My personal Persona 4 endurance run

So I've picked up Persona 4 again after taking a little break from the game, in big part to the GIant Bomb crew playing through the game themselves. It's the month of October now for me and the story is moving along nicely. I have my full party and 3 or 4 max social links, and it's all been entertaining throughout. My stable of personas is formidable, I'm around level 52 or so. I love the game and it's absurd japenese style, but playing for this long has also clearly defined the negatives of the series as well for me.

The gameplay routine does get stale over time. It forced me to burn out on Persona 3 FES multiple times, though I almost always returned eventually to continue progress, and already once more with Persona 4. I usually play these games exclusively though for a week or more at a time, they're that engrossing, so maybe spreading out playtime will help alleviate this. 

It is a PS2 game, and despite the creativity found in the presentation and look of the game it feels very last gen in many ways. The battle gameplay works just fine but the dungeons themselves, navigating through the town, and the camera could have really benefited from a rethinking and upgrade. Atlus in all likelyhood will continue the series on the PS3 and 360 eventually, and it will be interesting to see what changes and how drastically.

Everything else I've been enjoying, and I just hope I have the endurance myself to finish the game. I fell short with Persona 3 but I'm even more into the P4 characters, story and setting so I think that will push me forward. I am really enjoying the videos on the site though, hope they're able to keep putting them out even when things become a bit of a grind or hours of progress are lost.

a top 20 for 2008, 5-1

note: There's plenty of games I didn't get a chance to play extensively, hence they're not on my list. Metal Gear Solid IV, Little Big Planet, Dead Space, No More Heroes, Far Cry 2, PixelJunk Eden, Wipeout HD, Boom Blox, Patapon, NHL 09, and Valkyria Chronicles off the top of my head. Onward to the rest!

1. Fallout 3 (360/PS3/PC) UFO V.A.T.S. vault 112 (spoilers)

Mass Effect was my game of the year last year, so I guess I have a thing for these epic sci-fi WRPG's. But Fallout 3 did not feel like the best game I played all year at first. Top 10 maybe, but this one grew on me over time more than anything else. It bears many hallmarks of a Bethesda title so it felt a lot like Oblivion right off the bat, both for better and worse, and it was tough for me to move past that. Eventually the game carved its own identity for me, and in the end the positives far outweighed any negatives or familiarities I experienced.

There's so much to take in, and many of the game's best moments are tucked away in the wasteland just begging for you to stumble upon. I didn't appreciate the full scope of the setting until a few dozen hours in, after I could look back on all the memorable situations and locations I had been through. The level of detail remains consistently high throughout, almost obsessively so, and it really makes the entire world come alive despite the fact that there's not a whole lot going on in D.C. after the bombs dropped. The VATS system works and I ended up really enjoying combat despite some rough early levels. Dialogue is impressive and quests are full of interesting choices. Explore vaults, radio channels, perks, Cherry, the Republic of Dave.. yep, Fallout 3 is huge.

Everyone won't be pleased here. The game has technical issues, stiff animation, requires a big time investment and there's a pretty underwhelming epilogue waiting at the end of the main story. None of that really mattered to me after a point. The more I played, the more I found inspired and memorable new content around every corner (or green arrow). And when that keeps happening over dozens of hours in a world as interesting and engrossing as Fallout 3's, it can leave quite an impression.

2. The World Ends With You (DS) review

This feels right coming in at #2, it's my favorite DS title yet after all. What more could I ask for? There's a unique story that keeps you guessing until the end, characters that evolve, addictive and original gameplay mechanics, great music, great art style, and tons to do after finishing the game. The dual screen combat is button mashy (stylus scribbly?) fun and surprisingly deep. Everything occurs in modern day Shibuya and it's a distinctly Japanese setting, even as the game itself plays like no JRPG before it. Fashion trends will be changed, thoughts will be replaced, beefy ramen will be eaten. A stellar DS title from beginning to end, one that should not be overlooked.

3. Grand Theft Auto IV (360/PS3/PC) easy fare search and delete

I live in Brooklyn and have been near the city all my life, so to play around in such an entertaining facsimile was half the fun of GTAIV for me. Being the best overall game in the series yet helps too, and though missions start to drag at around the 3/4 mark it was still worth playing to the end and I'm glad I did. It's the best kind of pop culture satire, blending reality and fiction and telling an engrossing story of a troubled outsider to the states taking it in, making dry comments, killing for hire and seeing Ricky Gervais. You still steal cars and shoot stuff but with the realistic tone, the urge to go on crime rampages has diminished significantly. The game stands on it's own without all that stuff now.

4. Fable 2 (360)

So many aspects this game came out right.  The melee/ranged/magic combat system is perfect for an action RPG, the dog totally works, the visuals are distinct and unique, your decisions do affect the world and the humor is British. There's a solid main story and plenty of side content but don't be surprised if you find yourself getting diverted by farting and flexing and showing off severed heads to your adoring public. And you'll earn money from in game real estate ventures even while the game is off, providing incentive to return to the world of Albion regularly. Fight some bandits, buy more land, visit the wives, maybe some farting and flexing.

5. Burnout Paradise (360/PS3)

I've never been a huge racing fan but ended up taking a chance on Burnout Paradise due to the high reviews and word of mouth. The mission variety, tight control, seamless multiplayer and amazing sense of speed made for an addicting experience. I always felt engaged with my progression in the open world setting, exploring for jumps and hidden paths between challenges instead of navigating menus or loading screens. The amazing free DLC support is just icing on the cake, and the game is now my favorite entry in the racing genre yet.


a top 20 for 2008, 10-6

6. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (PS2) review gameplay

I'm only around halfway through this game and I may never even finish it, who knows. But it's clear this is the best JRPG of the year and it's become one of my favorite games on the PS2 overall. It's a better game than Persona 3 technically and I prefer the characters and overall tone in P4 as well. The presentation, music and style is unlike any other and everything from the deep, fast pased combat to the social links you form is engaging and fun. An original, addicting and lengthy title that stands with the best of the genre.

7. Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS) review

Professor Layton was a game that I didn't want to put down until I reached the end, a real page turner if you will and a standout title for the DS. The French styled animation and sound direction set the stage for a small town murder mystery plot with a few very interesting twists, it's all entertaining stuff and the atmosphere created makes the core word, math, visual and logic puzzles stand out that much more. It's a game that anyone can enjoy -  charming, beautiful, well written, and a real mental workout at times. Can't wait for the sequels to arrive stateside.

8. Left 4 Dead (360/PC) gameplay

There may not be a ton of content in Left 4 Dead out of the box, but what's there is so polished and satisfying that it's worth returning to over and over again. PC users get the superior version but playing on a console is no slouch either and the 360 controller works just fine despite the game's fast pace. The best co-op, zombie apocalypse Valve game ever and my favorite FPS that I played last year as well..

9. Geometry Wars 2 (360) gameplay

The original Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved was a great little arcade title, the best game on the 360 for a while actually, and the sequel improves upon the first in nearly every way. A variety of modes change the rules of the game and all are equally addicting and fun. With fun achievements, leaderboards and robust 4 player multiplayer, replayability factor is off the charts with GW2.

10. Rock Band 2 (360/PS3) review

Yep, it's more Rock Band. And that's just fine. Alcohol and Rock Band 2 with a group of folks is always a good time, and the steady stream of new content from Harmonix keeps things fresh. The best music "platform" out there right now, and with no new update for the core game in sight I'm sure I'll continue playing and enjoying this one well into '09.

a top 20 for 2008, 15-11

11. Rez HD (360) gameplay

Q? Entertainment consistently puts out innovative titles that fit my tastes perfectly, I'm a sucker for everything they've done but Rez is extra special. The sound design, striking visuals, and hypnotic gameplay add huge amounts of replayability to the game, It's fun to return to even for just a few short minutes. Art gaming meets comfort gaming, I guess. I played through Rez on the Dreamcast but never owned a copy, so really getting to sink my teeth into this definitive version of a classic was one of the highlights of the year for me.

12.  Braid (360) review

Braid isn't really a game that gets any better over time, and I don't think I've booted it up once since the day I beat it. Still the time I spent with Braid won't soon be forgotten. Tight controls, some truly brain bending puzzles and a real weight to it's surreal narrative makes Braid much more than the sum of its parts, even when those parts are of fairly high quality to begin with. And the way the game utiizes time is probably the most ingenious we've seen yet. The best platformer of the year for me, and one of the most artistic titles released as well.

13. World of Goo (PC/Wii) gameplay

It took me ages to get around to trying out World of Goo. For some reason I had this idea that construction based gameplay and an art style that seemed lifted from any number of generic flash games just wasn't for me, despite my love of a good puzzler. I could not have been more pleased to have the critics be right and my instinct be wrong. World of Goo's art style and mood is way more charming and original than screenshots or clips give it credit for, and the actual physics based puzzle mechanics are deliciously satisfying to play around with.

14. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES (PS2) various intros

This would have been higher on the list had I not gotten sidetracked with other games around 3/4 of the way through, and the fact that Persona 4 improves upon nearly everything P3 does puts the games flaws in perspective. Still this was my introduction to the series, and I was blown away to say the least. As a former JRPG nut in the 16-bit and PSone days, I've become burnt out on a genre that rarely brings anything new to the table. And though the extreme length and repetitive nature of Persona 3 can slow the pacing to a crawl at times the game is such a breath of fresh air that it's really a must play for all JRPG fans, both old and new. At 35 bucks and with extra content in the FES release, it's a great deal too.

15. Audiosurf (PC) Holst Aphex Twin

A fun time waster that I'll boot up every few weeks or so, and it's been like that since the game arrived in February for the most part. Some tracks and genres work better than others but the game still holds up even when the synthenasia doesn't. I could care less about the high scores or even perfecting any one particular mode, what keeps me coming back is the added bonus of mindless interactivity when I feel like going through my music library. It's only 10 bucks on Steam, a great value for the hours you can get out of it.

a top 20 for 2008, 20-16

16. Civilization Revolution (360/PS3) gameplay

Firaxis delivered in 2008 with a long awaited Colonization update and a rethinking of Civ that plays less like the epic PC series and more like the greatest board game ever created. Games move along at a brisk pace and the controls are simple and intuitive for such complex mechanics. The concept and basic mechanics of Civilization are there, though Firaxis strips down many complexities that added depth to the PC game. Still beautiful and fun, but let's have some Baba Yetu in there next time at least.

17. Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise (360) review

If you never played the original, go buy yourself some Trouble in Paradise already. It's only 40 bucks, maybe even cheaper by now. Maniupulating Pinatas and ecosystems to maximum candiosity has never been so satisfying. A few minutes in the garden quickly turns into a few hours and soon enough you're planting rows of Gem trees to entice that wild Chewnicorn, breeding an army of Red Hots for profit while using coin and shovel to deal with Professor Pester's murderous intentions. It's a wild trip.

18. Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii) donkey kong zelda

The best part about Super Smash Bros. Brawl for me was the buildup to it's release - early trailers and the slow release of the details. And Brawl is a museum of Nintendo history as much as it is a solid party/fighting game with a huge character sheet. The number of stages have some incredible variety in them and Nintendo threw in tons of unlockables for completionists. If you're feeling a bit burnt out on Smash Bros. at this point (like me) it may lose it's luster quickly, but it's still worth a spot in most Wii collections out there.

19. Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core (PSP) gameplay cutscenes

No need to remember the finer plot details from Final Fantasy VII to enjoy Crisis Core, I know I didn't. The game's direction, CG cutscenes, voice acting and script are some of the best seen on the system and some of the best from Square overall. Mashing one button to win can get a bit old but the materia system is still fun, it looks good and it never really slows the game down. It's well made fan service overall that works well on the PSP.

20. Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney (DS) gameplay

The fourth Ace Attorney title features mostly all new characters, a great localization, catchy music, and some interesting usage for the DS at times. The signature anime art style and point-and-click gameplay is still here, and though the overall presentation hasn't changed much since the series began it isn't completely stale yet and works well enough for a handheld. Even if I'd like to see the series evolve at some point this game is a worthy addition, a must play for AA fans and recommended for interested first timers as well.


The only PSP release I care about in '09..

Is DJ Max Fever, hopefully dropping in early January. Finally this series is coming to the states, and having never imported Portable 1 and 2 everything in Fever will be fresh for me. This has always seemed like a perfect game for the PSP - beautiful, challenging, and frustrating but ultimately fun even if you only spend a few minutes with it. Love the soundtrack for the previous two games from all the YouTube videos floating around out there as well, though it may not be for everyoe.

I've only spent time with the demo for DJ Max Portable 2, but it's given me good few hours out of a few minutes of gameplay. Moving up from failing Sunset Riders in 30 seconds to finishing the demo regularly at decent speed may not be a lot, but it does give off the impression that getting good at this game will be worth the time spent in the end. Especially with songs like this and this to look forward to.



A Few Thoughts on Spore.

So Spore.. yeah. Not so much. I purchased (no pirating here!) and played it quite a bit through the weekend, and after spending some time with the game you can put me firmly in the camp of those who appreciate the ideas behind Spore but find so many faults and missed opportunities in the game that it's hard to enjoy as a whole. The camera control is awkward. The interface is dated and the art direction is just not hitting home for me. And even though I'm having fun with Spore at times there's no real hook that keeps me wanting to continue to play the game.

thing #1

It's easy to talk about what Spore is not, considering the concept behind the project is so vast and ambitious. It's not a sandbox game at all, first off. You do similar things to achieve your goals in each and every play with very little room for overall creativity. Spore is also not a toy - at least Spore The Game is not. The creature creator is for sure, and the tool set you are given to make creatures, buildings, and vehicles from scratch is very impressive and addicting. But when you get to the game itself you get a very linear, very focused path through the designated stages. The space stage opens things up a bit, to be sure. But once I learned the direcitons the game pushes you in I found no fun in seeing what happened to the creatures I created. Because Spore is also not that deep, it's disappointingly simple. In the Sims you create complex personalities with multiple needs that constantly change. In Spore your species can be either Really Good, Really Bad or Always Trade. And if you mix it up I find it's just a slower experience with no real reward. Civilization IV has dozens of resources that the player can consume, horde, trade, gift, or build with. Spore has two - food in once stage, then spice. And so on and so on.

Most importantly, and most disappointingly, Spore is not a game about evolution. It's better described as a game about intelligent design. I think it's rather brilliant how Will Wright makes a case for both schools of thought with his game, really. The thing is every decision about your character's evolution, from cellular to fully evolved, is controlled by you directly. What I wanted, and what it looks like a few others did as well, is a game like this based around controlling the environment and variables around your creature - creating different situations that over time induces a more procedural evolution, determining the ultimate outcome of your species' look, personality, ambitions and skills. That is something I could keep coming back to, and I hope a guy like Will Wright makes that game someday as well.

Look, Spore is pretty fun. It should be in every computer lab in every elementary school. And maybe I've just been having fun screwing around with ecosystems in Viva Pinata, which IMO is a better game, and I'm trying to turn Spore into something it's not. But if I had to recommend it to someone my age who plays a decent amount of games, I'd say wait until it's either $20 or we see Spore the MMO expansion or the Evolution expansion hit the shelves. 

PSP's and MMO's

I have a recurring problem with my gaming habit at times, and that is impulse buying things which I know will have little redeeming value in the long run, but god damn I just have to own that shit right now regardless. It happened with the Wii, which I picked up at the Penn Station K-Mart simply because it was there. It happened with a number of XBLA titles like Heavy Weapon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Soltrio Solitaire (ugh). It happens every time I see a cheap Genesis cart on ebay. And it's about to happen again, and there's little I can do to stop it. I want a PSP and I'd like to get into another MMO.

Nevermind the fact that there's very little I'm actually interested in playing on PSP, and still plenty of worthwhile DS games I could play if I need a portable fix. It doesn't really matter that I have a stack of 360, PC, PS2 and Wii games that need finishing, a few of which even need starting. And it's besides the point that I don't even play games when I travel much anymore, the iPod is much easier to work with on a crowded subway. I'd like a shiny new toy, and for whatever reason the PSP seems to be it. I'll pick one up this afternoon and surely regret it in about a week or so. Probably try my hand at some Monster Hunter Freedom 2, FF Tactics and Crush when I get one. Maybe God of War as well. Bank account what?

Then there's the MMO bug, which has been buzzing around my brain lately. Having a PC has opened many new doors in this regard - as a previous Mac only user I loved my WoW time but can safely say those days are behind me. So why am I looking into Guild Wars, LOTRO and Age of Conan? Do I really care to know what Tabula Rosa is all about? Maybe Warhammer Online could be fun, though I've never been the biggest PvP fan so I'm inclined to hold out and see just what kind of content they're planning on delivering there. I'm sure I'll be dipping my toes into one of those waters soon enough, maybe even fire up my WoW account. And unless I'm presented with something amazing and brilliant it'll be forgotten about soon thereafter.

Things could be worse I suppose, I could lack the disposable income to satisfy my gaming urges. And it'll all go into the collection, so one day I'll look back and be glad I own all this stuff. Anyway right now all I can think about is that cross media bar and some hybrid mage builds I'd like to try, so off I go to Gamestop to see what I can see.


It's Alive! and surprise, it's awesome.

Giant Bomb, eh? Not bad, not bad at all. In fact, this has the potential to be a pretty amazing gaming website when all is said and done, whenever that may be. Which is to say never, and the concept behind a site like this is very appealing to me and the main reason I see myself sticking around for the long haul. Start with the proven wiki format for generating massive databases of stuff, fuel it with the zealot enthusiasm that a lifetime of gaming induces from as many users as possible, celebrate everything from the historical to the most inconsequential minutiae, add in a few dashes of social interaction, a fun layout, quality editorial content, stir forever. An army of rabid, internet savvy geeks, rolling the proverbial katamari around, gaining hints of satisfaction as we watch our small contributions combine and give shape to this giant, wonderful hobby that we all have in common.

Not that this is a completely new idea, and as it stands Wikipedia and Google are fine resources for most things that will probably end up here. They serve as a solid reference point for fleshing out Giant Bomb as it is. But once things start to slow down, after the games have been cataloged and the connections established, that's when things will start to get really interesting. Personally I can't wait to write entertaining, in depth articles on here, to the point that I wouldn't dare throw up any old slop without some research and the time to do a topic justice. What I do know is this already feels like a worthwhile place to write about games, learn about games, review my games and hopefully talk about games (as it stands, the forums are wait and see for me. Got to let things cool off a bit, see what kind of community takes shape.)

A bit about me I suppose, I'm a long time Gamespot user (I know there seems to be lots of us floating around, but don't hold it against me! Take my wife, please!), I used to go by the name Viberooni around those parts. Still do, and I always enjoy browsing the GGD over there. But times change and so do websites, and now here I am. I've been gaming since the mid 80's, I owned a Sega Master System instead of an NES, I love early 90's PC games and I like to think I've become a reasonably intelligent adult at this point, so those are the kind of folks I like chatting up games with. Feel free to add me as a friend if you recognize me or feel the same, I'll do my best to keep this blog interesting if not constantly updated.

Time to edit a few small things, fix up my user page a bit and get some sleep. Here's to the launch of Giant Bomb, may you become the bottomless well of procrastination and general nerdetry that we all see the shining potential for.