April 30, 2013

Suikoden II – Hard to Imagine Without Suikoden I

Posted in video games tagged , at 4:01 pm by riulyn

Beware of all the spoilers following for Suikoden and Suikoden II. You have been warned.

Read the rest of this entry »

April 21, 2013

They need to be funny but definitely weird.

Posted in video games tagged , , , at 11:02 pm by riulyn

If someone tried to promote two different RPGs to me based on story alone without going into too much detail, I usually tend to go for the one that seems more light-hearted, as that usually equates to more humorous scenes between the characters. The story itself may have its sad moments (I think of plenty of games that I play where wars happen in them and important people die), but if the characters aren’t bantering in the lighter moments, I rather go read fanfics where I can get the banter. I also am rather fond of video game characters making fun of their video game world (fourth wall breaking is fine with me) and things that could only really be in a video game world.

Sometimes, though, I find something rather dark and twisted to be the more interesting story. This is why, despite all the terrible things I’ve heard about the gameplay of Drakengard, I now own a copy of that game. Incest and psychopaths and mass murder? My mixed feeling on incest don’t really belong here and would be a rambly post, but I can definitely say that I tend to stay far away from stories about psychopaths and murdering things just to murder. However adding in the incest actually increased my interest, as I have the feeling the weirdness goes all out. It definitely helped that the writer of Drakengard later wrote NieR, a game that I love quite a lot despite the tragedy. What I learned from NieR was that the writer could make very real and interesting characters out of rather limited dialogue.

So yes, I’m curious about Drakengard because it’s different, but I also think about my love for Xeno and how I don’t just love it for being different. Xeno games can put serious hurt to the characters, have rather mentally unstable protagonists, and have even quite the dark plot event usually involving even more tragedy. I don’t know if my love for Xeno stems from my admiration of the ambition, the fact that I personally wouldn’t write those stories, or the fact that the games makes me pause and just exclaim, “WHAT!? That’s ridiculous!” more times than I can count. I’m expecting a higher than normal count of similar exclamations when I play Drakengard, whenever that time comes.

I also just bought Shadow Hearts. I’m also expecting a high “ridiculous” count for that series.

In other news, I beat Fire Emblem: Awakening. Not as complete of a run as I hoped (didn’t do all the Spot Pass paralogues), but once I was over 100 hours I just felt like I needed to at least see the ending in a relatively reasonable amount of time. Most of the 100 hours was spent doing random battles to grind units and get the support conversations because I obsess over those type of things. There was definitely not 100 hours of interesting plot; I really only found the last few chapters worth paying more than average attention to. I think if the weird was added to the main plot of a Awakening-like game, it could possibly become one of my favorite games ever. If that game already exists, please let me know 🙂

April 18, 2013

PAX, I missed you (but I don’t mind too much)

Posted in video games tagged , , at 9:11 am by riulyn

Last year I did a pretty good job of stalking the PAX twitter feed in order to know when tickets would go on sale. This year I wasn’t so vigilant, but even so, all the tickets were gone before I could have even bought them! Sold out in about 6 hours, even with 4 days of PAX. Crazy, isn’t it?

To be honest, I’m not sure if I would have gone anyway. Yes, it’s pretty awesome to try out the demos for games and talk to some of the indie developers, and the panels get some really awesome guests. However I’ve never been much of a demo person in general, as my primary gaming genre is RPGs and there’s not much you find out from a demo that you can’t from a video. Unless they were action RPGs, which the only 2 I am planning to buy come out before (Muramasa) or soon after (Ys Celceta) PAX. And I’m getting Ys no matter what since I’m a converted fan 🙂 RPG demos, unless they are for indie RPGs, are pretty bad especially if it was like last year when Persona 4 Golden’s demo was more like progressing through the normal game for 10 minutes. Luck of the draw what you got to play. Though those cutscenes looked pretty nice…

In addition, I already have a bunch of games to buy that I know I’ll want and not much money for anything else. Last year I got to feel what a 3DS, a Vita, and the Wii U was like. Since I’m not planning to buy a PS4 anytime soon, there aren’t any new consoles I need to try out. The console has to be really awkward for me to not be able to deal with it. I mean, I don’t care for the Wii mote…or more accurately, I don’t think the Wii mote and I get along (making certain brush techniques in Okami a crapshoot for me), but it’s not going to prevent me from playing games like Pandora’s Tower, which should be arriving in about a week and probably not played until next year. That’s how my backlog is working at the moment…

Anyway whatever many dollars (since I can’t get a ticket anyway, no point at looking at the prices) to get one day of PAX is probably the cost of a game or two (let’s not even mention how many Steam games), and I have more than that to pick up still (maybe this holiday season as a treat to myself). Of course next year might be a better chance as I should be done with buying new systems and I can go back to picking up some miscellaneous PS2 games, DS games, GBA games, and some more Japanese PSP games. If that PS2 dies, I think I will really cry…

April 15, 2013

On voice acting in RPGs

Posted in video games tagged , , , at 10:57 pm by riulyn

Voice acting is pretty much used in every modern RPG made by non-indie studios (off the top of my head I can only think of Radiant Historia as an exception), but some game budgets are not the same as other game budgets, and some games have a lot more text than others. Also, not all game systems are equal. So when it comes to those special scenes, whether cut scenes, skits, battles, etc., what voice acting makes the cut and what voice acting should (in my opinion) make the cut?

Ideally, a game would voice everything fully, but that’s not practical even for the most expensive RPGs, unless there is very little dialogue. But if that can’t be achieved, here’s are two ways to look at it.

Importance to me

1. Cut scenes

2. Skits/sidequests/etc. dialogue

3. Battle quotes

4. Random reaction noises

Cheapest to most expensive/time & memory consuming

1. Random reaction noises

2. Battle quotes

3. Major cut scenes

4. All character-developing dialogue

So what do I want from each category? I obviously want good and appropriate voice acting. Variety is nice but consistency might be better, as voice acting needs to make the characters both interesting and relatable. In terms of general volume, it needs to be quite a bit louder than the background music in the cutscenes but not so loud during battle. Also,ideally all the voice acting can be turned off whenever a player wants to turn it off.

Voice acting in major cutscenes has to enhance the experience and thus needs to be very dynamic. I prefer it a bit overplayed than underplayed. Overplayed doesn’t equal slow (like Magna Carta: Tears of Blood slow), though dialogue should probably be a bit slower than it is in real life so that we can get every word. I mean, these events are supposed to matter to the characters and thus matter to you.

For skits and the like, I know it is rather difficult to have every single line voiced, but I think if one were to add voice acting emphasis to a skit, reaction noises could work. However, not every line of dialogue needs a reaction noise (Fire Emblem: Awakening is quite over the top with this), unless the characters are truly changing their moods with every line. Also, while on the subject of Fire Emblem: Awakening, I’d prefer a dialogue line be left unpaired with a sound clip than matched with an inappropriate one. It can be confusing and sometimes take me out of the situation.

For side quests, ideally you voice all the dialogue if you are giving them any voicing, but having the NPCs give you a voiced greeting depending on their mood isn’t too bad. This type of voice acting is pretty low on my priority list in general.

For battle quotes, I enjoy both when the characters say their attack names and post-battle quotes. If you are going to keep one, I suggest the latter as it doesn’t bother people nearly as much. Personally I prefer full battle quotes/phrases/sentences/dialogues (aka Xenoblade’s) to grunts and yells even if grunts are more logical. Of course if you are doing post-battle quotes, at least have multiple ones per character. We are going to be playing a lot of battles, and getting an appropriately-matched one that is somewhat random is better than 1000 battles of the same thing. Importantly, battle dialogue should be something that a player can mute in a modern game; there are too many people who get annoyed by this and you don’t want to turn them away!

Finally, some games use modified modern languages, conlangs, or random noises instead of English or Japanese or whatever. Obviously you can tell my stance on the made-up languages that aren’t based on modern language sounds, as I find them to be rather irritating random noises. Not to say that a language has to have a common modern language basis to be okay for me, as I know there are some interesting languages that are based on clicks and other rhythmic things, but I just can’t stand whatever they use in Okami and how the Cheagles talk in Tales of the Abyss. Not only does it annoy me, but it also seems kind of lazy to do voices that way. I’d love to hear an argument to convince me otherwise.

Anyway, there you have it. Voice acting has come a long way in RPGs, especially in JRPGs. Make your voices emotionally powerful but consistent with the characters and appropriate for the situations they are used in, and you are all set. Easier said than done, of course, but no one makes RPGs because they are easy to make, right?

April 8, 2013

2013 Q1 Roundup

Posted in video games tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 5:04 pm by riulyn

I couldn’t think of a funny title or a really interesting question. I just wanted to post on games, so I’ll just ramble on about all the games I’ve played from January to the end of March. Feel free to read whatever parts you feel like reading or skipping this altogether.

Dragon Quest VIII

Not only was this game part of the wonderful RPGamer marathon going on at the RPGamer forums, but it is one of the easiest/cheapest Dragon Quest games to buy. Since it’s the only Dragon Quest game that I’ve played, there’s not much for me to say to long-time Dragon Quest fans about this game. It still looks gorgeous, the music is still good, and the scale of the game is great.

Personally I liked the story but I felt like it took a while to get going, due to the game being hard for me and thus battling and gathering items being more important at the beginning. I also found battling to be quite repetitive as I ended up using the same spells/items for almost all of them. I suppose, in that sense, the game is pretty traditional as many old RPGs didn’t do status ailments or elemental weaknesses too well… Life gets interesting once you get a ship (but also quite dangerous) and even better once you gain the ability to fast travel. Stick the game out and you feel very fulfilled when you beat it.

On my scale from hate to love: LIKE

Favorite character: Yangus

Recommendations: Use alchemy. Really, really you should use it or you may grind for levels and/or money forever. Also, it’s better to take this game at a more leisurely pace than I did.

Jeanne D’Arc

I actually started this at the end of December and I got it for $10 earlier last year. For some people this is a really short game but I spent 40 hours in it.

The game is pretty simple and feels fast due to quick leveling up, turn limits, etc. It has basic classes and basic customization, weapon and magic triangles, counter attacking, etc. The story has a few surprises and it’s interesting to see what fits with history and what doesn’t. I try to think of a reason why someone wouldn’t like this game if they like this genre. Maybe it is a bit on the easy side?

Another thing about this game is most of your party members talk throughout the story. That also means there are few optional characters. But I think there are 12-ish automatic characters, so that gives you enough ways to customize.

On my scale from hate to love: REALLY LIKE

Favorite character: Gilles

Recommendations: Use Colet and Marcel. I had no idea they were so awesome until I looked at a FAQ when I did get stuck in one battle. They are pretty awesome characters. Also it can’t hurt to do optional battles to get some neat equipment and more skills.

Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter

Another game in the marathon and personally a game I would have never picked up had it not been for the marathon. It didn’t seem like my type of game, and it really wasn’t, but I am glad that I played it. Really worth a try to anyone with the slightest interest in it, and it definitely helps that this game is relatively cheap to acquire.

What I didn’t know before playing the game is how good the story would be. It’s one of those good stories told in not very many words. Even with the extra scenes I unlocked because I restarted a few times, the extra scenes are rather short and just give a few more hints at motivations and emotions of the characters. Usually I like rather verbose and complicated/ambitious stories, but this is the opposite. I think the atmosphere of the entire game ends up being so well done that you can’t think of it being done any other way.

Of course, the stronger the unity of a piece like this is, the stronger it repels people who don’t like its style. I found myself simultaneously impressed and annoyed with this game. I hated the SOL system but dealt with it at the beginning of the game and didn’t need to worry about it later; it ended up being a good thing since I got the extra cutscenes (save for New Game + ones) right away. I hated the idea of save tokens and was pretty stressed about my last save being 3 hours before I met the final boss. Personally I found the save limit a lot more stressful/annoying than the “difficulty” and SOL system. I really had to think about when to save – before or after I do purchases, at this save box or at the next one?

On my scale from hate to love: LIKE

Favorite character: Lin

Recommendations: If you are nervous about the difficulty, don’t be afraid to SOL restart a few times at the beginning of the game. Just make sure to choose the Give Up function whenever possible instead of letting yourself get wiped in battle, as then you don’t lose half of your party experience and money. Also, don’t use your D-Counter unless you really, really have to, and then if you do, use it wisely.

Ys I

I had Ys longings so I went ahead and picked up Ys I & II for the PSP and for Steam. I’ve only touched the PSP versions so far; I love having it portable, but I think that the PC version is better? I’ll let you know later. It’s probably cheaper on PC anyway, as the PSP version is rather old.

There’s not much story but there’s also not much game (my game file said 6 hours). It’s all about bosses. While basic combat is just playing bumper cars with everything (that’s how you talk to people, collect items, and hit enemies), the boss battles throw a few tricks at you. There was one bat boss that confused me so much that I had to look up YouTube videos to figure out how to even hurt him. Also that last battle…I must have tried it over 300 times. But you feel so good when you beat the game.

There is some interesting background story going on which continues on in Ys II. Thankfully most modern editions of the game come with both Ys I and II.

On my scale from hate to love: REALLY LIKE

Favorite character: Dogi? For the 3 seconds he’s around 🙂

Recommendations: Don’t feel bad if you start on easy or normal. I think the only differences between the difficulties is how many times you have to successfully execute the winning strategy before the boss goes down. You can’t use healing items during boss battles, so it’s all beating the boss before you run out of HP. Also, the fun of the game is in the boss battles, so I don’t think looking up how to find items in a FAQ ruins the experience. Actually a few things might  not be intuitive (like certain items you need to find and where to get them) so don’t feel bad about the FAQ use.

Shining Hearts

The first game that I beat that was only in Japanese. I feel pretty happy to manage that. Otherwise… The game tries to do too many different things but it doesn’t really do anything besides the bread-making and the character side quests with enough proficiency.

Battle system is good if you ever felt the need to go beyond auto-battle, which is not very much of the time. Encounter rate is high for a game that requires almost no grinding except for a few parts, but that can also be alleviated if you don’t act like I do and try to balance out all the non-required battle party members. The characters that join you but aren’t required to be used come with unique abilities and they can all be useful; they all need to get leveled up and leveling up is a bit slow in this game.

The main plot…it suddenly appears. It could have been interesting. It goes by rather fast compared to the rest of the game. Wait, the actual reason you play this game is to get a girl to fall into your arms at the end of the game? Um…

On my scale from hate to love: SOMEWHAT DISLIKE

Favorite character: Roana (but more for her battle skills)

Recommendations: Make all the bread and then feed all the characters of your party with it. Don’t worry about Madera or the townspeople. Defend is really useful, and so are status spells like poison and sleep (didn’t really use the other types, but I’m sure they work). I think choosing the cleric as your second party member makes the game easier, but I have not tried the other ones yet. Also, know at least basic Japanese or be willing to use a guide as not everything shows up on the quest guide.

Suikoden

Yes, I replayed this game again. I still love it, and the more you play it, the faster it goes. Even when you go for 108 Stars.

I’m too much of a fan to worry about the limited dialogue and true interactions with half of your stars, and the drama in the game may be a bit over the top, but if you get a few hours into the game and don’t feel it (after a certain event in Lenankamp) then the game is probably not for you. You don’t play this game for the battle system or for true character customization, and you may not be able to handle the ridiculous way the game expects you to deal with item inventories. You’ll also find out if these things really matter to you within the first few hours.

The game is so cheap for most people, especially being on PSN. Getting a used PS1 disc isn’t too bad either. There’s no excuse to not give this game a try if you have any interest towards it.

On my scale from hate to love: REALLY LIKE

Favorite character: Viktor

Recommendations: I think the best way to play the game for the first time is to not use a guide. It’s not hard enough of a game to require one, and I think the game is short enough and good enough that it’s worth a replay if you aren’t satisfied with your results from the first run. There’s also a decent number of game-breaking unites or rune powers to play around with if that’s your thing.

Tales of the Abyss

I replayed this game for the RPGamer marathon, and it was worth a replay after 5 years or so. I played the PS2 version once again. I hear the 3DS port is almost the same as the PS2 version, so I might look into that some day. The game should work pretty well on the 3DS, I think.

Anyway, if you don’t like anime then you won’t like Tales. If you hate characters being in your face all the time, then this game isn’t for you. I personally like anime and characters interacting all the time. Tales of the Abyss might have actually had too many character interactions even for me. There are also scripts which would have been a lot better with voice acting, and sidequests which can unlock more character interactions. The whole plot is driven by character development. I think you know what I’m getting at.

Gameplay is pretty standard for modern Tales games and in some ways it’s better because it’s simpler, but I think it may be slower than the more recent games. Soon I’ll play Tales of Graces f and see if that is truly the best of the Tales series in terms of battling.

I caught a lot more things the second playthrough than I did in the first, so I think the game is worth a replay as well as a first play.

On my scale from hate to love: REALLY LIKE

Favorite character: Guy

Recommendations: The game is better played over more than 3 weeks like I did it. Also, free run is awesome. Also, Anise is a lot more powerful than (most of) you think.

Xenoblade Chronicles

I think this game, save for the battle system and the number of kill quests, was pretty much made for me, so there’s too much and not that much to say. Obviously I spent a lot of time with the game and a lot of good time with the game. Just look at my earlier posts and you can see that I even took on more content than was required to beat the game, which means I got a bit obsessive with it. Had no idea I would become like that. And I even grew an appreciation for the battle system.

There’s plenty of short character interactions, plenty of world to explore, plenty of background info and relationships to change with the NPCs, and plenty of plot and enough surprises even to the end (at least for me). The game feels very rhythmic most of the time; if this “down-time”/traveling time bothers you then I don’t think there’s anything to really remedy that. I personally found small conveniences like skip travel and the directional arrow to save me from most annoyances of long travel that bother me in games like FFXII and Dragon Quest VIII, but your mileage may vary. Also the music is awesome. It’s too bad I was overleveled at the end so I didn’t get to enjoy the last bits to their fullest in context, but I can enjoy their full sound with the soundtrack on my mp3 player 🙂

On my scale from hate to love: LOVE

Favorite character: Melia

Recommendations: Don’t get bogged down by quests, but also don’t put them all off unless you don’t plan to do them at all. When collecting quests, talk to people multiple times especially if they give kill quests since those people tend to have a lot. Don’t be afraid to wiki for quests; some of them are a real pain in the butt. If you are going the quest route, also talk to anyone that has a name even without the exclamation point as that can help with raising city affinity and unlocking more quests.

Also, try playing as different characters in the lead and see who you like best. I personally liked playing as Shulk, Dunban, and Seven, but I also played Melia a lot since her AI is pretty bad.

April 4, 2013

Everything’s neutral until isms are thrown in.

Posted in life tagged , , , at 3:37 pm by riulyn

I don’t usually think about a person’s gender, sexual, or ethnic identity when I see them posting on websites. It’s only when I’m trying to talk about the person that I sometimes think about it. Still, I usually don’t care and just refer to their avatar name.

It’s when I look at blog posts or discussions on sexism or racism that suddenly it feels like tons of posters are making assumptions about other posters. Everyone is so riled up and ready to debunk other people’s arguments with what they believe are the fastest putdowns ever. If you are a male, you can’t have a legit opinion on sexism! If you are a white person in a white-dominated country, you can’t talk about racism! If you are straight, you can’t talk about LGBTQ issues!

I’ve played RPGs and some other games for a while, but it’s only recently (past year or so) that I’ve become more active on forums and websites about my interest. Gamers are usually pretty kind to each other. Normal trolling or put-downs tend to be game-related. I didn’t see any indications of gender, sex, ethnicity, etc. in those comments. So how do all these people suddenly think they know these things just by reading these statements?

Even with a slightly gender-biased name (“lyn” is a common suffix for female names, at least in English), it appears that plenty of the internet believes me to be a male-identifying person. Okay, I don’t have my gender listed on most of my website profiles (I think I used to but I try to keep my profile pages short and more anonymous) but I don’t really understand why people decide to refer to me as “he” when they don’t know. My name isn’t that long, is it?

Or they could take an educated guess and refer to me as “she”. Oh wait, if my observations from the internet and elsewhere are correct, the worst thing you can call a male-identifying person is a “girl”! I should never advocate for that mistake, right?

I haven’t seen any indications of what people assume my ethnicity and sexual orientations are yet, but I’ve seen plenty of other posters get assumed to be white and straight, so I’m sure if I didn’t open my mouth in a discussion with a long preface of “As a X, Y, and Z person…” I’m sure I’d receive that. Because if I like boobs, I’m a straight male and totally into sex…

I haven’t even touched age-ism. This post is already a spiraling mess.

Anyway, I don’t know if all this stuff makes me annoyed, angry, or confused. Probably all 3. It’s just…okay I really don’t think I understand.

April 2, 2013

Con-ed Out

Posted in life tagged , , at 12:00 pm by riulyn

Sakura-con was great fun, but I am suffering from con hangover. And stupid body and mind aren’t quite connected, so I stayed up too late playing Ys II instead of sleeping last night.

Anyway had a fun weekend remembering that I also love anime and parody of anime probably even more. But JRPGs are #1 in my heart and if there was a convention that focused on JRPGs there wouldn’t be much to do in those panels besides cry about how most of our beloved series are no longer being worked on or are not being localized. Or it could all be about Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, or Tales…who knows.

Speaking of Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, and Tales, there seemed to be less of the former two in terms of cosplay than the year before and more of the latter. Specifically more Tales of the Abyss cosplay, which was pretty cool to see. I think everyone in the main traveling party was represented somewhere save for Mieu. Yes, there was even Ion! I couldn’t tell at first since the colors of the Ion cosplay outfit weren’t quite what I was expecting, but the hair was spot on. And then the cosplayer talked about being kidnapped by Jade and Natalia, so yep, definitely Ion. There were also some Tales of Symphonia cosplayers but the most popular Tales character this year was Anise.

I managed to bump into 2 of the Suikoden cosplayers so that was awesome, and also was able to compliment the chaos cosplayer. Sasarai was too far away for me to say anything to. I was sad to miss the Fire Emblem: Awakening cosplayers…

Happened to see a bunch of Persona cosplayers as well. A lot of art in the artist alley for Persona 4 as that one has recently gotten Golden treatment and anime love. I didn’t buy any of those but one artist had a bunch of Tales art so I got all 5 of her Tales posters for Symphonia, Abyss, Vesperia, Graces, and Xillia. I need to play those latter 2 like now on a PS3 that I need to own now.

Two of the voice actor guests worked on things Tales-related too. It was more Tales-tastic than I expected! Now that I know who voices Asbel in Tales of Graces, I’m going to be noticing it a lot more when I finally get to that game. It’s always kind of funny when you go to a voice actor’s Q&A not knowing too much about him/her and leaving with all this knowledge. These voice actors are in everything, it seems.

Oh, and I picked up a game at this con. Another Castle and Pink Gorilla are at the con and bring a decent number of used and new JRPGs. Was hoping that Shadow Hearts would appear but I got a sealed copy of Shadow Hearts: From the New World for $30, which wasn’t too bad. Considering all the awesome games coming out this year and the two systems I need to still get, I will have to get Shadow Hearts soon and call it a year on buying PS2 games.