Thursday, August 20, 2009

Summer Long Back Blog Part 6: The I'm REALLY late Edition

Hi! It's been a while, two weeks to be exact. Listen, I've been busy, but I do have a good reason...sort of. I've been playing video games! A lot of them, I finished Persona 3 and Persona 4. I'm also on my way through Tales of Vesperia as well.

So here's the skinny, I'm going to write a Back Blog on Persona 3 and then I'll do a Persona 4 blog immediately after, believe me I can, I got a lot to say.

Persona 3 is probably the best RPG I've played in a long time. It has a beautiful blend of Dating Sim and Diablo dungeon crawling. For those who don't know, you play a nameless protagonist who comes to the city, while there, he ends up getting into crazy trouble. He finds out that there's a 25th hour that no one knows about called "The Dark Hour" and during that hour his school turns into a giant tower called "Tartarus" filled with monsters called "Shadows". Throughout the length of the game you spend the day conversing and developing Social Links with the various characters in your school and at night you traverse Tartarus.

Running through Tartarus proved to be a hooking experience, if you are into mindless dungeon crawling and you like Turn based RPGs this is definitely the game to pick up. The combat is challenging in ways that most Turn based RPGs aren't, through manipulating the weaknesses of your enemies you leave them immobile (Also known as a Knock Down). When you knock down all of the enemies you can do an "All out Attack", this just means your party attacks the fallen enemies and instant-kills them. The combat diverges away from the basics of attack enemies blindly while healing to stay alive and moves into a more methodical process, almost becoming more of a puzzle game of sorts.

The only problem with the combat is an odd one: You can only control your character during battle. The protagonist that you control is the only character you use in combat. The other party members are computer controlled, at first I thought the idea was completely stupid but it grew on me. The CPUs were relatively intelligent and knew what attacks to use and when to heal, for the bulk of the game things were looking good. That is, until I got to the final boss which completely flipped that idea on its ass. The final boss has this one attack, its a barrier that it puts on itself, when someone attacks the boss with that barrier on it reflects the attack back at them and essentially killing them. Now, it would seem the smart thing to do is just not attacking but here's the underlying problem, YOU CAN'T STOP YOUR STUPID BASTARD TEAM MATES FROM ATTACKING! By the time you get your chance to set them on stand by, if your unlucky like I was in the turn placement, they would have already attacked and killed themselves.

That final boss illuminated the problems with Persona 3's combat in that, when a boss throws out complex move sets that mess with the fact that you cannot control anyone but yourself, the battle turns into a game of, not fighting the boss exactly, but fighting with the your team mates while trying to work around your handicap. I was so happy with the combat until I came to that realization luckily the ending was all worth the trouble.

I wont go too far into spoiler territory but I just want to say that the guys at Atlus are the kings of playing with one's emotions. They do such a great job of creating such lovable characters and then working with that. The ending had so much heartwarming cheese that I couldn't help "Awwing" at. Seriously, I loved every single character in this game, so much so that I felt heartbroken that it was over. I want to be with these people more! I don't want it to be over! Why does it have to end?!?!?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Summer Long Back Blog Part 5: Welcome to Bullworth...

I'm not gonna lie, I jumped games many times this week, I've went from Persona 3 to Devil Survivor to Bully. I managed to get some good progress in Bully and Devil Survivor so I'll do a dual-game blog.


Bully is something else. When I first played it back in 06', I was pretty down on it. It felt dumb, it felt like a GTA game in a school setting, guns are replaced with sling shots, cars are replaced with bikes, at the time I didn't want a GTA re-skin, I just wanted GTA.

Obviously, I've grown up, gained new perspectives...and I still feel like its a GTA re-skin but the change in setting does so much for the game, I'm intrigued to see how Rockstar will interpret each mechanic from their GTA games to this new setting. Each little familiarity makes me think of GTA but its stylized with a very "Highjinxy" tone. Its like how those stupid animal-spy movies were kind of cool at first, you would watch the movie and think, "I wonder what a cat spy sector look like? What kind of weapons would they use?", or a parallel universe, we have these concepts of bizarro world and all that, its interesting to wonder how another world would do things, whether they would have different variations of the ways we do things or completely different concepts all together. Bully has a cool schoolyard tone to it that leaves a lot of room for variations on things we see in most GTA games, just with a light hearted feel.

The child-like atmosphere also seems to enhances a lot of the encounters I approach, when I hit some kid with a bat, for some reason, that's more shocking to me than shooting a person in GTA, maybe because it just hits close to home for me, I once knew a kid who is in court now for beating someone with a croquet mallet. But even despite that fact, certain acts of violence or innuendos to sex are so strong in this game because at first things are general lighter in tone. You know there's evil and good in the Bully world but it all feels very immature, then the game tackles certain provocative scenes with that light tone and seems to pull it off but in the back of my mind I can't help but to be disturb.

Another thing I want to talk about is the music, every piece feels...right, something about it, something I can't put my finger on, fits the world perfectly. It holds a childish yet malevolent tone, it almost perfectly parallels the world of Bully, ostensibly Bully is quite charming, childish, silly, but then you get deep into the game and notice that things are a lot darker than they appear.

Apart from a few game crashes here and there Bully has been a nice surprise to me, I'm about 50% through the game so hopefully I'll be done around tomorrow.

Devil Survivor

Devils Survivor, another addition to Atlus' Shin Megami Tensei series. In SMT: Devil Survivor you play a nameless protagonist who one day him and his group of friends have been given DS systems from their friend. Later, they are attacked by demons and find out that these DS systems are more than they appear, they give you and your friends ability to summon demons, which they need because the Tokyo area is under lock down due to "Unknown Reasons".

Devil Survivor has me feeling torn, I love it, but at the same time I feel like I should be down on it. Atlus is starting to feel predictable, a lot of Devil Survivor feels like the Persona games before hand, excluding the Social link system. You summon demons to battle and can fuse them, the characters feel similar, the art style of both Devil Survivor and Persona 3 n' 4 are the same, you play young sexy kids doing sexy things using magical demons to save the world. Its almost because of the fact that P4 was relatively successful Atlus is trying to stay to that formula. I want to see them move on back to Noctourne Territory, beyond Devil Summoner we haven't been getting much of that kind of Atlus game in a while.

That being said, I still like the game, dare I say, I like it more than Persona 3 or 4. I like Devil Survivor more on a conceptual level, the focus on the DS systems adds the unique spin Atlus is known for in their games but the way the DS mechanics are dealt with pull me into the game so well. To give you some background info, your in game DS emails you what events are going to occur in the future, IE) 50 people will die in the Ikebukuro area at 12 o' clock, its then your duty to try and prevent what ever will kill those 50 people. That part of the game alone is enough to keep me playing, there is so much mystery behind why and how these systems can tell the future and why demons are in Tokyo that I want to--no--need to continue playing to learn more.

Combat is simple and addictive, think Fire Emblem and add turn based combat to it. You're on an isometric grid and when you enter an encounter with an enemy it switches to the turn based combat screen. Here you can have up to two demons on each character in your party, meaning you have 3 to 4 demon users on the field and they have two allies each. This leaves a lot of room for strategy in terms of demon placement, what kind of demons you put on certain characters is important since it determines what skills the user gets and what monsters will protect them. Everything is easy to learn which in turn allows me to really get hands deep into the core mechanics, I've been grinding away trying to level up my demons to pick up new skills for my characters. Devil Survivor even does away of the random battle system and allows you to jump into a battle by your whim with a press of a button, really allows some easy access to grinding which equals an addictive game.

But yeah, that's been my week, its been pretty great managed to get a lot of gaming in.

Also, you might've noticed that I didn't keep my promise, I haven't updated the blog every day. To be honest, it as a dumb idea (I had a dumb idea, go figure), I can't keep up with that without burning myself out. I'm still planning on updating the blog each week with a new theme, just not every day, maybe in 2 day intervals.

This week I'll be doing straight up editorials, I got some topics on my mind and I want to put them on paper so be expecting that this week.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Top 5: Stupid Facts About Me That You Don't Care About

I'm a lazy shack of dog shit. Yes, I admit it, I'm a lazy fuck, which is why I'm going to do a list of things about me, we're moving into Facebook now people!

5- I'm and "Actor"

Ever since I was young I've always wanted to be in movies, on stage, or whatever. By the time highschool came around I decided to get serious about things and actually try it. It's been about two years now that I've been participating in my school's Drama programs and frankly, its contributed some of the most memorable experiences of my life. Through acting I've met a lot of people who I've learned to really care about, its changed me a lot. I'm a lot more outgoing than I used to be and I'm actually around a group of people who I like, in short: Theatre good.

4- I do a couple of video game podcasts

Apart from rambling about video games in written form I also ramble about video games with my mouth. Back in the day I did a podcast called "Bomb Should Have a Face" (BSHAF for short), it was a community podcast for a game website by the name of We had a couple of semi-famous guests on the show, one episode we had former Gamespot writer and Giantbomb founder "Jeff Gerstmann" on. That was the past though, now you can find me on the "Minor Issues Podcast" (See Banner) and "The Broken Lampcast". The hosts of the show are semi regular users who decided to start their own podcasts, once I decided to stop doing Bomb Should Have a Face the hosts of the aforementioned two shows offered me spots on their podcasts. Its good fun, go listen! *Note, on the majority of these podcasts I go by the monicker Tokyochicken if you're wondering who I am.

3- I'm a former World of Warcraft "Addict"

Yup, one time I played WoW like it was crack. That shit was my lifeblood, I would play 8 hrs a day, every day. It was starting to become a problem for me; I would ditch friends for my online ones and ditch them when they wanted me to hang out, I would ignore school work, I was a mess. I had to quit, it was destroying me but the weird thing is, I didn't actually quit because I felt I needed to, I quit because I had gotten bored with the game. Once I started the whole hardcore raid scene I grew tired of being bossed around. One day, I missed a raid, and after that...I just never logged on. I didn't quit because I needed to or anything, I was just bored. Funny, eh? Went out with a whimper and not a bang.

2- I play guitar

I've been playing the guitar for a year and a half now. Since this point is stupid and boring I'll spare you too many details but just so this links to video games, I learned to play because of guitar hero. There you happy you monkeys?!?!?!

1- I collect toys

I collect A LOT of toys, much like the one you see above (I actually just purchased this guy a few days ago). This year I've spent up to $2000 on collectibles alone, yes I do have a problem. I like it though. Its really fun collecting these things, its like gaining a new piece of art to have lying around the house. I always liked toys because of the styles of certain figures but never decided to buy them; one day I decided to give in. Now I'm happier with my life!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Top 5: Atmosphere

Let's face it, atmosphere is important. A game can go a long way if the developers take time to build an intriguing, well thought out world. Today I'm going to list off the top 5 games I feel achieved a level of excellence when it comes to atmosphere . (Don't be too surprised to see Atlus appear a lot in this list).

5- Persona 3

One of the most notable qualities of Persona 3 was its presentation. Because of its unique character design, story, and music, Persona 3 had left a mark on every one's radar. If you had purchased the FES version of P3 you were given the treat of a new remixed music track that consisted of catchy J-pop /J-rap. In combat you would summon your inner persona with an "Evoker", which resembled a gun. Your avatar would aim the Evoker to his/her head and force their persona from out of the depths of their minds, this alone made a big impact on players for obvious reasons. P3 had an aesthetic appeal to it that kept people coming back for more.

4- Psychonauts

When Psychonauts came out on September 21st, 2005, it had reached a high level of critical acclaim but in turn had poor sales. The most intriguing aspect of this game was its great use of metaphor in terms of its level design. In Psychonauts you would travel into the minds of your fellow camp-mates. Each level was a completely new and surreal experience. The levels would vary depending on the person's personality; One character is a paranoid conspiracy theorist, so his level is filled with undercover agents pretending to be suburbanites, another character is a self proclaimed war hero, so his level is a military training ground, what Psychonauts lacked in gameplay prowess it made up in thematic elements, each level really felt different and fresh, no two levels were ever the same. The world's were so out there, and well designed that you truly felt compelled to go on just to see what else the game had in store for you.

3- Persona 4

What Persona 3 achieved in aesthetic design Persona 4 achieved in ambient design. Persona 4 did some great things when it came to contextualizing its gameplay. In P4 you play a nameless protagonist much like its predecessor, you're apart of a group of friends who decide to investigate on a missing persons case. You later find out that these people have been missing in an alternate dimension, how did they get there? Well, they went through their T.V s, isn't it obvious? Of course it is fucking deadbea--Ahem, excuse me. Inside these alternate dimensions characters are forced to face their true selves; their Persona, their other self. The game goes to great lengths to explore the concept of the other, fake halves of ourselves that we project onto the world and the real person deep down inside of us. P4 is extremely interesting in this sense, it tends to go into some dark, and even phlisophical territory.

2- Bioshock

Bioshock will forever be ingrained in my mind as the best example of developing strong atmosphere in a game (Apart from Half-Life 2). In Bioshock you travel through the underwater utopia "Rapture", broken down from its former self, now in ruin. Rapture is designed with one concept in mind: Environment telling a story. In Rapture you'll find audio files from the previous residents of the city, giving you a glimpse into its dark past. Each level of Rapture has an eerie feel to it, you can almost picture each room in its former glory but now all that is left is rubble. The guys at 2k did a great job in giving the player enough room for themselves to create their own image of the Rapture prior to this one, by doing this it adds a layer of mystery to itself, something that a lot of games don't necessarily try to do now a days.

1- The Metal Gear Solid Series

I still believe to this day that Hideo Kojima is a genius. He has this thing about him where he can write the most ludicrous, out of this world shit that I've ever heard of and he still finds a way to make me all fall for it. In Metal Gear Solid 2, Liquid Snake allegedly is still alive after his death in the first game, he's still alive because he is actually Revolver Ocelot's arm. Pretty god damn stupid sounding coming from my shitty writing, right? The scary thing is, when I heard this line in MGS2, I bought it. I didn't bat a fucking eye lash to what has just been said. I think this is a testament to how well Hideo can write a character and develop a world. He does it so well that he can make the most outlandish garbage sound...believable.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Top 5: Beating the Dead Horse *Bioshock Spoiler Warning*

Ever since the birth of the internet we've been given the ability to transfer information with our fellow man and in turn it has opened our eyes to a brave new world. Sadly; the harsh, cold, and stupid truth is that, as humans we love to beat a dead horse and thanks to the internet that fact is illuminated for the whole world to see. In this top 5 for today I'm going to list off all of the video game trends/memes that I believe should die.

5- Atlas is who?!

Bioshock Spoiler Warning by the way.

Yes we get it, big Bioshock twist, "Atlas is Fontaine!". It was funny then but after a while you get completely sick of hearing about it. I have to note that you don't hear it very often anymore but at the time of release it was a stupid device people used to make fun of others. What bothered me is how high and mighty people acted when they used this minor spoiler and then acted like jerks to people who got angry about it. Sure, it wasn't a big spoiler but just because one person is bothered by spoilers doesn't mean they're stupid in any respect. Some people just can't help but sit on their high horse about not caring. I say bullshit, these things do have the potential to ruin a player's experience in a game, if you end up losing all interest in something when you already expect it to happen then that's fine. I personally don't worry about spoilers, I like to enjoy the journey of the game, but I do understand how a minor spoiler can ruin a person's interest. There's no reason to act like a dick about that.

4- Aerith dies?!?!?

Yes, she's dead and she's not coming back.

3- 3rd Person "Stop and Pop" Gameplay

When Gears of War first came out the concept of "Stop and Pop" gameplay was only explored in one other game (Kill.Switch) but now its found in nearly every 3rd person shooter. Here's my problem, this mechanic was interesting when it was first done in Kill.Switch and then improved upon in Gears of War, but now its become over done and boring. I want us to be able to move on, go on a see new things, meet new people, but no we get this, we get the same trite with every other release .

2- Portal Memes

I once had someone say to me that, "The internet ruined Portal", I wouldn't go as far to say that memes ruined the game but it definitely hampered my enjoyment. I want to mention that I'm not really a puzzle game fan, actually I despise them, but I did want to give Portal a chance. After hearing "The cake is a lie" the umpteenth time I ended up growing sick of the damn game. I just want the memes to die out so I can stop thinking about them, I want to enjoy the game!

1- Mini Game Compilations

Since the Wii's launch mini game compilations have been topping the charts in sales, this bothers the fuck out of me, because of the "Casual Market" developers have been churning out iteration after iteration and making bank. I'm starting to fear the market saturation might lead to something bad occurring in the future. Its the same reason why I'm bothered by the overuse of "Stop and Pop" gameplay, everything is starting to feel boring, people don't want to innovate because they don't think innovation will sell. There is so much good that can come out of the Wii but as long as we continue to churn out the same old garbage we'll never see it.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Summer Long Back Block Part 4: It's Finally Over!

Its done, its over, Final Fantasy 7 has been completed. I'm surprised by how little time it took to finish the game, when I first played FF7 3 discs of content seemed like a hurdle I could never get over. It's an odd feeling actually finishing the game, I've spent over 8 grueling years battling with myself, trying to force myself to reach the end, but each time I ended up unsuccessful. Now, I've done it, its over and it I achieved nothing.

You know that feeling when something has become so over hyped that when it finally comes its extremely underwhelming? Yeah, that was the situation here with the ending of FF7. I've always wanted to finish this game. So much so that once I did, I ended up thinking to myself, "That's it?". It was just another game, and that's it. Not some life changing experience , no grand finale...Well in all honesty I didn't expect it to be life changing but with all this time leaving it undone, the ending feels like it falls short.

The last dungeon in FF7 bothered me, the foes you encounter tend to be a lot more difficult than what you're used to. Many enemies would use strong one-hit moves and overly powerful skills. Here's what bugs me about this, throughout the bulk of the game the enemies are fairly forgiving, you begin to understand how they all think but by the last dungeon they ramp it up two folds. My problem is that there isn't any gradual build up, they just spike up. I wasn't prepared. This last level was a shock to me, out of nowhere I was getting hit with attacks that have only been used against me in a boss battle. After my frustrations levels increased I nearly quit all together. I was ready to drop the game, I was done for good.

I think this is where, what destructoid writer Jim Sterling calls, "Final Dungeon Syndrome" comes from. Its when people drop a JRPG when they reach the final dungeon. I find that they end up becoming too overwhelmingly difficult , to the point where a player may be too uninspired to continue on with the game. I had to muster up a lot of persistence in me to continue playing FF7.

But yeah, bitching aside, the game was still time well spent. I'm glad I'm able to knock a game off the list.

Speaking of which, I realize I'm completely moving away from the games I put on my list. In retrospect the list thing was a bad idea in general, there's no way I'm going to dedicate my time to the same 10 or so games. My mind changes, you know?

Which also bring me to my next point, next week I'm going to be updating on two games, Persona 3 and SMT:Devil Survivor. Yeah I know, two games, I don't think I can do it either. We'll see next week.

In other news, I figured out what I want to do on the whole daily article thing. I'm going to do daily articles but there's going to be a twist. I'll be doing a certain theme each week. For example, the first week I'm planning to do are daily lists (Lists I know sorry, I wanted to start with something easy). So yeah, be expecting one of

Monday, July 20, 2009

Summer Long Back Blog Part 3: The Final Fantasy 7 Just Don't Stop!

Its been a slow week. I've ended up having to do real life stuff so the gaming has been hampered slightly this week. Good news is, I still made some good progress in Final Fantasy 7 and I have to say, I'm really starting to enjoy myself.

You know what I said about the materia system last week? Yeah, I take that back. I've learned that even though you can put apply role to any character you feel like, it doesn't mean that its the best idea. I knew this before but each character has stats that cater to a certain role. Turns out that's making all the difference for me. I set up Cloud as the main fighter and he tends to excel much more at that then as that, I just didn't think he'd be this effective.

I'm starting to get into this groove that I normally get into when I play JRPGS. Its the groove where I'm able to grind for hours on end. I've managed to hit the sweet spot and now I find myself grinding for 5-6 hours.

There's one thing that's bothering me about the game so far. I've picked up the two optional characters: Yuffie, and Vincent. Now, out of the fact that they are optional characters they don't really have any impact on the main story. They have sidequests but when its time for dialogue to go on with the main characters for the main story, those two characters tend to add nothing. Yuffie's dialogue consists of her talking about how she wants to find some materia. The weird thing is, Yuffie ends up saying that at inappropriate times, during a dramatic scene if you go talk to her most of the time she'll comment on being bored and wishing she could get her hands on some materia.

I'm grinding through it but I'm hoping to have it done by next week. After I'm going to finish Metal Gear Solid 3 and then Yakuza, so stay tuned!

Also, I'm planning on doing a new feature for this blog. I'm still not sure on what I want to do but I think its going to lean towards doing something on a daily basis. I've been reading this small blog ( and they do a daily feature and "One Paragraph Game Reviews". I think it might be fun to do something like that to help update this blog more often, as it stands all I'm doing is updating the blog weekly. Who knows, I'll update on that topic a little later into the week.