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Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Link Between Worlds- First Impressions

Confession time- Outside of a few minutes at the beginning, I've never played A Link to the Past.

Now that I have your attention, let me explain. I got into Zelda during the pre-release hype for Twilight Princess, and as a result I've always been more into the 3D Zeldas than the top-down ones. That’s not to say that I didn't enjoy them- the Nintendo DS Zelda games, Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, remain two of my favorite games from the past generation- but the reason I was excited for A Link Between Worlds was more for the prospect of playing a brand-new handheld Zelda game than it was to revisit a classic.

Still, after my initial hours with Link’s latest adventure, the drive to go back and see what I've been missing out on is stronger than ever. The newest Zelda game seems poised to address many of the criticisms longtime fans have had for the more recent entries. Link’s adventure starts out humble, but within the first ten minutes he is given a sword and thrown into the introductory dungeon, a far cry from the notoriously lengthy prologue of, say, Twilight Princess. New items are acquired, monsters are slain, and before long Link is on a quest to track down a sinister man who is trapping the descendants of the Seven Sages inside paintings. The pacing, so far, is much faster.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Peter's 2013 Gaming Awards

Well, it’s been a while since I put anything up on PG’s Game Room, but it seems to me like it’s that time of year again!
As per usual, this article only covers games I have played this year, not specifically brand-new games from this year. I will also throw up a mild Spoiler Warning for a couple games on this list. Enjoy!

Best Game Overall: Persona 4

Remember how last year I awarded this spot to the magnificent Persona 3, that game with a killer soundtrack, likeable characters, and a unique blend of traditional RPG mechanics and dungeon crawling with high school student life? Well, all the praise I heaped on that game can also be awarded to its sequel, the magnificent Persona 4. The Shin Megami Tensei series as a whole is quickly becoming one of my all-time favorite game series, and I can’t wait to see what Atlus has in store for us in the future.

Most Under-Appreciated: Nier

Monday, August 19, 2013

Shin Megami Tensei IV Review

Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei series of role-playing games have always strayed from the beaten path when it comes to RPG storytelling, featuring a unique and compelling blend of contemporary settings (usually with a dash of cyberpunk for good measure) and realistic, morally ambiguous plotlines that often demands difficult decisions from the protagonist, and in turn the player. The series’ main titles have often presented the player with multiple flawed yet compelling philosophies, and asked them to choose which path, if any, they would stand for. The latest entry in this series, Shin Megami Tensei IV for the 3DS, is no different in this regard, and ultimately tasks the player with charting a new course for the world.

The story of Shin Megami Tensei IV begins in the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado, a medieval society made up of a curious blend of European and Japanese culture, where children who come of age have a chance to become Samurai. Your character (named Flynn by default) is one of these chosen youths, along with the boisterous Walter, caring Jonathan, and standoffish Isabeau. Of course, this being a mainline SMT game, the group soon finds themselves in the post-apocalyptic ruins of Tokyo, which dwells beneath their kingdom. Tokyo has become a desolate place where humans dwell underground and demons roam the streets. Soon, the Samurai become embroiled in the politics of different factions across Tokyo, and discover horrifying revelations about the city and their own kingdom- revelations that will test their friendships and their loyalties, sending each one of them down a wildly different path.
Your companions will react differently to your decisions.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Four Things That Make JRPGs Great

What Makes A Great JRPG?

There’s something almost intangible about what makes an RPG truly special. Sometimes, the game’s mechanics, storyline, and presentation all come together and make a truly great experience, one that is more than the sum of its parts. Of course, sometimes one aspect of a game can be lacking, but it will have other features in excess, and it will still end up being enjoyable. Still other games just flat out suck, and fail to grasp even the fundamentals of good game design, making for a joyless, soul-crushing experience.  
Now, I came off from playing Xenosaga Episode 1 (which is one of those games that flat out sucks, just so we’re clear) and was feeling very, very disengaged from gaming afterwards. A double dose of Ocarina of Time and Shin Megami Tensei IV provided a cure of sorts, and though the Xenosaga games left a bitter taste in my mouth, they got me thinking about what makes the RPG genre tick for me. Where do some games succeed where others fail? I don’t really have any grand thesis where this topic is concerned, since a lot of it boils down to personal preference, but there are a few things that I think makes RPGs that much more enjoyable. Interestingly, these are all things that Xenosaga Episode 1 completely failed to provide, so consider this a protracted takedown of this awful, awful game, as well as an opportunity to remember some truly fantastic games that are far more deserving of a player’s time.
I will, for the record, leave my original review of Xenosaga 1 on the site, even though it really isn’t representative of my opinion of the game anymore (I would have been much, MUCH harsher).

Number One- Have an Exciting Beginning

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Final Fantasy Is Not Dead.

A link to the article. 

The picture in question

Final Fantasy isn’t dead…
…but it is in trouble.
It’s no secret that Final Fantasy, which was once the go-to series for excellent RPGs, has seen a bit of a decline in recent years. In the most recent piece of scuttlebutt discussing this, an article on proclaimed the death of the series, while showing a screenshot of the heroine Lightning (from the upcoming spinoff title Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII) dressed in a skimpy outfit. This was included with a snippet of an interview where the developers answered questions about Lightning’s redesign, including her increased bust size. The game itself, Lightning Returns, includes an assortment of outfits Lightning can switch between, which allow her to gain new abilities in combat.

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Brief Look Back At Kingdom Hearts

So, probably the biggest ‘we knew what it was from the moment the trailer started but we didn’t care because it was awesome’ moment at this year’s E3 was the long overdue announcement of Kingdom Hearts III, which will be coming to the Playstation 4 and Xbox One sometime in the future. The Kingdom Hearts series has long been one of my favorite gaming franchises, and with the apparent conclusion to the saga forthcoming, I’ve prepared these brief descriptions of the earlier games, as well as my opinions on each entry. It has been a long, strange road for Sora and company, as well as for fans of the series- but with the third main game finally on its way, let’s take a look back at Kingdom Hearts.

Kingdom Hearts (2002) (Playstation 2)

The original Kingdom Hearts marks the beginning of what must be one of the strangest crossovers in fiction (Squaresoft’s particular brand of RPG with settings and characters taken from Disney films), but the original Kingdom Hearts made it work, and kicked off a series that has become even larger than Square’s own Final Fantasy was at the time.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My Review: Xenosaga Episode 1: Der Wille Zur Macht

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of storytelling in videogames. Oftentimes, I have praised videogames for their ability to immerse me in a story, but it is important to recognize that when I review a game- discussing story, gameplay, and presentation- I am talking about three equal parts of a greater whole. If one of these aspects is lacking, then the whole is greatly weakened. The best games are ones where the gameplay, story, and presentation are of the highest quality, and this brief tangent brings us to the subject of what I hope will be a three-part review of the Xenosaga series.

With the Playstation classic Xenogears being one of my favorite games, I was certainly interested in Tetsuya Takahashi’s first project after departing from Square and forming Monolith Soft. Originally meant to serve as a six-part, multi-generational epic that would encompass the entire universe from beginning to end (and perhaps include a remake or reimagining of the tale told in Xenogears), Xenosaga would instead be remembered as a case of failed ambition, and was cut to only three games after seeing disappointing sales. Still, the question does remain whether Xenosaga was able to still provide something special and unique, even if it would never reach its full potential. So, let us discuss the first entry in this most troubled of sagas, Der Wille Zur Macht- The Will to Power. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Evolsaur Deck Profile- Digivolve

One of the most interesting decks from the newest era of Yu-gi-oh was the Dino Rabbit deck. Basically an assortment of cards with Rescue Rabbit and Tour Guide of the Underworld serving as a lynchpin, the deck was very powerful in its day, with its ability to quickly summon and utilize two of the most powerful Xyz monsters in the game- Evolzar Laggia and Evolzar Dolkka. A first turn Rescue Rabbit could Special Summon two level 4 Normal dinosaurs, and overlay them into a 2400 ATK monster with a Solemn Judgment effect, or a 2300 ATK monster with a Divine Wrath effect.

The thing is, the Evolzar monsters actually have their own archetype, one which, if used well, can be considerably more fun to use. These are the Evolsaurs, affectionately referred to as Digimon by some, which function as an Xyz toolbox that can summon the Rank 4 Evolzars easily, as well as utilize their own powerful effects.

So what are the Evolsaurs? Well, they are a group of Dinosaur-type monsters, supported by their Reptile-type cousins the Evoltiles. All of them are FIRE attribute, and they have a bevy of useful support cards as a result of this. The Evolsaurs effects are activated when they are summoned by the effect of an Evoltile, giving them functionality similar to the Gladiator Beasts’ ‘tagging out.’

Saturday, June 8, 2013

My Review- Parasite Eve (PS1)

“They don’t make them like they used to” is a phrase that is becoming more and more relevant as far as gaming as concerned. Looking at a company like Square Enix, it might be difficult to realize that, once upon a time, their non-Final Fantasy titles weren’t relegated to pointless mobile titles and blatant cash grabs, but were instead considered to be some of their best work. In between Final Fantasy titles, gamers were treated to unique games such as Chrono Trigger, Xenogears, and the subject of this review, Parasite Eve. Originally based on a Japanese horror novel, Parasite Eve blended concepts from the newly popularized Survival Horror genre with Square’s well-known style of quality RPG, creating one of the most unique games of the PS1 era. But is this ‘Cinematic RPG’ worth revisiting like other Squaresoft classics?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My Review- Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne (PS2)

Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei series started out as an obscure series of dungeon-crawlers, and while they were popular in their native Japan, they didn’t initially catch on overseas, with only a couple of shoddily-translated spin-off titles making it over here. That all changed with the 2003 release of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, the third entry in the “main” SMT series. This is the game that, for lack of a better phrase, started it all, a high-quality RPG that would set the stage for Digital Devil Saga/Personas 3 and 4, and would establish Shin Megami Tensei as a shining beacon among its contemporaries. The question is, does it still hold up today?


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Top Ten Final Fantasy Villains

JRPGs have had their share of great antagonists over the years, but no franchise has even come close to the gallery of rogues and villains the Final Fantasy series has assembled over the years. These characters are often the most memorable aspects of each game- whether they are clad in giant suits of armor, or with flowing locks of white hair, out to destroy the world or obtain absolute power, there is no denying that the assorted villains of Final Fantasy have made their mark on the RPG genre, and gaming as a whole. And now that the obligatory introduction is out of the way, let’s discuss ten of my favorite Final Fantasy antagonists!
Now, keep in mind two stipulations for this list. First of all, the characters I have listed are from the ‘main’ Final Fantasy series (that is to say, they can be from I-XIV, as well as X-2 and XIII-2), which unfortunately rules out some great villains from spinoff titles, such as Delita from Final Fantasy Tactics. Secondly, I will only be giving one entry on this list per game in the series, for the sake of variety. Lastly, obviously since this is a Top Ten list, a few characters (some of which may or may not be popular) will be left off, so feel free to tell me about how wrong I was later.
So, without further ado…

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Malefic Skill Drain deck profile

The Malefic monsters were introduced in the Yugioh 10th Anniversary film, Bonds Beyond Time, as a series of cards used by the villainous Paradox. They are essentially corrupted versions of iconic Yugioh monsters, mainly dragons such as Blue-eyes and Red-eyes. In the original Japanese, they were known as the 'Sin' monsters (a pun on the Japanese word for 'truth', pronounced Shin, a play on words which represented Paradox's twisted worldview that these corrupted monstrosities were the true Duel Monsters), but was changed to 'Malefic' by the censors at 4kids in their tireless effort to make everything boring. The Malefic monsters all share some things in common- they require a Field Spell to be active, there can only be one Malefic monster on the field at a time, and are summoned by banishing the original 'good' version of the monster.

They also, basically, suck. At least, a lot of the Malefic monsters do, since their trading card game incarnations come with a whole host of drawbacks. Cards like Malefic Blue-eyes White Dragon and Malefic Rainbow Dragon need you to banish the original monster from your Main Deck, which can result in a ton of dead draws and make for a very inconsistent deck (don't even get me started on Malefic Red-eyes Black Dragon, which is just a terrible card). Not to mention, Malefic monsters stop your other monsters from declaring attacks. That's not to say that the Malefic archetype as a whole is worthless- on the contrary, a skillfully built deck can utilize the best aspect of the Malefic monsters (the ability to effortlessly summon high level monsters), while simultaneously working around their negative effects and limiting the opponent's ability to respond.