Finally seeing Suikoden III from some different perspectives

Ugh, I’m not doing too well on those gaming resolutions for 2017 that I listed out at the beginning of the new year. Well, hold up, I did manage to cross the 80,000 Gamerscore mark, but other than that, my Steam backlog is either the same size as before or larger than ever, Earthbound is still untouched on my Wii U, and I don’t know what I was thinking when it came to musing about “creating something.” I mean, I’m already doing that with my art over at Death, Divorce, and Disney, slow as it may take, though perhaps one day I’ll do something with game design. I sure do have a bunch of ideas, but not the knowledge to put them into motion, and knowledge doesn’t come quick or easy.

Anyways, here is me equipping a mighty ice-pick of endurance+3 and chipping away at the legendary glacier boss that is Suikoden III. I played it for a couple of hours several years ago, eventually running into an issue with the game soft-locking on a loading screen due to scratches on my PlayStation 2 disc. That sucks, but I quickly moved past it and found a bazillion other games to occupy my time, including the original two games in the series. I then acquired a digital version for the PlayStation 3 about two years ago, easing my heart and mind somewhat with the knowledge that I could return to Konami’s third entry in the RPG series via a scratch-free experience. Still, it remained neglected once more…until now-ish. Dun dun dunnn.

This time around, I’ve decided to start Suikoden III from a new perspective, selecting someone different from my first go at the game. See, Suikoden III uses something called the Trinity Site System to tell its tale through three different POVs–namely, Hugo, the son of the Karaya Clan Chief Lucia, Chris Lightfellow, a Zexen Knight, and Geddoe, a mercenary from the Holy Kingdom of Harmonia. Phew, that was a mouthful. Last time, I went with Hugo, and this time I started the adventure off with Chris Lightfellow, who, by name alone, you might mistake as a man, but she’s actually the acting captain of the Zexen Knights, as well as the Tenbi Star, just like Kirkis was in the original game. Cool, cool. Basically, you get to play snippets from each of these characters’ storylines, with some overlapping others, and I suspect they will eventually meet up and form a single through-line to follow to the end. We’ll see.

It’s still a little early for me to say this, but I’m not a fan of the changes Konami made to combat in Suikoden III. Don’t worry, don’t worry, everything is still turn-based, but characters are now paired up during fights. This means you give a command to each pair rather than to them as individuals, which often makes the combat feel clunky and not highly strategic. For example, one person gets a specific action, such as casting a spell or using an item, while the other is forced into attacking by default. It’s not Miitopia random, but you are definitely not 100% in control of what everyone gets to do, and that’s a bummer. Also, I’ve put in about six to seven hours so far, seeing chapters from all three characters–Chris, Geddoe, and Hugo–and I’ve seen only one or two unite attack options during battle, which this JRPG series is famous for. Also, because we’re jumping around a lot, I’ve been reluctant to drop a lot of money on new armor and weapons or training because I don’t yet know who is going to be around for the bulk of Suikoden III, which is mildly frustrating.

So, clearly, it’s been slow going, but it has been refreshing to see some new characters and areas this second time starting Suikoden III. Also, evidently during my first time with Hugo I had missed an entire side quest involving bandits and Melville’s father, so that was great to see, content-wise, even if it did little to change what happened in his first chapter. I’m now playing as Geddoe and his Twelfth Unit from Harmonia as they embark from Vinay del Zexay…to do something. Not quite sure what their goal is yet. I’m eager to see a few more towns as Vinay del Zexay is not fun to explore and somewhat confusing and does not hold a candle to Gregminster, Greenhill City, or even Gordius. Then again, these games are all about building up a base. Speaking of that…

From the brief bit of research I’ve done, it sounds like once all three starting characters hit chapter three, I’ll have to make a major decision, one that will definitely affect how the story moves forward. It also sounds like, after Suikoden V, Suikoden III takes the longest for everyone to get inside a castle and start building up your army, which is one of the best parts of this series, and that’s a bummer because I want to go to there right now. Ugh. Here’s hoping I hit that milestone somewhere in 2018, the earlier the better. Because then I eventually need to try out Suikoden IV. And Suikoden Tactics. Oh, and I should probably re-play Suikoden V at some point because that is mostly a blur to me now.

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Gobbling up that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

Fourth game of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds played, first with a squad of two friends and a random. Mark this day (last night, technically) down in my gaming history.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Hoard

The first time I became aware of the concept that a dragon even liked gold was as a young lad reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. The powerful, fearsome dragon Smaug, who invaded the Dwarf kingdom of Erebor 150 years prior to the events in the book, is now happy to spend the rest of his days sleeping among his loot, a vast hoard of shiny treasure. Eventually, he must defend it from a group of 13 Dwarves mounting a quest to take the kingdom back, who are helped along the way by the wizard Gandalf and the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins. Look, if you haven’t read The Hobbit, please do so as soon as possible; if you hate reading and prefer watching motion pictures, you can skip the Peter Jackson films and eat up the 1977 animated take from Rankin/Bass and Topcraft instead.

Anyways, enough about The Hobbit. I’m here today for another exciting edition of Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge to tell you a bit about Hoard, which I think I got as a freebie way back in September 2014, though the game came out a couple years before that. Honestly, it’s a good amount of fun, but not a keeper. Your true goal in this action strategy game is to be the greediest dragon of them all and amass as much gold as you can before time runs out. You do this by spewing flames and burning towns, castles, and crops to a crisp, revealing piles of gold that can be carried back to your nest. Naturally, not everyone is down to party, and you’ll have to fight off archers protecting towns, knights out to rescue stolen princesses, and other dragons (which can be controlled by other players) that have their own hoards to build.

Every piece of gold you bring back to your lair in Hoard will give you experience points, which, after getting enough, can be spent to level up your dragon. Your options include making it fly faster, have stronger armor, and a more powerful fire breath. There are a handful of stats you can choose to boost, and you don’t need to stress too hard over this as your dragon is reset to nothing at the start of every game. I focused early on speed and fire-breathing and later would up my dragon’s toughness as more difficult enemies reared their difficult heads.

There’s no campaign to follow here, which is okay, I guess. Hoard‘s core mode is called Treasure Collect, which not surprisingly tasks you with collecting as much gold as possible over a 10-minute period. There’s also Princess Rush, Survival, and Co-oP, though I only tried the former and not the latter two of those types. I do like that no game is longer than 10 minutes, which means every action counts, and you can’t dilly-dally about. Your dragon’s skill will grow tremendously over that short span, but I did often feel like I was just getting into my groove as time was running out. Which only made me want to jump right back into another match.

Hoard is definitely one of those quick fixes type of games, like Spelunky or The Binding of Isaac. Where you can dip into it quickly and have a good time and bounce out before the sun sets. There’s an in-game achievements system, but I don’t have it in me to play hundreds of matches to see these things pop. I enjoyed the few that I did play, and that’s that. Enjoy your pile of gold for eternity, dragon, because I won’t bother you anymore. Or, much like with Super Motherload, if I do feel the urge to poke the slumbering beast, I’ll grab you from Steam instead.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #128 – Grim Legends: The Forsaken Bride

Your sister’s wedding
Stopped by bear, abstruse secrets
Find objects, use cat

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Rag Doll Kung Fu™: Fists of Plastic

First things first–um, what?! Secondly, no, really, what even is this? Lastly, I don’t understand. A part of me really wishes to leave those few lines to describe my short time with Rag Doll Kung Fu™: Fists of Plastic, but the writer in me knows that just won’t happen. Plus, it’s always more fun to write about poor games than great games, strange as that may seem.

Developed by Tarsier Studios, Rag Doll Kung Fu™: Fists of Plastic is an exclusive party-fighting game for the PlayStation 3, focusing more on exaggerated physics than anything else. Certainly, this game has an imaginative look and feel, with the characters acting like puppets minus the strings. There’s a strong attention to detail for the fighting arenas, which are intricate miniature playsets. The characters themselves also look sharp, with plenty of light bloom to go around, and their limp rag doll movement is fun to watch…for a bit. Playing the game is not as enjoyable.

Your battling success depends on mastering basic kung fu moves while using acrobatic skills to swing off platforms and somersault through the air. There’s an unfortunate heavy reliance on motion controls. Still, face buttons are used to punch, kick, jump, and block, and basic combos can be performed by stringing these together. You can use the analog sticks both to move your character around and rotate their arms when grabbing items or swinging weapons around. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Furthermore, if you want to do a quick jolt to slam the ground or convert your chi power into a lightning ball, you’ll need to thrust the controller up or down in a specific way to get the job done. This is not always guaranteed, and I personally hate using the PlayStation 3 controller in this way.

There’s no story in Rag Doll Kung Fu™: Fists of Plastic. It’s a brawler, where the goal is to do more damage to your opponent(s) and remain on the healthy side of things. From the main menu, you can select the following: Multiplayer, Challenges, Tutorial, Character Editor, and Options. I basically only touched the Challenges and Tutorial and experienced enough to know that this isn’t for me. I’ve never been interested in these sorts of games to begin with–sorry, Super Smash Bros., fans–but the action is a little too chaotic and hard to follow. Throw in the wonky physics and reliance on motion controls to do anything cool and…I’m out.

Because I noticed the trademark symbol in Rag Doll Kung Fu™: Fists of Plastic‘s name, I had to know if this was based on some sort of TV series or movie. Nope. This is a fighting video game, created predominantly by artist Mark Healey, while working for Lionhead Studios, along with other Lionhead employees, such as David Smith and Alex Evans. You might remember this studies, defunct since April 2016, as the people behind Fable. Alas, unlike Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom, there’s no connection that I can find to any other media, which then strikes me odd on the insistence to include a trademark symbol. There’s a tiny link between this and the original Rag Doll Kung Fu, which came out on PC in 2005 and had an unusual mouse-only control scheme, but that’s about it.

Here’s the one positive comment I’ll make about Rag Doll Kung Fu™: Fists of Plasticit’s got a pretty strange yet catchy theme song.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #127 – Potatoman Seeks the Troof

Pink Potatoman
Seeks knowledge–jump, run, don’t jump
Semi-enlightened

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

Let loose in Prey’s luxuriously haunting sci-fi playground

It truly is surprising to me that I didn’t fall for Fallout 4 as much as I initially imagined I would, considering the hours and thoughts I put into Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. The game didn’t strike me the same way, and I’ve tried going back to it several times, only to get as far as rescuing Preston and his people and bringing them back to Sanctuary, before losing interest. Still, I love all things Fallout-related, like Fallout Shelter and cute little collectibles, and am super curious to see how the Fallout board game works, especially since it can be played solo, something I actively look for now in my tabletop games. However, this post isn’t actually about Fallout 4, it’s about Prey, the new hot thang from Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda in 2017, which is turning out to be the Fallout 4 game I wanted all along.

In Prey, the player controls Morgan Yu, either as a man or woman, exploring the space station Talos I, in orbit around Earth–Moon L2, where research into a hostile alien collective called the Typhon is underway. Unfortunately, because you know nothing can ever go right with doing science stuff in outer space, the Typhon escape confinement, and Morgan must use a variety of weapons and abilities derived from these nightmarish alien monsters to avoid getting killed while searching for a way to escape the station. It’s a haunting tale of loss and domination, told through environmental storytelling and revealing audio logs that bring to life many, many characters that are very much dead and destroyed. Or sometimes turned against you. Either way, the narrative is strong, believable.

Prey is a systems-driven adventure, playable in a number of ways. An immersive sim, if you will, in the same vein of BioShock and Dishonored, letting you make your way through levels and complete missions, but not enforcing the means by which you must get the job done. Which makes sense considering this is French developer Arkane’s bread and butter for the last eight-ish years. Still, the amount of freedom you have is almost unheard of, both in terms of playing style and exploration, especially once you get to the Talos I Lobby and have access to the no gravity area just outside its walls, which lets you travel just about anywhere you want on Talos I, so long as you’ve unlocked the right doors and can survive the trip. Early on, I suffered from choice anxiety and stuck to the main path, but I do plan to return and roam more freely next time.

Lucky for Yu–cue cymbal crash sound effect–the space station you are on was designed to also research and produce Neuromods, which go right into your eyeball to help make humans faster, stronger, and smarter. These are where you get your skill points from, to upgrade powers and unlock abilities, and you can find several around the environment, but what I found refreshing is, if you want and have the crafting resources to do so, you can make as many as you want through the Recylcer and Fabricator. It almost felt like cheating when I 3D-printed three of them in a single sitting (light spoiler detail: there will be a moment in the story where you can’t do this anymore for reasons, so strike while the iron is hot). My playstyle so far has been mostly human powers, like hacking and gaining more health from kits and food, with a light touch of aliens powers, specifically Mimic and Kinetic Blast. I like being able to repair broken turrets though they now see me as an alien threat since I’ve unlocked too many non-human perks. That was a neat surprise.

Life in Prey is harsh, tough. The might sound obvious when discussing a space station amuck with telekinetic and transforming monsters that want to eat your flesh and soul, but I thought I’d say it anyway, to justify to myself very soon that it is fine to dial down the difficulty setting. I’m currently playing on whatever the default it is, and I’m trying to play it like I would Fallout 4–stealthily, sneakily, avoiding as many fights as possible. Unfortunately, you will have to get your hands dirty eventually, and this is where I struggled with the combat. The guns don’t feel great, even after updating my silenced pistol a bunch, and they clearly want you to use the GLOO cannon to slow everything down and whack it with a wrench, but that’s easier said than done when the enemies move far more swiftly than you. Health and suit armor drops quickly, and resources, so far, are extremely limited. Occasionally, I’ve had to sneak by enemies through creative means, like throwing items for distraction or turning into a banana. Yup, you read that last part right.

I’m near the end of Morgan’s quest. Still, whenever I am done with Prey, whatever that means since I may be curious in a second playthrough on the easiest of difficulty settings to see what life is like with, say, only alien powers or doing my best to read every single e-mail I can find, I think I might need to revisit System Shock and give it a fairer shake than trying to play it when extremely sleepy during an Extra Life stream. Or System Shock 2. Or Dishonored. Or Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Look, I have a lot of immersive sims on plate, so I better start feasting.