February 25, 2017

2 games with atypical systems = fun diversions

Posted in video games tagged , , at 10:42 am by riulyn

I recently finished 2 games for the PSP, though one was released previously for GBA. These games are Riviera: Promised Land and Last Ranker. I enjoyed playing both of these games. They took me about 30 hours each. The biggest enjoyable aspect for me was the battle/stat system.

Let me start with Riviera. Before going into it, I didn’t realize the “harem” aspect but it wasn’t a huge part of the gameplay for me (I didn’t really go out of my way to please any of the girls). The things that made it interesting for me was all the resource management that happened.

Firstly, in battles you can only bring in 4 items. These items include weapons. All battle items, save for 2, have a limited number of uses before they break. All weapons and some of the support items are used differently depending on the character. If a character isn’t proficient at a weapon, he/she will throw it with low accuracy. Otherwise even characters using the same weapon with proficiency can use it differently, having distinct targeting ranges and special skills. Mastering an item leads to an increase in the character’s stats, so find and master as many items as you can for the beefiest characters. Once the game allows you to practice using an item, you can use practice mode to master an item without using it up. Take advantage of it!

Secondly, the other major resource management is the technical points you can use to look and interact with objects on the field. This includes being able to open chests or optional scenes with the other party members. TP can be earned through fighting battles, but battles are limited in number. Also I believe how much you walk back and forth in a dungeon map affects your score? Anyway take less turns to fight a battle and you get a better rating and more TP.

In short, Riviera was fun for me because it had tons of items, but the limited battle party and number in battle made battles interesting. Dungeons were more interesting than just walking through corridors and required some forethought as well. As for everything else, it was functional enough…

Now on to Last Ranker. I put this one second because it’s a Japanese-only game. Also for PSP, it has music from Yoko Shimomura! And they hired the famous voice actor Hiroshi Kamiya to voice the main character. The main character, as a person, isn’t really that interesting sadly. There are a few twists in the plot, but mostly (for me) the plot just felt functional. A bit heavy on the “do this quest and get your rank up” part. It has a pretty fun conclusion, because the really interesting battles take place. And the battle system is the seller for this game.

It takes a bit of time for all of the system to be explained in-game, but basically, you have 3 basic attacks and a defend. You also have two fighting styles/weapon types you can equip. You can also equip up to 5 skills for each style. Skills can be used a limited number of times per battle. You cannot use items in battle.

The battles are active-time. Basically you have a certain number of SP depending on level/game progress that regens when depleted. Attacks can take 1, 2, 3, or 5 SP each depending on weapon and type. Defend takes 1 SP per hit defended against (except in shield mode) and also stops HP regen when held. Skills take 3 SP.

Against human opponents, there is also a break meter. Attacks can reduce this break meter, and once it reaches zero for a character, he/she is stunned for a period until the meter recovers. While the character is stunned, he/she receives much increased damage from hits.

Basically optimizing the timing of attacking/defending as well as the styles/skills equipped is key for the game. I barely used the shield style until late in the game and found it the only way to get through the last battles as I’d otherwise run out of ability to heal myself. All styles are useful, though.

Anyway, the AI for the opponents is pretty good. There are some tricks to the end, though, like scripted “this is when I’ll suddenly get super duper dangerous” (and some stupid QTEs) but also they get pretty good at counterattacking you if you just haphazardly attack. Battles are quick but also high-intensity. One wrong move and you may get wiped immediately. Thank goodness for infinite retries for players like me…

I’m not sure if either game style would be quite as fun if they were repeated (perhaps Last Ranker’s style would work better in a second game) but I’m happy to continue finding fun experiences in games from the past. By the way, anyone preordering any games releasing this summer? My list is empty right now for some reason…

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