A Week (or two) of Gaming - 19-5-12

Last week, I took down yet another RPG. The fact that it was one of my favourite RPGs was the icing on the cake. After failing to complete it in 2005, I managed to take down the final boss with ease. I’m still surprised at how short it was, though. It only took 22 hours for me to complete. Still, I’d recommend checking it out if you’re looking for an unusual RPG.

Small word of warning to anyone playing it on an original 80GB PS3 (like I was); don’t play the lottery. It results in the game being stuck after the judgement ring stops. It seems to be a common issue. It’s a pity that it can’t be played, but it’s certainly not game breaking.

Pros

As I’ve said before, I love the judgement ring. It’s a nice twist on the turn-based formula. While it means you can’t just simply spam ‘Attack’ all the time, it feels rewarding when you pull off a chain of powerful attacks. As mentioned in the previous blog, the ring is also used outside battles. I look forward to revisiting it in the sequels.

All of the characters are pretty unique. They include a Harmonixer (a person capable of fusing with demons), a daughter of a priest and a Chinese sage. I’ll keep the rest of the characters a surprise, but they’re all interesting in their own way.

I like the fact that was set in the ‘real world’ in 1913. Not many RPGs have been set in the real world full stop. They took some artistic license here and there (the outfits of the female party members being one...), but that’s to be expected. After all, it is a game that contains demons and magic.

The music has a pretty unique sound to it. However, I could just about recognise which songs Yasunori Mitsuda probably worked on (the other composer is Yoshitaka Hirota, who went on to do some of the music for the sequels). Both the regular battle music and the boss battle music are something you wouldn’t normally expect, but I think they still work well.

Cons

The worst thing about Shadow Hearts is easily the voice acting. While I realise they were probably on a budget to voice the characters, it’s really off-putting that all the characters speak with an American accent (despite their nationalities being clearly stated). For example, the main bad guy is a typical English gentleman. This is reflected in the text-only dialogue, but it is completely ruined by his voice. Thankfully, voiced scenes are few and far between.

...oh, and just wait for the ghost story early in the game. Hilarious, in an awkward way...

Some parts of the story are pretty predictable. While I originally thought it was an early game thing, it also crops up later. I’d played the game before, but I could sometimes read what was going to happen next going by the dialogue between characters.

If you’re not careful, Sanity Points can be very frustrating. Sanity goes down by 1 with each turn. If it reaches 0, the character goes berserk. As a result, you sometimes need to restore sanity with a ‘pure leaf/seed /root’. This usually comes into play with long battles. There will be times when you really don’t want to do it. Situations like this can be avoided if you’re careful, but later enemies sap SP, which means it’ll become an issue eventually.

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As you may have seen throughout the week, I did not get on well with Dark Cloud. Aside from it not being my kind of RPG, it had a number of problems for me. It had some interesting things, but not quite enough to keep me going.

The game starts off with a disaster befalling a small village. This is thanks to a military-looking guy and the Dark Genie. The main character is saved by the Fairy King, who gives him special powers (contained in a wristband). As it’s soon explained to you, you now have the power to free people and objects from Atla stones and place them back in the world.

The town rebuilding aspect is what I’d heard a lot about before playing it. When you collect specific Atla stones, you can place them back in the blank bit of space outside the cave (more about the cave in a bit). Houses require items to be slotted into them via the Georama menu (along with whoever lives there). When you complete someone’s house, you’ll get an item from one of the owners. Some are meh, while others are pretty useful.

To get hold of these Atla stones, you must wander around dungeons. The first (and only) dungeon I wandered around was the Divine Beast Cave. It’s very much the tutorial cave, as the Fairy King appears often to explain things. While going around the cave, you can find Atla stones, chests containing items and, perhaps not surprisingly, monsters. To move onto the next floor, you must grab hold of a special key. This is dropped by a random enemy, so you must defeat all the enemies until you get it. All the floors are generated randomly, so you’ll never get the same room twice. They may look similar in some cases, but there are usually certain differences.

If you die in a cave, you lose half your current money. When you can buy items later in the game, it’s pretty frustrating. The mayor is happy to give you a few items for free whenever you visit him at first, but this stops as soon as you complete the shop in the village. He says that you can’t rely on him forever. Bit of an odd attitude towards someone who’s in the process of saving the entire village, but oh well...

There is no levelling up in the game. Instead, you need to improve weapons. This is done by slotting stones on them in the customisation menu. Each of the stones has unique properties. For example, some grant extra attack power or more power against specific enemy types. Once you’ve used an item enough with the stones inserted, you’ve given the option to upgrade it. This will give the weapon permanent stat boosts based on the stones you had inserted. You can then repeat the process. This is one of the things I liked about Dark Cloud. However...

...weapons can break. You will need to repair them with ‘Repair Powder’. Whenever you hear a continuous beep, it’s usually a good idea to repair it. At the start, it isn’t too much of a problem, as you can just get repair powder from the mayor. Your weapon is also slow, so it’s hard to get carried away. But, when you weapon becomes faster and more powerful due to upgrading it, it’s very easy to miss the beep. Once a weapon breaks, it’s gone for good (apart from your starting weapon, which is conveniently protected by a spell).

In my experience, the game consisted of going back and forth between the village and the dungeon. This is something the game encourages. However, I eventually found it pretty tedious. You can re-enter the dungeon at the floor you made it up to, which is fine, but it still doesn’t get rid of the monotony. After 14 floors, I reached the bottom. I had to fight the first boss. I think I knew how to defeat it, but I found the process pretty boring. It looks as though I had to use my new ally (a cat who you transform into a cat girl with special powder...erm, yeah...) to make it land by firing her slingshot at it, then pummel it as much as you can with the main character.

After dying a few times, I decided to improve my weapon further. It was pretty going well. My weapon was in the 5th iteration. It was powerful and fast. Fast. Yes, fast...

...during a fight with a tougher enemy, I managed to break the thing with little warning. You know how you just naturally keep hacking at an enemy until it dies? Yeah...

I made the decision to quit the game while I was ahead. When a game gives me trouble very early in the game, it’s usually not a good sign. The weapon breaking was the final straw. I realised that was probably going to happen again and again throughout the game, so I couldn’t be doing with that. Most importantly, I wasn’t really enjoying the game. I stuck with it more than I wanted to, but it still turned out sour.

Goodbye, Dark Cloud. You shall not be missed.

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As it came second in the poll (and I thought I might as well check it out anyway), I decided to start Wild Arms 3. I won’t go into depth this week, but it’s already looking as though I’ll have a lot more joy with it. Turn-based RPGs are usually a safe bet for me. It also has a lot of interesting features, which I look forward to going into.

One nice thing that I’ll mention is that I’m given a choice to play it in PAL or NTSC whenever I start it up. While the standard is still PAL here in the UK, most TVs have been able to support it for quite a while now. When given the choice, NTSC is the obvious way to go. I accidently put it on PAL once and I could see the difference.

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Hong Kong - Deus Ex

If you like synth, I can't recommend the Deus Ex soundtrack enough. This is one of many favourites from the game. I enjoy listening to the soundtrack while typing out a long document. I find it really helps to keep me in the zone.

Menu Music 2 - Super Smash Bros: Brawl

I personally prefer this version of the menu music over the default. When I unlocked it, I always had it set to this. I think it's because of the Melee music remix in it.

Prague - Shadow Hearts

I feel this track is a good representation of how varied the music is in Shadow Hearts. The style of the music changes depending on the location. They're not always strictly based on the music of the area, though. The music ranges from oriental-style to some more jazzy numbers.

That's all for now. Next week: Some Wild Arms 3 details. Thanks for reading.

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A Week of Gaming - 5-5-12

I've played about 9 hours of Shadow Hearts so far. I haven't played it as much as I would have liked, but I'm happy that I've made some progress. I'm glad I decided to replay it. While the voice acting is terrible (hilarious in parts), there are a lot of good points about it.

This week, I’ll talk about the unique features of Shadow Hearts. I only touched upon them last week, so I thought I’d go into depth this time. There are no spoilers, so you don’t need to worry.

Judgement Ring

As I mentioned last week, the ‘Judgement Ring’ is an important aspect of the battle system in Shadow Hearts. When you decide to perform an action, you must hit the ‘x’ button in the correct areas as the ‘hand’ swings around. There are three areas for regular attacks, two for specials and one for items. For most actions, there’s a red area at the tip of the individual areas. If you manage to hit this, the attack or stat boost will improve in power. However, should you miss a highlighted area, the prompt stops. In the case of missing the first area, it means you won’t carry out that action at all.

You can slow the hand or increase the size of the highlighted areas with certain items. This makes life a lot easier in battles. However, they wear off after a few turns (unless you have an equipped accessory with that property). Negative effects can also be inflicted, such as increased hand speed and smaller highlighted areas. If you wish, you can use certain items to inflict them on yourself with the incentive of dealing more damage. It provides the opportunity for some good strategic play.

The judgement ring isn’t just limited to battles. In fact, some actions during the exploration part of the game require you to do a small prompt with the ring. This includes a ‘lottery’, where you have the chance to win items. You also use it to buy items at a cheaper price or sell items at a higher price (if you’re successful with the prompt).

Malice

As you defeat more and more enemies, something called ‘Malice’ builds up (displayed in pause menu). If it reaches max (red), you will soon go into battle with a character known as Fox Face (you find out who he actually is early in the story). While he can be defeated, it’s not recommended at the start of the game. Thankfully, you can run from these battles. This encounter keeps happening until you 'calm your malice'. To do this, you must fight a demon in a location known as the Graveyard (again, this is explained early on). The demon varies depending on how much malice you have built up.

Sanity Points

Aside from the usual HP and MP, Shadow Hearts also has something called SP. Unlike in some other RPGs where SP is an alternative for MP, it refers to the ‘sanity’ of the characters in this game. If anyone’s SP reaches 0, they become ‘berserk’. However, this does not mean they’ll simply attack in every turn. A ‘beserked’ ally can also use items and cast spells, which means things can get out of hand quickly if you’re not careful. Sanity is regained by using Pure Leaves and Pure Seeds. It also resets after each battle.

Fusion

Very early in the game, you discover that Yuri (the main character) is a Harmonixer; a person capable of fusing with demons. As you can imagine, this means that he can fuse into a variety of demons in battle. You initially start off with only one demon, but you can gain more as the game goes on. This is done by first defeating enemies of various elements. Once you’ve defeated enough of a certain element, you have the chance to fight a demon in the graveyard (marked by a glowing headstone). If you defeat the demon, you can use it in battle from that point on.

E1 M1 – Doom

An all-time classic. I think I was around 11 when I first played Doom (and it didn’t do me any harm...*hides bloody knife*). I remember playing the shareware demo a lot until I got the full version. There’s a lot of great tracks in the Doom games, but E1 M1 seems like the best one to mention. Seeing as the game had a metric f’ton of versions, I’ve included a nice two-part comparison video. My personal favourite is the 3DO rendition (although the actual game is apparently crap on that console). The worst? The Sega 32x version. Hands down.

Theme of Grandia (Opening Theme) – Grandia

From the moment I heard this track, I knew I was in for one heck of a game. Much like the Uncharted theme, it sets the tone nicely. It conjures up thoughts of a long journey full of happy and sad moments.

Terran 1 – Starcraft

While I never got too deep into Starcraft, I really enjoyed the music it had. It really suits the mood of the game’s setting. Very otherworldly. If I was to choose one track, I’d go with ‘Terran 1’, but I recommend checking out the other tracks. It’s great stuff.

Thanks for reading. Not sure if next week's edition will happen, but we'll see...

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A Week of Gaming - 28-4-12

I completed it in the early hours of this morning. I’m very satisfied with the experience. I don’t regret picking it up. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s still a great RPG. If you’re interested in playing it, I’d buy it now before the restock copies disappear. I expect it’ll become pretty steep once that happens. While it's a good game, I'm not sure if it's £60+ good...

Pros

First and foremost; the battle system. It’s one of the most interesting battles system I’ve came across for a while. It really makes you think several steps ahead and you how can make the most of damaging your opponents (especially later in the game). I also like the ‘Mana Burst’ that’s eventually introduced. This initially allows you to delete an opponent’s turn from the sequence, but each of the characters get their own unique abilities later in the game.

As I’ve said before, I like the way game handles time travel. It’s a bit different compared to other time travel games. While the two timelines may initially lead to some confusion, it’s nice how they weave together. I found the story to be enjoyable, too. It’s not the most original story (it’s also pretty predictable in parts), but I think it did the job. I personally liked the ending a lot. I’ll leave the battering to harsher critics.

The music is very well-orchestrated. It’s like some of the tracks were composed by Yasunori Mitsuda (maybe he was cloned and spread across the industry...who knows?). There is one problem, however, and I’ll get to that in a bit...

You can skip entire scenes that you’ve seen before by simply pressing ‘start’. It’s amazing what a difference the simple things make sometimes. I dread to think how I would have got on without it. Every game should have this feature.

Cons

There are one or two instances where you can easily advance from one battle to another without getting an obvious chance to save. I fell afoul of this once and I had to redo a boss battle as a result. A minor complaint, but I’m sure this will annoy some people.

As much as the music was great, it’s a pity there was so little of it. Pretty much all of the tracks are reused multiple times throughout the game. It gets to the point where you can kind of predict which one is coming up. A great shame, but I’m guessing they just didn’t have the technical budget for more tracks (it is a DS game, after all).

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As planned, I’m going to play Shadow Hearts next. This will be my second attempt to complete it. I played it back in 2005 and I got pretty far (near the end, I believe). I forgot why I stopped playing it, but I expect I got stuck or distracted by another game. I remember certain parts of the storyline, but some of it is a bit hazy. I expect I’ll recognise parts as I play it. That doesn’t really bother me, as I can’t wait to get stuck into it again.

From the outset, Shadow Hearts is not a game which shies away from gore. It may play like a turn-based RPG, but the visuals are akin to a survival horror game. It’s clear they were going for a horror vibe, as I remember some of the enemies looking like things out of Silent Hill or the Shin Megami Tensei games. While I’m personally not creeped out by these things, it’s something to bear in mind if you’re interested in playing it. Another thing worth noting is that's set in the 'real world'. It takes place in 1913, just a year before World War I.

One of the main reasons for me wanting to replay the game is the ‘Judgement Ring’ that gets used in battle. Each action (attacking, casting a spell, using an item) is governed by it. If you want to boost the effectiveness of any of your actions, you have to hit the sweet spots on the ring. If you hit them, great stuff. If you miss them, your action either won’t be as effective or it won’t happen at all. It adds a nice element of ‘risk and reward’.

I tested it out with my PS3 the other night and there were no problems. It launched and it even looks as though the PS3 does a good job of upscaling the in-game graphics. I hope it continues throughout the game. I’ll be starting it later today.

Other Stuff

It’s really weird, but the 360 dying might be the best thing to happen to me for a while. It’s allowed me to jump back into the world of JRPGs. Even if I get a replacement 360 now, I’m likely to have more of a focus towards them compared to recent years.

For the next game after Shadow Hearts, I’m actually thinking of putting it up to a vote. What I’ll probably do is choose a selection of JRPGs I already own. Each of them will have their own unique features. Whatever wins the vote, I’ll play it. The current plan is to put up the vote when I’m nearing the end of Shadow Hearts (maybe in a separate blog). I’ll post more details when the time comes around.

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Disco x Prince – We Love Katamari

Aside from the obvious awesomeness of 'Katamari on the Rocks', this is my other favourite from the Katamari games. It's easily one the best tracks for me to listen to while I terrorise the inhabitants of the Katamari universe. Like with many other games, expect more Katamari music in the furture...

Your Affection – Persona 4

Even before the Endurance Run, this was one of my personal faves from P4. The Engrish doesn't ruin it for me (something about 'pickled peppers'...I think...).

VIP Lounge - Dead Rising 2

This could have easily gone to the other 'muzak' tracks in the game, but I think this is probably the best example of it. I realise some people hate muzak, but I personally like it a lot. I've liked it since the 'Pages From Ceefax' days (before you ask, it's a British thing).

As always, thanks for reading. More Shadow Hearts next week (and some other stuff, hopefully).

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A Week of Gaming - 21-4-12

Short blog this week. Nothing much happened and there isn't a great deal on my mind. I might do another blog during the week on a random subject...

My opinion of the game hasn’t really changed much since last week. I’m still enjoying it. The battle system has continued to be satisfying. While the battles have been easy on the most part, I needed to level up for one of the boss fights. It was still a challenge, but it certainly helped.

Unlike Chrono Trigger, it doesn’t have the illusion of non-linearity. As mentioned, you can only travel to certain pre-determined points in time (nodes). This helps to make it clear where you might need to go to solve problems. There is some optional stuff here and there, but it seems to be limited.

I’ve also noticed the weapons and armour usually change all kinds of stats. While a weapon may be powerful, you’ll notice it may have detrimental effects. This has lead to me being very picky over swapping in weapons.

There’s a particular question I have that I’d like to have answered before the end, but I assume it will be going by the dialogue. I don’t really want to say anything just yet. If it remains unanswered, I’ll probably put it in a spoiler block when I finish the game. I’ve heard it’s about 34 hours long, so there’s every chance that I may have completed it by next week (I’m 19 hours in). It really depends on how much time I put into it.

Other Stuff

Not a great deal to say this week. I had a games night with some friends yesterday, but nothing I hadn't played before (although Tekken 6 and Soul Calibur IV are still a lot of fun to play). I've been only been playing RH during the week, so no other gaming activities to report on.

...I guess there's the new Lollipop Chainsaw trailer that came out. That still looks awesome. Just the kind of OTT goodness I enjoy.

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Chronopolis – Chrono Cross

It was a hard choice, but I finally decided to go with this track from Chrono Cross. Much like the location where you hear it, it’s full of mystery and gives you the impression that something of great importance is coming up.

This will not be the last Chrono Cross track I’ll mention. I can assure you that.

Green Hill Zone – Sonic The Hedgehog

This was always going to be in this feature at some point. As much as I never owned a Sega Master System or Mega Drive (Genesis), I have fond memories of playing Sonic it at other people’s houses. The music is pure nostalgia in a bottle for me.

Illusion In Me – Silent Hill: Origins

I think this track kind of sums up what the Silent Hill series is all about. The beginning of the game has a long walking sequence and this song is playing while you’re doing it. I thought it was a really cool way of doing the credits. It sets up the tone for the game nicely. Never completed it, though...

That's all for this week. As always, thanks for reading. Hopefully I'll have some more stuff for next week.

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A Week of Gaming - 14-4-12

Thanks to everyone who responded to the time travel blog during the week. I just thought I’d throw out a random subject that’s been in my head lately. I might do more blogs like that whenever time permits. But now...

After about a month or so, I’ve finally completed FFV. Going into it, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy myself as much as I did. It didn’t quite end up in my ‘favourite RPGs of all time’ list, but it was definitely worth playing. It doesn’t deserve to be the oft-overlooked game of the franchise.

The final boss was hard as nails (putting it lightly), but after applying a thought-out strategy, I managed to send him to his grave. I was treated to some good old Mode 7 in the credits. It was nice to finally complete a Final Fantasy game. I never expected it to be FFV, but life surprises you like that...

Pros:

Like with virtually all the FF games, the music is excellent. All the tracks fit to a tee. The only one I didn’t like was the ‘hurry’ music, which got annoying quickly (although I liked the comedy fast version).

I loved the job system. Being able to learn abilities from jobs and applying them to a different job was pretty cool. I was able to create some powerful combinations as a result. If only more games had this kind of system...

While I had some issues with the characters (more on that in a bit), I thought it had a nice storyline. It definitely felt like an epic quest. Each step of the story had some meaning.

Cons:

As I’ve mentioned several times, it’s a not a game that’s good at telling you where to go next. I expect a lot of you will need to use a walkthrough at some point. I certainly did whenever I got stuck. If I didn’t, I’d have probably given up on the game pretty early on. While I don’t blame the game itself for this (it was developed in an era where these types of games were commonplace), it’s definitely worth a mention for the benefit of those wanting to play the game themselves at some point.

None of the main characters really made a lasting impression on me. That’s not to say they were completely devoid of character, but they seemed a bit flat compared to some other RPGs I’ve played. Like the other point I’ve mentioned, it could be an age issue.

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From one RPG to another. I started this pretty much straight away after finishing FFV. I was looking forward to starting the game ever since it arrived. It’d been too long since I’d played a game revolving around time travel.

So far, it has not disappointed. The early signs are very promising. There are a number of things I like about the game already.

First of all, the battle system. All the battles take place with a grid and the enemies have their own space on it by default. However, certain attacks can push the enemies to another space. This allows the characters to damage multiple enemies at the same time. At the end of the party’s turn, they return to a blank space, so it’s important to take advantage of the space-sharing while you can. Some of the enemies cannot be moved, which means you’ll need to come with a different strategy for them. I think the battle system is pretty satisfying up to now.

The game’s use of time travel is pretty interesting. At certain points, you’re given an option of what to do next. One choice I made in particular lead to the game branching off. However, I reached a dead end and I had to travel back to an earlier event (known in-game as ‘nodes’) and choose the other option to find a solution. Later on, I had to return to the other timeline. It looks as though there’ll be a lot of this throughout the game. I think it’s a pretty cool way of handling time travel. It also means that I’ll have to pay special attention to any events or clues that will help me later on.

Lastly, the music. The composer seems to have taken a leaf from Yasunori Mitsuda’s book, as the tracks remind a lot of some of the music in Chrono Cross. It really adds to the atmosphere of the game. My one complaint is that the music seems to be repeating a lot (this may change later in the game), but the quality of the tracks makes up for it.

It’s been a very good start for Radiant Historia. It looks as though it’ll be another great JPRG to sink my teeth into.

Other stuff

Not much to report this week. The situation hasn’t changed regarding the 360. As I’ve previously said, I’m in no particular rush. Getting another 360 would probably put an end to my JRPG crusade. That said, it’d be nice to mix things up a little down the line, especially with Max Payne 3 and Lollipop Chainsaw coming out.

If I don’t have a 360 by the time I finish Radiant Historia, I’ll probably continue down the road of JRPGs. I don’t have a heck of a lot else to play. I have some ideas in my head of what the next game might be. Shadow Hearts and Front Mission 3 are strong candidates. Xenogears would be a nice one to restart, but I’ll need to grab hold of a PS2 controller (one with a long cable) and a video cable for my American PS2. I should have a lot of time to decide, thankfully.

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N-Zone – FFV

As I’ve just completed FFV, it only seemed fitting that I mention my favourite track from the game. It appears in one of the final areas of the game. I think it does a very good job of building up the finale.

Hell March – Command and Conquer: Red Alert

I know there’s been a lot of remixes (official and unofficial), but I think I’ll always prefer the original. I used to remember playing Red Alert a lot was I was younger (Skirmish mode, mainly). I haven’t played any RTS games for a while now, though. I just don’t feel the need to play them as much as I used to.

I expect more C&C music will appear in the future. There was some nice background music...

Main Theme - Uncharted

Probably one of the more modern tracks I’ll ever mention in this feature. I love the sense of adventure the track exudes. It really captures what the series is about. I’d be disappointed if they ever stop using it. It’s pretty much like the Indiana Jones theme at this point.

That's all for now. Expect more Radiant Historia thoughts next week, along with anything else that happens to crop up.

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1.21 Gigawatts?!! - Time Travel in Games

For as long as I can remember, I've always been interested in time travel. I don't think about it every single day, but whenever a product with time travel presents itself to me, I'm always curious to check it out.

My favourite time travel film (and my favourite overall) is the 1960 adaptation of The Time Machine by H.G Wells. I think that's what really sparked off my interest. I'd definitely recommend it over the 2002 film (I don't have a lot of good things to say about that version...). The special effects stand up even today. As the title of this blog suggests, I also like the Back to the Future series (which is a bit more of a light-hearted take to it). The Butterfly Effect and Deja-Vu are two others.

I also like games that deal with time travel. In this instance, I mean the kind of time travel where you can go back to an earlier date and change the future significantly. Stuff like going back to Ancient Rome and giving the empire some gatling guns. I expect the result of that would be most of the world still speaking in Latin to this day.

Shadow of Memories (known as Shadow of Destiny in the US, it appears) is a great example of what I mean. It's a seemingly obscure title released by Konami for the PS2 and Xbox back in 2001 (it had a North American PSP release in 2010, however). After being killed, a man called Eike is suddenly presented with the power of time travel by a demon called Homunculus. Homunculus' motives are unknown, but Eike plays along in the interest of saving his own life.

It plays out as a third-person adventure game with no combat. Throughout the game, Eike can travel back to various time periods. He goes as far back as the 16th century. If you make any changes in the past, it'll be subtly reflected in the present. However, regardless where you are, the clock is always ticking in the present. He must carry out his plans within the time limit (his time of death in the present). This means there's potentially a lot of trial and error required.

I just had to use this screenshot...

I picked it up after seeing a trailer for it (I think it was some time after its release). I personally enjoyed it. While it's not a masterpiece of a game and the visuals aren't particularly great (even for a PS2/Xbox title), I liked the ideas it had. I wish there was more games like it. If you have any way of playing it, I'd recommend giving it a shot. It's pretty cheap these days.

Chrono Trigger is probably one of the more well-known time travel games that I've played. It also fits well with my definition on the most part. Time Hollow and Ghost Trick are other examples, but they don't have the illusion of non-linearity that the other games have. As you may know already, I'm set to play Radiant Historia once I'm done with FFV. I'm cautiously optimistic about it. I hope it sates my time travel needs. If it just ends being a great JRPG, that's also fine.

I really need to get my own Epoch (or 2poch, if you prefer)

What are your thoughts on time travel games? Would you like to see more of them? I'll be interested to read your thoughts. Feel free to mention other time travel games, too. I can't imagine I've covered all of them.

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A Week of Gaming - 7-4-12 (along with some changes)

First of all, thanks for the response to my last blog. Thanks to ZombiePie for mentioning the blog on Twitter, too (and this week's community spotlight). I enjoyed responding to all your comments about JRPGs. I could do it all day. As a result, I'm going to make one or two permanent changes to my future entries. I'll be looking to add more stuff than just a weekly round-up. I like discussing various subjects about games, so I'll be encorpating that. I also have a new feature at the bottom of this entry...

...but first, my usual write-up.

Final Fantasy V

I've made a lot of progress this week. I'm not far from the end. Since my last blog on this, one thing has changed...I'm actually dying with some regularity now. The enemies (especially the bosses) have really turned it up a notch. While I spent most of the game feeling overlevelled, I may have some more grinding on the way. That said, two of my characters are still stupidly powerful physically. One's a master Samurai (with the 'two-handed' ability, which doubles his attacks), one's a master Monk (with time magic).

The game is beginning to provide a bit more information of where to go to advance the storyline. After my previous problems with not knowing where the hell to go, I welcomed it with open arms. Again, it's not something I'll hold against it in my final thoughts. It's an age thing.

Like most of the FF games, I really like some of the music in it. I'm a big fan of the 2nd and 3rd world map themes. I think they really capture the mood of the storyline. Nobuo is truly one of the greatest game composers.

I suspect I'll finish FFV by next week. It certainly looks doable if I'm tenacious enough. It really depends on other stuff that I'll be doing.

Other stuff

After a lot of recommendations (and my personal interest in time travel), I finally decided to take the plunge and buy Radiant Historia. I ideally would have waited a bit longer, but that would have been a bit risky. It'll probably become another Suikoden II once the reprint is gone. I bought it on eBay on Sunday and it arrived on Thursday. Very quick delivery considering the postage was 'free' and the seller is in Canada. I was surprised. However, I won't be touching it until I finish FFV. I'm so close to finishing it now, so I can't leave it. If I do that now, I fear I may never get back to it.

After PixelPrinny's tip-off for Arc The Lad being on PSN, I had a little look at the other PS1 games on offer. I was pleasantly surprised to find Vagrant Story and Front Mission 3 on there (and for cheap, too). I've had my sights on Vagrant Story in the past, but Sparky_Buzzsaw's blog about it made me even more curious...

http://www.giantbomb.com/profile/sparky_buzzsaw/sparkys-update-rpg-retrospective-test-run-vagrant-story/30-92358/

As for Front Mission 3, it's a game I've played before. Some friends and I spent a couple of weeks playing through one of the storylines. We were in a student house together and we played a bunch of old games until we had the Internet installed. We completed it by taking turns. I really enjoyed the game. Seeing how stupidly cheap it is on PSN (£2.79, I believe), I'll probably pick it up and play through the other storyline one day.

I liked what I saw in the Xenoblade Chronicles quick look. It's been out in Europe for a while, but it's the first footage I've seen of it. I think it definitely merits a purchase from me at some point. Nice to see more British voice acting, too (even if it is the usual Cockney accents. What about some Scouse, liiike? Or some south-west accents. Ooh arr.). However, I may very well be one of the people that can't play it due to the dual-layer disc. My Wii is a launch unit, so I'm guessing that'll be the case (although I'm not sure that's how it works). Either way, it'll be a while before I buy it. Plenty of games ahead of it at the moment.

...also...The Human League...in Lollipop Chainsaw? REALLY?! 8D I was going to buy the game anyway, but wow...just wow.

Without further ado, here is my new feature...

Video Game Music Corner

From now on, I shall be posting up three music tracks from games each week. I thought it would be nice to share some game music that I love. I have a lot of favourites and I'm finding new ones all the time, so there's no danger of me running out of stuff in the foreseeable future. I'll be mentioning music from all kinds of game genres (not just RPGs, I promise).

Next week, I'll probably have a banner for it. I whipped up something basic for this week, but I'm not happy with its quality. I'm not a photoshop wizard, but I think I can do a bit better than my previous attempt.

Ridge Racer Type 4 - Lucid Rhythms

Ridge Racer Type 4 was one of the games bundled with the PS1 when my family got one. This is, without a doubt, my favourite track from the game. I love being in a car while chillout music is playing. It especially works well while driving inside the tunnel of the circuit this track is tied to.

...also, I'll never forget the day my parents played against each other. The race went on for ages due to their complete inability to avoid the walls. They were even driving backwards at one stage. My siblings and I were amused for a while. My dad was a gamer, but he played games on the PC. As for my mum...she's never been into technology full stop.

Chrono Trigger - Corridors of Time

This probably won't be the last time a Chrono Trigger track appears on the list. That game is full of memorable tracks. I've chosen this one in particular because it's my personal favourite from the game. I think it suits the mysterious aura of the time period it appears in. I really wish I could discuss it more, but I respect that some people may not have played it.

R-Type Delta - Crazy Machine

Continuing with the PS1 theme from the first track, R-Type Delta was another game that came with my family's console. I may not have ever played it had it not came with system, but I'm really glad it did. Despite not being a huge shooter fan, I enjoyed playing R-Type Delta. The game also had a nice soundtrack. If I had to choose one, it would have to be the track in the first level. It's the one I think of straight away whenever R-Type Delta gets mentioned (which isn't often, I'll admit).

That's all for this week. Next week's entry may have a round-up for FFV and some opening thoughts for Radiant Historia (if all goes well). That and anything else that springs up during the week.

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My experience with JRPGs

A Week of Gaming' will be taking a break this week. While I have advanced with FFV, I don't have an awful lot to say. I decided the best thing would be to put it off for a week. Instead, I'll talk about something close to my heart...

The Glorious World of JRPGs

I was about 12 when I first discovered the world of JRPGs. The game in question? Final Fantasy VII.

I first saw FFVII thanks to some guys who used to live over the road to me. My brother and I used to go over to their house pretty often. One day, I saw one of them playing it. I hadn't seen a game like it before, so I happily watched him play for a while. If you're wondering how I managed to avoid JRPGs before then, the answer is simple; I didn't own a console until around that time. Most of my childhood systems were computers (ZX Spectrum, C64 and Amiga). It was only in 1997 that my siblings and I got a PS1. Better late than never.

Anyway, after seeing FFVII in action, I eventually picked up a copy for myself. It went on to be one of the best purchases I've ever made. The story kept me hooked and I couldn't stop playing it for a while. But, most importantly, it made me think 'Wait...there must be more games like this...' (the 7 may have been a giveaway). It didn't take me long to find out that there was and my love for JRPGs was sealed.

While I can't really provide any real chronological order, I went on to play a lot other RPGs after that. The older FF games arrived a bit later for me, so I bought games like Jade Cocoon, Grandia (which I thought was awesome) and BoF IV (which I've since learned is not the best representation of the series). I continued buying RPGs on the PS2 (Shadow Hearts was my personal favourite from that era). When I could import games, I got hold of stuff like Chrono Cross and Xenogears.

Shadows Hearts still has one of the most interesting battle systems I've experienced.

Unfortunately, I haven't made the time for them in recent years. JRPGs, as awesome as they are, are usually on the long side. While it's a strength of the genre, it's also a negative point. Until recently, I've been a bit scared to start any in case I ended up neglecting it. I play a lot of other genres besides RPGs, so it's a case of balancing. After a long absence, I've finally returned to JRPGs in the form of FFV. While it's not the strongest RPG I've played, it's reminded me why I like them so much. The music, the exploration, the satisfaction of defeating a boss...all those are part of what makes them special. What's more, playing FFV has rejuvenated my desire to play through old JRPGs.

I made a list this week of the JRPGs that I've yet to play. It's right here on GB if you want to check it out. Some of the entries are entires franchises at the moment, but I may end up splitting them. I concede that I'm not going to play all of them in my lifetime. It's more of a 'I'm open to playing these games' list. That said, there are games I want to play more than others. Importing isn't a problem for most games, as I have an American PS2 for that very purpose.

Lunar Silver Star Story Complete (PS1) - I thought Lunar 2 was great, so naturally I want to play the first game. Unfortunately, the game is pretty expensive now. Not as hefty as some other games, perhaps, but still a lot to part with in one go. I think I'll definitely splurge on it one day, though. I've heard too many good things.

Radiant Historia (DS) - I'm very interested in it because of the time travel stuff. I've always been fascinated by time travel. There's not enough games with it, I reckon. It's still yet to be released in Europe, so I'll likely have to import it.

Breath of Fire III (PS1/PSP) - I actually own this already (for the PSP), so it could be a real possibility soon. I've seen it recommended by various places (including some friends), so I'm long overdue to play it.

Suikoden series (PS1/2) - I've only played the first game. Again, some of the games are pretty expensive to acquire now, but I enjoyed Suikoden. I like the fact that you can gain advantages by recruiting certain members to your army. I'll make sure to delve into the series again at some point.

Those are just four examples of the games I want to play the most. However, it'll be a while before I can grab hold of some of the games. Don't worry if you don't see any of your favourites mentioned. I know full well that I'm missing out on a lot of classic RPGs. I'll try to give each of them a fair crack. My greatest enemies are time and money. They may be strong foes, but they're not invincible.

'A Week of Gaming' SHOULD return next week. However, if you'd like me to talk about other things once in a while, just let me know. I enjoy talking about games at length.

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A Week of Gaming 24-3-12

Final Fantasy V

I've managed to get pretty far into it now. I'm still enjoying it, but my main problem with it is that it's not obvious where to go at certain points. I realise that it was a common issue for older games, though. You were to expected to find things out yourself with very little hand-holding. I'll be honest; I've had to look up what to do next at several parts already (just to momentarily put myself back on track). If I didn't have the 'net to help, I don't think I'd have kept with it for this long.

On the battle side of things, I'm still finding boss encounters a bit too easy. I'm still assuming it's because of all the levelling I've done as a result of trying to learn job abilities (which are pretty useful and even important for some battles), but it seems a bit odd. Most of them have only took one try to defeat (including one I completely destroyed in one attack). Some have took more, but even they were easy once I figured out how to tackle them.

I'll briefly explain the story so far. Only look at it if you don't plan to play FFV at any point.

The main story revolves around the world's magical crystals being in danger. The main characters are thrown into a quest to save them. As I said last week, the bit where that happens kind of reminded me of Captain Planet (the elements of each crystal represented different things in the dialogue). The main characters are Bartz (a wanderer), Reina (the Princess of Tycoon Kingdom), Faris (a pirate captain) and Galuf (an old man with amnesia).

After being tasked with saving the crystals, they go to each crystal one by one. Along the way, they get all kinds of transport. So far, they've had a dragon, chobobo (regular and black, the latter of which is able to fly), boat (two different ones) and an airship. I find the constant switching of transport a bit too much, but it's also cool to see what they'll get next.

A lot is revealed about the characters, too. Bartz is the son of a man whose duty it was to protect the crystals, Faris is actually Reina's long-lost older sister and Galuf is from another world. The people of Galuf's world are trying to stop an evil mage called X-Death from returning. Sure enough, all the crystals end up being destroyed and X-Death is free to wreak havoc. Galuf decides to return to his world (along with his granddaughter, Krile) to save it. The other eventually join them after some science from Cid and Mid (a Grandfather-Grandson duo of scientists). That's pretty much where I am at the moment.

Other stuff

I forgot to mention last week that I tried out the SSX demo. While it didn't sway me to suddenly like games of that genre, I enjoyed the race segment of the demo. I could get behind that. Wasn't a big fan of the sky-diving bit, though. I've never been into the whole 'doing tricks on a board' thing, which is why I don't like the Tony Hawk games either. That said, it seems like a nice package to those are who are interested. I liked the soundtrack a lot.

I'm already thinking about what to tackle after FFV. I'm thinking about Shadow Hearts at the moment. I wasn't far off from completing that. I'd have to start from the beginning (I originally played it on the PS2), but that's probably just as well. I liked the way battles worked in that game and I seem to remember it having a good storyline. Yeah, I'll probably end up playing that...

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A Week of Gaming 17-3-12

Enslaved

Here is the part where I would have talked about Enslaved. Heck, I may have even completed it by now. One slight problem occurred, though...

...my 360 is no more. It has ceased to be. Kicked the bucket. Bereft of life, it rests in peace. It is an Ex-Xbox.

This is the third 360 that has failed on me since I bought my first one in 2006. Despite it being my primary console by some margin, I haven't had a great deal of luck with them. First one RROD'd, second one had hanging problems and the one that's just gone now has a one red light problem that requires repairs (E73; something to do with Ethernet chip, apparently). Any repairs/replacement will have to wait for now. A bit of a bummer, as most the games I own and haven't played/completed are for the 360. On the plus side, I have plenty to fall back on.

On the subject of Enslaved, I will get back to it as soon as I have a working 360 and I've got nothing else going on. It's a case of 'when', not 'if'.

Final Fantasy V

After the incident, I decided to move onto a random FF game. I love the FF series, but there's just one thing...I've never actually completed one. I've came very close with FFVII. I also got pretty far with FFVI. In fact, the only JPRG I've completed to-date is Chrono Cross. Considering how much I enjoy JRPGs, it's a little odd that I haven't completed most of them. I decided it was time to try and set that right.

Anyway, using the Backloggery's 'fortune cookie' feature, I decided to play the first FF game that appeared. It turned out to be Final Fantasy V. It's a game I played briefly when I bought it, but I never really got that far. The version I'm playing is from the European version of Final Fantasy Anthology that came out for the Playstation (the other game in the case is IV, not VI like the North American version. That was released seperately in Europe). No changes were made to the SNES version, as far as I know (apart from some FMV).

From what I've played so far, it looks like I'll be able to see it off until the end. There was a 'Captain Planet' moment at the end of the first dungeon which made me laugh, but the story has gone in an interesting direction since then. As for the gameplay, I'm really digging the Job system. After levelling up with a specific job, characters learn abilities that can even be used with other jobs. For example, I have a Monk who can cast time magic and a Ninja who can cast white magic. I can see it allowing for some interesting combinations. I've had a pretty easy time with the bosses so far (pretty sure I'm a bit overlevelled), but the last two battles were close. I'm expecting some stiff opposition soon...

I might post some story details next week. Despite the age of the game, I will still hide any spoilery stuff.

...and if my PS3 blows up...god knows what I'll do next week...

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