Monthly Archives: November 2010

Round one, fight–I mean, mash those buttons!

After getting some snazzy new haircuts on Black Friday, Tara and I headed over to GameStop to see if they had any crazy-as-crazy-gets deals. Well, they didn’t…just their usual “buy two used games, get one used game free” thing, and we’d been talking a bit about trying to find more two-player games for the Xbox 360 since it’s usually just me playing solo stuff like Fallout: New Vegas while she looks on earnestly. We browsed, I got hit on by an employee who was very impressed with my authentic Ravenclaw scarf, and then we left the store with three games in tow: Sonic’s Ultimate Game Collection, Street Fighter IV, and Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies.

Sonic’s UGC actually doesn’t have as many two-player games in it, but there’s a few good ones, such as all Sonic 2, Golden Axe, and all iterations of Streets of Rage. We played a bunch and got all nostalgic over the graphics and gameplay. Tara wanted a copy of DQIX for herself since each cartridge only has one save slot, and I was nowhere near ready to delete mine and make space; guess she’s seen me enjoying it a lot for over 85 logged hours now and suspects she’ll have a good time, too. Spoiler: she will! She’s gonna make me her priest character.

But we mostly decided on a new fighting game, as those are really easy to pick up and play together. I’m a big Tekken fan, much more than Street Fighter, but alas that series is still stuck on the PlayStation 3. We were not left with many other choices, and so we picked Street Fighter IV, not even bothering to “upgrade” to Super Street Fighter IV for like $10 more. Extra stages, colors, and characters are not that exciting in the end.

Early impressions of the game are that…well, it’s basically the same ol’ Street Fighter II we’ve all come to know and love, just with flashy graphics, some new moves, and really horrible cutscenes. I try to do special moves and cool throws, and Tara button-mashes her way to victory. We’re an amazing mix, and it’s a lot of fun–I’m looking forward to unlocking more characters though. To do that, however, one has to beat the Arcade mode with specific characters. That’s easy enough when you set the fights to Easiest difficulty, one round, and 30 seconds on the clock. Easy peasy…until Seth, that is. He’s the final boss, a sort of Dr. Manhattan wannabe with everyone’s special moves, and the spike in difficulty from him and the fight before is mountainous. Sometimes he clobbers me in a perfect round, and other times I can get a few hits in. My best strategy is to spam ranged attacks (like fireballs) and keep my distance. Which is why it is astounding to me that I was able to unlock this Achievement two difficulty levels higher:


Arcade Rat (20G): Clear Arcade Mode with 1 character on Medium or higher difficulty.

Not sure about a lot of the remaining Achievements. A lot involve grinding fights online. Hmm…

Oh, and we’re absolutely terrified of Rufus, but that’s an entire post in itself.

Five Games I’m Very Thankful For

This week in the United States, it’s all about turkey, parades, football, and family fun. Better known as the holiday Thanksgiving, but I’d much prefer it dubbed Givingthanks, as that’s the point of it, a point which, seemingly, is undermined time and time again thanks to things like tryptophan and Black Friday shopping sprees. We’re supposed to be thankful—for family, friends, love, health, security, and, of course, videogames. Some might even consider them family and friends.

And so, in no particular order, here’s five games I’m eager to give thanks to for a whole bunch of different reasons…

Suikoden

Suikoden was the start of everything for me in terms of roleplaying games. I had sadly—and stupidly—missed the plethora of strong RPGs on the SNES and only dipped my toes into the genre once I got to the PlayStation. Think I tried out Beyond the Beyond and maybe something else before pre-ordering Final Fantasy VII and waiting patiently for it to hit its release date. To help ease the pain of waiting, I ended up picking up this anime-looking RPG called Suikoden for no clear reason I can recall. It just looked…interesting. And boy was it! Here’s what I ate up: a plot brimming with war and family politics and unforeseen death, as well as magic, an awesome castle that grew as your army grew, and a unique—at least to me—fighting system that encouraged combo attacks with like-minded allies. This game was pretty much the opposite of the eagerly awaited Final Fantasy VII; it sported sprites for graphics, focused on collecting 108 characters, and was smaller in scope, and yet I’m more thankful for its existence than that Square blockbuster. In fact, I’ve gone back and replayed Suikoden numerous times while Final Fantasy VII was last touched when I beat it back in late 1997.

New Super Mario Bros.

This one sits extremely close to my heart. See, a few years ago, my mother and I were flying out to visit my sister in Arizona. I had, only weeks before, gotten a Nintendo DS Lite, with two or so games in my collection. The one I was currently playing while sitting next to her on the four hour flight was New Super Mario Bros., and I was actually just toying around with the slew of mini-games included within the main game’s cart. My mother leaned over and uttered some words I never thought to hear: “Can I try?”

So I showed her how to hold the console and use the touchscreen/stylus, and the rest is history. While out in Arizona, she just had to get a DS of her own (a pink one), as well as some games, such as Brain Age and Brain Academy and those kind. She still plays it frequently to this game, having built a good-sized collection of hidden object games, puzzlers, and interactive story-based games. For all I know about my mother, this was the first time she’s ever played videogames, and now we even have lengthy conversations about ‘em!

Super Metroid

Super Metroid is a game that taught me how to pay attention to everything. And I do mean everything. Boss battle patterns, cracks in the walls, tiny crevices perfect for roly-poly Samus to roll through, the undiscovered parts on the game’s wonderfully intricate map. More specifically, I’m talking about that part where Samus has to watch some space alien critters wall-hop up a long stretch of map to reach freedom and then do the same thing herself. That required a lot of paying attention to. As well as trial and error. Still, to this day, I have trouble wall-jumping in that game. I can maybe go once or twice up, but hitting the third or fourth jump really requires a certain thumb-to-button rhythm not found in my veins.

As frustrating as this section was, especially for a young boy on the brink of insanity, I’m more than thankful for what it taught me. Patience and practice do make (almost) perfect.

Shadow of the Colossus

Speaking of patience, enter Shadow of the Colossus. This is the game that stands tall and proud behind the “are videogames art?” debate, as well as standing tall and proud on its own merits because it’s an absolutely phenomenal gaming experience. It’s basically a straight boss run, with each colossus a puzzle of their own. Like Super Metroid, this game really asked a lot out of the gamer in terms of paying attention. One had to first figure out how to get Wander up on the colossi. Then they had to get him towards its weak point, wherever that was, and then they had to stab a bunch of times and pray they didn’t tossed off like a ragdoll. If they did, well…you had to start all over. But each subsequent colossus was worth it, and conquering them was a mix of teenage jubilation and eerie sadness. I’m thankful this game made me feel so confused emotionally, more so than any other at this point, but I’m even more thankful for what it didn’t do. The world within is more or less barren, save for a lizard or eagle, as well as the titular colossi, which meant no mindless sword-fighting enemy troops. It also meant no sidequests or towns to visit or people to converse with. It was just you, the colossi, and the hope of saving a loved one. Shadow of the Colossus gets to the point like no other title.

Tetris

Without Tetris, high school study hall would’ve been pure torture. Thanks to the power of nerds worldwide, everyone that got a Texas Instrumental calculator—so long as you knew someone who already had it on their calc—was able to play the legendary and seemingly unbeatable puzzle game from Russia. It worked just like the GameBoy version, but I don’t remember it having sound, which was fine and all, considering most of us were playing secretly beneath a trapper-keeper in class. It also helped on the bus ride to and fro. It’s biggest plus was that no one ever beat it; you just played and played the same few levels over and over again, each time differently thankfully enough, and that was all one needed from Tetris.

That’s plenty of thanks from me. Greg Noe, over at The First Hour, came up with a good number of multiplayer games he’s thankful for–do check out his article as well! Do you have any games you’re extremely thankful exist? Speak up!

True facts about Dead Money DLC for Fallout: New Vegas

Evidently, there’s new facts about the recently announced DLC Dead Money for Fallout: New Vegas, and one tidbit really surprised me. Spoiler: it’s the level cap increase to 35. A-whaaaaat? Anyways, here’s a better summary of everything y’all should now know (taken directly from Bethesda’s website):

Description:

As the victim of a raw deal you must work alongside three other captured wastelanders to recover the legendary treasure of the Sierra Madre Casino. In Dead Money, your life hangs in the balance as you face new terrain, foes, and choices. It is up to you how you play your cards in the quest to survive.

Story:

Welcome to the Sierra Madre Casino! The casino’s mythical contents are lusted after by desperate wasteland scavengers, who tell stories of intact treasure of the old world buried deep within its vault. Lured here by a mysterious radio signal advertising the long-awaited grand opening of the casino, you are thrown into a high stakes game where you’ll have to work with three other lost souls if you want to survive.

Key Features:

  • Take part in a suspenseful post-apocalyptic casino heist in which you’ll need to work with three companions, each of whom has their own motivation for helping you.
  • Add hours of extended gameplay where you’ll encounter the mysterious Ghost People, pre-war death traps and the holographic security system of the Sierra Madre.
  • Navigate your way through a challenging new storyline, with even tougher choices.
  • New perks, achievements, and a raised level cap to 35!

Okay. Perks and Achievements are expected, but this level cap increase feels…odd. Oddly absurd. Not that I’m complaining. I have no reason to complain about a game that wants me to keep playing it, but back in the day, back during vanilla Fallout 3, the level cap was 20, and I think a lot of players felt that threshold was reached far too quickly. So they increased it with the Broken Steel DLC to 30, which felt more natural. Around level 10 you’re doing okay, by level 20 you’ve got some great perks and weapons, and once level 30 rings its bell you are basically considered a god among wastelanders.

So it made sense to see Fallout: New Vegas ship with the level cap already to 30. Many gamers got used to that cap, and I guess now many will have to get used to 35, but it still just doesn’t feel right. Maybe Borderlands put too much pressure on game devs to continuously climb higher?

Nintendo announces two new DSi colored bundles

That’s right. More colors for the Nintendo DSi. And it only took the world a hundred years to give us a Mario pipe-green one. I mean, I thought that was a no-brainer, but maybe that’s just me. Green’s also the best color ever to be a color, and everything should be green, Nintendo DS consoles especially. People, too. Insert your own Soylent Green is people joke!

Well, now we have one. A green Nintendo DSi, that is. It’s debuting this Black Friday, but it’s probably only available in limited numbers. First come, first gobble up. Also, the bundle comes packaged with a free game (Mario Party DS) for the price of just a standalone DSi–about $149.99. Cool, cool. If Tara and I didn’t already own fine and dandy DS Lites (mine’s black, hers is black and blue), I’d totally spring for this. But, alas, currently, there is no need in my life for a third DS system, even if it is an upgrade so-to-speak with its nifty camera and slightly bigger bod. Might just wait this whole crazy ride out until the 3DS drops and see how that floats or flops. I totally didn’t mean to rhyme there.

Anyways, check out Nintendo’s newest baby in all its beautiful, green glory below:

Mmm hmm.

Oh, and there’s also an orange one available…but who cares about that color.

Clearing up the confusion between Radiant Historia and Radiata Stories

There’s a new Nintendo DS RPG from Atlus USA coming out in February 2011, at least according to a 1UP article, called Radiant Historia. I know nothing about it, but I want it, and I think I can sort of explain where this “do want” impulse is coming from.

It stems from a love/hate relationship I have with a rather unknown PlayStation 2 RPG dubbed Radiata Stories. Not really sure if these two are connected in the slightest; Radiata Stories was developed by tri-Ace and then published by Square Enix, and Radiant Historia is in the deft hands of Atlus USA. All previews go without mentioning a connection, but something about their names forces me to think of them as siblings–or rather just close friends. If anything, Radiant Historia is likened more towards that of Chrono Trigger, with its style and focus on time traveling. Oh well. Let’s sequeway back to that other RPG then…

Right. Radiata Stories. It’s a game my sister passed along to me after she found herself giving up on it; I think I gave her Dark Cloud 2 and Suikoden V to fix her RPG slump. I hope to one day get those babies back (are you reading this, Bitsy?). Anyways, Radiata Stories is a punny, action-based RPG, with a huge focus on character recruiting, kicking things, and a day/night system. You are Jack Russell, a fiesty teenager who just joined the Knights of Radiata to make his not-around-anymore father proud. Things go as expected until things go unexpectantly amiss, forcing Jack and his friends Ridley and Ganz Rothchild out of the army and on their own. Supposedly, it all eventually leads up to a point where Jack has to choose sides in a waging war; I never made it that far, and I’ve restarted my save slot at least three times.

Like the Suikoden series, the biggest draw here, for me, is in character recruitment. In total, 175 characters can be recruited and added to Jack’s friend list. From this, he can add them to his active party to help gain levels, money, and experience. Some characters are better than others, but the OCD nature of “gotta collect ’em all” is enough to get me scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of strong, worthy fighters. It’s gets even more tricky though as some characters can only be recruited at specific times or places with specific people in your party. Others might give you a quest or ask that you visit them X number of times. It’s imposible to recruit everyone on one’s first playthrough, and if the Internet is to be trusted, Radiata Stories has post-game content as well as a new game+ feature where they allow all previously recruited characters to stick around for game #2. I want that so bad.

But I seem to lose steam and motivation in all three playthroughs right around the same part. Eventually, the plot will fizzle down slowly, and Jack is given freedom to do what he wants for a bit–explore the city, surrounding landscapes, level up, gather friends, and so on. This is where it all falls apart for me. I start gathering friends and quickly forget about the bigger picture, and after struggling to get some specific dudes, I put the game down and never come back. And that’s a shame. The three main characters are greatly designed, especially Ganz, and I’d love to know what happens with the main storyline more.

Maybe playthrough #4 should be a straight beeline to the end, with whatever recruited characters I can get easily. Maybe…

Anyways, this rambling post is supposed to be me about making a connection–if any–from Radiata Stories to Radiant Historia, and it seems like there isn’t one at all. Except for maybe some tri-Ace designers having worked on both games. Oh well. Still, I want to play both, each for their own reasons. Even though the battle system in Radiata Stories is lame and horrible. Here’s to some motivation to hook up the PlayStation 2 again…

It’s a good week to love slime in DQIX

Still haven’t beaten the second form of Corvus yet…

Trust me, I’ve tried. Twice actually since the last update on Dragon Quest IX. He’s supremely frustrating in that he seems to understand too well how badly I need Kingsley, our group’s priest, to stay alive in order to buff and heal and set up magic barriers for the party. Corvus kills him as fast as possible. Two or three hits, down he goes. Then the others fall quickly. I think everyone needs better armor and weapons, and the good news is that this week on the DQVC is loaded with awesome gear. Why? Well, it’s Metal Slime Week, of course!

According to the Internetz, metal slime items can only be obtained through treasure chests in high level grotto maps. So…there, and DQVC. Meaning, if one really wanted these items sooner than later, now is the time to jump on them.

The downside to all of this is that metal slime items are extremely expensive.

So far, here’s what I’ve been able to buy after many thoughtless hours of grinding during movies like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Elf:

  • Metal Slime Armour (bought for 38,000 gold)
  • Metal Slime Sollerets (bought for 11,000 gold)
  • Metal Slime Gauntlets (bought for 12,500 gold)
  • Metal Slime Shield (bought for 30,000 gold)

And here’s what I still really want to get, but lack the funds currently:

  • Metal Slime Spear (costs 49,000 gold)
  • Metal Slime Helm (costs 25,000 gold)
  • Metal Slime Sword (costs 45,000 gold…but I don’t know if I actually want or need it currently because Hadwynnn, my minstrel, rocks a whip)

I was also able to snag one oricalchum, a reset stone, some lava lumps, and a couple Hephestus’ flames. Either way, it’s a good week to be hopping online and doing some shopping. Just hope y’all have the gold to blow! I suggest trying to farm the Gold Golems near Gleeba because each one drops around 500 gold upon death. Other than that, just keep at it…the mindless button-mashing is worth it.

Vaan doesn’t know the first thing about sneaking

Mission 3-2: Rendezvous Round Back in Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings really did a number on me. A bad number. Not necessarily 666, but something close to that in terms of cruelty and evilness. First, here’s the mission’s description:

After saving the aegyl, the party heads for the shrine holding the auralith, but a watch has already been posted outside! How does Vaan plan to sneak past?  

And the main objective:

Sneak into the temple; Vaan must survive!

What? SNEAK?! Am I playing Metal Wings Solid here or something? Don’t think so. This is supposed to be a RPG/RTS hybrid…you seen an enemy, you attack it until it is dead. ‘Nuff said. Anyways, Vaan is all alone on the map and must sneak past a good number of guards in order to make it to the shrine’s entrance. Okay, sounds easy enough. Map is pretty small. Nope. Took me FOUR tries to complete this mission.

First try, I walked straight down the map, hid behind a pillar, and, when the first guard was looking the other way, tried to rush past him. Got caught, started fighting him, died a sad, painful death.

Second try, did the same thing, but this time used some brains and applied Vaan’s spell Sprint to the equation. Made it past the first guard, hid behind a tiny airship before trying to sneak around another guard. Only when I went to move, Vaan went in the opposite direction I told him thanks to an invisible barrier and thus got some sword swipes to the face.

Third try, all of the above, this time waiting longer for the second guard to move away. Then it was a mad dash across the screen. However, greed took over, and I just had to open one of the numerous treasure chests on the map. Got caught, got killed.

Fourth try, repeated same steps as before, utilizing Vaan’s Sprint ability as much as possible. Skipped all treasure chests. Tried to sneak by two viera archers guarding the shrine’s entrance, but they discovered me, loosing arrow after arrow my way, and all I had at that point was adrenaline and speed…so I made a beeline for the flag, finally completing the mission with a sliver of health left.

Whew. Also: ASDFGHJKL.

This game was not built for stealth missions. The biggest hurdle is that, unlike in games such as Metal Gear Solid or Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, there’s no indication as to how far an enemy’s perception ranges. Can that soldier see me walking towards him? Can the viera archers view me from afar? If I crossed the enemy’s path here instead of here, am I less visible? It’s a guessing game, in short. Try to sneak by and see if you have the luck of the Irish. Another problem falls on the touchscreen controls and speed that units actually walk at, but that’s kind of a muffin in comparison to the lack of stealth-like details missing from this mountain. Heck, even a simple ! mark above an enemy’s head when they’ve spotted you would help; I just rushed past enemies and had to watch them closely to see if they were following after me or not.

So here’s to me hoping that this was the one and only stealthy mission in Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings

So far, a severe lack of Fran in Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings

Granted, I’ve only played roughly an hour and fifteen minutes of Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings so far…but come on! Out of that time chunkage, Fran was only on screen for about less than 60 seconds, uttering maybe two lines or so of dialogue. The Mist made her woozy. Yeah, it always does that! She’s allergic! Then her and ever-charming friend-at-hand Balthier disappeared from the story as Vaan and his cohorts went on adventuring and stealing an airship of their own.

As the only non-Hume character playable in Final Fantasy XII, Fran really stood out. Also probably because of the bunny ears, revealing outfit, long legs, and devilishly good lisp. Seriously, one could listen to her talk all day. Get that woman a phonebook to read from! She made playing FFXII feel like an actual fantasy game; sure, the other citizens of Rabanastre helped, as did magically ornamented locales and flying ships…but Fran, as a part of your active troop, helped seal the deal that you were on a quest of a special kind, with a special kind of people. Visiting her fellow viera in the hidden land of Eruyt Village was one of my favorite parts of the game.

And so, Revenant Wings is not doing her justice. Not one lick. Spoiler alert for an old game!

See, at the end of FFXII, it’s believed that both her and Balthier perished during the final battle craziness. That terrible thought was dashed as Vaan later learned–much later, like almost a year later–that the two partners-in-crime were still at it, and that they wanted to meet up to go treasure-hunting, thus giving us the starting point for Revenant Wings. This really short meeting of Vaan and his old friends lacks oophm; it’s supposed to be the first time they’ve seen each other in awhile, since one party thought the other dead actually, and there’s no reunion-like talk, no “hey, remember how Ashe was actually the main character and not you, Vaan?”, nothing; only tips on being a sky pirate from Balthier, a complaint about the Mist from Fran, and then a TTFN (ta-ta for now) if ever there was one.

In short: NEEDS MOAR VIERA LOVELINESS.

Dead Money, the first DLC announced for Fallout: New Vegas

Bethesda Softworks just announced the first piece of downloadable content for their bug-happy Fallout: New Vegas. It’s called Dead Money, is exclusive to Xbox 360 as of the moment, and sounds a little something like so:

As the victim of a raw deal you must work alongside three other captured wastelanders to recover the legendary treasure of the Sierra Madre Casino. In Dead Money, your life hangs in the balance as you face new terrain, foes, and choices. It is up to you how you play your cards in the quest to survive.

Definitely comes off as a bit ho-hum, especially considering just how different each piece of DLC in Fallout 3 strived to be. I mean, one took you to Alaska, the other to a slave factory in Pennsylvania, another to backwater hickville, and a fourth to freakin’ outer space. Granted, Dead Money does seem to promise new terrain and foes, but I have a stinky feeling that it will kind of be more of the same Nevada landscape and enemy types with new skins. Actually, maybe more like just an elaborated sidequest or something, rather than DLC priced at 800 Microsoft Points. We’ll have to wait and see. Hits Xbox 360 on December 21, 2010.

The full press release with corporate talky talk is available here.

PURCHASE OF THE MONTH: Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime and Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings

Woah, woah, woah…two games for the Purchase of the Month? Yes. Let me explain.

For about the past year or so, I’ve allowed myself to make one videogame purchase every month. This keeps my wallet safe, this keep my brain at ease during these crazy retail seasons, and this keeps this blog active and alive with new content–well, considering that I’m often late to the party and buy mostly “old” games these posts are not necessarily new content about new content, but new content nonetheless.

Also, a Purchase of the Month does not necessarily mean a top-dog, AAA product retailing for $60 or more. In fact, here’s a rundown of my purchases from this year, as best as I can recall or find out thanks to Grinding Down‘s search function:

  • January 2010 – Nothing
  • February 2010 – Dragon Age: Origins
  • March 2010 – Pokemon HeartGold
  • April 2010 – Borderlands
  • May 2010 – Picross 3D, The Saboteur
  • June 2010 – Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
  • July 2010 – Limbo, Dragon Quest IX, LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
  • August 2010 –  Scott Pilgrim VS. The World: The Game
  • September 2010 – Mini Ninjas
  • October 2010 – Chrono Trigger DS, Fallout: New Vegas
  • November 2010 – Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime, Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings
  • December 2010 – ???

Hmm. Might have forgotten some XBLA titles in there. Now, of those listed, only a few were brand new retail copies; about 75% were purchased for less than $25 each, which I think is a great amount to spend on a videogame that may or may not give you a good amount of playtime. So, if I’m not looking for a big name retail game, I’m looking more for something in my secondary price range. The fact that both purchases of this month were released well over three years ago definitely helped with this–DQH: Rocket Slime was $6.99, and FFXII: Revenant Wings was $14.99. Perfect, I said to myself and not out loud as that would be a bit weird.

Right now, with the way life is–married, working, stressing, worrying, not drawing, not writing, worrying, worrying, wondering, sleeping more, band practice, worrying–it seems I have a lot less time for console gaming and much more time available for DS gaming on the go. These two games, plus the epic RPGs of Chrono Trigger and DQIX, should help fight back the lack-of-serious-Fallout: New Vegas shakes. I’ll also go into the reasons I picked each of these up in another post later on. Because, yes, I do have my reasons!