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'Splode Thyself Unto Others My Spiky Haired Friend

A JRPG and a platformer comprised most of my playtime this week. But not just any platformers


'Splosion Man!

Not only is this game a mere 800 spacebucks, but it doesn't pull any punched either. This is a platformer though and through, and as such can get really very difficult towards the end of the game. But i'll get to that later.

'Splosion Man is a unique platformer that manages to adhere to most core platformer conventions (platforms, obstacle, enemies, and jumping, and jumping puzzles) with a rather unique twist. You cannot jump. Instead, you 'Splode, the force of which sends you flying through the air somewhat ungraciously. In a good way. The levels themselves are comprised mainly of the same obstacles (machine guns, rockets you can repel, a handful of enemies, platforms, moving platforms etc) and some help along the way such as the old cliche, exploding barrels. These barrels offer a variety of different effects such as exploding high, fast, or mines than you can kick toward enemies.

Even though there are only a small amount of different obstacles and enemies, the game manages to use them in delightfully inventive ways, one minute you are sploding leasurely along your way, the next you are free-falling, dodging lasers and bouncing off walls while a torrent of water chases you, threatening to extinguish your characters lovable flame.

'Splosion Man himself is a rather charming character, somewhat nonsensical, utterly insane, he babbles frequently and utters nuggets of wisdome such as "BACON!!!" or something about a "Sammich" in a manner that will remind Invader Zim fans of Gir. He has a large range of animations that help to exaggerate his hyperactive nature, one moment he's running around like an aeroplane, the next he's babbling like a monkey with the appropriatte stance. 

The game can get rather difficult at times, fortunately it's charm will see you through most of that but if it all gets too much, the game offers you "The Cowards Way Out" after you die a certain amount of times, taking the option will set your time for the level at 99 hours (no speedrun cheating here folks) and force 'Splosion Man to wear a pink tutu on the next level you play. Fitting no? 

In addition to that, the game features a number of large set pieces upon which boss battles take place, all of them a joy to partake in and quite inventive. Once you triumph over the last one, you will be gifted with what is in my opinion, the single greatest ending in videogame history (Yes, even greater than Portal. It took me some thought to come to that conclusion)

Well worth the spacebucks, and well worth your time. Check it out. Now.

Star Ocean: The Last Hope

I said in another thread some time ago, that I play games until they 'bullshit me' until such a point they throw me a ridiculous curve ball, or a voice actor who makes me want to scratch my own eyes out, or a plot twist I could have written by literally vomiting on a page, etc etc. Star Ocean has thrown me 3 such things so far (Once voice actor, one 'side mission' involving time travel and dimensions, and one HUGE HUGE Emo scene that made me ask why the main character, who incindentally looks a little but like Cloud, hadn't just jumped directly in the life stream and done away with himself there and then) Yet, for some reason, I have managed to persist.

Unlike the majority of classic JRPGs, Star Ocean is well known for using a real-time battle system similar to the Tales series. You can select from numerous tactics for your comrades, and you can directly control any one character at a time. In addition to this, you can swap out characters in real time as well, something which again seems to be rare in this genre. Overall it works quite well, when a battle turns bad it tends to do so very quickly, so you need that ability to refresh your roster under pressure in order to keep the games difficulty from kicking your ass. While for the most part it's pretty easy, occasionally that will spike until you level up a bit, or enemies in that particular area will have an attack that is difficult to deal with or something like that.

The story however makes no attempts to distinguish itself from the norm, Earth has been blowed up yet again (who woudla thunk it?) and mankind has to live in space. Having just invented warp technology (with appropriatte Trek technobabble to go along with it) you are blasted off into the far reaches of space to look for a new inhabitable planet. In true Star Ocean fashion, you are immidietely marooned in a planet that is still in the jurassic period. 

For the most part while generic, the story doesn't offer anything that will particularly enrage or annoy (aside from that one mission, you'll know it when you get there because it's unbeleivably stupid) and acts as a backdrop for some scenic exploration and some nice combat mechanics. 

As is typical with JRPGs, there are tons of items to find, make and trade, as well as quests to be done and annoying, incredibly powerful little girls to cart around all day. So the completionist in you will have a lot to see and do, and given an excuse to revisit plenty of worlds once you get access to travel wherever you like.

I won't pretend to be able to comment fully on the game I can only offer my initial impressions, I still have something like half the game to go but it seems like I stand a good chance of seeing this one through, unless I am introduced to any more unbearable characters. Two is my limit. 

For the record, anyone who writes dialogue for a child who speaks in monotone and says the word " 'Kay " at the beginning or end of every other line, and even twice in one sentence on one occasion, will die by my hand. I mean it. Don't do it, the human ear was not designed to take such punishment.

Overall i'd reccomend Star Ocean before I reccomend most of this generations JRPGs, Lost Odyssey being the exception, I would reccomend that above all of them. It's worth playing and comes at a reasonable price nowadays too, the voice acting is good for the most part, the story is alright and the combat is excellent.

That's about it for this time, go out and enjoy 'Splosion Man, I have a feeling it's going to be a smash hit. If it's not, it certainly deserves to be.

Edit: For the achievement whores out there, you had better be FREAKISHLY prepared for Star Ocean. Not only is the game long to begin with (durr, its a JRPG) but you have to play it through a minimum of 3 times. And on at least one of those playthroughs you have to find 100% of EVERYTHING. No small task that's for sure. For simply playing the game to completion, you'll maybe get 200 points, if that.