Thursday, March 27, 2008

Going Mobile

I've been stuck to my portables lately. Partly it is because I've been using public transport some days, partly because console & TV gaming requires me to sit up and pay attention (either my couch is too far away, or I need a bigger TV), and partly just because I got some wicked awesome games for DS and PSP.

I finally got my DS to cooperate with my wireless setup's security settings, so I was able to try out the rescue features for Shiren the Wanderer. I ventured down to the 8th floor to rescue one guy, and after the rescue was complete I found I was able to keep all of the items I'd found during the run. None of the EXP, but it's still a cool incentive nonetheless. Later, after one of my own failed attempts at the main dungeon, I called for a rescue from the 10th floor. When I checked back the next day, some kind wanderer had rez'd me, and I was able to continue from that spot with items and EXP intact. I made it another couple of floors in before getting owned again. So far the furthest I've made it is to the third town, just before the 15th floor. This game is tough, but enjoyable.

I went to Best Buy the other day looking for Rondo of Swords, another DS game, an SRPG with an interesting battle mechanic where you draw your path of movement through all the enemies you want to attack on your turn. It's an Atlus game, so the idea is to buy it first, decide whether you want it later. Unfortunately, BB didn't have it, so I'm still looking.

They did have Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, though. While I hadn't been exactly looking forward to it (the internet holds me in a state of perpetual FFVII fatigue, even not having played the game since like 1999), I had heard good things, and it seemed like it might be a good idea to pick it up in the limited edition packaging if at all (for resale value later if it turned out to suck).

I can happily say that it does not suck. Actually, it seems pretty awesome, so far. The production values are really something, despite the game suffering from the bland, empty 3D environment syndrome that a lot of PSP (and DreamCast before it) games seem to. The voice acting is surprisingly good, and the music is awesome. I love the J-metal butt rock you get during the missions and fight sequences.

The narrative I've yet to uncover much of (not expecting much, to be honest), but the battle system is really cool. It's the latest in a stream of SE's action/turn-based hybrid battle systems (including Vagrant Story, FFXI, FFXII, and others), and it blends the two styles so well that it feels like you're dodging and attacking in real time even when there is a slight animation or turn delay.

I like the side missions you get to do, also. There are tons of them, and they are accessible from any save point, so at just about any time you can hop from the main linear quest to somewhere completely different for a short action fix. So far they're all combat-focused, and take like 5 minutes max to complete, so they're perfect for a quick diversion and to pick up some loot. I've only done a few of these, but I already have 2 pretty sweet items earned from doing them.

So many awesome games to play, so little time.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Party like it's 1998

Being ten years late to the party is a good excuse to suck at StarCraft, don't you think? I've got to learn how they do this keyboard & mouse stuff that I hear is so good for RTS and FPS. It's got to be good, because those seem to be the only genres (besides the cash-grab MMORPG) that computer games come in.

It took me a couple of tries just to beat the third mission of the Terran campaign in StarCraft. You're given a corner of the map, some resources, and you just have to survive for 30 minutes against a pretty modest Zerg siege. My problem is that I just don't know what to do. Or rather, how to go about it quickly enough. I'll click a unit, then lead it somewhere, then tell it to do something, and sit there and watch the whole time. I get the feeling I should be issuing commands non-stop, but I'm just not good enough with the interface to jump my focus around the map constantly, and of course I'm not familiar with the hotkeys (or really hotkey interfaces in general). I've just never extensively gamed with keyboard & mouse enough to get accustomed to it in the way I am with a gamepad.

I think StarCraft is a good place to really jump into it, though. It's really a seminal example of a computer game (note that I don't say PC, since I'm running it on my Mac). I'm going to pick up the Diablo Battle Chest at some point, too. I did play that quite a lot when it came out, but I've never touched D2 at all, and I've had some very strong recommendations toward it (hi Secksi).

Otherwise, I've been knocking around in WoW a little. My trial will end any day now, but I'm not going to subscribe. For now, at least. I figure I've got enough other games to play through, and scarcely can afford the time to spend even a few hours a week in Azeroth. I've made it over to the second zone, and hit level 7 with my Hunter. I wonder how long I'd have to play to get a pet.

I also spent a ton of time playing Etrian Odyssey this week. See, I started to ride the local public transport some this past week. Only two days of the five, but that bus and train time really starts to add up... to nearly 3 hours a day, in my case. So, I've made it down into the 3rd stratum of the dungeon (B11F). There was this sick quest for the 8th floor that involved staying down there for 5 full days (which equated to something like 3,200 steps taken and/or turns taken in the random battles), during which I became grossly over-leveled, and that made plowing through to the end of the stratum a cinch (after finishing all of the mapping and questing to be done there, naturally). I might take a break from the game again, as I did after completing the first stratum. There are five strata in the main campaign, and a sixth postgame stratum featuring crazy hard bosses and such. At this rate I'll finish the game by like September.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


I just finished the single-player campaign of Call of Duty 4. It was incredible! Not to mention very intense. I'd heard how good it was, but I'd also heard about how totally staged everything felt. Both are true, but I was expecting the latter to overshadow the former, but I was pleasantly surprised when it didn't, really. The weapons were great, and the settings and plot were also excellent.
There are some really cool moments in there, but I'm glad I only played it as a loaner, because it's probably not a campaign I'd ever play again (as it's pretty linear, and not really compelling for a replay, awesome as it is), and because I'm not about to get involved in CoD4 multiplayer. From what I hear it's buckets of fun, and I don't doubt it, but I'd rather play multiplayer Team Fortress 2 than just about any other shooter--when I decide to spend some time playing anything multiplayer, that is. I've got plenty of single-player stuff on my plate, and lined up on the buffet table taking up half of the room.

Speaking of which, I've been playing Etrian Odyssey a lot this week. Imagine my surprise when, on B7F, I discovered an item that opened up whole new wings of floors B5F through B3F(as far as I've delved so far)! Damn, I thought I was done with those floors! This game is serious business. I've been reading some about the sequel that just came out in Japan, and it sounds even greater. I'm hoping I can finish the first sometime before the sequel is released stateside (it's yet to be announced at all, so there's a decent chance of it).

I've felt an odd calling back to FFXI lately. It's as if a million gil farmers cried out at once, and were silenced. But seriously, I don't know what it is. I know I shouldn't get into that again, but I miss the friends I made there, and I'll be damned if I didn't have some amazing gear for Nascia (kinda miss her too...). I'm looking into things.

I've also heard a call to a couple of Blizzard products, oddly enough. I wouldn't call myself a PC gamer at all, but waaaay back in the day I did play some stuff. I owned both Warcraft 2 and Diablo (still got them somewhere). To see if I could stem my FFXI yearning, I downloaded the free 10 day WoW trial, as much just to see if it'd run on my MacBook as anything. It runs, alright. I don't care for the trackpad in WoW, so I'd have to get a mouse, but it does run. At the moment I have a level 3 Night Elf Hunter. I had a level 8 Human Warrior on my brother-in-law's PC, but I'm sure that guy's long gone. Jeff doesn't even play WoW anymore, as far as I know.

Then today, I was listening to some Starcraft 2 talk on a podcast (GFW radio--The Brodeo, for the win), and thought I might try to pick up the original. I'm pretty sure Blizzard games are dual Windows-Mac OS compatible as a rule, and Starcraft is basically the paragon of RTS excellence. I played the demo way back in the day, but that was it.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Game Trader and DS Love

There's this place called Game Trader near where I live, and it's the best game store I've ever been to in the United States. These guys are awesome. The guys that work there are hardcore gamers who actually know about the stuff they're selling, from current-gen stuff going all the way back past the NES.

I traded in my PS2 and a bunch of other stuff there a few weeks ago, and I got into a conversation on FFXI with a couple of the dudes who work there, and actually both of them still play it. To give you an idea of how cool this store is, they gave me $30 in trade-in credit for a FFXI art book and three 3-4 year old (and thus obsolete) Japanese language guides for the game. I got no end of use out of these books while I was living in Japan and playing FFXI religiously, so they were well used, and I wringed every yen/cent of value out of them while I had them. To be able to wring yet more worth out of them by trading them into this place is unheard of levels of awesome. I was convinced that I'd end up having to throw them out, which would be a real shame seeing as how awesome the guides are (even when the info inside is outdated)! So, thanks to the awesome store Game Trader, the guides live on in other people's collections, and in a straight trade, I picked up a new DS game: Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer.

Shiren is something new to me. It's an example of a genre called the "roguelike." I had never heard of such until just recently, mostly just from reading NeoGAF. But now, having played it, I remember seeing these all over game centers (arcades) in Japan. I don't know why I never tried them, but they're pretty damn fun, or at least Shiren is. The best I can do to describe the game with my gaming vocabulary is to say that it's kind of a cross between an action-rpg and a jrpg, taking some elements from both, but also really hardcore and unforgiving. You're apparently supposed to play through the whole game without ever dying, to complete it. When you do die, you find yourself back in the first town area, stripped of all your items and back at exp. level 1.

So far I've managed to make it to the 7th level of who knows how many... I'm going to guess 50. It seems like there's going to a ton of trial-and-error in learning the proper tactics and techniques to make it through the game, but that's cool, since the dungeons are all randomly generated, and the gameplay is fast and smooth. The game really hearkens back to the 16-bit era, too, because it's pretty much a port of a SNES game, from what I've read.

I love games like this. The DS is a huge boon to gamers, being the last bastion for titles like this and Etrian Odyssey and stuff like Ace Attorney or Hotel Dusk or Contra 4 or the Castlevania series.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Not falling for it.

I really enjoyed the demo I got for God of War: Chains of Olympus, but there are two reasons why I'm not going to buy the game:

A) I'm pretty sure that, like any somewhat decent PSP game from a western developer, it will see an enhanced PS2 release before the year is up, and no doubt shortly thereafter all three God of War games will be available for $29.99 in a boxed trilogy pack, a la GTA, DMC, Hitman, Resident Evil, MGS, and even those WWE games, ffs.

B) Quick-time events suck. They are the most contrived bullshit play mechanic to come out of the last generation of console gaming. Chains of Olympus takes their suckitude that much further by placing them in the middle of boss fights. So yeah, if you don't manage to hit X or the Circle or whatever the fuck button in the half-second window you have, the boss recovers from their stun state and gains back a whole shitton of health. As far as I can discern from the demo, there is no way to defeat the bosses without succeeding at this retarded crap. They aren't even the same each time you try it, either, so you can't just memorize the necessary sequence of buttons to hit. Who the hell thought this was a good idea?

Who the hell thought QTE's were a good idea in the first place? You'd think that something being the one real flaw in a game like RE4 would let people know that, hey, this mechanic sucks shit, and maybe they shouldn't put it in their game. Maybe this is just par for the course with GoW games. I wouldn't know; this is the first one I ever tried.

So, I had a $30 gift card to use at Circuit City, and if you got GoW:CoO there, you could get half off any PSP accessory, such as a bigger memory stick, which I could probably use. However, due to the reasons I outlined above, I held off on the game, and instead picked up the newest Gyakuten Saiban/Ace Attorney game, Apollo Justice, purely on faith (and because I already have the first three, and I might as well get it too, at this point).

A coworker lent me his copy of Call of Duty 4, too, so I'm giving that a run-through, and I want to try the multiplayer, even though I have no time to really spend on that, and would really prefer to dig deeper into Team Fortress 2 if I came across time to do so. Meanwhile, my DS pile of shame continues to mount, and so I've taken some time over the last two evenings to venture forth into Sekaiju no Meikyuu, that forest labyrinth of Etrian Odyssey (another game I need to complete before the sequel arrives)!

Monday, March 3, 2008


Here on Blogger there doesn't seem to be any way to post retro-actively, so the only way I have of establishing a continuity between 9 Parsecs from Caladan here and my page blog, which this is meant to parallel and eventually replace, is a link.

My 1up Blog

Sunday, March 2, 2008

knockin' 'em down

This was a good weekend for the Pile of Shame. I woke up on Saturday and finally managed to knock out Rez HD (for the first time). The end sequence with the computer program lady was giving me trouble, but I managed to get up to that part still in the highest evolution state (the infant), and so had enough life to withstand a few hits in the course of zapping her to death. Maybe I zapped her to life? It's a very psychedelic encounter.

Then, tonight, in the culmination of a good two-to-three week run, I finished Jeanne D'Arc's crusade to save France (and all the world) from demonically possessed English king Henry VI. There exists additional content within the game, but if you take one glance over at the Pile of Shame, you'll understand why I don't dig deeper. A few of the last battles proved pretty difficult, and it wasn't until I turned to Rufus, who had sucked for most of the game, that I was able to defeat the child-king. I gave Rufus the Two Rounds stone that let him get in back-to-back swings with his big axe, and his newfound might was such that it could cleave the boy ruler's mighty demonic defenses and lay bare the foul possessor to my squad's fell magicks and sharp steel.

So kick another two up on to the 2008 pile o' skulls (of defeated videogames). This year, we dine in Hell!

Speaking of Spartans, I got a free demo of the soon-to-be-released God of War: Chains of Olympus when I pre-ordered said game at my local EB. If I don't like the demo, I'll just move my pre-order over to Ninja Gaiden DS or something. I went in there to put some money down on MGS4, to ensure I get into the Metal Gear Online beta (though the guys in the store of course had no clue what I was talking about when I mentioned it), and I also found a copy of the MGS Digital Graphic Novel, so I picked that up for about 12 bucks. The PSP is starting to really rival the DS for the spot of my favorite portable this generation.