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8:52 PM on 04.25.2011

5 Gaming Bullet Points: Catherine

I recently finished my first playthrough of Catherine and I have a bit to say about it. I have a very favorable view of the game after playing it in its entirety. There arenít really many flaws as far as the game goes, which is nice.

* First, It looks great. It uses the much maligned Gamebryo engine but to wonderful effect. The in game character models are stylized and cell shaded. The non-gameplay elements are handled with a combination of in game models and animated (as in straight up anime) cut scenes. The combination works well and itís never really a jarring switch when the switches occur.

* The story is entertaining and there are some interesting, if not somewhat predictable twists, that make the experience interesting. You have a lot of dynamic characters with their own stories to tell as well as some interesting side characters (the ultra creepy Lindsay and Martha for example). The only downside to the main story is that, beyond the ending, the content doesnít change in accordance with what you do. The story is interesting though it plays out a pretty good pacing.

* Gameplay is fun. Itís essentially a frantic puzzle game that has you rushing to figure out how to climb towers while the bottom of the stage falls out from underneath you. The final section of each stage also contains a boss that will attack you with various special attacks as well. Besides the boss stages though, itís a pretty straightforward climb to the top of any stage.

* Iím sure everyone is wondering how difficult it is considering the patching that went on to make things easier. I played through the game on normal and I was able to get gold trophies for the first 6 stages before I gave up on going back to get the golds. On normal I found the challenge to be just right. Not crazy difficult but not so easy I feel like I didnít accomplish something. Playing on Hard was predictably hard but not impossible.† Also, Iím playing on the non-patched Xbox version so I donít have access to the super-easy mode on the PS3.

* Aside from the main story, there are a few other modes that can be unlocked. Coliseum mode, which is unlocked by beating the game, is a 2-player versus mode that has you battling against a second player to reach the top of a stage first. The other stage, Babel, is a kind of iron man stage that involves climbing ridiculously large towers while being timed. Babel has four stages that are unlocked by getting gold trophies on stages in Normal mode or higher. Babel also has a two player co-op mode as well as the standard single player.

Overall, I enjoyed the game immensely. There are 8 different endings which I will probably go back and see. There is also the arcade game Rapunzel available for more block climbing action. The game has a lot of replay value and the challenge modes make for an interesting optional addition if you just want straight up puzzle action.   read

7:41 PM on 04.24.2011

5 Gaming Bullet Points: RPG Weekend

* Recently Iíve been in the mood to play some RPGs. Not just any RPGs though, JRPGs. I havenít really played any since I last played FFXII on the DS four or so years ago. So this weekend I started playing Last Remnant. It is mediocre I guess. The battle system is needlessly complex and is seemingly random and the story isnít all that interesting. I guess Iím going to grind my way through though. Hopefully Eternal Sonata, the other JRPG I picked up will be better.

* OK, I lied, I picked up another JRPG. I bought Shin Megami Tensei: NINE for the XBOX for the huge price of 85 yen from a used games web site. However, when I attempted to play it I learned that itís not supported on the Xbox 360. Ah well, it was so cheap that I donít really mind.

* I also got Megami Ibunroku: Devil Survivor for the DS. Though, from the reviews I take that it is kind of the Shin Megami Tensei answer to Final Fantasy Tactics. Maybe Iím wrong though. I have yet to start playing. Itís the first DS game Iíve bought since the above mentioned FFXII.

* I also have a copy of Oblivion sitting around that I have yet to get to. That one is going to take some time to get to though. Once Last Remnant is done Iím definitely going to have to play a non-RPG. Maybe Iíll finish up Heavy Rain and play through Catherine again.

* Also, completely unrelated, is anyone excited as me about the upcoming Fallout: NV DLC? Since my first playthrough of New Vegas Iíve wanted to find out more about the Burned Man. That storyline was easily the thing I kept in the back of my mind throughout the game hoping to stumble across him.   read

6:03 PM on 04.21.2011

Aaamaazing: Capitol Wasteland Wonderland

ďHumans always repeat their mistakesĒ said the ominous Japanese voice which would set the tone for the start of something special. This was the start of something that led me into some figurative dark times and out of some actual dark times, and also the start of a gaming experience that is truly worthy of being called great.

When the winter of 2009 rolled around things had taken a decidedly bad turn for me. Circumstances led me to some of the darkest times in my life. This was a time where getting out of bed in the morning was a decidedly large chore and anything beyond that was exponentially worse. On advice of my doctor I decided to take about a month and a half off of work and just get things sorted and get my head right. It was during this time that I stumbled into Fallout 3.

I hadnít played a Fallout game for around 10 years at that point. I played the original two and thoroughly enjoyed them at the time but since that time I hadnít given Fallout much thought. I was out buying food when I stopped into the Tsutaya (imagine Blockbuster video but Japanese) and on whim picked up a drastically reduced in priced used copy of Fallout 3. I went home and got right into it.

So anyway, ďHumans always repeat their mistakesĒ is the first line. Nothing about war and it never changing, no Ron Perlman giving me the lowdown, I played the Japanese version of Fallout 3. Everything was in Japanese, all the character voices, all of the text, even the radio shows. The experience is the same though. Moira is still goofy with a moustache, raiders still yell the same few random phrases at you, Three Dog is just as annoying, and John Henry Eden sounds as presidential as ever. Overall, the voice acting in the Japanese version is pretty good.

The game starts with a bang. ďNothing says character immersion like emersion from another characterĒ I thought when, in the opening scene I am literally born into the world. Character creation is half creation half tutorial split between the various ages of the Lone Wanderer. By the time I had exited the vault I was thoroughly hooked into the game. Maybe exiting the vault was the exact moment I was completely and utterly enthralled. The outside world is bright and the screen brightness is actually washed out like it would be if you emerged from a dark area to a bright area in real life. For a minute, I couldnít tell if it was actually my eyes doing that or if it was the game itself. For a second, the line between Lone Wanderer and me was blurred with that. I knew then I had something special.

And special it was. I found myself wandering about aimlessly just waiting for random things to appear on the horizon. The excitement of something new being just over the next ridge led me to wander and wander. It was literally like exploring a new world. It was exciting and interesting and best of all, it was completely enthralling. It gave me what nothing else had during that time, escape and release from darkness.

Like stepping out of the vault for the very first time, I too in my real life started to have that same fade back to the real world. The fun and excitement I had in Fallout 3 bled into my real life mentality and I started to have fun and excitement in reality again.

I played through Fallout 3 a total of six times. Every time I found new things I hadnít found before. I found new ways to play the game and new areas I never visited. I played every DLC and it was the first Xbox game that I ever perfected.

The Capitol Wasteland, though a dark and dismal place was my wonderland. I place of escape from the trite realities of the real world. It was a dreamland that helped my real life and allowed me to overcome some terrible, real world darkness. Due to this, Fallout 3 will always have a special place in my heart as something that is truly Aaamaazing.   read

8:28 PM on 04.20.2011

5 gaming bullet points: Bargain Bin Edition

I have to admit, I but a ton of games. However, when buying games I am always lulled in by the siren song of the bargain bin. I usually go to a few different game shops when I pick up a new game and always somehow come back with a stack of games. As youíd expect, this is a mixed bag.

* Bargain bin games tend to run in the 1,000 yen or lower category though I guess Iíd reach up to about 1,500 yen for that. At that price point, I donít feel bad about getting games that might be otherwise bad. This is functionally money I might have entirely in pocket change.

* As an example, I set out the other day to pick up the Michael Jackson: The Experience for the Kinect (What? Donít judge me!) and I came home with six new games. Now, admittedly, the remaining five games cost less than the single new Kinect game (which clocked in at just under 5,000 yen). I came home with the above mentioned MJ game plus Oblivion (780 yen), Eternal Sonata (300 yen), Last Remnant (300 yen), Fracture (540 yen), and Dead Rising 2 (1480 yen).

* Now, some of those games are bound to be mediocre at best (Iím looking at you Fracture and Last Remnant) but then again, combined those two cost less than the amount of change I currently have in my pocket. Even if they are bad, I wonít mind wasting a few hours with them at that price. This kind of thinking has led me to some interesting and fun games that I otherwise wouldnít have played.

* A good example of this would be Bionic Commando, which I got in a previous cheap game buying binge. While it was almost universally panned as mediocre, I found myself really enjoying it (despite the hackneyed story and goofy plot twist). It was the first game Iíve played in a long time where I felt like it was a really faithful conversion of a 2D game into a 3D game while maintaining the same kind of 2D gameplay sensibility. It was a lot of fun and really harkened me back to playing the original on the NES as a kid.

* The current downside is that I have a huge stack of games I have yet to get around to playing. I probably have about 8 or 9 games I havenít even touched plus a few more that Iíve played a little bit of but havenít gotten the full range of play out of. These include some heavy hitters like Heavy Rain, MGS4, No More Heroes 2, and Gears of War 2, but, you know, sometimes you are in the mood for cartoony JRPGs or weird sim games.   read

7:59 PM on 04.18.2011

5 Gaming Bullet Points: PSP edition

5 Gaming Bullet Points: PSP edition

Sort of branching off a thread I started yesterday, Iím going to go over some reasons why or why not to buy the PSP. Iím kind of on the fence as itís still an expensive purchase here in Tokyo (much more so than the attractive $129 US price tag).

* Iím going to admit, Iíve never actually touched a PSP. Iíve seen people playing them on the train a lot, tons of my Japanese friends are always talking about how they are playing Monster Hunter (or in some cases their elderly parents are playing Monster Hunter), and I see tons of games around at game shops (fun fact: the PSP section at my local game store is four times the size of the Xbox 360 section) but I have never actually used one.

* Despite the image of the PSP as a ďdead systemĒ, in Japan itís lively as ever. New games come out all the time and increasingly I find ones that Iíd like to try. That is probably not so in the US but in Japan the PSP is serious business. Just thinking about it, the PSP has a lot more games I want to play than the DS, which I already own and rarely use.

* With the impending release of the NGP, Iím wondering if I should even bother at this point. Even if there are a bunch of games I want to play, I could always just wait until the NGP comes out and get those games via PSN, albeit for what are almost definitely inflated prices compared to game shops.

* I find myself really wanting that pink PSP set that was marketed specifically to Japanese girls. Although, I think itís extra expensive because it comes with girly add-ons and is kind of rare. Actually, when I think about it, there are so many PSP variants and special editions in Japan that almost any of them would be OK. Though again, expensive, even used ones are more expensive than a new one in the US.

* I do already have a DS, though it essentially collects dust and I havenít played any games on it in years at this point. Possibly the PSP will just end up like that in a short amount of time. On the other hand, maybe I should look into picking up a DS title or two just to see how much portable gaming I can handle at this point.   read

10:34 PM on 04.17.2011

5 Gaming Bullet Points: Inaugural Edition

These are essentially 5 random bullet points on gaming topics. Iím hoping to do this regularly.

* I havenít really been a Nintendo fan since the SNES though I have owned every Nintendo console up until this point. Iím not particularly excited for most of Nintendoís 1st party games either. I donít particularly enjoy Mario games, I havenít successfully become interested in a Zelda game since the NES days, and although I enjoyed the first 3D Metroid, I havenít bought any of the sequels. So the 3DS and the (rumored to be) upcoming new Nintendo console havenít really gained my interest.

* I am considering picking up a PSP though. I donít really do much portable gaming (I have approximately 2 games for the DS and itís been collecting dust for who knows how long) but there are a bunch of games I want to check out. For example, the Persona remakes, that PSP Yakuza game, maybe even the new Monster Hunter or some of the terribly old PSP games like the Darkstalkers collection. Living in Japan, there are tons of options.

* Used game prices in Japan are sometimes on the crazy side. You wonder things like why is a used copy of Dead Space nearly the same prices as a used copy of Dead Space 2? However there, as with any bargain bin find, times where you can find good deals. I am constantly pulled in by games that are less than 1000 yen if only for the sense that I could purchase the game with what is essentially pocket change.

* I played through Comic Jumper over the weekend. It was worth the 400 points I paid for it during the big XBLA sale. If anything, the game feels too short. It feels like there should be at least one other comic book to jump into. Itís a fun game with a lot of slightly annoying problems but at 400 points it was definitely worth it.

* Iíve also been slowly going through Catherine as well. Iím playing on normal and trying my damnedest to get through each stage with a gold ranking. Iíve gone through 6 stages so far and Iíve cleared 5 with gold. Itís not impossibly difficult like people have claimed it just takes a good amount of thought and retries (for gold at least). If you arenít going for gold youíd probably be hard pressed to die more than a couple times before finishing each section of the stage.   read

9:09 PM on 02.09.2011

My ridiculous list of games to buy in 2011

With already a month down for 2011, the games that are coming out are starting to pick up in terms of my want list.

While I played a ton of games in 2010, 2011 is shaping up to have a never-ending stream of new games to play. I went through some of the lists of what is supposed to be out this year and I took an inventory of what I will probably be picking up this year as of right now. Of course, the list will grow as new things are announced and I still have a ton of old stuff that I want to pick up as well but this list is strictly dealing with new stuff coming out this year for systems that I currently own.

The vast majority of these will be played on the Xbox but the PS3 and the Wii will also see a bit of use as well.

Here is the list in no particular order:

Catherine: Up until playing the demo I had little interest in this game. Sure, itís weird, but I live in Japan, Iím used to that. However, when I was playing the demo, the person I was with at the time kept saying ďhey that character is just like you!Ē and by god I saw it too. Not that I look like anyone in the game but personality-wise we matched up pretty well. I guess I was actually sold on the story. The crazy weirdness is just a bonus.

Child of Eden: Not only am I looking forward to a Rez sequel, I am looking forward to making further use of the Kinect. Yeah, I have every type of motion control but the Kinect is the most fun.

Silent Hill: Downpour: I love me some horror games. That being said, I donít think Iíve played a Silent Hill game since Silent Hill 3. This one seems like itís headed in the right direction though.

Saints Row 3: I think this is probably going to be delayed until 2012 but if not Iím looking forward to hosing down neighborhoods in sewage and bouncing off of ridiculous chains of cars in ragdoll mode to score points. Oh yeah, an all new story might be cool too. Saints Row is goofy, juvenile fun for sure and Iím looking forward to more of it.

Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon: The best thing about EDF is that itís simple to play and easy to jump into for a short period. Itís also perfect for playing with friends, especially non-skilled non-gamer types. Another one with more weapons and more options is all I really want.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution: This looks amazing in so many ways. I am not really a fan of FPSs but having played the original Deus Ex and having fond memories of it Iím sure it will be good. Not only that, the whole cyberpunk rpg shooter thing, if done correctly (like this appears to be doing) is going to be a blast to play.

Batman: Arkham City: Like most people, I donít feel itís hard to say that Arkham Asylum was easily one of the best comic book games ever. I spent a lot of time playing it and never felt bored, even while collecting all of the Riddler question marks. Even if Arkham City is just more of the same on a bigger map, I will be super happy with it.

Rage: Again, not an FPS fan. However, this looks like it could be a lot of fun. Itís only tentatively on my buy list unless everyone I know buys it and demands I join in on multiplayer (which is exactly how Iíve come into possession of every single FPS I own).

Captain America: Super Soldier: To be honest, I think this game will probably be mediocre at best and probably crap in actuality. However, Captain America was the first comic book I ever bought. Actually, that meant that my intro to comics had more M.O.D.O.K than most people had, but I digress. However, I have a soft spot for Cap (and to a lesser extent US Agent who was briefly Cap when I was getting into it)

Shadows of the Damned: Suda 51 and Shinji Mikami doing probably goofy action horror?!? Sign me up. I like to imagine this will be akin to No More Heroes plus horror that oozes cool.

L.A. Noir: Rockstar doesnít usually disappoint and this seems like an interesting concept. Iím sure that it will be good. Frankly, I can see it being one of the biggest games of the year.

Dragon Age 2: I only recently played the first Dragon Age and I thought it was kind of ugly but generally fun in that Bioware RPG type of way. I played through it 2 and half times plus all of the origin stories. Didnít play any of the DLC but I think Iím OK with that. Probably wonít pick up DA2 at release but Iíll definitely get it at some point.

Marvel Vs. Capcom 3: Remember the above stuff about Captain America and M.O.D.O.K? They are totally in this game! I like to think that all the demanding for M.O.D.O.K that I did on message boards when the game was first announced is absolutely why he is in the game. Pre-ordered this and canít wait to get my hands on it next week.

Mass Effect 3: When all is said and done, I played through the first ME 6 times. I played through ME2 4 times. Iím sure this one will get an equal amount of play time. ME is easily my favorite Bioware game but itís also one of my favorite games overall. A third one is something I will definitely be buying.

Elder Scrolls: Skyrim: Iíve never actually played an Elder Scrolls game. Iím not averse to the idea I just havenít gotten around to it. Considering that Oblivion can be had for less than $10 at this point I will eventually get around to it. I do like these kinds of RPGs though so once I get around to playing Oblivion Iíll pick this up too.

Asuraís Wrath: As a guy who studied Japanese Buddhist art in college, this game is like a ridiculous dream for me. Just watching the trailers I find myself nerding out over fighting renditions of famous statues that I studied. This is almost totally a game directed squarely at me. I doubt it will sell a lot but it looks over-the-top crazy and that is exactly what I want it to be.

Devil May Cry: I know most people seem to be hating on the DmC reboot but I am really enjoying what I have seen so far. Ninja Theory makes good games and unlike most, I was not much of a fan of the original Dante design. I have high hopes for this one.

Codename D: Again Suda 51 so at least you know that the game will be quirky and interesting. Also, more use of my Kinect!

Michael Jackson Experience: What? Donít judge me! If this is anything close to the quality of Dance Central it should be good. Since I was like 5 years old Iíve always wanted to do the dance from Thriller and Billy Jean. Maybe now that will be a reality! Probably not but Iím still buying it, for the Kinect obviously.

Dark Souls: Interested in this in a kind of ďmasochistic gamerĒ kind of way. Looks good but I wonít pick it up immediately.

Infamous 2: I liked InFamous. It was a fun game to play. Iím not super excited for part two but Iím excited enough to buy it when it comes out. Hopefully the climbing will be more fast paced this time. That was the thing that Prototype got better than InFamous. Running up the sides of buildings was tons of fun.

Ico and Shadow of the Colossus: I know these are the darling games of so many people but Iíve never actually played either. The HD re-release is the perfect chance to play both.

Yakuza: Of the End: I still think of the Yakuza series as a kind of gameplay inheritor of Shenmue. Doing that with zombies seems like it would be fun. Not to mention that itís essentially like running around in places that I actually go to on a regular basis so that makes it just that much more fun.

Night of the Sacrifice: Yeah, I have a balance board. I used to use Wii fit in my old apartment but when I moved I didnít have enough space to use it anymore so itís been essentially gathering dust for years now. However, I recently rearranged my place so that I could use the Kinect and that in turn freed up balance board space. Not that I want to use wii fit anymore but Night of the Sacrifice seems like a solid winner in terms of horror games so Iíll give it a shot.

Beyond these Iím sure there will be others. I wasnít interested in Dead Space 2 but the reviews have made me think it over so that might get added. Anything else I should be looking   read

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