Friday, December 1, 2017

Now Playing: Shin Megami Tensei - Persona 3 FES

 A Festival of emo boys shooting themselves in the head.

 I love Shin Megami Tensei, and Persona 4 is one of my favorite games ever, probably my favorite PS2 game ever, and yet... I never got around playing Persona 3, until now.

 There's a bunch of things I liked, like the ambiance. Everything feels darker, eviler than in Persona 4, a very welcome change of pace. I also like most of the gameplay, which is to be expected considering that the game runs on a modified version of Nocturne's engine.

 Buuuut there're also things I didn't like. The Tartarus seems kinda lame, a randomized dungeon that looks the same all the way through? And not being able to control my allies, seriously? I will be fuming if the AI costs me a battle. And I know, I know, it's not the first SMT game to have CPU allies, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. And I don't. Also, I think there's a tiredness factor when exploring the Tartarus, and I hope it's not as restrictive as I'm imagining.

 Yeah, there're definitely more things I disliked than the ones I liked, buuuuuuut I think the ones I liked carry more weight. I think, but only time will tell. I'm also planning on playing 'The Answer', so it might be a while before I come back to this lovely ol' blog.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Month Overview: November 2017

Final Fantasy XII 6.0
Samurai Western 6.0
Rygar - The Legendary Adventure 7.5
Beyond Good & Evil 7.5
Brave Fencer Musashi 8.0
God of War 9.0
Oni 4.0
XIII 8.0
Bujingai - The Forsaken City 4.5
Psychonauts 9.0
Way of the Samurai 2 6.0
Drakan - The Ancient Gate 7.5

 This month I played a nice mixture of games I had play before and games that were new to me. Some games were a nice reminder of my youth, while others... were better left off in my memories. And now comes the big #500, which is kinda amazing. I got to play and write about 500 different(Erm... a few were the game game but on a different platform, but then again, I count 'Collections' as a single game, so I think it evens out) games. I had a tough time selecting game #500, and as much as I would've liked it to be Suda51's 'The Silver Case' it probably won't arrive any time soon, so I settled with Persona 3. Hopefully it won't take me the entire month of December, but then again, hopefully I start working in December.

 Guess we'll never know why the blades disappear after a while...
 It took me by surprise just how well God of War 1 has aged. Production values are through the roof, the combat feels very nice, the challenge is just right and the game is just a pleasure to look at. The story is pretty decent too, and I love the way it's told. I do agree that it trades a bit of depth for spectacle, but man, does the game go for epic moments and set-pieces.

 Game of November 2017:
Shame the mini-sequel is VR only.
 I most definitely did not expect to fall in love with this game the way I did. I don't think my expectations were high, but man did it surprise me. I loved the amount of depth characters had, how their minds worked as a reflection of their personality, filled with tons of subtle, and not so subtle, details. The gameplay was fun and funny too, thanks for the wide variety of reactions every character has to almost everything Raz can show them or do to them. It's a game that actually manages to be funny, plus, the artstyle is absolutely delightful, which goes hand in hand with some of the very creative stages. The Milkman level is one for the ages...

Drakan - The Ancient Gate Addendum

 Second's time the charm. With cheats.

 At first I was angry, angry that the game freezing killed my game.... but I found out the game had cheats, so... I used the invulnerability cheat, to speed through everything, and the experience and money cheat to make up for what I would lose avoiding optional enemies or quests, and got to where the game screwed up and... then proceeded to finish the game. And boy oh boy did I find out a few things.

 Firstly, the hotslot system actually has a way to cancel the selection, just press triangle. I got used to it pretty quickly, so my complaints about it are pretty much voided.

 Secondly, Arokh actually learns two more breath attacks. Do they make a difference? Not really, but it was worth mentioning.

 Thirdly, Arokh is an idiot. At least twice Arokh had trouble coming to my location when I called to him, once I actually had to backtrack through the dungeon to the entrance so that he would come to my side. Pretty annoying. But the cherry on top came the moment I got on his back and... got stuck inside a rock. It didn't matter how much I moved around, Arokh couldn't land and thus I got stuck and had to restart.

 Overall, my 7.5 score still stands.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Review #499: Drakan - The Ancient Gate

 Can badass dragons overcome questionable game design?
The heroes.
 Drakan The Ancient Gate is the PS2 exclusive sequel to the PC exclusive Drakan game. It's an action-adventure western RPG starring Rynn and her Dragon companion Arokh, both heroes sharing a bond and if either dies the other one dies as well. Unless you play the prequel, in which case the dragon won't die if its partner dies, it's a one-way street. But I digress, why make a direct sequel on another platform is beyond me, but here we are.

 The story is pretty sparse for a western RPG, and there's a lot of potential within the world of Drakan, having Arokh be a part of this 'elder breed' of Dragons that can open... ancient gates, or this bond between rider and dragon. And the main antagonists, the Desert Lord look great, but it's never expanded too much about them. Most of the time I was doing stuff because I was told to do it, not because I was invested in the world, as much as I wanted to. This is a game you will play because the exploration is great and the gameplay is competent, not because you want to get lost in its world.
Bows don't break, they just... run out of arrows.
 Rynn is proficient with the bow, with which she can aim in first person camera, bladed and blunt weapons, with which she can attack and parry and magic. The bow works well for what it is, either lock on with R2 and shoot away or aim in first person mode. Melee combat is a bit clunky, the parry doesn't work too well as in you have to predict an attack rather than react to it. More often than not I found myself running in circles around enemies, in the direction opposite of the hand they had a weapon in, slashing over and over again until they fell. And then there's magic. You have to hold Circle and then move the analog stick in different directions to cast runes and then equip your magic spell. It was too cumbersome for my liking, so I just ignored magic altogether. As a whole, I won't lie, the combat is merely competent. It's not great, it's not bad, but it's something you'll deal with rather than enjoy. In open-ended areas you can just ride Arokh and burn enemies to death from above anyways.

 The hot-slot system is a neat idea but has a few kinks. Basically, you can slot a few items of your inventory into this 'hotslot', and then, by tapping R1, you can then switch between these weapons, potions or what have you and equip them with X. The problem arises when you accidentally press R1, for instance, and then you're stuck with the menu, so you either equip another item or unequip the one you're using. In the heat of battle this can become extremely vexing.
Despite clunky controls, flying Arokh is more fun than it deserves to be.
 Ah, yes, Arokh, you red-dragon. In open areas, meaning outside dungeons like forests or caves, you can ride Arokh. He can shoot fire, or thunder, and there're a few enemy dragons that kinda demand you ride Arokh, unless you wanna be toast. Riding around Arokh is fun, even if the controls aren't particularly smooth, and it's always fun coming across secret areas by yourself, like the evil giant rooster enemy hidden in a cave on the first overworld. The game's world isn't particularly beautiful or original, but I'd lie if I didn't say that I didn't have fun trekking through mountains, caves and the such, alternating between walking or flying on Arokh's back.

 Leveling up in the game is a bit underwhelming, since your stats don't increase at all. You do gain the ability to equip certain armors that require you having a certain level, and you do gain a skill point to spend in either Melee, Archery or Spells but... it doesn't enhance your damage, it only allows you to equip better weapons, bows or spells. It kinda saps the fun of growing stronger. Another thing you have to keep in mind is that everything but Rynn's starting dagger breaks. Everything. So don't grow fond of any piece of equipment. And while you can fix it at a blacksmith, it'll lose 10% of its maximum durability, so it's a better idea to just replace whatever's broken.
Even when you leave Arokh, he may occasionally aid you in battle.
 One of the game's worst design choices is the inventory, there simply isn't enough space. You need at least four slots for an armor, more if you also want a shield, you also need to carry potions to heal yourself and you also need to take spare weapons with you, since they will probably break throughout the course of long dungeons. The game ill often leave weapons lying around, but they are probably not as good as the ones you could've purchased on a shop. This gets kinda annoying on the latter parts on the game, when you'll also be encumbered with plot-related items that take up space in your inventory, thus locking you out of carrying more spare weapons.

 Speaking of latter parts of the game, during the snowy overworld's section you'll eventually have to travel through an Ice Golem cave and... this part is absolutely terrible. Ice golems can snipe you from far, far away, and they can whittle down your health bar in a few seconds flat. I did not enjoy that part of the game. I was forced to cheese the game by saving constantly after clearing different sections. It's the only part in the game which I fell was poorly designed.
Armor is expensive, but at least it looks cool.
 And to play the game you need 1.5 MBs on your memory card, and you need a memory card. You can't transition between areas without a memory card, since it seems like it saves some of the world's data on your file? See, my game froze when I was travelling to a different area, and when I rebooted my game... I lost all my progress. Because the game didn't finish saving the world data on the memory card. It's such a baffling design choice, and one that cost me the ending of the game. And there's no way I'm replaying over 20 hours of the same game. I gave it a chance, it screwed me over, I'm not coming back. I'm not. And I just sounded like Tommy Wiseau typing that. I'm not happy.

 Overall, I thought Drakan was a very entertaining game. It doesn't have the best gameplay out there, it has a few questionable decisions, but adventuring through the land of...erm... Drakan? was fun. I loved coming across enemy encampments and looting them, I loved coming across stuff by myself, I loved delving deeper into caves and forests and I adored riding Arokh. Drakan: The Ancient Gate is a clear case of a game that is more than the sum of its parts.
 7.5 out of 10

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Now Playing: Drakan - The Ancient Gate

 Time for a good old fashioned western RPG.
The cover has this weird painted style I can't quite describe.
 So, there I was kickin' butt and taking names, feeling emboldened I took the Inquisitor sidequest, found the dungeon, was forced to save(It seems like you are FORCED to save the game in order to progress, fun! The game wouldn't load the next area until I accepted to save my file) and then... came across trolls. Each magic spell would take out a fourth of my HP, but it didn't matter, I'd close in on them, run in circles right next to them and slash them to death. But eventually they outnumbered and murdered me. A cruel reminder that Western RPGs are open ended, but they also allow you to get to areas way sooner than your level would allow.

 I've played very little, but I'm enjoying it a great deal. The character models certainly are... old, the female mage is ridiculously top-heavy and other characters look weird, but Rynn's animations are alright. The combat is a bit clunky, like you have to time the parry so that you predict an attack rather than react to it, but as a whole it's alright.

 As for my story with Drakan, I remember reading about the first game on PC Gaming magazines, but I never got to play it. Eventually I learned about the PS2 game, but for whatever reason I wasn't too interested on it... something that would change come present day. And here I am, playing Drakan and enjoying it.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Review #498: Way of the Samurai 2

 Not the way of the good sequel.
You'll be seeing red and black often, every single time you die.
 Way of the Samurai was this obscure little gem of a game, which I played and wrote about a few years ago(Review 50-something!), that was unique in its concept: A sand-box style samurai game, with a plot that could be altered according to your choices. Surely a sequel would polish its rough edges and add more characters, better combat, more and better of everything. Sadly, such is not the case.

 The game is set before the first game took place, so the era of the Samurai is still blossoming. Your created Samurai, who can be a girl once you unlock her create-a-character pieces, enters the town of Amagahara and soon gets embroiled, or not, in the war between the Aoto gang and the Magistrate, trying to keep peace... or so it seems. There's also innocent bystanders which you can choose to aid... or not. Does it sound familiar? Yes, it's pretty much the same plot from the previous game: You can side with 'the people'(Sayo the mute girl, for example), you can side with the evil gang(Aoto gang) or with the law-keepers(The magistrate). To be fair, there're more characters this time around, and they had potential if only it was easier to get involved in the plot.
Y'gotta be fast on your fingers, the game wastes no time throwing you into the wolves.
 Y'see, the game might still be a sandbox styled Samurai game, but the execution is much different. The previous game was a short adventure that lasted three days, but now the story takes places throughout 6(sometimes more) days, which sounds really awesome until you realize that most of it is fat. The previous game had a tight story, with multiple choices and ways to get involved, this time around, unless you know precisely when and where to be you'll miss out on most of the story. If you're not playing with a guide at hand you'll be missing out on most of the story. Which is a shame, because the story has potential, but it's so poorly structured that you'll probably miss out on most of it. Heck, take for instance the Sayo storyline, you can be done with the requisites by day 3 and now you've got to waste time until day 6 in order to conclude it. It's a slightly longer game alright, but it's made up of pure fat.

 So what can you do in order to pass the time? Well, you could, and should, partake in repetitive 'jobs' for either Aoto, Magistrate or people factions. There's about 5 different jobs for each, and each job takes a single time slot(Each day has about 6 slots). They are so repetitive and SO boring it's unreal. 'Find the missing worker and convince him to return to work', 'Find the dropped parcel', etc. For every 3-4 lame jobs there's a single assassination or 'quelling' the mob mission involving combat. And the jobs never change, they are so goddamn boring. And it's the only effective way to make money, which you really need in order to enhance your weapons, which are the only things you can carry over from game to game(Unless you die and overwrite your savefile, in which case, whichever three swords were with you and not store in the safe are gone for good). And to add insult to injury, you've got to be extremely swift with this job, you can't just go anywhere but where the location of the job is, otherwise you'll lose your money because the time of the day changed. Fun. Took me a while to realize that you didn't have enough time to do more than 'Get job -> Get to location -> Report back'. It's a terrible design choice that only serves to make progression slower and take up more of your time.
Try to get the Blacksmith's hammer, it's quite destructive.
 On another note, do not be scared to start the game on easy, as the game is pretty much brutal. As soon as you start the game you're thrust into a fight with no explanation whatsoever of how things work. And combat is very tough all the way throughout, there's absolutely no comparison to the previous game. After dying, repeatedly, on my first two attempted playthroughs, I did an Easy playthrough, got new swords, enhanced them and took them to the Normal mode, and then I had a fair game. And keep in mind that the way swords work is kinda... wonky. Every time you equip a new sword you start with a very limited moveset and you have to unlock it by using it. Which kinda sucks if you get a new, powerful sword, yet becomes nigh useless in Normal or Hard since opponents don't really give you a chance to score hits with your limited starting moveset.

 While the moveset thing kinda sucks, the combat has been enhanced. You can block by holding R1 or parry by tapping R1 as soon as you get hit. Triangle does vertical slices while square does horizontal attacks, and the more you use your weapons the more new attacks, combos and links you obtain. You've also got the ability to kick(R1+square) or perform grabs(R1+triangle). The combat feels nice, although I wasn't able to perform some of the wonky, but funky!, juggling you could on the first game. There're more moveset types than before, like the new dual katanas and sheathed katana styles. But don't be too slash happy, every attack you land, be it blocked or not, will raise the Heat bar, if it fills you'll lose a block of durability and if you lose all blocks, out of a possible five, your sword breaks and not even the smithy can repair it.
Sometimes defense is the best offense. Counterattacking after a parry does lethal damage most of the time.
 Truly, the game's biggest flaw is the lack of direction. After you go through the initial sequence of beating up the three bullies you'll be thrust into a map with about 10 different areas. You aren't told what the EP gauge is, which is your energy and can be restore by eating certain items or by sleeping and if it falls to 0 you lose five time periods. You aren't told how to restore you're health, which is done by sleeping or buying food. You aren't told where the Smithy is, which is the are that starts with a N. You're not even told how to fight. You're basically thrown to the wolves, and with the terrible structure for the plot... it's not a friendly game, and while I'll admit that I eventually learned to like the game... it was a long process.

 The thing about Way of the Samurai 2 is... while there're even more endings, which is appreciated, and the combat is tighter than before, there're even more areas to explore and more timeslots and there's even the addition of 'side-quests', it failed to capitalize on what made the first game so unique, so special. It was the entire structure of the game. It was how, while it was a short game, there was always some plot-related thing to do, some way to advance the story or get involved in it. Here you'll be stuck doing menial crap for money. Over and over again. The game can be fun once you finally get the hang of it, but it takes a long, long time and the payoff isn't as rewarding as it was on the first game. In conclusion, Way of the Samurai 2 is alright, but it's a very disappointing sequel.
 6.0 out of 10

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Now Playing: Way of the Samurai 2

 Way of the Samurai got hardcore.
The Capcom logo always means good news on PS2.
 I don't remember if I used to like Way of the Samurai 2 more than the first one back when I was younger, but right now, my impressions after getting reacquainted are that the game is... overwhelming.

 I started the game, three bozos came at me, no tutorial, no nothing. Somehow I survived and the magistrate arrived and I slayed them. I spent the next segments trying to get into a story sequence, trying to find means to heal myself and trying to get into fights with thugs. Eventually, day 2, I got to the magistrate and some bigwig owned me because I was low on health. And then... I came to the depressing realization that I lost all my progress and got nothing out of my short stint.

 Now I tried again, wrecked the three assailants and... was greeted by a new character, Kyojiro, and then.... I came to write this.

 I dunno, I feel like the game is overwhelming me, so many different places, and no direction whatsover of when or where to get embroiled in a storyline. There also seems to be no place to gather healing items, which kinda sucks if my only way to heal is sleeping and thus missing out on story opportunities. I will keep on playing, but I'm not as enchanted with it as I was with 1. And I think, I THINK that I used to like this one more.

Review #497: Psychonauts

 No need for a psychiatrist now.
Let it get inside your subconscious...
 Psychonauts is the brainchild of Tim Schaffer, a platform/adventure hybrid set in a world where weird almost-human-like-beings possess psychic abilities and what not. It's a beautiful game to look at, with a fantastic art-direction reminiscent of Tim Burton, a sense of humor that's as ridiculous as it is funny as well as top-notch gameplay, Psychonauts is quite the marvel.

 The entire game takes place inside Oleander's camp for psychic children, a place where children are trained to use their abilities and eventually become Psychonauts. Enter Razputin 'Raz' Aquato, a kid who sneaks into the camp in order to learn to use his abilities. All's fine and dandy, until it turns out that someone is trying to farm the brains from the children and turn them into powerful psychic weapons. Now it's up to Raz and his friends to stop the conspiracy and, maybe, save his friends. The game has a phenomenal sense of humor and attention to detail, there're ton of different, optional dialogues to find or come across and they are quite a treat. There're so many different optional, hidden interactions that you won't find them all on your first playthrough.
Raz has style. He also has psychic powers.
 You'll be exploring two different realms: Reality AKA Oleander's camp, and you'll also be travelling inside the minds of many other characters. There's a lot of stuff to collect, every mind('level') has figments of imagination to collect, emotional baggage(And their tags!) to collect and memory cobwebs to collect, and they all help to boost Raz's Psychonaut rank. Meanwhile, you can find cards and challenge orbs, as well as a completing scavenger hunt sidequest, inside the camp, which also helps to bolster your rank. Yes, there's quite a lot to find and collect in the game.

 And you should, because increasing your rank in increments of fives unlocks new abilities for Raz. As a matter of fact, Pyromancy and Invisibility are mandatory to complete latter levels, although I never had to stop and grind for rank, I will admit that I was so engrossed in the game that I was trying to collect as much as I could, so I was never wanting in rank. Another thing, there's a shop and in said shop you can buy the cobweb remover... thing is, the item is mandatory to progress through latter levels as well. My advice? Purchase the arrowhead(currency) dowser ASAP and buy the cobweb remover ASAP, since about halfway through the game the camp gets filled with powerful pyro-wolves that make searching for arrowheads a pain in the butt. Luckily I had the cobweb remover before that happened, but I'm guessing that someone that didn't care about it would be in for a rude awakening come late into the game and needing 800 arrowheads to purchase it.
The milkman conspiracy level is one of the best, and funniest, by far.
 As for the gameplay, it's a fantastic mix of exploration, action, platforming and puzzles. There's a lot of stuff Raz can do, besides the mandatory three-hit combo attack and the ground pound, he can also double jump and equip up to three different psychic powers at a time, although you can swap them at any time by going into the menu. There're a lot of different powers with different uses, a simple psychic beam to attack, a pyromancy power to set enemies, or wood, ablaze, telekinesis to throw around objects and solve a few puzzles, levitation, which lets you dash over a psychic orb or glide with it and a few others. They all have their uses, and characters, friendly NPCs and baddies, have many different reactions to your powers!

 The different minds you visit, each has their own themes and gimmicks, and they are all very entertaining for different reasons. One of my favorites is the 'Milkman Conspiracy', which has you collecting items to fool investigators into thinking that you are one of their own, which is an excellent combination of comedy and puzzles. Another one I really enjoyed was the 'Napoleon War', a stage in which you move around a board, altering your size to either solve puzzles and get more pieces or to move the pieces themselves. I don't wanna give too much away, but there's a lot of variety and ingenious level designs to go through. I've heard and read that the final stage is supposed to be 'very hard', so much so that the Steam version was patched, but.... I found it to be relatively easy. I was rank 90 at the time, so I had an 11-lives threshold, had maxed my HP bar and unlocked Regenerating health, but even then I didn't find the platforming sections too challenging. I had to retry a few times, yes, but it never felt too hard.
Her name is Linda, and she's not happy to see you.
 Lastly, its performance on the PS2... It's kinda bad. The framerate can dip, it can get very ugly, but not to an unplayable degree. The game never crashed on me, although I had to restart the game because all audio stopped playing and the game wouldn't let me proceed, so I saved my game(It was a soft lock) and the loaded the file and... still nada, but quitting to the main menu fixed it. Apparently there're two levels that are prone to crashing, I visited both of them twice, a second time around to collect the cobwebs I missed, and it never crashed. I did come across a nasty sound bug in which the music got stuck, but nothing a quick reload didn't fix. All in all, the PS2 is probably the worst way to play the game, but it's still not too bad.

 Psychonauts is brilliant. The amount of detail and creativity that went into developing the game is nothing short of incredible and you're bound to find at least a couple of levels that you'll love. While the PS2 version is probably the last one you'd want to play, its few technical shortcomings don't take away from the brilliance of the game, so there's no excuse to miss out on Psychonauts.
 9.0 out of 10

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Now Playing: Psychonauts

 It's mental!
There's a lot of green here, but man, is the game weird.
 Upon poppin' the disc and watching the first cinematic, it's pretty easy to easy: Psychonauts' production values are through the roof. And then you take control of Raz and... everything feels like quality. And let me tell you, quality feels awesome.

 I finished the first level, the camp's counselor's war-brain, and it was a blast. I loved the game's sense of humor, the set-up, the characters, everything! And the gameplay is pretty spiffy to boot. All in all, Psychonauts is shaping up to be a real winner.

Review #496: Bujingai - The Forsaken City

 The Gackt game about Gackt in which you play as Gackt.
I'd be looking at the horizon too, searching for greener pastures and better games.
 Everyone likes Chinese Wushu martial arts movies and everyone who hasn't played Crisis Core loves Gackt, so here we have Gackt doing Wushu fighting in an anime world. Twirly jumps and twirly flying? It's here. Fights in which moves get deflected over and over again? It's here. Gackt? He's here too.

 The story is nonsense. Seriously, it makes no sense so don't try to, just know that you play as Gackt-look alike Lau. By the way, if them having the same face and voice(Not that Lau speaks a full sentence EVER, but still) is not enough, you can actually unlock a costume to play as Gackt. A realistic Gackt, as opposed to anime Lau. Anyways, Lau was betrayed when his friend, Rei, got possessed by a demon, or something, a killed their master, so now Lau is out for revenge. I will give them points for making nonsensical cutscenes, the one before and the one after the Rei fight being the best and most ridiculous, and making a decent parody of the jumping and flying featured in Wushu movies, but the story is just bad and not in a 'so bad it's good' way, which is how most Wushu films are.
Wushu means 'Get ready for a lot of spinning'
 The best way to describe this game would be a fusion between Shinobi and Devil May Cry, except that it sucks. It tries to borrow the combat from Devil May Cry, but you've a single combo with square button, a strong attack with triangle and you can sometimes press X mid-combo to use a kick. There're also 9 spells that can be used with circle, albeit I barely used them, except the passive spell that increased your attack power, that one was useful. Now then, the game's main mechanic is deflecting, simply look at an enemy and don't press a button and you'll automatically start deflecting anything that comes your way, provided you've enough charges on the deflecting gauge. Enemies have a deflecting gauge too, and both parties can interrupt a deflection with counter attacks or sidesteps. Honestly, the system is just a gimmick, some enemies you simply have to mash square until their gauge drops to zero and you can actually attack them, some enemies recharge their gauge much faster than you, so mashing will get you killed and instead you must sidestep behind them and pummel them then, etc. It's a very formulaic game, with repetitive combat and little variation. You'll quickly figure out the best ways to take down the very few enemy types. A few bosses are recycled too, but bosses are pretty easy, and most of them simply require you to take a more defensive approach. All in all, combat is alright if... predictable. As with most games of its ilk, defeating enemies rewards you with points which you can then use to strengthen Lau's abilities.

 If there's something to be praised is that the animations are very smooth and look very cool... even though you'll be seeing the same moves over and over and over and over again. And I understand that that may come out as hypocritical coming from someone who loves beat'em ups, but this is a combo-based game, you are supposed to build combos, ergo, try to juggle enemies, but it's kinda boring when you are cycling through the same attack animations over and over again. It doesn't help that by stage 3, out of 7, you'll have seen every enemy type the game can throw at you. Level design is pretty boring too, mostly consisting out of dull looking corridors and square arenas, at least until you get to level 7...
Enemies look inspired by Shinobi's repertoire.
 The game also seems to borrow from Shinobi on the PS2, as enemy design and environments look as if they came straight out of that game. The ruined city landscapes, the ruined floating floor/platform things, the caves... they reminded me of Shinobi a lot. And that comparison is fitting since they tried to add platfoming. Lau can fly/glide through the air, he can wall-run, he can jump from walls and then do the glide.... and you could possibly climb on a straight line through a wall up to the top of the stage if the level design allows it. The thing is... it's very clunky. Lau will stop his wall runs every now and then so you must press X again to continue your acrobatics. The camera is very annoying when the game demands you jumping to the opposite side from a wallrun since it can't keep up with you. And, y'know, most of the time I didn't care about it since platforming was mostly required for collectibles, until you get to level 6 and 7. Level six has an area that has you platforming to escape lava, which isn't too bad, but it's when you'll start getting frustrated with the camera and sloppiness of the platforming... but then comes level seven, which takes place throughout a series of platforms and then you'll hate the game. The platforming doesn't work well, having an entire level based on platforming was a terrible idea that made the game end on a low note.

 The game is 5 hours long, made up of 7 levels. You don't get new weapons or new combos, and there's a single alternate costume to unlock as well as 9 different spells. And yet... the game occupies 1 megabyte on a memory card. This simple, barebones excuse of a game requires more data on a memory card than 60 hour RPGs like Final Fantasy. How the hell did that happen? And I realize it's just a nitpick, but when I have to endure a game this boring it'd better not take up 1/8th of my memory card.
Like any other PS2 hack-and-slash, there're gates locked by red barriers that demand blood. Or fallen enemies.
 I'll be honest, the PS2 is home to hack-and-slash classics like Devil May Cry and God of War, you also have other gems like Onimusha and Genji, and if what you want is platforming with your slashing, there's also Shinobi and Nightshade. There's no shortage of fantastic action games on the PS2, so why settle with Gackt's lackluster venture into the genre?
 4.5 out of 10

Monday, November 20, 2017

Now Playing: Bujingai - The Forsaken City

 Gackt - The Forsaken Gackt. Gackt's in it. Did I mention that Gackt's in it?
That guy on the cover? That's Gackt. The Japanese cover is even more egregious.
 Remember that one time Gackt almost single-handedly ruined Final Fantasy VII? I do. Sure, I could blame the writers for creating such a ****** character. I could, but I won't. I could also blame the game's director for creating such a horrible luck-based system. I could, but I won't. I'd rather blame Gackt. Sure, he's made some pretty neat songs(Kamen Rider Decade's song was pretty badass), but I will never forget the day he dared sully the brand of Final Fantasy VII.

 ANYWAYS, here comes Bujingai the most boring game you'll ever play. I was surprised to find this game often listen among 'hidden gems' and what now, but after playing 2 levels... I wanted to go back to Seven Samurai 20XX. The game... seems like a fusion between Shinobi and Devil May Cry but with clunky movement and boring combat. Even the art-direction is a blend of both. Also the story makes no sense. 3000 years ago GacktLau was alive? And he is still alive? And he is seeking revenge for what? Nothing makes sense, and honestly, I don't care to make sense of it.

 In case you haven't noticed... I'm not impressed. I should've started Psychonauts instead....

Review #495: XIII

 A living comic book.
Unlike journalists we do know how to pronounce the game's title, thank you very much.
 What is XIII? It's the codename of the hero from the comicbook of the same name, XIII. It's also the name of a videogame based on said comicbook. Incredibly unique, XIII is a first-person shooter with a fantastic comic-book inspired look, a design that makes it so that comic book bubbles pop when characters talk, comic-book styled panels appear onscreen to highlight certain actions and onomatopoeias appear on screen, like 'Tap tap' for steps. It's truly a sight to behold, and its beauty isn't just skin deep.

 The story follows XIII after he wakes up on the beach, heavily wounded. It's not too long before thugs attempt on his life, and following the only leads he has goes on a quest for his identity. Initially, because he discovers who he is pretty early in the game and is soon tasked with stopping the conspiracy of the XX members. The story is relatively interesting, and there're a ton of black and white, playable flashbacks that not only look stylish but add a lot of personality to the game. Sadly, being based on a on-going comic book(to this day!) means that it ends on a cliffhanger... and one that happens after a brilliantly set-up plot twist. I finished the game feeling both praise, for how well they pulled it off, and frustration, because it will, probably, never be resolved! Not in videogame format anyways.
The art-direction is truly a sight to behold.
 The game is divided into 30-something missions. It sounds like a lot, but most of them are relatively short. That said, some missions are connected, so your inventory, life and armor carry over to the next. While I was a bit turned off at first, the set-up works relatively well, and some missions are a bt longer than others. Missions themselves offered a nice variety of objectives, there was stealth, shootouts, boss fights and other one-off objectives like turning off a missile launch while under a time limit, and you even get nifty spy tools, like a grappling hook and a long-range microphone. The checkpoint system was a bit lackluster, since a few missions would have you replay somewhat tedious segments if you died or screwed up. You see, the game is a bit slow-paced, so having to sit still while conversations take place or what not isn't very fun, so it was a bit annoying having to sit through those unskippable 'playable' cutscenes until I got it right.

 The game is unlike most modern shooters, because stealth plays a big part in it. Some missions require you to go through unnoticed, others will result in failure if you fail to stop an enemy before he turns on an alarm, etc. Sometimes you'll even have to hide bodies and what not. Stealth is very important, and while I don't think they got it quite right, it was overall relatively fun. On the other hand, full-on firefights where a blast, circle-strafing around baddies while unloading bullets felt really satisfying. It's probably thanks to the shooting feeling very tight, while the art-style makes everything pop and as fun to look at as to play it.
The online servers are dead, but you can play split-screen multiplayer!
 The game is old, so there's not regenerating health here, either you find healthpacks and armor or go bust. It also came before 'Iron sights' aiming was a thing, which will probably take a bit of time getting used to, as well as a suboptimal control scheme, another victim of its age. I found it a bit hard to grab ammo and items, it seems like the collision detection is a bit off, so if at first you don't grab it, try moving the camera around until XIII picks up whatever's lying on the table. Another quirk was with fallen enemies, who don't drop their weapons immediately so you have to wait a few seconds before you go fetch your newly found source of ammo.

 I don't know how faithful the game is to the comicbook, but what I do know is that it's a fantastic game on its own right. The gameplay is tight, even if there's a few issues here and there, and while I wasn't a fan of the stealth sections I can appreciate the variety. Its artstyle is something completely unique, I don't think any other game took the comic book aesthetics this close to heart. XIII is worth every second, even if the game ends on a cliffhanger.
 8.0 out of 10

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Now Playing: XIII

 A good XIII?
The Japanese cover is pretty cool, they used '13' in place of a 'B' for 'Your num13er is up'. Cool stuff.
 See? Even if Final Fantasy XIII sucks, there can be a decent game with a XIII on it. I've played a tiny teensy bit, only got past the bank stage, but it's a good one. I love how the game starts with a bang, almost literally, the jumbled memories scenes are great, I loved how frantic it got after XIII wakes up while the lifeguard is calling a doctor and then, after your great escape, you have to escape a bank. And it feels as good as it looks, very exciting stuff.

 It's still taking me a while to get used to the controls, I switch weapons when I want to reload, or confusing the items to take the medikits and switching weapons. It also feels weird not having iron sights. I mean, all these complaints stem from the fact that this is an old First-person shooter, before we had the more uniform control scheme most FPS games use today, so it's weird having to jump with L1 instead of X. I'm sure I will get the hang of it, eventually.

Review #494: Oni

Rockstar's logo is on it, but it's nowhere near as good as most of their games.
 Oni was originally a PC game of which I had very fond memories. It was a fun third-person shooter with surprisingly solid melee combat and cool aesthetics. As of today, now I consider it a subpar third person shooter with clunky controls and a steep difficulty curve.

 Set in a somewhat futuristic world, you play as Major Kusanagi expy Konoko who works for the TCTF, a futuristic police-like entity under the command of Daisuke Aramaki-wannabee Griffin. There's a terrorist named Muro who the TCTF is particularly keen on catching, who has a peculiar interest in Konoko. The story is anime sci-fi dribble that's not very interesting but does have some neat twists and turns, even if the story doesn't flow very well since it seems to lack a few scenes connecting every chapter. No, a hand-drawn image doesn't work well as an epilogue for each.
The platforming, oh god the platforming. At least most of it is optional, only needed if you want some goodies.
 What made Oni stand out back in the day was its mix of third-person shooting with some very crunshy melee combat. Konoko has a vast array of moves, she can run, dash, slide, roll, block, jump, side-jump, back-jump, and flips to her jumps, perform various throws on her enemies as well as mix punches and kicks together to create different combos, and you'll earn new moves as you go through the game. The combat feels great, landing blows feels crunchy and the animation is fantastic. As for weapons, Konoko can carry a single weapon with her, and there're a lot of different kinds to experiment with. There're two ammo types so you can probably stick with your favorite for a while.

 It sounds great, and it is... on a PC. The controls on the PS2 are horrible, there're four different presets and none feel particularly comfortable, although config 2 worked for me. But that doesn't fix how finicky movement is, the game requires a few jumps as well as careful avoidance of lasers, but it's hard to do thanks to how clunky movement is. And the right analog stick, used to aim your guns, is too stiff to work well, so guns, which should be a major help, get relegated to close-range alternatives, most of the time. Sliding, a key-move to disarm enemies, is tough to perform since in order to slide you need to dash, which requires tapping twice on the analog stick, but it can be tough for the game to register your input correctly.
The animations are top-notch.
 Oni is by default a hard game, but the framerate issues and control issues make it a chore on the PS2. I played on the Normal setting and regret it immensely, play on easy, trust me, don't put yourself through needless torture. As a matter of fact, I used cheats. I don't regret it, I'm not even ashamed of it, the game demands too much but the controls are a huge handicap. Near the end of the game there're a couple of laser sections that are just a pain in the ass to nail correctly with Konoko's clunky movement, so I just popped the invincibility cheat and dashed through them and then turned it off. Sue me. Checkpoint placement can be rather mean too, and sometimes enemies will just catch you off guard with overpowered weapons and one-shot you. I swear, it's not even fair how tough the game gets. Play on easy, cheat, do what you will, the game isn't worth the time required to learn where enemies are hiding and in which order to tackle them.

 Oni has some fantastic ideas, and some great mechanics, like the melee systems. But the difficulty is too unfair to be any fun when you're fighting the controls as much as you are fighting your foes. It doesn't help that the PS2 is too busy dropping frames! If you want the proper Oni experience, one not hampered by horrible controls, go with the PC version and play Oni the way it was meant to be played.
 4.0 out of 10

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Now Playing: Oni

And they thought Scarlet Johanson's movie was the first attempt at Ghost in the Shell 'Murica Edition.
 Why stop the trend now? Oni is yet another game I used to play when I was young, but one I used to adore, almost as much as Final Fantasy VII. Except that I played it on PC... which was the way I played Final Fantasy VII. Anyways, just playing that first level was kind of a nostalgia overload, I wasn't expecting all those memories to come flooding in I just...

 ...wanted to cry.

 Well, maybe not that far, but it felt good. I don't think I ever got very far in the game, although I do remember I got to see Konoko in another outfit. I either got stuck at the Airport level(I think it was an airport?) or the level that came after it in which you met your... nemesis, I think? A guy with an egghead and red pants or something like that? I dunno, I've a lot of jumbled memories, pleasant but jumbled memories about it.

 ...what I didn't have memories of, but I will now, were the terrible controls. Thing is, I remember that the game felt so natural on the keyboard and mouse, but on a joystick it's... it's too finicky, too imprecise. Moving around doesn't feel right, and it's hard to aim at enemies with melee attacks. If it gets too hard I might consider dialing down to 'Easy', since the controls are clearly sub-optimal. Pro-Tip: Go to the controller scheme in the options menu, before starting or loading a game, and change the configuration to B. You're welcome.

Review #493: God of War

 To be fair, there's no single 'god of war'.
Two blades means twice the carnage.
 When people talk action hack-and-slash games three names come to mind: Devil May Cry, for all combo enthusiasts out there, Ninja Gaiden, for people that prefer honing their reflexes and pattern recognition and then there's God of War, which mixes a little bit of both but does its own thing.

 You play as Kratos, a spartan who used to serve Hades but now works for the other gods, Zeus et all, to take him down. By now everyone's familiar with the plot twist, but the game does deserve praise for how they slowly reveal the backstory and why Kratos is doing what he is doing. It's not the deepest or smartest script, but it's pretty good for what it is, although I'm betting you'll forget about the story bits as you go from room to room mowing down hundreds of monsters. As for Kratos, he is fairly interesting since he's not your average hero or anti-hero, since he doesn't have a heart of gold, he is just a prick. The entire game lasts about 7-8 hours, but finishing it unlocks a bunch of extras, like the 10-room challenge of the Gods that unlocks bonus costumes!
The game puts up the spectacle.
 Something the game gets very right is how perfectly action, adventuring and puzzle solving are mixed together. While combat is obviously the focus, there's a fair amount of very decent puzzles that must be solved in order to progress, as well as a good amount of good, ol' walking, exploring and platforming. And it does work very well, because everything is paced so well you'll get breathing room just as soon as combat starts getting too repetitive. It's a good thing that the game is filled to the brim with hidden chests rewarding the savviest players that take their time to explore their surroundings.

 At the start of the game Kratos comes equipped with the Blades of Chaos, twin short-swords embedded to his skin by chains that work wonders at short or long distances. While they'll be your main means of attack, and why wouldn't they since they are so useful, you'll get a great-sword later in the game, which is very slow and has a short reach, but comes with its own moveset and each attack packs quite the punch. Mixing weak and strong attacks you'll be able to pull off some neat combos, there's a decent juggling system and you're encouraged to with the large amount of aerial attacks at Kratos' disposal as well as the fact that enemies can't interrupt your attacks while being juggled.
Calling the game violent is an understatement.
 Kratos is aided by the gods, which means he has access to four different spells that consume magic points. To be honest I spent most of the game just using my three blades, but there were a few occasions in which magic helped immensely. There's a third gauge, the rage of the gods, by pressing both analog sticks(L3+R3) that makes you extra strong for a few seconds that saw more use in my playthrough. Combat feels very solid, very smooth and everything flows very well. While Kratos' has all the means to cause carnage, he's also got many defensive maneuvers, you can block attacks, parry attacks(By tapping block just as you get hit) and dodging by pushing the right analog stick in any direction. There're a lot of options to accommodate for everyone. And it helps that your four spells and your two weapons can be upgraded by spending souls from fallen enemies, so it's in your best interest to slay as many living, and unliving, beings as you can.

 The game's presentation deserves a special mention because the sense of scale is incredible, you'll be traversing beautiful and huge landscapes, and the entire half of the game takes place inside a dungeon that's located upon the back of a Titan. The game feels like an epic adventure. There're many different enemy models as well, although I did feel that there weren't enough proper bosses. Speaking of bosses, while Shenmue created QTEs it was God of War that made them popular and... honestly, they weren't as bad or as pervasive as I remembered them. I mean, would I rather them not being in the game? 150% yes, but I wasn't too bothered by them.
Kratos is standing upon the back of a Titan right there and then. Epic is underselling it.
 The game's tough but fair, although there were three areas that caused me, and others as you would know if you're internet savvy, grief my first time around... but I didn't have troubles with them on this second playthrough. There's an infamous spiked floor area in which you must kick a box, but I cleared it on my first try since I now knew to let Kratos fully charge his kick(And that him finishing his grunt didn't meant that the charge was full). The other infamous area, Hades, in which they forgot to play-test a climbing pole... I also cleared on my first attempt, although I clearly remember being stuck for a while on my first time through. And then there's that 'protection' mission which I cleared on my second attempt with a smart use of Hades' spell. What I mean to say... is that I was ready to claim that the game had a few poorly implemented sections, but they are not. It might take a new player by surprise, but trust me, it's nothing you can't handle.

 God of War is 12 years old and it hasn't lost a speck of its luster. It's still a polished, well-crafted little masterpiece that carved its name into the history of hack-and-slash games. It's not perfect, because while the game blends many elements together, to a surprisingly successful result, the combat can get a bit tiresome at times, and there's also the fact that I have a personal vendetta against QTEs and this game was the one that made them popular... but it's still one of the finest games available on the PS2. And the PS3. And the PSVita. And the PS4... Yeah, Sony loves rereleasing this game, can't blame'em!
 9.0 out of 10

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Now Playing: God of War

 God of QTEs
Kratos is always fun at parties.
 Believe it or not, while God of War is over 10 years old, it was not but a few years ago that I first played the games, and I did so in chronological order(Chains of Olympus, 1, Phantom of Sparta, 2 and finally 3. Ascension hadn't been released yet.) and I remember being very impressed right after finishing Chains of Olympus... twice. I liked it so much that I played it twice in a row, since Hard mode held some unlockables.

 But ever since I played those games something has changed... from not liking QTEs I grew to actually hate them, which is gonna be interesting since God of War is 70% QTEs. I've played about an hour, got to the Road to Athens and... I don't hate it, I'm having a blast actually. I've read that David Jaffe, the director, claimed that God of War was so simple that had it not had so much spectacle, thanks to the high budget, it wouldn't have performed as well as it did... but I disagree so much with that statement. The combat is very fluid and everything flows so well into everything else that it makes fighting feel very responsive and gratifying. The core mechanics are simple, yes, but solid, and the juggle system, while not as diverse as what you could achieve in Devil May Cry, is light years above and beyond what most PS2 action games could offer, and considering how I've played quite a bunch already this year, I know what I'm talking about.

 Basically, I'm enjoying what I'm playing despite the QTEs.

Review #492: Brave Fencer Musashi

 Half a man, complete hero.
I miss the days when Squaresoft meant Quality
 Remember Square's golden years? They really knew how to create gold back in the SNES and PS1 eras, and Brave Fencer Musashi is no exception. This is an adventure game in which you play as the half-pint hero Musashi in his quest to empower his sword and save the town.

 Long-story short, Musashi is the reincarnation of the Brave Fencer Musashi, and he gets summoned to a Kingdom in order to stop the Thirstquencher Empire(You can already guess that the game doesn't take itself too seriously!) while at the same time collecting all five scrolls and unlock his sword's Lumina's true power. The story is nothing special, but it gets the job done. I wasn't a fan of the game's humor, but I think it might get some laughs from a younger crowd. Supposedly the game was criticized for its short length, but it lasted me about 9 hours, which is par for the course on the genre.
Rescued villagers must be visited inside the Castle to get their boons.
 The village below the Castle acts as your HUB, being placed at the center of pretty much everywhere you'll have to go. You can also buy supplies, save your game or interact with NPCs in here. The game experimented with 'time' mechanics, as there's a day-and-night cycle that's permanently running, and there're stores that won't open or certain days, and NPCs that have specific times of availability, heck, the bar only opens at night, for example. Musashi himself needs to rest frequently lest his overall performance decreases to a walk, although he is blessed with the ability to sleep at any time he wants, so don't be surprised if you need to sleep while inside a dungeon to restore your energy or even your HP gauge. Overall, I though Musashi getting tired was kinda lame, and giving shops holidays or closing at certain hours was kinda annoying, but I can appreciate the idea.

 Musashi is equipped with a jump and two different swords: Fusion and Lumina. Lumina can be equipped with the five different scrolls, once you find them, to gain new abilities, which are mostly used to solve puzzles, while Fusion's special ability allows Musashi to 'assimilate' an enemy and gain its power. Most powers are used to overcome obstacles, and what makes this ability little more than a gimmick is that every obstacle that requires one of these abilities has the appropriate enemy close by, so there's no much thinking involved, nor have you the need to collect a power from a certain zone to gain something in another one. In combat Lumina is slow but powerful while Fusion is fast and weak, but it's in your best interest to use both, as both level up individually and get stronger individually, and both are useful for different enemies.
The day-and-night cycle is alright, but I found it more meddlesome than anything.
 There're two main sidequests: Finding the Minku beasts, which only come out at night and extend your HP gauge and rescuing the 35 villagers, which extends your Binch gauge(It's used for special abilities, mostly). Villagers may also reward Musashi with new abilities or combo attacks, one even enhances Fusion into a Gold version of itself, so it's always a good idea to try and find every NPC. Some NPCs are mandatory to progress the story, but I never had to backtrack in order to gather them, so I'm guessing that they are hidden in plain sight so as to make it hard to actually miss them.

 Getting new scrolls or new pieces of the Legendary Armor is always very rewarding because it feels so good to gain access to new areas that you previously couldn't access. That said, a few times it can be a bit hard to figure out where to go, either because you haven't talked to the right NPC yet or because you forgot about that cave that required the fire scroll before you got it, but this being an old game... it kinda comes with the territory. There're a few mini-games here and then that break up the action, but the only one that really bothered me was the one in Steamwood.... which is the only one you must perform twice. It's a waste of time, and it's the only minigame that has you restarting from a checkpoint or your last savepoint if you lose.
Musashi is just adorable.
 What more can I say about Brave Fencer Musashi? It's a fun little adventure game that has decent combat, fun platforming, a lot to search and find and plenty of different obstacles to clear as you find new abilities. It's a game that feels fresh all the way to the end. I wasn't a fan of a few things it experimented with, but even then they weren't intrusive, but you gotta give it props for trying.
 8.0 out of 10

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Now Playing: Brave Fencer Musashi

 And yet another game from when I was younger.
It's so cute!
 Because why stop now, y'know? Let's go deeper down memory lane and replay Musashi, I game I first learned about from a Gamepro magazine. I had a N64 at the time so I had to wait until I got a PS2 to finally play it and... I never spent much time on it. Not sure why, since I'm sure I liked it... probably a case of having too many games too play and too little time.

 As of my recent acquaintance with the game, I'm digging the overall artsyle of the game, everything looks quite cute. The gameplay is alright-ish, I think Musashi's range is pathetic and the method to steal abilities is unnecessarily involved, like, you have to charge a gauge, which locks Musashi into a strafe, and then you have to mash square. It's not too bad, but it's a bit unnecessary, y'know? Otherwise, it's been fairly entertaining.

Review #491: Beyond Good & Evil

 Beyond expectations for a sequel & disappointment for a prequel.
Both the game's cover and its mechanics make great job integrating the camera into their designs.
 Everyone knows about BG&E by now, critically praised yet criminally undersold, people have been clamoring for a sequel yet were only rewarded with a prequel. But I digress, often compared to The Legend of Zelda, Beyond Good & Evil is an adventure game that's only similar in the genre but not in anything else.

 You play as Jade, a reporter turned Resistance member in a futuristic world, inhabited by humans and anthropomorphic animal aliens, that's been suffering the invasion of the Domz while the valiant Alpha forces protect the populace. Or do they? That's Jade's job to find out. The story isn't anything to write home about, but what really deserves praise is the entire world of Beyond Good & Evil. There're a lot of different alien species to find, and photograph, a lot of different, colorful and appealing locales to visit and the game does an spectacular job of setting the mood with cartoony, yet lovingly built graphics and a top-notch soundtrack that gives every area its own personality. Beyond Good & Evil's world is an amazing place to visit.
Wonder if she wears green because she's called Jade or if she's called Jade because she wears gree!
 Most of the adventure is confined to a few islands and zones, and you travel most of the world by way of your Hovercraft. Your hovercraft must be upgraded in order to gain the ability to land lock-shots and jump and thus get to new areas, later in the game you'll also get a spaceship. Both vehicles feel great to control and I think it would've been amazing to add more focus to both of them. Most of the not-so optional content is gated behind naval and spatial exploration, but still...

 That only holds true for world exploration, since the game features a single big town and three different 'dungeon's that are explored on foot. Jade's able to crawl, dash, fight with her staff, shoot discs(Must be acquired), jump automatically and take photos with her camera. One of the surprisingly best features in the game is taking pictures, you're award money for photographing different species of bio-organisms, and while it sounds dumb, it grew addicting, so much so that when I fought new alien species I had to make it my job to sneak in a picture. Jade will be accompanied by a friendly NPC throughout most of her adventure, and they must be used on a few context-sensitive obstacles that only they can clear. There's a nasty 'Missing Partner' bug, luckily I didn't come across it, but it can make the entire game unwinnable, so be sure to
Hit their green tanks, that's their Achilles' heel!
 Combat is the area in which the game suffers the most, being repetitive, boring and kinda lame. When you fight enemies, Jade will automatically target her nearest enemy, and she can dodge with Square or attack with X. Many times I dodged an attack and then pressed X only to have Jade hit thin air, even though I was aiming with the left stick against my enemy. It's particularly boring since you'll be fighting Alpha forces most of the times, and their shields forces you to wait until they try to attack with their hammer and only then can you counter attack. Alien species are a bit more fun since you don't need to be on the defensive, but after a short while you'll have seen every single enemy type, and combat never evolves.

 There're also a few stealth sections, some you can go in guns ablazing. others implement a few turrets that instantly kill you if you are spotted by guards to make them mandatory. Honestly, there were few times in which there was more than a single correct 'route' to solve them, but I felt pretty proud of myself on the few occasions I managed to exploit the AI and kill every guard on those mandatory sections, even if it took a couple of retries.
You can hog all Health upgrades if you want, death is a slap in the wrist after all.
 In order to upgrade your Hovercraft you will need to collect Pearls. While you'll be gifted a few, the rest must be found. The problem is... upgrades are mandatory to progress the plot. I regularly dabbled in side-content, because it was fun, so I was never in want of pearls... until I got to the end game and you're demanded a whopping 50 pearls in order to continue. It sounds worse than it really is since you can get a bunch of pearls from a few choice sidequests, but it's still kinda crappy. And I understand why they did it, without the padding the game would've been really short, but this sort of grinding cheapens the overall experience. And I was having fun fulfilling all sidequests, some which can be relatively lengthy, and puzzles, but some of that fun is lost when you're doing it because you're required to proceed instead of being allowed to do it if you want.

 Lastly, the game doesn't perform very well on the PS2, the framerate frequently tanks, although not to an overly annoying degree. That said, the game runs poorly on certain PS2 slims, in my case I got the common audio bugs that make certain sounds loop until the game loads another area, and also had trouble loading The Crypt while close to the end, it froze twice before it finally loaded the next scene. But I've heard that the game won't even run on certain models, which definitely sucks.
You can shoot disks on their green tasks to distract them and stealthily go past guards... or finish them off with a swift kick. 
 Beyond Good & Evil is a pretty good game, but even laying aside all the technical issues present with the PS2 port it can't be denied that combat is pretty poor and lackluster, and the forced grind for pearls kinda puts a damper on an otherwise enjoyable adventure. The game could've also expanded on the vehicle exploration aspect on the game, since controlling vehicles was sorta fun. In the end, I wouldn't necessarily call it a classic or an underrated game, but it's definitely worth a look.
 7.5 out of 10

Friday, November 10, 2017

Now Playing: Beyond Good and Evil

 It's kinda growing on me. Kinda.
She can take my picture any time.
 Alright, so time for another game that I used to play back when I was younger. I'm pretty sure that I bought it because of the hype surrounding it. Anyways, I don't quite remember how far I got, but certainly not very far, and I don't remember how much I liked it or not either.

 I've played a little bit, got inside the mines and got Pey'J's tool and that's about it. While I'm not impressed, and the busted framerate doesn't help, I feel like I'm slowly starting to like it. The world seems very interesting and lively, even though it applies stereotypes up the wazzoo, and they seem to have mixed the Italian stereotype with the Spanish one....

 But the part that sucks the most? I'm playing on a Slim PS2, which means... I'm subject to the infamous sound bug. It's quite annoying.

Review #490: Rygar - The Legendary Adventure

 A Greek and Roman fusion of melodrama with a dash of Onimusha and God of War.
Of shields and gods and titans.
 Rygar - The Legendary Adventure is a bit of forgotten little game. it did the greek-action game-with-chained weapons thing years before God of War was a thing, and closely followed in the footsteps of Onimusha and Devil May Cry. I can't say for sure why it was forgotten by time, although the Wii-remake with motion controls and a white-haired ridiculous replacement for Rygar probably didn't help its reputation, but I can say that the game stand the test of time quite well.

 In the game you play as the eponymous Rygar, a gladiator in a world that's a fusion of Roman and Greek culture. He's about to be rewarded by a sort-of princess, who gets kidnapped and Rygar thrown to the pits of the colosseum. But it's alright, a deity confers Rygar with the Diskarmor, a shield with an edge that's chained to Rygar's arm, which works for both offense and defense, armed with it Rygar now ventures forth to brave the gods and titans and whatever stands in his way. The story is alright, but the voice acting, dialogue and script is... Horrible. Seriously, it's bad, it's cheesy and it takes itself seriously, characters will spit exposition just because and it makes no sense. Sadly, while I'm the kind of person that adores ridiculous, over-the-top stories... this one doesn't quite hit that sweetspot of 'so bad it's good', so it's just dumb. And if you die, which you probably will, you can't skip cutscenes... although you can skip the credits. And did I mention that there's a Britney Spears look-alike that performs a musical number near the end of the game? That's a thing that happened.
Worms are considered Titans in this game, and you'll be slaying a lot of those.
 The game borrows a lot from Onimusha and Devil May Cry, meaning fixed camera angles and a mixture of exploration and combat. As you play through the game you'll come across obstacles that you can't clear, such as long gaps or switches you can't press... but advancing through the game will earn you the abilities you need, such as turning your disk armor into a grappling hook or stomping on switches. Backtracking is never needed, the few times you are sent back to previous areas you have immediate access to new roads, but re-exploring previous areas with new abilities will usually reward you with collectibles to enhance your abilities or unlock stuff in the gallery.

 While it has a combo-counter, the game is more Onimusha than Devil May Cry, so no fancy juggling, even though you get various different combos, some that must be found, and two attack buttons(Square for weak attacks, Triangle for stronger moves). You can block with the R1 button, but there's no dodging, although I found the slide move useful to dodge some boss' projectiles. There's also a magic gauge that can be used to summon monsters, but I found their damage output to be pathetic in comparison to the damage I could do with combos, so in the end I just used my magic to heal, once I found the ability, and only used summons on the second-to-last-boss which requires you to do so.
The game looks beautiful, and there's a lot of different environments to traverse.
 You'll find three different disk armors, and each one has a different use. The Hades shield is for long-range attacks, the Heaven disk is very slow but covers a wide area and the Sea diskarmor is very fast, but has pathetic range and does little damage. Every shield feels different, and I did switch between them(L2/R2) throughout the game, because the game presented situations that favored different disks. For instance, while I favor the Sea diskarmor, it was risky closing in on some bosses so I had to use the Hades shield, and at times there were too many enemies and I couldn't dispatch them quickly enough with the Sea diskarmor, so I had to switch to the Heaven shield and deal with them. The three disks were implemented brilliantly, so kudos for that.

 You can level up Rygar stats(Life, Attack and Defense) by finding collectibles, some are hidden behind objects or hidden walls, but sometimes enemies will drop these too. There's a separate currency, Sfaira, that can be found in the same way, but these are used to power up your shields. Your shields will be maxed before you know it, so don't worry about grinding. Lastly, hidden in the game are Mystic stones that you can equip on your shields for extra abilities, like healing with L1 and square, more attack power, more defense, changing how some attacks work, etc. It's a fairly neat addition, and some stones can only be found on certain difficulty settings!
When in doubt, flee.
 The game starts off rather tough, but as you level up Rygar it'll get easier, trust me. You also need to get used to how the game works, since combat against bosses is more... methodical. Don't expect to pull-off entire combos, instead, you'll probably have to look for small openings, land in a few hits and retreat. You'll also need to figure out what can be blocked and what must be dodged and how. You can't just mash buttons willy-nilly either, since once you throw the first attack you'll be locked in that direction for the duration of the combo. It's not perfect, it's a bit stiff, but you can get used to it. The game runs for about 4 hours, probably more if you are more meticulous with your exploration.

 Rygar the Legendary Adventure is a good little game that fell through the cracks of most gamer's radars even though critical reception at the time was fairly positive. Which is a shame, since the game was pretty good at its time, and it's still really good now. It's most glaring detriment, probably, is that nothing about it is noteworthy and how much it lacks in visual spectacle, because as good as the environments are, there's little memorable about the action itself.
 7.5 out of 10