July 23, 2013

Q2 Round Up

Posted in video games tagged , , , , , , , , at 7:47 am by riulyn

Once again April-June was filled with JRPGs and I finished quite a few during this time period. Because this post is so massive, it’s late. Well, and other games got in the way…

April beaten: Okami, Fire Emblem: Awakening, Suikoden 2

May beaten: Ys II, The World Ends With You, Persona 3 Portable (female)

June beaten: Dark Cloud 2, Shadow Hearts, Suikoden 3

Below are some thoughts on each beaten game, done in alphabetical order.

Dark Cloud 2

I did not get far into Dark Cloud as other games distracted me, but the general sentiment is that Dark Cloud 2 is a more friendly game. It was certainly easier to get into when I made it a priority to play it, and not having to worry about a thirst meter was awesome. At first I found the game easy, then suddenly very hard until I found out (via the Internet) just how to increase my stats. The game comes with FAQs for everything except that, it seems. And I don’t believe it is possible to beat the game without using any of the stat gaining items, unless you are a dodge master and/or have one-shot kill weapons.

The story of the game is quite simple and doesn’t try to do much. That’s fine for me (I’m sure if you are sick of Max within the first 2 hours he doesn’t get any better) but the dungeon crawling you needed to do to get from plot point to plot point felt too padded.   Chapter setups were usually “rebuild this place, go to through a dungeon in order to get all the parts and info”. At the beginning of the game when I wasn’t so skilled I had to grind for money and items in order to do required Georama building. At the end I had more than enough money.

The game encourages weapon building up and you really should do more than just your swords/hammers like I did so the final boss gauntlet isn’t so bad. Speaking of that gauntlet, it had like 4 battles too many. 4 relatively easy battles compared to the others and all they did were use up some of my resources (I pretty much used Ridepod against them).

Overall it’s not a bad game, but a certain type of gamer will really eat this game up while others will find the main story bits too repetitive. Personally I found it too repetitive but the music was decent enough and I kind of zoned out with it.

Like/Dislike: Somewhat dislike. For the 50 hours I put in, I usually want more story than this.

Fire Emblem: Awakening

I’ve already written about this game a bit on this blog before, but yes, I did spend many hours with this game, mostly playing random battles to level up characters and class change them and get support conversations and kids. I feel like it was more like going into a Suikoden recruitment mode rather than actually caring about who I shipped with who. My friends seemed to care more on shipping. The characters are pretty anime stereotypes but I don’t mind that if the tropes are played well off each other. Some of the more developed characters seem to have the bigger fanbases (and I don’t just mean physical developments…).

I played as a female avatar because I could and even named her after myself, but the MC was definitely not geared to any real self-inserting. The avatar was pretty meh as a character. Chrom really is the leader of the tale even if you make the final ending decision. And well, Chrom is kind of stupid and reckless. But pretty nice-looking when you through pink bubbles around him or whatever…

I’m no hardcore Fire Emblem fan. I find it’s appeal more like in the sense that you have so many units that have different roles and battles for a war really feel like you are playing a war. Like I don’t get war-based games when important battles are your 5 units against 30+ enemies that just man their own little area and decide to attack you if you get close. Or when you collect so many units and can’t use them? What are those other units doing?

Anyway, to get back on topic. FE: A is a fun game. It’s an easily exploited game. It can also be heavily based on luck. It really needed a better story to make you care. As in, it was rolling along decently well until suddenly you hit a big tragedy and a revenge battle and bam, end of one arc. Of course for many spoiler reasons the first part of the game could be explained away a bit, but still… When a game pulls something like that on you, it just makes you wonder why the heck you spent all that time doing that besides getting chances to level up your characters and such. A bit of a FFXII situation in my eyes. I didn’t like FFXII’s plot even if it was well thought-out overall because of it’s structure, and FE: A is somewhat of that with characters I found easier to like but an overarching plot that was not nearly as cohesive.

So yeah, in conclusion FE: A is a mixed bag for me plot/character-wise, but addictive in class-changing and support building. Probably the only FE game you could zone out to while playing, if that’s a plus to anyone, and certainly good for short bursts.

Like/Dislike: Like. Even though Chrom is an idiot, or because Chrom is an idiot.

Okami

Okami is a beautiful game. The port to the Wii is decent, which is the one I played. The controls were fine most of the time, except when my Wii mote was not cooperating. Doing the different brush motions was fun. The music was great.

Okami, like Dark Cloud 2, is really not my kind of game. Unlike Dark Cloud 2, there really isn’t any character development/growing up until the second half of the game. The first part is about adventuring and collecting brush techniques and defeating a big bad at the end of it. It’s a little less straightforward than Dark Cloud 2 in the second part but overall the game has its share of filler. Unnecessary boss gauntlet prior to the final boss as well.

I guess, in a sense, Okami is supposedly like a Zelda game? You expect mostly the adventure and world-exploring and the plot is an extra bonus? I haven’t played a Zelda game all the way through so I am no fair judge, but that’s what Okami felt to me.

Like/Dislike: Somewhat dislike. The humor got old fast and the second/better part doesn’t come soon enough.

Persona 3 Portable (female path)

I’ve talked about Persona 3 Portable as a female here before as well, so I’ll keep this short. Second playthrough was more enjoyable because I knew what I was doing and I liked the writing for the female social links better. Since the main character really isn’t someone with really different dialogue choices, it didn’t make sense to give the MC such bland/boring responses. The peppier female therefore felt more real and more charming. Like someone who could get away with having multiple partners and everyone wanting a piece of him/her.

I really do enjoy the battle system of P3P. I don’t think I could deal with the tactics system in boss battles because I never figured out a tactic where my characters would actually use items to cure statuses. At least heal/support didn’t appear to do the trick. The worst thing is if your MC gets screwed with a paralyze/charm/whatever and you can’t change the tactics of your other party members and they are too stupid to do anything right…

Anyway, Persona games might not be exactly my type of game, but they have enough things I like without too many I don’t like. It’s kind of fun to learn a bit more about Japan via the little quizzes and holidays in the calendar, but sometimes it just feels like “choose which social link to update today” for weeks at a time. I guess that allows you more flexibility, but then story events were really the only time you got to see relationships between your party members and I just wish they got more screen time, since they all had developed backstories and all. A nice change in the female path was being able to max a male social link without becoming lovers. I just didn’t want to be lovers with an elementary school kid…

Like/Dislike: Like a lot

Shadow Hearts

I decided to play this game before starting Shadow Hearts 2, and luckily for my timing this game was relatively short. Short but it felt like things were happening quickly as well. Battle system is solid; the Judgement ring spins slowly enough that it’s not too difficult to get attacks in, though certain characters had hit areas that are rather tough. Usually the first area to strike is the largest and easiest, as well as that hit does the most damage out of the combo (like 1.5 times or something). Of course, there are times where you can be afflicted by a status where you can no longer see the hit zones but by that time you either have charms that you can use to prevent that, items to cure that status, or you know the pattern well enough that you don’t need those hit zones visible anyway.

The 3 party system is limited only because you get 6 characters or so and Yuri is required, so you don’t get to play around with the others. If you want to keep switching up who is in your party, those other members are going to be pretty low level since they don’t gain any experience when they aren’t in your battle party. In addition you can’t switch members whenever you want, so it hurts to switch party members for every different area. Of course, those are only choices you really get at the end of the game. Most of the game you have a set party, or one person you can switch around with.

The story is dark but not really horror. It’s more like supernatural and ghosts and night-time things, but not gory or trying to frighten you. The music in the game is great. I would love to get the soundtrack.

Of course, the second game so far has been even better in like every way, except for (your mileage may vary) the party members. First game had some really smart dialogue, a mix of things that happen because its a JRPG of the early PS2 era, and just an introduction that sets a stage for “well, anything could happen”.

Like/Dislike: Love

Suikoden II

First time replaying it in quite a few years… It was a great trip, though a bit rushed as I have too many new shiny games to still play. I still love it for being solid pretty much everywhere except for those war battles where I still have no clue how they actually work and it took forever for someone to hit someone else. Argh…

Suikoden II really summarizes all the things most Suikoden fans want from a new Suikoden game: significant numbers of returning characters, references to everything, quick pace story (and being able to recruit characters early on), chances to use most of these characters, fun ways to learn about them, fun mini games, sad moments that punch you in the gut. Well we don’t really wish for deaths, but those sad moments tend to be the most memorable. Besides Viktor’s lines.

I don’t know what else to say about it. To me, it’s almost a perfect PS1 game. There’s nothing that I can point to specifically and say it makes the game amazing, but it’s just an experience that left an unforgettable impression.

Like/Dislike: LOVE (to the max, pretty much)

Suikoden III

I actually only played this game once before. It feels longer than the other Suikoden games because the 3 chapters for each character can take their time, but in the end I was only about 50 hours with the game, even with some random grinding (I like to level up my characters sometimes, especially low ones to mid-levels) and getting all the stars. Of course since this was a story run-through I really didn’t mess around with plays, which are awesome by the way. Anyway I had forgotten the slow-ish start. As in there’s lots of text, move across the room to get another cutscene, etc. For someone who isn’t into the Suikoden lore as much it might have been a chore to get through? It gives some pretty good character interactions though.

However, the focus at the beginning means that you don’t get the same love for the second part of the game. I mean, there are some powerful scenes but your army never really feels united and really doesn’t work together except in some war battles and at the very end. I mean, it makes sense to have different parties doing different things since we have a lot of playable characters, but we’ve also spent most of the game already doing that.

Anyway Suikoden 3 I think is more divisive in terms of people’s willingness to tolerate/appreciate its style. Battle system is interesting but annoying too and really makes unites not as useful/fun. The ability to stop the chanting of magic (both you or your enemies) made an interesting addition to the strategy, but I really didn’t like the limit of pairs. Like why can’t both units of a pair use items? Little things like that could be annoying.

But in the end I still love the game a lot. It’s a great treat for Suikoden fans. And Chris is awesome 🙂

Like/Dislike: Love

The World Ends With You

To be honest, the whole top screen/bottom screen stuff was intimidating at first. In the end I really never mastered using the top screen. Those characters took like all the damage… But thankfully adjustable difficulty and quick leveling made this game playable for me, and I got better at using the stylus. There are still some pins that I just don’t understand how to use, and some pins’ actions are too similar to others that either I do it wrong or the system doesn’t detect differences as well as it should.

The plot of the game was interesting the whole time. I was already a bit spoiled for the big reveal but I still think it was well-done. The cast might not seem likable at first but they all charmed me by the end. I even got okay with the art, even though I still have to ignore the placement of Shiki’s bellybutton.

For me, I was fine with never having full control/mastery of the gameplay. For others this might be a fun challenge, too easy, or too frustrating. It’s something you can figure out within the first hour or so.

In the end, if you blast through the story, the story is very short. There’s no game clock but I feel like it was 10-15 hours for me even with messing around. Of course new game+ is there so you can get more info on the verse. I plan to go through it all someday since I find it interesting enough, but one run is pretty satisfying even if it is short.

Like/Dislike: Love

Ys II

Ys II nowadays comes along with Ys I and in my (and many other’s) opinion, it is the better game. Twice as long (at least for me), it’s a great expansion on the Ys lore and magic is awesome. Magic adds something more to the awesome bump attack mechanic and is the requirement for beating most bosses. It also (later on) gives you the opportunity to talk to demons and that’s a fun time. The ability to use a healing item in the middle of a boss battle makes bosses easier on the whole, though one particular very long boss battle still took me 30+ tries even with the use of a super healing item. Levels give you smaller increases in stats than before, but the max is much higher and levels come faster. You can beat the game not at max level, whereas you are at max level in Ys I maybe 2/3 of the way through (at least for most people).

Being a longer game but not a padded game, having more things to do with the addition of magic… Ys II feels more comparable to modern games. I know the later games don’t use the bump system anymore, but I think it’s fun enough that I’d like to play more games like that. I guess I could replay these games on my PC…

Ys II doesn’t require Ys I in order to make sense, but part of the greatness of Ys in my opinion is the lore, and you need game 1 to set the stage. So play them both, and if you’re interested in the upcoming Vita game, try out Ys Seven (Ys Seven is basically a standalone) since the battle system is more like that.

Like/Dislike: Like a lot

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2 Comments »

  1. Joseph said,

    I wish I was able to finish the games I play like you do haha. I’m playing so many, but very unfocused. Mostly now I want to play Suikoden II after this post. It’s been on my list of “must play’s” for a long time. I need to finish up some of these games sitting around though seriously. In the middle of Wild Arms 3, Atelier Rorona, and Dragon Warrior VII all at the same time. Kind of a bad idea lol. Glad you enjoyed SH! It’s a game that has so many flaws, but I still can replay anytime and really enjoy it.

    • riulyn said,

      Well, I’m back to juggling like 10 games again. I’d be more focused if my PS2 wasn’t dying… Shadow Hearts Covenant is on hold because my PS2 won’t read disc 2. My emulator does so the disc isn’t the problem. I fed my PS2 all types of games and it was having issues loading a lot of them except for WA3 and WA4. I guess it’s a fan of the series 🙂

      But yeah, it can be hard to focus on a game sometimes, especially with so many gaming systems to choose from. I think I’ve been decently successful due to 1) the RPGamer marathon and a marathon mentality in general 2) my daily updating of my backloggery. Marathon mentality can burn you out, though, as I’ve burnt out on my Suikoden-ing in the middle of Suikoden IV (and I’m actually in the good part of the game).


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