Sunday, September 29, 2013

First ArchImpressions: Dynasty Warriors 4

 "Dynasty Warriors 2 if Dynasty Warriors 2 had aged well" sums this up pretty nicely
 Yeah, it's pretty decent. Actually, two of the issues I had with 2 are still here, namely, how your attacks focus on one soldier at random, when hitting multiple targets, and the fact that you have little control over the camera.  Still, Enemy Officers no longer get power ups every single time they fall, and the visual presentations is quite pretty actually, so there's that.
 The gameplay also had it's first sightings of RPG elements, well, I haven't played DW 3 yet, so I might be wrong on that, heh. I just cleared the game with Xiahou Dun, unlocking every Wei character in the process, and I had fun. Some issues from DW2 remain, but they never bothered me in the past(Back when I still adored DW2 and before getting to play modern Warriors games, so maybe they aren't real flaws) and they didn't get in the way of my enjoyment of this entry.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Archview #56: Genji: Days of the Blade

 It could... it should've been so much more.
 Genji: Days of the Blade is the sequel to the sleeper hit Genji: Dawn of the Samurai on the PS2. While DotS brought an end to the PS2 era, DotB brought the start to the PS3 era, and it was not a bright new day. I won't be comparing both games, as DotS is the superior game by far, however, it's hard to believe how they could've screwed up what worked so well before.
 DotB picks up a couple of years after the events of DotS, and it's not necesary to have played it before as there is a small recap at the start of the game and there's not much you need to know beforehand. As it turn out, the Heishi clan is still alive and kicking, and now they got their hands on a great new power, the Mashogane, who turns men into rampaging demons. It's up to Yoshitsune, the hero from the previous game, Benkei, his trusty sidekick, Shizuka, the priestess who yet again takes up arms and now a playable character plus Buzon, a god who inhabits the body of a past foe, to stop the Heishi, as all four of them wield the Amahagane, a powerful crystal that grant them superhuman abilities.
 Gameplay is very straightforward, you pummel your enemies, go from point A to point B, rinse and repeat. There's an occasional puzzle every now and then, but nothing too complex. Besides the standard Weak and Strong attacks, characters can use Kamui, when they've charge the Kamui bar, that puts you into a timed-press-the-button minigame, if you don't mess up, you will deal massive damage to bosses and kill most enemies. Also, if you press any attack button right before taking a hit, you will counter with an extremely powerful attack. By pushing the right analog stick in any direction, the character will dodge, gaining a couple of invincibility seconds.
 As previously stated, there are four playable characters, and you can switch to any of them at any time, and while they each have their own life bars and Kamui bars, death for one means loading up your latest savefile. It actually makes sense, since each character has unique enviromental skills that would make finishing a stage impossible if you lost the appropriate character. Each character can also collect different weapons, and they each change their basic Weak attack combo. To be honest, most movesets are really awkward, every character is better off keeping their first weapon, which ends up having the most useful and adaptable basic combo, and using their last weapon as back up, all other weapons feel too awkward. Speaking of awkward, every character plays very differently from each other: Yoshitsune is very basic and easy to play, Shizuka is faster and deals less damage, but has a larger area of effect. Benkei has no combos, but deals knockback and has super armor on his basic moves and Buzon is very weird, but his sidesteps actually modify his basic attacks into more normal combos. Needless to say, you will probably play as Yoshitsune the most, with Benkei when you need more oomph.
 There's two different currencies in the game: Amahagane and Mashogane. Amahagane is hidden throught each level, your character will start emiting a light when close by, and if you hit it's hiding place, you will get a piece of it. Mashogane is dropped by certain enemies. Amahagane is used to increase a characters HP or Kamui gauge, while Mashogane is used to enhance their weapons.
 The worst thing about the game, by far, is it's awful camera. You can't control it at all, but rest assured that it will pick the worst angles possible. Many a times, you will find yourself walking towards the camera, and not just when backtracking! If you want to explore, you will have to guide yourself with the minimap, as the camera is no help. It's so awful, that a lot of times you won't see the enemies unless you reposition yourself and try to force the enemy into the camera. And Genji is a challenging game, the camera is just aggravating. The game also has platforming.... bad camera and plataforming? There's only one way this can end... and it's bad. Not to mention that movement and jumps feel very floaty, it's just an all-around bad combination. There's this chapter in particular that takes place inside a ship. There are many platforming sections, failing one means that you are dropped to a room full of enemies, and you must kill them all in order to open the door, and then you have to go through previous platforming sections. And every time you fall, you have to kill the enemies again and get through the first platforming section, just to get to the latter platforming section  where you fell from. Truly, truly, truly vexing.
 While I'm sure that at launch it was hailed as gorgeous, nowadays it looks average. Mind you, average this generation is pretty beautiful, but it's nothing special. Still, the animations are very lifelike and smooth, they are pretty neat to look at. However, the game as a whole feels pretty slow, many attacks, as cool as they look, also seem to lack oomph behind them, Shizuka's in particular. Stages look beautiful though, but they are a bit boring. Still, a special mention is deserved to the boats level. It's one of the most gorgeous levels I have ever played. You must travel from boat to boat through a golden sea and yellow sky, it's quite the sight.
 The music is fantastic, it's very Japanese and appropriate, while still feeling a bit modern. It sets up the mood pretty nicely, and some tunes are memorable thanks to how haunting they are! Voice acting on the other hand... It's not necessarily bad, but it's not good either. Voice Actors have a very noticeable accent, and while it's sorta fitting, since it's a very Japanese game, it's also a bit jarring. Plus, the English subtitles don't match the English voice acting... and yes, you can switch to Japanese audio, which I highly recommend you do.
 The game lasts around 8 hours, which is pretty respectable for this kind game( And hey, it's prequel was really short), but once you are done, there's nothing else to do, but the game is challenging, so you might actually have to retry some parts until you get them right. The game is very linear too, so no backtracking to previous levels.
 All in all, it's not awful, I've certainly played worse(Xenosaga 2...), but it's not good either. The camera issues are a dealbreaker, they also shoehorned some needless platforming sections, while the game is at it's finest when it's just brawling. Sadly, even to people that enjoyed Genji on the PS2, this game is a tough sell.
 5 out of 10.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Archview #55: Forever Kingdom

 It certainly is... different.
 Forever Kingdom is a third-person action-adventure game made by the same people that made the Dark Souls/Demon's Souls games, and it also serves as a prequel to Evergrace. You are to follow the adventures of Darius, Ruyan and Faena(Who came up with these names?) who are cursed with the Soul Bind during the game's opening cinematic. The story is very bland and very, very bad, I want to believe that some of it's coherence got lost in the translation.
 The Soul Bind curse is how the villain saw fit to punish these three friends for meddling in his affairs. It just means that if one of them feels pain, all three of them do, if one of them dies, all three of them die. It's just a way to explain why they share one life bar, but seriously, what kind of punishment is it? Why not kill them or something worse? The storyline at it's finest, ladies and gentlemen.
 During the game you must handle all three characters at the same time, while you are in direct control of one of them, the CPU will take over the other two. You can swap characters at will, regardless, even when unattended, the AI is not too dumb . That means that they will block almost 98% of every enemy attack, and only attack when it's 98% certain that their attack won't put them in harm's way. Basically, they won't be too much of a burden. You use the X button to attack, and the three other facebuttons are used to execute Palmira Attacks with each character. Palmira Attacks are the game's magic, and instead of running on MP, they run on stocks, which can be recharged by dealing or taking damage.
 Movement feels very clunky and slow. Attacks are very deliberate, and there's a noticeable delay before the attack actually goes off. Weapons have different combos and are used differently by each characters. Ruyan and Feana can perform up to 2-hit combos, while Darius gets and extended three hit combo. Performing the combos actually require timing, so if you mash X you will get nothing. The game also has a couple of puzzles, and some can be mind numbingly obtuse, so you might want a guide close by.
 There are a couple of RPG elements, but instead of leveling up each character, it's the equipment pieces that alter your stats. Said equipment can be enhanced at the shop. A neat touch is that every equipment piece reflects on the character model, but the really cool armor comes late in the game, and the early armors look a bit silly. The game offers a decent challenge, while not too hard, if you run out of Revive Gems, which later in the game can't be bought and only found, you will have to restart from your last save. The game also loves to have booby-trapped chests, and in the early game, it means instant death. You also have to keep an eye out for what armor you are wearing, as getting hit by a weakness will deal massive damage. You've also got to be quick on your feet, as money dropped by enemies disappears very quickly.
 The presentation is awful. I hate when people say "X Game looks like a Console Y game", since they exaggerate, however the CG cutscenes do look like PS1 CG cutscenes, complete with the awkward character models and even more awkward animations. Character models are very basic, with armors lacking detail, which is a shame since the official art is pretty cool. However... the stages are very colorful and inviting, while the characters and enemies are hideous, the stages feel full of life, and are a joy to look at. The music is a bit of an acquired taste, it's very unique, and I found it quite fitting. The indoors music, however, will get irritating pretty fast, as it loops way too frequently. Oh, and the voice acting... In the 55 games I've reviewed in my blog, I hadn't heard worse before. Cheers, Forever Kingdom, you posses the worst voice-acting I've had to endure this year, even worse than Dynasty Warriors 2. I went there.
 Forever Kingdom is not a good game. It's very flawed, and the best way to describe it as a whole is 'awkward'. Yet, despite all that, I never got bored. I wasn't having a lot of fun mind you, but I wasn't bored. So yeah, despite all it's flaws, despite not having a lot going for it... I still had a bit of fun, enough as to award it a...
 5 out of 10.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

First Archimpressions: Genji: Days of the Blade

 It's surprisingly mediocre.
 Y'see, Genji for the PS2 was a bit of a surprise. It wasn't a popular game, probably due to it's late release, but it was really good. As in REALLY good, albeit a bit on the short side. If I had gone to Genji on the PS3, without playing it's demo or reading reviews, I would've been shocked at how average it is. The combat, that was so satisfying in Genji 1, now feels floaty and very very slow. Movement all around feels like it could use some oomph behind. And the camera is atrocious. You can't move it, and it chooses the worst possible angles. A lot of times you'll find yourself walking TOWARDS the camera, only having the minimap as aide, and even if you know an enemy is up ahead, you don't know what he is up to.
 Ah well, I just finished the first mission, and I'm a bit underwhelmed. A bit, since I knew what I was getting into....

Sunday, September 22, 2013

First Archimpressions: Forever Kingdom

 Oh golly, where to start?
  Since it's first impressions, I guess how it looks? It looks... alright? Character models feel very dated, and are choppily animated. Oh, and the CG cutscenes? Playstation 1 worthy, with awkward faces and movements, and really stiff animations. On the flip side, the world itself is very colorful and actually makes you want to explore it. And the voice acting is laughably bad.
 Gameplay is... eh. The game is very unforgiving, there are traps that outright kill you if you trigger them. Oh, and you don't want to die, you can only save in certain spots, and death means restarting from your last save. There are also puzzles, and they are Castlevania 2 obtuse. "He who wields the Spear of light can open this". Certainly it means that I have to find said weapon, right? Nope. You have to equip your starting weapon on Ruy and interact with the door. The starting weapon being a Sword that has NOTHING to do with light. Or with a spear. I spent 30 minutes going round and round, searching, until I decided to consult a FAQ. I had sold that weapon, so I had to go back and rebuy it. What. The. ****?
 Basically? I'm not impressed.

Archview #54: Dynasty Warriors 2

 I didn't plan on doing this so soon, yet here I am.
 Dynasty Warriors 2 was the first true 'Warriors' game(Pun intended, since the japanese name is "Shin Sangoku Musou"(True Warrior of the Three Kingdoms, roughly), and the game that introduced me to the series that I now love. I used to love this game, and was kinda annoyed that most publications disliked it, yet I'd always defend it. And 12 years later, here I am...
 DW 2 has you take control of one out of 20+ generals, most of them falling inside one of the Three Kingdoms in which China was divided a great many years ago. You are to go through 5 stages as you slay hundreds of enemies. Hundreds of enemies per stage. Besides the historical background, there's not much story to the game. You can read the background of each fight before you go to battle, and there are some short CG cut-scenes before each, but they do little to fill you in on the overall story.
 This game set the foundations for future Dynasty Warriors games. You have a 5 hit Square button combo, a pressing Triangle during the string produces a different, stronger move, usually with crowd-clearing properties, that ends the chain. There's also your Musou Attack, used with the Circle button, that can only be used when the Musou gauge is full, filled by hitting enemies and getting hit, but it doesn't feel very powerful. You can also mount horses, if you steal them from the enemies, but if you unmount it and get too far, it usually disappears(Probably stolen by an allied officer or an enemy). This entry also has Bows, I don't know when this feature was removed, but it's not very useful and feels rather cumbersome. Holding the R1 button switches you to first person, and you can aim and shoot arrows, but it's really slow, so it's not very useful.
 The gameplay is very flawed, specially when compared to future entries(Unfair, I know, but I am playing it today). For starters, you have no control over the camera, besides pressing L1 to strafe and put the camera behind you. The Right analog stick does nothing, so it's a bit baffling as to why they didn't let you move the camera around. Then there are the attack strings. Whenever you hit many enemies, your character will lock on one of them, you can't choose who, so the next attacks will aim him. If you are hitting an officer, and accidentally hit a normal thug at the same time, your character may switch locks to him, allowing the general to get away. Very annoying. Speaking of generals, almost every time they hit the floor, they will gain a bonus. Maybe double attack power for thirty seconds, though it's usually healing. There's nothing, NOTHING, more annoying than when they get completely restored. Specially when you are also surrounded by other enemies, and the general gets completely healed. It's by far the most annoying thing in the game. Oh, and the Minimap is no help at all. Sure, you can see allies, enemies and the enemy that you must defeat in order to win, and the ally that has to survive, but it doesn't distinguish Gate Captains or Generals from common enemies.
 The presentation hasn't aged gracefully at all. A lot of the playable characters look very generic and could pass up as non-playable Generals. The stages themselves are very barren, with short draw-distance and muddy textures. To be fair, when it was released, it actually looked pretty nice since there were so many enemies on-screen at the same time with no slow-down, but nowadays it doesn't impress. The music, on the other hand, is as fantastic as it once were, easily rivalling tunes that would later be used in the series. There's not a whole lot of voice acting, but the little that is, is pretty bad.
As for replay value, there's plenty of characters to unlock, but... there's only 8 stages, which means it gets repetitive very fast. There's also a unlockable "Opening Edit", in which you can edit which characters appear in the opening, and it's actually rather fun. Otherwise, there's not much, and there's only two modes: Musou, the story mode, and Free Mode, where you can play any of the 8 stages as any character.
 I won't deny that when it was released, it was really good. I loved this game. But nowadays, it's very dated, and I'm willing to bet that every sequel outshined this entry, and what is left is a curiosity, a game that shows just how much the series has evolved.
 4 out of 10.

Archview #53: Tales of Graces F

 Probably my favorite Tales of game...
 I've no idea as to why we got this game. Namco was never too fond of localizing 'Tales of' games, and we usually got the first iteration of the game, instead of the enhanced sequel. This time, however, Namco skipped on the Wii Version(Wii players everywhere, like me, cried a little) and after the HD port to PS3 came out, they decided to bring that version overseas(Wii players who also had a PS3, like me, celebrated).
 In Tales of Graces you take control of Asbel Lhant, son to the Lord of Lhant, alongside his very cliched party members. You have you veteran with the mysterious and tragic past, the childhood friend who the main character sees as a sister, the mysterious waif who is obviously not human, the crazy but impossibly smart engineer, the villain who is always one step ahead or arrives slightly after the party, in search of a certain collection of items, etc. To be fair, there are some sparks of originality, like how the childhood friend reacts when Asbel returns from his seven years of training, and the relationship between Asbel and his brother Hubert, heck, his brother might be the most interesting member of the cast. You see, the first 4-5 hours of the game are spent in the "Childhood chapter", were you get to know Asbel, Hubert and a couple of other characters. Some may scorn at how long this part is, as the battle system is pretty limited at this time, but I actually liked how you get to know the cast as children and how they changed in seven years.
 As with other Tales of JRPGs, it does away with combat by turns. Instead, when you touch an enemy while exploring, you initiate a battle. In battle, you and three of your party members(Controlled by the AI) are confined to an area, where you can move towards or away from an enemy, you can also use free movement or sidesteps to move to the sides, but these cost CC. CC is the new mechanic introduced to the battle system, and it's used for attacking and sidestepping. This gauge has a set maximum per character, that can be increased or decreased depending on the equipment you are wearing, and every action for every character has a different CC cost. You can restore this meter by staying still or be sidestepping right as you are hit, evading the attack and restoring a bigger amount of CC. As for this new system, I'm alright with it. It's certainly different, since there's no TP(MP in the 'Tales of' games), so you'll never run out of mana, but sometimes I found it a bit boring to stay still as I awaited the CC to recharge.
 Something that I found very cool was that every character has two different Arte styles. A-Artes are performed with the X button, and are, usually, the basic physical attacks for every character. The Circle button, however, performs B-Artes, and these change from character to character. Asbel, for example, unsheathes his sword and can't flinch for a couple of seconds, pressing X again unsheathes the sword and heals him a bit. Hubert instead has Gun artes as his circle attacks, which are a mix of spells and instant attacks, etc. It certainly makes every character feel different. Titles also return, obviously, but now there are hundreds of them, and they can be leveled up too. Leveling them up grants you new Artes or permanent stat boosts, so it's in your best interest to master as many as you can.
 Other gameplay features include Dualizing, in any store of any town, you can, by paying a small fee, combine two different items to produce a new one. These can be sold at stores for money, or sometimes you may have to dualize new item for Inn requests(more on this later). You can also imbue weapons and equipment with Shards from fallen enemies, and thus enhance their attributes. Then there's the Mixer. Inside the Mixer you can put a certain amount of items, and the Mixer will sometimes produce one the items inside, as you walk around. Every now and then, after an item is created, the amount of slots in the mixer will increase. You can also put inside Books that grant passive effects, or Food that is used during a battle, once, to heal you. You will learn to like the mixer, you are not forced to use it, but it can be handy.
 As with every modern 'Tales of' game, Skits return. Skits are little scenes, played with 2D cut-outs of the characters, that have them interacting with each other, usually with funny results. They really do help on deepening the characters, and are completely optional. Depending on your tastes, you may be surprised yo know that there is no world map. Every town, dungeon and road are connected, if you can't reach it by foot, there's a port that can take you there, but otherwise, no world map. Near the end of the game you gain access to free travel, though, and you can choose any place, from a list, to revisit. Speaking of travelling, it starts very linear, with many invisible walls preventing you from backtracking or exploring, as Asbel mutters something alongside "There's no time for this now", and it can grow a bit annoying when you want to go back.
 Finishing the game, that should last around 50 hours, unlocks Lineages and Legacies, a completely new epilogue that wasn't included in the Wii-version. Something I really liked is that this chapter deals with different themes and issues than the main game, so it actually feels like something new. There's also new dungeons that try different things, like splitting the party, which is kinda nice, although the very last dungeon is on the tedious side. There's also a new seventh playable character, and the Skits he is involved in are hilarious. This chapter should last around 10 hours, it's nothing special, but it's a nice expansion to the main story.
 The game also has many sidequests and Inn-requests. Inn requests are requests, obviously, that can be found on every Inn in the game, and they task you with fetching items, usually found by dualizing other items. Sidequests, however, are usually triggered by stepping over Stars that are hovering over places, more than a couple of these can be missed if you don't trigger them in a certain time frame. There's also a Trials of Graces mode, where you can take your party and challenge certain battles. They reward you with items that you can take on your game.
 Graphically, it shows that it used to be a Wii game. There are new textures, sure, but they are still very simple. Character models have some sharpish edges, and saying that they look from a PS2 game wouldn't be too far off. Still, it is a pretty game, it's not a technical marvel, but it's a very bright and colorful game, it is pretty. The music is very fitting for the genre, while the only song that may get stuck on your head is the fantastic localized intro song, the rest of the score is alright, nothing special, but not bad. Voice acting for the main characters is pretty good, but the rest of the cast are not as good, passable at worst.
 All in all, it's a very meaty game, there's plenty to do, and plenty to see. It's presentation may not be the sharpest, but I'm the kind of guy that doesn't measure a game by it's presentation, and the game as a whole is more than a sum of it's parts. Ah! It has to be mentioned that I came around a game-stopping glitch, and many others came across it, where a scene with a certain buttler would get stuck as he game into scene. It can be fixed by deleting and reinstalling the game, but it was still pretty annoying and a bit scary, heh.
 8 out of 10.

Tales of Graces may be my favorite Tales of Game yet!

 And here I'll explain why.
 Characters: I loved Tales of Phantasia, but there's no denying that the cast is a bit on the flat side. The GBA version added all sorts of scenes that expanded on them, but it didn't do a whole lot. Tales of Symphonia has Lloyd Irving, one of my favorite characters of all time, but I didn't care much about the rest of the cast. Heck, I didn't care much about the cast of Tales of Destiny. I won't dwell too much on Tales of Symphonia:DotNW, but Emile is my most despised character of all time. Lastly, Tales of the Abyss, while Guy was interesting, everyone but Luke were real a$$holes. They blamed Luke for the massacre, while some of them knew that something odd was up. One of them at least had suspicions that Luke may be 7 years old, meaning he was a bit naive. Even worse, one character is later revealed to have been aiding the antagonists, and she is let off scott-free. And she was among the ones that went harshest on Luke. 
 As for Tales of Graces, most characters are very cliched, but Hubert is fantastic, and once Richard becomes a playable character, skits become hilarious. And as under-developed as Cheria and Asbel were, Cheria actually deconstructed her "childhood friend in love" archetype, actually calling out Asbel on leaving her and everyone behind. And Sophie was adorable. Tales of series always tries to shoe-horn kids(Suzu, Genis, Anise, etc), and they tend to be a bit annoying(Especially Annise), but Sophie was disgustingly adorable, you just can't hate her, even if she is just another "Mysterious waif who may or may not be human".

 Story: The story of World Regeneration(Symphonia) is probably my favorite setting and story on a Tales game, but Graces' is not far behind. Phantasia's story was alright, the big shocker being that the party may have been the bad guys, from the bad guy's point of view. It was smart, and new, but the rest of the story wasn't anything special. Symphonia 2's story was bad and really, really dumb, with the premise that Lloyd was killing people, they just copped out and "Nope, just some guy transformed as him". Seriously? Either go all the way, or don't pull that just to garner interest. Destiny's I can't even remember, so it was probably forgetable, still the Swordians were interesting. Tales of the Abyss story was actually pretty interesting, if only the characters weren't so mean.
 Then comes Graces. I've to say that it was pretty interesting, and they had a couple of twists on their twists. And I played Graces F, so I've got to mention Legacies and Lineages too, which deals with some more original themes, Asbel even becomes a parent! Graces, as a whole, was pretty darn interesting.
 Gameplay: The fighting engine I felt needed some polishing. For instance, on paper, the CC mechanic is sound, but in practice, unless you are sidestepping at the right time, you are going to be waiting for the CC to charge, and if you wanna pull longer combos, you are gonna want it to be filled. I felt it ended up feeling a bit to slow. The amount of Artes, and how titles held benefits was really good though. As a whole, it's not my favorite fighting engine, probably Symphonia 2 (Yeah...) or Abyss' is my fave.
 But where it really stands out is it's length. The main game took me around 50 hours, and the L&L epilogue added 10 more. But what's really cool, is that you are never truly backtracking, unless you want to. Abyss lasted 70-80 hours, but the later 20 hours were dragging badly, making you backtrack through dungeons you've already been too. Maybe even twice.

So, all in all, it's probably among my favorite Tales of games. Yeah. I'm gone. Whatever.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

First Archimpressions: Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition

 So, I asked myself "Yo, what haven't I played in a while?". Street Fighter was the answer.
 So, the first thing that shocked me? Even the cut-scenes are in. When I first booted up this game, I expected the cutscenes to be left out. They were not. The character models look, as expected, downgraded, but they still look very impressive. The stages did take a massive hit though, no animations and many 2D objects that used to be 3D.
 And while that sounds awesome, it does have a few setbacks, namely, the console itself. The 3DS isn't friendly with fighting games, and when they use as many buttons as Street Fighter, you are screwed. It's still playable, but don't expect to pull off the same combos as you could on the console. The other big issue is that it's slow. If you've played the console version you'd know what I mean, the character intros feel on slow motion and the fighting feels a bit slower too. It's not too bad, but if you are used to it's console counterpart, it might be offputting at first.
 And that's it! Off I go to study some more.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Unsung Marvels #4: Spectrobes Origins

 A Disney's children game is what we have here.
 Back when the DS first launched, Disney wanted to try their hand at a Pokemon-style franchise not based on any of their IPs, thus Spectrobes was born. Spectrobes is set in the future, and you play as a very anime-style hero named Rallen whose catchphrase is "Iku-ze", which means "Let's go" in Japanese. Seriously. Rallen could command up to two spectrobes at the same time, and he'd better, as his attacks were incredibly weak. In order to get more Spectrobes, Rallen had to find fossils, with a clever touch-based dig mechanic, then clean up the fossils, once again touch-based, and then he could revive them. These mini games were actually kinda fun, although by the end of the game they got a bit repetitive. Spectrobes could also be evolved by feeding them minerals, which also raised their stats.
 All in all, I didn't like the game, but it seems children did, as it got a sequel: Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals. The fighting was completely overhauled, and now you played as any of your two spectrobes, Rallen sitting out of the fighting. While it was a better game than it's first iteration, I still didn't like it much. And somehow, it got another sequel. On the Wii.
 And once again, the fighting was completely overhauled. Rallen once again takes part in the fighting, or you can play as Jeena, his sidekick since the first game. Both characters play the same, and can equip the same weapons, so it's just a matter of preference if you want to play as the boy or the girl. And yes, weapons, there are many types, from Swords and Blasters to Gauntlets, and each weapon of every type looks different! While you can carry about 5 Spectrobes, if I remember correctly, with you, only one is on the battlefield, but you can swap it whenever you want. And you will want to, as enemies and Spectrobes have different elements, some being stronger or weakers to others. Oh! And it can be played with a second player, him taking control of your Spectrobe.
 The story is pretty basic as simple, the main focus are children after all, and it has you going from world to world as you take down different bosses. This is one of the few games I haven't completed, as after finishing the game you are to battle harder versions of the bosses, and since healing items are random drops, getting ready to fight another of these challenging beasts would involve grinding. A lot of grinding.
 Fossil-related minigames return, and they are as fun and engaging as they used to be, now taking advantage of the Wiimote. Most of the popular Spectrobes return, alongside a couple of new ones. Their designs are alright, and have an style of their own, it's easy to tell them apart from Pokemon and Digimon(At least at the time they were released, before Pokemon hit the 600th creature....), and their third evolutions are usually on the badass side.
 Spectrobes: Origins was a nice little game that never got the credit it deserved. The fact that it was a Disney game, and it was another Pokemon clone probably didn't help. The fact that the two previous games weren't too good(Although they were a financial success for Disney) didn't help either. Regardless, Spectrobes: Origins completely eclipses previous outings from the franchise, and delivers a neat little package to whoever gave it a chance.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Unsung Marvels #3: Spyborgs

 I think there's gonna be many Wii games....
 Spyborgs was originally planned as a bit of an adventure game with a very cartoonish look, Capcom decided to do away with that, and completely redesigned it, with a darker, grittier tone, and shift the genre to beat'em up. The visual makeover wasn't well recieved, and I can't blame the critics, it turned into another "me too" victim of this generation.
 Regardless of how it looks, what matters is how it turned out... and I think it was great. This game is a throwback to beat'em ups of the past, games like Final Fight, Streets of Rage, and the dozens of clones that were so popular in the 90s. As such, you must move throughout the stages, beating up baddies, and every now and then the screen will lock in place until you beat every enemy on the screen.
 You can play as one of the three Spyborgs, and just like games of olde, you have the all-around male hero, the female speedster and the slow brute that packs a punch. You must also pick a character for the CPU to use, or a second player, so you are always fighting alongside an ally. Gameplay is very simple weak/strong attacks, and you can upgrade your character stats as you go along, which also changes their appearance. The game itself is just long enough, it ends right after it gets a bit boring. There are many collectibles and challenges that award you with unlockables, from concept art to cheats.
 It's not without it flaws though. Like every beat'em up from the 90s, beating up on the same thugs over and over again will get repetitive after a while. The colision detection feels a bit odd, and with certain attacks, the enemies won't even flinch, so you don't know if you are actually damaging it. Oh, and some of the achievements are bugged, so no unlockables for you.
 While it's a flawed game, it's also very underlooked. While not a masterpiece, it's a competent game. If you ever liked the Final Fight-type games, this game is right up your alley, and it came out at a time where games of it's ilk were not being made.
 So yeah. That's it. I've no idea how to end this. So yeah. Bye.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Unsung Marvels #2: Arc Rise Fantasia

 This is the definition of underrated.
 First of all, let's get this out of the way: Most Wii games are unsung marvels. People just didn't give a damn about the Wii, and missed out on lots of great games. One of these games being Arc Rise Fantasia. To be fair, ever since the first trailer got released, most people decided to hate it, since the voice acting was bad. Terribly bad. Not even the funny kind of bad, just bad. Then the game came out and got mostly mediocre reviews, but most people were just fixiated on the voice acting.
 Yes, the voice acting was bad. Some of the few fans this game has say that it "Gets better later on". Wrong, it does not, you do get used to it, though. Evidently, these people weren't there for the earlier years of voice acting on games, I digress, my point is: The voice acting is terrible, but it doesn't ruin this amazing game.
 What may not be readily noticeable, is that this game is a successor of sorts to the Luminous Arc series on the DS. While it has almost nothing in common, the Koppins are here, albeit with a different name, and you can fight characters from LA 1 on the Arena. Arena? Cameo battles? Oh yeah, this game is heavily inspired by the Tales of series. The designs are a bit different, but the visual style employed, down right to the colors, is very Tales of-y, there's even the ever popular skits, and they are both hilarious and a source of character developement.
 The combat however, is a bit more traditional. It's almost turn based, however, instead of each character getting a turn, you get a certain amount of AP per turn, which can be increased by leveling up or by equiping certain equipment. Each action consumes a certain amount of AP, and you can distribute it however you like, you can even have a single character use all the Ap on various actions. There's also an elaborate Magic System, where you can strenghten a spell, and cast different and stronger spells, by having different party members, or a single one, cast certain spells on the same turn. You'll eventually find out that mastering magic is a must, else, you will be wrecked by the bosses.
 Ah yes, the bosses, they are incredibly hard. And the optional bosses? Nintendo hard. There's two ways to get through them: Grinding, which takes a lot of time due to diminishing returns as you level up, or by being smart and learning how the Magic system works and how to make the most of it. You will still be face to face with death mind you, but using magic effectively will go a long way towards your success. Furthermore, you can customize your weapons. Each weapon has a grid, by default it has 2 skills placed in, which may or may not occupy different amount of blocks on the grid, one that can be mastered, and afterwards taken out of it, then placed it on another weapon, and another one that cannot be removed. Choosing how to outfit the grid of the weapon, taking into account what spaces you can't use, and granting yourself different skills is quite fun and allows for different strategies.
 The story is your usual JRPG fare, but executed it in a very smart way. There are twists that you won't ever see coming, party members may die... And in one of my favorite scenes in all of gaming history, you are betrayed. Betrayal by a party member is a rather common occurrence, and a staple of Tales of games, however, in Arc Rise Fantasia, you lose over half of your entire party when the betrayal happens. Very shocking, very cool and a very memorable scene that even the terrible voice acting could not ruin.
 The graphics are fantastic, especially for Wii standards. Many vibrant colors comprise the lands of ARF, and the character designs are really good. Oh, and the main character is named L'Arc Bright Lagoon. Seriously. As for the music? It brought me back to the PS1-JRPG era, which is a good thing, even if the voice acting is grating to the ears, the music will sooth the wounds.
 As per usual for JRPGs, it doesn't have much replay value, however, there is a lot of optional sidequests and bosses, I easily clocked over 80 hours and I 100%ed it. And I loved every hour I spent.
 All in all, it's a shame so many people skipped it due to the voice acting, the game has a lot to offer, and once you understand the magic system, you will learn to love it. It's a fantastic game, and one of the Wii's exclusive hidden gems.

Unsung Marvels #1: Super Dragon Ball Z

 Is fandom the reason we can't have nice things?
 Dragon Ball games before the PS2/GC/XBox era have aged very poorly, Hyper Dimension, the SNES card-based RPG and Legends(My personal favorite, and another Unsung Marvel, but that is a story for another day) being the few standouts. Heck, I'd be willing to say that the first good Dragon Ball game was Hyper Dimension. Regardless, the PS2 era brought us Budokai and Budokai Tenkaichi, two different series of fighters, made by different developers, that fans still debate over which one is better.
 I always found the discussion a bit silly, Budokai is the better Fighting game, and Budokai Tenkaichi is the better Dragon Ball Z game. I say this because Tenkaichi has always been a fanservice game. There's over 120 characters, and the gameplay mechanics and character movements and attacks are made to simulate the highspeed flying battles of the show. Budokai fans accuse it of being a button masher, which is a bit true as it doesn't get as complex as Budokai 3, and the character balance is based on the series, rather than seeking every character to be on equal footing. Budokai, on the other hand, has a smaller roster, about to 30 or so characters, and plays more like a fighting game, the camera shows each character on the right and left side respectively(Tenkaichi's camera is on the back of whichever character is on the front, sounds odd, but it works). You have cancels, special cancels and the such, and characters are not overly stronger than others, although Super Saiyan 4 Gogeta is a bit cheap.
 Budokai fans and Budokai Tenkaichi fans hate each other, and they can't have both games coexisting. Either Budokai Tenkaichi is the best Dragon Ball Z game ever and Budokai sucks, or Budokai is the best Dragon Ball Z videogame series and Budokai Tenkaichi is a cheap mashfest. Sadly, one game got lost between these two titans, Super Dragon Ball Z. Released on Arcades first, unlike the other two series, and with the involvement of Street Fighter II's producer, Super was a game that meant to appeal to fans of Fighting games first, and fans of Dragon Ball second. And in the eyes of this Fighting Game fan, they succeeded.
 Super Dragon Ball Z is my favorite Dragon Ball Z game on the PS2. It's setup is a bit more similar to the Budokai series, with the camera having each fighter on both sides. Stages are a bit larger than most fighters, with uneven terrain in some cases, and you can move all around it, your character will be facing the enemy the entire time you move, mind you. Blocking is done by holding back, and you have two attack buttons: Weak and Strong. Interestingly, there's a jump button, a bit odd when you first boot up the game, but you get used to it eventually.
 Besides your life bar, there are two other gauges: Your three-tiered energy bar, which is used to unleash special attacks and an Action bar that governs dashing and flying. Flying is done by pressing jump twice, which will make your character hover(Chi-Chi uses Goku's cloud, Kintoun!(Yeah, Chi-Chi is in the game!)), and dashing is done by double tapping, you've also got universal dashing homing attacks. The biggest departure from the other Dragon Ball games of the era, is that Special and Super moves are performed with directional inputs, like traditional fighters.
 Then there's the presentation. While it's, on a technical level, not as good looking as the other games, featuring a pretty jaggy cell-shading coat of paint, but it aims for a handrawn look instead of the more universal look of the anime. Yes, this game focuses on the manga instead of the anime, so you may notice that character colors are slightly different. The stages look amazing and as if painted by hand. There's even Onomatopoeia's when really strong hits hit their mark. So while it may not boast the highest amount of polygons, it does have a unique look to itself, and in my opinion, the Dragon Ball Z game of the era that I find the most visually alluring. Oh, and I have to say that to this day, I find Cell's Muay Thai stance just awesome.
 The game also has some RPG mechanics. You can create a "Character Card", and every time you play using that card, you will receive experience points. Each character has a different maximum level, usually about 7-8. Every time you level up, you get to pick a skill from two different branches. These skills may be passive effects, or new moves, and some even change parts of your character, like Trunks or Gohan's Sword(Gohan uses a sword here!) or Cyborg Freezer's tail or you can give him a giant Cannon. You may also come across Dragon Balls, playing through Arcade Mode almost guarantees that you will get to summon Shenron. The Dragon is how you unlock characters and little extras, you may even unlock special Skills, like the Senzu Bean, or inherit one skill from any another character(I recommend Cell's), you also get colors and sometimes even costumes.
 So why was this game forgotten? I can see many issues why. First, the one that probably meant death in the Dragon Ball fandom: a 18 character roster. That's even less than Burst Limit(Which had less characters than Budokai 1). To be fair, they tried to get the most iconic characters, while also adding a couple of unique choices, that have never ever made another playable appeance: Gohan with the Z sword and teen Chi-Chi. Then there's the fact that 3 of them are almost clones: Mecha Freezer, Majin Vegeta and Piccolo Daimao play almost exactly like Freezer, Vegeta and Piccolo, perhaps with one different looking move or the such. I didn't play them extensively(I mained Trunks and Gohan!), but I didn't find many differences.
 Then there's the really few amount of modes, them being Arcade, Versus, Survival and Training. There's not much to do(Although I did create one character card for each character, and maxed their levels, unlocked every color and filled all their skill slots!). Oh, colors, yeah, you only unlock them for your Character Card, so if you want to use another color, you have to set it before going into the character select screen, which is a bit of a hassle. As for the music, it's on the blander side, very forgettable.
 As solid as I found the gameplay to be, most Dragon Ball fans wanted a Dragon Ball game and not a Fighting game. While it's a visually appealing game, it's not flashy enough for a Dragon Ball game. I remember going into the GameFaqs forum and making a thread about how underrated it was, one of the first responses I got? "The beams look like crap". Then there's the fact that characters don't zip around the screen or teleport behind each other, no, this game wanted to be a traditional fighting game with Dragon Ball elements, and not the other way around.
 Sadly, it seems that this game is destined to be forgotten. The Budokai series got a successor in "Burst Limit", which sadly received no sequels, and the Budokai Tenkaichi morphed into "Raging Blast", I tried the demo for Raging Blast 2 and.... it was not very good. For what it's worth, there's a "Battle of Z" coming out, and it looks really good, taking hints from the Dragon Ball Legends PS1 game, so I'm actually excited for it. It might not be another Super Dragon Ball Z, but since the Raging Blast series is not my thing, Ultimate Tenkaichi was awful and Burst Limit is discontinued, I'll have to take what I can get.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Archview #52: Dragon Ball Budokai HD Collection

 Writing this while waiting for the teacher to arrive...
 Dragon Ball Budokai HD Collection brings two games of the Budokai Trilogy of fighting games to the HD realm. Yeah, they are skipping Budokai 2, but honestly, it's not much of a loss. The story mode was a drag, and the fighting itself is not as polished as Budokai 3, the only thing you could possibly miss would be the what if fusions, which were a bit of a novelty anyways.
 First of all, I'm gonna talk about Dragon Ball Budokai 1, and... it certainly has seen better days. Surprisingly, the game's standout feature is the story mode, that goes from the Sayian Saga to the Cell Saga. The story is told by excellent cut-scenes that capture the most iconic moments from those sagas as you go from fight to fight. While the initial run takes you through Goku's perspective, you can later unlock missing scenes from in-between that flesh out the story, but if you are a Dragon Ball nut, you probably know it already.
 The gameplay hasn't aged very well. You have four buttons: Punch, Kick, Energy and Guard. While pressing Energy by itself allows you to shoot a small proyectile, stringing together certain combinations of punches, kicks and direction followed by Energy allows you to use the trademark moves like the Kamehameha, provided you have enough Ki to use them. There's also chargeable moves and meteor attacks, but they are pretty shallow. On the flip side, the gameplay is so simple that anyone can pick it up and start having fun in seconds.
 As you play through the Story Mode, you will unlock Capsules that you can use to customize your character. This range from your special attacks, like the Kamehameha to passive effects or special effects, like resurrection. While it seems fun on the outset, you need to get the capsules, and getting the ones you want can be a lenghty, grindy process. If you play Tournament Mode you will get money that you can spend on the shop, but what the shop sells is random , so you will have to enter and exit until you get what you want. Granted, once you get everything, tinkering with characters can be fun, but it's also a must, since the "Normal" movesets for the characters are pretty lame and lack moves, so in order to make the most of it, you will want capsules.
 Visually, it hasn't aged well. Animations look a bit stiff, and sometimes odd. The character models themselves are on the simpler side, featuring little in the way of texture, granted, they do have some kind of charm. The cutscenes, however, are still as fantastic as they were before, but sometimes a few of the shadows may glitch a bit, which didn't happen in the original version, hardly a deal breaker though!. The voice acting is still pretty good, only in english though, but what may surprise people the most... is that there is new music. There were some legal troubles surrounding the odd tunes, so they couldn't use them anymore. The new music isn't bad, but the music used during the Story Mode feel out of place during certain scenes, which is a shame, as they take away from the impressiveness that they used to have.
 All in all, the game is very dated, however, the story-mode is still fantastic and unmatched by any other story mode on a Dragon Ball game, so it's still worth playing if just for that mode alone. There's also an unlockable mode in which you play as Hercule as he tries to take down the Z warriors which is on the funny side. Sadly, most characters feel really samey, having the same punches and kicks, and while their proyectiles have different names and colors, they feel the same too. Heck, most special attacks are very similar. Still, the story mode redeems it(It's that good).
 Then there's Budokai 3. The gameplay builds upon the foundations laid by Budokai 1. You still have the same four buttons, meteor attacks and chargeable moves, but there are new additions. Now you can use special attacks by pressing Energy and a Direction, instead of having to be part of a combo. Now there is Teleportation, by pressing Guard right before getting hit, you will teleport behind an oponent and hit him instead, and by pressing Circle after certain moves, you will follow up and hit them as if they were a ping pong ball, as long as you have Ki to expend. There are also Beam Struggles, if both characters shoot a beam-type proyectile at the same time, they will collide, and you will have to mash buttons in order to have your beam overcome theirs. Pressing all the buttons at the same time initiates Hyper Mode, which gives you Super Armor and enables you to use your Ultimate Attack or a Dragon Rush. Dragon Rush is a 3-stage attack, in which you and your oponent must press three buttons. If the enemy presses the same button as you do, they will block and end the Dragon Rush. While a lot of people love that feature, it gets old really fast, and you'll just want to carry on playing normally, there's a lot of watching during Dragon Rushes.
 The Capsules return, and are just like they were on Budokai 1: On paper, it's a cool and fun idea, but the default movesets for each character are really lame, Goku can't even go Super Saiyan 1, so you will have to grind money and pray for luck when entering the store, in order to get what you want. Instead of a Story Mode, you have Dragon Universe. There's about 10 characters that have a Dragon Universe, and it follows the story of Dragon Ball Z, but it's told via character cut outs and dialogue, not very interesting or engaging. During Dragon Universe, you get to raise the level and place stat points on your character, but this only applies here and in the Dragon Arena. The World Tournament Mode returns, alongside versus mode, and there's a new mode, Dragon Arena. In Dragon Arena, you can take any of the 40+ characters and level them up, as you fight enemies of different levels.
 The presentation is beautiful. Characters now sport cell-shading and unique stances! Animations also flow and look much better, even if some return from Budokai 1. And while there are some basic moves shared among characters, all the strings are unique to each character, so that's pretty cool. The music fits the game, although if you played the original version, you will find out that all the music is different here too. The american dub is still pretty good, but now you can switch it to Japanese, if that is your jam.
 So, is it worth it? Yes. Budokai 1 is pretty dated, and the gameplay is way more polished and satisfying in 3, however, the story mode deserves to be played at least once. And Budokai 3 is worth every penny. As a package, Budokai HD Collection is a bit disappointing though, as horrible as Budokai 2 was(You will need to go through the Story Mode in order to unlock everything), it's omission feels more as lazy than due to it's quality, then there's the minor annoyance that you have to quit the game(From the XMB!) in order to swap games, poor design choice right there, and some people may find issue with the fact that the cutscenes kept the old ratio, at least the gameplay is in complete widescreen.
 Budokai 1: 4 out 10.
 Budokai 3: 8 out of 10.
 Budokai HD Collection: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

First Archimpressions: Tales of Graces F

 It's bloody fun.
 I'm studying, so I only tallied 10-20 minutes, but it hooked me already. I'm still getting used to the new CC-based combat, but I've a feeling it's gonna be a fun mechanic, however, where are the traditional Artes? I will get traditional Artes, right?!
 The graphics are pretty simple, it was a Wii game and it shows, but it's pretty. Voice acting is, so far, pretty alright, but I won't judge it too hard until the characters grow up. The opening song is fantastic, it's cheesy in the Lunar 1 opening kind of way, which means it fits spectacularily!
 Oh, and judging from Hubert's grown up design, he looks stiff and serious, can't wait to see how he hardens, since right now he is a lovable coward.
 Basically, I'm hooked and I have great expectations for this game.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

First Archimpressions: Dynasty Warriors 2 & Dragon Ball Budokai 3

 Uh oh...
 I loved this game as a kid. I adored it. I really, really did. So I picked it up after playing DW 7, DW 6, Fist of the North Star Musou and DW: Gundam series... and it's no bueno. No bueno at all.
 This game has aged awfully. It's so stiff, so visually barren and lackluster... I mean, I can see how it was good when it was released, you picked it up alongside your brand new PS2, and lo and behold, dozens of enemies on-screen at the same time! And they look better than anything the PS1 or N64 could have pulled off!
 Sadly, this was but a fraction of what the PS2 would eventually be able to run... and with that knowledge, this game is just so... so...
 So bad. Mediocre at most. I am sad, I loved this game.

 And then there's Budokai 3. Very first impressions? "Ooooh shiny!". The game looks amazing, and the fights look the part too. Sadly, I came to it right after being done with Budokai 1, so the story mode is quite lame and disappointing, sadly. At least, it's not as bad as Dragon World from Budokai 2, now that was bad. But, it's a fighting game, and anime fighting game, but a fighting game non the less, and the fighting itself is very fun, so it's quite good, for now.

Archview #51: Zone of the Enders HD Collection

 One of the most epic games ever made, now in HD!
 Zone of the Enders HD Collection collects the two PS2 games that made up the series. While the basic gameplay on both games is pretty similar, the execution, and quality, is quite different.
 Firstly, Zone of the Enders 1 pits you as Leo Stenbuck, your typical Gundam-styled kid that finds himself inside a top of the line mech(Orbital Frame) called Jehuty during a raid by BAHRAM, and is soon thrust into battle. The story is pretty simple and feels like a Gundam homage, but a bit simpler, sadly, the dialogue is not up to snuff, which kinda cripples the already simple story. As for ZoE 2, you now play as Dingo Egrett,, but he pilots the Jehuty too, and takes place after a couple of years since the first entry. The story this time is a bit more invovled, with more twists, but basically, Dingo used to work for the big bad, but after being fatally wounded and then revived, he is coerced into fighting BAHRAM.
 As for the gameplay, in both games you play as Jehuty, and he plays mostly the same. Jehuty can freely move around the enviroments, flying around at will. Movement is very fluid and easy to grasp, you'll be dashing up, down, left and right in no time. As for attacking, Jehuty uses one button for melee and ranged, what determines what type of moves he uses depends on the distance towards the enemy. There are three kinds of attacks: Basic, Dash and Burst. Burst attacks are slower, either a giant energy ball or an heavy spin attack, they break guards, but are really slow than the other two. Jehuty can also grab and throw his enemies, and in ZoE 2 you can actually carry enemies around and use them as weapons or shields. In both games, Jehuty can use a variety of different subweapons, around 8(all of them return, plus a couple of new ones in the sequel). While in ZoE 2, at least on Normal and upper dificulties, sub-weapons are a must, they feel quite useless in ZoE 1. The main difference is that while ZoE 1 uses different ammo for each sub weapon, they share a Sub Weapon gauge in the Sequel. As a whole, it's a very fun system, and surprisingly, it feels even tighter and more polished on ZoE 2, surprising because ZoE 1 already nails it so well!.
 In ZoE 1, Leo has to traverse around the space colony, which acts as a kind of stage select, while completing certain objectives. Said objectives will usually have you backtracking to older areas. You usually need to retrieve passwords in order to open up certain packages, and the game lets you know which enemy carries the password, but killing the other enemies, which come in squads, will give you ammo and XP, so it's usually worth it to kill every enemy every time you enter a zone. To be fair, backtracking can become quite a drag, specially since you don't always know where the enemy that holds the password is, so you might have to go to many zones. Every now and then, Rescue missions pop up, in which you must beat every enemy while avoiding causing damage to the buildings, they are a nice break of pace, and actually kinda tough to ace. Regardless, ZoE 1 is one the easy side.
 ZoE 2 is much more linear, and much better. There is no backtracking, at all, and every stage is different from the next, so you don't mind being led from place to place, and there are no searches for passwords. Most stages usually consist on killing everything that moves, save a few exceptions. Still, the ways of doing so are always different. On a moment you are on the skies, taking down a fleet of enemy spaceships, and then you are on the ground blowing up reactors in order to open up a door. There's also a stage filled with pillars that try to crush you down. And the massive war on the dessert in which you must take care of the enemies while backing up your allies? How about the scene where you have to chase and destroy a armored train? This game NEVER lets up, having some of the most epic set pieces I have ever played, and it holds true to this day. And it never gets old, unlike it's prequel. Interestingly, on the default difficulty, this game is way harder than ZoE 1.
 Graphically, ZoE 1 is very simple. The cut-scenes are made in FMV, with some horribly dated animations, luckily, in-game it's very smooth. Stages do feel very simple and samey though. There's also not a whole lot of enemy types. Voice acting is really bad, the bad voice acting doesn't help. As for the music, it's not bad, it's just forgettable. Then there is ZoE 2 which looks amazing. It has loads of special effects like smoke, and smoke that trails after Jehuty walks through it!. The Orbital Frames look way more detailed, and the stages themselves have more detail and objects than ZoE 1. The cut-scenes that involve humans, and the cut ins, are now done in anime style, and they look really good. Voice acting ,while not great, is at least passable. And the music? It's really good and fits the game.
 Both games are about 5-6 hours long, however, ZoE 1 has a lot of backtracking and searching for stuff, while ZoE 2 has no padding at all, every single minute is a different, awesome, moment. There's also unlockable versus modes that work about the same on both games, and while it will never have a place at evo, it's a nice diversion. ZoE 2 also lets you unlock EX missions and New Game+, both that let you take all forms of Jehuty(Oh yeah, Jehuty gets upgraded!). There's few complains to be had about these games, perhaps the Frame Rate issues? Luckily I played the patched version, so while ZoE 1 did have a few issues on a couple of bosses, it was nothing game breaking, and ZoE 2 was almost flawless.
 ZoE 1 : 5
 ZoE 2: 10
 ZoE: HD Collection : 10 out of 10. ZoE 2 makes the package worth it, to this day, is one of the most epic games ever created, and I'm not using that word lightly. Not here.