I'm pretty much the biggest Suikoden fanboy on the planet, so when I found out they were making a new entry for the DS, I was ecstatic. When I found out it was coming to the US, I just about had some kind of attack. When I found out they were removing a lot of the elements that I liked about the series, like unique weapons, runes, and the continuous world story, I was slightly disappointed, but I held fast and kept my hopes strong. The Suikoden team could do no wrong, and I was confident in this assessment.
I was pretty close, anyway.
There are a couple of things I dislike about the game, but for the most part I'm really enjoying it. In the interests of my laziness and the fact that I want to get back to playing ASAP(because srsly this game is just incredible), I'll just toss out some bullet points of things I liked and didn't like.
-The music is amazing. Suikoden has always had great music, and even the relatively "lackluster" soundtrack of S4 was still heads and tails above most other RPG's. And this game does not disappoint. Each town has music appropriate to the area that the town is located in, from jamming salsa music in Salsabil town, to music with a somewhat arabic influence in the Magedom of Janam. A lot of the music will have you bobbing your head along with the tune, because it's just so catchy.
-The voice acting is atrocious. Most of the characters I've encountered speak as though their sound files were sped up to 1.5x or 2x speed to save space on the DS cart. Or at least that's what I thought until I met a character who...spoke...so...slowly...it...ruined...the...emotional...impact...of...his...entire...section. Of course, I've never been a proponent of voices at all, and I usually turn them off in my games because I prefer to come up with my own voices. But of course, Tierkreis doesn't allow you to turn them off. WTF Konami, really.
Luckily, most of the voices are sped up so fast that they're over before they begin. So it's very easy to simply ignore them, and just listen to the great music.
-The characters have beautiful designs. Yet another thing the Suikoden series is known for, the character designs in Tierkries do not fail to disappoint. I have yet to see a character design I didn't like, and I don't really expect to see any in the future that I don't like given the wonderful artstyle being used. The Magedom of Janam in particular has some fantastic costume designs and characters.
-The graphics don't match up. A lot of people I know were really bothered by the designs of the characters in FF4 DS, because the super deformed design didn't match the image of the characters they had in their heads for so many years. But personally, it didn't bother me at all. They used the same models for up-close cutscenes, for the battles, and for the map exploration. You got the same level of detail and the same model in all the areas, so it all flowed together rather nicely. But after playing Suikoden: Tierkreis, I think I get what they were talking about.
Each character in your party has a beautifully drawn character bust that shows up in the status menu and when the characters are talking. However, for map exploration and in combat, Konami decided to use a super deformed polygonal model to represent the characters. And the difference in quality between the two is huge. Now, I'm not saying that the 3D models are bad, far from it. They're very impressive for a DS game; all the characters have a fairly high level of detail and it's easy to clearly distinguish who is who; an enormous feat for a DS game featuring 108 hero characters plus various villains and unique NPC's. However, when you have these absolutely incredible character portraits and then cut away to the significantly less impressive 3D models, the effect is jarring. Personally, I wish they had gone with sprites like the one of the main character that appears when you're saving the game. Even if the quality wasn't as high as what's on the 3D models, the change wouldn't be so completely jarring.
-The story is very much Suikoden. I was worried that with the changing of the worlds and the elimination of so many classic series elements, that Konami would screw up the storyline with some generic animu crap. I now feel bad for doubting them. Without revealing any spoilers, the story seems to be following a very interesting and very -different- take on the original 108 heroes legend that the games were based on, and it's managing to be as fascinating now as Suikoden 1 was back when I first played it. Each time I have to leave my DS to eat or go to work, it's a herculean effort. I've literally stopped playing all other games in my que, I have to know what's going to happen next.
-I still miss my runes and unique weapons. :( One of the things I loved about the older games in the series was the rune system, if only because it worked so differently from the other JRPG's that go around. The older games used a D&D style spell level system, in addition to the ability to freely equip magical "runes" that gave your characters new skills and magic. Through mixing and matching various effect and spell runes, you could give your characters all kinds of extra abilities and uses in combat. It was also a neat way of making the characters different; some character had unique runes that gave them special powers, or certain combinations of rune slots that allowed them to equip some types of runes but not others(For instance, certain runes could only be equipped to the head, or to certain hands). Replacing all of that with a generic MP system and per-character spell lists feels a little empty after so much depth.
And as for the weapons, well, it just strips away a little of what made the old characters so fun. One of the reasons you brought along the crappy non-fighter characters in your party was the watch the funny animations of them using non-weapons in combat. Hai-yo with his Wok and Ladle, Lester and his Pot, Tuta and his handful of River Pebbles that were inexplicably able to be sharpened, or Mel and her chauvinistic hand puppet(Yes! That was a weapon!). The Doctor shouldn't be able to fight with Brass Knuckles and Swords, he should have some kind of weapon suited to his profession, like a bone saw or sharpened tongue depressors or something.
Personally, I've remedied this by only allowing each character to equip whatever type of weapon they came with, but it still feels a little hollow compared to crazy shit like BRANKY WHO LIKES THE LADIES IN THE BATH.
HELL YEAH IT'S BRANKY
Wow, that went on for a lot longer than I wanted it to. But ultimately, while I had a lot of negative things to say about the game, these thing are ultimately minor and only even relevant to a longtime series fan such as myself. The game on it's own merits is a lot of fun and I really enjoy it, I just hope that the next game goes back to the old storyline, or connects the new world to the old one in some significant way. I want to know the rest of the True Runes storyline, you know? It's not like the story doesn't allow for at least one character or concept crossover to show up.
I did a review for Exit DS a little while back, and well, this game is basically more of the same. 250 more levels of Mr. ESC helping stupid people escape disaster areas for money and coffee. You can literally read my old review and get a gist of what the game is about, so I'll save some time and just list some of the things that are different/special about Exit 2. You can also go to my old review if you want any pictures, because I'm lazy and I'm not going to post any here.
1 - Mr. ESC changed clothes. In the original game for PSP and XBLA, and in Exit DS, Mr. ESC wears a dapper suit with a stylish hat and scarf, and wields both with exotic flair. In Exit 2, Mr. ESC has gone for a classic noir look, sporting a fancy long trench coat along with his classic hat and scarf.
Yeah, it's a small change, and totally insignificant to the gameplay, but he looks pretty cool in the trench coat.
2 - The basic game follows an actual story. It's barebones as hell(I mean, we're talking you can see the organs through the skin here), but it's nice to see that a little bit of effort was put in to make all his adventures flow together. Instead of just sending Mr. ESC on random missions throughout the world and have him re-meet some of the more interesting characters in the later levels, Mr. ESC follows a Professor with a large mustache as he attempts to solve a set of ancient riddles which constantly land him and his group of students in trouble. Of course, you'll also meet some rather...colorful people who just happened to be nearby as well.
Yeah, it's basically the exact same thing as it was before, but they tried and I have to give them a little credit. It's a damn puzzle game, who needs a real story.
3 - There's two new evacuee types. In addition to the returning cast of "Skinny Person", "Fat Person", "Child", "Injured Person", and "Alien", we now have the "Dog" and the "Macho Person". Now technically, the dog isn't new to the US, since we got Exit DS first and it had the dog, but this game came out in Japan first, so this is technically the debut of that character. ANYWAY, with the addition of the new character types, the puzzles are even more diverse than they were before, and that's always great news.
Also, the Machos are totally hilarious. I know a lot of people got annoyed by the evacuees randomly saying the same couple phrases over and over(HELP HELP I'M OVER HERE HELP HELP), but I don't think I'll ever get tired of hearing the machos proclaim "I AM SO BUFF AND GOOOOOOOOOOOOD LOOKING!" and "THIS IS BETTER THAN A REAL GYM!" in their goofy voices.
4 - The translation got fucked up. I don't know who is to blame for this, but somebody royally screwed up somewhere. The help menus and character profiles are in incredibly broken English, such as many of them barely make sense. As well, character portraits in the profiles are all mixed up, and rarely actually match the person they're talking about. I've seen Machos depicted as dogs, dogs depicted as aliens, men depicted as women, aliens depicted as Injured people, and all sorts of just silly mistakes that should have been caught long before this game went up for download. It just screams laziness and sloppy work, which is bizarre given my next point.
5 - Physics changes. This is one I'm rather impressed by. Instead of just porting the exact same physics engine to all the games(Which they easily could have done), Taito actually changed it each time. What follows is an incredibly technical explanation of the new abilities, so if you aren't familiar with the game's physics you might want to just skim it or skip it. But suffice to say, they reprogrammed the system and didn't leave it the same.
START INCREDIBLY TECHNICAL BLABBER
Exit DS had a weird feature that allowed you to jump towards certain walls and latch onto them as if there was a platform there(And one puzzle in particular actually required you to do this AFAIK). Exit 2 added two new little touches(That I've found, anyways) and they're really neat. The first is that they shortened the time it takes before Mr. ESC goes into his "latch onto platforms" animation. He is actually capable of latching onto platforms almost immediately after he starts his jump, which means he can now make jumps -up- one level, as opposed to only being able to jump perfect horizontals and declines. Another addition is sort of also reliant on this new feature. If you -run- off the edge of a platform, Mr. ESC will now move forwards a slight bit. This is normally useless, but it allows you to totally bypass ladders going down, via running off the ledge and "latching" onto the other side, then dropping down. Since ladders only go down 5 spaces, and you can drop-fall 5 spaces safely, this shaves about 5-6 seconds off your time.
END INCREDIBLY TECHNICAL BLABBER
Have I mentioned I REALLY like Exit?
So anyway, the game is essentially more of the same. If you didn't like the first Exit, you probably won't like this one either. If you did like the first one, this is more of the same great stuff Taito has put out before, with a few cool new twists and big additional helping of the series' humor and charm.
I love Pangya. I've never really gotten to play it's original online version, but I saw something about it in a rogue issue of Nintendo Power, and saw it compared to Mario Golf, a game I loved on the N64. Always on the lookout for something interesting to play on my Wii, I checked it out, and I've never looked back. The game is fantastic, and this is coming from somebody who detests sports games, and who finds golf in real life to be the most boring sport even, beneath even curling.
I mean, seriously, the game has a demon from hell as a playable character, and you're encouraged to play Golf with all kinds of hilariously inappropriate objects like swords, paper fans, squeaky mallets, and baseball bats. The character design is just fantastic as well, if you like cutesy Korean art and loli pirates.
I've been watching some trailers for the game, now that I know it exists, and I'm getting really hot and bothered over here. I'm really digging the new redesigns. Scout and Kaz, who were already my favorite characters, look absolutely amazing. Azer looks absolutely badass with his new golfball gun(instead of like a fat doofus that he's been in the last few games), and everyone just looks generally more impressive and amazing then they did before. They've really done a lot to distinguish this version from the Tecmo-ported Wii iterations, from vastly improving the character animations and overhauling a lot of the little things in the game. And with (apparently) UFO's publisher backing it, I can say I'm fairly certain it'll be getting the treatment it deserves here.
ANYWAY, Silconera, GameFAQs, and Gamestop agree that the new PSP iteration of the game is going to be hitting US shores in late May.
Christ, I'm going to need to take out a loan just to buy all the great games coming out this year.
EVERYONE ELSE WAS DOING IT AND I WANTED TO BE COOL TOO.
10 - I'm a self-defeatist.
I hate everything I have ever done in my life. I am a perfectionist, and I have yet to come even remotely close to meeting my ludicrously high standards. Oh sure, I might feel proud about something just after I finish, but within a day I'm looking back and regretting I ever did it in the first place. Which will probably happen re: this post about five minutes after I make it public.
That said, I've never let my self-defeatism get me down, and I'm still one of the most jovial and happy people you'll ever meet.
9 - I actually -liked- Final Fantasy Mystic Quest.
In fact, it's one of the only Final Fantasy games I like, with the others being 1, 4, and 6. Something about it's lighthearted nature and unpretentious, simple story just cause me to feel unbridled joy every time I play it. Plus, the enemy graphics CHANGE and you can jump! Badass shit right there.
Plus, awesome music is awesome. The battle themes from this games are some of my favorite of all time.
The Bone Dungeon is the best dungeon idea ever. FACT.
8 - The worst injury I have ever sustained I got while baking cookies.
Seriously. My brother had haphazardly stacked clean dishes in a cabinet, and as I opened it up to get out a bowl to mix the cookie dough in, one fell on my hand and wedged a piece of white pyrex into my left ring finger knuckle almost all the way through my hand.
It's not impressive or manly, but it's a funny story anyway.
7 - I actually got started gaming because my parents didn't want me to go outside.
When I was old enough to finally start playing outside by myself, the house we were living in had no actual yard. To play outside meant to play in the street. My parents, bless their souls, decided that was just too dangerous, so they bought me an NES and some games to keep me firmly rooted in front of the TV where I wouldn't get hurt.
And then years later they wondered why I generally kept to myself, never got interested in sports, and didn't ever want to go outside to play in our large new yard.
6 - I was a project manager and editor for Doublejump Books for the better part of a year.
My name is in their guides for Persona 3, Soul Nomad, and Operation Darkness, check it out. I also edited the hell out of some articles for Hardcoregamer.com.
The opening to this, where it talks about all the Japanese customs and what? My idea. Not my writing, but my idea. Which is still pretty cool, imo.
This job was awesome while it lasted(They hired me because of a crunch, and when the crunch was over they let me go like a dried leaf on the wind~~~). I got to chat directly with Yu Namba at Atlus, and several of the people at NISA back when they were still cool. I also have copies of pre-release code for Soul Nomad, which I don't have the equipment to play but which is still pretty awesome. I also have hand-signed letters from NISA that I'm going to get framed at some point.
5 - I have a habit of picking up on the eccentricities of the people around me and mimicking them.
I have a friend who likes to flips quarters in his hand when he's idle. I never used to do it, but ever since I've known him I've started doing it too. Another friend raises his voice at odd points during sentences. I never did it before, but since knowing him, I now do something similar. It's not something I do intentionally, the action is totally unconscious on my part, and luckily I don't think anybody has ever noticed it.
It's kinda creepy, when I think about it for too long. So I try not to.
I figure it was good practice for writing real fiction, which is something I'd like to do at some point in my life. Or if I ever get to do my dream job of producing videogames, it was really good practice for writing those too.
3 - Of all the books I've read in my lifetime, my favorite one was a children's book.
PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH REPRESENT.
2 - Despite the fact that I identify myself as an old-school gamer and love older games, I still believe that newer games are generally better.
I mean, really now. SMT: Nocturne is -leagues- ahead of any oldschool RPG I can name. And I can name a lot of oldschool RPG's. I've had more fun with Guilty Gear XX and Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom than any fighter made before 2000. Games like Theresia make old text-adventures look like jokes.
That said, I still loves me some Megaman 3 and Kid Icarus. Yessir.
1 - When I go to the gym and run on a treadmill or elliptical runner, I -always- listen to Megaman theme songs and pretend I'm running the levels.
I've never heard of Dokapon Journey or Crimson Gem Saga until just now, but Knights in the Nightmare, Super Robot Taisen, and Devil Survivor have made my pants tight. CAN'T WAIT. ATLUS I WILL GIVE YOU ALL MY MONIES.
Back when this was only known as "Final Fantasy Legend 2" and I still actually played Final Fantasy games, I rented the game from a Mom and Pop game rental store that rented out GB games. Almost instantly I was in love with the strange game that played nothing like the other games that shared it's name. No Exp? Weapons that had to be taken care of or they would break? An RPG that was actually difficult? I was amazed and stupefied by the game, and it arguably is the game that really got me truly and utterly hooked on off-beat JRPG's.
Years later, I actually bought my own copy from a Gamestop, and to this day I consider it one of my favorite GB games of all time.