Monthly Archives: March 2009

Games I’ll Be Missing Out On

So, for awhile now, I’ve known what next-gen game system I want to own. It is an Xbox 360, and I have my reasons for it (SIDENOTE: the fund is going strong, almost there). But let’s talk about something else that shuffles around in my mind a lot lately, and that is…

…the games I’ll be missing out on. Y’ know, console exclusives. And some of these really pull at my heartstrings as they belong to series that I’m a diehard fan of. Okay, enough of this. Let the tears flow.

  • Sly Cooper 4 (rumored for just the PS3, with another Sly Cooper game coming out simultaneously for the PSP)
  • Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction
  • Uncharted (by those good ol’ Jak and Daxter developers)
  • Animal Crossing: City Folk (maybe it’s a good thing I’m going to miss out on this one considering the hours I’ve already logged on the DS version)
  • Super Mario Galaxy
  • And tons more!

I totally get the point of console exclusives. Really, I do. Otherwise, what’s the purpose in creating unique systems, but I do wish some licenses were more broadly shared than others. Thankfully, just knowing that Final Fantasy XIII will be on both systems, whenever it does come out is enough to sate my bruised heart.

Three Strikes and You’re Out, Unlimited SaGa

While compiling my backlog–and figuring out which games I’ve beaten and which I haven’t–I stumbled across a game that really gets on my nerves. And I’ve never played it for more than twenty minutes. Total. After three attempts to get into it, as well. Crazy, right?

I’m talking about Unlimited SaGa, of course.

unlimited-saga-1

A gorgeous looking game, much like previous entries in the series, with such heart devoted to style and character design and color tones. It’s hard not to be initially intrigued, really. Alas, Unlimited SaGa looks too good to be true. The gameplay is tedious, the once-involved battles are now confusing and dominated by luck and the spin of a wheel (which I never really understood, and this Reel system isn’t just assigned to combat, frustratingly), and moving around within the world–if you can call it moving–is just annoying and unclear.

unlimited-saga-3

I can’t really be completely objective though. I’ve never gotten far into the game, and heaven knows I’ve tried to at least three times. Each time I power on the PlayStation 2, grip my controller, and think, “Okay, this time we’re doing it!” Yet it never happens. No matter who I start with, no matter which plotline to follow, within the first few battles and inching around on the boardmap I’m already angry. And games shouldn’t really make people angry. They are entertainment, after all; entertainment paid for, expected, desired for something.

But yeah. Pretty horrible game. Can’t get into it, never will. Maybe it’s too old-fashioned, if that makes any sense. It’ll be the bane of my backlog, along with Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, another RPG that tries something new and ends up being a crawlfest.

Penny Arcade sums it all up pretty well, actually. Well, panels one and two that is.

JUST BEAT: Musashi: Samurai Legend

musashi_samurai_legend_cover

Developer/Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PS2
Genre(s): Action Adventure/RPG
Mode(s): Singe player
Rating: Teen
Time clocked: About 22 hours

The Basics
Though claiming to be a sequel to the charming and fun action RPG Brave Fencer Musashi that was released for Sony’s PlayStation in 1998, Musashi: Samurai Legend is anything but a trite re-imagining of what was once charming and fun. The story starts off with Princess Mycella summoning a hero from another world in order to help save hers. That hero—hapless and helpless as he is—turns out to be Musashi, who takes on the training of Yoda Master Mew in order to rescue the princess back from the evil hands of President Gandrake. Also, he needs to collect the legendary five swords along the way.

The Good
If anything, as an action RPG, Musashi: Samurai Legend does offer a solid amount of action. Each spot on the world map offers tons of enemies to slice apart or learn techniques from, with also a splash of platforming and puzzle-solving thrown in for good measure. Musashi himself can learn a number of special attacks, but it’s mostly hacking and slashing and occasionally blocking for him as he pushes forward. Some sections really offer a lot of action with never-ending spawn points for enemies.

The Bad
As I recall, Brave Fencer Musashi was somewhat linear…but never to this extreme. You can’t get lost in this game, and there’s only a pinch of retreading familiar grounds (which are handed to the gamer so stupidly that there’s no point in even feeling proud when you remember you can now access a certain area thanks to your new “walk-on-water boots”). One task dropped upon Musashi’s feminine shoulders is that of rescuing 28 lost villagers…don’t worry, you’ll get them all as just about every single floating blue orb hosting a stolen soul is right along the main path. Way to make it challenging, Square Enix.

Also, every time you rescue one of the Mystics, you must carry her from the end of the level back to the beginning. While fighting off hordes of enemies. This, my readers, is complete bullshit and will most certainly have you grinding your teeth at the screen. The game is very repetitive in that sense, and even the boss battles become nothing more than “learn the pattern, attack here”. A little more variety and branching would’ve been appreciated, as would’ve the day/night cycle from the previous entry.

The Fugly
Where to start?

First, Musashi from Brave Fencer Musashi dressed the part of a traditional samurai, which made sense given that that’s what he was. Here, Musashi has changed up his style to be some sort of California surfer/drug addict supermodel with no money for a haircut. Is there a reason gamers need to see his midriff?

Second, the writing. It was either the writing or the voice acting, but since the voice actors are only reading what is written in their script, I went with the former. It’s bad, people. Overtly bad, especially when it tries to lighten the mood. Musashi attempts to sound tough, comes off cheesy. The Mystic of the Void tries to sound seductive, comes off cheap and whorish. Master Mew dramatically attempts wisdom and being wizened, sounds like a dying cat.

Third, the graphics. They’re not terrible, really. Not by PS2 standards at least. They’re just…so odd. Soft lighting, with thick brown outlines for everything, and no one seems to have noses. Think Dark Cloud 2 and every Impressionistic painting created. It’s like a re-imagined cel shading technique that, while colorful, really could’ve been a lot more. It seems most of the money was spent on the fully animated intro, which is ham-fisted and replete with words like legendary and power and fate.

The Overall Vibe
I will not lie. I got this game for $4.99, and when you pay that price expectations cannot be too high. Still, I was looking for something a little deeper, a little more fun and punny like Brave Fencer Musashi. The game’s not terribly tough or deep, and beating it allows one to start a new campaign+, which means nothing to me. I have no idea why someone would need to go through this more than once unless they really missed collecting digital playing cards of enemies and such. I won’t be going back.

4 out 10

Suikoden Tierkreis Finds the Eternal Darkness

Here’s the cover art for…hmm, let me start again actually. Here’s the “cover art” for Suikoden Tierkreis, which evidently came out today for the Nintendo DS:

suikoden-tierkreis

And I thought Chrono Trigger DS barely tried.

Anyways, for those too lazy to flip this over in the game store, this cover art tells them absolutely nothing about Suikoden Tierkreis other than it’s made by Konami and has WiFi features. Considering how rocking the artwork for the first two entries in series were (unarguably the best games in the series, too), this is a shame and a waste of space. The game’s biggest draw is the ability to collect 108 characters for your army and castle, always has been. Granted, there’s the European version of cover art floating around, which is much better at presenting the sort of game Suiko fans are expecting.

Yet what do we Americans get?

Blackness, the evergoing dark, a void to fall into and never return from. In short, nothing at all.

Not Game Over Just Yet

Videogames.

From Marble Madness to Super Mario World to Suikoden to Jumping Flash! to Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus and countless others. More than just entertainment, they’ve been a part of my life ever since I was a young boy and received my very first game console for Christmas. It was, to my boyish delight, a Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and with its velvety purples and soft, ash-like grays the darn thing nearly brought tears to my eyes. In actuality, I’m saving those liquid droplets for when my SNES no longer works; I still play Donkey Kong Country 2, Killer Instinct, and Kirby on it to this very day, which, when you think about it, is akin to observing a miracle.

Anyways, I’ve gone through only a handful of gaming systems though, still not yet crossing into what Interwebberz deem “next-gen,” but not a day goes by that I don’t keep up with what’s happening in the industry or what new achievements were issued for such-and-such or when the next price cut might hit. I have thoughts, I have some experience, I have ideas and rants and questions that need posing. I guess that means writing about games again, or trying to. Hence, Grinding Down. It’s a gamer’s guide to nothing, which more or less means whatever you want it to mean. I’ll do my best to make it into something, really.

mario

So here I am, resetting my inner console, starting over yet again.

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