Tag Archives: Konami

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Vandal Hearts

At first, I couldn’t remember the name of this game. Was it Valiant Hearts? No, that was the dramatic Great War take starring a cool dog from a few years back. Was it Vigilante Hearts? No, though something under that title does appear to exist. At last, after some light Googling, I figured it out and everything came rushing back…Vandal Hearts, one of my first stabs at a strategy RPG, as well as the title that helped pave the way for future classics like Final Fantasy Tactics and the Ogre Battle series. Too bad this one didn’t really go anywhere. Also, don’t expect it to show up on the forthcoming PlayStation Classic…though I’m surprised that both a sequel and a prequel were later made.

Anyways, this Vandal Hearts is a turn-based tactical role-playing video game developed by my once favorite companies Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo for the original PlayStation back in 1997. It’s got a lot of what many modern, staple SRPGs have these days, such as Fire Emblem and its ilk: a grid-based map, a variety of abilities to employ, and rock/paper/scissors combat. Y’know, warriors with swords kill archers, archers kill hawknights, and hawknights kill swordsmen. There’s also healers, mages, heavy armor warriors, and monks to contend with–who later can turn into ninja, y’know like all monks eventually do. Your enemies for each mission is comprised of similar classes, and it’s your responsibility to exploit their weaknesses, and not every mission is about destroying all the enemies as other objectives are in play.

Vandal Hearts‘ story, as far as I can remember and dig up info on, revolves around one Ash Lambert, a young warrior tormented by the traitorous legacy of his father. Ash and his wonderfully named cast of allies have dedicated themselves to stopping a power-mad dictator named Hel Spites–what a name–from rising to power. It’s a bit traditional, but I liked a lot of the characters and dialogues, and there are some early twists to deal with that make their progress slow and, at times, a little dull.

I definitely did not ever beat Vandal Hearts. I probably didn’t even get too far into the whole affair as I knew early on that SRPGs just weren’t my cup of tea. Though many years later some titles would change my mind momentarily. I do remember being confused why archers were not able to shoot diagonally. Also, moving a cursor around with a PlayStation console was a chore and never felt fluid. Still, it’s a game I think about from time to time, maybe because I dig its aesthetic so much, or because I spent so much of my lonely teenager years hanging out with my best friend the gray videogame console adorned with PSM lid stickers, and the music is super solid.

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.

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#GameStruck4 – The Four Games That Define Me

I’m a sucker for memes, especially videogame ones, but alas, this #GameStruck4 one seems to be mega popular only on Twitter, a platform I’m not really active on anymore. So I’m doing it here instead and using it as an excuse to write about four very important games in my upbringing. As if I haven’t already touched upon these masterpieces in the past. Oh, and these are all from my SNES and PlayStation 1 days, which is really where gaming got its hooks into me–sorry, GameBoy–and I’m sure I could come up with four for every console generation I’ve gotten to experience up to this very day and date, but these are the ones that certainly shaped me early on.

Suikoden II

Ah, my sweet, sweet Suikoden II. You were everything I liked about the first Suikoden and then some, showing me that characters, that tiny bits of sprites and colors and text boxes, were just as believable and real and full of feelings as 3D polygonal dudes and dudettes. And Suikoden II has so many great characters. Here, let me name a few: Jowy, Nanami, Viktor, Flik, Bolgan, Luc, Clive, Luca Blight, and so on.

I replayed the game back in 2014 and wrote a bunch of thoughts along the way, many that I don’t need to rehash here. It’s a game that continues to live on inside me, and I often find myself comparing a lot of things to it. Or comparing it to everything. Either take works. Like, if a game lets you recruit party members, that’s cool and all, but six pales in comparison to 108 Stars of Destiny. No cooking minigame will ever beat Suikoden II‘s cooking minigame, and watching your castle grow and expand as your army increases makes going out and finding these new recruits worth it.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is probably the first game to ever make me cry. Not out of joy or love or the beauty of its colorful pixels, but frustration. I was young and struggled to beat a boss, and it affected me greatly. I remember physically tossing my SNES controller, something I’ve never done again. I’ve since grown from this time and now have backpacks full of patience, but this game, if anything, taught me to take things slow, to examine and prepare, to live in these environments and not rush to the next screen just for some shiny object or plot point. There’s a good number of secrets to discover in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and playing around with teleporting between the Light World and Dark World is one of my favorite time-killers, especially if it resulted in an extra Heart Piece or path to a new area.

Super Metroid

Super Metroid oozes atmosphere without saying a whole lot directly. You really have to pay attention to the environment to rise above it and defeat all the Space Pirate bosses. The two most long-lasting memories for me for Super Metroid, a game I’ve most definitely replayed a bunch and claim (back in 2011) has the most epic scene ever, are when you first get to the powerless and ghost-infested Wrecked Ship on Zebes and learning how to wall-jump from the blue, monkey-like Etecoons.

For the former, the eerie stillness of the area is immediately unnerving, and your constants, such as upgrading the map and restoring health and missiles via the respective stations, no longer work until you switch the power back on. There’s a ton of implied storytelling here, like piecing together that the ghosts are actually the deceased crew. For the latter, you need to watch the critters work their magic leaping wall to wall and then replicate it; otherwise, you aren’t going anywhere. It’s not easy, but when you successfully climb that tall column and hit the top, getting higher than the Etecoons, it feels beyond amazing. It’s also neat to know that you can do this move at any point in the game, from the very start. You just don’t know about it until until you run into them later.

Metal Gear Solid

I’m bummed to no longer have a physical copy of this game unlike the three listed above, especially when you consider how essential the retail box is to a specific part in the story. Still, when I bought the Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection 1987 – 2012 for the PlayStation 3, it came with digital download codes for Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Sold: VR Missions. Both of which I played through relatively recently when I was on a sojourn to see this series through from start to finish; my progress came to a complete and grinding halt during Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, which I did not find all that interesting or captivating, and I should probably just skip it entirely and move on to Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes.

Anyways, Metal Gear Solid taught me that games can be larger than life, that they can take their time telling whatever story they want, no matter how inane or far-fetched or action-cool it was. That your surroundings and actions matter, that you can go about a mission in multiple ways, whether it be by sneaking past unaware soldiers, sniping them from far back, or a mixture of both plans. It was certainly the first stealth game I ever played, which planted a pacifism seed in me that, to this day, no matter the game, has me always trying to accomplish tasks nonviolently, with as few casualties as possible.

What are the four games that define you? Tell me about ’em below in the comments or link to your very own hot take on the #GameStruck4 meme.

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.

My E3 2017 wishlist because a boy can dream

It’s one of the best times of the year, with E3 kicking off this weekend, followed in a month by Awesome Games Done Quick. In short, time to watch a lot of livestreams. Either way, I’m always excited to hear about new developments in the industry, even if I ultimately never procure many of the new machines or play a majority of the big name games to come. It’s fun being in the know, and I love the nightly interview segments with a mix of industry peeps over at Giant Bomb. Still, I do have some desires for this year’s event, and they are as follows:

Borderlands 3

Look, it’s time. It’s beyond time. No one really got into Battleborn, so Gearbox needs to accept this and move on to the thing that retains a strong fanbase to this day–the Borderlands series. Specifically, the one where you collect a million guns and shoot them at cel-shaded enemies, not the one where you talk your way out of a bad situation into a worse scenario. I’ve been dipping my toes back into Borderlands 2 over the last few months, but a service built solely for these new consoles would be extra great, and I’d love to see something along the lines of Hitman contracts with new raid-like bosses to attack every few weeks instead of a lackluster DLC package.

Death Stranding

We already know this game exists, but I want more info on it. Especially since Mel and I have been working our way through Hannibal and I’m finding Mads Mikkelsen to be highly watchable as an unpredictable villain. I’m still curious if it’ll play like Metal Gear Solid 4 or be a completely different thing. I suspect Hideo Kojima really likes stealth action, so it’s a good bet, but he himself can be unpredictable. I don’t expect the narrative to be clear until the game is out and played through multiple times; I just want to know what the running around is like. Either way, tell us more.

The Elder Scrolls VI: Valenwood

Fallout 4 did not take hold of me and never let go. Instead, I played it, enjoyed a decent chunk of it, beat it, murdering a lot of people to my dismay, and have not really gone back to the thing. I’ve thought often about returning to Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but that would require booting it up on my Xbox 360, and I don’t want to do that. I’d rather wait for the next installment. Which, maybe, might be set in Valenwood. I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine, but Bethesda is hosting its own press conference again this year, so maybe we’ll get some updates about what is next from their blockbuster high fantasy RPG time-eater. There’s probably going to be a Doom sequel too for those believing that lightning can strike twice in the same spot.

LEGO james bond

Rest in peace, Roger Moore, my favorite 007, but maybe we can bring you back to life in LEGO form. There are still plenty of LEGO games I haven’t gotten to play yet, but if this thing became a reality it would move right up to the top of my priority list. Traveler’s Tales could either do like they did with LEGO Harry Potter and split this across multiple games, or, if they loved us even just the littlest bit, put out a super compilation of Bond’s best and coolest movies for us to play through. These have everything a LEGO wants: colorful cast of characters, cool gadgets and gizmos, enhanced vehicles, and globe-trotting adventures.

Picontier

I don’t remember when this “slow living miniscape RPG” was announced, but it was some time back. Immediately, it reminded me of Stardew Valley and Rune Factory, which is great, and it was destined for the Nintendo 3DS. It’s also now coming out for the Nintendo Switch. When that is, I do not know, but I love the retro look, and having this kind of experience on the go is really appealing to me. Hopefully we’ll get some more concrete coverage during Nintendo’s streaming hours. Or it’ll just be a tiny tidbit hidden in some press release that goes out after their Nintendo Direct vid.

Suikoden VI

This is never going to happen. I know that, you know that, Konami knows that. But still, a boy can dream. Is it too much to ask for a game with an empty castle that one can fill up with people they meet along their way to stop an evil thing from becoming the ultimate evil thing? No, Dragon Age: Inquisition–you do not do the job well enough.

Right, right. What games are you looking forward to hearing more about at this year’s E3? Speak up and share your wishlist in the comments section. Be sure to include Suikoden VI and get it trending on social media.

Running the mercenary unit Militaires Sans Frontières like a Big Boss

peace walker gd early impressions

I’m not sure where I first heard this–or if it is even true–but Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker was originally supposed to be the real Metal Gear Solid V. And Hideo Kojima’s last game. I’m glad neither of those came to be, and while I don’t know too much about The Phantom Pain–I’ve avoided listening to countless podcasts over the last month or so, as well as skipped any and all coverage at Giant Bomb to remain as spoiler-free as possible–I do know that the newest game involves taking on individual missions to recruit members to your main base and grow its power and potential. Well, Peace Walker does that too, but on a much smaller scale.

Set in 1974 in Costa Rica, Peace Walker follows the exploits of returning protagonist Big Boss–you might remember him as Naked Snake from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater–as he runs the mercenary unit Militaires Sans Frontières (Soldiers Without Borders). A mysterious group called the Peace Sentinels have been deployed in-country. Unfortunately, the Costa Rica government cannot do anything about them because the country’s constitution does not allow the creation of armed forces. The presence of the Peace Sentinels threatens to endanger the balance of power between the East and West, forcing Snake to intervene. Plus, he wants to build up his Mother Base.

Peace Walker is broken up into two primary modes: “Mission” and “Mother Base.” Missions are the traditional action/sneaking scenarios of the previous games, with Snake creeping through a jungle or occupied building to either kill a certain someone, rescue somebody or somebodies, or gather some intel. It’s the expected mix of sneaking, fighting, and watching. Mother Base is a crew managing simulation where you assign people to different work areas to strengthen your soldiers, upgrade your items and weapons, or keep everybody healthy, happy, and fed.

For missions, you can play either as Snake or a male or female MSF soldier, though some missions will only be available for one or the other. Your score is penalized with a lower rank and reduced heroism for the excessive murdering of soldiers or frequently being discovered, which works fine for me as I’m all about stealth pistols, stun grenades, and using the Fulton surface-to-air recovery system to send knocked-out enemies to Mother Base to switch sides. Also, using items and weapons results in leveling them up at the end of a successful mission, which means Snake is only going to get better and better at making grown men fall asleep where they stand. Peace Walker is designed for co-op play, but I’ve been doing fine so far going at it solo.

In terms of story, so far, Peace Walker is fairly traditional. Shocking, right? I mean, I’m fighting straight up tanks for boss battles at the moment, not psychics that can read my memory card save data. That said, I expect this to go from sane to insane in a short span of time, and I’m really digging the comic book style to the cutscenes, drawn by Ashley Wood, especially when they are interactive. Peace Walker was originally a PSP game, and it shows, but boy is its style on fleek. On the fleck? I don’t know how the kids talk these days.

Not all is amazing though. Camouflage, while still being there and a collectible factor in terms of different outfits for Naked Snake, seems to be completely inessential. You also cannot crawl, and I will never remember this as it is my go to when almost being spotted–to drop to the ground as swiftly as possible and lay prone. I’m not sure going forward what the bosses are like, but I’ve only taken on a tank currently and am looking to more supernatural elements to intervene. Lastly, the whole Mother Base simulation side can be extremely daunting at first, to the point that I simply relied on auto-assignment to place captured soldiers; thankfully, Mother Base opens slowly, which means it is not overwhelming immediately.

It certainly seems like there’s a lot of missions–both main story-wise and side objectives–to go for Peace Walker, so I’ve got some time still before I can load up Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes and see how the newest franchise plays. Surely Naked Snake will be able to crawl on his stomach. Surely.

Metal Gear Solid 4 is not about changing the world

gd mgs4 gotp final thoughts and impressions

My goal for the Metal Gear Solid series of videogames has generally been pretty clear: play them all in the order they were released and stay ahead of Dan and Drew over at Giant Bomb, especially once they got to the Big Bosses in the series that I’ve not touched at all, that way I can enjoy all of Hideo Kojima’s mind-wank first for myself and then witness those goofballs grenade-toss and gun their way through all the meticulously heavy sneaking parts. I know I can be a slow gamer at times, but figured I wouldn’t have any problems with this.

Unfortunately, it did not work out. I started playing Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots right before I left for a Disney World vacation in July, mostly inspired to play because I saw that those Giant Bomb duders were readying themselves for more nanomachine-driven madness. I figured there might have been a longer break between this and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, but nope, I was wrong. So I played a little, and by the time I got back, they were nearly done with the game. Other things were happening in my life, and I just figured I’d wait the whole thing out for a bit. Then Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain dropped, and it’s all everyone is chatting about, and I desperately want to play it, but still have a few more games to get through first. This is what basically lead to me sitting down over two nights and pounding MGS4 into dust, which, when you realize it is more or less a visual novel, isn’t terribly challenging.

I think I covered the story stuff in my last post on MGS4, or what little story stuff I felt like spilling. It goes places, but mostly to the past. In a lot of ways, this felt like Metal Gear Solid: Callback Edition, what with you pounding X in every cutscene to get flashbacks and every character coming out of the woodwork to at least participate in some manner. Drebin’s long-winded stories of tragedy and woe about all four B&B Corps members really killed the game’s pace, and a lot of characters continued to speak in grandiose cliches, to the point that I felt like Old Snake all the time, constantly repeating back what people said, but as a question. GW? Microwaves? Suicide mission? Truthfully, I’ve never been able to 100% follow along with Kojima’s plot across all the Metal Gears, but this is the one where they tried to hit some nails into coffins and close a lot of loops, and even then I didn’t understand the bulk of it.

In terms of difficulty, I only hit a few snags, and if you’d rather not read about specific encounters–skip to the next paragraph. Now. Okay, here we go. The first big hiccup appeared while trying to track Naomi’s footprints in South America; I knew what the game wanted me to do, and I did it, really, and still, it took forever to find the cave she went into. The next problem arose in the boss fight against Vamp back at Shadow Moses, where you are supposed to remember you have a nanomachine-specific item in your inventory, given to you several acts back, and that’s the only way to defeat him. I used the Codec a bunch, but still Otacon never clued me in on this; I had to resort to the Internet’s guidance. Lastly, the final level has you landing on a massive battleship and trying to make it all the way down to the other side, where there’s a door. The ship is crawling with enemies, and after multiple attempts to shoot my way through–first with tranquilizer bullets and stun grenades, then with live ammunition–I resorted to wearing a full suit of OctoCamo and inch-worming my way down the left side, at the slowest pace in the world. Other than that, every else sort of handles itself.

It’s not my favorite Metal Gear, though I still don’t think I’m prepared to pick one. There’s not much to play here, especially early on when you are sided with the rebels and sort of shadowing them as they take out all the baddies and you sneak through without a scratch to your tired, leathery face. Even when you do decide to stand up and fight, the game gives you so many weapons and health items that surviving is fairly reasonable (save for that last section on the boat). Sure, my stats below show 23 continues, but the majority of those are from that final stretch.

Speaking of statistics, as always, Konami provides you a bunch at the end of the credits. Read ’em and weep:

WP_20150919_006

Seems like this time around you earn different emblems for how you play. I got the title of “Eagle,” which is brought about from accumulating 150 or more headshots. Go me and my headshotting skills. Other wearable emblems require specific ways of playing, such as not getting spotted at all or spending more than an hour inside the cardboard box/drum can. Hmm no thanks. That certainly helps with MGS4‘s replayability, though I have no interest right now in returning to it. Like an eagle, I’ll soar away, high in the sky, the world below zooming out, as if it doesn’t matter.

Up next…Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker! Y’know, that game no one seems to like or feel is part of the series at all, but is most likely important to the early story stuff of Big Boss and necessary to know before moving on to the most current adventure. Oh yeah. Bring on the excitement.

2015 Game Review Haiku, #47 – Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

2015 gd games completed mgs 4 guns patriots

Old Snake is dying
Liquid has plans, control guns
Watch cutscenes, hit X

From 2012 all through 2013, I wrote little haikus here at Grinding Down about every game I beat or completed, totaling 104 in the end. I took a break from this format last year in an attempt to get more artsy, only to realize that I missed doing it dearly. So, we’re back. Or rather, I am. Hope you enjoy my continued take on videogame-inspired Japanese poetry in three phases of 5, 7, and 5, respectively.