Thursday, April 16, 2009

Games I'm Looking Forward to #1

So, I just kinda felt like writing this.  There's a lot of games coming this year that I have to say, look really promising.

Playstation 3:

-Quantum Theory:  If this game is anything like Gears of War 2, I'll be happy to buy it.  Tecmo's been very quiet about it since they first announced it though.

-Tales of Vesperia:  I suppose I shouldn't jump the gun in assuming the Ps3 port will make it stateside, but I sure hope so.  The Ps3 version will have more content, including new mystic artes, more cutscenes, and even a new character.

-White Knight Chronicles: I'm keeping my fingers crossed on this being an awesome game.  It'll have online coop, which is interesting for an RPG, so I've been keeping a close eye on it.

-Final Fantasy Versus XIII:  Like they always tend to be, Square-Enix is being very tight lipped about their new Final Fantasy games, and Versus is an excellent example of this.  Since they announced it, there has been only the occasional teaser.  Very little about the game is known, but it will supposedly feature a battle system based off the ones present in Kingdom Hearts 2 and Final Fantasy Dissidia, which both have exciting battles.  That's more than enough info to already have my interested in buying.

-Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time:  The Ratchet and Clank series has been surprisingly plot based as of late.  This new game will probably further expand on information about the Lombax's, especially Ratchet's father.  Dr. Nefarious will return, and I'm guessing his new motive is to manipulate time.

-Dead Rising 2:  I haven't played the original Dead Rising, but it seemed like a fun concept.  This one can only be better, right?

-Fat Princess:  Its a hilarious concept-  Your princess has been captured, and its up to you take her back!  But to complicate things, her captors have force fed her a lot of sweets and yummy things, turning her into a rather obese princess, making it more difficult to carry her back to base.  This is essentially Capture the Flag, but with a unique twist.  It's sporting a cute and bright (yet delightly gory and bloody) graphic style.

-Uncharted 2: Among Thieves:  I enjoyed the first one, and this sequel looks like it'll be oh so much better.  I certainly can't wait to play it.

-Assassin's Creed 2:  I haven't played the first one, but it seemed like a cool idea, and I hope they expand on it in this sequel.

-Fuel:  The possibilities for this game are interesting.  Its an open-ended offroad racing game set in a huge back country area.  The developers claim the game world will be over 5,000 square miles in size, and there will be absolutely no loading times.  That sounds lovely.

-Army of Two: The 40th Day:  I love a good co-op game, and it looks like this will expand on the already good co-op offered by the original Army of Two, so you can certainly count me in.

-End of Eternity:  I like tri-Ace, so I'm generally interested in the games they have in development.  End of Eternity is one such game.


-Tales of Graces: What can I say?  I love the Tales series.

-Red Steel 2:  Not much being said about this one, but it is supposedly in development, and will likely use the Motion+ accessory.  Maybe with that we'll finally get that awesome sword dueling action that immediately came to mind when we first heard of Red Steel?

-[Hopeful] Kirby:  Surely another Kirby game will be made at some point or another?  I loved Kirby 64, and since then his excursions have been exclusive to the GBA and DS.  Have another go at a 3D Kirby platformer, Nintendo!

-[Hopeful] Starfox: Hardly any mention at all on this, but I sure would love to see another Starfox game.  I can see a lot of possible ways to expand on Assault and/or 64, such as maybe a strategy element?  Maybe the ability to customize your Arwing or Landmaster?  The branching paths in 64 was nice, I hope that returns.

-[Hopeful] Another Zelda game: As of late, Zelda has been a victim of Nintendo's new casual approach to videogames, with the series having temporarily migrated to the DS.  That's fine, I guess, but it shouldn't mean that the console series should have to grind to a halt.

-Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles:  I always like a good shoot 'em up.

Nintendo DS:

-Kingdom Hearts: 352/8 Days:  I saw this game in action, and it looks surprisingly good.  The graphics are rather well done for a DS game, and this will have co-op multiplayer, which is awesome.


-Guild Wars 2:  I have no idea when this will be released, but I like Guild Wars, so I'm naturally interested in its oncoming sequel.

-Starcraft 2:  I heard this will split into 3 parts.  Meh, whatever.  Right now I think the Terran disc interests me most.

-Diablo 3: I havent actually played any of the Diablo games, but they seem like they'd be right up my ally, so I think I will check out Diablo 3 when it comes out.

Those are all that come to mind.


Action adventure (or Action RPG) games come in many, many different flavors and varieties, and Folklore is yet another example of this.  Though it does feel kind of like Okami or a Zelda game, I can't say I've played a game that's quite like it.

Folklore also has an intriguing story, which begins with the two characters Keats and Ellen.  Keats is an editor for a supernatural magazine, and recieves an anonymous phone call asking him to come to the rural village of Doolin.  Though he is inclined to consider it a prank call, Keats goes to investigate anyway, and runs into Ellen, who was also drawn to the village by a letter from her mother, who she thought was dead.   The two notice a cloaked figure on a nearby clifftop, which Ellen thinks might be her mother.  The figure falls over (and off the cliff), however, revealing that it was either a doll of some sort of a corpse.  However, it is not found on the beach below the cliff, having mysteriously disappeared.  Ellen, distraught with worry, faints.  Keats suggests calling it a day, and the two take up lodging in the village.  Ellen wakes up to strange voices, which invite her to the local pub.  She arrives there, and is enticed by possible information regarding her mother.  Following one of the strange characters she meets in the pub to a nearby henge, she is endowed with mysterious powers and allowed to visit the Netherworld.  The same happens to Keats, and thus the two set out to unravel a supernatural mystery that is nearly two decades old.  "What happened to Ellen's mother 17 years ago?",  "What's with this village?" "Who called Keats?", and "What is the Netherworld?" are all questions that you'll likely have in mind as you play through the game.

The story is told through a combination of CG cutscenes and comic book-style scenes.  It's also split into two pieces.  One part of the story is told through Ellen's perspective, and the other is told through Keats'.  The two are separately playable, and their campaigns, though they frequently cross and meet, run independent of each other.  That is, you could play through Ellen's campaign and not bother with Keats, or vice versa.  Though you'll only get half the plot if you do that.

The gameplay in Folklore is fun, but to get the entire story by alternating between Ellen and Keats' campaigns, you will have to essentially do each level twice.  Though there are occasionally  some minor differences, the two play almost exactly the same, and go to mostly the same places.  So, you'll play through Ellen's version of chapter 2, for example, then, if you so choose, you can then switch over and play Keats' version of it.  The fact that you're getting the whole story is the only driving force to doing this.  Ellen and Keats fight the same bosses, and visit the same levels, so there's a huge issue of repetitiveness brought up by giving each character their own campaign.

Folklore's battle system is kind of like..Pokemon and Okami meshed together.  Though it is true Keats takes a slightly more physical approach to his attacks, neither of them really battle by themselves.  They fight and assimilate Folks.  By defeating a Folk, you can get it to reveal its soul, which you can grab and snatch with a quick flick of the Sixaxis controller (which works great, by the way).  Now you can summon that Folk to your aid to fight for you (Or in Keat's case, just lend a hand).  For example, say you encounter a Folk wielding a machine gun.  You want that Folk, first you have to defeat it.  Then you can snatch its soul and summon it.  Folks have a variety of abilities and elements.  For example, theres the simple hack and slash types, and there's the long/mid range types, and there's even some that simply charge into enemies, or fly above, dropping sticky goo.  There're also defensive Folks that can be used to block attacks.  Even boss Folks can be absorbed, though the Folklords (Folks so powerful they rule over their own realm) can't be (or maybe they can;  I can't remember).  Some Folks (especially bosses) are immune or highly resilient to certain types of attacks, encouraging you to constantly be on the look out for unique new Folks to capture and try.  Aiding you in the discovery of particularly difficult foes' weaknesses are picture book pages, which provide humorous drawings that convey the best methods of downing some of the tougher enemies.

I didn't play much of Folklore (I will return to it though), but the soundtrack, while nice, was somewhat forgettable.  Though many of the worlds are colorful and interesting, the game overall has a very mellow tone to it, not unlike Persona 3, another game dealing in the supernatural.  The game performed well for the most part, but there is an annoying load time that occurs every time you exit the Folk select menu, and the game occasionally drops slightly (but noticeably) in frame rate.  The CG scenes also froze often, but I wonder if that might have been the disc.

Overall, I like Folklore.  Its an interesting and unique game.  I'd give it an 8.5/10

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Lord of the Rings: Conquest

I've pretty much ignored LoTR, having seen only one of the movies (I can't even remember which one it was), and stopped at that.  Just never caught my interest, I guess.  But apparently, the movies have some rather large scale battles.  Which is cool.  I dunno if any of the games have tried to recreate this, but Conquest most certainly does, with EA boasting that the game will be able to handle more than 200 characters duking it out onscreen.

If you've played Star Wars: Battlefront (or, more specifically, its sequel), Conquest will immediately feel familiar, as it plays rather similarly.  Each battle begins with a cutscene prologue, then you're taken to a tactical map showing control points (or CP, for Battlefront veterans) and all units currently engaged in combat.  You choose your spawn point, then choose a character class, and jump into battle.  Just like Battlefront, you're given an objective to do, one after the other, except this time its not always just about capturing CP.  Where Battlefront basically drops you into a huge battle and says "take over all the CP", Conquest usually gives you a variety of objectives, from killing a major character, to defending an area, and back to taking CP.  As a result, the game feels much more linear than Battlefront.

Now mind you, I haven't played Battlefront II (the game I have) in a while, but while the screen wasn't exactly crowded, it did feel like an active warzone.  Conquest takes this even further.  Though at no point did it feel like there were 200 characters actively fighting (unless you count the massive armies at war outside the player boundaries of the Pelinnor Fields map).  Really, Dynasty Warriors probably does the quantity thing better.  But whereas in Dynasty Warriors  you've got crowds of retarded NPCs that just stand there, most of the AI controlled characters, both allies and enemies, take active roles in battle.  Archers will snipe others (to my annoyance), Warriors will actively seek out foes to beat down, and it is in fact very possible (and incredibly surprising) to get backstabbed by AI Scouts.

The choice of classes available to you is toned down from Battlefront though.  You have the Warrior, an armor clad fellow wielding a two handed broadsword.  As Warriors battle, their rage, or adrenaline meter fills up, allowing them to pull off devastating feats of fiery swordplay.  Basically, Warriors are your bread and butter.  They're job is simply to kill the enemy, plain and simple.  Warriors are also equipped with throwing axes.

There's also the Mage, a staff wielder that is capable of deflecting projectiles and healing both themselves and allies.  Thus, they can double as medics.  With their ground pound, Mages are capable close combat fighters, but they also have fireballs and lightning attacks at their disposal for mid range fighting.

Scouts are the Spec Ops of the crew.  Though you could say they are just as capable in an outright confrontation as any Warrior, they're better suited to attacking from the shadows.  Scouts are easily the most annoying guys to fight, because of their backstab ability.  Scouts have the ability to cloak, turning them near invisible (you can see them if you really look, but its near impossible to notice one coming up behind you in the heat of battle).  While cloaked, you can come up behind an enemy and press R1 to one hit kill them.  This applies to all playable characters, including heroes and villains (haven't tried on Sauron though), so its very satisfying to watch a lowly scout grab Gandalf from behind, throw him down, and stab him, instantly killing him.  Scouts also have satchel bombs for setting things on fire, as well as knocking foes down for a quick escape.

And finally there's the Archer, who should be self-explanatory.  The Archer has a weak little kick move for close combat, but thats it, so keep your distance.  Archers can use explosive arrows, poison arrows, and fire multiple arrows.

While there's the typical story campaign, there's also the "Rise of Sauron" campaign, which is a what-if story that ends with  Sauron as the new lord of the Middle Ages.  So if you feel Sauron was totally dealt an unfair defeat, there you have it.

Both campaigns can be played through in splitscreen coop, and there's also 16 player online (though I think you have to sign up for an EA nation account to play).  For versus modes, there's Conquest, which is simply each team battling for control of CP, like in Battlefront, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Ring (I think that's what it's called), which is a tug of war kind of capture the flag where the One Ring is set down in the middle of the map, and you have to bring it to your opponent's base.  These are all available in offline splitscreen, as well.

Lord of the Rings: Conquest, isn't a bad game.  I did encounter a few graphical glitches here and there (like special effects basically not appearing anymore, and enemies freezing in place), but the gameplay isn't bad.  But for all their boasting, the game isn't better than Battlefront II.  In fact, I think Battlefront II was much funner.  This was a decent try though.  A 7.5/10.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Final Fantasy X

Gamefly tossed this at me out of nowhere.  Kinda pissed me off, but again, I had been meaning to return this anyway.  But I really need Gamefly to resume actually sending me games I want, instead of fishing some random game from the bottom of my list.  It's annoying.  I've had to significantly shorten my GameQ, just to play it safe from them throwing curveballs at me.

So yeah, Final Fantasy X.  Pretty good game, so far.  I haven't actually been playing it for very long (Been playing a couple days, just finished the Mushroom Ridge event..), but I like it.  It puts an interesting spin on the typical RPG leveling system by instead placing all characters on a grid full of abilities and attributes (more on that later).

In terms of shockers and such, the game hasn't pulled much out of its sleeve, but I'm not far enough along to make any judgement.  The voice acting is..amusing, to put it lightly.  It just feels poorly done.  Most of the characters' voices fit them well enough (except Seymour's, when I first heard his, it did not seem befitting of his appearence), but the scripting wasn't done so well.

The game begins with a great CG sequence of an intriguing sport known as blitzball (a combination of soccer and basketball, but played underwater), and introduces the headstrong and confident Tidus, a skilled blitzer, and the quiet and mysterious swordsman Auron.  The two know each other, though I'm not really sure how (Not family, I just can't imagine how they met).  The game is rudely interrupted by the arrival of Sin, a huge water demon (or..something) that attacks and completely absorbs the city and its residents, including Tidus and supposedly Auron.

Tidus wakes up cold and hungry in an unkown place, and is eventually picked up by Al Bhed salvagers.  The Al Bhed seem to be a sort of nomad race, who explore ruins for ancient artifacts, namely ancient but powerful machina.  Tidus meets Rikku aboard the ship, who informs him that Zanarkand, the city Sin absorbed in the prologue, was destroyed 1,000 years ago by Sin.  So apparently, Tidus has been transported 1,000 years into the future.  Tidus's apparent lack of luck shines once again as the Al Bhed ship he is on is attacked by Sin, this time landing him near a tropical beach.  Tidus is woken up by a hit to the head from a blitzball, thrown by local resident Wakka.  Wakka brings him up to speed on just what's been going on, and brings Tidus to his village of Besaid, where Tidus soon meets the young summoner Yuna.  The two take to each other quickly, and Tidus, along with Wakka and others, accompany Yuna as she departs to complete a pilgrimage that will hopefully earn her the right to use the Final Summoning, which would allow her to defeat Sin.  Thus begins Tidus's journey.

Yeah, its a really long prologue.  Frankly, I've been reminded of the Kingdom Hearts series more than once in FFX.  There's the facial animation style, the hero that is unwillingly transported to another world (or in Tidus's case, another time) by demons, and KH2 also sports an uncomfortably long prologue.

Gameplay in FFX is fun for the most part.  I've decided that I absolutely hate the boring affair that is blitzball (yes you can play it in the game), but the battles are very fun.  They're turn based, and actually a little on the easy side if you make sure to take advantage of enemy weaknesses.

Returning to the aforementioned leveling system, FFX is very different from the traditional way of making your characters stronger.  Instead of steadily leveling up overall, with all your attributes increasing with time automatically, FFX has a huge board called a sphere grid.  As you battle, you gain AP, which levels up your Sphere level.  Each sphere level allows you to move once on the sphere grid.  Scattered all across this huge grid are attribute boosts and abilities.  Each character starts out in a certain part of the grid, generally a section that offers attributes and powers that suit that character.  For example, the black mage Lulu starts out at the bottom of the grid, where there are lots of magic stat upgrade nodes, and fire/ice/lightning/water spell upgrades relatively close by.  Tidus, being the light and quick melee attacker, starts out in an area with an abundant amount of agility stat upgrades.  Though you can follow the regular path and stay uniform, you can branch off in any direction, provided you have the correct sphere to unlock the path.  I could make Yuna (a white mage and summoner) a melee attacker eventually, or Auron a spellcaster.  If you have the patience and devotion, I suspect its quite possible to absorb every single upgrade on the grid, giving you the ultimate character.

This freedom granting design philosophy carries into weaponry and equipment too.  Weapons don't have their own stats.  Instead of steadily buying new, more powerful weapons as you progress through the game, its very possible to play the entire game with the exact same weapon you started with.  Instead, weapons have attributes.  There's a variety of elemental weapons, and weapons with advantages such as the ability to automatically scan the enemy (whenever a character holding a weapon with the "Sensor" attribute is in play, the enemy's vital info becomes visible), or do extra damage.  As a result, you'll be buying new weapons not necessarily to equip it immediately after, but to have it in your collection, should a need for its equipped attribute arise.

I like this system of advancement quite a bit, and it made battles very fun and enjoyable (as well as strategically advancing your characters across the Grid), though I think it somehow made the game easier than an RPG with the normal level advancement system.  Sphere levels are gained far more quickly then normal levels are, so with good planning, and a bit of grinding I was able to get a fair headstart on the grid.  Though I've had to use items maybe a couple times during bosses (even difficult boss battles are fun!), I've been able to rely mostly on the characters' abilities, of which there are a surprisingly wide variety.

Interestingly, load screens are also fairly minimal.  Maybe its because I was playing it on my Ps3 (some games like San Andreas run better on it, some, like an older Ratchet and Clank game I was playing, run significantly slower on it), but the game performed well.  The transition from Ps3 quality graphics down to Ps2 wasn't such a huge shock either.  The game still looks fairly good.

I'd feel bad recommending FFX, only to keep playing it and find it does a total 180 later on or something.  But its pretty good so far.  I think I've spoiled the ending for myself already, but I'm crossing my fingers anyway.  The game's interesting spin on level advancement has kept me compelled to play, and the story also helps.  An 8/10.