Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Round Up - Games of the year

So this will be the first of two posts for the end of 2013. Scary thought to think we are already at the end of the year, to me it seems like it's flown by. So I thought I'd try and wrap up the year with two posts - one which a lot of websites will be doing at the moment, their game of the year posts or videos, usually published in early January. And another post which is fitting for this transition time in the gaming 'generation', a games of the generation post, having a look at my favourite, i.e. my personal choices for the best games of the past generation (NDS, PSP, Wii, X360, PS3.)

First of all, my games of the year, and this should be a bit different to a lot of the other sites and blogs. This is mainly down to the fact that I've not had much time to play games this year, with a lot of work and crazy stuff going on in life. Its been mostly handheld games I've been playing as they are a bit more flexible and I can put little bits of time in here and there, especially when travelling on the train and things.

So my list of games that I finished are noted below as B status, and C status means 100% finished. These are from the backloggery, just pasted from my notes on there. I like to use that website to keep track of my collection and my progress in games. Quite useful if you take a long break from a game and you want to know where you left off as well. Anyway, as you can see, my selection is limited to only those games in bold, which were released in 2013, and that I finished. I don't see games that I played partially as eligible to receive any rewards or be reviewed in any informed way whatsoever. I'm also starting a new rule that I've tried to stay away from in the past on the blog. I'm going to be adding more detailed labels, with series that I mentioned in the posts, and perhaps game titles. This should hopefully make searching more easy looking through my labels for posts.

2013 Stats

Inazuma Eleven (DS)
Fire Emblem (GBA)
FTL: Faster Than Light (Steam)
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (3DS)
Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS)
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate (3DS)
Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS)
Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection (PSP)
Fire Emblem Awakening (3DS)
Professor Layton and Pandora's Box (DS)
Solatorobo: Red the Hunter (DS)
Project X Zone (3DS)
Pokemon X (3DS)

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked (3DS)

So out of those games that I managed to finish, I'd narrow my favourites down to Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, which I put a huge amount of time into, Pokemon X, which surpassed my expectations in a big way after the dissapointing last generation, and Fire Emblem: Awakening, which was a brilliantly polished game..although one that I've not really put much time into post game. I'll go into some more detail about the three of these games and why I think they are so well made (in their own ways)

So looking at last year's round up 3 of the games I had said I was looking forward to in 2013 actually ended up being my favourite games from 2013. Maybe I need to play more games or something...

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate 

Some people will say that the Wii U version is better because of the online multiplayer. It makes it a lot easier to get far into the G-Rank content (i.e. postgame/multiplayer stuff) but the vast majority can be done solo. It is a lot more fun to play some of the quests with friends you know in person, but I've put in over 230 hours more or less solo (just done a couple quests a long time ago near the launch of the game with a friend) and it's been really fun so far.

What I like about the setup Capcom have created for MH3U is that it's so flexible. You can play multiplayer locally with friends on a Wii U and up to 3 3DS systems (I may be wrong on that, I've not had a chance to test that out yet.) and you can move save games between 3DS and Wii U versions of the game if you want. If I eventually end up getting a Wii U I'll probably put down the money for the other version of this game and play some online coop with some other friends I've just not had a chance to see in person.

There is a huge amount of content in this game, with hundreds of items to craft and quests to work through. The only thing that puts a lot of people off is the controls. Especially when it comes to the underwater levels, they can be really fiddly to keep everything 'controlled' for lack of a better word. For this, the Circle Pad Pro or XL version is a must. They are fairly inexpensive online, but I found them really hard to find in shops (at least where I live in Scotland.)

Pokemon X

Pokemon X to me felt like a very big leap from the previous games, both graphically and in a lot of other areas. It is probably as close to the 'Pokemon MMO' that everyone wants Game Freak to come out with for the next Pokemon handheld step. The online integration is really seamless and reminds me of Demon's Souls where you can see other players who are passing by the area, you can see a list of acquaintances where you've had some interaction with (trade, battle etc) and a list of friends (people who are simply on your 3DS list.) You can interact easily with all of the people on those lists, and have mesages that pop up to talk with other players. There is a lot to the multiplayer aspects, and they've really made it so seamless to trade and battle other players. You don't have to add submarine codes for each other (well, you kind of do, but the 3DS codes are a bit easier now) or plug in awkward link cables and then make your way to a poke centre like you had to previously, you can go into multiplayer from more or less any area, in town, dungeon etc.

They've added quite a bit more depth to the gameplay with the addition of mega evolutions and the Fairy type. The last time a type was introduced was back in back in the 3rd generation with the Steel type, and in a way it comes as a breath of fresh air. Fairy types are unaffected by Dragon type moves and super effective against Dragon, so some people believe they could really change the Dragon heavy metagame. I played a lot of Pokemon X in 2013 in the first few weeks after it's October release date. About 120 hours roughly, finishing the storyline, doing some pokedex collecting, breeding and trading for competitive battles. I've got a lot more to do though, I think I left some legendaries and post game stuff as my team wasn't high enough level to safely take them on. Pokemon games are always solid choices for your Nintendo handhelds, and X and Y really give you a lot for your money. They have a lot of throwbacks to older games in the series, even back to Generation 1, and a lot of decent quality for newer players to ease into the series.

Fire Emblem: Awakening 

I put in about 70 hours to this game, and ended up finishing the main story and a lot of the side quest material, paralogues and DLC quests in about 35 hours (the rest was attempts, characters dying and reloading.) I chose to play on the 'classic' Fire Emblem mode, with Normal difficulty and this made permadeath something to consider. I don't really think you can play Fire Emblem without permadeath (where your characters die for good if they fall in battle) but it is a really good feature in this game, and one that hopefully appealed to a lot of newcomers to the series. This is such a brilliant srpg series that really needs more attention. It has a really simple gameplay mechanic at its core and really isn't too difficult or complex. Its a very good entry in the series and think that people should give it a shot if they still haven't done so. It has some niggling annoyances, and for some reason I've not gone back to it in a long time, but I hope to one day. Even though I did a playthrough on Normal, Classic, there are harder difficulties and a lot of content due to the dialogues you can get between your characters. So theres a lot for me to go back to, and its just a really well polished game, and that is why it deserves a spot on my games of the year list. Which it turns out, are all 3DS games.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

First hour impressions #1

I was talking about this idea the other day. I'll be continuing my first hour impressions series of posts with a PS3 title that didn't get much attention when it released back last year a downloadable title on the PS3 in Europe and USA. I picked this one up as I had some spare credit and wanted to spend some in a sale they had on 'big in Japan' titles, or something stupid to that effect.

Legasista (PS3)

This game is a dungeon crawling RPG and looked quite gameplay heavy and loot driven, similar to Cladun in many ways. I enjoyed that game and never actually picked up it's sequel, so decided to pick this one up.

I finally got around to playing it now that I have some more time to procrastinate from studying free time.

So here are my notes and thoughts that I made during the first hour of playing this game. Will I enjoy it, or go back to it some day soon? I don't like starting games and then going back to them much later. So, it seems an hour is a good time to invest into a game to get a good idea of how the game will play without getting too invested into the game if I don't have time to put into finishing it.

Started 23:35pm, 17/12/13

  • The game initially impresses me with it's music, which has a good mix of sounds, from some sort of folksy sound in fitting with an RPG town, some quite different latin sounds, and some retro sounding RPG sounds. This is why I'm no good reviewing soundtracks or music in game lol.. I'll post a link to one of the tracks I liked here.
  • The animated sprites in dialogue scenes are quite well done, with dynamic moving characters showing some expression related to the dialogue.
  • The default option seems to be Japanese voice acting, with subtitles. The text is really crisp and has a nice font as well. Quite easy to read even on the small 20"-ish screen I'm using at the moment. Not my default screen it has to be said, that one is through in my term-time flat in Glasgow.
  • The game looks very gameplay and action-RPG orientated, with only a small bit of exposition, dialogue, and then straight into a series of tutorial dungeons.
  • The game has similar gameplay to the Cladun games on PSP, with hack and slash combat and very detailed number heavy gameplay. Attacks do X.YY damage, i.e. to 2 decimal points such as 1.55 damage per hit. So those RPG fans who like their stats and micromanagement of equipment may appreciate this.
  • The character designs are interesting after the initial revealing of the protagonist (who seems pretty generic to me. He is one of those male protagonists who has an outfit that shows off the thorax and abdomen but covers the arms and shoulders...They seem way more common than they should be..) So, fairly typical NIS characters that remind me of Atelier Iris or Etrian Odyssey in a way.
  • The gameplay complexity starts to up fairly quickly towards the end of the first hour, with dual HP or durability bars...or something...I'm not too sure, but I think they correspond with the main hand equipment and off hand equipment, i.e. sword and shield durability/HP.
  • Right before I stopped, the complexity started getting 'worse', with some kind of mana related equipment system which really reminded me of Cladun and FFVIII's junctioning stystem mixed together. I'll have to dive back in with the tutorials or maybe even starting over when I go back to the game some other day.
For now, I liked what I saw of the game, but from what I remember of Cladun, this should be a fairly repetitive dungeon crawl for the most part. I was quite impressed and I would recommend the game to people who like their top down hack and slash action games or RPGs. There are a lot of games in that sub-genre at the moment, especially with the whole roguelike explosion.

I'm a big fan of dungeon crawling RPGs and hope I can get back into this at some point. The next game I analyse based on the first hour will be another PS3 game, with some similarities! That's the only clue for now! I've already played it, so hopefully will post before Christmas comes around. I hope your holidays are going nicely so far!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

First hour impressions

I'm going to do a series of posts that I've been considering doing for a while, and in fact, I think I did something similar if not the same a while ago with two strategy rpgs. Or, had intended to, but never actually got around to playing the opening to one of them. Check out the link.

For this time, I'm again going to play through the first hour of certain games and see how they play. It'll just be a random choice, not using the random generator on backloggery (see Cookie Picks) but just me putting in games that I've been wanting to play and haven't got around to yet.
Its very much in the vein of First Hour, an interesting (but in some ways controversial) blog idea. They review the first hour only of games, going on the assumption that if a game doesn't drag you in or attract your attention within the first hour, they aren't going to be worth the time after that. Well, they do go into a bit more detail, but a lot of the games that really blossomed slowly get reviewed quite badly on there. Then again, they do full reviews as well, which gives games more of a chance to impress. Check out their blog at the above link. Its not very active, but has a good back catalogue of posts to read through.

Now that I've finished university for the Christmas period, I'll have access to a few more consoles. Its mostly been handhelds, specifically my 3DS that I've been playing, so I might try out a few games on home consoles or older systems perhaps.
What I'll do is I'll post these first hour impressions in seperate posts as I go along. They'll have tags and numbered titles to try and keep them together as well.
I've already played and written notes for two games (both RPGs)... so stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Some links, videos and websites

Something a bit boring perhaps. Well, I found these interesting. Warning: spoilers for Dark Souls, Demon's Souls and The Elder Scrolls. I'm a big fan of artbooks that go into the creation of video games. When a series has really interesting lore, such as the Elder Scrolls, Diablo or Dragon Age games, I really like to read into flavour text and back story stuff when I can. Here are some interesting links. Some artbooks I'd really recommend, as well: the Diablo series Book of Cain and Book of Tyrael. For Dragon Age lore, illustrations and a lot of content, check out Dragon Age: The World of Thedas - ShoddyCast's Elder Scrolls Lore - EpicNameBro's Dark Souls Lore series - VaatiVidya's Dark Souls Lore series - VaatiVidya's Demon's Souls Lore series - MisterShizno's Dragon Age Lore series

Monday, November 4, 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Recent Purchases #7 ~ DS collecting

Ok, so I've been pretty busy this summer, a lot of stuff has been happening; issues with university such as exams and dissertation topic for next year, finding a flat for next academic year and leaving the flat I was in, arranging two work placements with optician multiples (Boots Opticians and Specsavers), fitting in a summer holiday to Chamonix in the French Alps and then a few days in Brugge in Belgium and unfortunately having some relatives and family relatives passing away, so quite a hectic rollercoaster of a summer so far, and we're approaching winter pretty quickly it looks like...

I've not really done one of these posts since back in February 2013, I believe...I was planning on doing a post where I kind of went in to more detail about what I've been up to this summer, and I think I may do that, but I found that I had this post as a draft from a while back and thought I'd finish it off. That was quite a slippery slope however, as I looked through my backlog I uncovered more and more games that I'd bought since I last posted... So lets get into the games I picked up, and wherever I can, I'll talk about my history with the series, and thoughts on each games.

Ok, so first of all, forgive the grainy, blurry pictures, it is my Blackberry tablet that I took them on, and its kinda terribad for quality.. Then again, I couldn't be bothered digging out a camera or a phone with a decent quality camera.
So I named this post DS Collecting when I originally wrote it, this is because I've been picking up a lot of DS games as they appear to drop in price as more stores pick up 3DS titles. There are a lot of DS games that I either played briefly when they came out and never picked up or finished, or series that people were really enjoying and I just didn't get a chance to check them out. So a lot of these DS games are ones that I'd heard good things about or were really good deals. There are a lot more that I'm wanting to pick up when I can, some of which are included on my Backloggery wishlist.

Advance Wars: Dual Strike (DS) 07/15/13, £4 preowned, Game-Fort Kinnaird, Edinburgh
Advance Wars: Dark Conflict (DS) 06/04/13, £3 preowned, CEX-Edinburgh 

These two games I picked up for less than £5 each. Dark Conflict was 2nd hand in CEX as I had really been enjoying the Fire Emblem games on the GBA and wanted to check this series out. Its a series my brother had checked out way back and been trying to get me to play. I never did, so finally decided to start with the DS games. Ideally I wanted to pick up the GBA games, but I couldn't seem to find a good auction or buy it now deal on ebay for either of the games. So I'm very interested in getting into these games, and hopefully the storylines aren't too obnoxious...on a recent episode of RPGcast I wasn't hearing the best feedback on these DS titles..

Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS) 05/08/13, £10 preowned, GAME-Inverness
Professor Layton and Pandora's Box (DS) 05/13/13, £5.98 preowned,
Professor Layton and the Lost Future (DS) 05/08/13, £10 preowned, GAME-Inverness

The Layton series is one that experienced great popularity back when they came out, at least in Europe. I played little bits here and there, helping people out with the puzzles as they played through them but as they were so popular, they held their value for a long time and I never picked the games up myself. I was up in Inverness visiting some family and saw Curious Village and Lost Future in a two for £20 deal, so I picked these up on a bit of a whim. I began playing the first game and managed to finish the story off within a day or two, and only a few play sessions, enjoying it quite a bit. This one had good pacing and puzzles. It was quite a breath of fresh air compared to long RPGs that I am normally playing, and after a while I went back to the second game, Pandora's Box and played through the story of this one. This took a bit longer to get through than the first one, and I felt although towards the end the story took quite an interesting turn, it just didn't hold up compared to the first game. It dragged in places and the story just was not as well designed. Although there was less backtracking and the puzzles were integrated into the story situations, it felt like a case of one step forward, two steps backward. Still a very good series however, and I'm looking forward to jumping into what I've heard is the best of this original trilogy, the Lost Future. After the at times mediocre Pandora's Box though, I'm taking some time to play some other styles of games.

Project X Zone (3DS) 07/15/13, £22.00 new, Amazon

Back when this game was being talked about on podcasts and forums, most people were under the impression that it would never come out in english. It came as a big shock to me and a lot of people when it was announced for localisation. I still don't understand how it could have been possible with all the characters from different series (some of which never even came out in Europe, Super Robot Taisen OG for one) owned by different companies. It must have been a difficult game to actually make money. People unfamiliar with RPGs or these various characters will just see this game and get kind of confused I'd imagine. Anyway, its a pretty awesomely made game. The character portraits are well drawn, the battles are quite fun at first (they start to get quite long and drawn out...and a tad repetitive later on). The story doesn't make a lot of sense, but there is a lot of fun to be had with this game. Its very long, with 5 prologue chapters and around 40 story chapters (each of which consists of 1 large battle, a fair chunk of dialogue and a sort of small introduction skirmish or battle.) From what I've heard, it clocks in at around 50-80 hrs long. So far, I've just finished chapter 25 I think, so I've still got a fair bit of the game left.
-Edit: Since starting the blog post, I finished this game off in 75 hours. Yep, that was just the story, there are no real side quests to speak of. Its a long, at some times repetitive game, and I would say its at least 20 hours too long.
However, its worth buying this game just to support these kind of stupid (risky, but awesome) business decisions I think. There is a market for these kind of niche games, even though its a small amount of people in the US and Europe that are interested, we need to show companies that it is worth while.

Fire Emblem Awakening (3DS) 04/19/13, £ new, G-Force, Glasgow

Fire Emblem is a series I've only recently got into, after seeing the original (well for me, I think of FE7 (the first GBA game us PAL gamers got) as the original, even though I know the series has a much deeper history. Any way, FE7 blew me away, with its brilliant localisation, intense permadeath difficulty (if you try to do things without losing any characters like I eventually managed) and fairly mature themes of war and politics. So after playing Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken, I heard Awakening would be coming out in Europe and knew I would have to get it. The 3DS was quite light on RPGs, and I'd heard a lot of good talk about this game. So when it was getting close to release, I was surprised that I didn't just simply preorder on Amazon or some website like I normally do. I was really taking a risk in waiting and seeing if retail shops here would have copies of the game, as Fire Emblem games can become very hard to find and increase in value quickly. This was right after one of my final 3rd year exams, and I headed down to the shops to see if I could pick this up right away, and I was starting to sweat as I hoped somewhere would have this game in stock. I had read up on this game, watched a lot of videos from Nintendo and other sources and really hyped myself up for Awakening. Thankfully an independent game shop in Glasgow had this in stock, and I picked it up, eager to get into this game as quickly as I could. When I got around to playing it, it really didn't dissapoint me

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate (3DS) 03/06/13, £29.86 new,

This game, I was a little apprehensive to pick up..I've posted impressions of the demo back when it came out. You can read that here if you are interested. I was actually quite happy with how the game turned out, even though it seemed to repeat some of the content in places, from different perspectives of sorts, as you play through this fairly short 2.5D metroidvania platformer/action RPG with 3 different characters. It doesn't quite compare to the fun I had with the GBA and DS 'vania games, but its still a pretty solid title for the 3DS. 

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (3DS) 03/25/13, £31.86 new, Amazon

Oh man, I'm a big fan of the Monster Hunter games...I get way too addicted to them, farming new sets of armour and weapons, slowly progressing through the required quests. Its a simple, lite (or no) story, with really rewarding, satisfying gameplay that they have refined over the last couple of games. I've put a lot of time (over 230 hours) on and off over summer into MH3U, finishing off the village (single player) quests, and working my way to G-rank in the guild (multiplayer/single player) quests on my own (because I only have the 3DS version, and any friends I know with the game are too difficult to pin down to actually want to play the game multiplayer.) The 3DS version doesn't have any online facility to play with people like some of the other 3DS games like the new Mario Kart, but I still believe (for me) that it is the preferred platform. I like being able to take the 3DS on the train if I'm going somewhere (I take a lot of public transport because I can't drive yet) and I like the mobility of the 3DS. If someone is watching something on TV, I can kind of watch both (MH takes a lot of concentration at times though.) I know you can do something similar with the Wii U, but for me, its still not a good time to jump on board with the Wii U. I'm waiting for maybe one or two more games that interest me. So far, there is Monster Hunter 3U, which I would definitely rebuy, Earthbound on the Virtual Console, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem (its a Wii U game when it eventually releases...right? :s) So its slowly getting there with the games I'm interested to play. I will pick one up fairly soon, I have a few friends who are already way further than me in MH that I could finally play some quests with if I pick a Wii U up.

Infinite Space (DS) 06/03/13, £10 preowned, GAME-Perth
Time and Eternity (PS3) 06/28/13, £40 new, GAME-Perth
Okamiden (DS) 07/15/13, £10 preowned, GAME-Fort Kinnaird, Edinburgh
White Knight Chronicles: Origins (PSP) 07/31/13, €5 preowned, Free Record Shop, Brugge
Trauma Center: Second Opinion (Wii) £4 preowned, CEX-Edinburgh
Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume (DS) £5 preowned, Game-Perth
Contact (DS) £5 preowned, Game-Perth
Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones (GBA) 05/16/13, £10 preowned,
Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City (DS) 01/24/13, £24.99 new,

And a bunch more stuff I bought or got for my birthday:

Pokemon X (3DS)
Pokemon Black 2 (DS)
King's Field (PS1)
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 (DS)
Dragon's Crown (PS3)

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked (3DS)

I'll try and write some more impressions about these games as I go along. I've been writing this blog post for far too long now.

Artbooks from anime and video games are one of my smaller (some might say niche) collections, and I've picked up quite a few recently, notably the Death Note Obata Takeshi Illustrations, which normally goes for a lot on ebay. I found it in a shop in Brugge when we were on holiday aong with the Midori Foo artbook for really good prices. Some of these are really amazing artbooks. I recommend The Sky to any Final Fantasy fan, as it is now readily available..after that fiasco with the limited original run. Damn Amazon UK...

Obata Takeshi Illustrations - Blanc et Noir
Midori Foo's Book of Pictures
Yoshitaka Amano's The Sky: The Art of Final Fantasy Slipcased Edition
Devil Survivor Official Material Collection 
Dragon Age: The World of Thedas volume 1
A Reader's Guide to R.A. Salvatore's The Legend of Drizzt
Diablo III: Book of Tyrael

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Some links for Pokemon X and Y

Some tips for people interested in looking for shiny pokemon in X & Y. Check these out, a lot of it is continuation from previous generations. I've seen some posts on forums about the Matsuda method, but its still to be confirmed if it definitely works in the new games.

Theres's also the Friend Safari, which is another new aspect that really takes off after you finish the main story. I've been going to a lot as well, for information on the gameplay for Pokemon X, which I've really been enjoying. But it seems people are still figuring things out and a lot of the information is still incomplete.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Ghostlight still needs your help!

Ghostlight are hoping to release Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 in PAL regions, and they started a scheme similar to a kickstarter project at the start of August, stating that if they met the preorder target of 1800 by the end of August, the game would be released as a physical release for the Nintendo DS, but if they didn't meet the target, the game wouldn't be released. The project faces a lot of problems, with people potentially waiting for Break Record (which to me seems stupid..there has been nothing on the localisation of that title yet), saving up for next gen consoles and games, people focusing on 3DS or Vita as those systems slowly find their feet and then there's the people who imported or would rather just pick up an NTSC copy of DS2. There are many aspects which make this a tricky release situation...

So Ghostlight are sitting at 672/1800 preorders with about 2 weeks left to go, so they have some more work to do. Spread the word, and preorder if you are interested and want to see the gold edition see the light of day!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Nintendo So Many Games! Promotion

Nintendo of Europe are offering a free game to those who purchased any 3 of these recent Nintendo 3DS games and register them to their Club Nintendo account. Check the link here for more details: LINK
I've already managed to claim mine, which is surprising based on how niche I thought some of the games I had were. For those of you interested in which 3 I had already - MH3U, Fire Emblem and Castlevania.

Eligible Nintendo 3DS games for So Many Games! promotion

There are eight Nintendo 3DS titles in this promotion:

Saturday, April 20, 2013

MH Online

Think I'll just post this here, its too good looking =p

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Nintendo Direct 14/04/13

I'm starting to really get behind Nintendo's marketing methods recently, with the roughly monthly Nintendo Direct presentations to Japan, Europe and USA showing us details about new updates, downloads, games and hardware that will be coming out to the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U.
It seems they really are taking some awesome moves for European and American gamers, with recent announcements like Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan, Fire Emblem x SMT, Fire Emblem Awakening and a lot of series that I thought long dead seeing new releases.

Here is the latest Nintendo Direct (14/4/13)

They've made it certain for me, I'll be getting Fire Emblem Awakening at launch. I've been really interested in playing this game, and with the deals they mentioned on DLC a few months back getting more details, I'll not be able to wait any longer I don't think...

Earthbound has finally been acknowledged as something us westerners actually want, and will be coming to the Wii U e-shop. One more reason for me to get a Wii to decide if I want a Wii U or a 3DS XL in the next couple months. On the fence...

Shin Megami Tensei IV will be coming to Europe! I was dreading to even think about when we would get an announcement for this for Europe, as it just came out in America. I was expecting something far off in the future for Europe, if ever. So this has really surprised me...they are getting better and better at bringing release dates closer together

Bravely Default Flying Fairy (or whatever its called) will be coming to Europe! I was really hoping for this game, and wow...the trailer was gorgeous.

There was some fairly interesting Legend of Zelda announcements, take a look at the video for some more info. I better get back to studying and stop procrastinating. Just a little post of my thoughts on the new Nintendo Direct presentation. They are being too nice to us! I'm not used to Nintendo like this =)

Friday, April 12, 2013

From Software update

I'm a big fan of the Souls games that From Software have released and have been really interested in the recent talk about Dark Souls 2. There is still a lot that is unknown about the game, but yesterday we were treated to a 10-12 min gameplay demo (which was brought to us by IGN exclusively.) So in the run up to that demo airing at 8pm GMT, I was doing some reading and listening to podcasts and videos about the Demons Souls and Dark Souls games. I was browsing the net looking for some information on the imminent Dark Souls II gameplay reveal and found this old sporadic podcast type discussion on Demon Souls and Dark Souls, where some of the Gametrailers folks talk about their experiences with the games, what they are expecting from the new games. The first episode is from the time when Dark Souls was just about to come out, so there is some interesting footage from the review (or early pre-release) version of Dark Souls. Its quite cool to listen in and see what they were discussing and how the final version panned out. Both of the episodes of this fairly unknown, sporadic and specific podcast are embedded below.

If you've not yet seen it, the link to the gameplay demo of Dark Souls II can be found HERE.There has been more and more news coming out each day it seems. Dark Souls II should be very interesting, but from what I saw of the demo, it doesn't seem to change an awful lot from Dark Souls. When I read the articles in Edge a few months ago (Link, Link) I was expecting a massively different game, but along the same lines as Demons Souls and Dark Souls. I'm not going to lie, I was a little dissapointed with the unpolished, clunky look of the Dark Souls II demo, and the fairly bland, unimaginative monsters in the demo. I'm definitely aware that this is an early version and they will refine things like the character animation. (To me, he just looked odd the way he was walking...It was too fast, too confident and sure of himself... and he didn't look like he was wearing armour.)
Anyway, my minor gripes aside, I'm definitely really into the look of Dark Souls II, and can't wait for some more news.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate Demo Impressions


Ok, so I'm a big Monster Hunter fan and should probably state that before I go into my impressions of the Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate demo on the Nintendo 3DS. I've been looking forward to this game for months and months, and with the demo finally coming out, I got a chance to see how the game will play. I've played Monster Hunter Freedom Unite for over 500 hours, and Monster Hunter Portable 3rd for over 200 hours. This game is the updated, upressed version of Monster Hunter Tri, which I put into the least amount of hours, in at about 60-70 hours. I barely scratched the surface of the online content, but I did finish the offline quests. Anyway, my point is that I prefer games with content rather than polish. However saying that, I did eventually get into Portable 3rd after a while. It has a really nice aesthetic and some really beautiful graphics for a PSP game. I didn't care for MH Tri too much. Playing with poorly implemented online gameplay mechanics and servers, weird, unpredictable people online swinging Switchaxes wildly, and a rather odd (and small) selection of Monsters throughout an online set of quests didn't really work too well for me. I really hope I enjoy Monster Hunter Tri Ultimate more than the original Wii game, but that is why my feelings for the game are slightly mixed. I still have that shit preordered, don't worry, I'll be playing it when it comes out.

So for those who don't know, the Monster Hunter games are somewhere in the grey area between action games and action RPGs, with no actual levelling up or stats for your character EXCEPT those derived from your gear, for which there are no pre-requisites. Instead, you collect items and materials from monsters you defeat and can forge weapons and armour sets from those items. There is always a massive amount of content in the Monster Hunter games, and with the addition of G-rank (the highest division of quests ie. Low Rank, High Rank and G-Rank quests) there is a lot more, and a lot of it will more than likely will require a lot of co-operation with friends or people online to get through.

Many people will know one thing about Monster Hunter in general. Its a difficult series - out of the couple times I've tried it so far; out of say three attempts at fighting the Urukusu (or Lagombi as its now called) in the Novice quest I beat it in about two of them. I'm really not used to using Ranged weapons such as the bow. I thought I was doing ok; the big rabbit was weak and limping to the next area, I was doing pretty well by using up my traps, bombs etc and then I ran out of time. Maybe I should stick with blademaster (I've always stuck with weapons I can block with: Sword and Shield, Lance, Greatsword, with the exceptions of Hammer and Longsword.) In terms of weapon types, it uses a good selection (a lot more than MH Tri, and about the same set we saw in MH Portable 3rd, well, we referring to Japanese audiences. MHP3 didn't release in the west.)

Graphically the demo didn't really impress me at first. Thats not to say the graphics are poor, no, absolutely not. The animations and shadows are incredibly fluid and smooth. The resolution of the screen was what confused me at first. Everything seemed very hard to read and appeared a bit smaller than I would have wanted. I'm not sure if this would be better on a 3DS XL or not, or if its due to the 3D technology of the top screen (I always seem to notice some fuzziness on the top screen) but something seemed a bit off initially. After putting some more time into it, I got used to the size of things, and after moving the 3D slider up for most of one of the quests, actually started to feel differently. Graphically it does use the technology pretty well. It somehow looks better than the Wii version.

One of the hit or miss areas for novice Monster Hunters are the controls. They often require you to scrunch the tendons in your hands into positions that they really shouldn't go, and develop something me and my friends call the "Monster Hunter claw." Tri Ultimate still has awkward controls, with the demo version not supporting the Circle Pad Pro. They've added some interesting new features though; a virtual D-pad on the touchscreen and a fairly useful (but possibly controversial) lock on function where you can automatically snap the camera behind you to focus on the large monster you're fighting. These are in an effort to make the game more easily controlled (and arguably accessible to newcomers to the series) and go some way to helping things in terms of the controls. I'm not sure if my gripe should be with Nintendo or Capcom, but the fact that the actual D-pad is directly underneath the Circle pad means its almost impossible to use both in tandem. But the other option like the lock on and the virtual D-pad mean that you won't be lost too often. I have to admit, when I first jumped into the water to fight the Plesioth, I could not even figure out how to submerge and swim underneath. Controls could still be an issue for putting people off this game. I'm really considering a Circle Pad Pro or even a 3DS XL to get a more comfortable experience out of this game and other ones.

The audio seems strong, with a lot of quality in sound effects and soundtrack songs. The only downside is that a lot of it is recycled from other games. And thats the story for a lot of the aspects of Monster Hunter. The series is solid, but doesn't actually change too much between games, unless of course you compare games from different genres i.e Monster Hunter Freedom Unite compared to Monster Hunter Tri. I just hope there is even a fraction as much content as there was in Freedom Unite, which can keep you occupied for hundreds, maybe even thousands of hours depending on your experience and enjoyment.

So for me, I'm definitely looking forward to this game, but with some worries. Will the Wii U and 3DS interchangeability work out as planned, will I get both versions and risk bankruptcy, will I have enough time for a massive time sink like this at a crucial time of my degree? I've got the game preordered and will be looking forward to jumping back into one of my favourite series on March 22nd.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate Demo Impressions

I've posted previously about some of the 3DS games that will be coming out in the next couple months, and some of them I was really surprised to see getting demos after the last Nintendo Direct presentation (correct me if I'm wrong.) For Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and the Castlevania title (its too long) it was just what they need. In a fairly quiet eshop environment, these niche titles could easily catch the eyes of newcomers to the series, people on the fence with the allure of a free demo version.

Aside...[I still don't understand why they need to limit the demos to 30 uses, or less in some cases. What is the advantage of that? And in fact, its easy to get around it. It counts every time you launch the software...and in this Castlevania demo and the MH3U demo, you can restart a new shot of the demo without quitting to the system dashboard. I don't actually know what happens when you run out of uses, but I guess this aside rambling has gone on too long now...]

So I'll be doing some quick impressions of the game (at least based on the demo version they uploaded to the 3DS eshop.) I should add, that I'll be doing a second demo impressions post shortly afterwards, with impressions of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. But for now, lets get into what I thought of the game, and my level of hype for this game, which releases on March 8th in PAL regions (at least the Europe portion of PAL.)
After seeing the trailers for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate (see, theres a reason I was saying 'this game' instead of that mouthful) I was surprisingly ambivalent about the game-it was just lacking of the special ingredients that great Castlevania games have. The graphics, characters and just overall aesthetic of the game didn't immediately jump out at me from the trailers that we saw many months ago. I was surprised by how a new Castlevania could be announced and I could be a little disappointing that it wasn't an all new Castlevania-instead they looked to be interested in making the Lords of Shadow thing something of a mini franchise. Now I liked the game, but it lacked the x-factor some of the GBA and DS metroidvanias had. Anyway, would my opinions change with the release of the demo?

First things first, I noticed the screen resolution and what I can't really describe very well-the 'zoomed-out' 2.5D feel to the graphics. Everything on top screen (where your attention will be mostly) is a little smaller than I'd wanted. I miss the days of big bold sprites in the GBA games like Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance and Aria of Sorrow. Initially this was weird, as I couldn't really tell what the enemies were actually doing, but on getting used to the screens and controls, you start to get quite immersed, especially with the 3D, which I really think adds to the depth and grandeur of the backgrounds. Its done quite well, and I can imagine me leaving it on more than other games, although against one mini boss they did fling an enemy right at the screen like in those silly 3D films which are horrendously overpriced at the cinema.

The controls are nicely mapped, with a lot of different options for chaining together intricate combos of attacks, dodges and blocks. Once you remember there is a dodge button that can lead into back or forward rolls, you won't end up dying so much (I admit, I struggled early on.) I'm really looking forward to the game when you will slowly unlock artefacts and relics to upgrade your character and add to the pool of moves you can make. Its always a satisfying feeling getting the ability to double jump for example =)

Combat definitely feels nice and fluid, as does the platforming, with the ability to grab onto ledges, hang and jump from said ledges, use the whip to grapple onto objects, and perform a nice range of attacks. In the 42 or so minutes I played the demo for (I completed it once) I never thought it felt repetitive or stale, and the enemies used a range of attacks against me, using shields, charges, ranged attacks such as axes and bombs etc. The bosses required even more strategy, and you have to use moves such as the double jump or roll to get out the way of some of their nastier attacks.
I really hope the full game won't feel repetitive, as I thought that was one downside of the original Lords of Shadow game on the PS3. I'm not a huge fan of action games such as Devil May Cry or anything, and felt the combat got a bit mindless at times, with even normal enemies taking way too much of a beating. Hopefully this one is more in the direction of the metroidvanias where you can get some ridiculously overpowerful weapon such as the Claimh Solais and tear through the enemies with zeal!

One thing I really like the sound of is the world building and story tidbits that the demo shows. It adds to the atmosphere of the game in the little scrolls you find (I can't remember what they are called.) They give you a little experience points each time, and I suppose that is one way to add incentive, but I really like the way they have little excerpts of stories and tales in them, sometimes relating to the area that you are in. I entered an area called the Crypt and immediately was drawn to the backdrop of the stage, where I thought I saw some kind of ethereal apparition dragging chains along behind it for a few seconds. I move on, read one of these scrolls on the ground in front of me, and it tells us:

"Heading into the depths of the Crypt, I hear the pitiful sobs of a woman.

Consumed by love for a knight who betrayed the Bernhard family, she threw herself into the pit, searching for him.
For centuries, her sorrow has echoed off the catacomb walls, under the light of the guardian angel."

You start adding things up in your head, connecting what you see in the backgrounds and environments with these scrolls. The result is a real boost to the world the game is set in, making it more atmospheric and eerie.These little dialogue breaks from the action impressed me with only two or so of them included in the demo, and look forward to playing the game and finding more of these. I just hope they are well written and add to the game. I don't want to end up skipping past the dialogue without reading it.

So I should probably wrap up now and go to sleep. Definitely interested in this game more than I was previously before the demo came out, and its way up on my list of games that are coming out soon. In fact, I preordered it today from ShopTo, partly to get some awesome looking posters as a preorder bonus, but mostly because I really enjoy the Castlevania games. Even the poorer outings in the series usually end up being pretty solid games, and I believe this will be a solid title, building upon the lore of the previous Lords of Shadow game, and taking it 26 years later.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate releases for the Nintendo 3DS in North America on March 5th 2013, Europe on March 8th 2013 and in Japan on March 20th 2013.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Recent Purchases #6 ~ Holiday haul

So I've not done one of these posts in a while it seems...the last one was many months ago, in August last year. I wouldn't say I buy a lot of games, compared to some collectors and youtubers I know online, but probably compared to the average dude, I buy quite a fair few. Anyway, this post is a little about some of the games I picked up recently, whether it be presents, games I've bought for myself or whatever. In some of the Recent Purchases, I've talked about the gaming merchandise I've picked up, for example video game artbooks (something I semi-collect outside of games) and at the end of this post I'll talk a little bit about one of the anime I've been watching. I quite like the idea of talking about some non-gaming stuff briefly in these posts. Apologies for the blurry Blackberry playbook can't take brilliant photos, and then the lighting in my room was really crappy.

Anyway, on with the post! Hopefully it doesn't look like I'm trying to brag about the games I've been picking up! I don't get that many and I know myself I have smaller collections than many others, but what I like to go for are games that I've been really wanting. You won't normally see me pick up copies of Madden 06 or Fifa 99 just because I can get them for 20p, for example. A lot of the games I pick up are titles I've heard very good things about, or are in certain sub-genres that are appealing to me at any one time. For example, sometimes I go through 1st person dungeon crawler RPG kicks, or times where I'm really into focussing on my Strategy RPGs. A good example of a game like this where I've had a massive interest in the game for ages would be Radiant Historia (DS). I live in Europe and unfortunately we never saw a release for this game. It has had such amazing hype and praise from critics for the most part, and only the price had kept me from picking this one up. Importing through Ebay is fairly pricey, with a copy normally running between £30 and 40. So Christmas this year and I tried to pick my brain for games that were in this I'd really wanted to try and were a bit outside my price range. In a toss up between Radiant Historia and Skies of Arcadia, I settled for this one, ordered it and was reimbursed by my parents. Definitely looking forward to playing this really beautiful looking RPG with an interesting looking combat system and story concept. Time travel in RPGs is quite often good-Chrono Trigger anyone? Then again...FFXIII-2 was a bit of a mess..

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (PS3) - This one was a bit of a surprise to me. My birthday was back in October and on the last day of term (December) one of my friends gave me this for my birthday. They'd apparently been trying to pick the game up on ebay for a while, with no luck from one seller on two occasions. Maybe it got lost in the post, or maybe he didn't send it. Either way, they ended up getting screwed out of a lot more money than they should have spent on me, for sure. Definitely looking forward to trying this game out. RA Salvatore is one of my favourite fantasy authors that I grew up reading, and he worked on the world design, or script, or some aspect of this game. The only thing that makes me a little wary is some of the design from Todd McFarlane (the Spawn guy) It looks a weird mishmash of styles in this game.

Zone of the Enders HD Collection (PS3) - This, along with Radiant Historia was the other game I had asked for over Christmas, and was really happy that I got it. My uncle had gone to a lot of trouble to get it, as it was really hard to find in shops it turns out :o I missed out on a lot of PS2 games as I never got the console until way afterwards, so in a way, these HD collections are perfect for gamers like me, who want an affordable and sensible way to pick up entire series, or trilogies. I've played the first Zone of the Enders for an hour or two so far, and I actually got stuck by the odd design and lack of direction. I'm at a bit where I need to knock out 2 forcefields, one on either side of something? Its pretty early on, but it kind of put me off because I was just backtracking to find passwords. I'll get back into this once I have access to my PS3 at some point soon. Currently I'm through at uni with only my DS, PSP and PS2.

Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City (DS) - I played the first Etrian Odyssey a couple years back and it took me a long time of on/off playing to get through, but I really enjoyed it overall. I originally purchased EO1 and EO2 from ebay (we only got the first game released in Europe...damn yous!) and I've really had the urge to play through more 1st person dungeon crawler RPGs recently, so picked up the reprint of the third game when I saw a fairly good price (preorder) on ebay. So this one will hopefully be with me soon. I suppose that means I have to play through Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard first though. Way too many games for my own good...

Solatorobo: Red the Hunter (DS) - I picked this one, and Magna Carta 2 (Xbox 360) up recently when I was away up to Perth for a dental appointment (yeah, my Dentist is away up North many miles away from where I stay: see my previous escapade) I was trying to burn some time and thought I'd have a look in Gamestation in Perth. Well...Game and Gamestation (the same company essentially) had some problems last year and had to go into administration, and closed a lot of branches. The Gamestation in Perth was one that had closed apparantely, and I hadn't realised that because I hadn;t been up there in months. So I thought, theres a Game branch over in the shopping centre, and from what I'd seen of the stores that remained open, the majority seemed to be in malls or shopping centre complexes. Well anyway, they were still open so I went in to check out the games they had. Turns out they had a lot of games I'd been after, for fairly cheap (either preowned or in the sale.) Some of the ones I saw that looked interesting were (with some rough prices): Dragon Age: Origins Awakening (£5, Xbox 360), Infinite Space (£10, DS) and Aliens Infestation (£5, DS). I didn't pick them up, but regret not getting Infinite Space...that game is really hard to find online... So far I've not played either of Solatorobo or Magna Carta 2 yet unfortunately.

Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360) - I can't remember if I talked about this one on the blog just yet. But I held off on this one for absolutely ages to try and get it cheaper. It turns out that probably wasn't a good idea, as I heard all the hype and then rage about the story ending. I have somehow managed to remain spoiler free, and picked this one up after christmas in a sale in Game for £15. Really interested to see how the story will finish up. I liked the first two games, but I've been slowly losing interest in the franchise... a couple hundred too many DLC packs and stupid things like the Cerberus network. EA ruined Dragon Age and Mass Effect, which is so unfortunate...they had such good prospects..

Inazuma Eleven (DS) - this was a game I picked up right after Christmas. I received a gift token for HMV and decided to go for this one with it. It was a toss up between this and Ar Tonelico Qoga on the PS3 when I was in the store, and I'm definitely glad I went for this one. I havent played any of either series before this, and from what I saw of Ar Tonelico on the back of the box, I'm definitely happy with Inazuma. Its such an over the top game. Its like a good mix of anime like Beyblades, Yu-Gi-Oh and films like Shaolin Soccer. The only low point was some of the time it seemed to drag a bit at times(where you're just tracking across the map from area to area) and also...the horrendous English opening theme. But the game itself is really engaging and addictive once you get into it and realise how to control it best. The tutorials don't do a very good job so I ended up taking about 7 hours to master the systems (more or less.)

Eden of the East (Anime DVD) - This was a bit of a random pick up for me. I like to buy the odd anime movie or series when they release in the UK (but only at decent prices) We saw this one in a second hand shop "CEX" that has quite a lot of branches all across the UK. They do really well because they give cash for tradeins, and take anything from ipods, phones, computer components, games, dvds, and a lot more. Anyway, it was only a fiver. The synopsis sounded interesting, and I had heard good things. So, after a wee check of animenewsnetwork on my girlfriend's smartphone (I refuse to own one...FOR NOW! Gimme a break! lol) I picked this up. We've watched half of it so far, and its getting really interesting =) It has a dark edge, but its a lot more than just a dark, gritty anime. It has it's funny moments, it has a quite nice romance theme to it as well.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What is this gaming funk?!

Since around Christmas I've not really been feeling the games I've been playing. It seems like one of those slump periods where you're just not into playing games that much for whatever reason. I've played bits and bobs of games, but not really concentrated on any particular games. I don't know why that is exactly.. I got really into Inazuma Eleven and finished it's story near the start of the year. Since then I was trying to push ahead with Fire Emblem and finish it off, but for me, I want to play all the way through without any of my characters dying off. So it was taking me like days just to get through each chapter, bit by bit learning which strategies seem to work, modifying them and tweaking my team and tactics each time to finally get through the chapter. I'm on Chapter 26 at the moment, and this one doesn't seem as hard as 25 or 25-X, but its just the pure numbers of guys I'm up against in this chapter that makes it difficult. I really like Fire Emblem, but the frustration that comes from the way I play has slowly killed off my passion to play this game, or any other game. So I've been playing bits of games here and there as I said. And I got pretty into FTL, finishing it finally. I beat the final boss around the 30-32 hr mark, perfecting my build on the Kestrel. There is always a luck aspect to it, and I got my dual weapon set up (those always work well for me, either 2 Ion Cannons or 2 Burst Lasers of some kind) Triple weapon setups are even better. I always try and max out the FTL Drive and get at least 3 bars of shields as well. That will keep you alive for even longer. Its a really good game, FTL. Definitely up there with Binding of Isaac as one of my favourite Steam games.

I've been playing dribbles of games like Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies as a friend at uni recently picked up a copy with the aim of doing some coop with me. We still haven't got round to that (he's never in uni, but thats another story =p) I really like this game, but the postgame has a steep jump to get into. Got all the way to the end of the optional postgame dungeon the Tower of Nod, died...and turned it off. It hasn't been on since then.

I've done some dribs and drabs of the Legend of Grimrock, a game I picked up recently when it went on sale (surprised I could actually run it on my computer) and its been fun, but slow going, as I'm not terribly keen on the always-moving-combat-and-enemies. I'm only about an hour and a half to this game.

Another Steam game I've been playing little bits of is Super Hexagon. Awesome music based game. Such a simple premise, but incredibly addictive. I've finished the first stage and got some pretty good high scores for only having played about 80 minutes. Excellent music, and I love these kind of games for less than 5 min spells, they are always good choices.

I've been getting back into uni slowly, with more and more deadlines and applications for pre-reg work to do piling up, and actually I've been doing more reading than gaming... So I don't really know what this post is about...just a musings I suppose. Its also to kind of inform you why my content has been a bit lacking, and I've not really been concentrating on any games or making much progress through games for the most part. Stay tuned for a recent purchases post soon! Its in the pipeline! =p

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Crimson Shroud Review

Crimson Shroud is one of the games that released in Japan as part of Guild01, a compilation of 3 3DS games (along with Aero Porter and Liberation Maiden.) The Guild01 titles are games that are bringing together incredibly talented people from all areas and backgrounds, and Crimson Shroud is no exception. Yasumi Matsuno is the designer, and he states that this game is best enjoyed sitting relaxed, as if enjoying a short story. Joining him are Joseph Reeder, Alexander Smith (FFXII, Vagrant Story, Tactics Ogre PSP), Hitoshi Sakimoto(FFXII, Ogre Battle, Tactics Ogre, Valkyria Chronicles) and Hideo Minaba(FFT, FFXII, Lost Odyssey.)
I was really happy to see Crimson Shroud recently localised on the 3DS eShop in America and Europe. For me, it released at the right time with near perfect timing. I had my last exam of the semester on the 17th of December and this game came out on the 13th-a couple days I had to wait-but I'd filled my mind with optical facts and tables for my last exam, so it wasn't a bad wait. But more than that, I've been in the mood to play some of those Fighting Fantasy "choose your own adventure" books and something short, sharp and well written. Crimson Shroud ticks all the boxes for me. Allow me to explain just why it does so.

Crimson Shroud is a turn based RPG that at first glance might look quite simple and luck based. The 'quirk' of the game could be described as the dice rolls which decide a lot of the outcomes in the battles and encounters. The game strives to emulate tabletop RPGs by bringing the dice rolls that are engrained in many RPGs to the surface and physically making the player roll the dice for many 'checks' that might normally be done in certain Dungeons and Dragons rulesets. Some examples of these dice rolls are trying to sneak unnoticed past enemy groups. If you roll a certain amount, you will successfully avoid encounter. In battle, you might have to roll to determine whether or not you can inflict a status effect or 'debuff' on an enemy. The battles are surprisingly well balanced affairs where it will never be more than 3 enemies against your group of 3. No encounters with 9 Black Dragons to be seen here. There is a good amount of depth to the combat, with different stat boosts, buffs and debuffs you can apply. Sometimes they will be absolutely necessary, as the enemies do hit hard and shouldn't be underestimated. There is no leveling up per se, the only way you get stronger is through equipment. The game brings to mind fairly linear RPGs aimed at mobiles such as Infinity Blade (debateable whether or not it is an RPG) where you have the odd choice to take one of two paths. There is a lot of backtracking and aimlessly trying to trigger events as you walk around the dungeon, which can get aggravating, especially a certain part early on in the game where you have to get a certain item that only one enemy will drop (and its pretty rare.)

Graphically the game has its faults. It can look jaggy in quite a lot of scenes, and the interface which shows the HP and MP of each unit clutters the screen, drawing lines from each unit to their respective bars. Add to this the 3D elements, which further confuse things, and you've got what can be a quite annoying look to the battles, in particular. However, I should say, the graphics aren't at all bad, and the style in which they are done is really nice, with some really well drawn characters. Its just a case of the screens being too small for what they wanted to fit on, and sometimes the screen won't show everything you need, or what you are looking for, you'll have to scroll over. The style of the game is modelled (pun intended =p) around the tabletop RPG and the miniatures that represent each character. As a result, the camera focuses on and pans over the static minis for each character. This serves an interesting purpose. With the abscence of obscene hand and facial gestures truncating the character's dialogues, you fill in the blanks with your mind, fleshing out characters in places, and forming ideas around them. All you will see is the occasional 'jiggle' of a character's base, as the player fiddles around. Its really quite cool.

The music is fairly grand in scale, with perhaps one or two themes that stand out as...just a little too unusual and experimental. Its a trend that I've noticed in a couple of games recently, FFXIII-2 being one example. For the most part, they are pretty atmospheric and serve to invoke the appropriate emotions. There was a fairly upbeat moment in Chapter 2 (?) where the characters were having a fairly amusing chat, and the song in the background was a little distracting... But there are some very interesting songs on there, reminiscent of some other games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Valkyria Chronicles (which makes sense given the staff involved.)

For such a short game, the creators (who you may know from some great RPGs such as Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story) have really infused a lot of depth into it, and each locale is described in prosaic language, really adding to what each aspect of this game strives to do-put the player into the game. You can really imagine these dank, echoing caves or the crumbled, sun bleached structures from lost civilisations. The characters benefit a lot from the odd musing from the main character, and the occasional back story flash back, but by the end of the game, there were a lot of aspects of the story and of each of the characters that confused me. I think the game could have used an extra 10 or 15 hours, and at times I was wanting more of it, its a really interesting world. Clocking in at 8-10 hours roughly, the game is a refreshing, unique RPG that is perfect for filling gaps in between epic 50+ hour games, or just if you're looking for something different. This one is definitely highly recommended from my end, a gamer who has only dabbled in the tabletop realm and appreciates well written worlds.

Gameplay: 7/10
Characters & Story: 8/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 7/10

OVERALL: 7.5/10 
A solid early addition to the e-shop's RPG library, with some really interesting ideas.

Some retrospectives, videos and articles

I've been a tad burnt out on games recently, which is annoying as at the moment I've got a little bit more free time that I will when I start back at university on Monday. So now would be the time to try and play some more games...but I've enjoyed reading up on some of the games that I enjoyed playing. Some of these games have strong nostalgic attachment for me, some of them I didn't play when they first released, but I still enjoyed them a lot when I got around to them, like Final Fantasy Tactics, Chrono Trigger (thank god for the DS release) and Final Fantasy VI for example. These juggernauts of their respective sub genres are held so highly that sometimes going into them can only disappoint. Persona 3 FES is one that I've struggled to get into. I've only heard good things, but I'm finding the game difficult to progress through. I might just have to concentrate on it more. Anyway, enjoy the articles I've been perusing recently!

Final Fantasy Tactics Article from the perspective of a first time player

Clan of the Grey Wolf's history of RPGs - I watched this one a while back and can't remember if I talked about it. Really interesting and it kind of makes me want to get into some of these old pillars of the genre.

RPGamer's article on desired PS1 RPGs - A lot of titles on there I haven't played and hope to some day ;_;

Here's a really interesting look at the evolution of the Final Fantasy series. Digital Spy's Final Fantasy Retrospective

Socksmakepeoplesexy Final Fantasy Retrospective

Game Informer's Dragon Quest Retrospective

A massive article from RPGamer spanning the decade's RPG releases and the trends within.

Along the same lines, but in less depth (and mostly looking at 2012), is one of Kat Bailey's posts. I have to say, I've not really followed what Kat Bailey has been saying for a while now, as her 'blog' over at Joystiq doesn't interest me as much as the Grind did. I listened to a bit of their Active Babble podcast but eventually got a bit bored. They droned on a little monotonously. Its worth checking out from time to time though.

RPGFan's Game of the Year articles for 2012

Kotaku looks back at 2012's JRPGs

Another article from the same author, Jason Schreier over at Kotaku, answering the question: Why do people care about JRPGs. I'll seriously need to check his articles out more. I always think the big sites have fairly watered down content, and in many cases, that is true.

Here's one more looking towards 2013: Kotaku's 10 crazy JRPG predictions

Edge Online's article on long RPGs - Its a magazine I occasionally dabble in, but with the wealth of information and articles on the internet, I don't buy as many magazines as I used to.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2012 Round up and looking towards the new year

2012 has been and gone. Seriously, at times the year went really quickly...I had a pretty busy university schedule at times. 
Throughout the year I've been tracking my gaming collection and the progress I've been making through the backlog over at the backloggery in an effort to manage the games I buy and play through them efficiently.

So I'll talk a little bit about the games that I played through and why I enjoyed them or didn't, as the case may be, I'll also talk a little about the games that came out that I've really wanted to play, missed out on and whether or not I'll hope to get round to them this year if I have time. Then I'll finish off this (more than likely massive) blog post by talking a bit about the upcoming games from 2013 that I'll be looking forward to. Before I start, happy new year everyone! I hope you all had good holidays so far and enjoyed yourselves! Ok, lets get to it.

2012 Aim: 20 / 1 / 1
2012 Stats: 20 / 0 / 0 = FAIL (but not by too much, just my laziness for 100%ing games that let me down a little bit)
The 2012 aim I set out before the year started was based upon my game completion from the previous couple of years, but I took into account that I was getting less and less free time, and set it at 20, an amount I thought I could make, and threw in a couple of completions if I had the time...I always like the idea of 100%ing games on paper, but when it comes down to it...I feel I'd much rather like to crack on and play through another game for the story. Final Fantasy IV: Complete Collection is the one I've been struggling with, because of the incredibly rare secret summons that drop from certain enemies with about a 0.4% chance.. There are 4 of them.. Anyway, I'm quite happy with the amount of games I got through, and in fact, there is a good variety of genres there. Not just RPGs, which I play most of the time.

Tales of the Abyss (3DS)
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PS3)
Dodonpachi Resurrection (360)
Rage (360)
Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation (DS)
Alice: Madness Returns (PS3)
Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 (Steam)
Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes (DS)
Dungeons of Dredmor (Steam)
Final Fantasy XIII-2 (PS3)
Akai Katana (360)
The Binding of Isaac (Steam)
Dark Souls (PS3)
Lollipop Chainsaw (PS3)
Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light (DS)
Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales (DS)
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy (3DS)
Cthulhu Saves The World (Steam)
LIMBO (Steam)
Crimson Shroud (3DS)

Ok, so to remind you (and those of you not on the backlog site) of what these random symbols mean;
means the game is finished (Beat) up till the credits (not 100% completed.)
indicates that the game is 100% completed, ie all sidequests, items and unlocks essentially.
is a Master Run, and is some kind of challenge you impose upon yourself to make the game harder, some examples might be a Nuzlocke run in Pokemon Emerald, speed run in Dark Souls, or a low level playthrough in Final Fantasy VIII.

5 of my favourite games I played in 2012

Ok, so bear in mind, due to the fact I have such a large backlog of games, and have a pretty busy schedule with work and university, I didn't get around to playing a lot of the big games that released this year. Some games, like Mass Effect 3, Deus Ex Human Revolution and The Last Story had to be put on my 'to play' list...Hopefully I'll get around to them  some time soon. Anyway, as a result of the way I played through games this year, it meant I played a lot of the games that are smaller in length that others, and some cheap indie games on Steam that could be played in bite size chunks (Binding of Isaac being one.) So this set of games listed above is what I actually managed to play. Standing out from those games are some really big, well received games, and a lot of games that got slightly middle of the road reviews. Here are some of my favourite experiences from 2012.

Dark Souls was one I'd had in my backlog for a while, and finally got around to it. Its an insanely difficult game, and took me a long time to get past the first couple roadblocks. Even the first enemies at the Firelink Shrine will kick your ass when you first encounter them. Working past there slowly, you'll eventually get to the Undead Burg. The boss there always gave me problems at the start. But this game is just like its predecessor-it gives you an amazing feeling when you learn the patterns of the enemies, gear up well enough and get past them. Some might say that I played Dark Souls wrongly for my first playthrough, as I sometimes would arrange a co-op play session with a friend to get past some of the areas. In a way, this detracts from the way Dark Souls should be experienced. But I still had a lot of fun with this ridiculously difficult game (even despite the stupid buggy issues for teaming up with and summoning friends.) This is a game that must be experienced, and is one of my favourite titles that I played in 2012. For newcomers, go for the Prepare to Die edition so you can get some added if this game needs any more content. It took me about 90 hrs to work through the majority of the areas and to see the credits rolling. With it's beautiful art style, atmospheric world and music score, this game is hard to find fault with.

Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes is originally a DS game, which has been 'HDified' and ported to the downloadable services of the PSN and Xbox Live store. It is a mix of a puzzle, strategy and RPG that works surprisingly well together. The battles involve your troops arranged directly opposite to your opponents units, and it employs a 'match 3' mechanic where if you have 3 of one type of unit ie. archers adjacent to one another, they 'activate' and queue their attack (or defense if horizontal, where they turn into a wall to block the opponent from coming across into your screen.) Which brings me onto the other point, the dual screen set up of a DS is perfect for this game, and I think would lead me to recommend the DS version over the console versions. Add to this the newly reworked sprites on the HD version, which I think look worse than the DS ones.

The game is the perfect length for this style of game, with a handful of well written story driven chapters based on different factions, characters, and a lot of overlapping, which leads to interesting conversations between the characters. This is a game that went really under people's radars, and got seriously overlooked as a result. Its maybe down to the fact that it has the Might and Magic franchise attached to it, I'm not sure...but critically, it reviewed really well. Definitely deserves a look if you are looking for some solid, unique RPGs on your DS.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was one of the biggest releases to come out in 2011, and I played through it once I had time last Christmas, so ended up finishing it near the start of 2012. It was so much of a jump up from Oblivion, and other similar games like Fallout 3, I was amazed. Saying that, there were a lot of bugs that people were reporting, especially on the PS3 version...and as a PS3 player, I'm still waiting on the DLC that has since been released on the 360 and PC versions. However, its still a must play, this game. The optimum way to play would definitely be on the PC, as you will have the modding options there. I can't really add much more to this than has already been said by this point, but a lot of people have said its among the best RPGs they have played. If you can ignore the bugs and glitches, this one will not disappoint. I just hope that I will go back to it one day, as I only played through the main quest and some of the guild quests. There is still so much to do in this game. Fus Ro Dah!

The Binding of Isaac was one I eventually picked up in a sale after watching a lot of Twitch TV streamers playing it, the awesome MANvsGAME being one of them. Although this game is so cheap it really doesn't need to be on sale. Its one of the best value games I've played on Steam, with almost unlimited replayability value, and a ridiculous amount of content for what you pay. I've clocked around 75 hours in this game, which plays out like a roguelike zelda style action RPG of some kind. I'm not too sure if I'm describing that correctly, but it plays in a way where precision controls and gathering powerups and weapons are key. Get a good combination of weapons and items and it will make it very amusing to play. Ipecac..seriously, the guys who made that weapon are awesome XD Definitely check this game out on steam. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy is a very interesting title. It will probably end up being one of the most overlooked titles in the Final Fantasy franchise as it is probably quite an average rhythm game, but as a fan service game to Final Fantasy fans, it is so much more interesting. It has a vast amount of songs, and these come in their original versions, complete with FMV or some footage from the games in the background of some songs. A huge (and a tad overpriced) selection of DLC songs means you'll probably be able to find some of your favourite themes from the series somewhere. A great amount of unlockables are hidden away in the game, and these will keep the completionists (and those pretty much go hand in hand with being Final Fantasy gamers I've noticed) happy for around 80+ hours from the look of things. Myself, I played through until I saw the credits (they roll pretty early on when you get a certain amount of Rhythmia points) and did some of the optional stuff like the Dark Notes. They are really fun when you do them co-op and start unlocking shards which go towards unlocking characters. Add in some watered down RPG elements and to me, well you have a pretty solid game. Now Square Enix. Release something like Dragon Quest: Operascore. Seriously...the names of SE games are approaching the insane. Although with other companies doing the same (Pokemon X & Y?!) it might be the thing to do...

7 games I wish I'd played that came out in 2012

So like I said earlier, I was nowhere near able to play as many games as I wanted to last year. Important things took a priority, and I'll talk a little about some of the games that I missed out on here. I got quite the inspiration to write this section from Chic Pixel's post of games they missed out on. Check that blog out when you can.
I'll be rating the following titles with a 5 point scale of how much I want to check each game out, 1 being lowest on my list of games to get to next, and 5 being games I really want to check out as soon as I can.

Mass Effect 3 
Rating: 3/5 
Mass Effect 3 has kind of been ruined for me in some ways. I decided I'd wait a while after release to get it for a cheaper price. I don't know why though, because its a really high quality series, and I really wanted to see how the story ended. I was left with a sour taste for the series though, following my failing to get the N7 edition of Mass Effect 2 easily. So I finally picked this one up after Christmas this year for £15. So after waiting so long, all I've heard about the game is the hate for the game's ending. Its remained unspoiled per se, but after hearing so much negative press, the game is probably going to disappoint me. Saying that, I might play it offline so I can get the original retail ending. None of this DLC or update malarky... We will finish the fight in 2013 though, as I've heard other than the ending its pretty solid overall. I really want to do another entire run through of the series from scratch now that I have all of them.

The Last Story
Rating: 4/5
The length of this game is on one hand appealing to me-its a shorter RPG experience clocking in at between 15-25 hours from what I've heard. These kind of games are much more likely to get played by me on my current university schedule. I'll need to plug in the Wii though... On the other hand, I can never imagine how shorter RPGs will build up characters and story to such an effective level. That part makes me skeptical. The staff behind this game are the incredibly talented Mistwalker. They don't have the best track record for games, but Lost Odyssey was amazing I thought, and I've only heard good things about this Operation Rainfall title, which is a very forward thinking take on the action RPG.

Rating: 3/5
I always seem to like the idea of Sting RPGs on paper but actually getting round to playing them is somewhat of a challenge to me it seems..I think I like to buy them and then just stare at the pretty box art on my shelf... So far I have Yggdra Union GBA (Complete), Knights in the Nightmare DS (Complete) and Riviera PSP (Complete, ok...pretty much all of my games are complete). None of them have been played past the first 10 minutes...Oh wait! I have actually finished Riviera. I suppose that I should buy Gungnir, but its another import, which racks up the price significantly. And from what I've heard, this one doesn't measure up to the other titles such as Yggdra Union and Knights. I'm a huge fan of strategy RPGs though... I'm on a bit of a kick for srpgs currently, and playing through Fire Emblem at the moment. Damn that game is hard.

Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
Rating: 2/5

I saw a friend playing this one time in university, and the pokemon style mechanics looked really interesting. I always like monster recruitment in games like Dragon Quest, and this game looks to have some very well designed monsters (more than likely better than the pokemon from generation 5) Anyway, I'm not the biggest Kingdom Hearts games. The PS1 games (1 and 2) were good for the most part (pretentious storyline, stupid villians, characters and overuse of terms like Shadow, Heart, Darkness aside) but when it comes to the spin off games like Birth By Sleep, 358/2 Days, Re: Coded etc, they seem really average to me. I liked BBS, but I've only heard terrible things about the other ones. Kingdom Hearts fans are a crazy bunch...they are the  kind who will blindly eat up any shovelware that is released...Anyway *Sigh* I suppose I will need to check this one out this year if I find myself needing another 3DS title. Then again, there are so many good 3DS games coming out...
Pokemon Black 2
Rating: 2.5/5 

I think I will play this game this year, hopefully before October however....I was really surprised to see the announcement for the next generation already.. There was no 3rd in the series...where is my Pokemon Grey, seriously! Really though...I wasn't a fan of Pokemon Black. The new pokemon straight up sucked, and even though you could eventually work through your other titles trading things across, I didn't have the motivation to do that with Pokemon Black. The sequels have better mixtures of old and new from what I've heard, but this is still a hit or miss one for me. Pokemon titles never seem to drop in price, and I might be kept away from this as a result. I hate to miss out on Pokemon games though, and going back to them after newer versions have released never seemed like a good idea to me. Might just have to bite the bullet and pick this one up early this year.
Rating: 2/5

I really don't know why this isn't higher up on my list of things to get to next. Its nominated and winning all kinds of awards, including a Grammy. I just need to get around to playing it. I get the feeling that I'll need to be in the right mindset for it looks a really arty kind of game where it'll be different each time you play it. I'm kind of burnt out on games at the moment, and don't want to play it a time like that. Its a cheap title on PSN, and it'll wait, I reckon.
Tales of Graces f
Rating: 4.5/5

When I have a bit of time, I'll be wanting to play this. I was looking forward to it for ages, and picked up the Day 1 edition that Namco Bandai put out in pretty much all retailers. When it finally came time for release, I didn't have the time to play it, and I'll hopefully get a chance to play it this year. I have quite a lot of the Tales games in my backlog. Tales of Symphonia was one I borrowed from a friend, got about 20 or so hours in and got stuck. So I handed it back to him and eventually picked up my own copy so I could one day finish it. Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, Tales of Vesperia and a couple others are games I one day need to get around to... I played the demo of Tales of Graces f when it released in Japan and the battle system is ridiculous. It is so amazing to watch, and I really want to play it on my bigger TV back home, as opposed to the 20" HD monitor I have with me at university, but I really just want to play this game whatever way I can.

Some games I'm looking forward to in 2013

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
I've had this one preordered since August over at Amazon, and I seriously hope they don't fuck up my order like they did with the Amano artbook boxset. Seriously, that nearly put me off Amazon for good. If you don't know how many copies you will get, don't offer unlimited fucking copies to people preordering. Goddamnit. Anyway, back on track...The Wizards Edition is an amazing looking set for this game, and I just hope that the game doesn't disappoint. I heard it didn't sell particularly well in Japan, and I don't know why exactly..The demo was a fun little experience. Really nice visuals for one thing. Check out my impressions of the demo HERE. The game has been pushed back 1 week to the 1st of February.

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
I've put in close to 1000 hours to the Monster Hunter series across 3 games (MHFU, MHP3 and MH3) and its one of the most addictive and fun co-op series I've played. I'll be getting this one at least on the 3DS, perhaps the Wii U as well if I end up getting one this year. Depending on price drops, we'll see. Its quiet a niche series at this point, and I really don't want to see the title bomb at release. For those of you who don't know what the series is like, its an action game (some might call it an RPG, not really me though) where it is quest based, and those quests involve you hunting large monsters, and using the items you carve from them to create weapons and armour. There is no levelling up per se, but you yourself will get better at using the weapons, reading monsters attacks and 'tells'. If you don't go in expecting deep story, and if you don't mind a bit of grinding for materials, you may well enjoy these games. Can be really fun with friends (Aside: playing with randoms online is nowhere near as satisfying.)

Fire Emblem Awakening

I'm a bit new to the Fire Emblem series, only just playing through Fire Emblem on the GBA at the moment, but I can see why it has so many fans behind it. Its an infuriating, but really rewarding game so far, and from what I've seen of Fire Emblem Awakening, this looks a really interesting title.

Pokemon X and Y

The newly announced Pokemon X and Y definitely look like a step up from their predecessors Pokemon Black and White. A lot of people have been waiting for the first 3DS pokemon titles (well, real Pokemon titles) to see how many 3DS's will fly off the shelves, and they will be coming out October 2013. Check out the really polished looking X and Y: