I meant, as always, to post this on Sunday, but I ended up staying over at a friend's place, having a few beers and playing some games online. So anyways, better late than never I guess =p We were playing Super Street Fighter IV, Halo Reach, Blazblue: Continuum Shift on XBL multiplayer for a bit of a laugh. I'm surprised by how sound the people on Blazblue are. Usually, a lot of the games on Xbox Live are full of 13 yr old kids who swear at you in undecipherable high pitched screams [One reason I don't generally like Xbox Live.] But after 2 games in a row online, our opponents sent us messages saying good game, or something equivalent. We got chatting to one or two of them, including one guy who had a Castlevania reference in his name, so I had to praise them on that! XD
[Possible spoilers, I'll try to keep em to a minimum though.]
I finished up the last few chapters of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (PS3) this week. I had heard that ending was described as wierd and "wtf" by quite a few people online. And to be honest, I can kind of see what they meant. It is indeed a departure from the norm for the series. Still, despite all the games minor flaws and annoyances for me, I definitely enjoyed playing it. It has some amazingly atmospheric areas and I like how they build up the story and mythology with the cutscenes, scrolls, bestiary type thing and narration, it adds to the depth of the game. Some parts of the game seem a bit unneccesarily drawn out, towards the end, the game doesn't really do a good job of why you go to certain areas. The story could really be considered one of the weak points in this game, as could be the music. For me, the soundtrack doesn't stand up to some of the others in the series-this one seems too ambient and quiet. That might be partially down to the sound effects in the game overriding it. I'd have to get a look at the soundtrack before I make my final verdict on it.
My favourite areas were probably some of the ones where you are in the Vampire's Castle around the middle of the game. It has some amazing backdrops, especially when you are outside and see the entire castle exterior. I might do some more of this game on another difficulty in preparation for the DLC; Reverie and Resurrection, which come out in a few months. I'll save the more spoiler heavy stuff for then, possibly including a review if I can find time.
I played some Ipod Touch stuff when Golden Sun had been pissing the hell out've me. I actually finished up Infinity Blade and Plants vs Zombies. Plants vs Zombies is pretty damn awesome, even though it does drag and get a tad repetitive in places. I just love the quirkiness it has. It really shines through in the ending credits song. I'll embed it below, don't worry, there are no spoilers for the *cough* story. But if you haven't finished the game, play through it yourselves and see what you think. Good fun game, definitely recommended. You can get it on mostly every platform now I think, minus DS, Wii and PSP. Infinity Blade is one of the most talked about IOS apps mainly for the graphical prowess. It really taxes the Ipod Touch 4th gen that I'm playing it on, seriously, the thing started heating up like I hadn't seen before. Graphically it definitely looks nice, I give it that. The lighting and textures are very well done, but when it comes down to it, it is mostly a point and click environment you can move the camera across. That was pretty much the only way they could probably have got away with this level of graphics I think. Gameplay wise, I'm a little let down by it. I don't really like the combat, which is more or less like Punch Out, so I've heard. You can hold left or right to dodge and you can block or parry. Those are your defensive skills, then you've got the standard attacks, mega attacks, super attacks and magic as your offensive options. I think thats it, its pretty smooth stuff in combat, but I can see it getting old fast. To be honest, I don't know if I've finished the game yet. Its Bloodline 1 which I've done, I think it counts as 1 playthrough even though I didn't beat the endboss. What happens is you get pwned, and your descendants carry on where you left off, with your level and gear. Its a fairly short game(only 10 or so enemies per playthrough), but I don't particularly feel short changed in any way. The graphics and opportunity to try this out are both well worth what I payed. I got it for half price at £3.50. I'll definitely be playing more of this and PvZ in the future, doing more playthroughs. I like the whole pick up and play in short bursts idea of gaming that the IOS devices give you. I've also got Chaos Rings (apparantely a fairly lengthy RPG) and a few others to take up my time when I go back to uni.
I continued on my save game on Golden Sun: The Lost Age (GBA). I really don't remember that much of the game actually. So it has been cool revisiting some of the areas in the game that I went through last time I played the game a few years ago when the game came out. I never actually finished it. I think I got stuck on some puzzle involving the boat. Which is my next point. The game is definitely harder than the first. I've died more than a handful of times in battle, and definitely got stuck on some of the puzzles, which on one hand, are much better disguised. They succeed in blending interactive objects into the world slightly better than the first game. On the other hand, some of the puzzles are really not intuitive, and some are just downright poorly designed. It shouldn't really be a negative that puzzles are tricky, because they should be. Just some of the design in this game seems a bit questionable. There is a real lack of direction sometimes. They'll just neglect to tell you where to go. Its like they want me to pull up the FAQ again. Then when I do find out where to go, its apparantely back halfway across 1 or more continents on the world map. So it doesn't have a very good flow to the game, in my opinion, especially on the world map and where you have to go next.
Then there are some of the dungeons. They are fairly well designed for the most part, some seem a bit long, moreso than necessary. For example, Air's Rock is a dungeon around 6-7 hours in roughly. It is apparantely the longest dungeon in the game, and is very long in comparitive RPG terms. There shouldn't be such a long dungeon this early in the game, that much should be obvious.
In the dialogue, it is quite interesting for the most part. The story is quite intriguing to me as I never actually finished it. They have set up quite a well fleshed out mythology which is quite nice and simple. Simple but effective, having 4 elemental powers and a host of Psynergies derived from them and different cultures and civilisations becoming powerful as a result of these. Some of the conversations with NPCs are a bit too long, ie. the one on the boat with the pirates and 2 lots of townspeople. They can be slightly drawn out, and in fact frustrating at times. I don't like that they give you choices between yes and no when only one of them is accepted. Sometimes you'll be pressing No and the party or the NPCs that decide you really meant Yes.
As much as I am tearing this game a new one, I am enjoying it. It has some amazing graphics for the age of the game, these were one of the selling points of the Golden Sun games back in the GBA days and its a fairly nice throwback RPG in many ways. It has quite an oldschool feel to it.