Tag Archives: Suikoden II

The hero is me, and Dah Castle is open for business

suikoden 2 dah castle finally

At last, after a smidge over ten logged hours of playing Suikoden II, I finally have a castle headquarters to call home. And yes, I named it Dah Castle, so that when I recruit new soldiers I can read them say zany things like, “Okay, let’s head over to Dah Castle right away.” It’s a small step up from Suikoden‘s Castle Castle, but I just can’t help getting silly with names when given the chance. I wonder what I’ll end up calling home in Suikoden III (if I ever get there again and if that’s an option).

So yeah, it’s a definitely slower, much more somber start than Suikoden, but it doesn’t take you too long to get a castle in the former game. Here, you have to be patient, and even then, you have to be a bit more patient. Certainly, the fact that the main character–who I named Hodor, in case you forgot–is not as pivotal to the bigger actions unfolding plays a part. I mean, in Suikoden, you are the son of a great Imperial leader, on the run as a rebel, forced to take up arms and build an army. This time around, it feels much more natural, like you are caught in a current, going with the flow until, finally, based on Hodor’s connection to Genkaku, it happens–you are asked to take charge and command the Dunan Unification Army. For a good while there, you simply took on the role as errand boy for Flik, Viktor, Lady Annabelle, and whoever else wanted a dangerous job done. Now you get to tell others what to do.

I don’t know what the next mission is. Right now, I couldn’t care if Luca Blight’s goons were hiding under Hodor’s bedsheets. It matters not. All I know is that the castle is mine, it is huge to begin with, and there are a lot of rooms to fill. The setup is much different than the castle in Suikoden, which was, more or less, a six-story high-rise, with a few offshoots on two or three of the floors to explore. But you’d have trouble getting lost there; Dah Castle is intimidating in size and layout, especially given that it has a separate inn section attached to it from the outside, providing two entrances. There’s also a bunch of portrait-less characters to speak to, whereas before your castle was only filled with your friends. It’s going to take some time to familiarize myself with where everyone is, and then I’m sure much will change once I get more of the 108 Stars of Destiny to join the fight.

Actually, I lied earlier. I do know what the next mission is, and it’s a doozy: find your castle’s docks. Flik said it was right below where Hodor and his friends were chatting. It took me far too long to figure out what he meant. Heck, I even left the HQ and went to a few towns to see if that’s where the boats are being kept, thinking Flik meant below Dah Castle on the world map. Hint: there’s a small staircase that is easily missed, which leads to a graveyard, prison cells, and the docks. Once there, you can get on your boat and sail around or partake in Yam Koo’s less-than-stellar fishing minigame.

Something else I’ve noticed is that Suikoden II is much more challenging when it comes to the turn-based battles. The previous game was a breeze, and I think I only died once (to Neclord), and that was possibly due to little pre-planning going into the fight. I’ve still not scene a Game Over screen yet this time around, but the amount of medicine and healing spells I’ve had to use post-combat has unarguably quadrupled. The Abomination boss that Neclord leaves behind for you to deal with at North Window proved the toughest enemy so far, with only three party members surviving the fight. Also, Nanami has fallen in battle way more than anyone else; DarkBunnies love picking on her, for some reason. At least I’m grinding for a reason now.

Anyways, once again, I’m anxiously looking forward to revisiting known locations and recruiting new friends for…Dah Castle. The quicker it grows, the sooner I’ll get to participate in the cooking minigame.

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

suikoden 2 just starting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suikoden’s opening hour is more goofy than I remembered

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I’m going to be replaying both Suikoden and Suikoden IIfor reasons. You don’t need to know the reasons right now, and truth be told, I’d happily replay both of these games just because I can since I still own them as physical copies, but also to keep me in check, because I do like to tout them as some of my favorite games, if not my absolute favorite RPGs. That said, I’ve not touched them since my high school days, and I’m beginning to worry that maybe I’m relying a bit too much on nostalgia.

And with that, after completing another comic about Dan Ryckert’s food stories over at Giant Bomb, I popped in the disc for Suikoden, turned on my, as of late, dormant PlayStation 2, and sifted through my memory cards to find one with space for a save slot. I also discovered at this point that I’m missing Suikoden‘s instruction manual, ugh. Not sure where–and when–that thing vanished. Anyways, after checking all my PS1 memory cards to make sure I didn’t already have a game in progress, I selected “New Game”, rightfully named Tir McDohl to Pauly, and began old-school JRPGing.

Real quick: I’m going to be talking pretty specifically about mostly everything that unfolds in Suikoden‘s first hour, which is actually a lot of different events, so if you’ve not yet gotten to experience it and don’t want to be spoiled, I suggest y’all close this browser right now and move on to something else. All right, let’s go. Let’s show my nostalgia just where it is all truly at.

So, the main thing that surprised me about playing Suikoden again for the first time in over ten years is that…it’s actually quite goofy. Like, if the technology to include a studio audience laugh-track existed at the time for the PlayStation 1, Konami totally would’ve done it. Sure, sure, most people think about the heavy politics and twisted betrayals for both this game and later ones in the series, and they are right to do so. Besides the recruiting of 108 Stars of Destiny and upgrading your castle, the extremely adult tone and direction of the plot is where Suikoden stands miles above its competitors. However, almost right from the get-go, things are goofy and light-hearted and a bit juvenile, and maybe that is really only for now, before the shitstorm truly hits Teo McDohl’s son and friends.

Anyways, check this out. After returning home from meeting the Emperor and getting assigned to work with Commander Kraze Miles (just look at that name), Gremio announces that he’ll be serving dinner soon. You now get the freedom to explore the house and talk to everyone. If you go into the kitchen and try to talk to Gremio, you are given the selectable option to either A) scare him or B) tickle him, both of which result in a lot of stuttering. You can also scare Pahn, who is busy napping. Again, you can probably chalk this up to kids being kids, but I honestly didn’t remember any of this.

Your first mission sends you off to Lady Leknaat’s castle, to acquire some astral projections or something. To get there, you must meet with a spunky young Dragon Knight called Futch and get flown over on his dragon Black, which, I kid you not, sounds like an elephant. Oh, and speaking of sound, when you are in the menus and click on something you can’t interact with, it sounds a bit like a duck. Yeah, maybe Konami was limited for audio samples, but it’s pretty bizarre nonetheless.

On your way up to the castle, you’ll get a small taste of the combat system. It’s pretty standard turn-based action, with some characters able to unite for a joint attack or use magic spells/attacks via attached runes. The combat goes pretty fast, actually, and I like when multiple things happen at once. Strangely, there’s no fanfare when you level; you simply watch numbers increase. We’ve been spoiled over the years with games–both RPGs and not–making you glow, playing a tune, doing something special when you increase in level. I’ve also gone from level 1 to 7, gaining experience fast and not even coming close to falling in battle, save for the boss fight with the Ant Queen, where it’s mandatory, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

After speaking with Lady Leknaat, the next mission has you going to Rockland and then up a mountain path to beat up some bandits that are causing trouble for Rockland, a small town of impoverished and suffering smallfolk unable to pay the Emperor’s taxes. I spoke with one of the kids there and he flat out said that the guards hit him. Heavy stuff, not a lick of goofiness, so long as you ignore the cup minigame. Anyways, during an unbeatable battle with the Ant Queen, Pauly McDohl’s good friend Ted reveals he has some crazy dark magic up his sleeve to save the day. When you get back to Rockland, the mayor pays you, but then your helpless escort Kanaan takes the money, seeing as it belongs to Kraze; that small wah-wah-waaah jingle plays. Um. At least it wasn’t a dragonphant trumpeting.

Upon returning to Gregminster, Ted is requested to go to the castle while everyone else returns home to rest. A little later, just as it begins to storm, Ted shows up at the front door, beaten and nearly unconscious. Cleo suspects it might be “thugs,” a term I did not remember her saying or ever expected to come out of her mouth, but there it is. Turns out, the Emperor wants Ted’s magic rune and he risked everything to get away, so that he could pass the rune–one of the 27 True Runes, mind you–over to his good friend Pauly. We’re now hiding out in the local inn, looking for some way to sneak out of Gregminster without alerting the guards.

And that’s more or less the first hour of the game. I think my save slot says an hour and fourteen minutes. Some talk, some battle, some plot development, and a bunch of hard turns when it comes to tone and material. Either way, I’m excited to keep playing Suikoden, to remember what I remember, and to learn about the moments I clearly missed my first few times through it.

Doki-Doki Universe may be irreverent, but at least it’s imaginative

doki-doki universve 2480078-4992049966-87179

There exist many great RPGs, like Suikoden II and Chrono Cross, and in these also exist little slivers of additional content lovingly called side quests. They get this name mostly because they are smaller tasks on the side put upon the hero, heroine, or group while they also handle much larger tasks like killing that evil dragon and saving the world. More often than not, a great side quest can outshine the main path; for instance, take a look at the “The Power of the Atom” quest from Fallout 3, which stands out to me more some six years later than all that water-purifying monkey business with your runaway father. Of late, I really loved London Life, a kinda large mini-game bundled with Professor Layton and the Last Specter that is all about fetch side quests and ate up many hours of my life.

Well, good news–Doki-Doki Universe is a game made up almost entirely of side quests. It’s basically them, plus a handful of personality quizzes which are not as mundane as they sound and can be quite enjoyable so long as one spaces them out between helping random planet inhabitants and riding coffee mugs with wings up into space. Y’know, be sensible about your tasks like that. It’s a lot of to- and fro-ing, but I always seem to need these rather straightforward tasks in times of brokenness, so I’m really having my fill. The game is a freebie this month for PlayStation Plus users, and I initially thought it was only for the Vita, but evidently it is a cross-play title. That’s awesome, and something we need to see more with other consoles.

There’s a story here and, just like Le Petit Prince, it is both sweet and sad. Maybe not as crude as that French children’s story though. You’re robot Model QT377665, but let’s go with QT3 for short. Turns out, your human family sucks and abandoned you and your balloon buddy on an asteroid. Flashforward 11,432 days, and Alien Jeff shows up to give you some bad news. Evidently, your model is getting recalled and scrapped because the company that made you apparently doesn’t believe it has enough “humanity.” Alien Jeff is assigned the task of discovering just how much humanity QT3 is capable of before reporting back to head-honchos.

And so off you go to different, humorously named planets to solve the myriad of problems people have–and animals and talking vegetables and sentient snowmen–to learn more about humanity and gain some perspective. Space is an open map of planets, and you can visit them in any order; in fact, you’ll often need to visit other planets for additional presents to help people with some of the trickier requests early on. Most often, QT3 just needs to summon a specific summonable to finish the quest; for example, someone on Yuckers desires a smelly item, and so QT3 just needs to make a pile of poo magically appear next to them. Quest complete. Others have you either performing a greeting with the right analog stick (waving, bowing, blowing a kiss) or throwing someone like a slingshot to a specific part of the endlessly scrolling level, which is actually a bit tricky.

Besides handling simple side quest after side quest, which despite how it sounds really does scratch a specific itch, there’s personality quizzes to take and email to read. Mmm I do love a game with email, and I’ve been tinkering away slowly at a Grinding Down post about why this is so; maybe it’ll make an appearance down the road. Anyways, the personality quizzes are cute multiple choice questions, with a quick summary of you as a person at the end. They don’t always nail my personality, but are surprisingly accurate the majority of the time. These quizzes are perfect to do before you land on a new planet, too. As you grow as a robot, Alien Jeff and friends you’ve made along the way will send you adorable little emails that are animated and colorful and keep those stories going a bit longer after they technically ended.

Not all is green and dandy in Doki-Doki Universe, as I have stumbled across some very annoying hard crashes and lock-ups. These always happened when QT3 would begin to pull up the multitude of bubbles that makes up his inventory. There’s also no great way to sort through all your consumables, a problem the closer you get to collecting 300, as you can really only view a handful at a time on screen, and so if you’re trying to hunt down one specific item, best keep hitting randomize or trying your luck with the similar button. The game will occasionally log me out of PSN, too, though I know not why and how. I might have also run into a glitch where you are supposed to return to the Home planet and speak with the red balloon; alas, for some reason, the balloon is high in the sky, and QT3 can’t reach it to begin a dialogue. Hmm.

Based on how many consumables I have and how many decorations I’ve acquired for QT3’s Home planet, I must be pretty close to the end, to seeing if this little robot that likes dressing like a lumberjack has enough humanity instead to save his steely skin from being turned into scrap. It’s not a long game, but long enough for me, and I’m looking forward to finishing it up and adding it to my never-ending list of games completed in 2014. At least this one should be relatively easy to draw a comic about, since the art is more or less on my level.

Everything old is new again in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

TLOZ A Link Between Worlds early impressions

The first thing I did when I got my copy of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is make a silly Vine video. However, the second thing I did, once the game opened up enough to allow me the freedom to explore, was travel this way and that way and every way possible across the Hyrule map, seeing all my old stomping grounds. Because, in case it wasn’t clear from Grinding Down‘s never-changing header image, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is my absolute favorite game of all the times, of all time. It is only closely followed by Suikoden II. And I, more or less, know it by heart.

To be honest, when ALBW was first announced, I was put off. Very put off. How dare Nintendo create something that seems to exist solely to play with my childhood and early gaming experience nostalgia! HOW DARE THEY. And even as time went on, as previews and early impressions leaked out to the public and even final copy reviews, I refused to give in. No, I will not stand for this. I cannot. This game needed no direct sequel, and all they really had to do was put ALTTP on the 3DS eShop and watch the rupees flood in.

For one, I thought Nintendo’s newest take on Link and Zelda and the realm of Hyrule looked terrible, like some kind of knockoff, straight-to-DVD version called The Tale of Telba: Princess Panic that you’d find in the bargain bin and toss aside without a second glance. When you think about it, the newest game’s graphics are that way and not SNES era sprite-based because you are playing on the Nintendo 3DS, a system able to produce 3D effects sans glasses. However, by the time ALBW came out, Nintendo itself was over the gimmick–and rightly so–but it had been produced that way for a reason from the very start. Which is a shame. I’d rather have had what looked like ALTTP and no 3D than what we have now, even if it does look pretty nifty in a few cinematic spots.

I’ve only played about an hour or so of ALBW since Tara and I were playing catch-up with The Walking Dead, and it’s nice and bouncy and brimming with wonder, but I’m not sure if those warm, fuzzy feelings in my belly are because the game itself is fun or if it’s just reminding me very much of the same kind of fun I had in ALTTP. I guess that’s going to be the real question throughout is whether or not I enjoyed this very same dungeon more some twenty-two years ago or if the new twist on it is enough to warrant it some distinction.

ALBW opens innocently enough: Gulley, the blacksmith’s son, wakes Link up because he has a job to do, which is deliver a finished sword to the Captain at Hyrule Castle. Why Gulley himself couldn’t do this is beyond me. However, Link eventually finds the Captain stuck inside the Sanctuary by a mysterious man called Yuga–hey, that’s A GUY backwards–who turned the Sanctuary’s minister Seres into a painting before running off. Princess Zelda informs Link that he has to obtain the three Pendants of Power to gain the Master Sword, which can defeat Yuga, and yadda yadda yadda. You kinda know the drill by now. Oh, and thanks to some strange, purple rabbit squatting in your house, Link now also has the power to turn into a painting and move along walls and into cracks.

While I still stand by my negative reaction to how the game looks, thankfully it plays like a dream. Moving around with the circle pad instead of the d-pad makes for speedy trekking, and slashing at grass, firing arrows into trees, and bothering chickens is just as enjoyable as it once was. Navigating Hyrule is a joy thanks to the timeless, slightly remixed tunes, as well as the ability for fast travel via a witch’s broomstick. You can also now acquire all of the items before tackling a dungeon by renting them from that previously mentioned purple rabbit. This allows you to take on the dungeons in your order of choice, which sounds really awesome. Alas, so far, I’ve only done the first mandatory one at the Eastern Palace so I can’t speak to exactly how effective this works. There’s definitely a lot of new stuff here to do–that chicken-avoiding mini-game in Kakariko Village is silly fun–and collect, and a lot of other parts have been streamlined for playing portably, which is always appreciated.

I’ll definitely be eating up more ALBW over the upcoming holiday break, but don’t also be surprised to hear that I went through the trouble of dusting off and hooking up my SNES to play the realest, most amazing Hyrule adventure that Link ever played part in. You know that which I speak of. It’s the one that begins with, “Help me… Please help me… I am a prisoner in the dungeon
of the castle. My name is Zelda.”

Suikoden IV has joined its brothers and sisters in my Suikoden collection

suik 4 now mine 6-s4-42-208

So yeah, the big news was that I bought a PlayStation 3 over the weekend, but there was another purchase that really, for me, hit it big, and I’ve been saving the reveal for its own post. Like this one. Uh yeah, onwards…

My local GameStop in Pennsylvania is probably one of the last to still sell PlayStation 2 games, and because of this, I’m constantly sifting through their standalone shelves for goodies before the store simply stops selling them, and then that’s that. In the past, I’ve found a number of gems, such as Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters and Suikoden III, as well as some real duds, like Monster Rancher EVO, but regardless, it’s helped me fill out my collection nonetheless. Over the weekend, before I asked the dude behind the counter for the “Classic White” PlayStation 3 bundle, I made my way over to the PS2 section and noticed that they were “buy-two-get-one-free” for the time being, a type of sale that I just can’t ignore. And I hadn’t even scanned more then five covers before I saw it, just sitting there all nonchalant, waiting for me to pick it up: Suikoden IV. I found Wild Arms 4 and Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny, thus snagging Suikoden IV for free. Whoop whoop!

I understand that, for many, it’s considered the worst in the series–or is that Suikoden Tierkries?–but this isn’t actually about the gameplay, but rather finding the game. A physical copy of it. See, Suikoden II is one of my favorite RPGs, with both the saddest scene and best story, and I find the series as a whole really enjoyable, especially once you get to your castle headquarters and can begin recruiting locals 108 Stars of Destiny to see how they affect everything. It’s a series that I’ve wanted to have as a whole, and once I got Suikoden V I was determined to eventually find the III and IV to round out the numbered entries in the series. That task…is now complete.

And here they all are, one happy family:

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Mmm. Love it. Now to figure out if I’m determined enough to pick up the non-numbered spinoffs in the Suikoden franchise and really call myself a diehard fan. Currently, there are three:

  • Suikoden Tactics (PS2)
  • Suikoden Tierkries (DS)
  • Suikoden: The Woven Web of a Century (PSP)

Well, the chances of me getting a PSP are 0.000002%, so there goes that, and I feel like Suikoden Tactics is the rarest of the PS2 bunch. Chances are high I can find a used copy of Suikoden Tierkries though it sounds like a far cry from a traditional experience. Still curious about it though.

Either way, this is exciting. I’m still working my way through Suikoden III and amazing myself over the hilarious dialogue, but I will test out IV some day soon. I wonder if my PlayStation 3 is backwards-compatible. Probably not…

Team members in Mass Effect 2 are more like check marks

Over the weekend, I made a brown dwarf-size dent in Mass Effect 2, and now all I want to do is play Dragon Age: Origins all over again. Or maybe redo some cases in L.A. Noire. Or go through The Blackwell Deception one more time in commentary mode. I’m closing in on the “suicide mission” part, and all I want to do is walk away. It has nothing to do with fear. Rather, disappointment. Who cares about surviving a suicide mission if you don’t care about anyone by your side? Let me explain.

Mass Effect 2 is all about building a team. The Illusive Man hands over a number of dossiers to Commander Shepard, which show you the who and where to go parts, and then you’re off to recruit this person deemed vital for your team’s survival in taking on the Collectors. Fine, I’m cool with that. After all, I got every 108 Stars of Destiny in Suikoden and Suikoden II (missed a few in Suikoden V), so I know all about getting people to join one’s cause, no matter how insane it sounds. Recruiting a team member for Mission Impossible generally requires a quest where you go down a hallway through a series of similar-looking rooms, hide behind stuff, shoot enemies, and then chat for a bit with your target. I kid, but only slightly. A few have mixed things up like avoiding sunlight or toxic gas while going down those hallways and rooms. After that, you’ll more or less repeat this process to earn said team member’s loyalty.

I think I’ve already said this, but if I haven’t, well, here it is again: I dislike the shooting aspect of Mass Effect 2. The game’s appeal has and always will be from its lore and characters and the way these alien races interact with one another. And these characters, these people I’ve gone out of my way to get on my team, they do little when actually on a mission besides a side-handed comment here or there, unless they are pivotal to the mission at hand. See, in Dragon Age: Origins, companions talked all the time, about the world at large and how the Chantry sucks and thoughts on dwarven history or the Taint and so on. When you made Big Boy decisions, everyone around you made sure you knew how they felt, which only served to enhance their personalities and my desire to see them happy (or unhappy). The same does not apply in Mass Effect 2; there is no sense of “we’re all quite different, but we have to stick together.”

So far, nobody has reacted in a big enough way to some of Shepard’s choices, most which were along the Paragon path, but I did slip a Renegade action in there once or twice. On each mission, whether it is a recruiting one or just a side quest, I switch out one of my party members constantly, keeping Miranda always for her Warp and Heavy Overload skills. Grunt, Jack, Jacob, Mordin–I’ve tried each one at Shepard’s side. And I’ve come to the realization that I could’ve swapped out any team member for a paper bag, and nothing would’ve changed–so long as that paper bag shot a gun and had a few abilities to select. Harsh, maybe. But I expected more.

Case in point: the Ghost Ship. Oh, and there be spoilers starting in the next sentence. Basically, the Illusive Man backstabs the team and sends them into a trap, but the only people vocal about it are Joker and the ship’s AI. You’d think that, given her relationship to Cerberus, that Miranda would have some strong words–more than a handful–but no, not really.


Ghost Ship (25G): Complete the investigation of a derelict alien vessel

I don’t know. Commander Shepard has now been prompted that we can go through the Omega 4 relay, but I said something along the stupid lines of “gotta build up the team some more.” Just because I want to get everybody for the sake of being a completionist. Given all the hype and worriment that a suicide mission carries, I have to say that I am really not invested in most of my side-mates. And I’ve tried. I talk to them between missions, exhaust dialogue choices, and so on. I try, dang it. But they don’t want to represent themselves as more than check marks–the warrior, the thief, the techie, the cheerleader–and so they seem artificial in nature, and inanimate objects can’t die because they never were alive to begin with.

Still haven’t played Suikoden III yet

You might recall reading about me finally finding a copy of Suikoden III after many years of searching through shelves of used PS2 games at every GameStop I visited. Actually, I wrote about it one month ago exactly. And yet, despite my deep and unrelenting love for the series, despite my excitement over finding a copy and having it in my collection and picking up the box now and then to confirm that, yes, it is real and, yes, it is mine…I’ve still not played it. Honestly, I’m kind of scared to.

Then again, I was also a wee bit scared to play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but for different reasons. Open-world games as massive as Bethesda makes ’em can be nothing but daunting; I love them, but sometimes struggle with staying focused, with sticking to the plan, and before you know it, I’ve lost the main thread and am now just wandering around, trying to find a place to call home. Still having fun, mind you, but feeling off, like I’m playing it wrong. I want to do everything, but to do everything means total and utter devotion. Which also means time, and time for videogames is not something I have as much for as I used to, seeing as I still plan to be either a famous writer or cartoonist–whichever happens first is fine by me.

With Suikoden III, I’m worried about being disappointed and then having to deal with the fact that I put way too much thought and care into obtaining something that ultimately did not do it for me. That’s some heavy thinking there, but it’s how my mind operates; I build my own structure of hype, and it’s very hard to get down from it safely. Supposedly Suikoden III is the best of the 3D games in the franchise, but a lot of that praise was printed back when the game came out. Y’know, in 2002. It’s hard to know how to interpret those claims some ten years later. I mean, I thought Suikoden V was fantastic, even with its slow start; in fact, that eight or nine hour intro is the reason why I admire it so.

Over the summer, for seemingly no reason at all, Tara popped Final Fantasy VII into her PlayStation. I chose not to watch, but because we were in the attic The Leaky Cauldron, I had to listen, and from what I heard, it sounded bad. Some games don’t age well, and some gaming mechanics definitely don’t age well; what might have been fast-paced battles and crazy good graphics back then certainly do not cross the mark today. Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII are games I’m scared to go back and play, and prefer to just leave them as fond memories for as long as possible. Same reason I haven’t gone back to Suikoden or Suikoden II–though, as an uber fan, I have to believe they stand the test of time.

I don’t know. Maybe I’ll just bite the bullet, put Skyrim aside for a bit this weekend, and see how Suikoden III goes. It’s gotta be better than some other PlayStation 2 games I’ve played recently, right? Right? Keep me in your thoughts.

30 Days of Gaming, #28 – Favorite game developer

Still struggling with these final few topics for the 30 Days of Gaming meme, this one in particular. Why? Well, I don’t really pay developers much attention, to be honest. Sure, they are the people behind the products that I either end up falling in love with (Suikoden II – Konami) or absolutely hate (Grand Theft Auto IV – Rockstar) or find confusing and hard to pick a solid stance on (Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Eidos Studios Montreal), but they’re the puppeteers, not the main show. Yes, it is their ideas and work and coding and crafting that make the product come alive and end up on retail shelves, but at that point, I’m eating up the product and not those that made it. I’m not leveling up and thanking XYZ for creating the leveling up aspect of the game. Let me try it this way: when you go out to a restaurant and eat a great meal, do you talk more about the meal or the specific chef that cooked it?

So, with that all laid out, I guess Konami is my favorite developer. Mostly because they developed a lot of games I love. Suikoden, Suikoden II, Silent Hill 2, Metal Gear Solid, and Castlevania for NES and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night to name a few. And they also worked on some other games from my collection, which I do not love per se, but did play (or watch Tara play) for a decent amount of time: Magician’s Quest: Mysterious Times, X-Men Arcade, Yard Sale Hidden Treasures: Sunnyville, and Dance Dance Revolution.

However, I could not name a single person that works or worked at Konami. Not for a million bucks. But a lot of their games really hit home for me, and that’s more than enough reason to call them my favorite developer. And now I’m imagining a universe where this company made every game ever, including a proper new entry in the Suikoden series; this Genso Suikoden: The Woven Web of a Century for the PSP is no good. Simply no good, ya hear?

Right. Well, I know there’s not a whole lot of text here, but I can’t figure out what else to say about my purported favorite developer. Only two more topics to go, and then this meme is complete. I know you’re all excited for me to count up how many actually days it took me to round up thirty posts of content. While we wait, tell me a bit about your favorite developer and what makes them oh so special. Please. I need to comprehend this all better.

How I finally found you, Suikoden III

Yesterday, according to just about every videogames-covering website ever to be put up on the Internet, was the release date for Professor Layton and the Last Specter. This is a game I’m surprisingly stoked for, and I know why. Certainly, it’s not a love for the series, as I have only played Professor Layton and the Curious Village; granted, that’s a great game, one that packaged both cinematic story and varied gameplay nicely, but I never got around to trying the next two to come out. If anything, they all seemed to be more or less that first game again, with different tweaks here and there. So, why am I all atwitter over the fourth game, which is actually a prequel where I’m assuming we learn why a grown man likes hanging out with a young boy so much?

Well, Professor Layton’s London Life. That’s why. It’s likened more to Animal Crossing than an RPG, and there’s a promise of over a hundred hours of gameplay. Yeah, duh. I think I dropped more than that on Animal Crossing: Wild World easy. With pixelated art and a focus on clothing, filling out a house like the rich and famous, and fetch quests galore…well, where do I sign over my first-born?

However, GameStop decided that Professor Layton and the Last Specter doesn’t come out on October 17, but rather October 18. Why? Why not. They make the rules, and so I disappointingly did not get to pick it up yesterday during my lunch break. When I got home from work, I had some noodles in a cup and mustered up the strength to try again; maybe the GameStops in Pennsylvania were more sensible than those in New Jersey. Nope. The one down the road in PA had no copies on their shelves either. Annoying, but kind of expected. However, this one did have a section for used PlayStation 2 games, a section that most stores have now cut due to saving crucial shelf space for things like Kinect Sports Season Two and Puppies 3D.

In my wallet, among other things, is a list. It’s basically this, but scrawled on a scrap of paper, folded and fading. I’ve been carrying it with me for many months now, and every time Tara and I come across a bin of used PS2 games, we search for those I’d like to add to my collection before they all up and vanish without a sound. I always check the “S” titles first, in hope of finding Suikoden III, a game that I never have hope of actually finding. The Suikoden games are some of my favorite RPGs, and while IV got bad reviews, V was pretty good story-wise, but is currently far away in Arizona. And I always heard good things about III, but never got around to getting it, and by the time that I did begin to earnestly search for it, the dang thing went dark, underground. Phooey.

Imagine my surprise then to find the box for Suikoden III last night, tucked safely behind a dingy copy of The Spiderwick Chronicles. And for $12.99, too. I would’ve gladly paid up to $30.00 for it, so in my mind, this was a steal. I mean, I know how high copies of Suikoden II still go for, and this kind of felt like it had the same rarity as its predecessor. Pretty sure my heart skipped a beat, and I’m so happy that I found found my copy of the game, making its acquiring all the more rewarding. I grabbed another RPG called Ys: The Ark of Napishtim for a few bucks, and Tara slid a copy of Monster Rancher EVO into my hands before we hit the cash register.

I am very much looking forward to seeing what Suikoden III is all about, and you can expect coverage here and maybe somewhere else. Stay tuned, my fellow Stars of Destiny.