game of the Month (01/10)

January is running out of days and I wanted to get this done before the end of the month, so here goes, my game of the month for Jan. 2010.

I should reiterate, my Game of the Month selections in this column of my blog aren't necessarily games that came out in that month, rather, they are timeless games, games that I believe didn't get much appreciation or enough attention or just really damn good games.

I absolutely love this game. 

Odin Sphere (PS2)

This is a 2D sidescrolling action RPG from Vanillaware, who brought us Muramasa (which a lot of people seemed to play.) It was released a few years ago, on the PS2 and saw pretty good reviews. 

Odin Sphere@Gamerankings

Odin Sphere@Metacritic

By no means is it a perfect game, I'd say it has a fair few flaws, but it is absolutely gorgeous, and is somewhat of a beacon for me-with this and Muramasa: The Demon Blade (Wii), Vanillaware show us that 2D games have not been made redundant with today's technology. Muramasa, for example, is probably the best looking game I have played on the Wii.

The game plays very much like an action rpg, its very fast paced and quite hard at times. It rewards you for chaining combos together, not letting your enemies get attacks in is crucial. For many people, it is quite a hard game. Myself, I am not particularly good at very fast paced games, and in this game, I was really grateful for the difficulty options. I had to turn it to easy for quite a few of the bosses (some of which can be very difficult, even on easy)

There is a lot to do in this game as well, it is very long, so you will get value for money. It might be a bit too long for people. I guess the combination of the difficulty, length and perhaps repetitive hack'n'slash nature of the game in general might put some people off. However, if you are able to stick through it, the story is incredible. I really cared about the characters, even though there isn't a huge amount of dialogue, cutscenes etc in which to develop the relationships between the characters. The ending, wow. I got the true ending and it is really moving.

So, who would this game appeal to? Well, if you liked Muramasa, this is very similar and I believe quite a bit better, so check it out. Other than that, if you like sidescrolling sprite based games like Metal slug or the Castlevania games, this has similarities to both series. 

Odin Sphere has some quite unique and interesting gameplay aspects, the Plants, food and cooking, Alchemy and the Psypher and Phozon system. Through these, you are able to level up both your HP and Psypher, so 'grinding' in this game is not how you might expect it to be. Its very fresh and fun. Hell, you can even grow sheep from certain seeds! =D

So, check this one out if you are interested. I had a lot of fun with the game, along with a fair share of frustration. Some bits are hard, but if you persevere, it shouldn't be impossible. Odin Sphere is my game of the month for January. 

Next I'll be posting a Now Playing on Sunday, and if I beat FFIX soon, I'll start working on a review of that.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

10th Anniversary Mew Event.

From the 29th of January to the 11th of February, there will be a wi-fi event for the DS Pokemon games. (Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, Platinum, Heart Gold and Soul Silver) If you are able to connect your DS to Wi-Fi either at home, or in a public network, you'll be able to download this...

"10th Anniversary Mew Download

Games Obtainable With: Diamond, Pearl, Platinum, Heart Gold, Soul Silver
Available from: January 29th 2010 to February 11th

This event gives you a special Mew. This Mew doesn't give any special effects in the game. The details of it are as follows: 


Level 5

OT: ??? 

Trainer Memo:

??? Nature.
Date of Obtaining ???. Apparently had a fateful encounter at Lv. 5

Premier Ribbon"

View the details at Serebii

Your one won't look like a retarded alien, sadly. =D That sprite is awesome hehe...

Totally looking forward to this, been looking for an excuse to turn my pokemon game back on. I'm so sad... =3

Also, if you like pokemon and stay in America (or somewhere else with Gamestop stores) check this out: Link

Edit: I was dissapointed to find out that this is only in North America at the moment. I wanted a Mew T_T

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Now Playing - "Ladies Like Armor-Plating"

Final Fantasy IX (PS1) - I haven't played too much of this since I last posted anything about it, because I've got to quite a frustrating bit in the story, and coupled with my idiocy and inexperience when it comes to this game, I've made it quite hard for myself. What I mean is that I am at the bit in Disc 3, Oeilvert or whatever it is called, where there is an anti-magic shield over it. I never really thought that it would affect my characters in battle, so took Dagger and Vivi with it turns out, they cant use their magic. In addition, Dagger doesn't obey half my goddamn commands because she can't speak and is stricken with grief. Man, its like Pokemon when they don't obey you....

Dragon Age: Origins (Xbox 360) - I haven't played too much of this since last time, but I got a bit further through the main story quests. I am at the Fade section in the Circle of Magi quest, a bit annoyed they took my team away, but the enemies don't seem too hard unless they gang up on me.

I'm gonna put some more time into this and FFIX before Mass Effect 2 comes out in a couple days. I'll probably pick it up at launch but not necessarily start it straight away.

Halo 2 (Xbox) - I started this up yesterday, trying to beat it in a single session, got a headache, and finished it off today. Its a pretty good game, but didn't quite have the same amount of epic set pieces as the next in the series.  

I'd probably like this more if I played a bit of the multiplayer, but I played enough of it back when it came out. Everyone has no doubt moved on to Halo 3 now anyway. Quite good stuff though.

Dragon Quest: Hand of the Heavenly Bride (DS) - I wanted a game I could play on a portable system when I was either out or downstairs away from the consoles in my room, so it was between this and Devil Survivor on the DS. I am really looking forward to playing Devil Survivor as well, but this DQ isn't too long and it got a lot of awards in the RPGamer Best of 2009 as well, which intrigued me. Its got a lot of good reviews, apparantely.

Its a remake of a 1992 game, and as it is Dragon Quest, some of the text and dialogue is kinda...odd and funny. Like this bit early on in the game. 

Chef: "I couldn't possibly make a meal out of two poor children. Its not a recipe I am comfortable with. " (I might have made one or two mistakes, its from memory, this bit)

Skeleton: "Do you want your neck sliced off by the scythe of hell!? No? Then I suggest you start preparing this meal!"

I'm only an hour or so into this, but I'm liking it so far. As old school as always, and nice graphics. I like how you can rotate the camera with the shoulder buttons. I remember in DQIV DS I didn't know that until quite far in, and in certain places it really helps. Anyway, I'll talk about this more next week if I play more of it. I need to crack on with FFIX though.

Final Fantasy VI Advance Review.

Ok, I thought I'd review Final Fantasy VI Advance (GBA) since I was quite impressed after recently playing through it as part of my Final Fantasy Challenge. Anyway, on with the review.

[Some minor spoilers ahead]


The gameplay is quite solid. The game utilises the same ATB battle system as many of the other Final Fantasy games. There aren't that many refinements or quirks that set it out as being that different, however it still is good. Instead of basic summons/eidolons like in FFIII and IV, you have Espers (which there are a lot of), one of which can be equipped to each character at a time. They can be summoned once per battle for decent support, healing or offensive attacks, and after the battle is over, you get exp and magic AP, which goes towards the magic you learn from that equipped esper. So you can learn magic and get permanent stat boosts from each level as a result of the espers. I really liked the esper system in this game, and it was what I spent most time grinding on to improve my characters. Perhaps it makes the game slightly easy however, as even my weaker characters(which had much lower stats than my main guys and slightly lower levels) could still do really decent damage against the end game enemies and bosses with overpowered spells like Ultima.

There is quite a bit to do in terms of extra stuff, like finding Blue Magic (Lore in this game), Dances, Blitzes, and other special attacks characters can learn. Fairly solid, but not hugely original gameplay here. Still, I can't really put my finger on any faults. From what I can tell, this FFVI Advance is the definitive version, as it adds a couple more summons, an optional dungeon, as well as improving the translation. Sadly, that means no Fenix down in this one. =p

Gameplay - 8/10


Story and Characters

These are probably the two aspects of FFVI Advance that impressed me most (although I really enjoyed the music as well.) From the start, the story involves Terra and some Imperial soldiers marching across a plain to the town of Narshe. They are heading there to find a frozen esper. The Espers have quite an important part in the story and the schemes of the Emperor and Kefka. As the game goes on, Terra finds it strange that she has no memories. She comes into contact with Locke and he introduces her to the Returners, a group of militants opposing the 'evil empire.' From there she decides to join them and the story goes on from there. There is a lot of dialogue,  which is very well written and it keeps the story strong throughout. I really like the style of the writing as well. Here's the opening passage.

"The ancient War of the Magi... When its flames at last receded, only
the charred husk of a world remained. Even the power of magic was
lost... In the thousand years that followed, iron, gunpowder, and steam
engines took the place of magic and life slowly returned to the barren
land. Yet there now stands one who would reawaken the magic of ages
past and use its dreaded power as a means by which to conquer all the
world. Could anyone truly be foolish enough to repeat that mistake?"

The characters have quite a bit of backstory and depth to them, there are quite a few characters I like. From the depth that comes from Terra's past with the empire(involving brainwashing and their exploitation of her), to the relation between Sabin and Edgar and the throne of Figaro, there are a lot more characters, most of which are quite well developed (perhaps with the exception of Umaro and Gogo). There are 14 playable characters in total, I thought this was slightly too many. I mean, I know choice is a good thing, but at the end of the game, you need to take 3 seperate teams of up to 4 into Kefka's Tower. So this means you more or less need to grind out a lot of spells, abilities and levels onto characters you might not necessarily like. 

Still, the story and characters were two aspects of the game I really liked. One thing I like about the game is the settting, its different from some of the other Final Fantasy games in that it is set in a steampunk world in which magic and the espers are important. We are told about the War of the Magi in the past, which wreaked havoc on the world and now steam power is prevalent, with machines all across the world. Gestahl and Kefka are seeking to find a way to infuse magical energy into their machines of war. From there, Terra becomes an important part of the story, as do the Espers.

Story and Characters - 9/10



I haven't played either the SNES or PS1 version of the game, so can't really compare them at all. Anyway, I would always treat a GBA game as a GBA game, not as a remade SNES game when it comes to reviewing. So, for the FFVI Advance remake, they touched up the graphics, making them work on the GBA. The 2D sprites in battle look really good, especially when you cast support effects like Vanish, Haste, Protect, Shell etc on them. I was amazed fighting the end boss, the sprites are really gorgeously drawn. In combination with the music, you feel like you are fighting a deity. 

The only times the graphics felt bad to me were the cutscenes when the airship flies through caves, across the world, or when you are on chocobos. The capabilities of the GBA in those cutscenes feel quite inadequate at those points. At times, you can't really tell what is going on. Still, thats only a handful of times throughout the game, otherwise, the graphics are pretty good.

Graphics - 7/10



As far as the sound quality on here is, its a GBA game so some of the compression to fit everything on the cart means the quality is affected compared to say, the PS1 version. Still, apart from the Opera scene when the voices seemed a bit funny, it didn't really ever bother me.

The tracks on this game are pretty damn good. It has a lot of good songs-I'd say it has a better soundtrack than VIII and probably IX, just as a comparison to the other FF games I've played recently. 

Terra's Theme,  Dancing Mad (which is AMAZING during the final battle) and Darkness and Starlight (the opera theme) are some of the ones that stick out in my mind as being really good. As far as I can remember, the music fits all the locations in the game quite well, really adding to the feel of the game.

Here is the amazingly intricate and dramatic Dancing Mad (in two parts due to it's length)

Audio - 8/10


Overall, its a pretty damn good game. Sure its not the most original story, or gameplay system, but there are few flaws in this game, and everything adds together really nicely. Definitely give it a try if you haven't. I'd say it goes straight in to my top 3 favourites of the Final Fantasy series.

Overall - 8/10

I have failed...Halo 2 in one sitting.

Earlier today I had the idea to try and beat Halo 2 in one sitting, as FPS's aren't usually that long. I did some reading up on the net, trying to find out how long Halo 2 is, most people and reviews saying it is quite short. So I thought, hmm..I've beaten Halo 3 in one session, I'll go for this one and try beat it. 

I got pretty far...with only one break for some dinner, I got all the way up to the start of the chapter called "Objects in Mirror are larger than they appear." From the contents pages of a few FAQs, that looks about 2/3 to 3/4 or so through. The headaches were starting to win over after around 6 or so hours.

  4.1. The Heretic (beat) 
  4.2. Armory (beat) 
  4.3. Cairo Station (beat) 
  4.4. Outskirts (beat) 
  4.5. Metropolis (beat) 
  4.6. The Arbiter (beat) 
  4.7. Oracle (beat) 
  4.8. Delta Halo (beat) 
  4.9. Regret (beat) 
  4.10. Sacred Icon (beat)
  4.11. Quarantine Zone  
  4.12. Gravemind
  4.13. Uprising
  4.14. High Charity
  4.15. The Great Journey

But I'll give some of my impressions on the game. There are a few times throughout the game where you are just looking round the room for the last enemy or whatever to kill before a checkpoint appears, or a door opens or some kind of trigger event happens. Those instances are quite infuriating as I'm trying to get through it fast. Its a pretty linear game, with a few cubby holes but more or less a straight path all the way through so far. There are some really cool levels though, which are quite of my favourites so far is when you are controlling a Banshee as the Arbiter and flying across the outside of the Heretic's base, looking for weapon installations and his Banshee. The sky looks awesome.

Graphically, I was impressed...having not played an original xbox game for a while. Nice lighting effects and fairly good textures for the most part. I tried to find a video on youtube, no success.

So I am taking a break now while my HP recovers, or shields, more appropriately, before I start playing again. =p

The Flood are one thing in the Halo games that really piss me off. They really stress me out because they take so much ammo to actually finish off. In the sections in this game, they kindly give you Sentinel guns to cauterise their wounds and finish them off permanently, in Halo 3, I think Plasma Rifles dual wielded are best. I always find these parts in the Halo games test my patience, and usually give me a negative impression. I never have fun fighting them, cos they can be very tricky. If you try the Halo 3 mission into the Flood ship on thats not much fun. So far, Halo 3 seems to have improved on quite a few things from this one. I like that you usually have comrades in 3, in this one, it feels pretty lonely and boring at times. There are perhaps more epic scenarios in the 3rd game. 

The music is pretty damn good in this game, and the other Halo games as well. One of my favourite tracks is this one:

Still, this one is pretty good so far. I like the cutscenes (there doesn't seem to be that many in the 3rd game, which is maybe one contributing factor to the respective lengths of each game-this one seems longer than 3, but I'm not sure.)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep and Lunar: Silver Star Harmony.

  I didn't actually release this was out already. It came out in Japan on the 9th of this month apparantely.

I'll need to get my ass in gear and beat the 2nd one, before playing this or the DS one with the stupid name (possibly..I've heard the latter isn't too good)

Anyway, since my experience of the KH games is rather limited, here are some links, you might be more clued in to them than me. Still, there are some pretty screenshots I can appreciate =3

I feel rather cheap and lazy, just copying links in here, but...anyway. This will be out eventually in the US and PAL regions. Eventually meaning that a date hasn't been released yet. Not that I know of.

I never actually played Lunar back when it came out (I think it was before the time I was really playing many games, or much into rpgs), so I was interested to hear of a remake of Lunar: The Silver Star for the psp a few months back, and it will be coming out soon in the US, Feb 23rd is the USA release date. Special Edition: DO WANT. I've heard great things about the game and I think I'll import the special edition.

There is a demo up on the American PSN now, so check it out if you are so inclined, and live in the aforementioned country, unlike me T_T

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Check this Horizon documentary on viruses out, its on BBC iplayer for a limited time. Not sure if you can get it in different countries however. I got recommended it by my Biology teacher, its quite interesting stuff.

Info copied from link:

"Just a matter of months ago, the world stood in fear of an emerging new disease that threatened to kill millions. A new flu variant H1N1 had arrived. In the UK alone, 65,000 deaths were predicted. Yet to date, these dire warnings have not materialised. 

If this latest pandemic has taught anything, it is just how little is understood about the invisible world of viruses. But that has not stopped scientists trying.

Horizon follows the leading researchers from across the world, who are attempting to unravel the many secrets of viruses to understand when and Broadcast on:
BBC HD, 11:05pm Tuesday 19th January 2010
60 minutes
Available until:
12:04am Wednesday 27th January 2010
Audio Described, Sign Zone, Factual, Science & Nature"

Recent Purchases #4 - In which I travel halfway across the country

OK, before you go thinking I'm absolutely crazy and went halfway across Scotland to look for games, nope..thats not the case. I just happened to have to go on a bit of a wild goose to speak.

So here are some of the games I picked up recently, as well as a bit of a rant. A month ago, I had been at the dentist for a routine checkup and an appointment with the hygienist they have at the practice as well. Everything was fine apart from the fact that I had a bit of minor gum disease again, gingivitis I think it is called. It is the early stage which can be treated and if kept at this stage of things, it isn't too serious. Still, I am paranoid about losing my teeth So I was told to brush my teeth more effectively and use a daily mouthwash that they sold me for a month, and then come back for an appointment after the course of mouthwash to see how things were. These appointments with the hygienist usually last about 10 or 15 mins at most. 

Our dentist is a friend of my mum's, they have known each other since school I think. They came from the same area up north and knew each other ever since, so we still go to this dentist now. Makes sense, even when you take into account the fact that we live in Edinburgh, and the dentist is located a bit further north, near Perth. I've put in a map for those who don't know Scotland well.

So anyway, my appointment today was sometime between 11 and 12 ( I could'nt remember) so I got up at around 7ish, aiming to get up north for 11, got a train from Edinburgh at 9:03 which went via Falkirk and stirling (where I had to change train) and eventually on to Perth. There, I got a bus up to Scone, where the practice is. So around 2 hours to get up there in total, a bit more than that. Anyway, I get there and they tell me my appointment is next Wednesday, on the 27th. -_- Argh...I felt like such an idiot. So frustrating! They were also fully booked so couldn't see me today either, apparantely. The appointment only takes about 5 mins! 

So, I gotta go back next week now. Such a hassle...

Anyway, onto the more interesting, less frustrating part. I decided to just have a look round the shops in Perth, in fact, just Gamestation and Game to see if there were any games for cheap. I had said to myself that I wouldn't buy any games until Mass Effect 2 comes out at the end of the month, as I've got a lot to get through, and I would be spending a bit more than usual, because I'll be getting the collector's edition of the game.

However, I couldn't resist the temptation when I had a look in the game stores.

First thing I saw, it seemed to jump out at me, was God of War (PS2) (black box, not the platinum version). I had considered waiting for the God of War collection on the PS3, but a) I don't know when I will get the console (although I have a feeling it will be some time before FFXIII comes out, or when it does.) and b) God of War Collection isn't out in the UK yet. But for value, I was really tempted to get this now, as it was in the Preowned 3 for £10 deal in Gamestation, which seemed like awesome value. I checked the price of the black box versions when I finally got back here today, and was surprised, on amazon it is £50! =D

The other games I got in the 3 for £10 were Castlevania: Curse of Darkness (PS2) and Beyond Good and Evil (PS2), both preowned. I knew that Curse of Darkness was different from the metroidvania and 2D platformer outings of the series I love, it is 3D and slightly more action adventure-ish, but thought I'd take this chance to add another Castlevania title to my collection. Its one of those games that I really don't see often in my area, and when I do, it is around £15, so based on that, I thought I had to get it. It has amazing art as well, with such a cool cover, check it left/below.

Beyond Good and Evil, I remember hearing great things about the PS2/Xbox/Gamecube game for a while now. 

It apparantely didn't sell massive numbers, but its got quite a cult following, and I've heard some things about a sequel, but I'm not too sure if it will be coming out, or whether it is on hold at the moment. Its an action-adventure game, which I don't have many of, but do like them from time to time. I'm intrigued to see what this will be like, and the other games I bought today.

I almost forgot about the last game, which is Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice (PS3). I don't actually own a PS3, so why did I buy this? I LOVE the Disgaea series, or what I have played of it (which is the first one, on the PSP.) I got this for when I eventually do get a PS3, I was very tempted to get one today as well as this game, as there were some good bundle deals-like a 250 Gb PS3 slim, with Uncharted 2 and Infamous for £285 or so. 

Anyway, there is so much to do in the Disgaea games in terms of gameplay, customisation and replayability options. I like the quirky, zany humour as well. Reviews have shown that while this one isn't perhaps as good as the first, it is still solid. More of the same as the first 2 essentially. For the good price that they had in Gamestation, £12.99 preowned, I felt like picking it up now as I've seen it in shops for £15+ and on amazon for around £30 or so.

Anyway, thats about it for now. I'm working on a review of Final Fantasy VI Advance, not sure when I'll have that done...maybe before the weekend but probably not.

Oh, and check this out. Collector's edition Final Fantasy XIII will be coming out, hopefully. It looks like leaked details. Hopefully we do get that, because the 'freebies' (nothing is free) look quite enticing! =p

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Now Playing - "Conqueror of the skies"

I've been away for the weekend, so I didn't have much time to write this Now Playing up. Anyway, here is what I've been playing and my thoughts.

I played lots more of Final Fantasy IX (PS1) before Friday, got to where I think is the end of disc 2, seeing as how it feels pretty climatic. Kuja and Queen Brahne etc are fighting it out, and we are just about to head into the fray for some stupid reason. Garnet's fault....Then again, Kuja and Brahne are quite important characters, so I would imagine we would need to fight them at some point anyway.

I just did the cutscene where Brahne unleashes Bahamut on Kuja and his silver dragon. Bahamut's design is quite cool in IX, perhaps apart from the slightly strange oversized claws on it's wings. The above pic is unrelated, well...its not from FFIX, per se. Its one of the Bahamut forms from Crisis Core if I remember right. I can't remember the name...which annoys me.

Bahamut is featured in a lot of the Final Fantasy games. Along with Leviathan and Odin, its one of my favourites. It has really cool design a lot of the time, which I like. Link

Other than FFIX, I've been putting a fair bit more time into Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (DS) which I picked up not too long ago. I played a couple more hours over the weekend, but died a LOT, so my actual game time reads around 8 hours or so, despite me only playing that for the weekend when I was away. 

OOE is the last metroidvania I need to finish, and is HARD! It changes quite a few things as well, which i really like. It ditches the manga style characters and cutscenes of Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow and Portrait of Ruin, the earlier DS incarnations of the series, instead taking a darker, more sombre and well drawn style. It lets you go to other areas via a world map, you aren't confined to Dracula's Castle like a lot of the other games. It also has a female protagonist, the super sexy Shanoa =p. I think this is the only castlevania game that has one, excluding characters like Maria and other unlockable characters.

I'd definitely recommend Order of Ecclesia, but newcomers to the series might not want to start with it. I've had to use quite a few tricks I've picked up from other games in this to survive, like cancelling dodges with attacks and cancelling attacks with dodges, similar to the idea from Super Smash Bros Melee, and a lot of other fighting games. The difficulty is definitely one aspect that might put people off.

I gotta get back to FFIX now, before my screen gets burn in ;o lol. Things are getting interesting in it. 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Some RPG gaming news..

I've not been posting much recently about games coming out, mainly because of Christmas and the lack of news and announcements of games over the holiday season. Now we are getting out of the holidays, a trickle of news has started.

Knights in the Nightmare gets PSP port

I saw this first on one of the blogs I am signed up to, destructoid I think it was, a day or two ago. The DS RPG/Bullet hell hybrid will be getting ported to the PSP, with some changes. Personally, I am a bit sceptical..the stylus really made sense for those wisp aspects of the gameplay. Anyway, I've still not played my DS copy of this, so I can't say much more about it. I've heard really good things about it, even though it is complicated and has tonnes of tutorials. Maybe more people will play it this way, who knows?

Here are some links.

Mass Effect 2, not long now!

There isn't too long left before this one gets released. Here is the Launch centre over at Gamespot. They have a lot of screenshots and articles on the various classes.

Dragon Age: Origins Awakening expansion

This has been known about on the net for a while now I think, but I only just looked into it in the past few days, to try and make sense of the announcements they have made for the game's DLC and expansions. There are two pieces on the way. The Return to Ostagar DLC has been pushed back to an unspecified release date. The near full price expansion Awakening will be $30-39.99 and feature a lot of added on stuff. One new Origin story, and a feature to import your characters from the original game, create a new one and respec' your old characters. That should be interesting. Check out the trailer below in the RPGfan and eurogamer articles. 

I just found some more about Return to Ostagar. It is apparantely out now. :O Good stuff!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Now Playing -"I no can eat!"

I put a bit more time into Dragon Age: Origins (360) this week. I am now doing the 2nd out of 3 recruiting ally bits in the main story, I chose to go for the Circle of Magi 2nd, mainly cos I didn't know how to get to Orzammar..hopefully that will become more apparent once I do this bit. I am still really liking this game, such a lot to do! I had a quick look at the sub quests on the Chanter's Boards, Mage Collective and the other organisation I cant remember the name of . Perhaps too much to do...I doubt I will do all the quests in this run through, as I am intending on doing another after. I started up an Elf Mage as well, to have a look at the Origin story. I am gonna try and do all the origin stories in addition to beating the game with my current character. Then we've got the expansion coming out in March at some point, which from what I've heard, will add a LOT to the game. Good times!

I started up Final Fantasy IX (PS1) shortly after beating VI on the GBA as I'm running low on time till XIII comes out and gonna struggle to beat IX, X and XII before then... So far (I'm about 7-9 hours in IIRC) I am liking the game world, quite a lot of charm to it. Quite cool character design. That, and the music in some places combine to really remind me of the original Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles (GC). I am enjoying the writing and scripting so far, it has this kind of subtle wit to it I think, which is cool. The fantasy world is quite cool, I've been really intrigued with the city of Lindblum, which is on the cusp of Steam Power, and is quite developed industrially. Some of the areas seem a bit..unimaginitive and derivative, perhaps cliched, like the rather badly named "Evil Forest" and the "Ice Cavern". I mean, these places look nice, and the music went well with them, but they just don't seem like a lot of imagination went in to making them. Ice Cavern is like the kind of thing I imagine a board of designers would come up with if they were brainstorming and just wanted to leave early-an almost perfectly linear 10 minute dungeon with walls you can press X on to burn away to reveal treasure. I am really tearing into this dungeon for no apparent reason. Its really not that bad. 

I like the Black Waltz mages that I fought, and the way the story is taking a dark turn with the Mages and attacks on Burmecia. I wanna play more and see what happens, but I got a bit frustrated with it last time I played. I was in Gizamaluke's Grotto and got a game over, putting me back to the last save point which was in Dragon's Gate, before I did the Marsh bit to get Quina. So I lost around 2 hours or so. I wish you could Save and use Tents in the world map. I've got a bad feeling however, that I can...and I just need to use that Moogle Flute right? If so, I will kick myself repeatedly in the face, and then maybe the PS2 will get a kicking. =p 

Ok, so after playing a bit more, I know realise you CAN save and use tent in the World annoying. I wish I knew that earlier, before I got that game over that put me a few hours back...

The characters in FFIX are quite interesting-I like Vivi and the direction they could go in with him in terms of character development and Steiner is cool-quite funny, in a deluded and pompous way.

Other than that, I've played a little bit of Planescape Torment (PC) just to check it worked on my new laptop with Vista. Thankfully it does, but I'll have to play more at some point. Theres a good chance it'll have bugs and glitches that I didn't experience yet. I put Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver (PS1) into my PS2 just to see if the mega scratched disc I got off Ebay for £1.15 works, and it does! PS1 discs are damn durable =D I was amazed to see that I still have my save from way back on the memory card, I had forgot that. Think I'm gonna start over again at some point though.

Me and my cousin played some of the Horde mode on Gears of War 2 (360) and some Fifa 09 (360) for some multiplayer laughs.

A few days ago, I finally finished Final Fantasy VI Advance (GBA) as part of my FF challenge. I had to put in a couple more hours than I thought I would, to get past the barrier they try to put in your way. (At least I see it that way) If you don't know what I mean, I am referring to just before the last dungeon, Kefka's Tower. As you go into it, they ask you to form 3 teams, of up to 4 members each. Now, you don't need to put 4 in each, but each of these teams HAS to fight about 3 bosses each, which can be tough. So I basically grinded up a bunch of the characters I was never intending to use in the Maranda Desert against Cactuars and the worm things I can't remember the name of. They give good AP, gil and pretty good EXP.

I was really impressed with a lot of aspects of FFVI, but I think I'll leave my full impressions to a Review I've been intending doing.

Final Fantasy VIII Review.

Thought I'd do this before I forget the stuff that I was going to say in this review. [I have memory like a sieve.]

So, on with the review! Final Fantasy VIII was released back in 1999 on the Playstation, and was ported to the PC the year after. I haven't played the PC version, even though I cough*downloaded it so this review is for the Playstation version. Oh, it also has been put up on the PSN this year, to join a couple of Square's other PS1 RPGs. 

[This will possibly contain some spoilers.]


This is the main area which puts people off this game. It has got a LOT of criticism from people over the years, usually the tedious draw system and unusual junction system is what puts most people off. After FFVII, I think they wanted to try something slightly different than the Materia system, and this is quite a bit different, but with some slight similarities. 

If you haven't played it this is what it is like briefly. Each character has no set class or job, so in the same way as VII, you can shape the stats and abilities as you wish. The main way in which you can influence your character's stats is the junction system. You can equip or junction GFs(summons) to your characters, which lets you junction magic to that character, based on the abilities that Guardian Force knows. It is the magic that boosts your stats, which is one thing that can be annoying (if your character doesn't have much magic available.) I don't really see why they abbreviated so many of the abilities so strangely. Maybe they had to fit them into the menu screens(which there are a lot of, some of which are quite badly organised.) The abilities, I remember a lot of people didn't understand a lot of the GF's abilities when they played it. Mag+20% raises a character's Magic stat by 20%, but then you have stuff like GFHP+20% and SumMag+10%, which raise that GF's stats, HP and Magic respectively. I dont see why they couldn't use GF or Sum for both, woulda made sense, or just lose the whole abbreviation thing. I am getting into minor annoyances I know... Some other ridiculous named abilities: Expendx2-1 and GFAbl Med-RF. Its not only the names that are odd...some of the Command Abilities like Devour, Darkside etc really aren't explained well. Its kinda hard to tell what some of them do, sure I can look on a guide, but I'd rather be able to tell from within the actual game. I don't think I equipped any of them very often. Anyway, I think that is all the negative stuff I got to say about the Junction system, there are some interesting positive points to it as well. Late on when you get a lot of decent magic you can really boost your stats really effectively. Magics like Quake are pretty good to put junctioned to attack, to do anywhere near decent damage physically. You really need to boost your attack or magic stats if you dont want to rely on spamming GFs every turn against every enemy(which I did for most of the game until I got decent magic) Then you have status magic, like Blind, Berserk etc, these can be junctioned up to St-Def (status defense) or St-Atk, which either give you some resistance from that ailment or a chance of inflicting that status with each physical attack, and the percentages are based on the amount of the magic junctioned, and also the spell equipped. Similarly, you can also put elemental spells to elem-atk and elem-defense to get either resistance from elemental attacks like Firaga, Blizzaga or Thundara or a resistance to the element equipped.

So there are a LOT of customisation options, but I kind of felt that the clunkiness and awkwardness of the junction system was the main flaw in this game, as any time I was struggling with the game, it was usually down to problems stemming from the Junctions; either I didn't have the right spells to junction up to help me, didn't have the right setup, and tweaking it led to me getting past the bit that was giving me problems or the GFs I had equipped didn't give my character the ability I needed. ie. imagine I was going up against enemies that inflict a lot of status ailments, like the Marlboros (which are apparantely one of the strongest enemies in the game.) You would need a couple St.def slots available on each of your characters to protect against Bad Breath, which inflicts all statuses. Now, not all the GFs learn the abilities that give you multiple slots. I can't quite remember if there are items to teach your GFs St.defx3 or the other ones, but this really adds to the challenge, the fact that you might not be able to junction multiple spells to defense. You can equip weapons, but no accessories or armour to help at all, that was one thing I think it coulda used, this game. 

The draw system is one thing that really frustrated me in this game. Its not like the other Final Fantasy games where you either learn the spells and have unlimited supplies, based on MP or some such. Each character in FFVIII has their own stock of finite magic, which can be drawn from enemies and Draw Points in the world, or refined from items/cards(which I'll come to later). This actual drawing is done through battle mainly. Each turn your characters can choose to draw a spell from an enemy, and they receieve somewhere between 1 and 11 each time, based on their Mag stats. So to get 100 of each spell on each character, it can be very tedious. You can usually incapacitate the enemies and just keep drawing over and over to max out that spell, perhaps Haste'ing your guys to help out, but I still lost interest after a while, and could have put more time into drawing spells early on. It would have probably helped. Anyway, this is what usually annoys people about this game. 

Still, it isn't the only way to get magic in the game, and it perhaps isnt the most efficient either. You can learn some quite helpful abilities from the GFs, in the form of the RF abilities, which refine either items, medicine or spells from items or cards from the Triple Triad minigame. Some of the Rarer cards refine into some really awesome products, like one of the brothers cards, which refines into 100 Dino Bones. Do that and you are pretty much set for 100 Quakes on all your characters if you refine the Dino Bones into magic. Refine cards like Laguna and you get even better results. You can get some really good spells in the game, like Auras and Heros, which is one of those ways of doing the end boss that a lot of people see as 'cheap.' I dunno, its in the game, so you might as well use it if you got it. Meltdown is pretty damn awesome as well. Anyway, I'm basically saying that there are a lot of ways of doing things in this game, a lot of things to exploit or just to make your characters strong. Which is definitely a strength of the gameplay in FFVIII.

So I would say there is a lot to do in terms of customisation and lots of interesting gameplay elements, but I feel that some of them are a bit 'hit or miss', maybe flawed in some aspects.

Gameplay ~ 7/10


Story and Characters

The story follows the characters Squall Leonhart, Zell Dincht, Quistis Trepe and Selphie Tilmitt initially, who are part of Balamb Garden, an institute for SeeDs. From what I can tell, they are essentially mercenaries...but early on, I really didn't like that the SeeDs weren't explained too well. Even by the end, I think they aren't really fleshed out very much. More back story and explanation would have been good there. An example, the SeeDs were formed initially to deal with the sorceresses, thats about as much as you get there. And Ultimecia's motives are never really explained much, even at the end she only has a few nonsensical lines. 

But anyway now, the story.

Squall and the others get roped into a few missions near the start, like clearing up problems in the Dollet area. Gradually, more and more responsibility is heaped upon Squall and the others, and they head off to Timber, to help out with a resistance faction, where the party meets Rinoa Heartilly, who will become a central character before long. 

The story starts off quite slowly, and really doesn't pick up speed till the later discs I think. One thing that kind of frustrated me initially (but I can see why they did it now that I've beaten the game) was the way they really didn't give an awful lot away at first. There is a lot of mystery, and things to do with the plot are left largely unexplained until later. For example, when you get on the train to Timber (I think), Squall's party fall asleep or unconscious and control is shifted to another group, Laguna and his two friends, Kiros and Ward. The strange thing is, Squall and the others are aware of their actions, and refer to it initially as the dream world. The connection between the two worlds, times, Ellone and the sorceresses is fully explained as you reach the later discs. The mystery really keeps you interested, I found, even though it was quite slow moving. 

I like the way that Squall was done. At first, he is your typical brooding, quiet teenager, he sits in his room at Balamb and thinks, but he slowly opens up later on, with the help of Rinoa and the others.

By the end of it, I was quite interested to see what would happen. It starts to get quite confusing with all the talk of time magic, but the story really grew on me right up till the end, by which time I was quite impressed with it. Lots of emotion really pulled the game through, because some of the characters are quite bland and I think could have been better developed.

Story & Characters ~ 7/10



I remember playing this game back nearer the time it came out and being really impressed with it. Especially the summons and cutscenes. Man. The cutscenes in this game are really done well for the most part. Playing it now, it looks a bit dated in places, like the character polygons (or whatever they are...I just wanted to use that word =p) but I still think the graphics hold up today, which is very good considering its more than 10 years old, more than that, I think the graphics are actually better than the next game in the series, Final Fantasy IX (released in 2000.)

Graphics ~ 8/10



The music for me in this game was good, but didn't really seem to have as many really memorable tracks as some of the other games, like Terra's Theme and Darkness and Starlight(the opera theme) from Final Fantasy VI and One Winged Angel from Final Fantasy VII. Thats not to say there aren't any good tracks in the FFVIII soundtrack. The Extreme, which plays at the final stages of the game, is amazing. It kept me on edge throughout. 

I really liked the music that played when you were doing the sorceress stages in the game as well, like Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec which plays when you are going to assassinate Sorceress Edea in Deling City, one of the quite dramatic bits of the game. That disc ended quite nicely I thought. Very atmospheric and intense music there.

What else noticeable? I quite liked the strange music you got when you were in control of Laguna et al in the dream world and Lunatic Pandora. It gives it this unusual otherworldly feel I thought. The latter song while not exactly amazing, gave it atmosphere and kind of fit. I think they tried a lot different in this Final Fantasy, some of it worked and some didn't exactly work so much.

These videos are two of my favourite tracks from FFVIII. There are plenty of atmospheric songs in the game.

Audio ~ 7/10


Overall, I enjoyed the game and quite like some aspects of it, like the relationship that forms between Squall and Rinoa and the way the characters grow (if only a little) throughout. The story, by the end of the game, and assuming you understand what is going on, is really quite epic. I love the idea of time compression, and moving through time and space to face Ultimecia at the grand finale, its a brilliant notion.

Overall ~ 7/10

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Gamespot's Games of the Year 2009.

The people over at Gamespot published these around Christmas time, and I meant to do a post talking about them and linking em, but I didn't feel like it n_n 

So here we go, have a look and see if you agree/disagree/or whatever. A lot of these games I haven't actually played, and I'll need to check some of em out at some point. Stuff like Uncharted 2 has got a LOT of good reviews and attention. My lack of PS3 has kinda made it hard to play for me though.

Gamespot UK's GotY 09 Feature

They have a lot of categories, click on either the button that puts you to the next subaward in each, or click the collapsable thing at the righthand side on each:

Special Achievement

Dubious Honours

Genre Awards

Platform Awards

Game of the Year

Early 2010 Anticipated

Its probably easier if you check the rest of the stuff yourselves in the links, since it is kinda strangely layed out.

Current happenings...

I had meant to do a post about what was going on in my life currently, so thought I might as well start writing it now and see what happens.

This past year and a bit has been quite chaotic and stressful for me, for a couple reasons. One of which is university. After graduating from Glasgow University in 2008, I had a year in which I looked for some jobs in the Earth Science field, but maybe not as effectively as I could have. I just wasn't too sure what I wanted to go into. Earth Science is enjoyable, but a lot of the disciplines...well, I just couldn't really see myself going into for a career.

I tried applying to some post graduates, ie. Masters degrees, but didn't have any luck. They are mainly looking for 2:1's or higher, and my 2:2 put me at a huge disadvantage there. T_T Perhaps I could have tried harder, and applied to more, but I didn't really want to certain disciplines, such as the oil industry. I mean, I found studying the geology behind it interesting, but I was told that the industry as a whole will start slowing down and eventually shutting down in the next 10 years or so depending on the reserves available ie. in the North Sea. 

So with the help of my parents, I decided to take their advice and apply to an Engineering BSc, slightly different course from my first degree, (Earth Science) but with some overlap. So I have done the first semester of the Engineering course now, it started in September. Right from the start, I realised that it really wasn't for me. The work is very tough for me, I aint as confident in the maths as some other people, but more than that, I couldn't really see myself doing Civil Engineering as a profession, as it is really based on a lot of maths and whatnot, and you do that kinda stuff day in day out. I know I really should stick in with the course for longer, to see if I can get past the initial difficulty curve of having to do Maths after taking about 5 or 6 years largely away from it. I did Higher Maths in 5th year in school, and didnt really have to do much of it in my degree for 4 years, and then my year out of study after that. But really, if I have very little interest in the course, I don't see why I should continue, and after thinking long and hard about what I should do, I've decided to drop out from the Engineering degree. Its not something I usually do, or like the idea of doing, but it is what I want to do now.

So now I've decided to take another option, again very different to my Earth Science and the little Engineering I have done. My parents own an independent Optical group, so I am going to take a BSc in Optometry. After a long series of email and phone communications with Glasgow Caledonian Uni, they gave me a couple conditions on getting into this quite hard to get into course.(there are only about 50 or 60 places in the first year course) Either I could stay in my Engineering course and get 70% or so in all my subjects in first year, or if I got an A in my Higher Human Biology course that I am currently doing, I would get in.

The Human Biology is something I enrolled on as soon as I knew would be useful or necessary. I don't have any Biology qualifications, and it is one that they require for this Optom course. I only just got into the one of the colleges, as I was applying in October 09, just around the time when most colleges close their doors to new applicants to send the lists of students off to the SQA, the Scottish Qualifications Authority or whatever it is called.

I had a very limited choice because I was still at uni at Edinburgh, and a lot of them were not taking any more people on,  so I had to find somewhere that would take another person, and preferably with hours that I could attend. So I am now at West Lothian College in Livingston, about a half hour drive away from my house. It was quite chaotic having to get there after being at uni-some times I'd finish uni at 3ish or 4ish and have to get up there for 6 when the classes started on Tuesdays. 

So now, after I go down to Edinburgh Uni when my director of studies is back and sort out my leaving the course, I will just have classes at college on Tuesdays, 6-9. So I'll hopefully have a lot of time to study and try and get that A that I will need for my entry to the Optometry in late 2010.

Thats not really the only thing that I have been stressed and a bit fucked up about...I am still finding stuff hard, my 2008 and some of 2009 were some of the best times I've had, as I was with my ex-girlfriend at the time, but since we broke up in April this year, I've kinda become detached and down. I'm still trying to cope, but it is hard.

Anyway, I don't like to talk about my problems too much, and I have already done so at great length here, so I will leave it at that.

Here's hoping that stuff works out for me somehow...