Tag Archives: GameStop

Adding to the Backlog – Greater than nine, but less than eleven PS2 games

gd adding to the backlog feb 2016 games

The world’s weird, and I say that because it was one year ago in February 2015 that I went out to my friendly neighborhood GameStop and grabbed a whole bunch of PS2 games for next to zero dollars. Well, I did it again the other day, feeling compelled to take one more gander before future purchases like these can only be done online, without the thrill of discovery. See, I moved from a house to an apartment since then, and there seems to be only one GameStop in my area still stocking shelves of case-less, manual-less PS2 games, and variety, in terms of selection, are growing slimmer by the day. I feel like I grabbed the last of whatever one might consider good games, leaving behind dozens and dozens of copies of Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, SingStar ABBA, and Madden NFL ’08, which I assume will eventually just get trashed.

Anyways, since there’s ten total, I’m just going to list ’em below, along with their prices. Keep in mind that these were already marked down for me being a Pro Member, as well as from the store running a 75% off promotion on all things old school. Oh boy. Here we go then, in alpha order:

  • Bombastic ($0.45)
  • Buzz! The Hollywood Quiz ($0.67)
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets ($0.67)
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ($0.67)
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban ($1.13)
  • Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law ($0.67)
  • Jak X: Combat Racing ($1.13)
  • Onimusha 2: Samurai’s Destiny ($0.67)
  • The Golden Compass ($0.45)
  • The Sims 2: Pets ($2.25)

All right. That’s a whopping $8.76 in total. Not too shabby, all in all. I’ll touch briefly on some of these and why, in my zany mind, I determined they were worth snagging on this last hurrah out into the wild. We’ll save a longer analysis and fleshed-out thoughts for down the road, when I actually get to play these. When that will be, I naturally can’t say, considering I haven’t even really dipped into the ones I got a year back, though I did attempt to play My Street and have a post-in-progress in my drafts folder on it…I should really do something about that soon.

Both Bombastic and Buzz! The Hollywood Quiz are games I’ve never heard of before. The former seems to involve exploding dice, and the latter is a, surprise surprise, multiplayer trivia show about pop culture.

Much like my fascination with all things Lord of the Rings, I’m just as curious about the videogame adaptations of the Harry Potter series. Specifically, the non-LEGO versions. I’ve only played a few before–one was a terrible DS title, and the other is a spin-off about Quidditch–but never any of the ones really dealing with the early going-ons of Harry and his school days. In short, I want to explore Hogwarts and go to classes and do a quest to figure out the new password for Gryffindor’s common room.

Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law…er, I have no idea what this is, having never watched a lot of the cartoon show. Why couldn’t I have found a videogame take on Home Movies instead?

Look, Jak X: Combat Racing. I really only got you to complete the collection, not because I want to play you. The driving around the desert and car combat from Jak 3 were my least favorite parts, so here’s a whole game devoted to that stuff. Insert some snarky comment from Daxter here.

I played an Onimusha game once, back in college, but I don’t think I could confidentially tell you which one or anything about it other than it was my roommate’s. They seem like decent character action titles, and I was surprised at how good the game actually looks for its day.

I’m a big fan of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, but less so of the film adaptation of the first book The Golden Compass. The theatrical version was too friendly and safe, scared to put children in danger. Heck, they even changed the ending, which would have greatly affected the plot in the next two films…if they ever got made. Pretty sure its reception was not great despite all the cute and cuddly dæmon voiced by mega stars, and they made a videogame tie-in, so I can only imagine how bad that turned out. Wait, I don’t have to imagine anymore…I own a copy. Woo?

Funny enough, I played The Sims 2: Pets at my girlfriend’s the other week, doing my best to recreate my kitty cats and a happy, stable home for all of us. I didn’t put a lot of work into either the cats or home, as I was just messing around and not planning on saving my progress. For example, instead of a bathroom, I simply had a toilet in the living room and surrounded it by plants. Anyways, for this price, I had to snag a copy for myself, which maybe I’ll mess around with once I am fully finished with The Sims FreePlay. You know, sometime in 2025. Sad zing.

Right. Well, here’s a whole bunch of more games to add to my backlog. May they wait patiently until it is their turn in the spotlight.

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You cannot mindlessly play Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition

gd puzzles and dragons bloopers

GameStop’s PowerUp Reward points are stupid. Or maybe I’m stupid. Certainly one of us is to blame, and, as a human stuffed with ridiculous emotions like pride and shame and deep-seated embarrassment, I’m inclined to place the fault on someone other than myself. So there. Well, no…let me explain more. Trust me, this story will eventually lead to both the reason why this blog post is about Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition and my early impressions on it, up to the end of World 1.

See, I recently noticed I had a ton of “points” in my PowerUp Rewards account, seeing as I’ve bought a number of things over the last few months, like an Xbox One, and decided to cash some of these points in for a single $25.00 redeemable coupon. In my mind, I was planning on burning this to buy four more amiibo card packs for Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer because I’m broken inside. No, really, I am. Utterly and completely damaged. Animal Crossing is one of my all-time favorite series, and now there are collectible cards out there that one can collect and caress and cherish until the end of time. Insert that Futurama meme hard as heck right here.

Anyways, this did not work out. Evidently, the $25 coupon can only be applied to a single item, not your final bill. Sure, that means I could waste it all on one $5.99 pack of amiibo cards, but I wouldn’t get any of that leftover credit. It would just vanish. Seems both like a waste of points and effort. So, instead, I looked around the store for something that was more than $25.00, and so a new copy of Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition for $30.00. Fine. I mean, after all, it was a game I wanted to play last year, but did not get to. Still, that $25.00 credit coupon is beyond misleading, and, unfortunately, it seemed like there was no way for me to return to the points to my account; doing that would have allowed me to at least create two $10.00 credit coupons, and thus two more amiibo card packs. Oh well–lesson stupidly learned.

Anyways, Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition takes the super popular in Japan free-to-play mobile model of Puzzle & Dragons and coats it in a cutesy, colorful Nintendo skin. I say that as if I know anything about Puzzle & Dragons vanilla, which I don’t. I’ll do my best now to explain it in mechanical terms. Gameplay revolves around matching three or more orbs of the same color/element by displacing one orb around the board to attack enemies. Each turn you conduct counts down as a timer for the monsters to attack your party. The goal is to complete the dungeon/level you enter by defeating every foe and surviving until the end. Also, skilled players can create chained combos for massive damage in a single turn.

I’ve only gone through the first world, which obviously loads up some tutorial stuff, but it’s pretty fun. Creating those big combos feels so dang good; also, missing those combos hurts more than I can explain. It’s not as simple as moving one orb over to another like in Pokemon Shuffle or Frozen Free Fall, since sliding the orb around the field affects other orbs in its path, and I don’t have the best handle on how this actually works. Plus, you’re timed. It can be a bit stressful, but truly satisfying too. Sometimes I score big, and sometimes my party of goombas and red winged turtles simply sit there, frozen in regret, bracing for the worst.

There’s actually a lot of options for you from early on to help build up a strong, capable team that will help you rescue Princess Peach from Bowser. Oh, did I not mention that she is kidnapped again? Good job, Nintendo. Really stretching those creativity muscles. Basically, you can sacrifice weaker teams members you aren’t using to power up a single team member. There are also items to find to help with this, as well as lot of experience points to earn along the way. Right now, I have three separate teams created, all of which have their strengths and weaknesses. Knowing what those are and picking a compatible leader is key to surviving some of the later fights, which deal out a ton of damage to your team if you don’t combo fast and early enough. There’s also a few grayed out options on the menu still to open up.

I’ve not gotten to try Puzzle & Dragons Z yet, which is the other game packed in, but I suspect I will eventually. Want to continue on this path for now so that I’m not trying to juggle two sets of similar teams in my mind. I also have to imagine it’s the weaker of the two titles in this nifty 3DS bundle though I’m curious to see how they work in a JRPG story around all these orbs. We’ll see in due time.

Seeking revenge against Sauron’s forces via slow menu screens

gd impressions xbox 360 shadow of mordor

When I heard that a Game of the Year edition of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor was coming out, I got the tingles. From my toes to the tip of my ears. That is to say, I felt the time was now right to see what was up with that sleeper-hit that everyone was talking about during the end of 2014’s podcast deliberations. I’m always a sucker for GOTY editions, especially since I’m ten out of ten times late to the party, and these end-all, be-all packages provide me with, ideally, everything I need to get the full experience, such as DLC and now useless pre-order bonuses, just many months later. Count me in.

However, when I got to GameStop and asked the duder behind the counter, he informed me that the GOTY versions were only for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Snartleblast and snakes. Or rather–for the love of Varda! Us ancient tortoises stuck in the “previous generation” were simply out of luck. Still, I had driven all the way over to this brick-and-mortar building and didn’t want to leave empty-handed, and so, with Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor still tickling away at my mind, I picked up a vanilla copy of it for the ol’ Xbox 360.

Back during all the praising and glorifying of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions were released a month or so after the current generation, with rumblings about how they were altered to not have the Nemesis system, a major element of the game that has you taking down Uruk and Orc captains and watching as the Dark Lord’s army shifts and shapes accordingly. This kept me at bay certainly, but no one seemed to care enough to cover them and confirm this. Well, as far as I can tell, the Nemesis is in the Xbox 360 version, though it might not be as robust or dynamic as the current generation; for example, I haven’t heard any mass of Uruks chanting their leader’s name to intimidate Talion, which is a big bummer.

Grinding Down readers should know how deep my love for J.R.R. Tolkien’s work goes, though many of the vidoegame interpretations fail to impress. I think LEGO Lord of the Rings so far is the only one I feel any kind of amazement towards. Definitely none for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring or Aragorn’s Quest. Anyways, from what I’ve gathered, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor does little to enhance Tolkien’s lore, but is still a ton of fun to play. I can concur with that sentiment, with one major caveat: it is a ton of fun to play, but not on Xbox 360.

Five paragraphs in, and I’m now only beginning to talk about the game proper. Welcome to my blog, new readers! This is par for the course. Right, here’s the four-one-one. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is an open world, third-person action romp, where the player controls a ranger called Talion who seeks revenge on the forces of Sauron after his wife and son are murdered. Initially, Talion is mortally wounded during this early massacre, but the wraith of the Elven Lord Celebrimbor is able to use his powers to keep Talion alive, gifting him magical, wraith-like abilities in the meantime.

I hate to do this, but I want to get to the part where I rant about this version’s quality so here’s the gameplay in comparison terms: running around the world is like Assassin’s Creed on speed, combat is prompt-heavy and taken from Arkham Asylum, stealth is not very deep, and in between story and side quest missions you can collect plants, artifacts, and ancient runes for experience points and lore. I’m enjoying Talion’s journey so far, but am taking my time to collect what I can and learn the ropes when it comes to fighting large groups of enemies or hunting down nearby captains. In fact, I have to take my time. Yes, thank you, that is a great lead-in into…

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor‘s menus are atrociously slow to load, to the point that I am constantly reaching for my phone to do something while I wait for the opportunity to do something in-game to appear. The problem? You use menus a lot in this digital Middle-earth, whether it is scrutinizing your intel on Sauron’s army, upgrading your weapons with collected runes, unlocking perks for Talion and his skills, or engrossing yourself in the appendices. Oh, and don’t forget the map, if you are interested in seeing what events/collectibles are around you at the moment. It’s so lousy that, at certain points, I’ve had to restrain myself from hitting pause and just go forward without doing whatever I thought I could do quickly. Couple this with textures frequently not loading (or taking forever to load in, even during cutscenes), choppy audio issues, and some hitching, and you have a less-than-impressive version of what many proclaim to be an impressive game. The Xbox 360 version also has a 5 GB mandatory install, which nearly filled up my hard-drive.

That all said, I won’t be moving into the new generation for a good while, certainly not until Fallout 4 is ready to be purchased and played, so this is the best I can do for now. It’s not unplayable, but like with Gandalf’s trepidation about entering the Mines of Moria, I wish there was another way around. For now, I’ll get back to tracking Gollum, freeing slaves, and cinematically slicing off the heads of Uruks with unequivocally cool names.

Adding to the Backlog – Seven PS2 Games at a Severe Discount

attb ss23_2-219568_640w

My original and only intent for heading to the local GameStop over the weekend was to pick up a used copy of The Last of Us, that way I could continue onwards from where I left of after playing a friend’s copy during that overly hyped blizzard last week. As I’m wont to do, I checked out the mini-section for PlayStation 2 games, since I think this shop and one other in the area are the last of their kind to still sell these case-less games for real cheap. It’s certainly only a matter of months until they stop. So, I saw a sign, a literal one hanging right in front of me–all PS2 games were 75% off. Oh boy.

I stopped doing these “adding to the backlog” posts long ago as it just didn’t interest me to call out every new game that I either got or downloaded for free. Which happens pretty frequently with me, thanks to indie bundles and PlayStation Plus and so on. Some purchasing occasions are more exciting than others, like this one. I can’t expect many to care, though SlickGaming might take note to see if his local GameStops are also running a similar promotion. Right. Here’s what I nabbed, and for future reference I’m going to include how much each one cost me after taking 75% off the listed price tag:

Dark Angel: Vampire Apocalypse

Bought for $0.67. Yup, that’s sixty-seven cents. Be prepared to see others in this listed around the same price. Anyways, I had no idea what this was, but after some quick research, it seems to be an action RPG inspired by titles like Diablo and Fallout. Okay, sounds good. Though I’m quite puzzled over how the main character’s anatomy works on the case’s cover, which, thankfully, did not come with my purchase.

My Street

Bought for $0.45. A mini-game collection with a plot involving you being the new kid in the neighborhood and beating an infamous bully to the ground before the first day of school starts. Yeah, I can get behind that, but it doesn’t seem like there’s a ton to My Street. I feel like I played a demo of it way back in the day and liked what I saw, but the memory for that is extremely fuzzy. Call me crazy, but I’m more inclined to try this one out first of the whole group.

Sonic Mega Collection Plus

Bought for $2.25, which was the highest of the bunch, but that makes sense when you realize that Sonic Mega Collection Plus is actually twelve to fourteen games on a single disc. A few of those copy over to my copy of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection, but that’s okay. A collection is a collection, and there’s some rarer Sonic titles here, though I promise to never touch Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine again. Still bummed to hear about Sega leaving the gaming business.

007: Agent Under Fire

Bought for $0.45. Funny enough, 007: Agent Under Fire was eventually going to be a Games I Regret Parting With post, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. Now I never will. It was actually my first Bond game, though I have no memory of how it went, save for some weird wristwatch shooting sections.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4

Bought for $0.45. Skating!

Tony Hawk’s Underground 2

Bought for $0.67. More skating!

Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland

Bought for $0.67. I NOW HAVE ALL THE SKATEBOARDING GAMES, I WILL NEVER TIRE OR GROW WEARY OF SKATEZ AND HALFPIPES AND SICK, SWEET OLLI TRICKS NO NEVER!

Woo, seven more games to…well, not play right away. Yup, you know me, I have a few other things to attend to first, such as finishing up The Last of Us, DuckTales Remastered, and possibly starting either Final Fantasy IX or Silent Hill 3, both of which are on my to-do list for 2015. Also, now I want to pop over to the other local GameStop and see what PS2 games they have for super cheap before the deal vanishes and they just toss everything into a bin and set it ablaze. Gah, it never ends.

Disney Magical World simply asks you to collect the world

disney magic castle 3DS 36176608

I ended up nabbing a copy of Disney Magical World for the Nintendo 3DS a couple weeks ago and have been chipping away at it ever since. The first GameStop I went to, however, didn’t even have a single copy available since, according to the slack-jawed guy behind the counter, “We got no pre-orders for it.” Hmm. I went home defeated, but returned a few days later to a different GameStop and was lucky enough to snatch from the shelves their only copy. I guess the game isn’t in high demand, since everyone probably has Animal Crossing: New Leaf to keep them busy daily, and I get that. But I was also very curious about what Disney Magical World does differently. Surprisingly, a lot.

First off, you’re not the mayor of this magical castle and the realms surrounding it. Instead, you’re you. Well, at least I am. You can either create an avatar from scratch or use a Mii you’ve previously created, and I love seeing my Mii in action in games like Find Mii 2, so I went down that path. Plus, for a game all about customizable clothes, I want to see what I look like in a Mickey-themed apron–and only a Mickey-themed apron–not some passable clone of an avatar. Anyways, you’re dropped into this magical world with no big, hard goal to complete; instead, you’re out to earn stickers, which will help unlock other areas in the hub world, as well as give you new recipes for clothes, furniture, and other stuff. Early on, you’ll unlock one thing after another, so the pacing and progression is constantly rewarding, but around the 28-33 sticker mark, I hit a lull and had to actively plan on getting some stickers to help keep things going forward. Not a major problem, really, as by then there’s plenty of other stuff to occupy your brain even if, technically, progress is stalled.

See, Disney Magical World is one big collectathon. If you don’t know what that means, it’s a combination of collectibles and marathon, and that’s the fuel driving every action you more or less take here. In all the various hub worlds, spots on the ground will shimmer just like in JRPGs like Dragon Quest IX and Ni no Kuni, indicating an item to find, and these glow spots refresh pretty quickly if you’re looking to grind for, say, balloon apples. You can also gain items from fishing, doing miscellaneous fetch quests, and killing ghosts (more on that later). Some of these items are good for selling, some for mixing to create recipes, and some for making clothes and furniture. And some are more rare than others, requiring you to devote a decent chunk of time to fishing or planting crops to gain ’em. It’s a lot of alchemy without the alchemy pot, and if there’s one thing I love, it’s taking one item and fusing it with another to create something even cooler.

Pretty early on, you end up being the manager of the local café, which I decided to call the Drinkpad. This means you can select and create the dishes served for customers, change the room’s layout and theme, and throw big parties, the kind that might even gain the attention of some of the bigger Disney characters, like Stitch and Cinderella. There are even café-specific quests to complete, and this is where you’ll make most of your money, so long as you keep on top of inventory stock and what the people really want. Eventually, you’ll get to live above the café and can also decorate your bedroom a bit; not to the crazy extent of some other life simulator, but enough to make it feel like yours. I appreciate the ability to change your background music.

Strangely, my favorite aspect of Disney Magical World, so far, is the combat. Yeah, you read that correctly–the combat. Whenever I describe the gameplay of Animal Crossing: New Leaf to someone, I always make sure to mention that there’s no fighting, no boss battles, and hand-to-hand violence. That you just live a life and collect stuff and make your own non-violent fun. And the same can be said here as well, but you also get to take on missions that have you dungeon-crawling and zapping ghosts with your wands. It’s not a very complicated system; you can shoot a blast of energy from your wand with a simple button tap or hold to charge up for a stronger shot. Depending on your gear, you also get a set number of magic spells to use, though you can refill these as you go along, gathering items, hitting switches, and exploring the map. Instead of a roll, you can twirl out of the way of enemies by hitting the shoulder button, and that’s pretty important as, so far as I’ve seen, there’s no way to recover your health along the way. At the end of each dungeon is a boss ghost, complete with a long health bar to deplete, and upon kicking its butt, you’re rewarded even more items for your inventory. It’s not very challenging, but it helps break up the pace of simply running around, farming glow spots.

Honestly, there’s a lot to this game. I’ve not even touched on everything, though this post is now getting kinda long. I’ll write more later, I knows it. But yeah, just like Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Disney Magical World is perfect for picking up and playing for ten or fifteen minutes only to realize a half hour has gone by and I still need to collect more character cards and check on Pooh’s garden and find a pumpkin so I can go to Cinderella’s ball and and and…

Evolving with a new generation in Pokemon X and Y

Pokemon Y early impressions

I haven’t touched a Pokemon game since beating Pokemon White 2 earlier this year, but the unwritten rule in my heart still says that I will purchase every new Pokemon game that comes out, no hesitation. And so, on Saturday, after learning that Sears was booked up for hours and unable to take my car for an oil change and a busted brake light, I swung by the GameStop and stood in a line made up of mostly young kids, trying to decide right there and then which version of the game to get. And then the moment was upon me: Pokemon X or Pokemon Y? I went with the latter because Y not.

Anyways, I’ve already dropped about four to five hours into the colorful beast, defeating the first gym leader with ease and waking up a sleeping Snorlax and learning a bit about the mysterious O-Powers that reside deep within me. My team currently consists of mainly a Fennekin, a Squirtle, a Fletching, a Farfetch’d, and two spots filled with random Pokemon that I’m giving a trial run, to see if they are interesting enough to stay. Not yet sure of what my dream team is going to look like in the end, but I know that the Fennekin and Squirtle are definitely staying. Sure, it’s early on and Fletching’s just a bird, but pretty cool-looking if you ask me.

This won’t surprise any of you: Pokemon Y is a Pokemon game, and if you’ve played one before, this is all that and a bag of chips, with a few new minor twists to either enhance your experience or detract from it. You pick your starting Pokemon, get handed a Pokedex, and are asked to fill it full of data while exploring the Kalos region. There’s also a mystery about mega evolutions to investigate, but it’s this iteration’s throwaway sub-plot that pops up frequently in these adventures. In Pokemon White, there was a whole bit about treating Pokemon ethically, and HeartGold has members of Team Rocket chasing after you. I’m sure it won’t come to much, but that’s okay, as battling and collecting pocket monsters is continuously a joy, and the graphical overhaul really makes the fights come alive. Seriously, Fennekin’s flame attacks look absolutely stunning, helping you forget that you simply just pushed a button to make it happen.

Your mileage may vary, but some enhancements to me are that you get rollerblades (instead of a bike) very early into the adventure, and they are always on and usable via the circle pad; if you want to walk, use the d-pad. Also, let’s give it up for the refined EXP Share, which is now a key item that you can turn on or off. Here’s a tip: never turn it off. Before, you had to give this item to a specific Pokemon to hold, and they’d gain a percentage of EXP after a battle, even if they didn’t participate. Now, with the item always on, every Pokemon in your party gains EXP after each battle, which helps keep your team balanced and roughly around the same levels. I’ve already seen some folks online crying foul over this, that it makes the game far too easy, but I don’t see a problem with it. Trainer customization seems neat, too, but there isn’t much available to select from just yet besides a new hat and maybe a different shirt; I can’t wait to dress like a true lumberjack pretending to be a Trainer.

Because I entered Pokemon gaming fandom fairly late in my twenties, not counting a few times I tried to play the TCG or watch the TV show, I recognize very few of the critters that pop out of the grass, save for the most iconic ones, like Pikachu and…um, that other one. A lot of people are excited for Pokemon X and Y as it shows off the original generation over some of the more recent incarnations, but they are all mostly new to me, which I’m loving. I mean, from what I can tell, my teams have all been strikingly different across the various ‘mon games in my collection, and I’m hoping to find a really cool Fairy type to use down the road (sorry, Flabébé), as they are humanity’s only hope against a Dragon-based gym.

Still haven’t messed around with the new mini-games like Pokemon-Amie or whatever else they have hidden in some city building. These are generally decent distractions, but I only ever got really invested in Voltorb Flip from HeartGold, which was an addicting mix of Picross and Minesweeper. Still haven’t had a sky battle, but I did experience a horde battle, which felt a little underwhelming. It’s only been a day or two, but haven’t connected with anyone online to battle or trade, and have always found this process to be overcomplicated in previous games so I’m genuinely curious to see if the 3DS is able to make interactivity easier. Also, still haven’t found a Garbodor yet. Sigh…

All in good time, hopefully.

Died four times during Shin Megami Tensei IV’s first hour

smt iv death at first boss

So, yesterday, I picked up Shin Megami Tensei IV. At first, I couldn’t find it on the shelf at my local GameStop, not realizing that SMT IV got the special Atlus love, seeing it packaged it with a nice art/strategy book and soundtrack CD, placing it in a larger-than-norm 3DS box. Regardless, I got my copy and was able to play around an hour or so last night before I passed out before I could even enjoy the absurdity that is the Feedback Booth on Antiques Roadshow. Anyways, Atlus’ new role-playing adventure is cool, but I died four times and am not even out of the training tutorial thingy yet. Looks like it’s gonna be Devil Summoner Overclocked all over again.

SMT IV begins with a booming voice telling you that your choices will not just affect yourself. Yeah, that’s obvious. We call that living. And then, suddenly, your first choice is upon you: name the protagonist. I deleted Flynn and typed in Pauly. What happens next is unclear, but has you running around a destroyed landscape speaking with some folks that say cryptic things. It’s probably a dream. When you speak to a young girl who asks you to revive her, you are transported elsewhere, to the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado. Your buddy Isshachar introduces himself and tells you a bit about the Gauntlet Rite, which allows people to become Samurai.

To cut to the chase, Pauly is successful in becoming a Samurai. Afterwards, he meets some other graduates: Walter, Jonathan, Navarre, and Isabeau. Under the stern guidance of a man ironically named Hope, we five must endure some training exercises in Naraku, the Hall of Flame. These are basically tutorial stuff, which help you learn the basics of moving around an environment, how your chit-chatty menu device Burroughs works, and various aspects of combat (press turn, recruiting, leveling up). I was able to get through the first few quests just fine, but the last one–well, I assume it is the last one–which involves finding a specific item for Hope has consequently kicked my butt four times in a row. That’s because there’s a boss guarding the item, and it’s able to wipe out Pauly and company in two turns. We’re either underpowered, it’s either overpowered, or the game is just ridiculously hard from the get-go.

Now, when you die in SMT IV, you are transported to the Underworld. The Nether Realm. The Deadlands. I dunno. It’s a place of lost souls, and a man named Charon there will offer to revive you to the point just before where you died…for a price. Basically, some of your Macca, maybe about 75%. If you don’t have enough, he’ll still revive you, but put your bill on a tab, which you’ll have to pay later. I think I saw a forum thread somewhere mentioning that you can eventually use Play Coins too. The second time I died I was taken elsewhere, since Charon was busy sucking souls or something, and offered the ability to now change the difficulty level. Two more deaths after that have just resulted in a large tab.

I’m really looking forward to more demon recruiting though, as that aspect seems completely zany and random and wonderful. That’s where the real quirk shows up so far, followed by Burroughs calling me, “Hot stuff.” Recruiting is a multiple choice guessing game, wherein you might gain a friend, make an enemy, or just cause a demon to run away. I’ve not had much luck, getting only a…you know, I don’t really know the names of these demons. One is two centaurs joined, another is a gooey zombie, and the other is some kind of creepy doll. Have not opened up the ability to fuse and stuff, but I’m sure that’ll be soon enough.

A rough start, but I’m not deterred. Tonight I will do some more grinding and running back to the barracks to rest up and heal for free before I try to take on the item-guarding boss again. Ideally, I’d like Pauly to be around level 6, as well as my team of demons. That said, I need to recruit a few more, especially one with some healing magic. Don’t know if those thrive in Naraku or not. We’ll see, SMT IV. Pray for my soul.