Monday, July 30, 2007

Hi All!

Sorry I haven't been able to post lately, I've been consumed trying to keep up with school, moving, and maintaining a blog about my life as a game designer (Adventures in Game Design, the link is over on the right as well).

I hope you are all doing well, playing many more games than I have been lately. I think I've played the games I got for my birthday for roughly 6 hours (my birthday was well over a week ago, FYI). I'll try to post whenever I get the chance to play a game or read something cool about industry goings on. Later!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Blue Dragon? Meh.

Well, E3 Lite is underway, and we are beginning to be bombarded with trailers and (somewhat surprisingly) demos. Blue Dragon so happens to be one of these aforementioned demos. Blue Dragon also happens to be high on the watch list of yours truly, so I was eager to give the demo a go. Would the demo pump me up and get me all riled up over the impending release next month?

Actually, not so much. Honestly, I was a little under-whelmed by the demo. Maybe it's because you are over-level in the demo to give you a glimpse of more skills, but I was literally plowing through the run of the mill enemies. The mini-bosses were a little bit more challenging, but only because they get to attack so often (generally every other action was the boss's action). This disparity in difficulty was somewhat frustrating, since it made to area bosses seem almost impossible by comparison. I suppose this could be the desired effect, but I'm uncertain.

The thing that really drove me nuts was the "slowdown." I put that in quotes because I don't think it has anything to do with the framerate; I think they may have just gone nuts with the slo-mo effect. They've gone so crazy with it, it was a detrimental effect on the game: the battles feel like they lag. Believe me, it's not a pleasant effect.

To be honest, before I played the demo, this game was number two on my 360 wish list: behind Lost Odyssey and Mass Effect. However, with the mediocre nature of the Blue Dragon demo, and factoring in how much I enjoyed the Eternal Sonata demo, I am now officially more excited about Eternal Sonata, since I'm sure you are interested.

And since I brought up Mass Effect and Lost Odyssey, if you haven't taken a gander at the E3 trailers released today, I'd recommend it. I had a major nerdgasm hearing Keith David in Mass Effect. Is there anything that he does not make awesome with his presence? I think not. Also, I could probably make an entire post solely on the Lost Odyssey trailer, but I'll leave it at this: wow. How awesome is this storyline: an immortal soldier with no memory of any of his past exploits must search for clues of his past to stop the planet from being poisoned. Genius!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Uberpost

I was debating whether or not to break this up into two normal-sized posts, or to throw it all together as one massive uberpost. I've chosen to go with the latter. Lucky you!

is very good. The story is strongly (repeat, very strongly) influenced by Harry Potter. For example, the headmaster's name is Gammel Dore. Yeah, they're really subtle. The premise is that you area new student in a magical academy, and in your first five days all hell breaks loose. At the end of the 5th day you're zapped back through time to your first night. Fortunately, when you restart, you'll still have all your grimoires and you'll remember how to use them.

I'm a big fan of the sorcery tree. I tend to get pretty excited about the ability to control massive dragons who will obey my every command. Well, they'll obey every command as long as all my commands are "attack." That works though, since that's the only command I can give 'em. I'm also a big fan of Grimalkin, and not just because they're cats who walk around and cast magic. Actually, no. That is why I'm a big fan. Mana burn is my favorite spell in the game, by a very wide margin. When a spell can evoke a one-shot kill on half of the units in the game, and can be cast three times in a row without recharging, it's worth researching.

On the other hand, Glamour sucks. It's not really surprising, since it's called Glamour for God's sake! Fairy's are a waste on mana in pretty much any level past the tutorials, and Unicorns are definitely the weakest of the 150-cost units. Their strongest unit can't even attack without building bullets!

I could go on and on about this, and that's because I'm enjoying the game so much. It seems to be pretty short, so I'm trying to savor it. I limit myself to a couple of battles per day at most. If you feel an itch to play a PS2 RTS sometime, give GrimGrimoire a look-see.

Guitar Hero II
Man, was I late to this party or what? I like to think that I'm "fashionably late." I finally decided to pick up Guitar Hero II for the 360 last weekend, and I'm not as terrible as I thought I'd be. In fact, I managed to finish Career mode on Medium. Go me! However, looking at the song lists for the first two games and Rocks the 80's, and looking ahead at the announced lists for Part III, and Rock Band, I see some glaring omissions from the track lists. I am so adamant about his, in fact, that I've decided to make an impromptu Top Ten List.

Actually, it's not a "Top Ten List," since this isn't ranked. We'll just call it:

Ten Artists/Songs that Should be in Guitar Hero III/Rock Band:

1. Van Halen "Hot for Teacher" - Come on guys! You've had three attempts to put this in a game, and you've failed. Don't disappoint me again.

2. Mudvayne "Dig" - I'd settle for almost any Mudvayne song, but could you imagine "Dig" in Rock Band? I've got dibs on not doing the vocals.

3. Metallica "Call of Ktulu" - I know that Activision is trying to get Metallica tracks on GH III, and I know that they love throwing in the all-instrumental tracks. Here's hoping this ends up in there.

4. Megadeth "Killing is My Business..." - We know there's not a problem with getting license to use Megadeth's songs in these games, so why not use one of the songs that put them on the map?

5. Killswitch Engage "Daylight Dies" - I will pray for any KSE song in Rock Band. Pretty please!?

6. Chuck Berry "Johnny B. Goode" - This song seriously isn't in either of the first two GH games? Really? Wow.

7. Queen "Bohemian Rhapsody" - Can you say "Rock Band?" Yes? Good.

8. The Doobie Brothers "China Grove" - I'm running out of things to say about these songs.

9. Pantera "Walk" - Is there a more memorable riff in the history of heavy metal?

10. CKY "Sniped" - I just listed "Sniped" to put something there. Any CKY song would be great.

11. BONUS - Hawthorne Heights "Ohio is For Lovers" - Just so we can see if emo kids can play Guitar Hero and cut themselves simultaneously.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Red Ring

Oh, Microsoft, responsibility is important and you've stepped up. I won't even begin to argue that makes everything okay, but it certainly is an improvement. What they really need to do is set up an exchange policy with a retailer. It isn't ideal, but if for a month they had a presence at a number of stores around the country, letting people get a new or refurbished replacement for free, then they'd get some real good press. It'll never happen, but that'd please all the people annoyed right now and send a nice message to the gaming press that they actually want to please gamers, not just beat Sony.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

GBA Swan Songs?

Maybe Sidious is right and maybe I just ignored the GBA in favor of my PSP or consoles, but last year Atlus released a bunch of extremely good games for the little handheld. A card based strategy RPG? Check. (Yggdra Union) A strategy RPG space opera with giant fighting anime robots? Check. (Super Robot Taisen 2) A quirky, fun, action RPG? Check. (Summon Night: Swordcraft Story 2) I mean come on!

I have had the good fortune to play Yggdra Union for about 10 hours now (having only picked it up about 3 days ago) and it is just a fantastic take on the strategy RPG genre, with an interesting story (so far) to boot. I also picked up Super Robot Taisen 2 and have ordered its predecessor as I have been informed it is basically necessary to understand the storyline, but, as always: Anime robots? Count me in.

At $20 a pop these are great values, and I would even go so far to say just outright better than some of the newer console releases. If you've still got a GBA sitting around or have moved on to the unholy, demon-forged DS, definitely take a look at these titles, they are well worth it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

From the "Dog Bites Man" Files

If there was any doubt that this generation of the console wars is going a bit differently then those of the past, check this out:
Nintendo briefly zipped past Sony in market capitalisation on Monday to become one of Japan's ten most valuable companies as it elbows the PlayStation maker out of its decade-long dominance of the game industry.
Now, lest all of the Playstation 3 haters jump on and declare victory for their motion-sensing miracle, it appears that the market decided that something just wasn't quite right with that picture.
Nintendo joined global household names such as Toyota, Honda and Canon on the top-ten list before its shares erased earlier gains and ended the day lower. (Emphasis Added)
Me: Obviously I still think its too early to declare a winner for this generation, but there is no doubt that Sony is reeling. I mean, for god's sake, the company makes TV's and computers in addition to their "toys" and yet is getting it handed to them by the home of the plumber and the green-clad elf. Still, lets hold on for a bit before we declare mighty Sony down for the count.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Oh, snap!

I was perusing Next-gen's preview of Haze, when I happened upon this quote:

And Yescombe sees it as a responsibility for the gaming industry to deal with more mature, and even realistic, subject matter: “It’s about what’s happening in the world today – it’s ludicrous, and how can you make something that doesn’t reflect that? Well, you could bury your head in the sand and make Halo 3, but the fact of the matter is there are more important things at stake.” As well as this bigger picture, your own mortality, obedience and control are explored, and to Yescombe it’s clear that the demands made by games are necessarily changing, “because while Halo is brilliant, you’re a teenager – the next gen is about becoming more mature: in Haze you become an adult.”

Damn! I mean...damn! In your face Bungie! Free Radical just served your ass!

What has Society come to?

The game Society looks like it could be a winner. Of course it won't be a winner for at least one more year, but I can accept that. Some of the screens really have an ambiance to them, the way Resident Evil 4 did, but without the creepy factor.

The news on the game is short, but after the weird turn the new SimCity is taking, going more arcardey on us, Society may be a truly welcome addition. Not that it is trying to be SimCity in any way, maybe more Civilization, but with that whole MMO thing added on. The idea of a game taking a full year to play sounds both impressive, daunting, and wholly addicting. I Nicorrette can come out with a patch for that, cause I'm still going to have bill to pay after this game comes out. (and hopefully a job to lose...)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Things Unexpected

Within the past 24 hours, three things have happened that I never expected. In reverse order of shock value:

3. Yes, some people will pimp out anything.
This morning, I saw a minivan with rims. Spinners, no less. I realize that lots of people take pride in a "pimped-out ride," but seriously. Should you really be pimping your wheels when your wheels are attached to a Caravan? I didn't get a look at the driver, but I can only imagine who would be driving a burgundy minivan with spinning rims.

2. More proof that fried food is delicious.
I like cheeseburgers. I like cheeseburgers with all manner of unique toppings, like fried onion straws or blue cheese crumbles. One thing I haven't seen offered on a burger is a fried egg. Or, I hadn't seen it until I took a closer look at the menu at Red Robin. As it turns out, they offer a bacon cheeseburger topped off with a fried egg. Well, that I had to try. As it turns out, it's quite tasty. Put one on the board for the Royal Red Robin Burger.

1. Strategy on the 360? ZOMG!!!
I never thought I'd see this. Not in a million years. A system that seemed destined to be rife with shooters and racers actually has generated some more cerebral fare. My incredulity aside, there actually is an impressive strategy game available on the 360. And on XBLA of all places! Band of Bugs is a surprisingly good strategy title for only 10 bucks. I started the trial version last night, intending to try it out for 10 minutes or so. 45 minutes later, I was paying up for the full version. I haven't sampled the map editor yet, but Band of Bugs has strong prospects as a game that I can keep coming back to for a long time.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Re: AO....(Huh!)...What is it Good For?

There are a number of responses that went through my head in response to your points, and I think I've limited them to 3:

1. Unless you've played the game, and we haven't, we don't know what kind of game it is. Violence is not inherently cutting edge. It's from Rockstar so we'll assume its going to be at least a good game, but being on the "cutting edge" in this case, and in all other AO cases, would just mean that they allow severe sex and violence. While there is a certain amount of draw to that, its not that overwhelming. "Cutting egde" for video games is seen as something different, which explains why anyone has purchased a PS3 over a 360.

2. Publishing the game = lawsuits = negative perception by parents. There is a 100% chance that they would be sued, and not just by Jack Thompson. Parents buy many of the systems for their kids. This would be big press if the system were the only one publishing such a game and that would be how it was branded in parents' minds.

3. AO ratings have their place just as NC-17 has its place. No one wants to make an NC-17 movie because most theaters won't carry it. Some artists choose to go that way and that's their choice, but they have to distribute the movie so people can see it - it ends up in art houses and in DVD sales, which in this case are analogous to the PC. If you want to keep someone from breathing down your neck, you put it somewhere without someone to sue. And the super-violent movies that the game has been likened too (Hostel, Saw, etc) have sometimes had to be recut inorder to make it into theaters. That's why their "unrated" DVD versions are so important. They know they'd hit NC-17, so they make the commercial sacrifice.

So what does that mean? First of all, Rockstar should have seen it coming. And the solution isn't that appetizing - publish the full game on PC and then publish a watered down version on the Wii and the PS3. Sure, Gamespot says it would lose some of the story, but I doubt that it would take a full overhaul to get it under. Dark violence is okay, Manhunt proved that, but apparently there is a limit. Oh, and if they do that, they better make sure that the cut pieces are lying there on the disc like some Hot Coffee.

Playstation 3 to have (gasp) Games!?!

This from the powers that be at Sony:

Sony's game division posted an operating loss of 232 billion yen ($1.88 billion) in the past business year because of hefty start-up costs of the PS3, prompting investors to see the console business as Sony's biggest risk factor.

Nintendo Co. Ltd.'s Wii game console has been outselling the PS3 by three to one in Japan and more than two to one in the United States so far this year, according to game magazine publisher Enterbrain and research firm NPD.

A lack of attractive games has been widely cited as a reason for the PS3's relatively weak performance in addition to the fact that it is twice as expensive as the Wii.

More than 200 packaged software titles will likely be released for the PS3 in the year to March 2008, and more than 180 titles are expected to be launched over the Internet, Stringer said.
Not much to add here, save this: YEAH RIGHT.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

AO....(Huh!)...What is it Good For?

As many of you are no doubt aware, Rockstar's Manhunt 2 recently received an AO rating from the ESRB. If released, this would mark the first console game intentionally released at the AO level (GTA: San Andreas is technically the first, since the ESRB retroactively rated it with an AO when it discovered poorly rendered humping action in the game...oh the horror). Nevertheless, AO is a legitimate ranking. Pity that the console makers don't think so.

From Gamespot:
GameSpot has confirmed with Nintendo and Sony that one of those options, which would be to accept the ESRB's judgment and release the game with the AO rating, isn't an option at all. Both companies forbid licensed third-party publishers from releasing games rated AO for Adults Only on their various hardware platforms. Though Manhunt 2 isn't slated for any of Microsoft's systems, the company has also confirmed that it does not allow AO-rated titles on the Xbox or Xbox 360.
Now, I understand Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo want to protect their brand, I do. But save for Nintendo (which really is marketed at the kiddies almost exclusively), I would think that there is a branding advantage to be gained from being the only console with "cutting edge" fair.

Manhunt 2 is really this generation's Mortal Kombat. If you were into video games at the time, you will remember that the release of Mortal Kombat sparked senate committee hearings, the formation of outraged parent groups, and the birth of the rating system itself. The whole "controversy" went so far as to cause Midway to release two separate versions of the material: One with all of the content of the arcade game on the Sega Genesis (which admittedly still required the use of a "blood code"), and one watered down to the point of being irrelevant on the SNES. Certainly the Genesis gained a great deal of street cred with the release of the real version.

And yet here we are. I could talk until I'm blue in the face about the fact that in order for the high end of the rating system to work we cannot eliminate the use of the highest rating, or that the most recent torture porn masterpiece from Eli Roth is likely more violent and disturbing then Manhunt 2 will be (Full Disclosure: Obviously I haven't played Rockstar's latest), but what do you all think? Is there market share to be gained by allowing AO games on one's system? Or are the console makers right to believe that adults need to be coddled as much as the kids do?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

And Blu-Ray takes the lead...

I've been accused of backing the Blu-Ray high definition video format over its brethren, the HD-DVD. This is not the case. The reason I have Blu-Ray discs is quite simply because I bought a new Playstation 2 that happens to play Blu-Rays (why the console has a number '3' on it I can't say...I certainly don't play any Playstation '3' games on the console).

That being said, I believe that the battle is one step closer to completion with this announcement from Blockbuster. The relevant portion:
In a move that could tip the scales in the format war, Blockbuster Inc. said Monday that it will begin offering only Blu-ray Disc titles among its high-definition rental selections at 1,700 company-owned stores.


Through June 10, Blu-ray held a 66% market share compared with HD DVD (34%), according to Nielsen VideoScan. The format held a 67% market share since the beginning of the year and 59% share since launches of both formats.
I think we may have a winner.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

You Know What...I DO Love Bees!

ilovebees is back baby... check out this article from gamespot.

The crux of the article:
Three-and-a-half months before Halo 2 lit up Xbox Live, ilovebees made its debut tagged onto the end of a Halo 2 trailer released in theaters. The viral marketing campaign and alternate-reality game piqued gamers' interests by sending them on a scavenger hunt for clues to unravel the mysterious quasi-real-world happenings that were steeped in Halo lore. Last week, again three-and-a-half months before the launch of its upcoming Halo game, Microsoft set in to motion its latest metagame, beginning this time with a mysterious message board "hacker."
As Avenger is well aware, I was one of the crazies plotting out pay phone call times during the original summer of (i)love(bees). I can't wait to do that again this year. Thank you Bungie!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Its the Story, Stupid!

So I was speaking with my brother over this Father's Day weekend when the topic of the greatness of Bioware came up (for those who are interested, this was brought about by my admission that I had ordered "Raw Danger" from ebgames due to the frequent mention of the plotline in this gamespot review). Specifically, he stated that Bioware had never made a bad game and that the plotline to KOTOR was one of the best in the last 10 years (seeing that plot-based games are only about 17 or 18 years old, he was this close to saying "all-time"). This evaluation was based in large part on the (light spoiler warning) Revan reveal, which he felt was handled perfectly.

As a gut reaction type point, I stated that MGS 3: Snake Eater had a better plotline than either KOTOR or KOTOR 2, in that it changed the way we looked at a venerated series. This is specifically the case with the introduction of the concept that (light spoiler warning) Big Boss may have been justified in creating Outer Heaven, and that it was Snake along who was unenlightened. He disagreed fairly vehemently with this notion, while admitting that the MGS3 storyline was still quite good.

I relate this to you all because I am curious. I basically purchased a game (Raw Danger) due entirely to my belief in that game's story. I have no illusion that the gameplay of said game is likely terrible. Similarly, I have enjoyed a number of games in the past with "great" stories and negligible game play (Shadow of Destiny springs to mind). So I'm curious, what are your favorite stories in games (completely independent of how they play as games), and have you ever purchased a game for its story even though you knew that the gameplay likely wouldn't be enjoyable?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Delicious Incentives

Ah, the inevitable ending of a trip to GameStop: "would like to pre-order any upcoming titles today?" This is, of course, followed by the inevitable "no." You could set your watch by it. Why on earth would I pre-order a game in-store, when I could just have them deliver it to my door instead. Yes, on-line pre-orders are more expensive: shipping ain't free, and since they starting charging tax on online orders (this wasn't the case back in ought-two), on-line pre-orders have become less of a deal.

However, I'm a busy guy. I don't have a long enough lunch break to run out to the store mid-day, and I don't want to get caught in a log-jam of traffic headed to the store after work. Therefore, I'm willing to pay for the convenience of having the game waiting for me on my step when I get home.

Also, when you order in the store, what do you get? Nothing. What do you get when you order online? Awesome goodies. From the awesome Soul Calibur and Xenosaga art books on my coffee table to the sweet-ass Baten Kaitos wall scroll hanging in my bedroom, online offers are often sweetened with swag. Case in point: Eternal Sonata. Custom faceplates? Yes, please! This game just jumped from the Christmas List, to the "must pre-order list."

I just hope I get the faceplate with the guy with the top hat. I'm a big fan of tall head-wear. Big fan.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Re: The Wii is what they make of it

The Wii will get support purely because every developer wants to make money. If there are lots of Wii's there will be lots of games. Will there be lots of gamer/non-casual games? I think there will be because the Wii is being bought by traditional gamers. Even more so than the last gen, buyers will purchase either a PS3 or and 360, their second system is the Wii. It has more unique titles, if only because of the significant first-party support, but "exclusives" are becoming harder to find outside of first-party, almost invisible. The Wii is getting some third party exclusives though, on pace with the 360 overall in less the half as much time since its release (including first party I imagine). A real adventure game, special modes in top selling games, a "duh it will be popular" Naruto game, a mysterious game by the guy who did Killer7 (so you know it'll be innoovative), so I'm not too worried.

The issue I see, is that the companies scrambling to support the Wii won't be able to put out their truly good games for two more years. PS3 will start getting them in a year or so, and the 360 will start seeing more of them to go with Gears of War, Forza, and Halo 3 over the next year. The Wii needs the lead it is building because it may take longer to see great games than either of the other systems. Plus, Sega is whining about where it will be in a few years, even while it supports with a number of games.

And to address Zelda, I've spoken with far more people who have enjoyed the game than those that think it was bad, and none that would say "irreversibly damaged". Zelda has a bigger problem in that the Twighlight Princess and Majora's Mask were just the Ocarina of Time 2 and 3. They add a few things here and there, but for a game that's supposed to be on the leading edge, it doesn't seem to be trying hard enough.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Grim Grimoire

I'm super excited for this game, just check out the trailer!

Re: The Wii is what they make of it

Oh, don't get me wrong, I think the Wii is great and I think that third parties who make games specifically for it ("novelty games" per your description) will do extraordinarily well. After all, the system is huge in strange new places like cruise ships and retirement homes...places were video games have never truly been before. With the gigantic base that Nintendo has created, the system simply can't fail. And that's a good thing.

But what I was trying to get at, Incognito, is that "normal" games don't feel right on the Wii. The Zelda experience, to me at least, is irreversibly damaged by using the wand and the ninja weapon rather than a traditional controller. And the plain fact of the matter is that most third parties (including Seeds) will be creating "normal" games. Knowing this, I believe that it is a perfectly rational choice for such third parties to eschew the Wii experience completely, and thus leave the Wii to Nintendo and the so-called "novelty" games.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Re: The Wii is what they make of it

While I believe there is some truth to what you say, I worry that the power gap may prove to be to difficult for the Wii to overcome. I'm not trying to sound like a complete graphics whore, but there are certain expectations that come with the "next generation" that I just think the Wii will fall short of. I mean, at the end of the day the technology improvements may allow for improved AI or more units on screen, but the most noticeable effect is on the visuals and audio, the Wii is behind the curve, and it's just going to get worse.

Don't take that to mean that I think the Wii will "fail" in any way, Nintendo first-party development alone can ensure that won't happen, but I think it will be a party game machine as opposed to the next evolution of gaming. The Wii-mote has yet to prove it can handle anything better than a conventional controller, and it has shown itself to be substantially worse in some cases. Still, I enjoy having friends over to play a bunch of Wii Sports or Wario Ware. I just imagine the experiences I truly remember from this generation will come from the 360 and PS3, but I'd happily be proven wrong.

The Wii is what they make of it

I'm in a hurry so I'll have to make this brief. You say the the Wii will only excel at first-party and novelty games, but why? There is no reason that third-party developers can't bring exciting, original content to the system. I think that the idea that Nintendo systems are only good for kids games and WarioWare is ridiculous. The Wii can be whatever developers want it to be. Well, whatever they want it to be that isn't censored by Nintendo (frankly, I'm shocked that they gave the thumbs-up to Manhunt 2, but that's another post entirely).

It would be a monumental shame if the Wii controls weren't able to reach their true potential because no one like Seeds decided to make something great with them.

Avenger's Hyper Update

Sorry I've been so quiet as of late. The logistics of quickly leaving my job and relocating to Texas have proved to be pretty time consuming, so I haven't been making a lot of time to post to the blog. As such I decided, I should try to compress any and all updates into a set of highlights so here it goes:
  1. I start game design school on July 9th! Yippee!
  2. I finished Command & Conquer 3 - Nod's ending = lame, Scrin campaign = sweet
  3. Odin Sphere is still awesome, I'm on the third book now. Reusing bosses is somewhat lame, but doesn't really taint the experience too much.
  4. Where is Mass Effect? I desire it now...
  5. Grim Grimoire looks sweet - A 2D RTS, with a cool story and beautiful art design? Count me in.
  6. I too feel the Wii is going to be the novelty of the next generation - nice to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there
  7. Dungeon Maker for the PSP looks interesting.
Ok, I think that's basically the gist of it. I'll try to post more often in the future. Later!

Re: Illogical Choices


I'm not sure that the decision by Clover (as I'm going to refer to them both now and in the future) is that illogical. While Okami would almost certainly be a great candidate for the Wii treatment (if only because the celestial brush would work great with the Wii remote), I'm still not sold on how a "traditional video game" (which Okami almost certainly is if the brush is not considered) feels using the Wii and that ninja instrument. I couldn't help but feel, for instance, that Twilight Princess would have been more fun to play with a standard GameCube controller than it was with the Wii setup. Disclaimer: I only played the Wii version so anyone with GameCube experience on this matter can feel free to chime in.

If I had to choose, I'd rather that Clover have the extra processing power offered by the PS3 and 360 than the magic wand novelty of the Wii. But then again, maybe I'm souring on the Wii a little bit. Its slowly becoming my view that the Wii will only excel at novelty products and 1st party Nintendo games. Not too terribly different from the GameCube when you think about it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Illogical Choices

First, I heart Atelier Iris 3. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else, but I have a huge soft spot for Gust, as you may have discerned from my Arrrrrrrr Tonelico ravings. I just wanted to state that there actually was an RPG other than Odin Sphere released last month.

Moving on, the actual topic I wanted to address was the fact that Seeds, also known as what re-formed after Capcom eradicated Clover, has stated that they are working on new titles... for the PS3 and Xbox 360.

Are you serious? The guys behind Okami and Viewtiful Joe are not making games for the Wii?! Does that seem ludicrous to anyone else? Every time I turn on my Wii, I think: "man, Okami would be so awesome on the Wii." I'm dead serious. When I return serve in Wii Tennis, I'm really wishing that I was drawing a magical wind to stun my foes.

Nintendo, you need to step up to the plate here. Once upon a time, Viewtiful Joe debuted on your system. Go back and tap that very same designer to make some absolutely mind-blowing games for the Wii. You owe it to all of us who are still waiting for something else to play other than mini-games and Super Paper Mario.

Odin Sphere Love

Well, I know I've been away for a while, but I had no idea that this blog had been so co-opted by love for Odin Sphere. Since this is my first video game related post since that game's release I figured I'd chime in on the phenomenon.

First, I think that much of the adoration for this game stems from the depths of the drought we are currently in. In the last month, Odin Sphere is just about the only game worth getting, and in the next two months it is entirely possible that Odin Sphere will remain just about the only game worth getting. This has a tangible effect on how we perceive its greatness. Basically we are like so many thirsty men in the desert of a video game summer, grateful for any small oasis that we come across.

Second, I can't speak for everyone here, but I wasn't expecting much from Odin Sphere, and what I got was a great deal better than I had hoped. When expectations are exceeded to the extent that they are in this case, the whole game takes on a better shine. Its easier to ignore the various faults (the slowdown, the similarity of the bosses, etc.)

Third, the game is just good. Maybe not worth ten posts in the last two weeks, but still...

Those are just my thoughts, and since this topic has been covered to death on this blog, it will be my final one on the subject. (I have to make time to actually play more of the game after all).

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I'm Back!!!

Hey all. I just wanted to take this time to apologize for my announced extended hiatus from The Den. As many of you here know, I was working with my beautiful fiancee to plan the perfect wedding and honeymoon.

Well, outside of some typical logistical issues (has a wedding ever started on time?) we are happy to say that "We Did It!" As a result I plan to be much more active on this blog in the future.

For everyone's reference I plan to play Forza 2, Tomb Raider Anniversary, and Odin Sphere for the next little while. Its good to be back.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Knights of the Old Republic

Here's the info:

If you'll excuse me, I must go weep for joy.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Holy shit. Part of me believed that I would never make this post. But finally, after almost a month and at least a dozen attempts, I got through Kiss Me All Night Long on Expert in DDR Universe. This song has been my "white whale" for a long time now, and the way I feel right now... I can barely type I'm so tired. This is definitely one of my top five game-related euphorias, right up there with beating Chrono Trigger. Maybe I'll post more about this later, but right now I need to go take a shower.


Why are games different prices on different systems?

This question was posed, and I shall answer, though belatedly.

Games prices are based on demand, not on how much they cost to make. Buying is a purely psychological exercise. When comparing 360 prices to PC prices, you have to consider why you're buying a particular game. Most people, when faced with the choice, purchase the console version of their desired game (with possible exception being when purchasing an MMO). There is more demand for the console version, so the price is higher. Also, there are costs for the developer for each game sold to Microsoft on Xbox systems, but I don't think that plays a big role (see the $50 start price for last gen games).

Add that 360 games are traditionally more expensive than PC games, and it makes sense. There shouldn't be any sticker shock because you can't compare the two to each other, you can only compare them to similar games on that system. People want to be able to play with their controller on their giant TV with their powerful new console. People who wanted to play on the PC will play on the PC at $50 but will consider anything more price-gouging. If you want the console version, odds are ten more dollars won't really matter to you. All your other games were $60, why shouldn't this one be too?

The console market and the PC market are not direct competitors because they are not direct substitutes. Different people play each, and even now where most gamers play both, they are looking for different experiences from each. They're mind tells them that a particular game is supposed to be played on a particular type of system. So the companies can price a little different and suffer nothing. It's not someone is going to refrain from buying the game because one is more expensive than the other, though it might, just might, cause you to buy the PC version if you're right on the edge.

Time to break the chain

I would be willing to bet that I was one of many who started playing the glorious game known as StarCraft again recently. I love that there are 3 wholly different races and at least 3 strategies that are viable for each, even in high level, complete psychopath, I can point and click so precise that I differentiate pixels in milliseconds, world-class games. Command and Conquer: Red Alert was my first RTS love. I loved the Russian accents and blowing up buildings. Command and Conquer never reached that level again, though it does put out quality games.

StarCraft 2 must be amazing and will no doubt mildly disappoint many. But after watching the videos, I have concluded that there is going to be waaaaay more firepower in this one. Protoss defense in this one will be sick I tell you, sick. And since the game must be balanced, Terran and Zerg will most definitely have some amped up attacks. We haven't seen as much of their righteous abilities and units yet, or at least in my analysis, but that doesn't mean I'm any less excited.

Now all I need if for LucasArts to annouce Kotor 3 and an Xbox 360 to play Pro Evo and then Mass Effect when it comes out and I can be happy.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

No excuses

Six and a half years. The PS2 has been around for more than six and a half years. Pretty amazing when you really think about it. By now, every developer knows exactly how to squeeze every last drop of power out of the machine. Slowdown is a thing of the past, especially in 2-D games. At least it should be, right?

I really wanted my next post to be about something other than Odin Sphere, since this blog is coming dangerously close to "Odin Sphere fanboy" status. Everyone knows that God hates fanboys, so I wanted to avoid that if I could, but alas, I succumbed.

You may have a hard time believing it, but a game that was released in the US more than 2300 days after the American debut of the PS2 is still a victim of slowdown: and it's the kind of slowdown that you can't ignore. While it's not as bad as something along the lines of Dynasty Warriors 3 (but to be fair, DW 3 is over 5 years old), but it's still bad enough to cause your death. In game, of course.

If this happened four or five years ago, I never would have paid it a second thought. Now, though, I can't see any reason why a 2-D game should have any slowdown, noticeable or otherwise, regardless of how fancy the sprites look. 2-D is still 2-D, and after all this time, there is no excuse for a game like this not to run as smooth as silk.

If you're counting, that's 9 straight Odin Sphere-related posts. We are such dorks.

Pause the Game Every Once in a While

As a note to everyone out there playing Odin Sphere (which is probably a lot of you, since my local EB only had one shelf copy. More on this at a later date), I recommend pausing the game every once in a while. I know this sounds ridiculous, but have you really looked through the pause menu? I hadn't until Sunday, when I found the "Story" menu. It's displays how the five stories mesh together chronologically. Very useful if you were looking for, let's say, which characters had coincidental boss battles.

However, there are two distinct sections of the time-line. In addition to the main time-line, on which it seems that the main story seems to take place, there is also a second, separate time-line further along that is completely disconnected from the main chart. I haven't accessed anything in this area yet, so your guess as good as mine as to what happens there. Is it part of the ending? Some sort of epilogue? A series of bonus dungeons, perhaps? I don't know right now, but there's only one way to ascertain the answer: playing more Odin Sphere!!!

At least until tomorrow, when hopefully Atelier Iris 3 will show up on my front step.

Monday, May 28, 2007

I <3 Odin Sphere

The title pretty much says it all. I absolutely love Odin Sphere and I can barely stop playing it long enough to write this post. The visuals are fantastic, the story and characters are interesting and engrossing, and the crafting system adds a whole second level to the combat. I am enjoying the game way more than I expected, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes action RPGs or games with a strong driving narrative.

I do have one criticism - I am about halfway through the second character and the game reuses many of the bosses from the first character's journey (I've fought one new one). I'm not sure if this trend will continue throughout the different stories, but it does take away a little of the wonder and awe to be beating up the same enemies just in a different order/location. Still, at this point it hasn't detracted much from my experience, but I imagine fighting the same boss for the fifth time might feel a bit tedious. We'll see, but as of right now, I am giving this game a solid 9.0, just terrific.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Re: One Odin Sphere Answer

No worries, I decided to purchase it anyway, and I believe the answer is: yes, the story is cool and very well presented.

I haven't gotten to try another character yet, but Gwen's story is very well done I think and I am very much enjoying the game. It's somewhat strange to have a side scrolling beat-em-up that focuses primarily on farming, cooking, and crafting (the fighting seems almost secondary), but I think it is that strange uniqueness that makes the game so appealing. That and the beautiful almost storybook style visuals. Right now, I would put it somewhere in the 8 - 9 range, and it has the potential to go up from there, depending on how well they intertwine the different stories.

Oh, poor Kingdom Hearts, I'm never gonna finish you...

Friday, May 25, 2007

One Odin Sphere Answer

I'm still only 90 minutes in (I've had a nightmare week), but the story seems to be shaping up quite well. I've only controlled one character so far, but I do know that all-told there are five playable characters. What I am led to believe is that each character will present a different perspective on the war that serves as a focal point for the narratives. Certainly an interesting premise, to say the least. It's reminiscent of Suikoden 3, only with a better story.

I wish I had a more complete answer, but this is the best I can do right now. I do plan to push onwards and upwards with it tomorrow afternoon, so if it takes a catastrophic turn, I'll keep you updated.

One Odin Sphere Question...

Incognito, can you rate what you think of the story so far? Everything I've read seems to indicate the story is quite good and well executed, which is a huge selling point for me, so I am strongly considering purchasing it. What do you think?

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Sorry that my Starcraft II post wasn't as timely as you would have like, Incognito. I'll try to step it up for future updates. I guess that while I am excited about the concept of (considering it is arguably the best RTS ever) the lack of any substantive information at the demonstration makes it difficult to get too excited about the whole thing. I will no doubt buy it and love it, I have the utmost faith in Blizzard to produce a high quality product. I also have faith that they will take their sweet time in doing so, so I'm not going to start holding my breath just yet.

As for your description of Odin Sphere, that's basically the feeling I've been getting from the different reviews I've read. Despite your abject distaste for reviews they are often pretty good a conveying what the game is, if not its quality. Generally, it sounds like a lot of flash with relatively little substance marred by some technical failings. I guess the hype surrounding it had me excited, but the actual product doesn't quite meet expectations. Oh well, here's hoping Shadowrun ends up being as good as everyone hopes (not holding my breath there either).

Also, I got a chance to see a lot of the Gamer Day stuff this morning while I was getting ready for work, and I must say for once that I am pretty excited to be a PS3 owner. It seems like the PS3 is shaping up to have some great properties, and that all the consoles will have a place within this generation. Hooray!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Incognito's RPG Impressions: Odin Sphere

Odin Sphere is here! Huzzah! I've spent 90 minutes with it so far, and I feel like I have a good enough feel for it to post some initial impressions.

This is one of the most beautiful games ever. Period. Trying to describe it with words won't do it justice, nor will YouTube-quality video captures. No, to really appreciate it, you have to see it in person.

Avenger posted the quote from the WorthPlaying review in which they lament the monotony of the combat. After playing it, I have to wonder if they played for more than thirty minutes. I'll admit that I was getting a little bit bored near the end of the first chapter, where the only battle diversion is planting seeds and harvesting their fruit. However, once you start the second chapter you gain access to alchemy, allowing you to fabricate wondrous potions and explosives from Mandragoras. The ability to fashion offensive items on the fly is an immediate upgrade to the entertainment value of the game. Plus, I still haven't learned how to cook, so I've yet to reach the height of my item creation powers.

So far, my only two gripes with the battle system are largely superficial. Your character seems to have very slippery shoes: accelerating is a painfully slow process, and you always slide for a bit when you try to stop. This is also problematic for reasons other than movement/evasion, since in order to use an item or cast a spell, you must be completely motionless. This led me to rapidly tap the menu buttons when I wanted to open a menu, to assure I opened it as soon as possible. These things became less noticeable as I got more familiar with the system's wrinkles, but I doubt the controls will ever feel as tight as I think they should.

As of right now, my final verdict is this: B-. As I mentioned before, this is one of the most breathtaking games of all time. This can not be discounted, and it could be the factor that keeps me going with it. However, I think the loose controls in the battlefield will prevent me from ever playing it for more than an hour of two at a time; eventually I'll get tired of sliding around like a dog on a frozen pond, and I'll have to put the controller down. With Atelier Iris 3 less than a week away, Odin Sphere will really have to hook me to assure that I go back to it when I get distracted in the coming weeks. As of the first 90 minutes, that magic moment hasn't come yet, but I'm not throwing in the towel after round one.

This won't be the last you'll hear from me about Odin Sphere, one way or the other.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Re: WorthPlaying Pans Odin Sphere

Avenger, you are such a review whore.

Also, I was blown away by how long it took you to say something about Starcraft II. You're the biggest RTS fan I know, and this had to have been one of the biggest RTS announcements ever. When I checked the blog on Saturday afternoon and saw a lack of Starcraft-relating blogging, I was floored. Let's hope you have a quicker reaction time with Starcraft III in 2019.

I'll try to get some initial impressions of Odin Sphere posted tomorrow night.

Starcraft II!

Yeah, I know pretty much everybody has already heard this by now, but...Starcraft II! Here's what Gamespot had to say:
SEOUL, South Korea--Crowds of fans and press file continuously into the Olympic Gymnastic Stadium in the Gangnam province of Seoul, South Korea, to await the announcement of Blizzard's new game title. The big-screen monitors onstage, which previously showed looped footage of tournaments held at last year's Blizzard Worldwide Invitational, now show only the logo for this year's event, which takes place today and tomorrow. The anticipation and excitement in the air from the crowds of fans and international press are palpable.

The announcement session is underway, and the lights are up. The Korean emcees are making announcements about the tournaments and music concerts that will also be held at the event. Blizzard Korea managing director Jungwan Han has taken the stage to deliver the opening remarks, greeting and thanking Blizzard fans worldwide for their support. He takes his seat, and the emcees briefly introduce Blizzard's top brass, including Mike Morhaime, Rob Pardo, and Chris Metzen.

Next up are the introductions for the professional gamers, who are greeted with great fanfare by the audience as they're announced individually and step onstage. First are the Starcraft players, introduced by their name, faction played (protoss, zerg, or terran), and country of origin. These are followed by the Warcraft III professional players, also introduced by their name, played faction (humans, orcs, undead, or night elves), and country of origin. After the players are all onstage, they are brought forward individually to take an "oath" of fair play.

Once the players are ushered away, Blizzard president Mike Morhaime takes the stage to make the big announcement, noting first that this year's event will host more tournaments than any previous event (including competitions for Starcraft, Warcraft III, and World of Warcraft), then introducing a video montage with footage from Blizzard's previous games (such as the original Warcraft, Diablo, and Starcraft) and previous tournament events. Morhaime is finally getting closer to the announcement...the crowd cheers in anticipation. Says Morhaime, "When it came time to make this announcement, it was easy to decide where it should take place." The president praises the enthusiasm and support of Korean game players, then introduces a video trailer for the new game.

The trailer begins with a spaceship lowering a coffinlike object. The camera cuts to a chamber, then to a gigantic metal gate that cranks open, and finally to a man with a cigar in his mouth, wearing shackles on his ankles. The man steps into mechanical restraints that lock around his ankles and the platform around him rises. The cofflinlike object sprouts metal pincers that brace his wrists while the champers reveal whirring turbines that sprout metallic drills and rivets that fit metallic armor on his body. The figure is a Terran soldier, and the camera pans up his body, cutting to scenes of Protoss and Zerg warriors rushing to battle. The new game, as rumored, is Starcraft II.

Morhaime then introduces the lead designer of the project to discuss it--none other than former EALA designer Dustin Browder (who worked previously on The Battle for Middle-earth and Command & Conquer series). The video screen cuts to a demonstration that shows a fleet of Protoss ships that disembark several zealot infantry units, then cuts to a scene showing Terran transports touching down and becoming base structures, spouting infantry and vehicle units. Browder points out that this demonstration is in a very early stage of code. As we see in the demonstration, the new game will add abilities to existing units--the Protoss zealot, for instance, will now be able to charge into battle to quickly close the distance against Terran gunners. The Terrans retaliate by bringing in siege tanks to shell the Protoss from a distance. The Protoss respond by commissioning Immortals--heavy-duty tanks with powerful energy shields.

The Terrans then commission reapers, which are medium infantry with jetpacks that can jump barriers to raid enemy bases more effectively. The reapers leap into action against the Protoss base to attack the pylons, but the Protoss have a new series of structures that help them be much more resilient when attacked at their base, such as phase prisms, which let you quickly move units from place to place. The Protoss stalker unit has a "blink" ability that lets them jump anywhere they can see and makes them excellent pursuers.

The Zerg have arrived, sending Zerglings to overwhelm the Protoss stalkers--a huge swarm of them charges the Protoss. Browder points out that Starcraft II will still be a game about large armies against large armies. The Zerg then run into a few Protoss colossi--gigantic walkers with cutting lasers that specialize in liquifying Zerglings. The Zerg have mutated into a new kind of suicide unit that explodes in a burst of acid. The colossi also use inverse kinematic animation to walk up and down cliffs. The colossus unit is vulnerable to air attacks, such as mutalisks, which slaughter it. In response, the Protoss have a new unit, the phoenix, which can "overload" to eliminate squads of nearby airborne enemies but leave them helpless and immobile briefly afterward. The new game will also have new texture work and deep space background environments. The phoenix can't hold its own against Terran battlecruisers, which crush them--in response, the Protoss commission the Warprey, a laser-firing ship that deals more damage the longer it focuses its fire on an enemy. Browder caps the demonstration with one last new unit, the Protoss mothership, the ultimate weapon in the Protoss army. It's an incredibly expensive unit with a "time bomb" ability that distorts time within an energy field, making enemy fire too slow to actually reach and hit the mothership. Once the time field collapses, enemy shells clatter uselessly to the ground. The mothership also possesses the "planet cracker," a stream of multiple lasers that devastate anything beneath it. Finally, the mothership can create a black hole--an extremely damaging ability that wrecks flying enemies. The glowing black hole simply sucks in the Terran warships, which distort in appearance before disappearing utterly into oblivion.

The demonstration ends with a battle between the Protoss and the Terrans, who wail on each other mercilessly. As you might expect from the successor to Starcraft, it seems clear that the key to success in the sequel will be combined force of arms, as both armies pummel each other to a standstill, racking up casualties on each side as they grind away at each other. The battle ends with an orbital strike that wipes out both sides, save for one infantry unit on each side. Both get mobbed by Zerg units, which crawl out of the ground and butcher them and then mutate into their new form and crawl into formation to spell out the letters "GG" (an abbreviation many online players use to say "good game"). After the Starcraft II demonstration, another video montage is shown, this time featuring a series of concept art drawings that gives way to another gameplay demo that highlights various units new and old, such as the Protoss colossus, the Zergling, and others, ending with two portraits that appear to be Jim Raynor and Kerrigan.

Worth Playing Pans Odin Sphere

Worth Playing recently gave the much lauded Odin Sphere a 6.8, and had this to say about the experience:
Many people accuse recent 3-D games of being all flash and no substance, and alas, Odin Sphere shows that 2-D games are not immune to the same syndrome. Odin Sphere is stunning. Rarely have games floored me with their animations and graphics as much as Odin Sphere did, but that is almost all that is worth recommending. The gameplay is dull and clunky and worst of all, repetitive. The characters are bland and boring, and the controls are a bit stiff and frustrating to wrangle with. I wanted to like Odin Sphere — no, I wanted to love Odin Sphere — but at best, I could tolerate it, and it was only the beautiful animations that kept me going. Don't misunderstand. While it has its flaws, Odin Sphere isn't unplayable or unworkably flawed; it just quickly grows tedious. The few elements that truly shine may be enough to justify purchasing this beautiful title, but be warned not to expect a gameplay experience as stunning as the graphics.
While Worth Playing probably isn't in my top five or even top ten review sources, it does give me pause, where I originally had no doubts about purchasing this game. Now I think I'll be waiting to see more reviews before I make my final decision.

Check out the full review to decide for yourself.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Why no Eternal Sonata love for America?

Riddle me this Microsoft: why would someone who was jonesing to play the Eternal Sonata demo be unable to download it? There's no punchline here, and I'm sorry if you were expecting one. This was something that was puzzling me yesterday whilst i was Googling "japan postal codes" (something that I never dreamt that I would Google, by the way). The game has been announced for an American release, so distribution licenses of something of that nature isn't the problem. The demo is entirely in English, so the language barrier isn't even a factor. The only reason I could imagine as to why someone would have to make a fake Japan-region Live account to get it was that there was no reason. Microsoft just decided that it would be Japan only, and that was that.

On the subject of the game itself, I'm still on the fence. Tri-Crescendo was involved with Star Ocean: Till the End of Time (admittedly, only on sound design, but still), which it still a sore spot for me. I hated Till the End of Time's battle system, and anything that makes me reminiscent of it is difficult for me to play. Fortunately for me, Eternal Sonata's battle system is just different enough. It's strongly influenced by position; every character can set two abilities for use. One of these abilities is a "light" ability, and can only be used the the "light" areas of the battlefield. The other ability is, coincidentally, a "dark" ability, and the reverse area restrictions apply. The timing is a mix of real-time and turn-based, and there are apparently different levels for the battle system that change the timing dynamics. There is also a defensive timing mechanism, similar to that of Paper Mario. However, this only works on attacks from the front and sides, further emphasizing the importance of positioning.

All-in-all I did enjoy the demo, and I think I will definitely be picking this one up later this year. I would recommend the demo to anyone who wants to go through the trouble of getting it. For the record: Japanese postal codes are in the form: XXX-XXXX. You're welcome.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Diary of an Aspiring Game Designer - 5.19.07

Dude, thank you for the awesomeness, that game looks sweet. I wish some more exciting PS3 titles were coming in this half of the year, but I guess beggars can't be choosers...

In other news, I have been officially accepted to the Guildhall for the July term (with the ability to defer to January if I so choose). I got a call from the Recruitment Director yesterday while I was at work and got the official email a few minutes later. There's still the decision to be made of July vs. January, but right now I am just so overjoyed at having gotten in I haven't even been thinking about it. It's the first real "success" since I started this journey and, I believe, worthy of much celebration. Probably in the form of gorging myself on Kingdom Hearts, LOTRO, and Halo 3 Beta.


Gamer's Day Goodness

If you've been to any game-related sites over the past few days, it's been hard to avoid footage from Sony's Gamer's Day event. If you haven't done so already, do yourself a favor and check out the videos (particularly the developer walkthrough) for Folklore. It looks like the freakish love-child of God of War and Phantom Dust, with a dash of Lost Kingdoms. Is that a good thing? Hell yes. This just became my most anticipated PS3 game of the year. Sorry, Ratchet.

You know what? I'll just save you the trouble of searching for it and point you to the awesomeness. You can thank me later.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Nothing's tricksier than a hobbit...

except maybe a Spaniard.

That's it. Don't ask why I said it, just accept that I did and move on. There was never going to be a better time to drop that inside joke, and I had to seize the opportunity.

I'm a tricksy little hobbit

Don't you worry, Incognito, I haven't given up on KH just yet, it just hasn't quite grabbed me the way FFXII did at first glance. That may be do in part to my social situation being different than it was last October. Back then, I had just moved here, and I hadn't really assembled my core group of friends so I had all the time in the world and nothing better to do than play videogames until my eyes hurt. The reason I didn't play KH this last weekend was because Friday night I went out to a concert, Saturday I ended up playing Catan on the XBL with a couple friends all morning and then hung out with people the rest of the day, and Sunday I was mostly busy with errands I my newest gaming obsession, Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I have a checkered past with MMOs. I often get excited for them play them for a little while but ultimately discard them for one reason or another. I am not sure that LOTRO will be any exception, but I will say that my initial impressions have been fantastic. While the game doesn't do anything new that I am aware of (maybe the way it handles PvP) it does bring together some of the best elements from games like City of Heroes, World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, Final Fantasy XI and many others. Add to that that it looks absolutely gorgeous (sorry WoW, you are starting to show your age) and that Middle Earth is a great place to play in and you've put together a very powerful MMO experience. I think I've played for around 10-12 hours so far and obviously haven't seen even a fraction of the content that is available. There are so many quests, deeds, and other things to do that I imagine this game could even keep the most hardcore MMO fan busy for quite some time.

I play as a hobbit burglar named Borbo, actually Borbo the Undefeated right now (the title system allows you to add various titles to your name, depending on deeds you've accomplished) and I occasionally run around with a Human Captain name Teoric (Sidious' avatar), so if you're every on the Windfola server keep an eye out for us. Until then I'll be busy making sure all the hobbits get their mail and pies in timely fashion. Ah, the life of a hobbit...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

It's about time

Finally! Someone else makes a post!

Avenger, it would be a real shame if you got distracted from Kingdom Hearts. Unless, of course, you get distracted from it because you finally decided to go back and finish Shadow Hearts. You were on the precipice, but for some reason you refused to take that last step! Don't make the same mistake twice. Also, don't be such an Final Fantasy fanboy with your RPGs. If you can haul yourself though 70+ hours of FF XII, I think you can manage to make it though KH.

In short: don't be that guy, Domino.

My Return

Wow, I leave for a couple weeks and when I come back it's basically just Incognito yammering to himself about his RPGs. Well, somebody has to put a stop to that, so I guess that's going to be me...

So, first order of business, my application to the Guildhall is complete and submitted. The recruitment director informed me I should expect to hear something by the end of this week or early next week. Needless to say, I am a little nervous about the whole thing. This is what I consider my greatest opportunity, so a rejection here would cause me to seriously reconsider this whole game design thing as a career choice. Regardless, there's nothing to be done about it now so I have been using my newfound free time to go back to my most favored pastime of actually playing games, which brings me to my second point.

Typically, when I play I tend to meander between games and get easily distracted by new and shiny things (as this post will further reveal). Occasionally, however, I consciously or unconsciously decide to really pour myself into a game and just get totally absorbed in it's storyline and characters. As that hasn't really been a natural occurrence as of late, I decided to look into my substantial backlog of games (likely larger than even Incognito's, with perhaps fewer RPGs) and choose something to just blitz with whatever free time I had available.

This decision, much like Incognito's was not an easy one, and I had several options that I think could have provided excellent experiences: Metroid Prime, STALKER, Onimusha 3: Demon Siege, Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria, Dragon Quest 8, Rogue Galaxy, Okami, among others. Instead of one of these I chose to try to re-engage with a game that didn't originally grab me, Kingdom Hearts.

The first time I tried to play Kingdom Hearts I think I mostly was turned off to it by the battle system. The story and characters seemed interesting (I like Disney), though the narrative moved a little too slowly for my taste, but the battle system just irritated me. Say what you will about FFXII and the gambit system, it beats the crap out of the downright stupid AI partners you get in KH. Donald and Goofy will in no uncertain terms run at the closest enemy and basically blow all of their MP as fast as possible, and then they will die. No attempt to evade attacks or at least minimize damage from bosses highly predictable special attacks. Nope, full-on right in the face and then dead.

This second time through I think I am enjoying things a bit more because I have just learned to accept it. You are on your own and your companions are more like set pieces than actual gameplay elements. I am about 7 hours in and I am heading back to Traverse Town after doing Tarzan world, Alice in Wonderland world, and Hercules world, so I know I have barely scratched the surface, but unfortunately I have yet again been distracted by something new and shiny, and worry that I may not complete it as planned...again.

I think this post is already long enough so I will leave the new game for my next post, but I'll give you a hint, it's a new MMO. Talk to you all later!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Wii-markable Timing

So, I was on the way out of BestBuy today, and as I'm approaching the exit, an employee passes me with what appear to be three shiny new Wiis. For a second, I just stood there staring; I was dumbstruck. When I snapped out of it, I asked if those happened to be for sale.


"Can I get one?"

"Sure, just get back in line."

And so, just a few weeks after I resigned myself to go without a Wii until the holiday season, one just falls into my lap. The only downside is that I leave town for the rest of the week tomorrow night, so I'll cherish it tonight while I can.

So, in short...

Who's got two thumbs and a Wii?! THIS GUY!!

I apologize for blurting that out. I just really wanted to work that into this post, but I couldn't manage to do so in any sort of clever fashion.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Incognito's RPG Impressions: Replacing Ar Tonelico

Before we get to the meat of this post, lets play some Jeopardy!

Answer: 4

Question: How many time would someone see the credits roll in Ar Tonelico if they completed the game and Shurelia's (spoiler) Cosmoshere?

This is a record that I don't expect to be broken any time soon.

Now that Ar Tonelico is finished, I've had the same problem that I often have in these situations: finding a new game to occupy myself with. Even with my extensive back log of games from which to choose, this proposition is not as easy as it sounds.

Since Persona 3 is on the horizon, the first game I though of was Persona 2. This lasted all of 2 hours. It's not that there is anything wrong with the story. On the contrary, the story started of strong. The problem was with the battle system. Well, sort of. You see, because of that huge backlog of games that I mentioned earlier, I can be very picky about which one I play. The big turn-off in Persona 2 was the ridiculous menu system in battle. The default battle system is an auto battle; you set actions for all you characters and they will automatically perform them until you say stop. But what if you don't want it to go progress automatically? Well, there is an option to do one round at a time, but to do that you have to wade through menu level after menu level. As you can imagine, this gets really cumbersome, really fast.

So I decided to put my time to better use that paging through battle menus, and I picked up Rogue Galaxy again. You might remember Rogue Galaxy from when Avenger raved about it back in the day. In short, I was less than thrilled. I first started it soon after it was released, but I put it down after an hour, largely due to my dislike of the points-based real time battle system (which I will discuss in a future website article). Admittedly, its biggest short-coming is all in my head. Rogue Galaxy was developed by Level 5, the same crew that is responsible for Dark Cloud 2. I loved Dark Cloud 2, and I had always imagined that Rogue Galaxy would be Dark Cloud 2 in space. Well, it's not. It's much more hack 'n slash, much more .hack than Dark Cloud. All I can think about while playing Rogue Galaxy is how much more I would like it if it was Dark Cloud 2: IN SPACE! As far as non-superficial grievances go, however, the comparative strength of physical attacks versus special abilities is laughable. Why would I bother even used my sword, and risk having one of the retarded AI-controlled characters die in 3 seconds, when I can kill every enemy in one hit with Desert Wind? Recharge drinks can be acquired on the cheap, so constantly using AP is no sweat. At about the 10 hour mark, I finally decided to put Rogue Galaxy down again.

So, what next? Coincidentally, I already mentioned it: .hack. .hack//G.U. to be precise. Yes, I am one of the people who enjoyed the original .hack series. And recently, I've had the strange desire to dive into The World again. And now that my first two attempts at replacing Ar Tonelico have failed, it's time to go out and add to The List again.

If anyone out in reader-land has an any comments/feedback on this series of posts (love it/hate it/change this/change that), please let me know.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Calling All Bullet Points

  • Calling All Cars - It's here, finally. I gave it a whirl when I got home from work today. I tried one game offline, but the computer's perfect aim was driving me insane. So, online I went. It could be kind of difficult to find a game, since there is no way to sort the list that I could find, so you basically have to scroll down the list until you find a game that isn't in progress. Of course, you could join a game in progress, if you don't mind waiting a while and listening to some twelve-year-old in voice chat. The game play is fast and simple, and highly enjoyable. I'm sure it's even more enjoyable if you know how to use more than one of the weapons.
  • Forza 2 - I tried out the demo last night. Naturally, it didn't seem as gorgeous as the trailers made it seem, but that doesn't mean it's not easy on the eyes. It's hard to get a feel for it since there is only one track, but the cars handle magnificently, and I'm excited to get my hands on the full version and get my tune on.
  • Settlers of Catan - I have often felt like I was in the minority: nerds who have not played the original board game. Now, thanks to Big Huge Games, I can enjoy all the fun of the board game on my 360! Huzzah! As best as I can tell, it functions as a reasonable facsimile for the real thing.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Linkin' and Thinkin'

First up, there is this article up that (eventually) gets to some info about Lost Odyssey game play. Really, it's not very insightful, other than giving an idea of how large to game is. No, what this is about is when they mention that the director of Legend of Mana is involved in the project. Yikes. Legend of Mana was a disaster. That was years ago, though, and hopefully whatever influences Legend of Mana has on Lost Odyssey are slight. Or better yet, non-existent.

Next, there is this press release for Shadowrun (via EvilAvatar). What bothers me is the second to last line, where they state the prices for the 360 and Windows version. Am I the only one confused as to why the prices aren't the same? I was under the impression that both versions were identical. Was I mistaken? Are there some fancy exclusives on the 360 version? If not, why is it $10 more? Can someone explain to me how this makes sense!? I mean, you're already shelling out the extra $50 a year for online multiplayer on XBL (which is available with the silver membership on Windows Live) with the 360, and now you're going to have to pay $10 more per cross-MS-platform title? Someone tell me why 360 owners should be OK with this! Jimmy, you have a degree in econ, maybe you can sort out this mess for me.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Almost like I dream about

There is going to be another Kingdom Hearts, but it's not going to be KH 3. No, instead it's much closer to what I fantasize about. While it's not exactly how I imagined it, it's close enough to get me all hot and bothered. If Riku is a playable character again... it's just too awesome to imagine. I think I need to go lie down for a minute.

Obviously, I'm very excited about this... unless it's PSP only. That would be a real downer. Of course, if there was one game that would force a PSP purchase from me, this is it.

Friday, May 04, 2007


I'll let the video speak for itself. May 22 seems so far away.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Drat! Foiled again!

First, there was my confrontation with the DDR dance pad. Now, it the SIXAXIS that is screwing with me. Exactly how is it accomplishing this, you ask? By running out if power, of course. There I am, preparing for the final battles of Ar Tonelico, and up pops the "controller is low on power" message.

This was most frustrating, since the PS3 recharge cable is only 3 feet long. Of course, I don't sit within three feet of my PS3, so it was nuts to me finishing Ar Tonelico. I'm not sure what Sony was thinking when they decided on a length for the recharge cable. Looks like I'll have to make a trip to the BestBuy to buy a third-party cable of reasonable length.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Incognito's RPG Impressions: Taking It In Stride

Game du jour: more Ar Tonelico. Just some general notes and comments; today I'm keeping it light and fresh.

1. Phase 3 of Ar Tonelico can be described as very Xenogears-Disc-Two-esque. There is a lot of text, followed my more text, then maybe a battle or two, and then some more text (for a change of pace). This is mainly a result of the fact that I already got to the top of the tower. The entire world has pretty much been explored, evidenced by the fact that I've only seen one new area in the last 6 hours. The only up-side is that I finally got the last Reyvateil, which means I get to explore another cosmosphere, which is by far my favorite part of the game.

2. If you were walking through the personal library of the major villain in a game, and as you were reading his diaries you realized that at one time or another he manipulated and/or attempted to kill all but one of the member of your party, you'd expect some kind of reaction, right? You'd expect someone, anyone, to say something, wouldn't you? Well, if you were to expect that from the characters in Ar Tonelico, you'd be wrong. For all the talking in that game, you'd think that someone would mention something from those diaries sometime, but no. Ridiculous.

3. I have seen the credits roll twice, and I'm still not done the game! Speaking of rolling credits, there is an update on the fake-out ending from the last post. It really is an ending, if you want it to be. Or at least I assume so, since I picked the text option that I thought was least likely to end the game.

I know I said I would keep it "light and fresh," but I guess I got a little carried away.

I'm gonna go lie down now. This blog is heavy, and my shoulders are starting to ache from carrying it. **OH SNAP!!!**

Friday, April 27, 2007

Odin Sphere mania!

I'll assume that since you're reading this, you read Penny Arcade. And by extension, I'll assume that you've read the glowing praise they have heaped upon their review copy of Odin Sphere. For me, this could be a double-edged sword. On one hand, I'm thrilled that Odin Sphere apparently plays as fantastic as it looks. I've been in eager anticipation of this game since I first saw the trailer. I will never grow weary of 2-D sprites, and here is a game seems to take them to a new level.

On the other hand, who knows how many copies of this game will be shipped in the US? Probably not too many. Penny Arcade is an extraordinarily popular site that holds tremendous sway over its readers, and all of this positive publicity may entice people to run out and pick up Odin Sphere; people that may not have done so if that review copy had never been put in the tray.

Hopefully this won't end up with a Disgaea-esque situation, where the only way to get your hands on the game is to shell out $45 at Gamestop for a used version with no case or manual.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Incognito's RPG Impressions: Game Over

Much like Avenger's "Diary of an Aspiring Game Designer" posts, this will be sort of a recurring topic for me. The title still may be a work in progress, though.

I've played what could be described as a "healthy" number of RPGs. In all my gaming history, if seen a lot of stuff. That's pretty much what these posts will be about. When I see things I like, when I see things I don't like, or when I see things that blow me away, I'll post them here. And I'll do my absolute best to avoid spoilers. Look for whited out text where appropriate. So, let's get started with the game du jour: Ar(rrrrrr) Tonelico.

So, what happened in Ar Tonelico that was worth a post here? Well, they pulled some craziness that I have never seen before: the psych-out ending. Yes, that's right. A full-blown, 3-consecutive-boss-battles- followed-by-a-few-lines-of-text- then-roll-credits fake ending. Needless to say, I was pretty freaked out. I knew that there was supposed to be another phase, and I knew that I still hadn't controlled all the playable characters, but this is a game where there is some branching of the storyline. Was it possible that I screwed up hours ago and ended the game prematurely, a la Persona? Oh crap!

This and so much more was going through my head as I stared at the staff credits scrolling down my TV screen. Finally, those cruel credits came to an end, but just because the characters were back on screen, didn't mean that the game wasn't over. There is always the chance of some kind of epilogue. Mercifully, after a minute or two of dialogue, I was returned to the map screen. Phew!

I have to give Gust credit. I've played over 70 RPGs, and it's not often that I see something that is legitimately new. The fake ending was one of the more harrowing things I've seen in a game since Eternal Darkness. I hope I never have to see it again.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Emergency Release 1, Incognito 0

So, I feel like an idiot. Here I was thinking that my DDR pad was teh broken, when it was just one of Microsoft's little safety features getting the better of me. DDR was working fine for me last Friday, but when I tried to boot it up on Sunday afternoon, the light ring on the pad was flashing, but it wasn't making the connection to the 360. So my first thought was: oh crap. I've had this thing for less than two months, and I've already broken it.

When it didn't work again today, I was ready to take drastic action. I was online looking for warranty information, or maybe even *gasp* a third-party dance pad (which, for the record, are ex-pen-sive). As a last ditch effort, I went to the Xbox forums. That's how low I was: I went to a forums site. Anyway, after going through a few pages, I found a post from someone who was having the same problem as I was. The only suggested solution was to plug in the controller after the console was turned on. So, I go ahead an try it. Big surprise, it didn't work. So, in my frustration, I grab the cord and try to pull the plug out. *Pop!* The cord goes slack, but the plug is still in the 360. Wtf?! I go to investigate, and I find that there is a emergency release in the cord. So I reconnected it, and guess what? It worked perfectly. Apparently, it was plugged in just enough to get a few lights to blink, but not enough to work.

Damn you emergency release. I'll get you one day. I'll get you when you least expect it. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Ehem. Excuse me.

Now I can get back on my schedule of "trying to be less fat." Hooray for not being so fat!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Back in the saddle

Hoo-hah! The fundamentals exam is over, and I am ready to get back to gaming! W00t!

So, some brief points of interest:

1. I haven't even finished the first Ar Tonelico yet, but lo and behold, there is already proof of a sequel in the works. The interface seems to have received be a huge upgrade. That shiny new harmo gauge looks much better than the original. Sinusoids for the win.

2. Mass Effect has been announced as a September release. Everyone kept hoping for a June/July release date, but that unfortunately was not to be. Personally, I'm not too bummed. Yeah, I'll have to wait a little longer, but it will nicely fill that gap between Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey.

3. I say this every year around this time, but the rest of this year should be great for RPGs. With Atelier Iris 3, Odin Sphere, Mass Effect, Blue Dragon, Persona 3, Dawn of Mana, and (hopefully) Lost Odyssey all due to hit before the end of year, it should be a busy time for yours truly.

And who knows, maybe I'll have Ar Tonelico 2 to enjoy before the year's out, too.