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Saturday, February 16, 2008


No, I'm not gonna do a Devil May Cy 4 review. I don't get paid for this, so I don't have people forking up money to buy games for me to review. I will say this though about that game. It's definitely good and bad and comes out to me as an above average game from the demos I've played at various stores/conventions.

I know from the title I'm gonna already hear a lot of groaning, so you may do so now and close the window if you are one of those people.

What was innovative about the first series of .hack// games were that they were able to tell the story beautifully and gave way to decent pacing. With the amount of ridiculous back story (.hack//sign), easter eggs, and funding placed into this game, it's a wonder why the battle system itself was so bland. While it is understandable that this is supposed to emulate an online game, it emulated the online game TOO much. It was too repetitive and I found myself grinding hours upon hours for no reason (or rather the reason was too insignificant to justify the grinding) and I ended up gamesharking all the virus cores. (Damn you Core K. Why are you so goddamn rare and so in demand?)

Enough about the first series. The G.U. series is something quite commendable. It took everything the first series had and improved it. You (the player) now have a more active role (if you wish) in forums, mail and a mini "online" game. Forum posters are no longer completely random people and you often see them in-game which gives a sort of community feeling to it. Since you no longer have the bracelet and play the game "normally" you kinda get a different perspective of the .hack series in my opinion as you're not really the "I'm going to save everyone" archetype. The artwork is unique and very defined. The animators and game developers ability to then transition between animation sequences and game graphics is also very impressive. And such sequences aren't rare either. Some are very minute points that the game developers couldn't do with the game's engine, and that's fine. That shows effort, and it pays off in a better quality game.

The battle system has gotten a complete makeover and is now more focused on action based battles. This is good and bad in a couple ways. It's good now since you don't have to bring up the menu everytime you want to use a skill, but it also nerfs magic a significant amount. Since you can control your character more easily, you will get hit less, you'll deal more damage, you'll block accordingly and the auto heal characteristic outside of battle will make dungeon crawling not such of a hassle. You can also dodge magic now which I thought was well made and since PKing (player killing) is now enabled, you can engage other players.

Overall, there's solid voice acting, and there isn't really anyone I object to passionately. Yes, there could've been better choices, but with the effort all the actors put in, it worked well.

Now for the bad parts. I think Bandai was relying on .hack//roots to fill in the player too much. There are many holes in the first/second volumes that could have been filled in if one were to watch the anime. I can see as to what they attempted to do in terms of the game, but the dependency towards the anime shows and if I were to take the standpoint of someone who didn't watch the anime, I'd say the game's story blows. The characters and their development is fine. The overall plot though, is horrible. There are many important points in Haseo's (the main character)life that game assumes the player already knows. It doesn't give that feeling of mysteriousness either. It isn't as if the developers removed it to fill it in later, they removed it thinking that it was superfluous. The story itself wasn't that great until i started the second game, which then made me realize that the first game may have been made that way to to help the second game reach the climax of the story. Even so, to have such bland plot for an entire game seems ridiculous. The first series was a 4 volume set that didn't really lose any momentum and didn't stagnate much either. Each volume was pretty solid. There are unique characters worth taking note (and other unique ones I hate, but regretfully acknowledge) but everything seems to happen a lot during the second game that the first game almost feels obsolete had it not been there to provide some additional back story.

I'm a .hack// fiend and so giving this this my most impartial opinion is a bit hard seeing as everything seems to connect to everything else in a beautiful weave but I can honestly say that what kept me playing the first G.U. game was simply beating monsters and players with the battle system and finding exploits and ways to cancel delay.

I'll give a tip to newcomers: Once you get the broadsword, and it's the hold to deal damage type. If you tap block right as your sword lands, you'll cancel any and all delay for another attack.

In the second game, look for a weapon modifier (I think called a War Drum) that allows you to "help combos." This will allow you to get all 10 hits on the "tap x repeatedly" weapons.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Getting hits is great and all. I mean, I see some pretty stable activity and I'm grateful for that really, but.... You mind at least voting on the polls or something? Of the 3 or 4 months I've been doing this, I've only gotten one comment and more hits. Hits are great. It helps my adsense account, but... I kinda wanted a bit more activity than just people watching me write stuff.

I enjoy writing stuff. It relaxes me as I type on the keyboard and all, but I feel like I'm kinda writing this for myself (well I am) and I feel a pretty cold breeze every time I check up on this thing.

At least say what you think about the game or review. Something. Please?
Maybe if I get a request board up, then people will post. Maybe not. Whatever... I think?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Growlanser: Heritage of War

Ever since I played the U.S. release of Growlanser II and III package, also known as Growlanser Generations in the States, I've added another series of games into my addiction.

Growlanser: Heritage of War (or known as Growlanser V: Generations in Japan)is a time-based RPG that has little relation to its predecessors in terms of gameplay and story. All those before Heritage of War used a battle system that involved commands given to all the characters and then executed in a real time/action setting. It would be like your Strategy RPG except that the game used the real time function for weapon delays and cast times.

You still have that type of system, but it feels more free flow now. The player has a semi-bird's eye view of the map and can control the main character freely (which changes semi often). All other party members must be given commands.

The skill system seems to change often in this series, but this is probably due to the story. In the previous games, the characters had to rely on "ring weapons," weapons that formed when it's user wills it, so weapons and passive skills were based on what kind of rings the user had and what they placed in the gem slots but considering the lack of such weapons in Heritage of War, it seems to have gone to a conventional weapon system with a few tweaks. Weapons and armor are still important for skills as they carry the skills and give the character such abilities when the user masters the weapon to a certain point.

The skill system so far is unlike any other I've ever seen. Skills for each character are set up on a single plane and work like a flow chart. So, the far left side is where the skill path begins and as you link up skills to the part before it, the character then is able to use the abilities that he/she received from armor. While there are only a limited amount of skills, having a flow system such as this allows an amazing amount of customization. And later on, you can also redirect the flow or split the flow which also allows the characters to be able to use and access more skills and expand builds.

Simply put. The art is amazing. With really nice anime cut-scenes every now and then (not only in the beginning, middle, and end, like most Tales of... games)and the artistic genius (yes, genius) of Urushihara, I loved the art. For those new to Urushihara's art, a lot of it seems very cookie cutter and more or less the same throughout. Honestly, some of his earlier work, I have to agree on (there was one time I saw two of the same characters but with different color schemes.) but his more recent work deserves much praise. He's worked a great deal on clothing, armor and fine details that you don't often find in other games. Voice acting is outstanding. There is no Japanese version I can compare it to (unless someone forks up the money for it) but the English cast is well recruited with many GOOD veterans (there are bad vets)and each voice has it's own particular perk about it. There hasn't really been any point where I cringed at a voice. ALL of them fit well and the actors put in a lot of effort which definitely paid off.

Now for the bad qualities. Since it is an RPG. It is repetitive. There are some qualities about it that make it less of a drag such as a battle encounter that occurs on the spot and not some swish sound accompanied by a swirling screen. Nevertheless, issuing out the same commands every time gets a bit irritating after a while. And it's not like you can set to auto. The AI is pretty stupid, on both sides. It's possible to physically block the enemy from reaching it's mission objective, and vice versa. Even if you can give pretty detailed commands, the AI is very simple. There's a slight learning curve as you're tossed haphazardly into the game. It took me a while to figure out how the exits to the maps as the view point occasionally moves to ground level. If you're main character is a magic type or ranged type, it's a bit irritating that the attack command on the controller only works in a certain range even though your weapon range is wider. Meaning, if you want to get the most out of your battle, you have to open up the command menu and tell your own character to attack. If you've played Final Fantasy XI, then you'd understand the character management system which can be both fun yet tedious.

In general, the game animation is a bit simplistic. While you get a variety of normal attack animations which make the game seem better, special skills have only the special skill animation and spells still have a kind of nostalgic feel to them. You win some, you lose some I guess. One major thing I'm a bit irritated at is the character development system. In general, it's actually very complex and takes many many factors into play, but at most there still seems to be only 4 choices and like 8 factors. This involves a lot of overlapping then and the choices I generally make (which are to me, very down to earth and a bit blunt) come off as "evil." Not like, you're a bit negative, just plain evil. Often it's easy to see which choices make the typical "hero" type, but in these types of games, I always try to be as honest I can. Only thing is I then look like a complete villain. The relationships between me and the other main characters are good, buuuut I'm just an evil guy. You can change it later with personality stat modification items, but it's still going to bug me that I was going to look like a very negative person without them.

Overall, I like this game very much. There are quirks about it that I'm not fond of, but all games have that. In all honesty, there's no such thing as a perfect game, and so it's another case where the good parts outweigh the bad parts.

Now... time to wait for Growlanser VI: Precarious World to be localized...

In random news. Marth has been announced on the Super Smash Bros. Brawl site (surprise surprise)and along with him... Roy really. I mean, half of these screen shots just show them together...and Marth now looks more like a girl than ever.


Whoohoo! updates are always bad for me it seems however.
Have play rehearsal AND tutoring on Friday. Saturday involves play rehearsal and then a getting together with extended family time right after. Forget Sunday, that's my only day to relax, so I'm gonna write a review today!
(Also time to fix that opening header. I think it's been saying updates on Friday...)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Tony Hawk's Proving Ground

Before I get a "yet it's another Tony Hawk" game kind of comment (I know what you're thinking. I'm psychic), I'd like to say in advance that recently Tony Hawk games have been getting better.

If I were to make an analogy of what Proving Ground is like, I'd say it would be like Rock Band. Proving Ground gives and takes to make a sequel to Project 8 more or less the same. It added focus on the styles of skateboarders than just doing the same old competition and you (the player) are able to work more on what you like in skateboarding. They've separated the skateboarders into three classes: Hardcore, Career and Rigger. Each class has a handful of moves that overall improve your skateboarding. While you dabble in all three classes, you can put focus on a specific class and progress the storyline. I don't know about the other versions but the PS2 version feels a little barebone (if that makes any sense). There's no opening movie which let me down a good deal at the start (I always get psyched to see what they do) and there aren't any skater videos.

They've taken out a lot more than that. The gameplay itself feels a bit more like the older versions prior to Project 8. A lot of the moves that you could do for tight corners and general skating have been removed and I kinda feel like I'm playing a mod for THPS 4 or something. Pressing square on the ground doesn't do manuals any more and the timer that was used for linking vert tricks in Project 8 have been removed. The menus are very simple. The title has Story, 2 Player and Options....There's also a lack of free skate which I often enjoyed because it was really funny skating around as the nerd.

What's been added is a lot as well. Now there's nail the grab, which at first feels blocky but works well once you're used to it. Linking and comboing have gotten easier as there is a delay now after the score before it's counted. This allows you to ollie almost immediately as you land and hook up another trick. Stats have gotten much better. They're now based on how often you do a certain trick, and so you can actually develop your skater to be vert, street or all around. A rigger menu has been added so instead of those Create-A-Parks that I never used, you can simply add on to the existing area. Though, I often noticed that modifying the area also makes getting "sick" on the challenges much MUCH easier. They also removed a lot of those wacky goals that was in Project 8. In all, I think they tried to make Proving Ground a "serious" skateboarding game. It looks nice and handles nice, but I feel that they don't really understand what made Project 8 so good.

So, honestly, how does Proving Ground compare to Project 8? I'd say they're about the same, or rather, they're actually two different games in terms of everything. Project 8 feels like a nice fusion of good skateboarding mixed with nice game play, and Proving Ground feels like a more technical skateboarding game, that tries to be serious.

Schedule Change

What I've noticed is that I can't really post on Fridays. Besides having a musical rehearsal that leaves me dead tired everyday, I find myself fooling around the most on Fridays. Which is a problem, because I keep forgetting to do my blog posts. So, I'm changing it. I'm posting my blogs on Saturdays.

Just for you to know when to expect the post to be up. I have to tutor from 10:00AM to 11:30 AM (GMT -5) and so posts should be up around noon to early afternoon.

Note: I have a musical rehearsal next week on Saturday which should delay the next post a good number of hours.