I Delight in These Games Eating My Soul

Xenobladin'

Over the past few months, I've been splitting my time between a few different games. FIrst and foremost has been Xenoblade Chronicles, which I bought at the U.S. launch back in April and have only sunk some ninety hours into so far. (Yes, "only.") If this had come out a few years ago, I probably would have beaten it in less than three months, but my life has more responsibilities these days, and I can only devote so much time to my gaming habits, particularly when there are so many games that I want to play. That being said, Xenoblade Chronicles is easily one of the best RPGs I've played in years. And I have a Xenogears/Xenosaga fan of a friend that is not only soaking in every minute of the game herself and doing everything she can within the game's world but is also having a blast recognizing a lot of the tropes and references to Xenogears that I just flat out would not get.

Behold. For he is Riki, destroyer of worlds.

There are a lot of reasons that I enjoy Xenoblade. There's the way the game plays, which is in some ways comparable to Final Fantasy XII. There's its massive, enormous, humongous, gigantic (have I used enough adjectives?) world, where all manner of hidden nooks and surprises await those willing to explore off the beaten path. There are the characters, who while filling obvious tropes and archetypes are genuinely likeable, and sometimes surprising. There's the story that starts off simple and takes some surprising twists and turns, and is always entertaining thanks to a fantastic localization. Even NPCs I've come across have caught my eye and tugged at my heart despite what limited time their stories are given.

In all honesty, I can't think of a single thing that I don't like about the game. I'm even loving the fact that I feel like I can take my time with it, and not have to rush to the end. It's not a game that I really want to see end at this point because it's just been so enjoyable.

Conquestin'

Another game I've been playing, and which I've put far less time into thus far, is Pokemon Conquest. I've never really enjoyed the core Pokemon games. I can understand why a lot of people do, but every time I've tried to play one, it's never been able to hold my interest for more than a little while, and I've never even come close to completing one. But Conquest looks like it's going to break that trend for me.

Ginchiyo is still awesome, even when paired with a Pokemon.

Some of you are already aware of this, but Pokemon Conquest is actually a crossover game with Koei's Nobunaga's Ambition strategy game series. And after putting maybe six or so hours in, those influences are numerous and obvious. Not just in the inclusion of Japanese historical figures as warlords bonding with, training, and engaging in combat with Pokemon, but in the general elements of the game outside of battle. The way that officers have to be managed, their stats and abilities play just as important a role in the game as the Pokemon do.

But make no mistake, because this is still a Pokemon game at heart. This means capturing new Pokemon, evolution, getting familiar with each types strengths and weaknesses, and everything else. Master those points, and so long as Pokemon are properly trained, the game doesn't seem that challenging (which is fair, given the audience the game is targeted at), but man, there is a lot going on here. And there's apparently a range of secondary campaigns focused on the historical officers to play through once the primary campaign is cleared, so there's really no shortage of content, either.

Theatrhythmin'

Finally, there's Theatrhythm. This is a game that has, in no uncertain terms, made me feel good about rhythm games again. Really, it's the first rhythm game I've enjoyed since Guitar Hero II and Rocks the '80s. Once the plastic instrument boom phase of the genre escalated and both Activision and Harmonix (with Rock Band) got stupid with the number of plastic instrument bundles, and Neversoft took a giant dump on the genre by creating large swaths of note highways that were little more than note spam, I just could not take it anymore.

This game is pure joy, even when its Dark Notes become nightmarish in their challenge.

In any event, the rhythm games I preferred were always the more esoteric of the bunch; games like Ouendan and Space Channel 5 that married their gameplay, which have little or nothing to do with instrument, real or plastic, to premises that are both outlandish and charming. To me, these aspects were lost to a great degree during the Activision/Harmonx arms race. And when I learned that iNiS, the creators of such great games as Ouendan and Gitaroo Man, was reduced to making a fucking Black Eyed Peas video game, I felt as though the genre had hit its nadir and lost its heart.

And then Theatrhythm came along, with its ridiculous premise, classic track list, and a mix of gameplay styles that's one part Ouendan mixed with new concepts ranging from the basic gameplay to the ability to outfit and customize a party and actually have it affect gameplay, and I am hooked. I mean, make no mistake; I am a big Final Fantasy fan, and the track list has a lot to do with my appeal toward the game, but it's also due to the mix of odd rhythm gameplay and style that permeate it. And I cannot tell you how happy I am to see someone make a rhythm game of this type. No plastic instruments, no need for a Kinect and ten feet of open floor space, and no Fergie. I don't know who had the idea to make this game, but whoever it was, it was goddamn brilliant.

24 Comments
25 Comments
Posted by Hailinel

Xenobladin'

Over the past few months, I've been splitting my time between a few different games. FIrst and foremost has been Xenoblade Chronicles, which I bought at the U.S. launch back in April and have only sunk some ninety hours into so far. (Yes, "only.") If this had come out a few years ago, I probably would have beaten it in less than three months, but my life has more responsibilities these days, and I can only devote so much time to my gaming habits, particularly when there are so many games that I want to play. That being said, Xenoblade Chronicles is easily one of the best RPGs I've played in years. And I have a Xenogears/Xenosaga fan of a friend that is not only soaking in every minute of the game herself and doing everything she can within the game's world but is also having a blast recognizing a lot of the tropes and references to Xenogears that I just flat out would not get.

Behold. For he is Riki, destroyer of worlds.

There are a lot of reasons that I enjoy Xenoblade. There's the way the game plays, which is in some ways comparable to Final Fantasy XII. There's its massive, enormous, humongous, gigantic (have I used enough adjectives?) world, where all manner of hidden nooks and surprises await those willing to explore off the beaten path. There are the characters, who while filling obvious tropes and archetypes are genuinely likeable, and sometimes surprising. There's the story that starts off simple and takes some surprising twists and turns, and is always entertaining thanks to a fantastic localization. Even NPCs I've come across have caught my eye and tugged at my heart despite what limited time their stories are given.

In all honesty, I can't think of a single thing that I don't like about the game. I'm even loving the fact that I feel like I can take my time with it, and not have to rush to the end. It's not a game that I really want to see end at this point because it's just been so enjoyable.

Conquestin'

Another game I've been playing, and which I've put far less time into thus far, is Pokemon Conquest. I've never really enjoyed the core Pokemon games. I can understand why a lot of people do, but every time I've tried to play one, it's never been able to hold my interest for more than a little while, and I've never even come close to completing one. But Conquest looks like it's going to break that trend for me.

Ginchiyo is still awesome, even when paired with a Pokemon.

Some of you are already aware of this, but Pokemon Conquest is actually a crossover game with Koei's Nobunaga's Ambition strategy game series. And after putting maybe six or so hours in, those influences are numerous and obvious. Not just in the inclusion of Japanese historical figures as warlords bonding with, training, and engaging in combat with Pokemon, but in the general elements of the game outside of battle. The way that officers have to be managed, their stats and abilities play just as important a role in the game as the Pokemon do.

But make no mistake, because this is still a Pokemon game at heart. This means capturing new Pokemon, evolution, getting familiar with each types strengths and weaknesses, and everything else. Master those points, and so long as Pokemon are properly trained, the game doesn't seem that challenging (which is fair, given the audience the game is targeted at), but man, there is a lot going on here. And there's apparently a range of secondary campaigns focused on the historical officers to play through once the primary campaign is cleared, so there's really no shortage of content, either.

Theatrhythmin'

Finally, there's Theatrhythm. This is a game that has, in no uncertain terms, made me feel good about rhythm games again. Really, it's the first rhythm game I've enjoyed since Guitar Hero II and Rocks the '80s. Once the plastic instrument boom phase of the genre escalated and both Activision and Harmonix (with Rock Band) got stupid with the number of plastic instrument bundles, and Neversoft took a giant dump on the genre by creating large swaths of note highways that were little more than note spam, I just could not take it anymore.

This game is pure joy, even when its Dark Notes become nightmarish in their challenge.

In any event, the rhythm games I preferred were always the more esoteric of the bunch; games like Ouendan and Space Channel 5 that married their gameplay, which have little or nothing to do with instrument, real or plastic, to premises that are both outlandish and charming. To me, these aspects were lost to a great degree during the Activision/Harmonx arms race. And when I learned that iNiS, the creators of such great games as Ouendan and Gitaroo Man, was reduced to making a fucking Black Eyed Peas video game, I felt as though the genre had hit its nadir and lost its heart.

And then Theatrhythm came along, with its ridiculous premise, classic track list, and a mix of gameplay styles that's one part Ouendan mixed with new concepts ranging from the basic gameplay to the ability to outfit and customize a party and actually have it affect gameplay, and I am hooked. I mean, make no mistake; I am a big Final Fantasy fan, and the track list has a lot to do with my appeal toward the game, but it's also due to the mix of odd rhythm gameplay and style that permeate it. And I cannot tell you how happy I am to see someone make a rhythm game of this type. No plastic instruments, no need for a Kinect and ten feet of open floor space, and no Fergie. I don't know who had the idea to make this game, but whoever it was, it was goddamn brilliant.

Posted by Video_Game_King

Wait, Riki is the destroyer of worlds? What about predictable Shulk or "totally not Aigis" Fiora? (That's all I can comment on, given that I'm still playing Xenoblade and I haven't touched the other two games.)

Posted by Hailinel

@Video_Game_King: It's a figure of speech. Riki's status affecting abilities are insane in their effectiveness.

Posted by Feanor

Terrible

Posted by Hailinel

@Feanor: That's not very informative.

Posted by Karkarov

@Hailinel said:

@Video_Game_King: It's a figure of speech. Riki's status affecting abilities are insane in their effectiveness.

I like the fact that you can dress him up in what equates to children's hot pants, leather straps, and potential tiger pajamas then watch him destroy enemies the size of large buildings.

Posted by MikeGosot

Pokémon Conquest actually exists, wow.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

Pokemon Conquest is very much a "I approve of this game in concept even if it isn't necessarily my cup of tea" type scenario. While one would think applying the concepts of a turn based strategy game to pokemon would be right up my alley, everything I have seen suggests it's a bit... simplistic for my tastes? I dunno. Maybe I'll pick it up when it's on the cheap. Your endorsement certainly helps in that matter.

Posted by Hunter5024

This post just reminds me of how many giant stupid long awesome japanese games there are that I want to play right now, but do not have the time for. sigh.

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Posted by Chop

Is conquest a Pokemon game in the way that it moves at a slugs pace? The idea of Pokemon is incredibly solid and appealing to me; I love collecting and building an rpg team but man, those games are so unbearably slow in almost every single aspect.

Posted by Mento

Xenoblade's a lot of fun, glad you're into it. It was the ideal JRPG equivalent to Skyrim, in my view. I never played Xenogears either, and only enough of Xenosaga to know it wasn't my bag, so I imagine a lot of references went over my head as well.

I've been having a ball with Theatrhythm, though I was hoping for a little more fan-service - that there only seems to be a couple dozen characters seem a bit off considering how many appear in those thirteen games and how suited for customization those little paper doll characters are. I also find I'm really bad at the advanced stuff, though that might've just been a particularly tough Dark Note I wasn't prepared for. When I played the Ouendans and EBA, I was really focused on never missing a single note and getting the S-Ranks (which are only possible with zero misses and having over 90% of the notes hit be perfect), but that sort of accuracy doesn't seem possible with how fast Theatrhythm moves at times. I guess that's why there's an emphasis on levelling up characters; so they can take those occasional unavoidable blows. It's still a lot of fun and I'm hoping it's successful enough that Square-Enix makes a sequel that covers pretty much every other RPG the two of them own, though I suspect a sequel that's purely Dragon Quest music would be likelier.

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Posted by Hailinel

@Chop said:

Is conquest a Pokemon game in the way that it moves at a slugs pace? The idea of Pokemon is incredibly solid and appealing to me; I love collecting and building an rpg team but man, those games are so unbearably slow in almost every single aspect.

It's really hard to compare Conquest to the main series straight up in that regard. As a strategy RPG, conquest is fairly basic. Progression is based on capturing rival kingdoms; there are seventeen in all, and each is home to a different Pokemon type. There's a lot of optional battling to help Pokemon level up, but I'm not sure how much actually needs to be done. I think I read somewhere that the primary campaign can be completed in about twenty hours.

@ArbitraryWater said:

Pokemon Conquest is very much a "I approve of this game in concept even if it isn't necessarily my cup of tea" type scenario. While one would think applying the concepts of a turn based strategy game to pokemon would be right up my alley, everything I have seen suggests it's a bit... simplistic for my tastes? I dunno. Maybe I'll pick it up when it's on the cheap. Your endorsement certainly helps in that matter.

It is fairly simplistic, there's no doubt about that. But then, that's to be expected for a game that's targeting the younger Pokemon-loving set. This is tapping into a genre that the average fan may not have touched before.

@MikeGosot said:

Pokémon Conquest actually exists, wow.

I know. It's pretty crazy, but it works.

@Karkarov said:

@Hailinel said:

@Video_Game_King: It's a figure of speech. Riki's status affecting abilities are insane in their effectiveness.

I like the fact that you can dress him up in what equates to children's hot pants, leather straps, and potential tiger pajamas then watch him destroy enemies the size of large buildings.

Riki is one deceptively unassuming heropon.

@Mento: I played the first two Xenosaga games. I enjoyed the first, but the second just went off the rails due to, if my information is correct, Namco forcing some changes in direction. I never actually beat the second game; I got to the point where I could access the final dungeon and a massive line of sidequests and just didn't feel like going any further. But man, Xenoblade is right up my alley in every way.

As for Theatrhythm, I haven't found the game to be too challenging unless I'm tackling Ultimate or the Dark Notes. It was just yesterday that I discovered the highest level Dark Notes get extra sadistic by introducing rotating arrow marks. In theory those songs are possible, but like heck if I'm marching in there with anything less than a fully leveled party.

Posted by Zenogiasu

I'm still Xenobladin'. I'm close to level 70, so... I think I'm almost done? I'm not letting myself play Spec Ops: The Line until I conquer this bastard. I think Monolith Soft knows that I'll play any game with a "Xeno" prefix.

Thanks for the write-up, I've been looking into the other two for a while as well.

Posted by JackSukeru

I never got to the part where you got Riki. Argh, so much to do!

Posted by GrantHeaslip

@Karkarov said:

I like the fact that you can dress him up in what equates to children's hot pants, leather straps, and potential tiger pajamas then watch him destroy enemies the size of large buildings.

When I first met Riki, I had a knee-jerk "oh no, it's the obnoxious comic relief character" reaction. And while he is basically that (at least where I'm at, which is ~55 hours), he's also oddly likeable.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@RockmanBionics said:

I never got to the part where you got Riki. Argh, so much to do!

Seriously? What have you been doing with your time in that game? There's so much after that, too, like how the game gets Persona-y after Sword Valley.

Posted by YI_Orange

@Video_Game_King: I'm on a break from the game in Riki's village(so many sidequests...), what do you mean it gets persona-y? Please tell me you mean it makes social linking with your party easier because I'm obsessing over the relationship trees.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@YI_Orange:

Not at all; it means that some of the character designs are oddly reminiscent of Persona characters.

Posted by YI_Orange

@Video_Game_King: Damn. I'm never gonna finish that game.

Posted by 1337W422102

Delicious, delicious Xenoblade.

Posted by JackSukeru

@Video_Game_King said:

@RockmanBionics said:

I never got to the part where you got Riki. Argh, so much to do!

Seriously? What have you been doing with your time in that game? There's so much after that, too, like how the game gets Persona-y after Sword Valley.

I've been running around exploring, doing all the sidequests, fighting some of the tougher-but-still-possible enemies, gotten stuck on collection quests, tried out the different characters and gotten all the way to what I assume is the village where you will meet Riki (what with all the Nopons being there, though I could just be racist), stuff like that.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@RockmanBionics:

Yea, that's totally where you meet him. I have to imagine that if you're doing every sidequest in the game, you could probably steamroll right to the end at the rate you're going.

Posted by JackSukeru

@Video_Game_King: I haven't touched the game in months, kinda got burned out on it. This happens to me a lot with rpg's, even those I really like unfortunally. I haven't given up on it yet though I want to finish it sometime.

You are right though in that I've been constantly overleveled since the beginning to the point where I've been worried that I haven't properly learned how to play, and that this would eventually give me trouble once the game starts getting tougher.

Posted by Karkarov

@GrantHeaslip said:


When I first met Riki, I had a knee-jerk "oh no, it's the obnoxious comic relief character" reaction. And while he is basically that (at least where I'm at, which is ~55 hours), he's also oddly likeable.

He is no more comic relief than Reyn is. God knows I will kick a puppy if I hear the words "IT'S REYN TIME!!!" ever again.

@Hailinel: You aren't kidding. Rikki is a bit of a pimp, a man about town if you will. I mean just visit his home and check out all those kids. You can tell he knows how to handle the ladies.

Posted by rubberluffy

@GrantHeaslip said:

@Karkarov said:

I like the fact that you can dress him up in what equates to children's hot pants, leather straps, and potential tiger pajamas then watch him destroy enemies the size of large buildings.

When I first met Riki, I had a knee-jerk "oh no, it's the obnoxious comic relief character" reaction. And while he is basically that (at least where I'm at, which is ~55 hours), he's also oddly likeable.

I really like Riki. Despite being an "adorable mascot character" he's fun as hell to use. You can really give enemies a bad day with him, especially if you hit them with a DoT in a chain on a good multiplier.