December 29, 2013

2013 Wrap-Up

Posted in video games tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 7:19 pm by riulyn

2013 was quite a fast year for me, probably because I spent so many hours gaming 😀 They were many good hours, which I hope to continue with next year. So my personal 2013 game awards are as follows:

Best game that I beat in 2013 – Xenoblade Chronicles (honorable mention Persona 4 Golden)
I think I have enough posts on how much I love Xenoblade Chronicles. If I could accurately dictate why I loved the game so much, I think I would be able to write a good fanfic out of it at least. Persona 4 was quite the challenger, but maybe because I didn’t get the powerful true/great/whatever ending, I find that the end just comes and it left with a bit of a unsatisfactory taste. Anyway, Xenoblade for me had a great mix of interesting places and lore to explore, relationships to develop everywhere (and I think I liked “matchmaking” as my team more than being the center of everything as is the case more for Persona games), and a plot that moves at a good pace most of the time with some very crazy and some very emotionally moving segments.

Best game that I replayed in 2013 – Suikoden II (honorable mention Suikoden V)
I probably don’t need to write this section, do I? I love Suikoden games too much.

Worst game that I beat in 2013 – Lufia 2: Curse of the Sinistrals (honorable mention Magna Carta: Tears of Blood)
I knew Lufia 2: Curse of the Sinistrals was going to be a bad game, but I already bought it and figured I should beat it anyway. It wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t play it; the puzzles weren’t bad per se. The game tried to be too serious and too funny at the same time, doing a worse job than Star Ocean IV with this. It somehow felt more compressed compared to the original and most of the relationships between people (esp. the romances) were portrayed horribly. In addition I never really liked the action controls. I abused the retry and level boost, finding myself not caring enough to figure out the controls completely.
Magna Carta deserves a write-up for being a game that makes you do way too much repeated backtracking just so your characters can be at reasonable levels in the late game. There are many issues with the battle system which I’ve written about before. What saves this game from being the absolute bottom is a background lore and Yason dealings that were decently interesting. The way the story ended up being told, though, was quite inefficient. If many of the gameplay issues are resolved in the sequel, then I can see myself really enjoying Magna Carta 2.

Favorite game that I beat that was released in 2013 – Ys: Memories of Celceta (honorable mention Tales of Xillia)
I beat a good mix of turn-based, tactical, and action RPGs this year and action RPGs ended up being my favorite. Ys IV gets the top spot for being so crazily fun. The battle system is improved upon Ys Seven’s with a fun synthesis system added on. Characters are a bit sharper and smarter than in Ys Seven, the pacing is great, and map-making is both fun and story relevant. Tales of Xillia gets honorable mention because it takes too long to get to the good stuff. The good stuff is really good though, and the battle system beats that of Tales of Graces f for me due to Linked Artes. I highly anticipate Tales of Xillia 2 due to the way the first game ended; at the same time that means I don’t end up rating Tales of Xillia as highly due to that not so satisfactory finish.

Game that I beat in 2013 that surpassed my expectations the most – Shadow Hearts (honorable mention Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter)
I’ve already mentioned in previous posts how Shadow Hearts games were something I knew of but never wandered into. The early 2000s was filled with RPGs from everywhere, and I was still playing a decent number of PS1 games in the PS2 era. However, I knew enough people who liked Shadow Hearts and I figured that I like most games so I’d enjoy Shadow Hearts too. What I didn’t expect was how charmed I would be by the game. Yuri was more obviously a character that I would like from the beginning, but Alice was also amazingly charming. I liked the battle system more than I expected to as well. I already knew the music was good but it fits with the game ridiculously well.
Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter began with a frustrating start and it was hard to have expectations for this polarizing game. Even so, it seemed like it would be light on the story and be more about the battle system at first. The amount of depth and care in the presentation really took me by surprise. It’s hard for me to really, really enjoy a game that made me stress out while playing it, but I can definitely appreciate how it was put together.

Game that I beat in 2013 that fell short of my expectations the most – Shining Hearts (honorable mention Lufia 2: Curse of the Sinistrals)
I heard Shining games were good. I heard Shining Hearts was good fun. I did not hear just how annoying the battles could be. I didn’t think such a “fun” game would have such a bad plot. I didn’t think the other characters were that great; they definitely get more interesting if you do their sidequests, but they still felt mostly one-dimensional and not a mix of good tropes like Tales characters. Of course if I had looked more into Shining Hearts before I played it I wouldn’t have been so disappointed.
On the other hand, I already knew how bad Lufia 2: Curse of the Sinistrals was for most people. Still, I thought people might have been exaggerating their issues with the plot bastardization since the original’s plot wasn’t amazing either. Also I didn’t expect myself to find myself mostly at odds with the battle system (though those skills for puzzles weren’t so bad, since it didn’t involve chaining attacks). At least the music didn’t disappoint.

Best soundtrack (from games I beat in 2013) – Xenoblade Chronicles (honorable mention Muramasa Rebirth)
I can’t think of a single bad song on either Xenoblade’s or Muramasa’s soundtracks. Xenoblade’s soundtrack has some of the most beautiful songs for locations and some of the most sweeping songs for important moments. Almost all the battle themes kick ass as well. The soundtrack is just so beautiful. Muramasa’s soundtrack is more unified with amazing instrumentation for their melodic Japanese with a twist music, but I would have loved to have just a few more tracks. Then again, the game is a bit short and the emotional punches aren’t quite there compared to Xenoblade, so in a sense there’s no reason for the game to have so much music. I think the Xenoblade and Muramasa soundtracks highlight my bias towards catchy melodies with long enough (30 sec+ I think) loops; Persona and some Tales music will loop too quickly while Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter and later FF soundtracks tend to have less emphasis on melodies. Still, I enjoyed many games with great music this year; music definitely was not an issue for me.

Here are some other stats for the year:

  • Game that took me the least hours to beat in 2013 – Ys I
  • Game that took me the most hours to beat in 2013 – Xenoblade Chronicles (honorable mention Fire Emblem Awakening)
  • Total games beaten in 2013 – 28 (1 in Japanese)
  • Total games purchased in 2013 – 53 (darn you Steam sale and all those last minute Japanese games)

This was certainly a backlog-expanding year, but I also got to play many different types of games, including my first forays into SMT, Shadow Hearts, Breath of Fire, Ace Attorney, otome, and Atelier games. I certainly feel more like a JRPG veteran than I did just a year ago and I feel blessed that I can continue to find a variety of fresh experiences in my backlog. My Japanese knowledge continues to improve but the localization market still seems healthy enough to get most of the big releases. I think next year can be another good year of gaming (even if I don’t buy so many games), and I’ll let you know my goals in the next post.


December 26, 2013

I bought a lot of things in Japan

Posted in life, video games tagged , , , , at 7:12 am by riulyn

It would take me forever to photograph it all, but yes I spent a lot of money. Used game and game soundtrack prices truly enticed me. With all my purchases, I shouldn’t need to import for a few years at least, hopefully.

My final game haul of 14 games:

  • 2 Vita games – Tales of Hearts R and Tales of Innocence R. Paid about $30 US for each.
  • 2 DS games – Tokimeki Memorial: Girl’s Side 1st Love (otome game) and 7th Dragon
  • 7 PSP games – Final Fantasy Type-0, Frontier Gate (for ~$5 US), Hakuisei Ren’ai Shoukougun (visual novel, GL), Hanakisou (BL game, my most expensive purchase at ~$35 US), Shining Wind, Sol Trigger, Tales of Phantasia: Narikiri Dungeon X (also only 500 Yen)
  • 2 PS1 games – Suikogaidens 1 & 2. Vol. 2 was tough to find so I bought it at the first place I saw it, only to find it later at a Book Off in Osaka for ~$2.50 US. Argh!!!! (Also Suikoden II isn’t particularly hard to find and one place had it for 200 Yen/~$2 US!)
  • 1 PS3 game – Nier Replicant for ~$15 US. Tales of Vesperia for PS3 was not seen less than $30 used, sadly, so I didn’t buy it.

My final soundtrack haul of 7:

  • Final Fantasy XI
  • Persona 3 and 4
  • Tales of the Abyss
  • Wild ARMs 3 and 4
  • Xenosaga I (for ~$9.50 US!)

My friend and I hit gaming stores in Tokyo and Osaka mainly, though many of my good finds were found in Book Offs scattered in different neighborhoods. Akihabara (Akiba for short, area is in Tokyo) was my most expensive day and where I managed to find Hanakisou for the only time (in a chain called Trader). Otherwise, prices for games were the best for me at Book Off if I found the game there. Mandarakes sometimes had pretty good selection too. Den den town (area in Osaka) wasn’t quite as good as Akiba but I had already bought most of my games by then. The Mandarake in Shibuya was where I got lucky enough to get NieR Replicant for $15 when it was usually ~$30. Used games come in pretty good condition usually and the markdown for NieR Replicant was for a “B” condition case. Mandarakes were great for me and my friend because it was usually good places for doujinshi buying. I didn’t wander into the “doujinshi aimed towards males” section but rather the “doujinshi aimed towards females” section so I mostly got BL stuff. Suikoden is decently represented in my doujin haul and usually had a section if the store was big enough. Of course the FF and Tales sections were big but what surprised me was the large amount of Inazuma Eleven stuff.

I also visited the Konami Style store in Midtown/Roppongi on Monday and didn’t see the Suikoden soundtracks I hoped to see. However, I picked up the Suikoden V novelization so it wasn’t a completely empty trip. The store had a decent amount of traffic but didn’t really have a ton of stuff on the shelves. They are currently pimping Winning Eleven.

Gaming wasn’t represented in the capsule machines but I still spent quite a bit of coins on capsule toys because I’m into Kuroko no Basuke. I got two Persona 4 capsule toys (keychain figures for Naoto and Yosuke) but it was due to the animation. While browsing figure shops the only games represented that didn’t have animes were FF and Kingdom Hearts games.

We didn’t spent a ton of time at arcades, but we did hit the huge Sega store in Ikebukuro (where we stayed the first week in Japan) and played some Mario Kart and Persona 4 Arena Ultimax Superhold or whatever it was called. I was unlucky and couldn’t figure out how to lower the difficulty of my computer opponent while my friend played on easy and kicked major ass as Yosuke. I did get to try out Junpei but Kanji was kicking my ass too fast for me to see how Junpei really plays.

We did some karaoke which was especially fun for my friend who is currently obsessed with Jpop idols. I managed to recall and karaoke a bunch of JRPG songs, doing a bunch of FF songs, “Simple and Clean” from KH, and some Tales songs and even the ending song from Chrono Cross, which was somehow not obscure enough that it could be found on a karaoke machine. I guess it was a good thing that I became obsessed with “progress” from Tales of Xillia since that was probably my favorite to karaoke. I would have loved to do some Xenogears/saga karaoke but it was not meant to be.

I think that was all the gaming-related activities I did in Japan? I did other stuff too but this post is already quite long. My Japanese knowledge from beginner podcasts and my buried deep Mandarin knowledge was much more helpful than Japanese gained from video games, but we managed most of the time. I guess I look Japanese enough to be the “Japanese friend taking my American friend around Japan”. Maybe next time I’ll enough Japanese to pass as that…

December 2, 2013

Japan video game shopping plans

Posted in music, video games tagged , , at 10:41 am by riulyn

In a few days I’m off to Japan! It’s been almost impossible for me to concentrate on anything school/work-related, but gaming is still a pretty good distraction from thinking hard about the future/personal life/etc. I’ll probably be regretting the ridiculous number of hours I put into video games these past few weeks/months starting in March or so next year, but I also have to fight the stress that comes with thinking about that. I’ll fight in again starting in January…

Anyway, I don’t want to buy a lot of video games in Japan but there are a few things I’m interested in picking up if I see at the right price.

  • Suikogaidens 1 & 2. I don’t see myself getting it other than used, since they are PS1 games. I think buying it at a retro shop in Japan will be less costly and stressful than eBay.
  • Tales of Vesperia for PS3. Thinking of getting this used if I see it for under 2000 Yen. I’m not sure how low used game prices can get in Japan. I still might bite if it is under 3000 Yen.
  • An otome/GL/BL game. Tokimeki Memorial is probably what I’d get (it’s an otome) since it’s highly rated and also long (and also complicated…eep). I’m sticking to something for PSP or Vita, though, even though I could probably emulate a Japanese PS2 and run PC games. I just like the idea of romancing while lying on my bed.
  • Not video games, but I hope to find official Suikoden 3 and Suikoden Tierkreis OSTs. They are no longer stocked by PlayAsia, etc. I might also get the Xenosaga soundtracks depending on how much money I want to spend, since those are also relatively hard to get.

Otherwise, even if I have to spend a bit more money, I’ll probably continue to import Japanese games at a slow rate. I’m still working on Suikoden Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki and will probably go through the Suikoden I & II for PSP before I contemplate buying more Japanese games besides the ones mentioned above. That means I’ll be putting off purchases of FF Type-0, Sol Trigger, etc. for a good while still. Maybe by then one of those will get localized…

5 of my favorite JRPG “bromances”

Posted in video games tagged , , , , , , at 10:22 am by riulyn

I’m limiting it to 1 per series, or this entire list would be Suikoden ones 😀

1. Viktor & Flik (Suikoden 1 & 2 and Suikogaidens). This is the life partnership/bromance/etc. that any classic Suikoden fan thinks of when the topic is brought up, and it’s my favorite from the Suikoden series. It doesn’t hurt that their relationship is featured quite a bit in the main scripts of Suikoden 1 & 2. For me, the relationship between Viktor and Flik combines a good amount of teasing, bragging, and serious emotional understanding/support of each other when those times are necessary. Also, the bath scripts involving these 2 are classic.

2. Shulk & Reyn (Xenoblade Chronicles). This friendship has the added charm of watching Shulk and Reyn grow both physically and emotionally more capable over the course of the game. They both get better at expressing their doubts and relying on each other, despite the whole “vulnerable feeling” these actions may sometimes bring. It’s a feel-good, support for life type of friendship.

3. Sora & Riku (Kingdom Hearts series). This friendship highlights trust/belief (esp. Sora) and protectiveness (esp. Riku) of one’s friends. Also, despite a potential love triangle involving Kairi, I find the Sora/Riku to be the strongest of the three sides (and their relationship is sort of ambiguously romantic/platonic).

4. Adol & Dogi (Ys series). I love this friendship because Adol gets himself into a lot of trouble while traveling (Adol is a trouble magnet for sure) and instead of being overly protective/restrictive, Dogi rather teasingly scolds Adol for being so troublesome. Dogi is really like an older brother to Adol.

5. Yuri & Flynn (Tales of Vesperia). Most male friendships in JRPGs (and many other media) involve a rivalry of some sort, and Yuri and Flynn are no exception. This friendship stands out in my mind particularly because despite having strikingly different philosophies towards justice/honor/etc., they believe in each other as good people. They don’t really actively rely on each other since the rivalry mentality makes them want to look “cool” in front of each other, but they know each other so well that they try their best to cover for each other’s weaknesses.