Category Archives: randomness

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 – 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.

Je ne comprends pas The City of Lost Children, d’accord

There were two big events in my childhood/teenhood that caused me to stay home from school for several days and recover in bed or on the living room couch with lots of tea, buttered white toast, and TV sitcom marathons. Also videogames on the television, all on my SNES or PlayStation 1 with the kewl PSM lid cover, but I did eat up nearly an entire run of Gilligan’s Island at some point too though perhaps that was just a highly visual fever dream. My favorite character is Mary Ann, by the way, and the episode most firmly cemented in my brain revolved around a method actor visiting the island and pretending to be a Tarzan-like jungle lord. Shrugs.

Right, back to the stay-at-home events. One had to do with me getting my wisdom teeth removed, and the other was related to an injury to my left knee that required surgery, pain killers crushed up in applesauce, and physical therapy. Both were not fun and had me in various states of wooziness, and I don’t remember exactly which event it was, but for one of them, my mother let me rent a bunch of games for the PlayStation to keep me entertained. Me thinks it was for the wisdom teeth removal, since I knew when that was happening and wanted some guaranteed pleasures during the downtime.

Well, I selected three PlayStation 1 games from our local store that rented games (not a Blockbuster, sorry), all on their box art alone–Destruction Derby, The City of Lost Children, and Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror. I mean, look at how cool these covers are:

Er, maybe not. Well, I thought they were killer then.

Of these, I remember enjoying Destruction Derby a lot, not understanding how a point-and-click adventure game worked in Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror, especially using a controller, and being completed dumbfounded by The City of Lost Children, which, if you didn’t already know, is an adaptation of the 1995 movie of the same name by French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Also, if you’re not familiar with the film, you have no chance of understanding what’s going on in this game–trust me on this. The introductory cutscene doesn’t really explain anything, not even introducing you to the character you will be playing as for the entire game. Thankfully, the manual offers a brief summary of the plot, but even that is not much to work from.

I’ll do my best here. The City of Lost Children takes place in a nameless, steampunk-inspired city by the seaside. A less-than-good scientist, most likely evil, has his henchmen kidnap children in order to steal their dreams to prevent the process of his premature aging. Y’know, normal kidnapping reasons. Anyways, the opening cutscene shows one of these children getting kidnapped, and that’s really all the information the game gives you before giving you control over 12-year-old Miette, which means “crumb” in French. You start inside a classroom, with a pair of Siamese sisters at the front telling you to go steal money from some hut because they said so.

Little to my teenage knowledge, this was an adventure game. Not exactly a point and click one, but still one where you walked around, gathered items, and made progress by using those items on people or other items to make things happen. Like a Metroidvania, but with less action involved. Considering it would still be many, many years before I would fall in love with the genre, I probably went into The City of Lost Children thinking it was in the same vein as things like Resident Evil or Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain. Boy was I not at all right. Not one teeny tiny bit. I’d later come to have fun with Blazing Dragons and Discworld II: Mortality Bytes!, so this being an adventure game alone had nothing to do with my terrible time with it. That is a result of it being exceedingly obtuse and poorly designed.

A strong memory that stands out: Miette, saying “I can’t do anything” or “I can’t manage it,” every time you interact on something she can’t do anything with. Which was on a lot of items in that early portion of the game I banged my head against. Compound this with the sluggish, tank-like controls and sometimes odd camera angles that made it hard to see where something lead to another screen, and my rented time with the game was spent wandering around the first few areas aimlessly until I decided enough was enough and at least knew what to do with my vehicle in Destruction Derby–crash it. Which is a shame, because I thought The City of Lost Children looked stunning at the time, and, while the polygons are not as sharp as today’s standards, there’s still a strong, off-kilter aesthetic here from Psygnosis, the British developer that gave us gems like Colony Wars, G-Police, and, uh, Hexx: Heresy of the Wizard, that makes this one of the more unique-looking games from the generation.

Anyways, I’m sure someone has paid it forward and done a recorded playthrough of The City of Lost Children and put it up for free on the Internet for everyone to watch. Maybe one day I’ll even search it out. Until then, I hope you enjoyed this random trip down my memory lane.

My Laptop Hates These Games – November 2017

Well, I suspected this was coming, but my laptop is currently knocking on death’s door. Which totally makes sense, seeing how out-of-date it is and old in technology years and running Windows 10 with all its little might despite being designed to probably never do so. Anyways, I’ve been slowly backing files up and using an even older, less technologically advanced laptop in the meantime, one which sees a lot of error message pop-ups upon booting to the desktop and also doesn’t like to play many games built in Unity. Granted, it can play some things, like Samorost 3 and Mythic Wonders: The Philosopher’s Stone and others, but not everything. So at least this brand new feature of mine can continue marching forward because there’s always a laptop out there, hating on games.

Actually, no. This may or may not be the last edition of My Laptop Hates These Games, as I’m getting a shiny new laptop soon. In fact, it might have even arrived by the time this post goes up. Now, I went with one that was more focused on running my drawing tablet and art programs than playing big AAA games, as I’ll save those grandiose experiences for the consoles. Still, we’ll see if it is able to run the miscellaneous indie thing here and there. Stay tuned regardless to see if this feature runs once more at the end of December.

Onward though to the few games I tried to play this month, but was unable to…

Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms

I’ve become less enamored with clickers as time goes on, and they really need to do something to hold my attention or come at the concept of an idle game from a new perspective. Like Plantera, which asks you to be more involved in the going-ons of your growing garden. I don’t know if Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms, an official Dungeons & Dragons idle clicker game, does any of that, as the game simply refuses to run. According to its description, this freebie challenges players to assemble a party of champions and master the art of formation strategy. I assume there’s some clicking involved.

Over the Moonlight

When I tried to launch Over the Moonlight, I immediately got an error message that says the game I’m trying to run requires a 64bit version of Windows. Huh. It also then provided a link to some information about acquiring a refund, but I’m pretty sure this was a free download on the Steam store and so no biggie though it seemed like a neat and calm walking simulator through a purple-and-yellow landscape at night.

I Am Here

I Am Here, not to be mixed up with I’m Still Here which I played earlier this year, was a big download, which turned into a big letdown after not getting it to run after all that effort. Also, it’s a narrative driven exploration game focusing on mental health and social change, something not touched on enough in games of all shapes and sizes. According to its description, you play as Karen, a successful writer in her earlier days, as she searches for her missing partner. To do this, you’ll explore your surroundings to experience memories of her past and discover the struggles Karen and her partner faced as a gay couple in the 1960s. I might try to revisit this on my forthcoming newer laptop because the subject matter and look of the game call out to me greatly.

Forever Space

Forever Space from Pinhead Games looks like a somewhat traditional point-and-click adventure game with a definitely unique style to it. There’s cartoony mixed with 3D environments. Greg Winston and four other crew mates begin a volunteer work program on Space Station Capricorn, but it doesn’t take long before they notice something isn’t right and the station’s Overseers become difficult to find. This evidently results in the crew becoming suspicious of one another. The plot sounds intriguing, and I love me an adventure game set not on the planet Earth, but this refused to run, though I was able to listen to some of its audio against a black screen before uninstalling the whole thing. Guess we’ll never know if it was more than paranoia.

My Laptop Hates These Games takes a quick look at the titles that kind of, only sort of run or don’t run at all on my ASUS laptop. Here’s hoping that some of these, specifically the ones that looked interesting, come to console down the road. Y’know, those gaming machines where nothing ever goes wrong and every game runs perfectly without ever crashing or freezing or glitching out. Maybe I’ll play these there or in 2056 when I get a new laptop that is, even at that point, still somewhat obsolete.

Miitopia is two games in one and maybe never-ending

After 25-ish hours of battling monsters, eating food, leveling up, and taking down the Dark Lord Ron Swanson, I assumed I was closing in on Miitopia‘s end credits. Well, you know the dangers of assuming. Turns out that I wasn’t even close, having now poured an extra 20+ hours into the ordeal, because there was still more to do and see, and I’ll keep this mostly spoiler-free and say that someone takes the Dark Lord’s place to continue creating problems for your team of diversified heroes and heroines. That’s fine, really; the weird part though is that the game switches up its pace and flow and feel in a way that makes it seem like an entirely different game halfway through.

For the first, main chunk of my Miitopia time, I was just moving forward across the map, going to where the red exclamation point said to go to, fighting monsters, eating food, and building relationships all along the way. It’s a pretty linear affair. I focused on a few particular party members, upgrading their weapons and armor when able to and generally trying to keep everyone balanced, but eventually one team of four was more leveled up than another. Thankfully, as irritating as it seemed at the time, the game frequently decided to split my current party up, forcing me to use Miis I’d not put as much time into. I’d also occasionally grind out a few areas to ensure I collected every treasure chest and saw where all paths lead, but otherwise it was all steam ahead.

By the time you near taking on the final final boss, the game switches things up, mechanically and even with the UI. You have access to a flying dragon and the Travelers Hub, where Miis will give you specific quests to do. So instead of having a singular goal to follow, you suddenly now have multiple paths to go down, with room to grind and explore. Also, something to touch upon, but you can totally exploit the game tickets situation to your benefit. Here’s how–wait until you get a good roulette wheel with a large slice dedicated to a high-level weapon, then keep spinning, landing on the weapon, and selling it for lots of gold. I was able to make about 50,000 gold after just a few spins, which let me buy a ton of solid gear for my team.

Initially, I was heavily put off by Miitopia‘s combat system, which basically only lets you control the actions of your avatar. However, as time went on, I got used to many of the battles being on auto-run, and the introduction and upgrading of HP bananas, MP candy, and various sprinkle shakers did let me have some control in how the fights went. It was more interactive than I initially assumed, so shame on me, and now I’m curious to maybe go back and see if Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light is as bad as I’ve built it up to be in my mind. The fights never got too tough or insurmountable, up to the final boss fight, which, as I suspected, required everyone you had collected in your posse at that point to bring the heat, and several peeps were underleveled and needed to be grinded up a bit. Not grinded up into bits. Pay attention now.

I’m usually really bad at keeping up with post-game content. Like, for Ever Oasis, I thought I’d love to continue bringing in people to my oasis, leveling up shops, and diving deeper into randomly-generated dungeons for valuable rewards…but I haven’t gone back to it once since I got Miitopia. The same sort of thing happened with Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies, despite my logged hours count saying otherwise. Chrono Trigger also has a New Game+ mode after you put Lavos in its ugly alien parasite place, with even more endings and an exclusive Dimensional Vortex section only found in the Nintendo DS version, which, if you’ll remember, I both loved and disliked. All of that is to say–Miitopia‘s post-game content is great and keeps me coming back to it on a daily basis.

Quest-givers continuously show up in the Travelers Hub zone to demand you do something for them, usually deliver a gift to a friend in another area or defeat a tough monster, all of which offer great rewards for completing, such as rare foods, game tickets, or better gear. Also, there’s two brand new islands to explore, two additional character classes to unlock, and the ability to make dozens upon dozens more team members, if you want. For me, since my main character originally started out as a thief, then became an imp, and finished as a mad scientist, I never got to see many of the outfits and weapons for those first two classes, so I made Jennifer Aniston as my thief and haven’t decided yet on the imp, but someone‘s coming. The real draw for me continuing to play Miitopia is seeing all its content, because the weapons and armor are creative and fun, the music is astounding, and there’s plenty of strange food to eat and kooky monsters to battle still to go. Oh, and there are 250+ Achievement-like medals to earn, of which I’ve done only 50% so far.

I knew I was going to like Miitopia‘s style and tone long before the game came out, but was worried that its somewhat hands-off gameplay was not going to keep me engaged. I’m happy to have my initial reluctance turned completely on its head, with Nintendo’s pleasant, quirky turn-based RPG about people losing their faces resulting in one of my favorite releases in 2017.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Monster Jam: Battlegrounds

Monster Jam: Battlegrounds is a bad game. I thought I’d just put that up front here in this new feature for Grinding Down where I finally start taking a look at the many, many PlayStation Plus titles I have installed on my PlayStation 3. Why? Well, the service is not what it once was in terms of the games you get (at least for the console I’m still on), and I’m looking to ultimately cancel it down the road. Unlike Microsoft’s Games with Gold program, you don’t get to keep the titles from Sony, so I should try some of them out before I cut ties and these disappear for good.

Let’s get to it. Monster Jam: Battlegrounds is Trials, but instead of motorbikes you use monster trucks to get the job done. The job is usually going from the left side of the screen to the right side. Actually, that comparison is completely unfair to the Trials franchise, which is noteworthy for its physic-based controls and steep challenge, but high level of polish. Also, completing a tough jump in Trials Evolution felt do-able and was really rewarding; here, you are fighting at every twist and turn to keep these monster trucks upright, almost as if they are hollow inside. Ugh.

There are three modes: Skill Driving, Stadium Events, and Stunt. Each is less exciting than the previous one. Skill Driving has you trying to reach certain areas by maintaining momentum and not toppling over. Stadium is a ridiculous scenario where you drive in a circle two or three times and beat an opponent doing the same thing, and to call this a “race” is an insult to the very definition of the word. Stunt wants you to use your boost power effectively and see how far you can make a monster truck fly through the air. These are all straightforward and over quickly, which makes the long load times to get to them and unresponsive controls all the more frustrating.

So, in the end, not a keeper. The physics are appalling, the challenge and graphic designs are lackluster, the audio is a mess, cutting in and out and culminating into one large crunch of static, crowd cheers, and cheesy rock music, and it takes forever to play, which, for a game I don’t want to play all that much, makes the decision to uninstall pretty easy. Didn’t even need to boost.

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.