Tag Archives: Suikoden V

Minigames that deserved more of my time

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It’s bad enough that there are somewhere in the upward hundreds of games in my never not growing collection that I haven’t touched and probably won’t for a good while, but then there are more than a handful of videogames with smaller games inside them that I have only skimmed the surface of, unable to devote more time to them, with my core focus on seeing the bigger picture draw to a close. I just hit this very moment in Night in the Woods with the game’s small yet mighty pixelated dungeon crawler Demontower, which is clearly taking cues from Dark Souls and requires a lot of focus to be successful in.

These are commonly called minigames, and some of them certainly dance on the edge of mini and major. I’m not here to argue semantics, nor am I referencing those slivers of gameplay in the Mario Party series. I’m here to dream a little dream, one where I get to dive oh-so-deep into these things, as many of them are definitely large enough to lose a good chunk of life and time into.

So here’s a bunch of minigames that truly deserved more of my precious hours, and I don’t know if they’ll ultimately ever get that pleasure. Spoilers and no surprises from me on this reveal: two of them are card-based.

“XENOCard” from Xenosaga Episode 1: Der Wille zur Macht

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Sometimes I think I want to write about Xenosaga Episode 1: Der Wille zur Macht simply so I can use its full title. It really is a beautiful thing. The sequels, which I alas do not own and probably never will due to their steep prices on Amazon, up the ante immensely. Really, look now: Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse and Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra. My oh my oh my.

Anyways, in Xenosaga Episode I, besides getting hot e-mails and a robot lady to battle by your turn-based side, you can play a card game called, as far as I can tell, Xenocard. The goal is to achieve victory by forcing your opponent to run through his or her entire deck, leaving them with no remaining cards. You can attack your opponent’s deck in a number of ways, forcing him to lose cards. At the same time, you must take protective measures for guarding your own deck from quick depletion.

It’s surprisingly complex–I mean, just look at the interface layout above–and not too different from things like Magic: The Gathering though I never got too far into the game to play a whole bunch because, for those that don’t know, there’s a lot of long cutscenes to sit and watch and not interact with, and so I most likely put this aside for something a little more engaging. Maybe one day I’ll return to the world of…Lost Jerusalem (Earth). Maybe.

“Insectron” from Rogue Galaxy

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Man, did I love Rogue Galaxy. That’s a statement, not a question. It’s a Level-5 JRPG from the PlayStation 2 days that does all the Level-5 things you now come to expect of the company, and it’s a fun, often silly, sometimes serious, take on all things Star Wars. However, I spent far more time feeding items and weapons to a magical frog-thing to make better gear and creating Rube Goldberg machines in the factory than I did with the game’s “Insectron” minigame. Insectors are small insects that you can catch at various places throughout the galaxy. Basically, this universe’s version of Pokemon, but buggier. The purpose for catching them is to make a team that can win battles against other opponents at the Insectron Stadium.

There are two parts to this massive sinkhole. First, you have to collect the insects. Unfortunately, the probability of catching an Insector is random. You have to find a good location, place traps or cages, fill them with bait, and then wait until you hear a specific sound indicating something’s happening. If you want even better Insectors, you’ll need to invest serious time into breeding. Next, you can begin to raise your collection, upping their ranks and feeding them special items to grow specific attributes. You can see the seeds of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch‘s familiars here.

Once you are satisfied with your team of Insectors, you can start battling. The battles at the Insectron Championship are done tournament-style. Win five matches to advance through one rank, then rinse and repeat. Insectron matches are 5-on-5 battles, and one of your team’s five Insectors is labeled the King. If you defeat your opponent’s King, you win. However, the Insector designated as the King is limited to only moving one space at a time. I think I attempted a few battles, but, having only used a sliver of the untrained Insectors I did manage to catch, did not get very far in the tournament and left the whole thing behind to see Jasper Rogue’s story draw to conclusion.

“Triple Triad” from Final Fantasy VIII

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2016 was the year that I finally saw Final Fantasy IX from beginning to end. To do this, I had to sacrifice the desire to go after every side quest, as well as the dream of being the legendary best Tetra Master player in the world. This meant I mostly just collected the cards and moved on with the adventure. I also ignored other minigames in Final Fantasy IX, such as Chocobo Hot and Cold and finding all those medallion coins. It’s fine; I’m fine. That all said, of the handful of Final Fantasy games I’ve played, I think I’d prefer to go back to Final Fantasy VIII and study up on all things Triple Triad, if given the time.

In Final Fantasy VIII, you could go up to a random NPC, press the square button, and maybe find yourself in a card game. As always, the goal is simple: capture as many of your opponent’s cards as possible by making sure you place higher-ranked cards adjacent to an enemy card. Easy enough, but the rules are what make this game deceptively tough and addicting, especially considering those rules can change depending where you are geographically in the game. More or less, it’s a modified version of Tic-Tac-Toe, played on a 3×3 grid. Players take turns placing a card down, and each card contains a “compass rose” of four different numbers (1-9, with “A” representing 10). Higher levels contain higher numbers, and these stats determine whether you’ll take the adjacent enemy card as your own or lose to its strength.

I remember wanting to simply collect all the character-specific cards, but then realizing I’d have to risk a lot of my collection to get them. Big ol’ boo to that. Also, the fact remains that disc 3 from my PlayStation 1 retail copy is still gone, given to a “friend” to borrow and then move away with, so I’ll never acquire that full digital collection of friendly faces like Selphie Tilmitt and…well, really, there’s only room for Selphie in my heart. Maybe Quistis Trepe. Evidently, you can play Triple Traid on some smartphones, but probably shouldn’t.

“Spheda” from Dark Cloud 2

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I think about this fact from time to time: despite getting to the last chapter, I have not yet beaten Dark Cloud 2. This probably needs to be remedied at some point, but I don’t know what is more daunting–loading up my years-old save and having a forgetful go at it or starting over fresh. I mean, yeah, I did miss a few photo opportunities early on during some boss battles. Well, I’m not here to talk about that, though it is just one of a few minigames or side activities you can take on in Dark Cloud 2, brushing shoulders with fishing and rebuilding towns, as well as Spheda.

What is Spheda? Glad you asked. It’s basically playing golf to repair time distortions. Mmm-hmm. You read that correctly. In short, the only way to fix these time distortions is to get a colored sphere back into the distortion hole, and you do that by whacking it around a cleared-out dungeon like you are playing mini-golf at the boardwalk during the summer. Except you do want to go off the main path and bounce the ball around corners. Each time a distortion is successfully closed, you’ll get a treasure chest containing valuable items. In addition, the player receives a medal, which can be traded to Mayor Need for, you guessed it, other items. Yay for items.

I’d have to load up my save to confirm this, but I think I was successful on one–and only one–round of Spheda. It’s hard. You only have so many shots to get it into the time distortion, and the dungeons are long and windy, with many sharp turns. I remember hitting the ball to be no easy task either, considering this is a JRPG and not a golf simulator. I wonder if I’d have more patience now to learn the ins and outs of this or if the loot is even worth all the effort.

“Cops and Robbers” from Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves

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I believe I played “Cops and Robbers” exactly once, with an ex, while waiting for my father to arrive for a visit. Because I used to document my life extensively, I can tell you it was around the time of this comic strip. The objective of this minigame in Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves is simple: get five points. One player controls Inspector Carmelita Fox, and the other steers that sneaky devil Sly Cooper. There’s only one map to play on, in Venice. Basically, Carmelita gets a single point every time she takes out Sly, and Sly gets one point every time he takes out Carmelita, as well as one point for every piece of loot he retrieves and takes to a designated drop-off area. Clearly, Sly has more options, but all Carmelita has to focus on is zapping him with her shock pistol.

To mix up the fleeing and pursuing, floating stars are sprinkled around the main section of the city. These provide either character with a power-up that can be used one to five times before a meter depletes. Each player has access to a compass that reveals where your opponent is. I remember it working well, though I have stronger memories tied to the mode where you are flying biplanes around. Oh well.

There’s also a whole treasure map aspect to eat up, which allows Sly to utilize clues, such as “stand before the statue’s gaze, to begin your walk along the treasure’s maze,” that eventually lead to the objective, which in most occasions is treasure. It’s fun and gives me confidence that I could probably star in a remake of The Goonies if asked. No one’s going to ask.

Well, that’s all I can come up with at the moment though I guarantee I’m missing other standout examples. Like “Feitas” from Suikoden V. And “Tombstones” and “Rage Frenzy” from Rage. Grrr. See, told you there’s plenty more.

Anyways, what minigames did you only barely touch and regret not fully experiencing? Well, maybe regret is too strong a word. Either way, tell me about them in the comments below. I want to know.

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Five more games I almost beat, but then walked away from

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Over at SlickGaming, every Sunday or so, Jason Jasicki lists the games he acquired across the week, whether they were provided to him for review purposes or he hit up a yard sale or–and more power to him–he ventured into GameStop during a “buy-2-get-1-free” promotional event and dropped some loose change on the counter. I’m not as deep into collecting as he is–though I still want to have every Suikoden title out there, even if I can’t play them–but it’s interesting to see what he picks up, for how much, and whether or not he’s actually interested in playing these games.

That said, his recent excursions landed him a copy of Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime, a game which I got to the very last tank fight, but couldn’t beat–and haven’t gone back to since. Shame on me. That got me thinking about other games I got about 95% through before throwing in the towel. Now, for the die-hard of Grinding Down readers, you’ll most likely remember that I already touched on this topic, focusing on six PS2 titles that never got their respective credits to roll: Dark Cloud 2, Suikoden V, God of War, The Mark of Kri, Ratchet & Clank, and Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King. I wrote that post two years ago in October 2012, and here’s a surprising update–I’ve still not beaten any of ’em. Though I did make an attempt to get back into DQVIII, but it was short-lived.

Well, let’s see what else I can find in my collection that I nearly played to completion but, for some reason or another, walked away from. Dangerously, I might have to even load up a few of these to refresh my memory. On to the list!

Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime

All right. Just loaded up this DS cart on my 3DS for the first time in a very long time. Seems like I’ve rescued 90 slimes (out of 100), and my save slot says I’ve played Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime for 12 hours and 57 minutes (also of note: 0 multiplayer wins). I’m definitely at the last level of the game, also known as the Flying Clawtress, but I don’t know if it is actually the last tank battle or not as I previously suspected. I’ve wandered around the town map for a bit to get a feel again for the main slime’s powers and relearn the lay of the land. Maybe later I’ll see just how much more work I need to do to save the rest of the slimes and take down the final tank(s). That jaunty, head-boppin’ Boingburg town music already has a strong hold of my heart again.

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

Out comes Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime, in goes The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. My 3DS is very confused. Looking at my save slot, there’s no logged time, and I truly don’t recall that last time I drew a line across the ocean and had Link sailing to and fro. Here’s what I can tell you: I have 11 hearts, three butterfly thingies (red, blue, and yellow), and three gemstones (red, blue, and green), though it looks like there is room for a fourth. I’m on some island, and I suspect I need to head back to wherever that one main ever-expanding singular dungeon is and see how far down it goes. Brace yourselves: I’m glancing at an online walkthrough. Ahh…yeah. Nothing even looks a sliver familiar, so I really don’t know where I am at this point. Maybe not 95%, more like 75% complete. Heck, I could just forget about the story and focus entirely on getting every single fish in the ocean…

Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

According to my Achievements list, I have 31 of 60 unlocked for Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. It’s a bit difficult to tell, but it looks like I maybe only have a handful left related to story stuff, like defeating that mean ol’ witch and collecting a bunch more Jiggies. Jiggles? Er, I don’t remember. I think the problem I ran into was struggling to be creative enough with my vehicle creations and lacking the parts to do anything considerably cool, as well as some of the level design just being frustrating, especially when you are trying to ascend vertically. I know I did complete the game within the game, which was some strange auto-scrolling runner amusingly called Hero Klungo Sssavesss Teh World.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner Overclocked

If you’ll recall, I sucked so horribly at this SJRPG that I hit the “Early Bad Ending” and put the blasted thing aside, eventually forgetting about it altogether, especially once Shin Megami Tensei IV entered my collection. Which is a major bummer, because I really enjoyed Devil Summoner Overclocked‘s story and characters, even if every other word out of their mouths is “demons” or “government.” If I’m going to successfully get past this one fight where you need to battle demons and angels and attack the humans to break their COMPs, but then also protect them from the previously mentioned angels and demons, with no civilians dying…I’m going to need help. Mega help. And by that, I might not to watch someone else play it on YouTube and try to mimic their every move. Yeah, I’m not happy with this.

Final Fantasy VIII

Yup, digging deep on this one. Back to the PS1 days and my PSM sticker-covered console that sat proudly on my bedroom’s floor. I have never beaten Final Fantasy VIII, and given that one of the game’s discs is missing from its jewel case, I most likely never will. That’s okay. It definitely is not one of my more favorite Final Fantasy titles, though I did find something strangely interesting with the Junction system. Plus, this is where Triple Triad got its start, but was better refined in Final Fantasy IX. Anyways, I do remember hitting the end-game area, back when I had the disc still, but–and no, I’m not looking this up to confirm–you had to split your group into two teams to progress, and one group of characters was much higher in levels and gear than the other. I was not prepared for such a scenario and walked away from it entirely. Oh well.

Well, that’s all I got for now. Whew. Between this list and that other one with the six unfinished PS2 games on it, I have plenty in the backlog waiting to be polished off. Waiting and wishing and wanting. That is if I ever make a dang effort to do so. We’ll see. My gaming habits are constantly in flux, and I just end up playing what I want, when I want, and for how long I want. If something goes unfinished or untouched for a good while, perhaps that’s how it was meant to be. Yeah, yeah, I see you, Game of Thrones, eye-balling me from across the room. I see you.

Tell me, dear readers. What games in your collection hover right on the edge of completion? And why did you stop playing?

 

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

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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…

A roundup of PS2 videogames I came close to completing

Though my number of Xbox 360 and/or DS games is beginning to catch up, I’d say that PlayStation 2 games still make up the largest chunk of my gaming collection. It’s a console and gaming generation where I spent that special age where one could first buy games for themselves thanks to a job and second play them fully with little stress, especially during summer vacations and homework-empty college weekends, to get in the way, and so a lot of bucks were dropped on digital entertainment. If you’d like a bit of time capsule-ness, I bought a lot of games from a little store called FuncoLand.

That said, I never completed every game I got, but a few of them came quite close to seeing credits. Real close. Alas, they either proved too difficult for me or I just didn’t have the endurance to keep going, and so I moved on, leaving them behind in a killer standstill on my memory card, just waiting for me to return, to finish them off. Many moons later, I don’t know if I ever will, but here’s what I remember about a few of them. Please understand that the below musings are shaded in gray and hazy as heck, as I’m going off memory here and trying not to look too much up.

Here we go, PS2 games I couldn’t quite finish…

Dark Cloud 2

Hmm. It’s pretty fuzzy, but I know I got as far up as the final boss. Or maybe the final boss before the final boss. Meh. I remember the main guy with a wrench and mystical girl are still traveling through time a bit, and we’re in a castle foyer or something. Right in front of a big set of winding stairs, at least. The boss is a flying/floating enemy, making it hard to hit unless you are using a gun or the Ridepod mechanism. Never could seem to get past it.

Then again, there were so many side-thingies to do in Dark Cloud 2–like taking pictures for ideas, creating new inventions, fishing (tournaments, breeding, battles), that golf minigame called Spheda once you cleared a dungeon floor–that I probably got distracted from trying to beat the boss and just do/see everything. And then I eventually gave this game, as well as my copy of Suikoden V, to my sister in Arizona to play. Years passed by, and she returned these two back to me last Christmas after trading in her own PS2 and games. A part of me wants to pop back in and just see what I need to do to kick the evil dude’s butt, and then another part of me–the sickest part–wants to start the whole game over. Yeaaaaaaah…

Suikoden V

Honestly, I haven’t a clue story-wise where I stopped playing. Somewhere after betrayals hit, but before revelations and resolutions came into it all. Had to be really close to the end. I remember a one-on-one fight with my deranged aunt, and then an epic boss fight in some mountainous area. Maybe against a three-headed dragon. Or three enemies. I dunno. Three something seems to be right. But my party probably got wiped out way too fast, and the thought of grinding scared me away. I should load up Suikoden V sometime soon though just to check out my castle again. It’s been way too long since I’ve gone around exploring my castle headquarters in a Suikoden game, and seeing just how much Konami does not care for this franchise, it might be a long, long time until one can again.

God of War

Couldn’t kick Ares’ ass. Simple as that. No matter how many times I would dodge and roll and swipe and stab and yell crazy yells–it was all fruitless. You grew to the size of a mountain thanks to Pandora’s box voodoo and still couldn’t take down the god of war with his flaming hair and boney wings. Boo.

The Mark of Kri

I’ve actually been thinking about this game a lot ever since I ran through Mark of the Ninja. And no, it’s not just because both use mark in their names. The Mark of Kri is a really odd creation, a mix of Disney-esque visuals and then excruciating painful and violent death animations. You play it mostly as a stealthy Rau, going across entire levels unnoticed, pinning enemies to walls or simply dismembering them with a lot of flair. There’s some really great level design and aesthetics in this underrated title from 2002, that’s for sure.

Unfortunately, the final scenario for this game is anything but quiet, as you must face an endless horde of bad guys, turning a scheming stalker into a generic hack-n-slash warrior. And it’s a tough fight. You are basically surrounded by goons, all with different button prompt presses over their heads, and you just have to try your luck to take as many out as you can before your life bar depletes. Obviously, I haven’t been able to do it.

Ratchet & Clank

Chairman Drek, multiple stages with falling platforms, and rail-grinding–those are the aspects I remember most from the final fight in Ratchet & Clank, the only game in the original trilogy I did not see to its end. Yup, I still haven’t completed the first game that got me to love a lombax, a quirky robot, and the craziest weapons ever crafted. I’ve been able to finish two-thirds of the fight just fine, but that last part, with a time limit and an intimidating Drek in some kind of bomb-tossing machine, always get me. Plus, later games introduced way more health for Ratchet, but here you only get so many chances to get hit.

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

Not much has happened since I last spoke about my progress–or lack thereof–in Dragon Quest VIII. I wandered the countryside a bit, tried my hand at the casino, fought some monsters for coin, tried the next rank in the Monster Battle Arena again with no luck, and glanced through my list of uncrafted weapons/armor for the melting pot thingy. 84 hours logged is no joke though, so I am still considering this one to be an almost there, even if a whole lot of grinding for stronger weapons and gear is required to beat the boss–who is not the final boss–blocking any current progress.

So, those were some of my close, but not close enough titles. I’m sure there’s a few more that I’m forgetting right now, but I’d need to go through my collection case by case to figure it all out. In the meantime, what games–PlayStation 2 or other–have you come really close to finishing, but just haven’t as of yet? Speak up below, and maybe you’ll find some inspiration to finish the job!

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, #20 – Favorite genre

If you thought the answer to this topic was gonna be racing or cooking sims, well…you’ve clearly not been paying much attention to Grinding Down. I’m all about the roleplaying games, but it did take me some years to really get into the genre and stay there, as many JRPGs almost ruined me, as they have almost ruined others before me. Thankfully, standout titles like Suikoden, Suikoden II, and Final Fantasy VII literally blew my genitals, taking me from teenhood to manhood in a matter of dozens of hours, thanks to intricate plots, fantastic battle systems, soaring sounds, elegant pacing, light grinding, addictive gameplay, and endings that still resonate with me to this day. Plus, y’know, they let me play a role in their worlds.

I’ve always been a big reader, and much of the credit can go to my sister Bitsy who, from an early age, passed along books she had already read to me. Many of these turned out to be fantasy novels–works by Mercedes Lackey, Piers Anthony (oh my), and Anne McCaffrey–and it wasn’t too hard to leapfrog from them to more “adult” work, devouring things like The Belgariad series by David Eddings, The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, and stuff by David Gemmell. Throw in the classics like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the entire Discworld series, and well, I was hooked on stories.

And here comes along a genre of videogames that promises epic stories…and more! The majority of RPGs, more often than not, at least five or ten years ago,
were fantasy-themed. Sure, there’s the occasional sci fi-themed RPG, and many could argue that Final Fantasy VII is more space and metal frames than swords and dragons, but these videogames gave all their love to royalty and kingdoms and knights and dragons and magic spells and small-time villages trying to make ends meet before war destroyed everything everywhere. So I ate it up, even the bad meals like Beyond the Beyond and SaGa Frontier. It didn’t matter–I just wanted to be in a realized world, growing as a character, growing into a story.

Character customization is not as important to me as character crafting is. Whenever a new RPG begins and you’re given the chance to mold how your dude or dudette looks, I click around, raise their cheekbones, lighten or dark their skin, find a cool beard, and call it a day. I can easily see that hours upon hours can be spent noodling with dozens of options, but that’s not important to me. Once we’re in the game, spending skill points or focusing on this spell or deciding what kind of armor Mini Paul will wear are the bigger decisions.

While RPGs are my favorite genre, this also can be problematic. On average, a RPG can take around 30 to 40 hours to complete. However, having an addictive personality, I end up playing most RPGs for double that. See: 130 hours logged so far in Dragon Quest IX, over 100 hours for Fallout 3, eighty+ hours for Fallout: New Vegas, and so on. Playing more than one RPG at a time is like juggling balls of fiery acid with no gloves, and yet it’s something I simply can’t avoid.

Last year, I needed a break between some RPGs I was eating up, and so I picked up Mini Ninjas for the Xbox 360, thinking that an action title would be a good change of pace. I completed the game in under five hours. That’s it? I’ve played prologues in RPGs for longer than that (think Suikoden V, people), and I was a bit taken aback at how much quantity I look for in a game these days. Quantity over quality, especially when discussing bug-ridden games like the Fallout series. I don’t care how broken they are…there’s so much stuff to do to distract me from such bummers.

But yeah, RPGs. Love ’em. Always will so long as they continue on, which we all know they will. Can’t wait to see how big and massive Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is gonna be, as well as the multiple choice quiz that is Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Sorry, upcoming Cooking Mama 4 for the 3DS…I DON’T GIVE TWO STEAMED CAULIFLOWERS ABOUT YOU.