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Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas party! And BBS update

Going to be in Chicago for the next three days to celebrate the holidays with my extended family. Wishing everybody happy gaming in this post-Christmas season. ;D

Also, I beat the first campaign of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, Terra's, and I'd like to share something I noticed. Remember how everybody complained Kingdom Hearts 2 was too easy? Well, Square listened.

Oh, boy, did they listen.

The difficulty of the game is actually very fair, up to a point. The difficulty spike of Terra's final boss (not going to spoil much here) is ludicrous. He's basically a copy of you, and has all of the abilities you had prior to entering the fight. In this regard, whatever preperations you had for the boss can be used right back at you, including your limit breaks, shotlocks, and healing spells. The ONLY way to do serious damage against him is to block and counter his attacks (which, by the way, if you get caught in one of his combos, you are DONE), deflect his ranged attacks back at him, or abuse your own shotlock and constantly recharge it with Elixers. Now, it's only natural that a final boss would be hard, but this one seemed overly so, especially compared to everything we'd fought prior to him.

Terra's story, at least, was interesting. I'll be starting Ventus' campaign next.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Old Review: Kingdom Hearts RE:Coded (DS)

My Review- Kingdom Hearts RE:Coded (DS)

It’s been more than five years since Kingdom Hearts II, the last installment in what could be called the ‘main’ Kingdom Hearts series. In that time, Square has made several side games in order to flesh in the Kingdom Hearts story, as well as to tie up loose ends and set up for what seems to be the series’ big conclusion in the ever-awaited Kingdom Hearts III. With 358/2 Days having covered the events in between Kingdom Hearts I and II, and prequel Birth by Sleep having set up the events of the entire series, it falls to RE:Coded, a remake of the Japanese cell phone game, to explain events in the immediate aftermath of Kingdom Hearts II. Does RE:Coded have a place in the series’ surprisingly expansive story, or is this one spin-off too many?

STORY

WARNING: In order to properly critique RE:Coded’s story, I have to talk about the ending of the game, so SPOILER ALERT.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Final Fantasy IX- First Impressions

It seems odd that, this Christmas, I completed my collection of the main numbered Final Fantasy titles (not including, of course, XI and XIV) when I got a PSP and Final Fantasy 1 and 2 for it. This segues into something completely unrelated, because I'm playing Final Fantasy IX as my current console playthrough after downloading it from the Playstation Network. So, there you go.

Final Fantasy IX is one of the most highly regarded RPGs of all time, one I'd been looking forward to playing for a while. While some people were put off by it's more colorful and cartoony aesthetic, myself and others really enjoy the game because of it's throwback to a more traditional style of Final Fantasy. It's more lighthearted tone and upbeat characters serve as a refreshing breath of fresh air after dealing with ennui-exuding protagonists such as Squall. It helps, too, that Final Fantasy IX is one of the best looking 32 bit RPGs ever made, rivalling Chrono Cross.

The plot stars Zidane, a happy-go-lucky bandit who, along with his band of merry men, tries to kidnap Princess Garnett of the kingdom of Alexandria. They are pursued by her loyal knight, Steiner, as well as a black mage named Vivi. I'm not very far into the story- I only just got out of the Ice Cavern- but so far, while the characters are clearly meant to invoke RPG archetypes (paladin, white mage, thief, etc.), they are still an interesting group of characters, and so far they don't seem generic or boring in the slightest. This is a game where use of classic RPG storytelling tropes serves it well.

Final Fantasy IX also has a very interesting character development system. Character abilities are tied to their equipment- by equiping a piece of armor or a weapon, characters will be able to use the ability tied to that piece of equipment (unless the character is unable to use that ability in the first place). Once enough AP is earned in battle, though, the character masters the ability and no longer needs the equipment to be able to use it- it's theirs to keep. If I could have one complaint about the game so far, it's that the Trance mode, the game's Limit Break system, takes a long time to build up, considerably more than those in other FF games. I've heard there is an ability later down the road which speeds up Trance mode, so we'll see if this remains an issue.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep- First Impressions

Well, I got a PSP for Christmas! With the Vita just around the corner, it's an ideal time to get a PSP, since there's lots of good games for it and the system is reasonably cheap. In addition to Birth by Sleep, I also got the first two Final Fantasies, and Crisis Core.

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is a game I was very excited for since it was announced. It's a prequel to the other Kingdom Hearts games, and fills in a number of plot holes while at the same time establishing the core plotline of future games (such as the much hoped-for Kingdom Hearts III).

Playing it for the first time, I am very impressed. While not quite on the level of the PS2 games, Birth by Sleep animated fluidly and the game looks very good. The environments aren't huge, but they get the job done, and the music is still (so far) fantastic. In Birth by Sleep, you play as three different Keyblade Masters in their seperate storylines. So far, I've only played as Terra, a character who focuses on physical attacks. The game's combat is also much improved over prior entries in the series. You still select commands from a menu, but rather than having to scroll through menus and submenus in order to select an action, all normal attacks are mapped to the X button. Special abilities, spells, and items can be slotted into a customizable menu, and are executed with the Triangle button. This makes combat a lot more fluid than previous games, and allows a greater degree of character customization.

I'm only a couple hours into Birth by Sleep, but so far the game is excellent fun. We'll see if this will last through the game's three storylines.

Also, I started Final Fantasy IX this morning. I haven't played enough to do a full post about it, but so far, the game is very good.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

I once again won't be posting much on this blog for the next few days, on account of it being Christmas. I will be spending time with my family and friends, meaning I won't have much time for internet shenanigans.

When I DO come back, however, I will finally have a new game that I will be playing for review, and will resume posting regular updates concerning my progress in that game, culminating in my next review. I don't know what i will play next, and neither do you, so it should be exciting! Once January 31 rolls around, I will hopefully begin Final Fantasy XIII-2.

Merry Christmas to you all. I hope you have a wonderful holiday, and I will see you later!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Dark Knight Rises- New Trailer

I really love Christopher Nolan's Batman films. I can't say I've ever been an enormous Batman fan (I was always more into Marvel comics), but Nolan's movies aren't just good Batman films- they're just great movies, period. Batman Begins was a promising start, The Dark Knight was a full-blown masterpiece. Hans Zimmer's score is one of my favorite soundtracks of all time. Needless to say, I'm very excited for the third and reportedly final installment in this series, the closing chapter of this saga.



Watching this trailer makes me excited, as much as the first teaser did, but I've got to wonder what's going on here. One of the things I've always loved about the Batman films is that the villians had a clear point of view concerning their actions and what they represented. Bane, the villian in this trailer, seems to represent anarchy, but it's hard to tell from this trailer. Doesn't help that he only has had one line of dialogue so far, and it's practically unintelligable (I know what he's saying, but it's a bit garbled).

Also, each film before this had had two main villians. Begins had Scarecrow and Ra's Al Goul. The Dark Knight had The Joker and Twoface. In Rises, we see Bane, but who's the second villian? Is it Catwoman, who's also in the trailer? Or is it somebody who we haven't heard of?

The Hobbit trailer

Back in seventh grade, a dog-eared copy of 'The Hobbit' served as my primary reading. I read and reread that book a dozen times when I was a kid, gorging myself on Tolkien's first adventure and starting my love of everything from fantasy literature to role-playing games. Later, I discovered The Lord of the Rings, and Peter Jackson's fantastic film trilogy based on them. To this day, Middle-earth is one of the greatest fantasy settings of all time, and Peter Jackson's films are timeless classics.

Next year, we get to go back.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Old Review: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (PS3)

My Review- Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (PS3)

The Star Wars franchise has undergone an unfortunate shift over the last decade or so. The once great film series was sullied with three subpar prequel installments, and ever since then (some could argue even before that), Star Wars has never seemed to find it’s footing, alternating between great sci-fi and complete crap with seemingly every new entry. The Force Unleashed gained much attention upon it’s release, not only because of the promise of great action, but also because George Lucas stated that the game would bridge the gap between the two trilogies. Does Force Unleashed stand as a worthy addition to the series, or is it just another highly polished turd, like the prequels?

STORY (SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW)

The Force Unleashed begins with Darth Vader hunting a Jedi during the Battle of Kashyyk. Upon finding his target, he discovers that the Jedi has a son who is very strong in the Force. Killing the witnessing Stormtroopers, Vader takes the child under his wing, raising him as an apprentice. Fast forward a decade or so, and the apprentice, codenamed Starkiller, is hunting down the remaining Jedi Knights at Darth Vaders bidding, understanding that, should he grow strong enough, he and Vader will kill the Emperor and rule the galaxy.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Top Five Favorite Games

I wanted to do a top ten list at some point, but unfortunatly, it's been more difficult than I thought to compile a list of ten favorite games. What I could figure out, though, was my top 5 favorites. Consider this a 'preview' of a top ten list to come somewhere down the road. When I actually make the list in question, I'll describe each entry in detail.

My rules for making a list such as this are simple: I can only have one game per series of games that I like on the list (otherwise, Final Fantasy would completely dominate it). The only exception to this rule is if the games are different enough to warrant their own spot, or if I like them for different reasons.

5


4

3

2



1



Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Where I'm Going To Be

Well, it's that time of year again. Midterm exams. >_>

To be fair, they aren't all that difficult, and my grades have been pretty good this year, but still, I need to study a lot, so don't expect much new content here. I'll do my best to start posting regularly again over break.

While I'm here, after writing my Chrono Cross review, it seems like I've been leaving important details out of my reviews. I'm trying to improve my writing process accordingly.

If there's anything you'd like to see from this blog, email me or comment.

See ya in a week or so!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

XIII-2 Promotional Video

Found a very cool interview with the producer Yoshinori Kitase and director Motomu Toriyama of Final Fantasy XIII-2, going into detail about some of the new elements of the game. Check it out here: http://finalfantasyxiii2.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/final-fantasy-xiii-2-video-preview-with-new-clips-information/

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is out January 31 in the U.S. The game recently got a perfect 40/40 score from Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu.

My Review: Chrono Cross (PS1)

My Review: Chrono Cross (PS1)

            If you were to ask me what the definition of a ‘perfect’ video game was, I’d probably show you my copy of Chrono Trigger and answer, “This”.  Squaresoft’s Super Nintendo classic combined the talents of prominent developers from both Squaresoft and then-rival Enix, and this mixture of developer talent created one of the most beloved RPGs of all time, featuring a cast of lovable characters, gorgeous graphics, and a fantastic soundtrack composed by Yasunori Mitsuda and Final Fantasy standby Nobuo Uematsu. To this day, there hasn’t been an RPG quite like Chrono Trigger- it’s a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Needless to say, when Squaresoft began working on a sequel for the Playstation, expectations were justifiably high. Chrono Cross, released in 2000, distances itself a bit from its predecessor, featuring several new gameplay and storyline features. This was, I fell, a wise decision, because once it steps out of its predecessor’s shadow, Chrono Cross is just as ahead of its time and imaginative as Chrono Trigger.

            STORY

            Fate has no forgiveness for those who dare stand against it.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Old Review: Fire Emblem- The Sacred Stones (GBA)

My Review- Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones (GBA)

I have a confession to make- up until now, I had never played a Fire Emblem game. The Fire Emblem series is noteworthy in that they were the very first Strategy RPGs, although we only recently started seeing localizations of the games. The Sacred Stones is only the second game released in the US, despite being the 8th in the series. As my introduction to the series, how does it fare?

STORY

As is typical for the genre, Fire Emblem’s story is steeped in the political and military situation between multiple kingdoms. When the kingdom of Renais is attacked by their former ally, the Grado Empire, Renais’s prince Ephraim goes to fight the invaders, but goes missing. His sister, Eirika, manages to escape Ranais with the aid of a loyal knight, and attempts to gain the support of other nations while attempting to find her brother. Along the way, Eirika and Ephraim discover that the Empire is attempting to destroy the Sacred Stones that protect the land from a malevolent demon sealed away long ago.

Sacred Stones won’t win any awards for originality. It’s story is filled with clich├ęs. However, despite this, the simple story is very well told, and the characters, despite their generic roles, are quite endearing. One staple of the Fire Emblem franchise is that the death of a character in battle means that they are lost forever, and because every unit in your army is a fully fleshed out character, you quickly grow attached to them, and losing them can be a saddening experience. I cannot tell you how many times I replayed a difficult mission so that a character could live to fight another day. Sacred Stones is unoriginal, but it’s tale has enough heart to be engaging.

My Backlog

Just posting what games I currently have on deck to eventually play. This doesn't include games on my 'to purchase' list, and this list will be bigger after Christmas. xD

CONSOLE

Final Fantasy IX
Xenogears
Vagrant Story

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (I've had this game since I got my PS2, and Ive tried to play it at least three times. I keep getting sidetracked.)
Dark Cloud

HANDHELD
Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation

I'm looking forward to playing all of these games. I'm not sure yet what I'll be playing after Chrono Cross, but stay tuned.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Chrono Cross Delayed, and Future Plans.

I'm really loving Chrono Cross. The game is one of the best Playstation RPGs I've played, with a really interesting storyline, great music, and a fun combat system. Unfortunatly, I have exams coming up, so I won't be able to play as much as I would like for the next week or so.

On the plus side, I'm on the part where you got back to Fort Dragonia and get Serge's body back, so I'll hopefully be able to play for a couple hours this weekend. After exams, I'll try to beat the game and have my review up before Christmas.

After Chrono Cross, my next game will depend on what games I end up getting for Christmas. I will hopefully be playing and reviewing both Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Xenoblade Chronicles as soon as they come out, and there are quite a few other new games coming out soon that I am eager to play. I'm hoping to find and play the Digital Devil Saga games for PS2, but I want to finish the games in my backlog before buying any older releases (I need to play Xenogears, Vagrant Story, and Final Fantasy IX). I'm also planning on obtaining the Xenosaga trilogy and the .hack games (the original series and .hack// G.U.) when I'm in college and have a bit of income from whatever work I can find.

Anyways, that's all for todays update. I've got a lot of great gaming to look forward to in the future. Any games you're planning on playing soon? Post them in the comments.

                                                   Easily the game I'm most looking forward to purchasing once I have time.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Prose Poem

This is a prose poem I wrote the other day for my Creative Writing class.








Last Trip To LJs
Peter Triezenberg

Down the road, across the street, and to the left if you walked from the college, they opened the familiar doors and were immediately struck by the pleasant scents of warm coffee and melted chocolate. Sitting down, the girl looked at her shaking hands, while the boy quickly removed a few crumpled bills and walked to the counter. When he returned and sat down, his movements were brisk, to the point. “Well?” he demanded. The girl looked up, and she could barely see him through the liquid mirrors forming in her eyes. “Well?” The voice grew harsher, mocking her from several hundred feet away, on the other side of the table. “Explain.” She winced, withdrawing her shaking hands to her bruised midsection, feeling lingering pain from her last attempt to explain her wrongdoings. The drink arrived, but it sat uneaten, except for when the boy lazily tipped the spoon through it, mixing swirls of snowy cream and dirty chocolate as the girl desperately tried to tell him why she had done what she did, and trying to understand herself. He looked up, fire burning where she saw water. Slowly, coldly, every word that came from his mouth was an attack, a frozen needle gouging a beating pincushion in her chest. His voice rose, his rage evident, all she could do was look at the drops of perspiration on the table, ashamed and frightened.

But when they left, there was no anger, no shouting, and no tears. There was only wonder, and silence.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Old Review: Final Fantasy VI (GBA)

I finished this game in September, and wrote this review immediately after. Without a doubt, Final Fantasy VI is one of the best RPGs in existence, and arguably Square's finest work. Also, seeing as the game is out this Tuesday on PSN, I figure this was timely. ;P


My Review- Final Fantasy VI (GBA)

            Every series has a game which pretty much every other installment is compared too, a game which embodies the creative ideas behind the franchise. For example, Zelda has Ocarina of Time, a game which many consider to be one of the best video games ever made. For Square’s venerable Final Fantasy series, that game is arguably Final Fantasy VI. Originally released on the SNES as Final Fantasy III, the sixth fantasy is one of Square’s most famous RPGs ever, and remains to this day an excellent installment in this great series.

            STORY

            Could anyone be so foolish as to repeat that deadly mistake?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Chrono Cross- Dragons!

High time for another Chrono Cross update, isn't it?

Anyways, my current party is Lynx, Norris, and Fargo. Lynx is fully outfitted with Stone Armor, while the others have a mix of Mythril and Stone equipment (the required materials to forge Stone equipment have so far been hard to come by). I've defeated the Blue and Yellow Dragons, and am in the process of finishing the Mastermune side quest (which will nab me Serge/Lynx's ultimate weapon).

One thing I like about Chrono Cross is the number of different perspectives on the story you can get. Despite having so many potential party members, the story remains cohesive- plot-centric characters will be at important events wether you have them in your party or now, and having certain party members can trigger different scenes (If Norris is in your party at The Dead Sea, for instance, you can find information about Lavos, the parasitic monstrosity from Chrono Trigger). It adds a bit of personality to the game, as the party members you've chosen change the overall feel of the story just enough to develop their characters, but the story as a whole doesn't change. I like this.

As a side note, the scene at the end of The Dead Sea (and the accompanying music, 'Prisoners of Fate') has got to be one of the most haunting moments I've seen in an RPG. The entire Dead Sea section, as a matter of fact, was excellent. Chrono trigger never stopped to wonder if there would be negative repurcussions because of the player's action, and Chrono Cross dives into some pretty deep territory here. Also, Norris is a surprisingly awesome party member. His special attacks are great.

I'll hopefully have Cross wrapped up in a week or two. With exams coming up, I probably won't be playing much next week, but I'll do my best to finish the game and have a review up before Christmas and 2012-RPG release-geddon (XIII-2, Type-0, Xenoblade Chronicles, Ni no Kuni, and Tales of Graces F have been confirmed, and Im holding out hope for The Last Story and Versus XIII as well. I'm going to be a busy gamer).

Friday, December 2, 2011

Xenoblade Chronicles Is Coming!

It's been a really good week for much-hoped for localizations. The other day, Final Fantasy Type 0 was seemingly confirmed, and today, the much sought after Wii RPG Xenoblade Chronicles was announced for a US release in April 2012. There are details all over the Internet, but here's a link anyway: http://www.rpgfan.com/news/2011/2497.html

Xenoblade Chronicles is one of the three games petitioned for by Operation Rainfall, and is considered by many to be the best JRPG released in years. My anticipation for this title is quite high- not only is it a superb game, it also implements many of the elements I feel will improve the overall standing of Japanese Role-playing games in general. If this game does well, who knows what will happen.

Also, it seems that they'll be keeping the excellent European voice acting. :D

Anyways, it's due out in April. Time to buy a Wii...

EDIT: Apparently Xenoblade Chronicles has already become the fifth best-selling Wii title of all time based on pre-orders alone, and is the second most anticipated game for Gamestop. This is excellent news- the more sales and popularity, the more likely these types of games will see US releases. It would appear that Nintendo vastly underestimated the demand for a quality JRPG. Like I've been saying before- there is a void, and now that a quality game is to be made available, it sells well.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Square Enix's New RPG

Recently, Square Enix liscenced use of the Unreal Engine for use in several unnamed projects. All we knew about the end result was that it would be an action RPG for consoles. Today, on a website asking for new programmers, we see our first piece of art for the still-unnamed game.

Color me intrigued. :D

Old Review- Dragon Quest IX (DS)

In all honesty, one of the best RPGs in recent memory. I wrote this review in March, right before I beat the game.

My Review- Dragon Quest IX : Sentinels of the Starry Skies (DS)

The Dragon Quest series is one of the most famous in RPG history, right up there with Final Fantasy. Created by Square’s rival company Enix, the Dragon Quest series began on the NES and is widely seen as the first ‘console-style’ role-playing game. The series was taken over by Square Enix (the two rivals having merged), and with help of developer Level Five (creators of Dark Cloud and Rogue Galaxy), they brought the series into the 21st century with Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King, which is often recognized as one of the best role-playing games on the PS2.. Journey of the Cursed King had a massive open world, superb voice acting, and a lengthy quest, while keeping series traditions intact. It was surprising, then, when series creator Yuji Horii announced that the 9th installment would be on the Nintendo DS rather than a modern console. Dragon Quest IX continues the trend of obscenely long subtitles, but does it live up to its respected name?