Hi! It's been a while since I've done this. Lately I've been pondering picking my blogging back up regularly, but I have a lot going on, so we'll see. For now, I have a good bit I'd like to tell you all about. Settle in, because I've been playing some things.
I bought a PS3 recently. You'd know as much if you'd read my last blog, but you didn't, and I don't blame you. Anyway, it's been less regrettable than I'd initially anticipated. It's opened up a new world of Sony exclusives, and I'm doing my best to take advantage. Earlier today I was browsing the PlayStation Store when I noticed one of my most beloved childhood games. Yes, The Legend of Dragoon. I was never the biggest JRPG fan, and I actually never even finished Dragoon, yet it still holds a special place in my heart as one of my fondest PlayStation era gaming memories. That and Wild Arms, I guess, but I've yet to revisit that one. For $5.99, this classic of a game can be had, and I couldn't pass it up.
Jumping into the game was slightly scary. I didn't want my nostalgia for this game to come crashing down around me. But then something amazing happened: it didn't--my nostalgic memories remained intact. Once I got past the incredibly corny intro FMV sequence, the game itself holds up astonishingly well. Visually, original PlayStation games usually look like garbage this day and age. As most of us remember, the transition to 3D was truly amazing at the time, but it usually doesn't hold up. Granted, this was a later game of this generation, releasing in late 1999 in Japan, just a few months prior to the PS2's launch, but I'm happy to say that this game holds up fine visually, and surprisingly in an array of other ways as well. It was a game ahead of its time, to be sure.
The game opens with a quick CG cutscene in which a mysterious girl is taken away from a town in ruin. You're then introduced to the main character, Dart, whom I immediately recognized as "Hey! It's that guy!" but had no recollection that his name was Dart. Weird name, right? You'd think I'd have remembered that. Not to be too drawn out and laborious here: some JRPG shenanigans happen, Dart is saved from a giant dragon by a mysterious stranger almost certain to reappear down the line, returns to his savaged home town, dispatches of the remaining soldiers, promises to save the mysterious girl who was taken in the aforementioned cutscene, and begins his adventure proper.
Getting out into the overworld is where this game really started to surprise me with the things it does right. It's a random battle game, but it handles it well. As you're running around areas exploring, you see an arrow above Dart's head. This arrow progresses as you walk, from blue, to yellow, to red. After it reaches red, you'd better be ready to battle because it then could be on at any moment. This is smart! As I said before, I was never the biggest RPG guy, but I've played enough to know that random battles can become an extreme annoyance very quickly. But this simple little progressive arrow indicator gives the player some much needed peace of mind. Instead of living in fear of constant attack, potentially every two steps, you have a guaranteed buffer as well as a general idea of when to expect an encounter, and that's very much appreciated.
As far as actual battles go, those are also handled very well. The whole premise of the game, and probably what drew me in as a kid, was the idea that each character could transform into an alternate Dragoon form. To my kid mind, this was basically a high fantasy Power Rangers. Although if you want to get all technical, I guess Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog was the actual high fantasy Power Rangers...
But it's more or less the same idea.
I apologize, I just love that intro. Back to the combat now. It has something I love, and that's a real-time action element. Another JRPG I liked a whole lot was Lost Odyssey, and I'm of the opinion that the "ring" active battle mechanic pretty much saved that game's combat. Anyway, similar system here, albiet slightly more infuriating. Upon attacking an enemy, a square will quickly close in on a smaller square, and if you time the X button as they line up, you'll start an advanced attack called an Addition. Additions are learned from leveling up, and they're much more powerful follow-up attacks on top of your normal slice. I don't remember a ton about this game, but I believe these Additions become absolutely key. Later in the game, mastering the timing on a full party's collection of Addition moves becomes a necessary part of Not Dying. I vaguely remember back in the day losing a tough battle again and again due to some crazy Addition move minigame that involved rotating and hitting multiple buttons and, well, Madness. I'm hoping my older self will be able to grapple with the unforgivingly tight timing a bit better. I wish this game had latency correction, a la Rock Band and the like, but alas. The combat seems deep, intricate, and therefore satisfying. I haven't even learned any magic or transformations yet.
I'm not very far into the game, but I'm having a great time with it. It's very much an old school JRPG, which ties into something else I've been playing.
As part of my initial PlayStation Triple buying experience, I picked up both Ni no Kuni as well as the Journey Collector's Edition (more on that in a bit).
Ni no Kuni is essentially what made me buy a PS3. Is that crazy? I feel like that's super crazy. I'll say it one more time: I've never been the biggest JRPG guy. And yet the wonder of the world that's been created, as well as the stunning art, combined to draw me in in a way I hadn't anticipated. I'm not a Level-5 fan, necessarily. I'm not a Studio Ghibli fan, necessarily. So it's a strange thing, right? But seeing this game in action via one Bradley Shoemaker's quick look just hit the pleasure centers in my brain and wouldn't let go until I bought a PS3 and played it.
I like it. I can't say I love it yet, but I really like a lot about it. Thing is, it still feels like I'm being introduced to the game, and I'm about 14 hours in. This probably isn't new to the genre, and I recall the Final Fantasy XIII outcry over the 20+ hour run up to the "actual" game, but it just seems like things are taking a tad long to get going. That's not to say it hasn't been fun, though.
I really like Oliver as a character, and Drippy has a spot in my heart as well. I have to be honest, the first time I saw Drippy on the QL and Brad commented on how likable he is, I didn't see it. But he really grows on you, and after a handful of hours, I'd grown to love the little fella. I'm finally getting to the point where I feel like my imagination is doing his accent justice during the unspoken bits. I currently have a party of two, and I've met my next potential party member (which I've seen in trailers), but haven't gotten him to join me yet.
The combat is a point I'm fairly mixed on right now. I like the Pokemon-esque thing they have going on, but it feels like the flow of battles isn't intended for a controller or something. It feels like there's too much going on to be able to control. Maybe that's intentional. Maybe I just haven't fully wrapped my mind around it yet. I'd love to hear other's opinions on this. Perhaps some light could be shed that would lead me to better manage the chaos. Because that's honestly what battles often seem like: loosely controlled chaos.
I'm enjoying doing every last bit of side content I can find, but sometimes it gets tiring having to trek back and forth without any kind of fast travel. It feels so good each time I help someone out and get stamps for my stamp card, which I can then trade in for fabulous abilities such as jumping! I honestly don't know why jumping is unlockable. It even says right in the description that it's useless. And so what did I do? I spent a card on it. And so did/will you--don't even.
Ni no Kuni is fairly new, so I'm sure people have already discussed it to death at this point. But I'm liking it. I feel like I'm on the cusp of things really opening up, as I've just gotten the last icon of my main menu revealed. I'm well on my way to saving the world.
This of course consists of all three of thatgamecompany's well-received PSN releases. In order of initial release:
I haven't played it yet.
I started this game a couple of days ago and came back to beat it earlier today. Flower has always interested me. It's something I was never quite sure of, but always wanted to play. And now I can! so I did! It was okay.
This is obviously a beautiful game. And playing the part of the wind in a video game is certainly novel. The best moments of the game come when you hit a spot that speeds up the wind and you're whipping along at ridiculous speeds through canyons and such. Hitting flowers and having the little musical chimes come off of them gives the game a pleasing musical element. It's a nice game, it really is. The experience is very much relaxing--at least when you're not fighting with the controls.
If I'm honest, the sixaxis control irked me. I felt like it held me back from being able to fly through the fields and collect flower pedals in the way I wanted--which is to say with any sort of accuracy. Sometimes it worked well, but not at all often enough. When the core mechanics of the game are this frustrating in spots, it's hard to overlook, no matter how cool other aspects may be.
Speaking of cool aspects, I found the story to be fairly interesting. To be quite honest, I'd probably get a good bit out of it if I went through the game again, but on the surface, it's about rebuilding a city. It has a very Okami-esque thing going on with the spreading of life throughout the world. It builds nicely, and the end of the game is simply delightful in the way you finally bring the city back to life with an amalgamation of previously collected life-spreading techniques.
Flower is a beautiful experience, and one that I did enjoy, even if it wasn't always the pure bliss I'd hoped for.
And then Journey came along. This one was the pure bliss I'd heard about, and hoped for.
I'm pretty sure I love everything about Journey. It's easy to comment on the visuals here. Yes, it's drop dead gorgeous. The shimmering sands are a sight to behold. The game's ever-shifting atmosphere is something that simply must be witnessed. But it's a lot more than that. I feel like this game has no faults. It's like a perfectly crafted short story. It knows what it wants to do and how it wants to do it. I'm always interested in alternative methods of storytelling, and I feel like this is a brilliant example. It's emotionally powerful. Journey is epic, mysterious, terrifying, sorrowful, and triumphant, all without a character speaking a single word.
The integrated co-op implemented here is revolutionary. I'd heard about it, and how it aimed to remove the judgements people naturally make toward each other when playing online, but it really hit me when playing just how brilliant it is. I had no clue who I was playing with, and yet I'd developed near instant bonds with each of them. Chirping at each other in place of voice communication is the best thing they could have possibly done with this game, and I'd actually like to see more of this in other games. Of course some games require more non-obvious and intricate coordination, but I think this idea is pure genius, and I hope to see similar concepts in cooperative multiplayer games going forward.
Gosh, I really don't even know what else I want to say about this game. I wouldn't want to spoil anything. It's quite the experience. If somehow you own a PS3 and haven't yet played Journey, go do so. You'll be glad you did.
That's all I want to talk about for the time being. Although, I do have a PlayStation Plus membership for the next year and three months, so I'll have plenty to write about, should I choose to. I also bought the infamous Tokyo Jungle at the same time as Legend of Dragoon, but I haven't gotten to play it yet. My soul yearns for that particular brand of madness.
Anyway, thanks for reading.