I swear, I think I've been playing video games since before I could walk. I remember helping my dad play text-based games on our PC, which evolved into me playing King's Quest on my own. That led to an Atari 2600, and like a junkie, I've been coming back for a bigger fix ever since. Today it's the 360. I'll give pretty much anything a chance, but my favorite games are those with an involved story. I've never been able to get into sports games very much because of the lack of story, although strangely enough, I love Burnout, and that doesn't even try to have a story.
First, I need to apologize to everyone that attended the Texas NARP two weeks ago for my lack of attendance on Saturday and Sunday. School and work kept me locked in the house all day Saturday, so I wasn't able to escape to join the festivities. Unfortunately my phone has been on the blink, so if anyone tried to call me that weekend (Coonskin?), I did not receive it, and I was also not able to make calls. Sorry I missed it guys, and I did enjoy meeting y'all on Friday night. I've never been part of a community that I have been able to sit around for hours at a time discussing games, and no one bats an eyelash. I had a great time hanging out with y'all, and wish I could make it to PAX so that I could meet the rest of the community. I so wanted to introduce several of you to the wonders of Texas beverages. Next year, my friends. Next year.
Also, apologies to the FNF crew for missing out this past weekend. 360 #3 has decided to crap out on me the Saturday of TXNARP. No RROD this time, however. This time, it was the video output that quit. It's on its way to Vatican City to be exorcised as we speak. In the meantime, I have procured my little brother's 360 for my personal use, so I should be able to attend.
Ah, the simple days of the SNES. And one of my favorite games for the SNES was Cybernator (Assault Suits Valken in Japan). I have no idea how they came up with the name (cybernetic terminator?), but I always hear Arnold's voice in my head every time I see the title (saibunaytuh. Oh Arnie, you're so wacky). The story of Jake, a Federation assault suit pilot in the war between the Axis and Federation forces over the few remaining resources on earth and territorial rights ZZZzzzzz....giant robot combat. Huh? Wha? That's right, I said giant robot combat. I remember how excited I was about this game being released, and to this day it still stands as one of my favorite games ever.
Since I'm bored (and since you're reading), I'll talk about some of the things that make this game worth a try.
1. Giant. Robot. Combat. Got it? Moving on...
2. Choice and multiple endings Cybernator was definitely one of the first, and probably the first game I ever played that didn't just have the one "congratulations!" ending. You were given a couple of choices during the game. "Do I destroy the gigantic robot jackass trying to squish me with his claw, or destroy the engines on this asteroid fortress to prevent it from plummeting to earth faster than Snow's rap career?" "Do I destroy the jet bikes constantly bombarding me, or the AA guns that are about to take out my ship?" Maybe not the hardest choices, but if you took too long to destroy your objective (hint, it's not the enemy craft), you got the bad ending *sad face*. This blew my mind at the time, that there was not just the one ending.
3. Interesting environments Cybernator had some pretty cool stages to fight through. From the interior of an enemy ship trying to assemble their energy cannon, to a zero gravity fight through an asteroid mining colony, complete with rocket-propelled flight through the asteroid field, to a ginormous enemy complex on an asteroid, to a battle during atmospheric reentry, to a rocket launch site, to a snowfield, to the enemy's capital city. The environments were pretty big, and although they were linear, there was some room for exploring. Speaking of environments...
4. Destructible environments No, not tearing the entire complex apart like in today's games, but you could blow up fuel tanks, and if you shot the floors, it would cause damage. I remember going through the entire first stage, tearing up the place this way. It was pretty darn cool.
5. Did I mention giant robot combat?
6. Good boss fights Now, not all of them are the best. The first stage's boss is just two guns hanging beside the power supply for the cannon that you're supposed to destroy. But there are some cool ones. Like the aforementioned giant boss on the asteroid complex trying to pound you into grease, a mano-a-mano with the enemy's best pilot in the middle of the game, and a race against the clock to shoot down an enemy missile before it seriously ruins everyone's day. And the game's final boss is one of the biggest bosses I've ever fought against, and he will eat your lunch if you're not ready for him.
7. Upgradeable weapons! You start out with the Vulcan cannon and a pretty wimpy punch, but you can collect homing missiles and everyone's favorite, the laser of doom. You could only power up the weapon you had selected, and there weren't enough power ups in the game to upgrade more than two of your weapons all the way, as I remember it. The missiles didn't do enough damage, and as cool as the punch was, you would take way too much damage trying to get close enough to use it, so the obvious choices were the Vulcan Cannon (upgrade to bounce shots *rawk*), and the laser, which sliced through enemies like buttah. Nice. Your assault suit was even equipped with an arm-mounted shield to prevent your enemies from returning the favor. Speaking of weapons, by the way...
8. NAPALM GUN!!! This is quite possibly one of the most overpowered weapons I've ever seen, and one of the easiest to acquire. To get it, you don't fire a single shot during the first mission until you reach the boss, and then only at the power supply. Stage 2: Fiery death. This weapon was ridiculous. The flames were bigger than your character, and destroyed almost every enemy with one shot. It's hard not to erupt into evil laughter as you march through every level, incinerating your foes as you are left unscathed.
This is, of course, not to say that the game is without its flaws. It is a fairly short game that can be played through in about an hour or so. In addition, they removed the portraits of the characters that appeared next to the text during conversations featured in the Japanese version, and changed some of the text itself. Whenever one of your allies dies, they shout "WOW!" Really? "WOW?" No screams or death moans? Oh well. Finally, one of my favorite scenes from the Japanese version was removed in the American version. In the final level, you corner the enemy president in his office, and he SHOOTS HIMSELF IN THE RUTTING HEAD! Now, this was released before the ratings system, so of course Nintendo couldn't feature this scene in their game, but c'mon! That's just awesome!
So, that's it for my retrospective on Cybernator. It's definitely worth at least a single playthrough if you've never had the pleasure.
I can remember seeing trailers for Lost Odyssey and thinking "wow, that looks pretty cool, but I've never been able to dedicate myself to RPGs." After hearing so many people talk about it however, I finally broke down and bought it this Sunday. Holy cow! This game rocks! I realized I was in for a long road when I went up against the first boss and was down in less than two minutes, however. This isn't like any other RPG I've ever played in my life. There's no beating on early bosses and then moving on. Oh nooooo...that would be too easy! These guys are puzzles, and you are left to figure out what works, and what will get you stomped. Quickly.
Look, I'm an action/adventure gamer. I got into RPGs because I love story, and I heard that they were the best of the best. I'll admit, most of my RPG history has been relegated to typical Final Fantasy-esque games. I haven't played all the way through 99% of the RPGs I've played. I think that Crono Trigger and Suikoden III are the only two that I've ever actually beaten, and I went a little overboard on Crono Trigger, getting every possible ending (secret dev room FTW). The level grinding aspect and random encounters have just never been much fun to me, which is why I was attracted to games like Secret of Mana and Legend of Zelda (hey wait, I did beat Link to the Past!). When I heard that there is an exp. cap for each area in Lost Odyssey, I did a double take. "What? You mean I can actually run through an area, and not have to mindlessly battle for hours? Yes!"
The combat in this game is some of the toughest that I've ever experienced in an RPG. In every other RPG I've played, I never use my white mages. Healing magic? That's only if you take damage, and I only dish it out, baby! In Lost Odyssey, I find myself draining my healers' mana on a regular basis and eating mana herbs like they were candy...and I like it. I'm making new saves so that I can make sure and load up a previous save to try new techniques in an area, or see if I missed searching one square inch. I relish boss encounters. Yes, I almost always have to try more than once, but after taking a quick break to consider what I did wrong, and what could work again, I look forward to the challenge.
And the Thousand Years of Dreams? Wow. For a gamer with a good imagination who loves to read? These are wet dreams. I don't remember the last time I was so affected by story in a video game. I've had to put the controller down and take a few minutes to compose myself after several of the stories in the game. I'm really waiting for one of my non-gamer friends to show up so that I can show them a few of these stories and tell them "this, this my friend is the reason I play games." I agree with Collette that forcing the gamer to read the information and use their imagination was one of the best decisions that the developers could have made. And the music, sound effects, and text animation are perfect (in my opinion) in every story.
So, just call me an action/adventure/JRPG-curious gamer.