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!