V For Victory

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Valkyria Chronicles came to be a surprise hit in back in 2008 when SEGA gave us a turn-based, strategy, Japanese role-playing game on the PS3. General reception was very high with many praising it's interesting mix of genres and beautiful aesthetics. Unfortunately it title didn't sell very well despite the high scores it received and so it's sequels where reduced to the PSP platform, an even smaller audience before it's third sequel, didn't even get a Western release. From past history it would seem that it would forever be lost to the rich archives as SEGA release another terrible Sonic game internationally. But SEGA once more surprised us when they decided to release the original title to Steam, which is apparently an excellent port for the most part (which is even more surprising given how ports of Japanese games go.) Furthermore, a group of freelance translators (the Gallian Liberation Front) have released another update to the translation patch for Valkyria Chronicles 3 which I've just recently finished just shy of 90 hours.

Having immensely enjoyed all three titles it's kind of a wonder why many haven't played the titles due it's aforementioned excellent gameplay, attractive aesthetics and story driven narrative about many an interesting subjects regarding war, camaraderie and friendship. What I find most interesting about Valkyria Chronicles is that it is essentially a World War 2 game. That's sounds perfectly normal but this is a WW2 game developed and published by a Japanese company and given Japan's history at the period it does give an interesting angle to it's existence.

It's Europa! It's Anime Europe! It's Europanime!
It's Europa! It's Anime Europe! It's Europanime!

The general set up is set in a fictional 1930's Europe, called Europa. The war is waged by two major world powers, the Atlantic Federation (most likely a representation of the Allied powers) and the Autocratic East Europan Imperial Alliance (commonly referred to as the "The Empire" and very obviously based on Nazi Germany) over the precious resource, Ragnite, a sort of magical mineral that can be used in harnessing power, provide healing or weapons manufacturing. In all three games you fight for the country of Gallia, a neutral nation also rich in Ragnite as it defends itself from the invading Empire hungry for it's rich deposits of the mineral. But those aren't the only targets in this war for the Empire are also actively hunting and killing Darcsens, a race of dark haired humans heavily discriminated everywhere as they are blamed for causing the Darcsen Calamity, a conflict which destroyed many lives and cities all over the continent.

They're totally not Nazis. They're um...Not-zis, yes that's it.
They're totally not Nazis. They're um...Not-zis, yes that's it.

Already we can see that strong resemblance and inspiration of World War 2. One wonders if the fictionalised version of World War 2 is a deliberate choice on SEGA's part as a means of sidestepping Japan's own actions during the conflict (though at no point does the series makes any allusions to it.) Did they have any plans at any point? Did they try only to be denied by the higher ups? In some ways I can't entirely blame them for not trying to address the issues as Chinese-Japanese relations have always been rather tense to this day unlike Europe where such matters of the war are openly talked about and accepted as fact. Japanese nationals and extremists have been known to commonly claim atrocities caused by Japanese soldiers in China as either highly exaggerated or straight up denied they ever happened becoming a sort of Asian equivalent of Holocaust deniers despite overwhelming evidence purporting so. For SEGA to bring more attention to the atrocities would have likely annoyed many back home. Such is the reason why I find the world of Valkyria Chronicles so interesting as a Japanese game or any medium addressing World War 2 in a serious sense is relatively uncommon.

Generally speaking, the Empire as considered the "bad guys" in the series with their motive to slaughter the Darcsens and aggressively take over nations for their Ragnite deposits. Valkyria Chronicles is however, an anti-war game. Despite the actions of the Empire, every side of the conflict has their dark side be it the Atlantic Federation or even those within Gallia. Even those wishing peace must stand up and fight against it's attackers but everyone on all sides have things they lose from family, friends and countries. The sentiment shows in the game play as all the characters in your squad are expendable (at least, only in the first game.) Each and every one of them has a unique back story, voice actor, potentials (which can aid or hinder combat effectiveness) and have friends within the squad that they like. As you play along with them, developing them individually and fighting battles together it's hard not to grow attached to almost all of them. But should they fall in battle, they're gone for the rest of the game. Naturally, there is an incentive to keep them alive as well as the fact that losing soldiers means losing combat effectiveness as they can't be replaced.

Cutscenes are sometimes handled via a visual novel format.
Cutscenes are sometimes handled via a visual novel format.

If any of this sounds familiar chances are pretty good that you've played an X-COM game before, another turn-based, strategy series that many often make comparisons to (though I personally think Jagged Allliance is a better fit given how similar that game handles it's characters.) I don't know if the developers were inspired by these games but they certainly handle the genre better than any game I know. After all, you're not tied to a grid system and when using weapons you're allowed to take manual aim before firing off the shot. It's a good balance of handling player skill while still maintaining some random number generation (this entire system referred to as the BLiTZ System or "Battle of Live Tactical Zones".) It feels very fair, organic, and fast paced. A problem that often stops me from playing games of a similar genre in the long term.

The tactical view and control mode effortlessly switch between each other.
The tactical view and control mode effortlessly switch between each other.

The series also benefits from a class system. Each character is assigned a different role from Scouts with their high movement ability to Lancers, a slow lumbering class that carries anti-armour weaponry. What's really elegant however is how they handle overall progression. Instead of individually levelling each character you level up the character classes and research new weapons that become standard issue so even soldiers that are rarely used can still benefit from your battles. The sequels do add individual skill levels that require investing but they still retain the global experience you get from training character classes. It's a very streamlined system that fixes a lot of problems with RPGs and considering the large cast it's almost essential to enjoying it.

That isn't to say the series is perfect. Being a JRPG is does suffer from anime clichés and occasional tonal dissonance. It's certainly not the worst offender out there but there are one or two scenes in which you can't help but roll your eyes at. Most of the characters are very young as well as they range from their early teens to early twenties (somewhat justified by the fact that Gallia has conscription starting at the age of 16.) Even Valkyria Chronicles 2 takes place in a high school setting, something that Japanese anime/manga has an obsession with when it comes to youth and school life (it's actually a Militia Academy but for their intents and purposes it might as well be a high school.) Regardless, the writing for the most part is enjoyable without getting too ham-fisted in it's anti-war sentiment and in it's characters.

There's plenty of information and feedback to help you in battle.
There's plenty of information and feedback to help you in battle.

That aside, if you haven't noticed the screenshots by now, Valkyria Chronicles is a beautiful series thanks to the CANVAS Engine with it's watercolour painting aesthetics. It compliments the storybook motif that original has with it's idyllic view on a fictional Europe or the raging conflict with gunfire and weapons sounding off with a visual "RATTA TATTA" and "BOOM!" that is highly reminiscent comic books. It looks gorgeous and it looks better in motion. Sadly, the PSP sequels lose much of the engine's fidelities due to power differences but it does try to retain it's aesthetics with reasonable success.

The PSP sequels suffer from smaller maps and weaker presentaion but still play largely the same, arguably better even.
The PSP sequels suffer from smaller maps and weaker presentaion but still play largely the same, arguably better even.

All in all it's still a wonder to me why the series hasn't sold so well despite high praise in almost all of it's aspects. Despite moving onto a smaller install base of the PSP they've still scored very well (but not sold enough apparently.) Still, with the recent surprise port of the original onto the PC and SEGA's being more active in the PC space one can hope that it can gain more momentum and spark interest in the series. While unlikely, it'll be amazing if they were to localise and port the PSP sequels to PC or any other platform really. In any case, the original is now on Steam and unsurprisingly I can't recommend you hard enough that you go and play it, even more so that the PC port is better version of the original PS3 version with it's 60 FPS, better resolution settings and other bells and whistles. It is after all, one of the more interesting, beautiful and memorable series I've encountered in a long time and I'd love to see more. Be it another sequel, an RTS in the universe (Relic Entertainment and Creative Assembly are owned by SEGA so HINT HINT LADS) or even a Crimson Skies sort of game.

Have I mentioned the soundtrack yet? It's great!

(Considering that I rarely post here some of the older members might be wondering why I am and to answer that I'm on the ol' Twitterverse a lot so find me there if you need me or if you just want to hurl abuse, whatever floats your boat.)


Real Lives 2010 and Transgenderism (Part 1)

Real Lives

One of the more interesting educational games that's floating about the interwebz, Real Lives is, as the name implies, a life simulator developed by the chaps over at Educational Simulations. Considering the nature of the "game", there's no proper end goal to it, rather you just live life as best (or worse) as you can and see where it takes you. It's quite similar to other life simulation games such as Alter Ego, but unlike Alter Ego, Real Lives aims to accurately simulate your character development depending on a large number of factors like your country of origin, religion, language, socio-economic background and so fourth. With this, you really are in the character's shoes and that's what educates you as go through the hardships of that particular person in that one country you've known so little about. So a "game" like this is worth a look, no?

With this we're going with the Trial Version of Real Lives 2010 (the previous one being Real Lives 2007), the full version gives us access to a character creator that should drastically change our outcome but for now the Trial Version gives us one preset character to play with. So meet; Ketema Sarsa.

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No Caption Provided


So here's the our current breakdown as we're brought into the world;

  • So far my current stats are pretty good though our wisdom is non-existent but hey, what did you expect from a new born?
  • My dad, Melesse is 23 years of age and works as a logger earning birr 912 (the currency) a month. He suffers from epilepsy and schistosomiasis.
  • My mother, Elshday is 18 years old and does domestic chores and suffers from clinical depression, goiter and like dad, schistosomiasis as well.
  • We speak Oromo and are Muslim. Which labels us a minority group thus attracting some level of discrimination.
  • We're completely deprived of clean water, medical care and other important needs but surprisingly we're doing well with our simple adobe, sufficient food and a single radio. Furthermore, in relation to the rest of the nation we have a good income with our total net worth of 1,130 birr.
  • Unsurprisingly, government corruption is incredibly rampant so we don't have much in terms of civil liberties and rights.

I suppose it could be worse really. We may be sick and living in a country run by foul people but on the flipside we're living a relatively happy and comfortable life. We do however, hit our first stumbling block;

I haven't even started too...
I haven't even started too...

Fortunately, that doesn't prevent me from learning how to crawl and walk like any other healthy baby and hey, I also get our first baby tooth at 8 months! Awesome!

That can't be ideal.
That can't be ideal.

Well, on the other hand my mother has been cured of her depression (odd given that I've caught a deadly killer disease at around the same time.)


Our second year is uneventful (for which I'm rather thankful in all honesty) except the year after when things take a hard left turn for nearly everyone.

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Miraculously we've not been directly affected and furthermore my parents have somehow found the resources to breed thus giving birth to my baby brother, Ikangaa. Despite the deadly cocktail of diseases in our family Ikangaa is surprisingly free of all maladies. Still, hopefully this doesn't put too much a strain on our finances and time.


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  • My mother catches Hookworm and father get's injured at work but luckily for him it's nothing permanent. Me and Ikangaa seem rather happy so far though he does catch food poisoning but recovers eventually. Luckily, I don't seem to have malaria any more too.


Another bloody famine but again we're not affected. Better still, we're starting to attend school which is a real luxury for us!

YEAR 7-8

I catch hookworm AND the whooping cough. In other news, a famine kills thousands more people but by some stroke of luck we're not affected again. Having said that, I get removed from school for whatever reason but our brother Ikangaa starts his education in turn. Since we're not in education and not qualified for anything I begin work as a beggar (earning 27 birr per month.) With more free time in my hands I play to my strengths and spend it reading/studying and performing religious/outdoor activities.

YEAR 9-10

Fourth famine in my life. I barely notice and so does my family. We truck on and in the process my brother can't attend school any more and mother catches ancylostomiasis thanks to that hookworm of hers. Somehow I've got a feeling I'll be getting that too...as for father, I'm a little worried about his condition as well...

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More in the near future.


Another interesting un-game that's been floating about in interwebz is Mainichi by Mattie Brice. I'm not familiar with Brice but from I've searched on Google here's what I know about her, she's a) a transgender and b) a game critic/designer. Those two elements already give Brice a rather unique perspective in life, particularly the former and with the understanding of the latter, Brice comes out with Mainichi (produced in the RPG Maker XV engine) whereupon you play a short role in Brice's daily routine. The activities themselves are mundane but the process of doing them in a social environment highlight the potential problems that people like Brice suffer from day to day.

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It's incredibly short and it doesn't have a strong, political message underneath it but that's perfectly fine because that's not what it wants to do. At the very most, it just wants you do see things from her perspective and understand the unnecessary problems and hardships of a transgender person, or even people who are just different in general. It won't change your life but it's worth a look if you're the type to be interested in the LGBT scene and possibly, it's relation to games too.

If you've got five minutes of your time grab it off Brice's site here.


You've Got Soul

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Anyone who has me on PSN may have noticed that I've been online a lot lately. More specifically, I've been playing Dark Souls. That one game (other then Persona 4) that seems to get a lot of attention on these forums so one would hope that you're not sick of reading about it. Of all the people, it should've been me considering the fact that I've just Platinum-ed it the other day. It's also the only game to date which I've bothered to get all the achievements in and perhaps the last one in which I will. Long story short, I really enjoyed it.

More Than A Game

To put things into perspective I have played it's predecessor, Demon's Souls. Conceptually, it sounded really interesting it me given the strong contrast of linearity and hand-holding in most video games developed today but on the other hand it's almost like walking on a tight rope. How much is too much and how little is too little? Some of the more intriguing parts of Demon's Souls was the little nuggets of information you'd pick up from item descriptions to the sparse dialogue but it was also a little frustrating when certain game mechanics are poorly explained (or not explained at all for one matter). Either way, it always felt that you inhabited a world which felt like it had history to it. It's sequel, Dark Souls not only does this a little better but it also retains what made Demon's Souls great whilst improving other key aspects of gameplay and production.

On a subconscious level I must've found Dark Souls to be incredibly attractive since it echoes a lot of sentiments to the classic PS1 title, Castlevania: Symphony of The Night (one of my all time favourites). A realisation that only clicked to me during my first playthrough. They both tick the same boxes more or less, a dark, Gothic art style, varied monster designs, distinguishable environments, and fun combat mechanics. But what really defines the Soul series from just about any game is the element of death. Quite fitting for a game whose tagline is "PREPARE TO DIE". Quite frankly, it's a little scary how upfront From Software are about it. But I just don't mind because nearly everything about Dark Souls is an absolute pleasure to take in. On a visual, audio and conceptual level.

"I can't take this..."

At it's core, Dark Souls is very game-y. It knows it's a game and it doesn't hide that fact. They are challenges to overcome, bosses to defeat and stats to comb over. Despite the high level of challenge it always tries to be fair. Apart from the odd event or two, every death is meaningful in some way or another. Get too cocky? You'll die. Too impatient? You'll die. Again and again. But death itself is a learning experience. It sucks since you lose all your souls but at the very least you'll understand the why you died and when you'll run into the problem next time, you'll know better. Stats are still important but skill is even better, as an hour and half speed run of it will tell you and that's one thing Dark Souls does well. It trains you be a better player. Moving into new areas is always a slow, cautious process but given enough experience, you'll fly right through them. Dodging traps, dispatching enemies and generally playing well. It makes you feel smart. Sure, it wasn't exactly an easy process but the difficulty makes the rewards all the sweeter.

The combat is simple but oh so satisfying to use. Even more so when you come across the special weapons from boss encounters and the such. The animations are fairly deliberate and fun to watch but it's also designed to be balanced. Every weapon has it's strong/weak points but no one weapon/spell is perfect which is an essential part to the multiplayer so it really comes down to user experience with each individual weapon. Fighting monsters is one thing (given the A.I.'s odd behaviour) but fighting another player is another. Some are trained murderers who knows how to kill their quarry while others are as green as grass and would prefer to spend their time running away from you (which is always amusing). But the odd one will occasionally do some of the more bizarre things, like running up to a tower and wave to you for an hour or start attacking you...using just shields.

Just another day at the office for them invaders.
Just another day at the office for them invaders.

The multiplayer aspect is perhaps one of the most interesting mechanics to come out of a game in a long, long time. It's a little ambiguous but it can be divided into two sides. PvP and Co-Op. The objectives and perquisites for invading/being invaded are performing co-op varies depending on the covenants you join (which can greatly influence your online experience). It's all very unique and somewhat overwhelming for beginners but very engaging once you've gotten a good grasp on how it works. The community is what really makes it stand out however. Not only are they responsible for filling in the massively helpful wikis but everyone to some degree, follow a set of unwritten rules. Summoning two other players into my world was met with all parties greeting each other by a simple act of bowing. There's no voice chat in game but for the most part it seems to work better without it. Actions do speak louder then words. It's not often you come across a game whose players engage in such quirks. It's also the small attention to detail that really makes it for me. Characters who suffer from the horrible form of petrification are transformed into stone and they'll appear in your world as statues frozen in the last remaining seconds of their life. It's a rather ominous and creepy ass way of reminding of what could possibly happen to you if you're not careful. It's these concepts that make Dark Souls feel not only like a game but an interesting experience like no other.

The World And It's Oddities

From Software have crafted themselves quite world to get constantly murdered in. Like Symphony of the Night, it is open-world but it's designed in such a way that it feels fairly focused and linear but at the same time it feels fairly spacious. You'll move from area to area and find yourself unable to progress until you've done something or another but it never feels like you're funnelled down a specific path. The geography itself is probably the most bizarre but it somehow believable as the paths between them makes logical sense. To some degree anyway. Considering how the starting area, Firelink Shrine is just a small outcrop by a ruined church but just underneath that is an entire flooded city. If go up you'll find yourself in a city, go further up and look down and you'll find that the entire face of the mountain is covered in more cities and it goes for miles. Go even further up and there's Anor Londo. An extravagant city with it's tall, Gothic architecture and it looks absolutely gorgeous.

Anor Londo Eternal Sunset
Anor Londo Eternal Sunset

Contrary, when you go down there's Blighttown which is the equivalent of the slums. It's wretched and frankly rather gruelling and unpleasant to be around (to the point that even the framerate can't keep up). At the same time I can't help but admire how well it manages to evoke that atmosphere of dread within me. At the bottom lies a disease-ridden swamp whilst it's (violent and deformed) inhabitants make do with their rickety make-shift huts that hugs the wall of the cities underground foundation. Nearby, there's the Catacombs. A dark and dangerous tomb. Keep going down and there's Demon Ruins which is essentially Hell. Go deeper and you'll find another city full of dangerous creatures. But if back up a little you'll find a large tree in Blighttown and with a little exploration you'll find yourself traversing down it's massive, hollow core. Reach the bottom and you'll be greeted by...a beach?

Are those clouds? Underground?
Are those clouds? Underground?

It doesn't make much sense but in a way I just don't care. It looks too good to make a major fuss over this Yggdrasil-like environment. The thought of the entire surface being held by a forest of giant trees standing in an endless ocean just feel plain awesome. I stood for a while before being pummelled to death by an equally massive hydra. That's another thing that I love about the series. They can really make monsters that are worth being called monsters. More often then not I find new enemies to be rather unnerving at first. "Just what are you?!" is the first thought that comes to mind. Identifying most enemies in games as simple goblins or skeletons is easy enough but when it comes a legion of spear wielding masses of flesh it evokes various emotions of stress, disgust and fear. Though having another player invade your world with full intention of murdering you never gets dull.

There's no plot to Dark Souls. Or at least that's the impression you get early on in the game when you're simply told to ring two bells. Instead, From Software relies on non-traditional methods of story telling. Just about every nugget of information is scavenged from item descriptions and the sparse (but excellently delivered) dialogue. Once you sit back and dwell on it a bit more things begin to make a lot of sense. But they don't you everything. It's up to the player to put the pieces together. You may not be right or wrong but it makes for great discussion and thought which is admirable considering how little they're willing to tell you upfront. The characters you'll come across share one thing though, despair. Conversations with just about anyone display a shade of dark humour but as the story progresses so do their grasp on reality. There's a constant element of exhaustion. They don't say much but I've always found myself to be very attached to the characters. But there's no hope for them. Only despair. And there's nothing I can do to help them.

Dark Souls is by far one of the most innovative games in recent years. In a time where sequels like CoD are constant anomaly I can only appreciate it a lot more. It's just pure fun to play despite how much it hates you but most of all it does what it does extremely well. Demon's Souls was excellent but Dark Souls really refines what made it so good. The multiplayer being one the more interesting aspects of any game. Wheter it's indirectly or directly, you're constantly interacting with the people around you. For your benefit or theirs. Moreover, the series feels incredibly unique. There's just nothing quite like it in the industry. The audio, visual and conceptual elements come together so wonderfully it's no wonder why Dark Souls is one of my favourite games of all time. And that's no title I tend to give away quite easily.

The Future

Mechanically speaking, Dark Souls is almost perfect. With a bit more balance tweaks and a better camera it would've been better. Naturally, everything can be improved one way or another but realistically it's probably impossible. So what would I want from a sequel? It's hard to tell. For now, I would be more then happy to consume more content. New environments, new enemies, new loot are good enough for me. The online mechanics are interesting and complex but I can't think of any way of improving it. But for a game that's so innovative and experimental, a straight sequel would satisfy me for the time being. Better yet, I want it released on PC. Better graphics and no framerate issues. Surely it can't be asking too much?

"But enough talk! Have at you!"

I want I want I want I want I want I want I want...(Part 1)

I was originally going to make a list but given the amount I've already written that may get rather messy. So it begins! A new series of blogs from the same creator of the long, seasonal, smash-hit VIDEOGAME BLOG comes "I want I want I want I want I want I want...") 
No. Change that to "I NEED". I need, I need, I NEED! Needs are what the instincts of living beings hope to achieve. Food, water, shelter, etc. But as a gamer I've developed another one. Sequels. Preferably, a good/better sequels to a myriad of games I've played in my entire life because some of them are plain great or just have some amazing potential to be better. Of course, how a game does in the eyes the publishers depends solely on the amount of money it rakes in. As a result some great ideas get swept under the market, hopefully to be resurrected in some way or another, a HD version or a spiritual successor. Anything to get it out in the chaotic stream of mainstream media. But enough tongue wagging; I need these sequels to these games. 


Outcast was frankly, pretty shit to look at. To put salt into the wound, it still required a damn good PC to even perform on the lowest settings. Despite the big blocky graphics I had to endure, Outcast is perhaps one of my favourite games that had a lot of..."soul" in it (apologies for the coarse language).

Here's the premise, or something among those lines anyway. There's a massive black-hole in the North Pole that's sucking the Earth into some parallel dimension  and shit needs to be done. You, Cutter Slade, a former NAVY SEAL, and a crack team of soldiers and scientists is sent through the hole to retrieve a probe sent by the US Government that more or less, messed up everyone's day. Waking up on the other side and separated from his team, Slade is mistaken as a Saviour by the world's inhabitants and is eventually tasked to saving this world whilst at the same time, saving his own. All this as he's trying to regroup with his team, repair the probe and get home. 
 Looks okay. Until you blow it up to a 1280x1024 monitor.
 Looks okay. Until you blow it up to a 1280x1024 monitor.
At the time the story is pretty original but the main draw is it's world. Outcast uses an open-world format with four separate (and large) regions, each with a distinct personality associated with them. You'll begin in Ranzaar, the game's tutorial world essentially (as well as the best sound effects for walking on snow for any game I've heard) with it's snow-capped mountains and small, sloped, wooden huts. Not long after you'll travel between the hot climate of Talanzaar, a large city that's distinctly Middle-Eastern in it's design to the flat, wet farmlands of Shamazaar. Regardless of which region you're in each of them possess their own unique style and culture.  
Which is well given the fact that Outcast rewards players who explore every nook and cranny of the world they've crafted. It's inhabitants have their own language, cultures and traditions. If you wanted to know more about something from that particular region it's simple as stopping a passer by and asking them about topics through it's simple but intuitive dialogue-tree. Small details like these really create the illusion of a real, breathing world. An element not found in many games, even today. In short, Outcast is one of the few worlds in which I've found highly immersible. It's very much a game, there's a lot of quests to do and there's plenty of items to hoard but simply running around is more then enough to stimulate my little primate brain. 
Think TES: Daggerfall but Sci-Fi and more focused (and less buggy). 
Think TES: Daggerfall but Sci-Fi and more focused (and less buggy). 
Again, it's not pretty to look at but on a macro scale it looked (and still does) looked pretty good for a game that relied solely on software rendering. But visual stimulation aside, the sound design is something worth noticing. In fact, they're so proud of their soundtrack they straight up tell you that it's being composed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra in it's late opening credits. And they should be, it's a great soundtrack that's handcrafted to each world (again, contributing to the unique feel of each region) with it's booming drums and the wailing choir. Even if you don't own the game you can grab the soundtrack free from the dead (but archived) site. Otherwise, just pop Disk 2 of the game into a CD player a la Castlevania: SoTN if you own a hard copy. Did I mention that the snow sound effect was awesome? You should totally chuck a grenade in the water and listen. It just sounds...right

What We Got

For what it was, Outcast was an amazing game at the time and many reviews gave it high praise (Gamespot naming it as their Adventure Game of the Year in 1999.) But steep system requirements and poor marketing meant that it never reached many PCs that it should have thus Outcast was a commercial failure. As a result, the Dreamcast port was cancelled and the sequel Outcast 2 was never going to see the light when the developer, Appeal, filed itself for bankruptcy in 2002. Some staff went off to found Elsewhere Entertainment, later acquired by 10tacle and renamed 10tacle Studios Belgium and began work on Totem, a spiritual successor to Outcast with a parkour flair. Unfortunately, that too was shelved when 10tacle had to close it's doors (though oddly enough their website is still up and running, oblivious to it's own in-existence and still making promises of releasing Totem with a release date of 2008.) 
The beautiful thing about PC gaming is the mod scene. It's been twelve years since Outcast was released but a small team of modders, calling themselves Eternal Outcasts rather appropriately are working on re-making Outcast using the Crysis Warhead engine, dubbing it Open Outcast. If you want to try out the tech demo's they've released but don't own a copy of Warhead, don't fret. A demo copy of Warhead is all that is required to run the mod (and assuming you've got a decent PC too). Assuming that it'll be finished, the mod will also be free. Now isn't that lovely?  
More polygons and anti-aliasing that the original game can ever dream of. 
More polygons and anti-aliasing that the original game can ever dream of. 
On the other hand, if you've still have any money left over after the Steam Sales then you're obliged to pick up a copy of Outcast over at Good Old Games for $5.99. Which also nets you the soundtrack, manual, "Making of" video, the out-takes and 90 pieces of concept art. That's a better deal then I got when I bought it back in the hey-days of the Spice Girls. And get it you should. Outcast is one of the few games which I consider both an experience and a game, which coming from me, is high praise indeed.


JJWeatherman was right. Coming up with good blog titles is hard.

Watch ya been playin' dawg?!



Like every other game last released last year I didn't get the chance to play this until a friend of mine let me borrow his copy and yeah...what the fuck was I doing last year? THIS GAME IS BRILLIANT! Well that's a hyperbole of sorts but in short, it's pretty damn good fun. I've played a good few third-person cover based shooters like Mass Effect 2 and Uncharted 2 but Vanquish is just pure entertainment to play from start to finish thanks to it's menagerie of Russian robots, silly over-the-top characters, fast-pacing and great level design. Although the main character, Sam looks like just another generic guy he's surprisingly likeable. Even more so given the fact that he spends most of his time sliding around a giant space colony in a rocket suit (whilst smoking too!)
Another thing that really surprised me is this game look absolutely fantastic. I almost feel guilty by playing it on my 42" CRT that doesn't do the games impressive visuals any justice but even so it still manages to look bright and crisp amongst the flurry of bullets, explosions and body parts all with a good consistent frame rate. A great sense of scale is one thing that Vanquish manages to full off as well. Fighting one massive robot on a giant, outdoor platform with little men scurrying about was fun but fighting TWO giant robots was even crazier. Vanquish doesn't do anything particularly new but by adding a small, new mechanic (that being the rocket suit), it does make a genre that seems so oversaturated, seem so fresh at the same time. Marry that to the great production values and the end result is simply a video game that's been distilled into simple, pure fun. Even the trophies with their no-nonsense criterias make them enjoyable to get. To put it simply, I really like Vanquish and it definitely holds a spot in my favourite 2010 releases.
9/10 TEAPOTS -
9/10 TEAPOTS - "Short but sweet. Fun to play or even watch. Highly recommended!"      

Assassin's Creed 2

For most people, they've played and enjoyed this game and it's more then likely that they've finished the sequel, AC: Brotherhood. I am not one of those people. In fact, I haven't even finished the first one (don't want to) let alone Assassin's Creed 2 (which I would like to). AC2 is a massive step up from it's predecessor as most of you would know but it's still not enough for me to enjoy it which is a real shame because like the first game, I loved the concept but actual game itself doesn't quite do it for me. I know a lot of people love the series and that's is totally fine by me. Everyone gets their kicks in various ways but let me lay out on the table from my perspective. 

If there's one thing that I have to give credit to Ubisoft is the way they've portrayed Renaissance Italy. Being a history nut that I am, the historical context and the sound of a bustling city accompanied with it's gorgeous Italian architecture speaks volume about the production values that they've placed into this game since their last title. Whether you're on a mission or just exploring the rooftops; the large, detailed environments are rich with life, opportunities (and money). Thanks to the improved controls, Ezio moves in and around the city with fluidity and believability (unlike say, Cole the human magnet from inFAMOUS.) Various cities that change with the story results in plenty of exploration without the fear of repetition.
Its a Bird! Its a Plane! It's a Flying Italian?
Its a Bird! Its a Plane! It's a Flying Italian?
Unfortunately, the bad outweighs the good (for me, at least). I'm about 20 hours in or more but even then I still find the controls to be frustrating at a lot of times. Granted, it's an improvement from AC1 but I've lost the number of times in which I've chased (and lost) pickpockets amongst the chimney stacks and crowds. Traversing the environment looks great but there seems to be a bit of weight and lack of response when it comes to manoeuvring or combat (apparently improved in AC:B.) I don't consider myself great at video games but I'm more then certain that I don't suck at them either. I just hope that in future titles your character actually runs and grabs what you want him too as opposed to jumping down a five-storey building instead...
As mentioned previously, I'm about 20 hours in and I don't have a clue what's going on in the story. Maybe it's because I just don't like any of the characters that you encounter along the way but just about everyone feels nothing more then a quest-giver. Go to Point A, talk to Politician, go to Point B and then stab another Politician in the face and neck. Rinse and repeat for a few hours. There are some interesting characters like Leonardo or Rosa but game seems to glaze over them instead of giving them any sort of character development. Ezio himself seems like a nice guy but overall, quite drab. Much like his ancestor, Desmond actually.

The assassination missions themselves are more entertaining this time around. Guards are more predictable and Ezio spends less time time in banter with the victim then Altair does. Which is all well and good since chances are that you'll need to fight your way out to safety. That's where the combat comes in, again like the traversing, it's an improvement over the original but it still feels a little clunky at times. Outside of assassination missions you'll get the chance to do some sidequests that range from races, collectables and challenges as well as upgrading the villa. It sounds good on paper though most of it feels like padding out to me. There's no real incentive of doing these things unless you want more money (which isn't a problem at all later in the game) so the only real incentive is for trophies. Chances are that I will platinum this game but for now I just don't feel compelled to do so even if I bought this a last year. Assassin's Creed 2 is by no means a bad game at all, it's really well made. It's just not exactly what I wanted. Then again, I've always preferred the dark shadows of the Thief series. 
6/10 -
6/10 - "Great visual design and good fun when it works. But dull flaws and overstays it's welcome." 

Well that's two more games down. A few more to go. I'm not entirely sure why I'm using this format but I quite like it...hmm.


Yeah not the most imaginative title but it's the content that counts (that's not to imply that it'll be good but fuck it.)

Watcha ya been playin' dawg?! 

Gran Turismo 5

I've spent approximately €280 on this game, first the Signature Edition for €170 (still safely tucked in the cardboard box which makes me wonder why I bought it) and the GT5 racing wheel by Logitech for €100. Right now you're probably thinking that I'm incredibly stupid for spending an absurd amount of money on a rather mediocre game. Instead I could've bought a 360 with a copy of Forza 3 to which I'll say this; you're right/wrong. I'm not entirely sure what went through Kazunori Yamauchi's head for the past six years when he designed this game and it really just baffles me to the point that I just believe that he's been living in a bubble since GT4 was released. Like Jeff said on the quicklook, it feels very anchored to the past and he's not wrong. 
There's isn't one glaring problem but rather a plethora of smaller problems that layer on top of each other, whether it'll be the messy (but functional) interface or the disappointing track editor that I rarely used. The lack of events is a major pain on the later levels. They could've just imported the events from GT4 with some tweaking here and there. Hell, GT4 even had one-make race events that almost every manufacturer had and they were fun. But instead, GT5 decides to take a small fraction of all those events. It does give you some unique challenges but you can only get the rewards once you've done them which means you're tasked to grinding if you want to get more money/experience to which I may add, levelling up takes much longer then it should. Thankfully, Polyphony have added some seasonal events every Thursday that rewards a lot of money and experience but like the challenges, you only get the rewards once. 
Say hello to this Fiat 500 Nuova who's making this blog easier on the eyes.
Say hello to this Fiat 500 Nuova who's making this blog easier on the eyes.
The A.I. isn't that much different from GT4. In other words, still pretty crap. There's actually a video circulating around YouTube showcasing the terrible it's stupidity in comparison's to Forza 3's more smarter A.I. Contrary to the video, the A.I. does in fact swerve around to avoid you or let you pass if need be but that's only when you get to higher levels. Having said that, it's still really awful. The problem with the A.I. is that it always feels like it's tied to the racing line and completely ignores any other drivers around them which brings me onto the next problem. B-Spec Mode. What happened to you man? You used to be cool(-ish)! Like those few times when I got too bored to do any endurance races and you stepped in for me but now you've run off and started off a separate career from mine? It's a shame that you're too thick to drive properly so you need me to tell you how to drive but even then you're probably going to ignore me most of the time. Doesn't help when you're too spineless to take any risks or simply trying to overtake the car that YOU'RE CURRENTLY RAMMING THE BACK OF. You twit. 
So do I regret spending €280 on this? Not at all. For one thing the game does offer over a thousand cars. Yes, only 200 of those cars are premium and yes the other 800 are just are just hi-def versions of GT4 models but they all still drive perfectly fine thanks to the GT5 wheel and not to mention that they're all internally customisable at the very least which is all I could really care for. I won't deny that some standard cars look awful with their stretched, blurry textures and the fact that the damage modelling isn't too great but hey, I drive using the bonnet view and crashing cars is the last thing I want to do in this game. Premium cars look fantastic and they make a great excuse to show off the games beautiful graphics engine. From the Mercedes-Benz 300SL to the Ferrari F40, taking pictures with the in-game photo function makes it a joy to share your collection.
 I'm nursing a semi right now.
 I'm nursing a semi right now.
There are other factors that I can appreciate too. I can listen to my own music instead of that rather awful jazz that they've got quite an abundance of. Go-karting is pretty fun when you've the hang of it. There's different track layouts for the Nürburgring. There's a day/night cycle (which you can only witness on endurance races but still looks awesome. (and hard to see.)) Driving with a wheel feels satisfying and more fun than a controller. Online community seems decent. Finally there's this: 
 Now you see it. Soon you won't.
 Now you see it. Soon you won't.
At level 30 you'll unlock the Sebastian Vettlel challenge where you're pitted against his ghost around three different tracks. Both of you driving the Red Bull X2010 car (see above.) Now if you don't know anything about this car let me put it this way, it's a super-F1 car. What's more, it can be built in today's technology. The only problem being is that it's stupidly fast, even around corners thanks to it being a fan-car like the Chapparal 2J. Those challenges are perhaps the hardest races I've ever done and this comes from someone who finished all the Gran Turismo games in his life. But if you do manage to get a bronze medal in all the Vettel challenges then you're in for luck. You get this car. Not just any car though, but perhaps the fastest car you've ever driven in a console racing simulator. This alone is one good reason why I still play this game. It's got so many faults but it's also super quirky in it's design. Most people will hate it and that's perfectly fine but it won't change the fact that I love this game for what it is. The folks over at Polyphony Digital have a great passion for cars as well as their history and their technology and it shows.

P.S: I've never played Forza 3 but I appreciate it for what it is since it's got some great ideas and it is a better game then GT5. To put it simply, GT5 is James May and Forza 3 is Jeremy Clarkson. 
P.P.S: This is way longer then I intended so I'll post up my thoughts on the other games later.

Button mapping enabled games for the disabled

I generally don't do petitions since most of them are either a little silly or just rather pointless given how most corporations generally just don't care what their customers say so "lol internet petitions" comments aside, here's the gist of it (courtesy of Tom Senior from PCGamer.com) 


A disabled gamer has explained that he’s unable to play Dead Space 2 thanks to a lack of button mapping features in the game. Gareth Garratt has cerebral palsy, and uses his head to control a mouse or controller when playing games. The inability to map any movement controls to his mouse means that he can’t play Dead Space 2. A petition has been launched asking EA to add key mapping functionality to the game. It’s already received more than 22,000 signatures.

Gareth posted about his situation when looking for a solution on the Overclockers forums, and has had hundreds of responses. “i can’t use my hands, so i game using my chin. for disabled people like myself need fully customisable controls in all games, it can’t be that hard to do surely?? If they can have the fire assigned to a mouse button, surely they could of assigned walk forward to a mouse button… so now I can’t play this game and i wasted £25.”

Gareth also posted a video demonstrating the way he uses the mouse to play Fallout: New Vegas, and has highlighted a petition started by disabled gamer and comedian, Chuck Bittner, also known as AskACapper. The petition asks developers for full button customisation in all games. Button customisation would help many disabled gamers, and it’s a feature that, like dedicated servers and mod support, gives us all more control over the way we want to play our games. The petition already has more than 22,000 signatures. You can sign it here.


Here's the video mentioned in the article.
As I said before, I don't think internet petitions are worthwhile but given the circumstances of this I think we should at least try to make a good change, not just for Gareth but for disabled gamers everywhere. I'm a totally able-bodied person myself but even I would really appreciate button mapping in any game regardless of the platform it's on. 
So what are your thoughts on this? 
UPDATE: Visceral Games are aware of this situation and are already working on a patch (cheers to Slaker117 for the update.) As well as button mapping, the patch will also fix some bugs. Looks like Gareth caught wind of this and naturally he's pretty happy. So kudos to Visceral Games for doing this. That aside, the petition is still valid considering how it wants to cover ALL games so sign away folks.

"Give me your hearts!"

Like Medals?

Too poor to pay subscription fees?! 
Worry no more for you may not be able to give GiantBomb your money but you can give it...your love... 

 Wear it with pride, son.
 Wear it with pride, son.
NB: Bah, for some reason the image gets compressed every time I upload it. Ah well.

Fishy's scatterbrained approach on blogging.

I generally don't blog a lot since I really doubt anyone gives a flying shit about what I think but what the hell, seeing how I haven't done this in a while I might as well do it. 

What's down and dirty today?

  •  Ace Combat!
  • Some other PS2 games!
  • Visual Novels!    
  • More bugs to complain about!

Ace Combat!

I like Ace Combat. It's got jets in it.  And jets consist of one quarter of my male fantasy (the rest being in a tub filled with jelly accompanied by two beautiful women with explosions occurring around me). With that in mind I decided to finish off Ace Combat 4, Ace Combat 5 and Ace Combat The Belkan War within a week on the Ace difficulty, the hardest difficulty which mind you, is still pretty easy. Not to blow my own horn or anything but the only thing they really do is just give you less hit points and that's about it really. They don't add more enemies, enemies aren't smarter or tougher nor the time limits that shorter. Having said that though, it's a great series that really shines in comparison to it's competitors. All the better since Ace Combat Assault Horizon is in development and the fact that I received my copy of Ace Combat Joint Assault in the mail yesterday. And yes the music in that is so dramatic it's awesome. It's unfortunate that the PSP's analog is so awkwardly placed though which makes flying somewhat uncomfortable especially if you're using the Expert control scheme that involves using the D-Pad to trim the yaw. But if you've played Ace Combat Skies of Deception then you can expect the same great air combat on the PSP platform. 

 tl:dr - I like jets and explosions.
 tl:dr - I like jets and explosions.

Other PS2 Shenanigans!

I've had a strong urge to play my PS2 this week partially because I wanted to play Ace Combat but mainly the fact that I still have a large backlog of PS2 games to finish. First game to check off the list? Katamari Damacy. That game is a clusterfuck of bizarreness. My main criticism is that the gameplay wears pretty thin afterall a while but just like the katamari, things get rolling when you've got the spring cleaning fever. Music is just as strange but it's catchy as well. Catchy to the point that I've downloaded the soundtrack onto my PC. 
 Not as sexy as you might think.    
Not as sexy as you might think.    

Decided to give Rumble Roses a go. I know, it's not a great game. Of course, I already knew this when I saw it for a tenner in the bargain bin but I was curious why it was to begin with. I haven't played many fighting games until just recently when I picked up a copy of SSFIV but I know enough to know that Rumble Roses isn't good. It's clunky, it's a bit ugly and it just feels...bad. It's got some ideas but just not good enough. 

 I should make a page titled
 I should make a page titled "Games where you hold girl's hands".
Onto something more savoury now. Specifically, Ico. The much acclaimed predecessor to Shadow of the Colossus. I picked it up a few weeks ago since I wanted to go hunting for good PS2 games before they permanently disappear off the shelves and become a thing of the past. I liked SoTC. I didn't think it was good as everyone said it was. In fact, I thought it was okay. There are some moments though which are pretty badass, specifically if it involves racing across the sand and jumping off your horse and onto the colossus as it soars overhead. You do feel small in comparison but once you take it down It's a great feeling. That aside, Ico. I'm already two hours in and I can already see the influences in it that make up SoTC. Large ruined environments, similar art style and makey-uppy langauge. So far I haven't had any problems, bar falling to my death on a few occasion and not to mention the fact that you're woman kept getting dragged into the hole the first time I met her (thus many, many game over screens within a short span of time). I like your one though, she's not annoying and she's not stupid either unlike most NPC. Maybe a little too helpless but smart enough to keep out of danger. It's only been two hours but I'm curious enough about it to keep trucking. 
If there's one thing I can appreciate, it's a good R-Type game. Specifically, R-Type Final for the PS2. I've already pumped about 50 hours total of gameplay into this in an attempt to collect all 101 ships and weapons. I just wished that they added more levels though. It's mind-numbing when you've already fought all the bosses and levels again and again. I WILL get all of those ships though even IF they're just minor variations of other ships. 

Visual Novels!

I don't play many visual novels. In fact, I've only played three in my entire life. The first one had a lot of sex in it and it wasn't particularly good. The second one was Clannad which was great. Interesting characters, good soundtrack and a well developed story (despite some bits are still unclear to me). No sexual content in it was a plus as well. Don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against sex (I actually wanted to become a sexologist at one stage). I just find it a little strange when you put in a game. But what I originally wanted to talk about was this one little visual novel called; Katawa Shoujo. I heard about this game about two years ago and if you don't know what's it about then let me tell you. At it's core it's essentially a high-school romance novel like most VNs. What sets it apart however is the story is based in a school for the disabled or those with health issues which means all the heroines have specific disabilities. 
 Yeah I know the concept sounds bizarre but stick with me ladies.
 Yeah I know the concept sounds bizarre but stick with me ladies.
As I said before, I generally don't play VNs but with a morbid curiosity and my lack of experience with VNs I thought it'll be an interesting experience to play through the demo. So I played it. The writing is great, the characters are interesting, the art is pleasing and the music is good. I guess what I'm trying to say is that It's damn good. What's surprising about this is the fact the VN is being produced by a handful of Westerners based in various countries. Most of them hailing from Australia, America and various other countries within Europe. It's also being developed in their free time as well since they intend to release the game free of charge when it's done. For what it is, it's really impressive. It's been two years now since I've heard of it and it's still going strong. At this stage they developers are hoping to release it later this year or some time next year. Provided that you don't hate anything Japanese have some interest in VNs then I suggest you give it a go by going to their site. Note the demo has no sexual content in it so it's safe for work. The full version will have sexual content but there will be a filter to turn it off if it's not your cup of tea.

Bugs and Bitchin' about 'em.

  • Inbox bug is STILL here. Why is it taking so long to fix it?
  • Copy and pasting stuff into the search bar doesn't work.
  • Guides are still buggy so I still can't continue working on my P3P guide. :'(
  • The "Appears in X Games" bug in the wiki is still there.
  • The ranking in your profile is still stuck at zero.
  • And many, many more bugs.
I know the engineers may hate me for this but at this stage I don't care anymore. As long as my moaning is enough to make them fix all of these bugs then I'm going to continue doing it. Yes, yes I know you're busy working on new features but it'll be nice if could fix up all this old shit before moving onto to other projects, yeah?
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