Tag Archives: Trophies

2013 Game Review Haiku, #36 – Batman: Arkham Asylum

2013 games completed 36 batman arkham asylum copy

Bats is late for the
Joker’s party, let’s just blame
Those Riddler trophies

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.

The good, the bad, and the grind of Dragon Fantasy (Book 1)

Dragon-Fantasy-8-bit-Screenshot

So, I beat Dragon Fantasy (Book 1) recently, as well as earned all of its Trophies, which makes it the first game on my long list of mostly untouched PlayStation 3 games to have a shiny 100% next to its name. No Platinum Trophy though, but that’s okay. Maybe I’ll get my first Platinum somewhere else, like say Ni no Kuni or Grand Theft Auto V. ::runs off laughing maniacally::

Anyways–it’s pretty good. As I mentioned before, Dragon Fantasy (Book 1) really is an old-school JRPG with a few modern conventions tossed in for good measure. Now, I would not say I have true professional gamer experience with the classic RPGs of yesteryear, though I’ve dabbled in the early Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy games enough to know what they are about and how they helped shape the roleplaying genre as a whole: straightforward plot, tough fights, and a whole lot of grinding. Muteki Corporation’s celebration of all this sticks to its guns….er, swords, and it’s kind of a mix of good and bad, though I was still able to find a lot of enjoyment in this 16-bit fantasy realm of nostalgia.

Dragon Fantasy (Book 1) is basically split up into three chapters (and an intermission), which can be played in any order, though I went with linear; any other way felt wrong.

Chapter 1 focuses on the character Ogden, who is a washed-up former hero trying to get back into the business of saving the world from great evil. You’ll travel solo across the map looking for magical pieces of armor. I found this chapter to be the longest and most dull in terms of gameplay, and since you only have one member in your party, fights are pretty tough and it takes a while before Ogden has the upper hand. Expect to use a lot of Herbs.

Chapter 2 is all about Prince Anders, brother of Prince Marlon, who one saw kidnapped at the beginning of Ogden’s adventure. Well, he wasn’t kidnapped exactly, and you’ll eventually see Anders discovering an important artifact. This chapter is extremely short compared to Ogden’s, probably made easier by the fact that you have a bigger party for those never-ending random battles. I actually missed two Trophies related to this chapter and had to pop back to it for twenty minutes or so.

Chapter 3 introduces two new characters to the journey: Jerald and Ramona, a thief and his niece. They are trying to escape the eastern desert empire of Sandheim, but first need to save up enough money for passports. After some grinding and stealing and plot twists, the two of them end up robbing a ship that the heroes from the first two chapters are using, thus bringing everybody together for, what I assume is, further adventures in Dragon Fantasy (Book 2).

Lastly, there’s a whole intermission chapter devoted to praising Minecraft and its creator Notch. It’s totally throwaway though the monster-recruiting ability is a nice change of pace, and I found it to be a bit overly gushing, and heck, I like Minecraft. You can skip it, unless you want all them Trophies, like I did.

My favorite thing about Dragon Fantasy (Book 1), besides its punny names and comedic writing, is how you can push a button to speed the game up. I’m no mathematician, but it felt like maybe three times as fast. It helps make the grind less of a, well, grind, but you still have to pay a little attention as you just can’t button-mash your way to higher levels here as your attacks miss often and one needs to constantly before of how much HP the characters have left. However, after a bit, even with the game on ultra-speed, the music and random battles, which happen just about every three to four steps, can become grating. Mostly because, with time sped up, you will hear the first few notes of the overworld map, then the first few notes of battle music, then the first few notes of battle victory music, and then back to the overworld, only to rinse, lather, repeat for all eternity. That said, I found myself playing the remainder of chapter 2 and chapter 3 (and that intermission) on mute, listening to a podcast or a playlist.

I’m not quite ready to move on directly to the SNES-inspired Dragon Fantasy (Book 2), but when I get that itch for some classic RPGing, warts and all, I know where to look.

Vanquishing the Order of the Russian Star in Vanquish

vanquish early impressions ps3

Over-the-top style, mediocre plot, and corny dialogue are three ways to describe Vanquish. You could also call it surprisingly fun. Because it truly is both, and just when you can’t stand to swallow another ultra macho catchphrase or Steven Blum grunt-infused one-liner, the game drops you into a frenetic and enemy-filled scenario, the kind where you have to keep moving to survive, and it’s a total blast, especially when you take down the final enemy scrub just as your life bar is depleting, tossing you into slow motion “bullet time” for one last chance at hitting a checkpoint. Those moments feel genuinely exhilarating, as do the rare quiet moments, like riding a monorail and sniping spotlights to avoid being detected, where the goal is to be quiet, a stark contrast to the majority of the game.

I do have some problems with Vanquish, but before I get to those, let’s start with the good. Mainly, the really good. This game is free. Well, at least for me. I was given a year’s worth of PlayStation Plus with the “classic white” bundle, and so I’ve been downloading games like a fiend. Not necessarily playing many of them, mind you, but now they are on my Ps3, ready for whenever I’m ready. And this one went up a week or two ago; despite my claim that I want to only focus on fewer games in hopes of then completing these games, most nights I don’t have the correct amount of time to devote to Ni no Kuni, and reviews for Vanquish prided themselves on that it is a short, but satisfying experience. I can handle short and sweet currently.

Anyways, Vanquish. In it, you play as Sam Gideon, soldier warrior for DARPA. He and a bunch of U.S. marines are out to stop Victor Zaitsev of the Order of the Russian Star. Why? Well, Zaitsev promptly declares war on the United States by capturing Providence, a self-sustaining space station that harnesses solar energy, and turning its solar generators into a giant death ray. Like a true villain, he destroys San Francisco before demanding that the female President of the United States surrenders. And so you team up with Robert Burns, voiced by everyone’s favorite grumbler Blum, to stop the Russian antagonist before more damage can be done.

You do this by shooting alien-like robots with guns. You shoot them with guns, I mean. Wait, they also have guns. Sorry, that got confusing. Words, people. Basically, the gameplay involves shooting, taking cover, sliding to new cover, and shooting some more. There’s a healthy range of weaponry at Sam’s disposal, though I’ve stuck mostly with traditional weapons like the assault rifle and anti-armor pistol. Before Bulletstorm came around and had you sliding into enemies, there was Vanquish and its power sliding ability, which allows you to move swiftly across the ground at the cost of shield energy. It’s a really fun and useful mechanic, especially when you can time it perfectly to get behind an enemy and deliver a succinct melee attack to the noggin.

Now for the faults: instant kills and the treatment of Elena Ivanova. Several larger enemies have attacks that will instantly kill Sam in one hit, regardless of how full his shield bar is. This is pretty frustrating, even though these attacks are highly televised via bright beams of light and audio cues. Sometimes you just can’t get out of the way fast enough, and then you’re dead, back at the last checkpoint. As for Ivanova, she’s a wasted opportunity and a fine example of how videogames present women poorly. And this is coming from a game that casts a female POTUS in its future, to all their credit. Basically, any time they cut to Elena, who is Sam’s combat support intelligence, they use camera angles that emphasize only her legs and butt, like so:

elena ivanova sample shot

And that’s ultimately disappointing to see each and every time the narration cuts to her, especially since she’s never doing anything dynamic, just visually conveying data, like incoming enemy ships and doorlock passcodes. To Vanquish, at least so far, she’s nothing more than an up-skirt. I know standing desks are all the rage these days, but you could’ve put her in a chair and behind a desk and have her function all the same. Or even just leave her as a voice in Sam’s head, telling him (and the player) what to do next.

Right now, I’m near the end of Act 3, and I think I saw on the Trophies list that there are five or six acts in total. Halfway through it then. And that’s great. I suspect by the end of Vanquish I will have had my fill of the game’s mechanics, but like I mentioned before, short and sweet is sometimes exactly what one needs. Even if it is short and sweet and overly macho to the point that I can’t help but roll my eyes as I pop out from cover, trigger AR Mode, and clear out a line of enemies in one swift, action hero-like manner. I guess it really is all connected.