Tag Archives: Odin Sphere

Mixing items with items to make more items in Ni no Kuni

ni-no-kuni alchemy pot update

Of all the videogame-based alchemy systems, I can confidently say that I like the one in Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch the least. Which is a shame, as Level-5 generally knows what its doing with its item synthesizing mechanics, a gameplay element that warms me greatly. Seriously, I love it. You take one item, mix it with another, and get something–more often than not–greater than the sum of its parts. My feverish appreciation probably all dates back to mixing herbs together for stronger health potions in Resident Evil 2, but if a game has any kind of alchemy element, I’m in. Heck, I bought Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny solely on this reasoning, even though its very name scares the life out of me and I’ve not played it yet.

In Dragon Quest VIII and Dragon Quest IX, you have a magical pot for all your brewing needs. In the former, it travels with you, riding on the princess-drawn carriage with her goblin father. In the latter, it stays put at the Quester’s Rest inn, which you must visit to do your mixing thing. Either way, you put items together and hope for the best, or you can pick up recipes (or clues) along your journey for killer gear. In VIII, you had to wait a bit for the pot to create the item–maybe about ten or fifteen minutes–which made grinding more bearable, as you battled for XP while waiting to hear that salivating ding that indicated your item was done. They took this away for IX, probably because it was on the DS and meant to be played in short, portable bursts, so waiting was not an option.

In Rogue Galaxy, you have two different ways to create new items: Weapon Fusion and the Factory. Basically, all weapons gain XP from battle until they are maxed out, wherein they can then be synthesized along with a similar weapon to create something new. Toady, a strange frog monster, helps with this by swallowing both weapons and spitting out something new; one could argue it is an alchemy pot. However, you don’t really know if something is going to turn out great and just have to chance it, though Toady will also warn you if the results are really negative. For the Factory, it’s more of a puzzle system, where you have to line up machine parts to get it running properly to create a special item from a set of blueprints.

For non-Level-5 joints with alchemy-based systems, it’s a mixed bag, with most alchemy systems fairly uninteresting or just bad altogether.

Odin Sphere has the player combining two items to generate a new item during gameplay, which is then stored in a “Material” bottle. These bottles can be improved as well by alchemizing two of them together to get a material bottle valued at the multiplicative product of the two original bottles (e.g., Material 2 combined with Material 3 results in a Material 6 bottle). It’s a bit complicated, and I don’t even remember getting to it during my first hour with the game, and I’ve not gone back since. I remember more about various plants you grow during battle than the alchemy, which says a lot, I guess.

And then there’s Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen, all of which with systems that are nothing more than perfunctory.

However, in Ni no Kuni, the alchemy system is unnecessarily clunky. You have two options once you obtain the alchemy pot and its genie master Al-Khemi in Castaway Cove: use a recipe or mix and match. If you have all the right ingredients, simply click “use a recipe” and Al-Khemi with automatically take care of it for you. For mixing and matching, you are either guessing or looking up the select few recipes available in your Wizard’s Tome, a tedious process that involves you backing out of the alchemy menu, into the tome menu, zooming down on the page for alchemy, zooming in more to find the recipe you want, mumble it to yourself a few times so you don’t forget, exiting back out to the main menu, back into the alchemy menu, and trying to create something based off of what you were mumbling to yourself.

The sad part of all that? Even if you are successful and create an item, the recipe does not appear in your list of “acquired” recipes; you can only get ones added there from completing errands or earning ‘em as the story progresses. That means, even though I successfully made a Fishburger from White Bread (x2), a Dumbflounder, and Crispy Lettuce, I can’t quickly select it again down the line from my recipes list; I have to either remember how to do it from scratch or go back into my tome to remind myself of what is actually in a Fishburger. In short–I really don’t like this. All it means is that I now have to play Ni on Kuni with my laptop next to me open to some recipe wiki page, instead of staying immersed in the game.

What a bummer. At this point, I’d rather just have a repeat of Dragon Quest IX‘s system.

For the love of spritework

I’ve been thinking about sprites lately–no, not those kind–and why I absolutely love them, mainly to the point where a new game in 2011 with classic spritework is much more appealing to me than, say, just another modern title with all the latest tech, such as fancy lighting, particle effects, draw distance, and so on. Yup, even more than Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It’s hard to say if it’s all based on nostalgia or if it’s the artist in me appreciating that these moving images and interactive items on-screen were hand-crafted to be as is, to be simple yet recognizable, to still be able to stir emotions.

For nostalgia’s sake, I definitely grew up on sprite-based games. Earthbound, Super Metroid, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Secret of Evermore, Mega Man X3, NHL ’94, Breath of Fire II, Secret of Mana–really, the list could go on. Blame this on the fact that the SNES was my first console ever, and that I ate up a lot of games on it. It’s where I became a gamer, grew my skills; I knew only sprites, and I had a hard time letting go. I think a lot of us did.

One of the first games I ever played on my PlayStation 1 was Beyond the Beyond, a strangely named RPG that I had rented for a few days. It tells the story of Finn, a young, unexperienced knight caught up in an ancient war between the Beings of Light and the Warlocks of the Underworld. Fairly traditional, and not just in story–the game, despite being released on an advanced console, looked like something one would play on their SNES. I was excited about this. I wasn’t ready for the future, for 3D gaming, for stuff like Battle Arena Toshinden and movable cameras. It wasn’t a great game, but it looked like what I had already learned to love, and that was enough for me to give it a try. I also fell hard for Suikoden and Suikoden II on the PlayStation, both of which feature gorgeous spritework paired with fantastic tunes.

When I moved on to the PlayStation 2, there were significantly less sprite-based games for that system. Maybe because that console had finally gotten a strong grasp on 3D gaming. A few still got my attention. Odin Sphere was repetitive as hecktown, but dang is it a beauty to behold. Marvel VS. Capcom 2 got a lot of play at friends’ houses. Can’t really think of others, unfortunately.

I’ve recently picked Chrono Trigger back up on the Nintendo DS and am enjoying traveling through time again, even if I’m rubbish at it. This is a game that’s eternal. It looks fabulous, just as it had when it released in August 1995, just as it will in twenty more years, and another thirty after that. These sprites are colorful and charismatic, eye-catching, easy to get. Only can sprites make a giant tick-boss look freaking amazing.

And now, in the current era of gaming systems–Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo DS/Nintendo 3DS–I’m still always on the lookout for good ol’ sprite-based games. And they are still coming out, especially on the handhelds sideline. Really looking forward to Professor Layton’s London Life, which is a bonus add-on for Professor Layton and the Last Specter, coming out this October. It’ll be unlocked from the start, promises over 100 hours of gameplay, and basically screams, “Hey, you like Earthbound? Here’s a new Earthbound!” Mmm mmm, looks delicious.

I dunno. Maybe it is just the artist in me appreciating art over connect polygons. Maybe it’s seeing something that can last a lifetime and beyond. Maybe I just miss being a kid, holed up in my room, a SNES my closest and most constant friend. Do you love sprites or new games still rocking sprites? If so, why? Speak up, Grinding Down readers. Maybe we can get to the bottom of this.

Zero money budgeted to Secret Agent Clank’s loading screens

For a good while last night, I believed my PlayStation 2 was dead. I was trying to get some play time in before our usual run of Thursday night TV hit–Community, The Office, Parks and Recreation–but the blasted thing just wouldn’t turn on. I checked multiple times that everything was plugged in, and to my horrible eyes, it seemed so. Grumbling, I gave up, watched some TV, and figured I’d try again; the reason I didn’t want to keep plugging and unplugging wires the whole night was that it might throw off our cable or Internet; we have a lot of wires behind our entertainment stand, too many to remember which one goes with what technology.

In the end, I did actually miss plugging in a single plug, and once I did, my PlayStation 2, which “I’ve had since I bought it,” powered on. Whew. I take really good care of my videogame systems, and to see one almost kick the bucket was a little unnerving. Heck, even my original SNES, all yellowed and dusty, still plays catridges. But that’s besides the point. I got my PlayStation 2 working, and it was now time to play some of my newest purchases.

First up was Secret Agent Clank, but before I could truly play I had to free up space on my sole PS2 memory card. Kind of a tough quest actually. I mean, I don’t even have my copy of Suikoden V anymore, but my save data shows some 65+ hours put into it, and I’d hate to delete it simply because I never beat the final boss, and there’s hope that maybe, possibly, hopefully, one day I might get the chance to try again. So I deleted save data for XIII, Killzone, and Odin Sphere. That seemed to do the ticket, as now I have enough available for Clank’s top-secret adventure.

After selecting NEW GAME, Secret Agent Clank opens up…with a loading screen. It’s of a spaceship flying across the screen through space. There’s no music, just a soft whooshing sound as it passes by. This happens about nine more times, with the only change being new angles. Each pass takes about three to four seconds, so we’re looking at almost 30 seconds of just sitting and staring and, unfortunately, zoning out. Those whooshes need to be bottled and sold as nonprescription sleeping pills. From what I can tell, there’s zero to little loading time on the original PSP version, meaning this port is all for the worse. Now, in previous Ratchet and Clank titles for the PlayStation 2, there were similar loading screens when traveling from planet to planet, but I swear it was never more than three instances of a spaceship flying past. Not nine or ten. Ugh.

Once we’re past the happy, happy, joy, joy loading fun-times, we see Clank trying to infiltrate the Boltaire Museum Mission Impossible style, tethered to a wire and dropping down through cut glass. He looks pretty freakin’ adorable in his tuxedo. However, he witnesses his ol’ buddy Ratchet stealing from the museum. PLOT TWIST! I played through the game’s first level, which introduces some of Clank’s abilities and skills and kind of ends on some weird Guitar Hero-esque QTEs, and then, after another stretch of loading screens and getting stuck at the part where I have to control three mini-Clankbots, called it quits. Not because I hated what was happening, but I was tired and wanted to watch some more Party Down.

I dunno. As always, the gameplay is fun and varied, but these loading screens might just cause me to go insane. Stay tuned for drooling and inconhesive rambling.

FIRST HOUR REVIEW: Odin Sphere

You-hoo, down here. Right. My take on Odin Sphere‘s first hour of gameplay is now live over at The First Hour. Do check it out. I wrote it mostly as an excuse to post amazingly awesome cosplay pics, as shown above. Seriously, this game was made for cosplayers. I won’t be playing much more of it after a repetitive hour, but there’s no stopping me from loving the game’s art style and profound effect on the cosplaying culture.

Odin Sphere is Beautifully Bloated

Last night, I unplugged my Xbox 360, dusted off my Playstation 2, and popped in Odin Sphere. Then my eyes had multiple orgasms.

See, Odin Sphere is just about one of the prettiest games ever made. Feel free to quote me in fanboy rants or whatever. But it is. The game’s visuals are, irrefutably, its strongest feature, it’s reason for existing. Gameplay eventually falls into recurrent levels and tasks (and complex alchemy), but soldiering on is fine as wine for the mere fact of wanting to see more and more. A new location or character arriving–it’s all a treat in terms of eye-loving. Is this the case for everyone? Probably not. I am an artist (I draw webcomics and do illustration work), and that makes me biased, but I find it hard to believe that seeing these whimsical characters all colorful and beautifully animated won’t get some jaws a-dropping.

Anyways, not gonna say much more about the videogame because I’m doing a first hour review of it for…hmm, The First Hour. There’s no way to really phrase that sentence without sounding repetitive. Which is what Odin Sphere is all about! Hey-o!

But yeah…stay tuned.