Today I've shed some tears, but I don't think I've been going through the same sort of grief that some others have. For a while I didn't know why, and I felt like I just had nothing to say. I still kind of do; I made a big long post on facebook about it to a sea of friends who either don't know about or don't care about some internet celebrity, but I don't know if I have anything of real substance to add here.
But more importantly, I just haven't been feeling that violent, visceral grief and sadness that it feels like I should. I could chalk that up to not really knowing Ryan, or having never met him, but then who on this site has? And yet look at this out pour! This insane, touching awesomeness. How many had never even met him, and yet are still so touched by all of this. I think my issue is that I don't believe it. Intellectually, I know that it's true; that it's not some terrible, cruel joke, and that Giant Bomb would never pull something like that. But that's not what I mean by not believe it. I mean that I feel like there's a plot twist coming. I mean, come on, really? A main character dying? Out of nowhere? Right after their wedding? Off screen? That's silly. There's got to be some turn around later. This is just us being in the dark middle section, right? He's going to show up, smiling widely, and then slay the god damned dragon (or maybe just John Drake. Ah! You see what I did there? Jokes!), right?
But no. That's not going to happen. And I don't know when I'm going to realize that. I don't know if I want to. I desperately want this to turn into a story; the sort where this sort of thing has narrative important. But it doesn't. It won't. I want to be inspired to change myself from this, but will I? Should I? For the first time since I can remember, I have been assuming, hoping, begging that there is some sort of after life. That Ryan is now shooting the shit on some fluffy cloud. Or in Hell. I could live with that. I want you to imagine Ryan in Hell, trying to run a stream where he's interviewing Beelzebub and Judas and generally lighting the place up. Try to think about that and not smile. I think Hell with Ryan Davis would be fairly tolerable.
I don't know what to do about all of that though. Chances are that, at some point when I'm least expecting, it's going to come crashing down on me, and I'll finally be able to join the rest of the mourners with my tears. In the mean time, I'll be waiting. I'll be waiting for the tables to turn, the script to flip, and for either the heart warming happy ending, or the sobering but significant and lesson filled bitter sweet ending. I'll let you guys know if I ever find it.
It is that time of the season, folks, where everyone gets together and spams the General Discussion board with all of their Top 10 Games of the Year lists. I have almost never participated in this event, but not from a lack of desire. Every year, I see the threads and think “man, wouldn't it be cool if I made one of those? And then people could read it and be amazed by my fantastic tastes!”
The problem has always been that nowadays I don't play too many games. I tend to get into this cycle of buy a lot games, start playing one, not love it, then stop. I start playing something new, but, instead of throwing my passion into playing it, I feel a weird sense of guilt. Like I've abandoned something. But I still don't want to go back to playing that last game. The result is that I just kind of float around my games, never really touching them, instead whiling away the hours on the internet. It's kind of like a strip joint, but on the internet. So it's king of like porn. Also, I developed something of a social life, and have been busy with school, LARP, and girlfriend.
When I do get around to playing a game for realsies, I also tend to play older games. Not 20 year old classics, but pieces from within the last five years that I own but never got around to playing. So most of these games aren't going to be from this year. Hell, I don't know what year most of these were released in. And there's no real order to them; I'm just going from what's fresh. With all that said, here's my massive EotYG wrap up!
#1 – Demon's Souls
I got this game around the time it was released, and started playing two weeks ago. I had started playing in starts and fits, only ever killing that first boss, and even then only once. I just never put in the time to get good at the game, and I didn't even want to. Then a couple weeks ago I put it in my PS3, for no other reason than my PC was out to pasture and I needed something to waste my time during finals, and it clicked. I don't know what happened. Maybe the lack of distractions from other games, or having a roommate casually watch and occasionally coach me as I derped around Boletaria. Maybe it was from starting off as a Royal, by far the easiest class to play. Magic AND a MP regen ring? Whatever it was, Demon's Souls sunk its teeth into me. The game is very specifically paced to encourage caution instead of charging head first. The difficulty seems like a lot to take in at first, but once I developed the skills needed to tackle the challenges, it became pretty manageable. That said, it will still fuck you up when you get cocky.
On the other hand, it's not perfect. The atmosphere is solid, and the story has good concepts, but literally every story has good concepts. Not much is done with Demon's Souls's plot though, and it's a real pity. All the NPCs are distinct and have their own character and agenda, and I kinda wish more had been done with that stuff. The fact that there's a guy who, after you effing rescue his ass, will go to the Nexus and start straight up murdering your more helpful NPCs is nuts! And the fact you have no indication he's even doing it until it's done is insane. I wonder how many people got screwed over just because of that.
While that sounds cool, it does highlight one of the main issues the game has design wise. In that it doesn't tell you much. The tutorial tells you the controls, and the item descriptions give a vague idea of what their special effects are, but otherwise you're left on your own. What the hell is a Primeval demon, and how come I haven't seen any in the twenty hours I've played. What's with those sparkling geckos? What do you mean the game gets harder if I die in body form? What the hell is World Tendency? And why is it separate from Character Tendency?
None of those questions actually need to be answered if you just want to play the game once. The problem is, even if you want to go deeper, there's no mechanism to actually discover any of this stuff other than blind luck. It's great that the community has made such a drive to spread this information in the form of wikis and guides, but why does the game need that in the first place? As for the wiki, while I found it very useful, I sometimes wish I hadn't found it. Now this is my fault, but when I read over the soul farming page, I started to only grind in those spots. And while they were great spots, at some point, in the New Game+ specifically, it started to feel like I was grinding just to level up to the next best grinding spot. That's a problem I tend to run into when playing these sorts of Japanese RPGS, so it may just be I have a crappy play style. Your mileage may vary.
#2 – Fallout New Vegas
I bought this game day one, played it a little bit, then just dropped it! I don't think I ever actually got past Novac. I remember one time rushing to the Strip, then not having enough caps to actually go in. I put it aside, and silently curse my impulsive purchasing whenever I saw it go on Steam for five bones.
So when I started playing earlier this semester, I kinda feared the same thing happening. Lo and behold, I manged to take my meager 20 something hours played to just under 90. And I've been having a blast. I don't know about you guys, but when I play an Obsidian game, I always make sure to put my points into conversation skills before Guns.
I'm glad I did, because the writing in this game has blown me away. It's not a great, moving narrative about the human condition, but the small pieces here and there really it all together. Every bit character feels distinct from the next. At least, they do right then. Looking back, it was only a couple weeks ago, but I couldn't name anyone for you. Part of that is I hadn't run across any of the big players in the plot, which I'll explain in a bit.
What really stood out to me was the DLC, Old World Blues. At some point, during one of my aborted attempts to play the game, I bought all the DLC in hopes of attaining the “true” experience. I can't speak for any of the others, but Old World Blues is smartly written, has cool shit to shoot and shoot with, hilarious, and hard as hell. I went in at level 20, but a level 20 with an Endurance of 2(needed those charisma points) is going to get chewed apart.
OWB actually taught me the use of the Survival skill as I was starving to death, hunting across the barren wastes for some morsel of highly irradiated food that dropped my strength by three points. Which feeds into another thing: I don't know what Jeff was talking about, that crafting is almost vital. Food is one thing, but being able to build and recycle ammo makes for a huge convenience.
As for bugs, I'm just glad I waited all this time for the game to fix itself. I haven't run into any particularly egregious problems not present in Bethesda games. I shouldn't have to quick save before fast traveling, but when that's the most of my concerns with a Bethesda or, even worse, an Obsidian product, then I'm happy.
I actually had to put the game down for a bit after finishing OWB, hence why I haven't met any of the bigger names like Caesar or Yes Man. But I'm really looking forward to eventually coming back and finishing this game.
#3 – Just Cause 2
This game was the beginning of the end for me. It was my first Steam sale impulse buy, because holy crap 7 dollars! I would be losing money! I proceeded to launch it once, then never again for YEARS. Then I started playing this years, and it's all right. I don't have much to say on this game. It's dumb fun, but I think it might have been oversold. There are some design decisions that just seem bizarre. Like dying. You should not die in Just Cause. And if you should, it should not be so easy. It's a game where you are encouraged to go out and do crazy, stupid shit. So why is it that spending two seconds in enemy fire causes a reloading screen? Playing the PC version(which looks amazing, by the way), I should have just enabled those cheats Vinny talked about.
The island is huge and packed, but the missions within it are pretty hit more miss, with mostly misses. Most of them are fairly generic, with only a couple like the crazy island with the hundred year old WWII Japanese soldiers or the whorehouse IN THE SKY, standing out.
Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed this game, and taking out a base in a push of a button, causing the twenty pieces of C4 you planted on every red surface to explode in a ball of firey death and laughter, feels incredibly satifying. I think the best way to put it is that it doesn't quite live up to the size of its island.
#4 – Outland
I loved this game, and I hated it so much. For the most part it makes smart use of its color shifting mechanics to craft challenging but rewarding experiences throughout the game. That said, the last stage, with the shifting colors? The game I feel crossed a line there over from difficult to frustrating. This ended up being one of those games I finished because I was too angry to stop. Tie that with an incredibly disappointing ending (“The big bad broke out of its cage anyway, but took a look at the world and decided it was too cool to destroy! Yaaaaaay! Kill me”) and this is a game that started really strongly, but petered out by the end.
Also, to step back from the game a second, but what's the deal with games allowing online co-op but not local? I was pretty excited to learn about the co-op, and my girlfriend wanted to play with me. She usually doesn't play games, and I was actually pretty excited to play with her. Then we couldn't, and that was a bummer. I'll step off the soap box with that, but man. That really sucks when it happens.
#5 – Neverwinter Nights
At the beginning of Summer, I got it in my head to start playing those old style DnD video games like Balder's Gate and NVN. I own a bunch on GoG, so why not! I never went further than NWN, mostly from running out of steam. I played through Shadows of Undrentide for the first time, and I had Hordes of the Underdark ready, but I couldn't. Let me just say the Dragon Age: Origins is a fantastic evolution on this style of game, so good it made going back somewhat difficult. But I still had some fun with my weird Fighter/Sorceror dual class spec, the writing kept me interested, though this is definitely a Bioware, go collect the MacGuffins questline.
Honorable Mention – Walking Dead
So close, I was so close to playing a 2012 game in 2012! Alas, it was around the time I started playing Walking Dead that I had to retire my computer for some time due to overheating caused BSoD. So I'm giving Walking Dead an honorable mention for seeming pretty cool and for definitely being the game I hit up when my computer is back in working condition.
So that's it. Sorry about the inconsistency in length between the pieces, but I played Demon's Souls last night and Neverwinter Nights during the summer. I've bought a couple things during this sale, games I actually intend on playing (such as Spec Ops: The Line, which jumped to the top of my list after the Best Moment discussion on the Bombcast deliberations).
Hey! What's up. How you guys doing? So, some of you may have noticed that I had a blog post up earlier that I quickly took down. I did that because I didn't like it. It felt sloppy and I wanted to rework it. So, in order to not make my page completely bereft of new content, I've decided to post this.
The Actual Post
This is actually related to my schoolwork. As part of my compulsory composition course, I need to weekly read two stories and or essays and write a response online based on a question the professor provides. Usually these stories follow the theme of dystopia, but for this one I had to read "A Modest Proposal" by Johnathon Swift. I know you guys probably don't care about homework, but tonight you do!
The question: “A Modest Proposal” is an ironic essay: the author deliberately writes what he does not mean. What is the real thesis? Is there more than one?
All satire, unlike more vulgar and universal forms of comedy, exists solely within a historical context. That is not to say it can not be universal; certainly eating babies for comedy has done nothing but flourish in our times, and perhaps you can apply the more subtle messages to our current existence, but I digress. The satirist mocks and lampoons popular figures, idols, ideals and phenomena either in the people's culture or in politics. Without the historical context, it is impossible to truly know, understand, and enjoy satire. I admit that each time I have read "A Modest Proposal" whatever humor it held escaped me because I lacked that context, and I still do. But, even if the true context requires research that I will not do, an appropriate one may still be divined by looking at the text, analyzing its implications, and accepting the ironic equivalent. Pardon me as I take a sort of anthropological approach to the text. Being a composition course, you will forgive me for being in anyway historically inaccurate.
First, the nature of the proposal; it is not wrong to assume that this is some governmental proposal. Seeing as the endeavor requires a restructuring of the law to allow the consumption of babes, the governing body of the commonwealth would need to support it. In this way we can assume that Swift is lampooning the trend of government policy. Perhaps the Kingdom has been responding to domestic problems in ways either incompetent or slightly malicious. Being referred to as a Kingdom, perhaps Ireland at the time was ruled by some tyrannic figure, and Swift, in an attempt to subtly point out the circumstance in a way that would not result in him executed for treason, wrote his Proposal out of subtleties and allegorials for the consumption of the foreign intelligentsia.
But what problem needs solving? Swift opens with a description of the multitude of poor women being haunted by their starving children. Taking into consideration the method by which I will be analyzing this text, the ironic equivalent to this circumstance is that the Dictatorship of Ireland is in fact in a state of overwealth. My first impulse is to disregard this idea, as the Irish have never been wealthy, but history requires a strong imagination as well as intense research. Lacking the latter, I am forced to make due with an abundance of the former. Carrying on! The streets are over run with rich, healthy bachelors. Dublin was a sort of Yuppie-Wonderland the likes of which Patrick Bateman, the Irish protagonist in the modern day "Modest Proposal" American Psycho, could not possibly imagine. As an equivalent to the imagery of children, the result of successful heterosexual relation, perhaps the society Swift lives in is dominated by a homosexual vibe. It makes sense; without the burden of children, these men are allowed to gather their wealth, make it grow.
So it is only logical that the consumption of these delicious, nourishing children by the upper crust gentlemen, as described by Swift, is a metaphor for the gays consuming and destroying the proper values of christian society. But wait! If the poor in this allegory represents the rich, then clearly the rich must represent the poor! So the rich consuming the babes in this case exists as a stand in for the poor taking the sustenance, the frivolous lifestyle, of the gay aristocracy away from them. Toppling them, as it were.
In the text, Swift spins his spiel so as to appear in favor of and beneficent to the upper class. But, as we have already established, the upper class needed no help in this fabulous utopia of theirs. Rather, it is the poor, the despondent of society that needed helping, healing, nourishing. In the text, it is the poor who give their produce to the rich through fair and just market. So, correctly we assume the course of action Swift suggests was for the poor to take, perhaps by force, the sustenance of the wealthy. And what sustains the wealthy? Money. Swift wants to take the wealth of the few and distribute it to the many, a sort of early socialist revolution.
But, perhaps most important, is the between the lines reverence for the Papacy. In this case we must remember the pragmatic nature of this proposal: Swift does not want to die, and so he makes references to the goodly destruction of potentially papist children. What he doesn't say is that he is in full support of the papacy and the Roman Catholic Church. Again, we consider the ironic equivalent of attacking the Papacy is exulting the Papacy. The Pope, staunchly anti-homosexual, would clearly hold disdain for the flagrantly sinful society that is 18th century Ireland. In that way, the government must surely reciprocate the animosity. So any support for the infamous Catholic Church would brand Swift a treasoner followed by a quick sentencing.
So let's review: Jonathon Swift lives in an autocratic, tyrannical, secular society whose current governance serves to benefit the rich, homosexual bachelors that make up the upper class at the expense of the poor. Swift wants a violent uprising of the proletariat to seize Pluto's wealth and distribute amongst themselves. He wrote this proposal as a way to beg for help from foreign benefactors, as he can not enact change himself for fear of mortal endangerment. He wrote the Proposal in a allegorical, convoluted manner to escape the notice of the governance (implying a lack of intellect within the kingship). The Proposal iterated throughout Europe, eventually landing in the land of the intelligent and industrious: Germany. Under the careful study of the intelligentsia, a sort of mental trend spouted in Germany, developing over the years and generations until final culmination in the mind of a certain Karl Marx. And so, through deep and thorough analysis, we have discovered a new cog in the growth and spread of the beast Communism.
May I modestly propose that we find and burn or otherwise destroy all copies of this text, so as to halt the spread of such undesirable and distressing philosophies.
Hello! Hi, how’s it going. So I’m writing this with the Google Docs editor. It’s kinda sweet. Only thing that sucks about it that it only displays one page, whereas OpenOffice had two pages side by side. So now I’m haunted by all the unused space on the sides of my page. Woe be to the 1080p
So I played Dragon Age II. And I beat Dragon Age II. Short review: it’s aight. Long review: you’re not getting one! I was tired of that game by the end of my 40 hour game in a way that DA:O took 160 hours to achieve. That’s as much commentary as you can expect.
But during and after, I had the itch. The CRPG itch. I wanted to play an actual, old school, balls to the dungeon walls CRPG. Something like Neverwinter Nights, or Baldur’s Gate! So I installed Planescape. After pirating it like six times and never once playing it, I bought Planescape: Torment off GoG sometime around Christmas when it was five bucks. Now that I’ve made a financial commitment, I feel it’s finally time to sate my curiosity. And, to motivate me, I’m going to blindly follow at the heels of his majesty @Video_Game_King and make a kinda-sorta Let’s Play out of it. Which I’ve never done, so it’ll be an adventure for all of us. No capture equipment means that you won't be given the pleasure of listening to my soothing, erotic voice giving commentary on the game. Instead this old style game will be given the old style treatment of a screencap let's play!
I spent too much time making that banner.
Remember how I said this would be a screen shot let’s play? Well, the thing is, I already have a few hours of the game under me and I decided to do this just now as of this writing. So this update is going to be an introductory/metagame post with a few stock images and no screencaps.
So first thing I did was install a whole clusterfun of mods to make the game look pretty and work better. They are here.
The beginning of Planescape, for me, was a series of false starts. First I made my character, played for ten minutes, then restarted because my stats sucked. That’s the kind of game, berks. More on that later. Then I played for an hour, killed a dude, followed a guide for a bit. Then I said “yo fuck guides” and reloaded until right before I killed that dude and went down a kind of different direction.
So I’m going to cop to the fact that I totally did read a “beginner’s guide” of sorts. It is here. But otherwise this playthrough is going to be totally raw, dawg! I will be relying on my wits and my charisma score to see me through this game unscathed.
You start the game making your character. This only means setting your stats. Not class, not sex, not alignment, not looks, and mostly important not your name. You start as a male, true neutral fighter and remain one until you train out of it. The stats are Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Charisma, Wisdom, and Intelligence. I have no idea what each individual stat does in terms of dice rolls, because I have never played ADnD, which is the license this game uses. I don’t know how awesome or shit ADnD is. All I know is Thac0 is a scary phrase. For perspective, I grew up with 3.5 and now prefer 4E. Kinda hoping they get their online shit together for 5E.
What I can tell you is that, in this particular game, wisdom, intelligence and charisma all open up dialog choices, and wisdom gives an experience bonus. As well as some other shit but FUCK THE METAGAME! I’m not here to know everything before I play it! Except for the stuff I’m going to explain in the next few paragraphs.
If you’ve heard of Planescape, it’s probably been about two, related thing: the writing, and the stat importance. Now, from what I understand, in most RPGs you want to max either strength, constitution or, at least in 3.5, dexterity, with intelligence being for wizards, wisdom being for certain classes and saving throws, and charisma for *snrk.* Well, in this case it’s the opposite. Int, Cha, and Wis are the core important stats with constitution having its own special role. Strength and dexterity, from what I can tell, are only useful for fighters and rogues. I don’t know if this is an ADnD thing, but it’s not something I expect from any RPG. Yeah, you’ll get games that let you talk your way out of some encounters if you have a high speech stat, but from what I can tell you can not only do that to most of them in Planescape, you also get as much experience if not more for doing so. That’s some swag stuff right there.
My build (thanks gamefaqs!)
I’m going to spec Mage as soon as I can. Apparently, ADnD only had three classes, mage thief fighter. Also, I’m going to be evil. Because I’ve heard that this is one of the few games that lets you actually be evil and pull some rank shit. I won’t be killing indiscriminately (killing quest givers never seemed a good idea), though, so expect a Neutral Evil outcome.
So I think that’s it for this one. If I had been taking caps this entire time I would go into detail about what actually happens in the first hour or so, but I didn’t and I doubt a summary would have done much for your enjoyment. Also, I can’t remember in great detail what it is I did. Expect a synopsis and less bullshit next time! If I do this. Which I probably will because I want to play this game but I need something to motivate me before I get bored and start playing some mindless action game. I don't want that. Except I kinda do, which is the problem. Ahhh!
Post-mortem? Is that the right word? Whatever, all I know is that I wrote an unnecessarily long essay on a game I didn’t exactly love. So here you go.
Ostensibly I wrote that last blog for reflection on my cheevo and tro tro habits while discussing the games I played. Instead I waxed indulgent about mostly nothing while making up some not-words. The result being that I didn't really say all that much. Mission accomplished. I like to read the sound of my own words, and I really like to make words whose sole purpose is to please me. Unfortunately for me, this time I actually have something I want to say, making this endeavor much less fun for your narcissistic author.
Final Fantasy XIII
Yo! Final Fantasy XIII's terrifically named sequel comes out in less than a week, right? That's a thing. And Final Fantasy XIII kinda clawed its way up the pile to being kind of a thing again, right? Well I sure hope so because, in the span of two weeks, I put just about a hundred hours into that fucker.
So why did I replay it? Because I had lost my post-game save when my PS3 decided to explode a few months ago. Why did I want to play it in the first place? It started with me looking at the incomplete trophy list, eyeing the tide breaker, Treasure Hunter, and saying to meself “that's doesn't look so tough.” Oh boy. Oh boy! Oh fucking boy am I bad at making these judgement calls. S-Ranking Final Fantasy XIII is a different sort of hell. Whereas Limbo and Ico both demand the absolute apex of player skill and manipulation, FF13 asks only for your time. All of your time. S-Ranking FF13 is much like cruising towards the center of a black hole, past the point where gravity literally pulls time and space towards the center, and everywhere you turn you face that inescapable doom. I spent the first fourty hours of FF13 completing the story.. The next sixty I spent working towards Treasure Hunter. Most of that time I spent killing turtles. So many, many turtles. But, in the doing, I feel I have obtained for myself a perspective on the highs and lows of Final Fantasy XIII.
I will not try to break this into a list of “this is good” and “this is shit.” Everything has problems, everything has not-problems. I'm basically going to break this shit down and analyze the fuck out of everything, good and bad. I can NOT guarantee quality.
The Shit You Do
The combat system, a sort of evolution to the Active Time Battle mechanic FF fans are familiar with, has its virtues. Most significant, Square managed to streamline the list of available abilities. Every single command has a purpose, and every spell, buff, and debuff has its place. Even poison, poison, the red headed step child of all Final Fantasy spells outranking only Toad, has its place in strategy. The inability to grind means that strategy and an understanding of the system is vital for any difficult battle. Lack of control over your party member, while certainly a bummer for fan of micromanagement, gives a feeling coaching a team, which somewhat appeals to me.
However, you can safely ignore all of that in 90% of the fights. From chapters 1-10 you could just Rav-Rav and then Com-Rav or Com-Com your way to victory. In chapter 11-13, I found myself just using a party of one synergist, Sahz in this case, and two commandos and finishing most fights with trash mobs in a few rounds. The fact that there are trash mobs period drags the combat down. Most strategy boils down to buff me, debuff him, and stagger. Some areas required I switch someone to a sentinel role, which I appreciated. The only times I used other strategies were when I needed to cheese a guy because I was fighting it too early. Though the fact that you can kill bosses you are grossly underleveled for by using an unorthodox strategy speaks to the importance of tactics over stats, which again I appreciate.
You definitely can't just spam auto battle in all cases. Try fighting a Shaolong Gui without turtling an tell me how that goes. The problem is that most of the time you can, and I feel that devalues the overall experience of the combat.
Speaking of things that start with C: Corridors! Final Fantasy XIII is linear. But that is not the problem, or at least it's not the whole problem. A linear design does not damn a game, just look at most of the shooters released in year. Battlefield, Uncharted, Space Marine, Modern Warfare. These are all great games that are linear. No, the problem I had with FF13 lies not with the linearity of the structure but with the overall structure itself.
There is no pacing in Final Fantasy XIII. You don't spend most of your time in dungeons, you spend all of your time in dungeons. It is always on, with not a single break until that blessed chapter 11. The basic formula for good pacing: high intensity, low intensity, high intensity etc. Dungeon's and towns. Fighting shit and bullshit wandering around. Dark, emotional moments and light hearted, funny comic relief. Square made FF13, believe it or not, a very high intensity game. You are never given time to chill the eff out. The only instance I can think of is the festival Sahz and Vanille attend. You know, the one with the chocobos. This complaint sounds a lot like “the game doesn't have towns wah!” but it's more than that. I don't care if the game never had a single town. I wouldn't care if XIII-2 didn't have towns. I just want some pacing, I want some low moments. Look at Chrono Trigger, you don't spend all that much time in towns. Hell, you can't even really enter towns, just individual buildings. But you will never fight a random enemy while on the world map. You can aimlessly wonder around and relax a bit in between dungeons.
Chapter 11 has some of that, with a lot more scenes dedicated to silly comic relief. I appreciate that, but there's not enough of that. So many dungeons were just mind numbing. A branching path and some dead ends would have done nothing to help that.
Even when the game does branch out, the world feels so much emptier than it did in the other games. Most damning is the complete lack of endgame content. No super boss that drops the ultimate weapon, no secret dungeon, nothing. Yeah, you can grind everyone’s stats to max after you beat the game, but for what? To kill turtles. But why do you want to kill turtles? So you can kill tutrles more easily. But why do you do that? So that you can get Trapezohedrons and craft the ultimate weapons. Why do you want those? So you can start killing more powerful turtles. Why? BECAUSE FUCK YOU!
Over Exposit, Under Exposit
The writing is not terrible. The characters and the actual plot have good things and bad about them, but the presentation itself does not break the game to the extent many seem to feel. From my experience most people talk about the way the game drops you into this world filled with these bizarre terms suchs as “fal'cie” and “l'cie” and “chocofros” with no context, explanation, or exposition. The only way to make heads or tails of all this nonsense was to keep referring to the novel they included, the infamous datalog.
Ah, and there it lie in slumber. The datalog, so much like Mass Effect's codex, yet so detrimental, poisonous, cancerous to the experience. I posit that the quality of the writing and the vibrancy of the world would have been much greater had the datalog simply been omitted. Nothing more done to the script, just the excision of that device. A lot of people say that without the datalog the plot, the characters, the environment are incomprehensible, but I disagree. If we just listened, the script provides enough cues and implications to understand most of what transpires. Yes, at first l'cie has no meaning, but it's clearly a bad thing to be, and as the story progresses it becomes clear what exactly it means to be l'cie. Most of the elements are contextualized pretty well, I say. So why is it that most seem to need the datalog?
Well, I wager that most people do not need it. Despite what cool kids on the internet will tell you, people tend to be pretty smart, so it's not a case of lacking the intelligence necessary. Square Enix never asks you, never challenges you to immerse yourself and mentally explore. The lack of mental exploration of this game, of needing to puzzle out of learn about the absolutely dazzling world of Cocoon and Pulse on you own, does more harm than the lack of physical exploration. In fact, Square doesn't just neglect it, they outright discourage any mental exploration. By including the datalog and essentially saying “if you ever find yourself confused, please stop thinking and just read this.” And we listen, because why not? It only makes sense. Why would I struggle with a puzzle when the answer is being presented to me on a silver platter?
After every important cutscene you will be alerted to the new datalog entry explaining (in the present tense which I found infuriating!) exactly what happened, why it happened, and what the implications are now that it has happened. When an event or action drops some vague implication about a character, you'll find a new entry explaining it all in detail. It immediately becomes clear that you don't even need to really watch the cutscenes to understand what's going on, and any value they hold disappears. In explaining everything in detail, Square made the actual game look obfuscating an confusing. They built a wall between the player and their world when I'm sure they just wanted everything to be easy to understand.
Now, all that said, how is the acutal story? The plot is pretty simple at first:each of the characters are brought to something called a Vestige for different reasons, and there they find a god-like being called a fal'cie from the underworld that is Australia AKA Pulse. The fal'cie makes them l'cie, servants with extraordinary powers, and are given a focus, a task they must complete or risk becoming zombie-like cie'th. After that they split up, each running from the military that's on their ass and trying to figure out what to do.
The story itself is not terribly well written, keeping in mind what I said about the datalog. There's no sense of focus and the characters are always just running. Which is fine, there's a way you can tell that story. But there's not much to say about the first 20 hours; it all seems like build up to when the party regroups, meets the villain, and the actual plot is revealed. And everything in the ending is legitimately incomprehensible.
The the writing is certainly character focuses as opposed to plot focused, with more emphasis placed on character interaction than plot advancement. Not necessarily a bad thing; I tend towards those sorts more anyway.
Lightning is not the main character of FF13, despite receiving the main billing. Just as much screen time is devoted to Sahz and Hope as is Lightning, and certainly more character development. Square billed Lightning as a female Cloud, and they're right. Superficially, at least. A cold and emotionally distant former soldier who rebells against he employer with the help of a sassy black man. And that's where the similarity stops, as well as most of her character. For most of the game, Lightning's just kind of a bitch. Needlessly so.It seems like Square wanted her to be mysterious, but after the third time she let the group move on without her while she crossed her arms and pouted, only to follow them a moment later had me rolling my eyes. Yeah I know she's military, but so is Sahz (pilot, though its never mentioned outside the datalog) and he's not an asshole! Maybe she, like Cloud, has some insanely fucked up trauma in her life. Maybe the superficial stand in for Sephiroth, Yaag Rosch, burned down her home town too. We never learn what her deal is, and the only character development she undergoes is when Hope teaches her what love is and she stops being a complete asshole.
Lightning, like every Final Fantasy protagonist, is a generalist who doesn't specialize. She gets all of the -strike commands as a ravager, she holds up as a pretty good commando and actually makes for a decent sentinel, despite having no guard skills. She's a terrible late-game medic, though, which confuses me since she has medic as a primary role. She makes up for it as a decent saboteur, learning multi-target debuffs.
Speaking of Sahz. Sahz. Saaaahz! I like Sahz. I liked him from the moment Square announced him. Most likely because I liked the idea of a black main character who wasn't a hilariously bad caricature of Mr. T. No, Sahz resembles Will Smith instead. The calm, fatherly Will Smith who occasionally shows the zanyness of his youth. But then I actually played the and found out that I still like Sahz even after about 140 hours (my original playthrough lasted 40 hours). He's the straight man, the guy who tries to keep an even head when everyone else is going crazy. Even during his own emotional moments he doesn't descend to the same levels of melodrama the other characters do. Really, the best thing I can say about Sahz is that he almost seems human. How grand a coincidense that he's a father, like one of my other all time favorite characters, Nier.
So it really sucks that he has the lowest stats in the entire game. With the exception of HP, every character beats him in every way. The only thing he really has going for him is that he's a better healer than Lightning and the best synergist for most of the game. In the late to postgame he's easily surpassed by Hope as both a damager and a buffer. That said, in all cases where a strategy called for buffs I used Sahz, because stats aren't that important and ability wise the two are mostly interchangeable. Also, because fuck Hope. Though by the numbers he's beaten, his ultimate skill, Cold Blood, makes him a pretty brutal ravager, especially after an enemy has been staggered. One Cold Blood an a staggered enemy can drive the bar up to 999.9% pretty reliably.
Hope. Hope, Hope, Hope. I hate Hope far too much. I think everyone does. I once had a friend say to me that he hated Hope and wanted Hope to die. I never did learn if he was talking about the character or was having an existential meltdown. I wonder how that guy's doing in Florida. Anywho, Hope whines. He's a whiner. He's a kid, apparently prepubescent if his cameo in a 13-2 trailer are any consideration (his voice dropped 37 octaves in a few years? Sounds like highschool) so his disposition is believable. I just don't want to watch a 12 year old being 12 years old. I don't like watching 12 year olds being 20 year olds. Other games and shows do the whole “little kid having his mind blown” thing much better. I've watched like two episodes of The Wandering Son and that does the whole 12 year old being 12 years old thing much better. What I appreciate about Hope is that he's the only one who's willing to say “what the hell, guys?” After everyone becomes a l'cie, they are all like “kay” and he's the only one who is freaking out over it. That character can be written, but Hope only comes across as annoying.
What I will say in Hope's favor is that he is one of the most versatile characters for most of the game. He's one of the best healers and ravagers in the game, and the only character who has protective buffs for the first third. His secondary roles are nothing to brag about, though he does get Ruin immedietely, making him a passable commando. He learns all the same buffs as Sahz, and benefits from a higher magic stat.
Snow is the bastard love child of Zell and Seifer from Final Fantasy VIII. I just want you to think about that. You liking what you're seeing? Okay, moving on. Snow is the hyperactive, college fratboy asshole who insists on be the center of attention at all times. He clearly thinks he's the main character, but lacks the confidence and aplomb with which Balthier takes that title from the true protagonist. I can't exactly blame Lightning for punching him so many times or Hope for wanting to drive a knife in his back. That said, I like Snow. He's like Kamina, he's always upbeat and insanely optimistic in a way that the other characters, except Vanille, just aren't. He is such a cartoon character, and it's a joy to watch him being all crazy. Maybe it's just because I'm also an asshole in college, but I appreciate that part of his character. What I don't appreciate is when he stops being a cartoon character and becomes a soap opera character. Every scene concerning his very weird relationship with Lightning's sister Serah (yeah I know she's supposed to be 19 or something, that doesn't stop the fact that she's fucking Snow when it looks like she should be playing doctor with Hope) he switches from Kamina to Fabio. In the scene where Hope finally confronts him, Snow enters drama school mode so fast and so hard that you can feel Oscar shaped boner Troy Baker had to have been sporting during that recording session.
Snow’s probably the best sentinel you can have on your team. He’s usually better at taking damage than dealing it, but he’s still one of the stronger characters and his faster casting animation makes him good for powerplaying a ravager. Otherwise, he doesn’t have much going for him. My turtle strategy required him for spamming daze, but the argument can be made that Sahz is better for that role given his longer animation, but that dives into a realm of insanity that few care about and I fear.
Vanille. Vannile? Vannille? I don’t fucking know. Vanille, from my perception, stands only second in most hated character by the community, right under Hope. I didn’t hate her. Now, what exactly does she have going for her than being every one of my fetishes rolled into one oh so fuckable ball? She gives some energy to the cast! Besides her and Snow, everyone else is kind of a downer. I get why they were written that way, and I appreciate it, but I also appreciate the levity that Vanille’s saccharine bullshit injects into the situation. The problem is that often enough she comes off as irritating as fuck. For me, it’s less the mannerisms and more the voicework. I’m sure that Georgia Van Cuylenburg is a perfectly competent actress, and this performance is hardly the worst I’ve heard. But something about it rubs me the wrong way, whether it’s the accent or it’s the pitch or whatever. Otherwise, she is the second most Final Fantasy ass Final Fantasy character. It seems that, at least since VII (probably before) every game has needed its perky, cheerful, jailbait fanservice girl. Vanille is that, no question. But even then I feel her behavior is kind of justified.
Vanille is the primary healer of the party with Hope. I’m pretty sure only they learn Curaja, which is vital down the line as the characters’ health bars grow. She’s also the first to learn deprotect and deshell, so you’ll want her for bosses and the tougher mobs. Most important, for endgame in any case, is that she learns Death. The nice thing about Death in this game is that, more than any other game in the franchise, a lot of enemies are vulnerable to Death. Even when Death doesn’t stick (which is most of the time, given its base 1% success rate) it still does a lot of damage. There are a few enemies that you can kill before you ought to with the help of Death. Otherwise she has one of the highest magic stats.
I have little to say about Fang. I never felt she contributed much to the party dynamic or that she had much of a personality besides really, really liking Vanille. She kind of goes crazy at the end, but then doesn’t. I don’t know. That ending was weird.
What I will say is that she is a fucking beast. You will be breaking the damage cap regularly with her in the postgame, and I’m pretty sure she’s the only one I’ve gotten to hit 999,999 on one hit. She learns the pretty vital slow spell early, and makes for a good sentinel. Hell, she and Vanille are the only ones to get the -ra variants of the synergist spells. You want her in your team, and probably as leader so you can use Highwind for massive damage.
The Fal’cie, and really the mythology FF13 has as a whole, were pretty interesting. I would like to learn more about these things in future games; probably Versus 13, as 13-2 doesn’t seem to go into that stuff. The Analect dtalog entries you got for completing missions added some of the depth that Cocoon and Pulse were missing. And Dysely/Barthendelus made for a convincing villain. More than the other villains in the series, he seemed to really have his shit together. But maybe I’m biased; I just can’t hate a good voice.
Sooo gooood! I just love it when a villain sounds like he's having an orgasm with each word.
You still reading this? Jesus, guy. Okay, I’ll end this. Final Fantasy XIII is not terrible. If fact, I would go as far as to say it’s pretty good. I did not decide to put another 100 hours into because I hate it. I know I say a lot of shit here, but that’s because it’s easier to be negative than it is positive. I like playing FF13; I find it’s combat compelling; its characters act almost human, which is a rarity in any video game, and the plot, if convoluted and annoying at the ending, is fun to follow. The game isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t deserve the rap it gets. What I think is that time will go on, Final Fantasy XV or whatever will come and earn everyone’s bile, and people will look back and take another look at 13. It’s already happening with 12; everyone (or at least it seemed) hated that game when it came out, but if you look now a lot of people seem to either be changing their perspective on it or coming out of the woodworks to support it. I think something similar will happen with Final Fantasy XIII.
I won’t go into either the news or the demo for 13-2, because fuck you this blog is overlong enough. Maybe I’ll do something on that, but not for a long time. And I don’t think I’m going to do anymore super long analysis on average games.
Hello, gentle reader. I forget how long it has been since my last blog, and, though I could, I will not check. Because fuck that shit. I run this show, and fact checking is for dopeheads and crackpots. Here I try to recount some of the notable games that I've been playing, mayhaps with some commentary, while fighting against my primal, instinctual, base and so very, very dirty urge to use the passive voice. Is, am, was, were.
As this blog post resides in the prenatal stages of development (I don't know what that word means, but I have a general sense of what it implies so I will not look it up. I see words, not as definitions in a dictionary, as a collection of ideas and implications) I do not yet know if I will have everything I played in this and a collection of mini reviews, or if I will break them up into smaller but more focused chunksicles. You, my reader, already know what I do but to me, the author, it remains a mystery, making the composition of this post as much an adventure for me as reading it a linear journey for yourself. Does it still count as active voice if I just omit the is, was, am or were without actually changing the sentence?
To begin this future tale I must jump to the past, to the revisioning and retooling and reresolutionizing of the classics ICO and Shadow of the Colossus in glorious HD. Though I purchased, on original morn of distribution, this collection for the joy of replaying SotC in glorious 30 frames per second, let me instead focus myself upon the preceding sequel, ICO. This being my first experience with the game, having been, till now, driven away by the odorous cover pictional of the Playstation 2 game.
Yo, ICO is pretty awesome. A game of atmosphere seldom matched, playing ICO is much like walking through an empty museum, silently observing the relics of that which once was, totally alone so long as I forgivingly forget the ever vigilant security cameras that watch my every move until I must smack them apart with a wooden stick. Only Amnesia truly matches and surpasses the feeling of aloneness.
Though the game does not truly isolate you; the character Yorda accompanies the horned boy (Ico?) by way of AI manipulation yet assisted and guided by the player character eye eee you. The execution of this prolonged escort quest, an archetype universally reviled, left me enjoying the company of Yorda and fearing for her safety. The sudden shot of dread that accompanies that gasp when left in another room alone for too long can be easily compared to the total terror the grunts in Amnesia can instill.
Though, as in all things, when brought to its stress point the game's flaws stand all too clear. I played this game not exclusively for the joy of it but also to sate my need to collect trophies; such a neccessiate will cause much of the pain I feel in the games I discuss. I need the platinum trophy! Some of the time, not always. Not usually, actually. Really, I rarely feel compelled. This time I did!
Every game, I feel, has it's tide breaker. It's beach jetty. The rock that the masses smash against, leaving only the twisted clinging like so many barnacles. Gears has its “Seriously...” achievement, MGS4 its Big Boss emblem. Etcetra. Whether or not I go beyond the call of patience and sanity to S-Rank a game depends on whether I feel I could best its tide breaker. I saw ICO's Castle Guide and I saw victory. Woe be to me and my folly.
Castle Guide: Complete the game in two hours. My first attempt upon the game lasted a paltry five and change. I saw the challenge and thought it completable with ease. It is not. The level of perfection and precision required dashes any illusion. The amount of time devoted to research and speed run videos transforms those two hours into a 10 hour commitment. All things must be just so; the space where you stand in one moment determines your success or failure in the very next. A sinking feeling of loss and grief enveloped me as I observed by times slip farther and farther from the targets. This trial taught me how much Yorda, deceptive ally and vile siren, hates me. Me. ME! Personally, and she hates you, benevolent reader, though perhaps not. Perhaps upon you she smiles. But not me, clearly only scorn and contempt characterize any thought spared towards my bothersome existence. Only then can I explain her behavior. The way she looks at a clear jump and shakes. The way she walks not runs from the incoming danger. The way she puzzledly looks at my outstretched hand as I plead, pray, and beg to jump, jump, please just jump! Jump, holy shit just jump! Jesus Christ just jump you dumb fucking bit
Zip, done, and out the window whoosh. All done, all gone. Harmony, harmony oh love perseveres and prevails in this soul. Please, play ICO, an experience all ought to have. But do not as I, and ignore the tide breaker. It is a battle not worth fighting. Though that didn't make the victory any the less sweet.
I played more games than ICO, however. I replayed SotC. It's SotC. I'll talk about it some other day as I have other topics to discuss. On the topic of loneliness and absurd achievements and caps lock titles, I played a little and then a lot and then I fucking conquered LIMBO. Another game with another atmosphere, this one more obviously comparable to Amnesia. I like that game. I will continue to draw comparisons to it. Maybe.
LIMBO employs a dark and oppressive atmosphere and in a way I find it similar to ICO in that both games involve guiding a defenseless little girl through the perils of a hostile world. Except in ICO you control a strong, virile young man with a stick, and in LIMBO you are the little girl. I know that the character in LIMBO is a boy, but fuck your specifics. It's my blog and I'll confuse genders if I want to!
LIMBO, another puzzle game and here you have no companions, no false friends. Silence and isolation are the only things to greet you, and given time you will even mourn the death of the spider who has so antagonized you.
LIMBO, too, has a tide breaker, one that I, again, felt capable of defeating. Know that this all took place before my odyssey with ICO. No Point In Dying: Complete the game in one sitting with no more than five deaths. For the uninitiated, you die a lot in LIMBO. The challenge, then, to not die as much tempts and entices. Much prep work went into it. I played through once not caring when I died but noting, in writing, the circumstances and chapter. I practiced each death scenario, painstakingly outlining each jump, each puzzle. And then, the attempt. Attempts. Plural. I tried many times, never succeeding. Often by the time I make it to the hotel sign I will have lost 3 of my 6. Morale rested at the nadir. Even the bombcast could not lift my spirits and calm my nerves.
Eventually, frustration and despair gave life to the final strategy. If I could not beat the game on my terms, I would destroy it on its own. While in LIMBO I would do as spiders do. I resolved to out angst LIMBO.
In my ears. On infinite loop. God damn if I did not make it to the final, most difficult puzzle with only one death. Another minute and three more deaths and I achieved victory. You, do not doubt the power of any music!
The difference, I feel, between Castle Guide and No Point In Dying lies what determines victory. Castle Guide, being a speed run trophy in a game that relies on escorting an AI, depends on the competency of the AI. Player skill can be largely negated by Yorda suddenly deciding to let go of your hand, forcing you to needlessly fight more of those shadow things. No Point In Dying, however, needs player skill and only player skill to be achieved. Both games require a total mastery of the mechanics and puzzles of the game, but the circumstances of ICO made Castle Guide into the more frustrating experience. Again, I would not recommend that particular cheevo.
This text document balloons in size, so I must now cut it here. Next time I will revisit my time with Skyrim him and (fuck me, fuck me!) S-Ranking Final Fantasy XIII. Thank you.
I was originally going to use this space to write about Darksiders. I'm not because Darksiders was kinda “eh” and I would much rather write about an 18 year old boy being in a room with nine sweaty, 40 something guys for 13 hours straight. If that sounds like a bad porno then shut the fuck up because that would be an awesome porno! But it was neither; it was actually...
Dice! Minis! Squares and sweat! Pizza and wings! Devils and vampires! Nine grown men playing with miniature wizards for the chance to win the ultimate prize!
It's been a while since the last time I played, and that was with some chucklefucks from school. This was a 4E tournament and I had only played 3.5 before. Mix that with level 15 characters from the start and I had no idea what the HELL I was doing. There are three players handbooks, at least 20 specialized books, 900 issues of Dragon Magazine overruling those books, and another 8942 issues overruling those.
Thankfully, the character builder on Wizards's website has all the info up to date, and it only took me a few days to build my character. The actual process of going through the builder was simple; it was figuring out what the fuck to do with the character that was hard. There are so many powers and feats to choose from and I had no idea how useful any of them were. I also had to be a special little snowflake and make a bard, so I couldn't fall back my favorite “hit the guy” strategy when out of ideas. It wasn't too bad, the community on Wizards's DnD site is great. Or at least the optimization board is, by which I mean the in depth guides were awesome for separating the worthwile from the shit. I didn't know how to effectively use the good stuff, but that's what the 13 hours was for.
An Epic Quest!
The game itself was long. I was not kidding about the 13 hours; we went from 10AM to 11PM. We squeezed in three encounters, about 3-5 rounds each. Do not be misled, those battles were far longer than they sound. Each involved at least 10 enemies, one time 20, and we were 10 guys. The rounds took between one and three hours. Each. The enemies themselves weren't that difficult. Actually, they were piss easy. I had to heal maybe three guys, and myself once. The problem was that Ravenloft, the module we were using, is built for parties of 4-5 guys. Not 10. The result was a clusterfun on balance issues that left us mostly unbloodied throughout the night.
But it was still fun, and the guys I was playing with were great. Really funny. I think one of them used to work as an editor for DC. It was a pretty casual group/game, so little to no role play. Like I said, we were playing a very abbreviated version of the second edition Castle Ravenloft campaign. While maintaining the illusion of “cooperation,” we were competing against each other. Winner was decided on voting at the end of each round for who gets a point. Most points wins.
10-way tie with everyone at 1 point by the end.
There Can Only Be One!
So who broke the tie, you ask? Who brought everything to a close, a head, a climax? Who dealt the killing blow to the final boss, Count Straad? Who used his bardric powers to make the dead dance and the vampire sing? Who typed this build up for what was an immediately obvious answer? Who could it have been?
The one and only, motherfuckers. The one and only! Check out my trophy!
So yeah, I had a great time! Wish I could do it again; now that's I've gotten a taste, I have the itch again. But I'm going away to college soon so I wouldn't get anything consistent going. Maybe I'll rope my room mate into it.
Christ, I'm effing bushed! I just got back from orientation at New Paltz. Wore my Lincoln Force shirt, ran into some duders, exchanged pleasantries, and then sat through a lecture on rape. College!
Last time we met, Children of God, I had retreated into the safe, noncommittal zone of nostalgia by revisiting the late Squaresoft's PlayStation RPG classics Final Fantasy VII and IX. But then I cast off the chains of the past, ripped the scales of fear from my eyes, struck out of my cave for a new sky and played...the Squaresoft PlayStation RPG classic Vagrant Story.
I had never played Vagrant Story when I bought it a few days before the great PSN Debacle of 2011, as I will call it. I was trolling through the PSN store for impulse buys when I chanced upon two revered games: Xenogears and Vagrant Story. On a coin flip, I bought VS, leaving Xenogears for another day. Or not, as a favored Goon of mine is conducting a Let's Play of it as I type.
In eloquent, Shakespearean terms, Vagrant Story is fucking weird. But it's also kinda fucking awesome. It's a Square developed, so it shares some tropes with the much beloved and bemocked Final Fantasy series. Such as its turn based combat, and...it's turn based combat? Okay, it shares one gameplay trope and a few story tropes...one story trope but w/e. These paragraphs are for the game!
Let Us Dance
The combat of Itinerant Chronicles is turn based, but, unlike the Ultimate Delusion games, the encounters are not random. So already Beggar Tale is the best PSX RPG I have ever played. The actual procedure of killing dudes plays in a rhythmic fashion. Ashley Riot, protagonist extraordinaire, leads his enemies though a dance of blood and death. With each level up you acquire new attacks to chain together in a deadly waltz with the denizens of Lea Monde.
That paragraph right there is free, reviewers. Take it or leave it.
The clothes make the man, and the armor makes the Ashley. You must rely on your equipment for stats as the level up mechanic provides nothing such. Three core: Strength (physical), Intelligence (magical), Agility (athletical). Both attack and defense are derived form these stats. Vagrant Story does not dick around with 10 different attributes for your character. It instead dicks around with 16 different stats for every single piece of armor and weaponry that you may find.
There are three sets of stats. First is Class. Forget about it, it sucks. Next is elemental affinities. This is where the shit is at. The classic air/earth, fire/water and light/dark are here. You raise them by hitting stuff. Hit a water monster, and your fire affinity with that weapon goes up. But your water affinity goes down! That's terrible, right? Wrong! By the time you need to exploit enemy weaknesses you will be able to min/max your weapons with buffs and gems to such a degree that the base stats will be rendered worthless. We are left with the third set, Type. These are Edged, Pierce and Blunt. Every weapon has all three. But each kind only uses one. Swords use edged, knives pierce, and maces blunt. There are other kinds of weapons. They suck. There are two handed variants for each. They also suck. There are ranged weapons. They, too, suck(not really, but you will never need one).
But what of difficulty; is it hardcore enough for my sadomasochistic tastes? The first few hours are punishingly difficult, but quickly plateaus as all the mechanics open up. Then it becomes soul crushingly easy. But even with its ease, you will die if you go into a battle thoughtlessly. You need to approach every encounter with care, and that includes the mooks. So no zoning out, zoner! By the mid point you will have more than enough means to exploit the enemies' weaknesses for massive damage. Battles come down to proper preparation and equipment. After a while, I found that prep phase to last longer than the battles themselves. It sounds annoying, but I found completely dominating the opposition with but one chain empowering.
What is a Vagrant?
Now with the Metroid, with the Vania, and the map screens. This was my most shocking discovery. First thing I do is open the menu to find the word Map, and I opened the map to find a not3D representation of all the areas I had explored and a percentage count. A percentage count! In an RPG! With progression I found doors and paths I could not open and to which I must return to explorate and loot. The whole game takes place in a closed complex. But it never flips itself upside down.
But the Metroidvania experience is characterized chiefly by one aspect of play: the map. Back when I first played Symphony of the Night, often would I find myself staring at the map screen, inspecting every inch trying to find that one undiscovered grid square. Just one space where I can use the shiny new bat form I just got. This scrutiny has since then been what defined the Metroidvania genre to myself. And lo, half way into Vagrant Story I was reading and rereading the map with that same thoroughness and I knew, despite its not3D nature and lack of powerups, that Ashley was as much a successor to Alucard as any other. And their names start with A. Clearly they are the same person.
The game also has puzzles. Block puzzles. Block puzzles suck, but the ones in VS don't...mostly. Sometimes they do, but otherwise they are fairly rewarding. I feel smart after finishing one.
Words, Words, and Words!
I will not spend too much time on the story, other than say it's very well written. The localization is one of the best I've found, the characters are well defined and likeable, and the protagonist is compelling. The plot does not dominate the game, and most cutscenes after the (really long!) intro rarely break into five minutes. The twists are twisty and the journey is overall a fun one.
Vagrant Story is fucking good. The combat is very fulfilling, the story is well told and the art is fantastic. Many duders will recognize the style found in Final Fantasy Tactics. Overall, I would recommend Vagrant Story to anyone who likes games. It's available for 6-10 bucks on PSN. Just go play it for fuck sake.
So imagine me, long flowing black hair and twelve (yes) rock solid abs, sitting in my swivel chair while pontificating over my growing collection of unplayed games. Struck was I with the responsibility of actually making a decision, of choosing a direction down which I would lead my life into a new future. This frightened me greatly, so in place of committing, I instead decided to crawl back into my cave of blissful, ignorant nostalgia and forget about the big, scary sky of infinite possibilities. I replayed...dramatic ellipses.
Yo, this game is good. Which is to say, it is still good. The graphics are pretty terribad, being from that woeful age of early PSX not3D modeling that has aged like a unmolested corpse. But otherwise, the game holds up. The combat is quick, the materia allows a level of customization that does not devour the rest of the game, and the music is effing incredible. Seriously, check this shit:
So the game part is still great, but the rest falls apart under modern scrutiny. The script is sloppily translated, with grammar gaffs and awkward dialog, and the story itself is often incomprehensible. The characters are either paper thin cardboard cut outs or Cloud and Tifa, with any depth and characterization added to them being forgotten or ignored halfway into the game. Having said that, the plot does have its moments and I was actually impressed by the oddly postmodern dynamic between Zack, Cloud and the player.
Conclusion!: FFVII is still a great game despite its graphical and written short comings. It's fun to play, the music is great to listen to and the plot does have some interesting moments. It deserves to be played by everyone.
What Final Fantasy VII does not deserve is a...
“What?!” say the enraged voice in the back of my skull, “you just finished fellating the damned game!” Well, you see, it's kind of an issue that I have with our demand for remakes: we just want an excuse to replay our favorite games. And it's true. When a game is good, you want more of it. But we also don't want to replay the exact same game, so we ask for a remake that will allow us to justify it to ourselves. I'm the same way. I squee'd like an anime high school girl with over-enlarged tits when Konami announced the MGS HD stuff. But do MGS2-3 need HD remakes? There in lies the rub: those games haven't gone anywhere. FFVII has not gone anywhere. It's in fact very easily acquired through PSN. And the game itself, block men and smurf shoes aside, plays very well today. So there is no reason for it to be remade.
I could go into further details why it shouldn't be remade, such as the game becoming a corridor crawl and Cloud turning into a prick, but I won't. Because I just did. If anything should happen with this game, it ought to be a rerelease on PSP with an updated script. Or, you know what, make the PC version available on Steam. That has both the improved script and HD mods. Square wouldn't even need to put work into it!
Remakes have their place, but it should not be to rehash the games we already love. We should reserve remakes for those games that have great promise but fail for one reason or many. A game that tells a great story but has tedious gameplay. A game that delivers on great characters but falls short on basic mechanics. A game that has a fucking terrible card minigame. A game like...
“...What?” asks the confused voice at the far left side of my skull. Yes, you see, I forgot to mention that I also replayed FFIX, one of the franchise's “black sheep” to many a fan. IX is actually my favorite game in the franchise, but I wanted to see how the game fared when set against the juggernaut.
I'll start by saying that IX does what NintenSevendon't. The characters are amazing, the story is coherent and large in scope, and the writing is many levels above. Themes such as death, humanity and effing genocide are addressed, yet the game doesn't drown in the sea of its own melodrama. And it has a much better villain (suck it Sephiroth, Kuja is both prettier and deadlier. What you kill, a snake? That and he's a man of culture). And it has Vivi, who is my fucking bro. Edit: Final Fantasy IX also has the best chocobos in the series!
That said, the game, the part you play, is not good. FFVII's quick battle transition is replaced with a 5-10 second loading screen. VII's relatively quick encounters are replaced with bloated attack animations and long wait times between command and execution. And it has random encounters, and fuck random encounters.
The worst part is maybe the trance system. Limit Breaks, you may remember, were VII's awesomely broken super attacks. Most characters' limit breaks were capable of one shotting mooks, and Cloud was a physical god with a full bar. Zidane, likewise, has Level 9 Diety powers when in trance, but everyone else's is either useless or just barely make up for the character's shortcomings. You can't control when they are activated, and the trance bar empties if the battles ends while the character is “Tranced.” Which really sucks if that happens right after you make the battle ending attack.
Thievery is a tedious mechanic which is only compounded by being the main character's gimmick. Good items can be had, but the luck based nature of the thing makes it more of a chore than it's worth.
And the card game. Tetra Master was probably made to emulate the success of Final Fantasy VIII's Triple Triad. I could write a whole blog-NO-book about this game, but here's what it comes down to: in Triple Triad, big number beat little number. In Tetra Master, you rely on Hexadecimal values and prayer, hexadecimal values and prayer!
I know that I just eviscerated the poor game, but do not misunderstand me: Final Fantasy IX is still my favorite in the series, despite its faults. Everything else about it works perfectly, it's just the game part that brings it down. If Square were to remake this game and fix the problems, like tighten up the animations, replace the dice rolls for stealing with a minigame or something, cut the random encounters and make a card game that runs on human logic, then Final Fantasy IX could be amazing in every respect.
And I would love to see Vivi rendered in glorious HD
Hey, so my first blog. Like, ever. This is an empowering feeling, ya know. I could put any shit on here, and people would care! Except when they won't, which will be most of the time. But just knowing about all those unsung heroes who do care strokes my ego enough for me to post this. So what should I talk about, with an intro paragraph that pretends I don't already have the entire thing written out in a text file. Well, since its my first blog, and those seem to get locked a lot, I'm gonna talk about something which might get my shit kicked in by a mod. Such as....dramatic ellipses
So I decided to saunter my way over to the cool table for rebellious kids by modding my PSP! Man, that was easy. Just run the file the file and go. No wonder sea dogs are such a problems. Now, a bunch of you are probably wagging your fingers while preparing to lecture me about how I'm the cancer destroying the industry with my yars and my hars. Well back off, Strawman McSillyhead, because I didn't do it to pirate PSP games.
You see, I, like many, have grown weary of the PSP's PSPness, and so I sought a means to acquire/strip/rip the image file of the UMD from its glass coffin and hand it over to my pirate friends no, Christ! That's not me. Rather, I wanted to run those .iso files through an emulator. Two reasons: One, I get to play my PSP games without hunching over my PSP, and two, emulators offer the opportunity for forcing those games to play in glorious 1920x1080. With abundant graphical glitches as a bonus.
So how did that work out? Well, uh, it didn't. Starting out, it was a pain in the ass getting the image files off those discs (1MB/s transfer rate? For a 1GB file? Seriously?) and when I did the emulators themselves were not at all helpful. As far as I can tell, there are two: PCSP and JPCSP, the later being the former written in Java. And neither worked. You see, I forgot that its best to wait at least a generation before attempting to virtualize a console.
So what do I do now? I got this modded PSP and nothing to do with it. I guess I'll just pirate a bunch of games FUCK! No! All my years of PC gaming I was able to resist the urge. I will not cave for PSP games! So, what did I do? Well, ya see, during my experiment here, I chanced upon something. Something I found useful.
So now my edgy, underground PSP that wears all black and chains can run iso files. Were I a man of little virtue, I could exploit (or use as intended) this feature to execute contraband materials. But I'm not, Pious Padre here could not abide by that. However, now I can place the file I just ripped from my PSP back into my PSP, or rather its fancy new ISO folder, completing this needlessly roundabout circle notpiracy. This allows me to play that game, which I totally legally own (not even sarcasm), without fishing out the UMD. I've done that with all my PSP titles, so that I can switch between games like a boss without bothering with that silly physical media.
Now, I haven't accomplished the goal I set out to. And I only had, like, three physical games. All of my other PSP games were digital downloads off of PSN (which I might not be able to access anymore but whatevs). BUT, I took a look at my largish PS2 collection, at my hard-drive with plentiful space, and at the PS2 emulator which I know works and which I know I can use to run most games at glorious 1920x1080 HD. With the glitches. I love that shit. So now I've started ripping those, while preparing to place the worn out, physical copies in storage.
Now I know, I KNOW, what you nay sayers are nay saying: I now have two copies of these games where there used to be one, and I can very easily pass on the disc to a friend, thereby destroying, in one fell stroke, the entire PS2 market.
Well jokes on you, Frankie Doo. I don't have any friends! AHA!
...I promise I'll have something useful to talk about next time.