Finally Dusting Off The DS

I know what you're thinking, "You never really dusted off your DS, did you?"
 
No, I did not.  In actuality I couldn't think of a better title.  I doubt dust could reach the depths of the cupboard I eventually found my DS in anyway.  
 
I'll stop wasting time with unnecessary details ...
 
This was spurred on by a recent lack of motivation to play anything and at the point when the unholy mountain of unplayed/unfinished games literally became intimidating.  It was such an intimidating sight that the only solution was to buy even more games. ;_;  I don't know what made me think of the DS, but seeing as I haven't touched my DS is quite some time it's nice to finally use it.  I only had time to write about one of the games, so here's my thoughts on the first DS purchase ...
 

Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light

 
I knew very little about this game going in other than that it was apparently made as a throwback to a simpler time.  This is a simple story of a world of kingdoms and dragons with you being tasked to rescue a princess from a witch for no good reason.  It feels like something from my childhood as the locals of the starting town offer you advice about the game mechanics and it gave me that nice fuzzy feeling when I started it.  
 
As you set off on your quest you're very quickly introduced to a party of colourful characters.  I say that quite literally as the game boasts a really nice picture book art style that I immediately feel in love with.  It really is a joy to explore the various towns as they all look so interesting and even have hidden items to find if you're so inclined.
 
As far as the combat is concerned the game uses a turn based variation of the job system that employs the use of different "crowns" that grant characters access to different abilities and bonuses to attributes.  In battle each action from attacking to using items is given an AP rating and plays out in the usual turn based method.  It's simple but all comes together to create a great system that's quite fun and the outfit of each job manages to make the characters look adorable in the process.  >.<
 
It quite clearly feels like a game that could have easily come out a decade or two ago which was exactly the sort of game I wanted, but it also has a tendency of being rather difficult.  While each monster and boss has an obvious weakness there just seems to be an expected amount of grinding required that I'm not prepared to do right now.  The game also makes its excuses and splits the party up into groups quite quickly which is probably the source of both the difficulty and my frustration.
 
I've logged a fair amount of hours with the game so far and there really is a lot to love, but then there are the small issues that bring it down.  The smaller things like a lack of any sort of map in dungeons are also bizarre and not having a full party is really frustrating.  I'd love to hear thoughts from anyone that has the game and if you had any of the same issues as me, as right now I'm unsure if I want to continue playing.
 
- Thanks for reading and feel free to leave any comments as long as they're civil! -
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Oddly Torn ...

I can only imagine how many people will read this and think "That game came out months ago, who cares?" and to them I say ... that's not very nice.  

As a UK resident I have the privilege of waiting a ridiculous amount of time for the game to be released and still have to pay full price.  Oh, and for the trouble we get a "limited" edition with things packed in that I can imagine few people care about.  I for one never really care about art cards, mini soundtrack CDs or half of the other things that get packed in with games these days.    
 
The thing is, despite the stupid release time I enjoyed the first game enough to want BlazBlue: Continuum Shift.  I always liked the weird character designs and overall quirkiness of the original game.  The question is do I like it enough to pay more or less full price (the cheapest I can find it online is £32.99 which translates to $50) before considering DLC and have to deal with the same problems next year when they inevitably do the same thing again. 
 
So now you should hopefully understand why I'm torn.  After looking around the BlazBlue forums and sadly finding little activity I decided to open the floor for opinions.  I'd especially love to hear from any UK users, and lets keep comments civil.
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Blade Kitten, Seriously?

I know what you're likely thinking, "That's a pretty stupid name." -- I thought the same thing, but hear me out ...
 
The basic premise of a pink haired half cat bounty hunter generally would set off my bad game alarm, and it's something I would normally stay away from, but after downloading several higher profile arcade games and finding them unsatisfying I thought why the hell not.  I tried Blade Kitten, a game I expected absolutely nothing from and ended up not only finishing the demo but subsequently buying the full game.
 

Meet the sassy bounty hunter Kit Ballard ...
Blade Kitten is an anime styled platformer that features a half human/cat bounty hunter named Kit Ballard that has a magical floating blade.  The idea sounds stupid, I know, but it actually works somehow.  I started playing it and immediately found myself enjoying the simple platforming and oddly amusing dialogue.  The game doesn't have some epic story, but there is an undeniable charm to the characters and I found the games sense of humour worked well.  Needless to say I was very quickly rooting for the sassy bounty hunter and her adorable companion and I really wanted to continue on and see how things played out.   
 
As far as the gameplay is concerned Kit has a floaty feel to her movement and is incredibly agile which allows her to climb most walls with ease.  This in turn allows you to easily explore every corner of an area in search of treasure chests and collectables while also encouraging you to replay levels and collect everything.  You're constantly collecting gems and finding treasure chests which in turn allow you to later buy new blades, costumes and health upgrades from a street vender later on.   
 
"These are sausages!" 
The game will generally throw some easy, but enjoyable platforming at you and mix things up with some light puzzles and switches.  It's never too hard but I found that a good thing as it meant I never ended up frustrated.  Each level also has several checkpoints so if you do find any particular part hard you aren't forced to restart from the beginning.  That said, the combat in the game is pretty simple but it makes sense as platforming is the primary objective.  There are a few combat heavy sections that require more though but after the first few levels you'll find yourself jumping around and carving up enemies with ease, which is both fun and rewarding. 
 
The presentation is generally high throughout with attractive character models and some bright and colourful levels with multiple layers.  The voice acting is delivered well and helps with the funnier lines of dialogue with the main characters performance standing out as the best.  Blade Kitten also has a surprising catchy soundtrack, which I have to admit it got stuck in my head for some time.  It's truly impressive that it all comes together so well however a few glitches and one instance where the game refused to continue and I was forced to restart the level bring the game down slightly.  It did only happened once, and by no means is a deal breaker, but is something worth noting.  
 
I've checked out several reviews of Blade Kitten and most are not kind.  Everything from it's difficulty to it's simple nature is criticised and yet I feel this is a game with likeable characters, an amusing script and some enjoyable platforming with a lot to collect.  If that sounds interesting and you don't mind a little repetition and the odd glitch then ignore the mainstream reviews and consider this the game for you.  At present it's current 1200 MS Point price may feel a little steep, but don't let that stop you trying the demo and scoping it up once the price eventually drops.
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X-Men Origins: Wolverine Review

Lunging is contagious ...
X-men Origins: Wolverine is best described as really, really stupid fun.  You play as a near invincible killing machine slicing up anyone that has the nerve to get in your way and lunging at those who don't.  It's obviously not a game of any real depth, but that's okay, and aside from some out of place platforming and a few other niggles the game is actually surprisingly good.

You start the game in the African jungle and from the moment the game starts it already displays the crazy.  The game actually opens with you diving out of a helicopter and landing claws first on a guy.  A few seconds later you're up muttering something witty and ready to begin the assault on anyone that looks at you funny.  I thought I'd mention that firstly because it's flat out ridiculous, and secondly because it's possibly my biggest complaint toward the game.  In the time you spend playing the game you will be brought back to Africa through the wonders of flashbacks many times.  It isn't especially fun, and it kinda gets annoying.  It's little things like that and the games overall pacing that bring it down and stop it being really great.  There are some other problems like the odd framerate issue and glitch but really the pacing of the story is the game's biggest offender.

Monsters, robots and lunging ... this game has everything!
On the bright side the game is just a lot of fun being surrounded by a group of enemies and having the pleasure of dispatching them in extremely brutal and gory ways is truly satisfying.  The amount of options you have is pretty solid, from basic combos, the four special rage attacks you learn and the environmental kills you can perform.  You always have something fun to try out and it'll take a good chunk of the game before you begin to become bored slicing a guys arms clean off.  As you progress through the game you'll encounter several types of enemies besides the basic cannon fodder and some will require specific moves and tactics to be used to kill them.  I won't deny being forced to use certain moves can be annoying, but the game throws enough basic enemies at you that you'll get your chance do try everything.  Though while the game does have a fair variety of soldiers, monsters and robots it could have used a few more to keep things a little fresher.

Visually the game looks pretty decent, it has its moments and is sometimes let down by the framerate and the odd texture pop-up, but most of the time it looks great.  Like most things in the game the character models look good from a distance, but don't stand up so well close up.  An example of this is the basic grunts have a weird thing going on with their shoulder that I noticed in a cutscene.  As for Wolverine his character model looks fantastic, a great service to Hugh Jackman and the regenerative parts of his body look pretty detailed if just a little blurred.  The sound is on par with the visuals with the cast reprising their roles (either that or some damn good sound-alike's) and the music tends to favour the normal forgettable heavy rock as you'd expect from this type of game.

So if you like incredibly, even unnecessarily, bloody combat and don't mind a little repetition then X-men Origins: Wolverine is the game for you.  At its current price it isn't good value for money, but it's a good choice to rent or pick up a few months down the line when the price drops.  A few things may let this game down but it's still a hell of a lot of fun while it lasts and the best movie based game released to date.
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Ultor Exposed DLC Review

800 Points to call on that ... face ... yes, face.
Saints Row 2 DLC: Ultor Exposed is the first of three DLC packs and features the delectable Tera Patrick as it's star addition.  It's pretty obvious that the bulk of people will buy it because of her, but really the DLC isn't good value for money.  I could easily sit and complain about the lack of content, but really it was my own fault for purchasing it, so instead all I can do is warn other people.

Now, the DLC contains a total of three missions, six new vehicles, new multiplayer maps and some clothing and hair styles.  It doesn't sound a lot and it really isn't.  The missions are nothing fantastic and basically ends up as one big Ultor clusterfuck.  Seriously, that's all it really is, the "story" is pretty bare due to the fact it's only three missions and it just doesn't work.   Each mission gives you a destination and then clutters the game with Ultor cruisers which causes some irritating framerate issues and hilarious glitches.  In the end it can all become a little too much and would have definitely benifitted from being spread out over more missions. 

After you've completed the three missions, which takes roughly an hour, you're really left with very little.  I'll admit I did have a bit of fun messing around with some of the vehicles, although the fact they're all insanely fast only pointed out the games horrible framerate issues even more, but there is some fun to be had with them.  I've yet to try the multiplayer maps so I can't really comment on that, and as for the clothing and hair styles I'm yet to notice any new clothes in any store I've been in.  I did try the the hair styles but really they will probably only interest you if you have a character that requires the look of someones balding dad or grandfather, which you might have I suppose.

Lastly there's the character and homie Tera who dispite being an ex-employee of a company like Ultor dresses like a hooker.  I know, it's a huge surprise, but even still I expected her to have a style and class about her.  I expected a clean, even sophisticated but still sexy look about her, but instead I got a tattooed hooker that plays like every other expendable Saint I take with me.

Sadly that's really all there is to say about the DLC.  I didn't mention the story because it's not worth mentioned to be honest, but I'm being totally serious when I say nothing in this DLC is worth the 800 Microsoft Points you'll spend buying it.  At best you could maybe justify it if you were insanely bored, rich and desperately in need of more achievement points, but if not you probably shouldn't bother.  Saints Row 2: Ultor Exposed is as lackluster as most DLC packages and feels about as uninspired and dull as Bethesdas Fallout 3 DLC Operation Anchorage.
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Street Fighter IV & Stuff

Well as per usual laziness has gotten the better of me and it's been three months since I last updated this blog.  I keep meaning to do it but I always think, "what's the point, does anyone actually see it?" and end up doing something else.  I should really start forcing myself if I ever intend to meet new people here or spread the word and get more people on my Xbox Live friends list (gamertag: "MGpinata" by the way).

I take that back, I'm pretty tired of Seth actually.

I like so many other people recently bought Street Fighter IV and am thoroughly enjoying it, a surprise to nobody, but considering I've never played a Street Fighter game before it surprised me.  I never really got fighting games before and also never played any of the previous Street Fighter games because of my age, but the videos and screenshots were enough to make me pick up the latest game and now I finally seem to get it.  I finally seem to enjoy fighting games.  I know I'm not really a fighting game fan, something reflected in the fact I can't beat the Arcade mode on anything above Medium, but I'm shocked at how I've lost count of how many times I've beaten the arcade mode.  I've sunk a good amount of hours into the game and have yet to grow tired of it.

I'm really enjoying the single player but sadly I've yet to play online.  I've played against a few friends, but that doesn't really count because they're just as bad as me.  When I fight my friends the fight often comes down to what's known as the Bison tactic where you select M.Bison, block the opponent into the corner, and spam a particular move until you win.  It probably doesn't make sense but there's a story behind it which is why it stuck with us.  That said, my skill level isn't the main reason I don't play online, rather that in a way I'm actually kinda scared.  I know that sounds a little sad coming from a twenty year old but there's something about Xbox Live that both scares me and puts me off.  I guess I just never saw the appeal of playing against people that you know are better than you and also that you know will likely insult you when they beat you.

Sadly as luck would have it I'm out of time so I can't really go into much depth about my Street Fighter experience.  I'll possibly put something else up in the next few days but until then I hope you enjoyed reading this and have a good day.
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Thoughts after Fallout 3

I should probably start by admitting that I had in fact never played a Fallout game before in my life.  I knew absolutely nothing about Fallout, other than what the title Fallout implies.  I only got interested in Fallout when I heard Bethesda were behind the latest one, as my memories of Oblivion came to mind.  I figured if it was anything like Oblivion, or its standard, it would be a good game.  I didn't get what I expected, and here are my thoughts on the game after completion.

-I should say let's try and avoid any unnecessary comments should you not agree with my opinions.-

The game starts in the underground Vault 101, this section acts as a tutorial level for the game, and it also serves as the character creation.  You start with the usual things like giving yourself a name, gender and hair style, and then select your initial attributes and skills.  Following this you then get to interact with some family and friends and get a feel of the combat.  This section of the game is fairly short and probably the least interesting part of the game.  It does serve its purpose however, and even know I didn't like it I can't say there was anything wrong with it other than being a bit boring.  The Vault as a whole does an alright job setting up the story, feeding you some basic information, and giving you a reason to leave the Vault.  It's only when you do finally leave however that the game really starts.

Dogmeats mission; get in my way as much as possible.
After a daring escape from Vault 101 you see the wasteland for the very first time.  It's safe to say seeing the wasteland for the first time is stunning, and that the environments in Fallout 3 are easily the star of the show.  I couldn't believe how incredible it looked and when it hit me that I could wander in any direction I found myself lost and even overwhelmed.  It's a big world, and you have the freedom to do what you want.  It's time to explore, and there is a lot to find.

I was impressed by the sheer scale and detail of the environments, and I found myself able to just look around without purpose, admiring the ruined city buildings.  But sadly other than that everything else in the game seemed to be a disappointment.  The combat was adequate but very repetitive, and the equipment system just became an annoyance.  I could never get over the fact weapons seemed to wear at an insane speed and I found myself constantly having to double back to have them repaired.  I eventually ended up just dropping any worn guns in favour of the enemies as that was the only way to save time.  I mean even if you used the repair skill yourself it still wasted time, and considering the combat was nothing special it became hard to take.  Also, while I praise the wasteland itself the character models had some problems that have carried over from Oblivion.  The biggest of them all was the fact your character didn't interact with the environment properly and always looked like he was skating over it rather than walking.  This in turn meant that the third person view was never used.  Other than that the odd iffy animation was really all I noticed, and thankfully the NPCs personalities were interesting enough that any graphical problems could be overlooked.

I have no intention of rambling on for too long so I'll get to my main problem with the game; length.  Fallout 3 has a very short story compared to most RPGs and unless you spend time completing every side mission as well you're looking at a 12-15 hour game at best.  I myself did complete every side mission, but found the most were too short.  I would honestly have to say I enjoyed some of the side missions more than I enjoyed the main story, and I thought the main story was actually pretty poor.  It's the setting itself that makes Fallout 3 a good game and everything else only brings it down.  If you strip away or replaced the setting you would be left with a average game with a dull story.  I'm sure the story could have been more, had it not been so short, and all it would have taken was some more length and depth and I probably would have liked it.  As it is though, there just wasn't enough to get me interested.

In the end, I liked Fallout 3.  I know I've pretty much complained about the few issues I had with the game but at the same time I still enjoyed it.  I'm not sure what exactly I aimed to achieve with this post, but I think my main point is that I don't believe it's as good as Oblivion, or as good as some reviews claim.  This to me is a game that clearly had more potential but poor choices and an average story leave it falling short of the mark.  All I can say is better luck next time Bethesda.
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