Monthly Archives: October 2014

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Colony Wars

games I regret trading in colony wars

I still can’t believe we haven’t seen a new Colony Wars game in this day and age of impressive technology, big TV screens, and unstoppable imagination. Or, at the very least, a half-hearted remake of the first 1997 space adventure from Psygnosis. Alas, it seems like the Colony Wars series was deeply cornered in the late 1990s, possibly too unique for its time, and never managed to break free from its own genre, and that’s a shame, because this is the series that really taught me what it might be like to fly an aircraft not of this world. Also, not in this world. Yeah, sorry, Decent.

Story stuff. In Colony Wars, the player assumes the role of a nameless colonist involved in the expanding League of Free Worlds resistance movement. As a skilled League fighter pilot, you take orders from the Father in an attempt to overcome the oppressive Earth Empire and its massive naval fleets, which are spread across multiple colonies. I don’t know if it is simply the American Revolution in space, but it’s close enough. What’s really neat is that failing a mission in Colony Wars did not mean “game over,” just a new branch to follow. You can “fail” every mission in the game and still see it end, albeit through dire consequences. This allowed for the story to really feel unique, like your own, and certainly softened that blow when things didn’t go as perfectly as you planned them. Evidently, there are two alternative “good” endings, though I couldn’t tell you if I saw any of them. I definitely witnessed my fair share of “failed” missions though…

Speaking of missions, I remember them being quite many, as well as varied, though they naturally all involve you flying in your spaceship to some capacity. I think there’s about 70 in total, and you have to remember that you’ll only experience maybe a third or so based on your success or failure rates, making multiple playthroughs worth the effort. Let me see what some mission types were: perimeter defense, guarding supply lines, protecting capital fleetships, taking down opposing capital fleetships, dogfighting, infiltrating Imperial territory, and surveillance-style objectives, like obtaining Naval technology.

At the time, the graphics in Colony Wars were capable of being described as light years ahead of other PlayStation titles (pun intended). It did that thing where when your spaceship goes faster, speed lines appear around you in a circular fashion, something I’d probably scene on Star Trek or some other space-themed TV show. And there I was, the one piloting the ship, zooming forward through the emptiness towards that massive hulk in the distance, my target to destroy. It’s also one of the rare games that I enjoyed using the cockpit view more than the third-person camera, as seeing the inside of your ship and HUD really helped immerse yourself in the action, especially when you’d be flipping this way and that, hot on some enemy ship’s trail. Also, a friendly warning that should be heeded by all: do not look directly into the sun.

The game’s soundtrack is not exactly memorable, but upon giving it another go via the YouTubes, I’m finding it thematically appropriate. Dark, brooding, and capable of building to something that feels almost entirely overwhelming–perfect for backing up a contested dogfight out in the middle of no spaceman’s land. A great use of orchestra and electronica, but maybe a bit too unnerving for listening to when writing a blog post. I feel the need now to take down an evil-as-evil-gets ginormous battleship hiding in an asteroid belt singlehandedly; that, or entirely rewatch Battlestar Galactica for like the umpteenth time.

I’ve had a disc copy of Colony Wars: Vengeance in my collection for some time now, untouched, the manual glanced at occasionally, and I guess if I ever do really get that itch to fly through space and shoot some massive vessels I can give it a go. I don’t know much about this sequel to the original, save that it retains the idea of fail-able missions, but also lets your spaceship entire planets’ atmosphere to shake things up. However, it won’t be the same Colony Wars that I remember so fondly from 1997, that opened before my blossoming eyes and stretched out endlessly, that put a dot in the distance and directly me towards it. Let’s leave with a fitting Carl Sagan quote: “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

Suikoden II reminds you to not join the Highland Army’s youth division

suikoden 2 just starting

I like juggling multiple games at once, and so for the moment, here’s everything I’m tossing in a circular motion over my head: Dead Island, Diablo III, Harvest Moon: Back to Nature, The Swapper, and Disney Magical World. Someone off to my side just threw Suikoden II in with the bunch, but it’s okay; I’m a decent juggler. Here’s the real dirt–I first learned to juggle with baseballs because I was generally lousy at team sports and often asked to sit the bench for Little League, and it was one way to entertain myself. Hey, at least I was improving a skill, though not one that my coaches intended.

Anyways, Suikoden II. It was this or moving right on to Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, but I think I need a wee bit more breathing room from Hideo Kojima’s zany nanomachine-influenced mindfuckery for the time being, though I am still intent on playing the remainder of that series before 2014 comes to a close. So long as I can stay one game ahead of Dan and Drew over at Giant Bomb, I’m good. Granted, I also had ambitions about playing a horror game for this glorious month of October, namely Silent Hill 3–yes, another Konami game–but that might not happen given that I’m simultaneously juggling a bunch of comic projects (like Inktober, hint hint).

If you’ll recall, I found replaying Suikoden for the first time in many years to be…an experience. Sometimes an odd one, sometimes a mechanical one, sometimes a repetitive one, but in the end, an enjoyable one. It turned out to be a rather short RPG too in the grand scheme of things, but given that I’ve now sunk just under seven hours into Suikoden II and haven’t even gotten a castle headquarters yet, the sequel is looking to be a much longer, more thorough journey. Let’s get into it.

A real quick summary of the plot goes like this: Suikoden II begins with Riou–who I naturally renamed as Hodor–and his childhood friend Jowy Atreides working together in the youth division of the Highland Army. One night, unexpectedly, Luca Blight, the prince of Highland, orchestrates the slaughter of their unit, blaming it on the neighboring city-state of Jowston. This gives the madman justification for invading Jowston and snowballing a, more or less, civil war. Luckily, Hodor and Jowy escape, eventually making friends with those caught on the other side of battle.

First off, this is a very serious story. Cue ultra and dramatic soundtrack. There are teeny tiny splinters of humor in the game, but so far, they are only with Flik and Viktor and their festering bromance with one another. Otherwise, it’s all about politics and really evil people doing really evil things to innocent villagers; yes, Luca Blight, I’m looking directly at you for that “act like a pig” scene. The game does a great job of making you feel like you really did get swept into the middle of all this, but also prompts you, or rather Hodor, to be the hero destiny foretells. I still wish he wasn’t a mostly mute protagonist, but alas, that’s just how these games roll.

Structurally and gameplay-wise, not much sets Suikoden II apart from its predecessor, though it clearly looks a whole lot nicer. Battles remain turn-based, you still do one-on-one duels, and the large-scale army fights are still there, though tweaked to be more RTS than rock, paper, scissors. The cast is much grander right from the start, and I love that Suikoden‘s Flik and Viktor make a return here, playing extremely vital roles in guiding Hodor and his friends safely through war and strife. I’m curious to see if anything is different with upgrading your castle besides that cooking mini-game; honestly, I don’t even remember how you get your castle, so here’s looking forward to that surprise.

Stray observations, a format I’m totally stealing from The AV Club for the time being:

  • You can run by holding down the Circle button right from the beginning of the game, which does wonders for moving about towns. In Suikoden, you could only dash if you had a specific rune attached, the True Holy Rune, which is one of the reasons I ended up using Stallion a lot.
  • The flashy random battle transition takes advantage of the PlayStation’s ability to render 3D polygons, even in a 2D game.
  • Animations on the character sprites have been enhanced x10.
  • I’m still coming across some strange sound effects, especially when attacking enemies in battle. Sounds like a wet sponge being stepped on. Not as weird as a dragon trumpeting like an elephant, but odd nonetheless.
  • Already took like five photos of bad grammar/spelling mistakes in the opening hour alone.
  • At a glance, seems like inventory space is even MORE limited this time around. Grr. Funk that.
  • I’m happy to see that Unite attacks are more plentiful, especially early on. You end up using Hodor and Jowy’s “Buddy Attack” a lot because it targets all enemies on screen, but I also enjoy seeing Kinnison and Shiro take down an entire column of creepy spiders with their “Loyal Dog Attack”.
  • Already got like three recipes, so bring on the Iron Chef mini-game.

For the reasons I’ve stated above at the start of this post, I’m playing Suikoden II slower and in much shorter chunks. Granted, that might all change once Hodor gets his castle headquarters and can begin bringing in a swarm of friends and allies, but for now, I’m okay with the pace. After all, there’s a lot more heavy moments to take in here, and no matter how many times Nanami told Hodor he didn’t have to wait with her for Jowy’s return, I’ve got all the patience in the world. You can’t rush through the good times.