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NAME: Johnny Barnstorm
AGE: Sometime in the late twenties.
LOCATION: British Columbia
PREFERRED GENRES: Anything where a sassy she spy blows things up. Adventure games. Racing games. Fighting games, too, to some degree. Side-scrolling hit-those-guys games.
KOOBERT'S SYSTEMS: Turbografx-16, PlayStation, Sega Nomad, Nintendo 64, Sega Dreamcast, PlayStation2, XBox, Nintendo DS, XBox 360, PSP, Sega Saturn, PlayStation3.
GAMES WHICH MAKE KOOBERT WAX NOSTALGIC: Manhunter: New York, Star Control 2, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Police Quest 2, Quest for Glory II: Trial By Fire, Phantasy Star I & IV, Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, Shining Force, Driver, Metropolis Street Racer, Bushido Blade. Yeah... and that Smashing Brothers game. Fine.
CURRENTLY PLAYING: Braid, Penny Arcade Adventures, The Strong Bad Game for Cool and Attractive People: Episode One, Final Fantasy XI, Ys Books I & II, StarFox 64, Chrono Trigger.

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The Penny Arcade Adventures review causes some interesting items to come up in the keyword-based advertising that comes up in Gamespot.

The latest Adventures in Lolo cheats? HOLY HELL! That bitch Lala is gonna get her ass saved now that Lolo is buffed out with the hella 1337 cheats. I am so gonna burn through those dozens of puzzles now. Maybe those dawgs over at alottoolbars are gonna hook me up with some puzzle solutions, what what.

Upon further reflection, though, the bit under that is another interesting piece of advertising. I am not sure how gloating really helps with your business plan. I hope your face gets broken, jerk.

As a complete aside, I think I will be downloading the Penny Arcade game. A good story is usually good enough for me, and knowing that it's turn-based rather than a Kingdom Hearts clone that I thought it would be gives me some comfort. Anyone tried it yet? Good? Bad? Worthwhile?

The first thing that I'm getting next month, though, is D, D2, and Enemy Zero... I'm gonna put my Saturn to some good use.

I'm going home and controlling some Kylie Minogue! Take that, Oscar winner Raul Julia!

So, I did it. I went and bought a Wii. It looked like I wasn't even going to get one, what with the six I saw at the "Real Canadian Superstore" being sold out by the time I got back. But the clerk there recommended that I go to Mostly Music in scenic Port Coquitlam, BC (known as the town that gets all Predatored and Aliened up in Aliens Versus Predator 2: Bad Lighting). This store claims to have the largest used video game collection in Canada, and, well, I don't quite agree. But they also have Wiis. Expensive Wiis. The reason that they have them in stock is that the purchase price for their Wiis are $319.99, or $299.99 if you purchase 2 games. Given that Wiis retail for $269.99 normally, that's quite the mark-up that they got going on.

But I purchased two games, got the Wii, and figured that if I skip two dinners out this month, it'll all work out. The two games I got are pictured above.

The Wii

Stuff I Like: Connected online very easily, and I didn't have to wade through hours of installing and bullshit like with the PlayStation 3. And I love that virtual console. I love it. Yes, I know you guys like your emulators and all that, but I'd rather be playing my games on a TV, and not, you know, stealing them. Plus they're all coming out in progressive scan, and I don't have the video sync chop that I get playing my SNES on my HDTV (where the screen tears while scrolling sometimes).

My experience so far with actual Wii games has been limited, but I did enjoy my first two hours of No More Heroes, but I'm not entirely won over with the motion controls yet. I have to see more of it in action, and get used to it. I do like the split between the nunchuk and the wiimote, though, as it means I can play games at a more natural position.

I like the Miis, too. I do like all the sharing and stuff you can do with it. The Wii has a very inviting front end interface, especially compared with its competitors. Why each 360 blade other than the marketplace is essentially identical is beyond me. And don't get me started about that damn crossmedia bar in the PS3.

Stuff I Don't Like: Other than the usual friend code stuff, which you all know about and have formed your own opinions on, I have one other major gripe with the Wii. Its composite sound out is overamplified which causes some marginal audio clipping on the Wii menu. In the first second or two of the Wii menu music loop. I can hear faint distortion on the Wii menu, and apparently it's also there in other parts of the Wii menu screens and in Twilight Princess.

Thinking that maybe my television speakers were oversensitive to clipping (I never noticed it on Rooo's TV), I finally got some new speakers for my stereo and routed the audio output from my tv to that. Still some clipping, but not as bad. I could use the NeoGAF solution of a level reducer, but that's one of those overcomplicated solutions to small problems that those guys seem to love. I just find it weird that this problem hasn't been talked about too much. I know that I have to monitor audio outputs as part of my job, but you'd think that it would bug everyone.

Now that I've got my game systems hooked up to a real stereo again, rather than TV speakers, I've been thinking to myself... why didn't I do this years ago? I used to hook up my brother's SNES to a stereo system all the time. Did I forget how great it sounds? The giant leap in sound quality between the two? The incredible immersion? I just listened to Okami's soundtrack for a while, enjoying the real sense of space and separation between the instruments. Awesome.


Stuff I Like: I've never actually played this before, so it was great to experience it for myself. Honestly I was a little hesitant about purchasing it, just because I don't know if I can devote the time necessary to finish such a long quest. And I am really bad at Zelda games. Like horrifically bad. I played through one and a half dungeons in Ocarina of Time and said "fuck this" after getting hung up on some block pushing puzzle in a tree. Maybe it's because I grew up a Sega kid, but I never got into these games. And I will see how long I can last with Okami, but I think that its music, mood, and style have a definite appeal.

I seem to have problems not just making straight lines (which I understand now is simply because I'm moving the darn controller too slowly!), but also making solid and continuous lines. As I've only put an hour and a bit into the game, it's too early for me to really get a grasp on it, but like the review on this site says, it's worth putting effort in to learn.

Stuff I Don't Like: The funny thing is, I don't notice the graphics as much now as I did when I first saw the game on Rooo's PS2 a couple of years ago. I don't know if I'm just used to it now, or if there's some sort of graphical difference between the two versions, but I'm really not blown away. Yeah, the art style is nice, but... I don't know. The look isn't moving me. I feel terrible saying it, because I certainly respect the design. But now I'm looking at the bare environments, the 2D shrub sprites, and being all snotty about it. Maybe I need an injection of wonder and awe.

Street Fighter The Movie: The Game

Stuff I Like: Alright, I'm going to say something. Something controversial. Something appalling. And I might just save most of this for a more detailed look at the game. But from going back and playing both recently, I am going out on a limb here and am going to put for the record that I think Street Fighter The Movie: The Game for the Sega Saturn is a better game than Mortal Kombat. Yes, it's based on a terrible film. Yep, it's ugly and plays nowhere near as well as its animated brethren. It is but a sickly cousin that should have been drowned at birth. But it still retains the Street Fighter moves, for the most part, which already makes it markedly more entertaining than the irritating controls of the Mortal Kombat series. Plus the all-star cast... and you can beat a digitized Van Damme! That's way better than beating on Midway's secretary dressed up like Olivia Newton John in the Let's Get Physical video.

Stuff I Don't Like: Zangief looks kinda scrawny. And my Saturn's AV out cable is getting flaky, cutting off the sound sometimes. Looks like it's time to find a new one.

I'll spare you my Grand Theft Auto IV thoughts because I don't think that they're any different than the vast majority, although I might knock it down to an 8 out of 10 so far for some narrative shortcomings (Niko getting upset about killing a guy, and then taking a shotgun to drug dealers with no questions asked the next mission) and some awful, awful slowdown I experienced in my very first car chase, on my PS3. Still, great game, but Jeebus if game sites and magazines don't hand out 10s like they are rainbow leis at a pride parade.

So, since then, I downloaded Ninja Gaiden, Contra 3, River City Ransom, Blazing Lasers, and Super Mario Brothers 3 for the Wii, as well as getting Zack and Wiki with a gift certificate I got. I'm saving Zack and Wiki for later, in my pile of shame, because I've just got wayyyyy too many games on the go right now. Also picked up a Classic Controller but haven't had a chance to use it yet.

Damn work and social life!
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Alright, alright, I admit it: I was rather glib in my initial impressions of the Metal Gear Solid Online Beta. After some more time with that game, my heart has warmed to it. Especially since it has added one new feature, and I've mastered another.

In general terms, what I do like about it is that it isn't another shooter. I got very annoyed about it trying to play it like one. The physical interactions with other players do put it on a different level, admittedly, though, one that isn't entirely functional. There is much to do in MGS Online, but not all of it is useful.

I've warmed up to the level design, and in fact, am really digging the "factory" style level, with many open hangers, rooftop hideouts, etcetera. I am a little let down that the tranq guns are so underpowered: it takes four solid hits to knock anyone out, which means that you're going to have to be sniping for a long time, while one bullet to the head is an instant kill.

The graphics? Some levels look good, but I have found that some of the buildings look "lego blocky", which I think is due in part to how your characters respond to the environment. They've sacrificed authenticity to make each level a large playset, which unfortunately means a lot of squares, chunky railings, and right angles. There are many vehicles dotted around the city map, but, shockingly, you can't crawl under them which seems like a huge oversight in the MGS universe. As for the vehicles themselves, they are crude looking, a bit too PS2ish for me to be really pleased with them. Overall it's not a bad looking game, great in parts, but isn't a huge step forward that I was imagining, and not as immediately impressive as others that have been released in the past year.

Here are some highlights I took from the beta:

Shield Bashing

Yes, the shield is my new favorite weapon in Metal Gear Solid Online. The riot shield carried in MGS2 and such is not only a solid defense, but a great non-lethal offensive weapon. Since absolutely no one was using it, ever, it was also one that people didn't know how to react against. You just keep on marching towards them, shield in front, crouching so that they can't shoot at your feet, as they frantically fire at you and back away. If you catch up to them, smash them in the face with your shield. One hit usually knocks them off their feet, and you can continue hitting them until they fall unconscious, at which point their inert body is your plaything.

Yes, you can pat them on the stomach, lift them up and use them as a personal shield, or quickly kill them with your stun knife. Or you can just pull them around for a while and keep dropping them. It's all fun, light-hearted, and reminds me of the best of Metal Gear Solid 2.

That isn't to say that the shield is an unstoppable weapon: just dive around the guy with the shield and hit him from behind if he's coming towards you, or sneak around him and shoot him from his soft, vulnerable rear. Easy. But its rarity as a used weapon (it replaces your primary weapon, so you'll be without any machine guns or sniper rifles) means that not everyone knows how to deal with it. The shield is also pretty much useless in open spaces as an offensive weapon, with only the small, confined levels suited for its CQC abilities.

No Gay Bashing

Voice chat support on the PS3 has always been a big ball of mystery for me. While I have actually, honestly got it to work in Burnout: Paradise with little problem, every other game (IE: Warhawk) will just have short cuts of conversation, people asking "Hello? Hello?" and irritating clicking sounds. This one is no different. So everyone is communicating using the canned phrases in the online beta. You know what? I like it better that way.

Yes, yes, it's archaic, and my dislike for 12 year olds yelling at me is deeply rooted in the fact that I'm not very good at video games, and that I'm old. But it's nice to play a game online without being screeched at, called "gay" or a "faggot", having to quit due to everyone telling racist jokes, etcetera. I'm sure it'll be ruined later, but for now, it's a nice online haven.

Sneaking Mode

Yes, it's a bit of a crib from Splinter Cell. But the Sneaking Mode is pretty damn awesome. Three teams, red, blue, and snake. Red and blue rack up points by killing each other or snake. Snake racks up points by holding up or knocking out red or blue guys and stealing their tags. Not only is it a nice preview for how Snake is going to play, but it's really fun. And I'm absolutely terrible at playing Snake. (Good at killing him, though.)

I'm still not entirely sure how I should be approaching holding up guys, but I was never great at it in Metal Gear Solid 2. I'm just not a sneaky guy. Still, I think with practice, even a terrible stealther like me will get the hang of it.


So I'm still debating the PS3 or 360 version of Grand Theft Auto IV. I think that for these sort of games (3rd person), I'm going to side with the PlayStation controller, but I do like the idea of a more functional online experience. Then again, I have a deep and passionate hatred for the general public on XBox Live, so... I don't know.

And the PS3 version has like seventy less P than the 720P 360 version. Those Ps are pretty important, you know. Gotta max out your P. On my 34" HDTV, I don't know if it would make much difference. Right now I'm leaning towards the PlayStation 3 one, but I'll wait and see how bad the 60gig models like mine are faring with it.

I went back and played San Andreas for a few hours the other day... dear lord, Las Venturas is an ugly, ugly design for a city. Some parts are sub GTA III... you can tell it was the last thing that they worked on, and there's a certain lack of effort there.

Explosives and traffic pileups never get old, though. Alright. Now I'm officially excited for the new one, I admit it.

Here, in pictures, is my incredible time with Metal Gear Solid Online yesterday! Needless to say, I'm going back for more. Exciting, different, radical, it's a game like no other online shooter in which you shoot people in deathmatches and tactical games.

Here I am assaulting the blue team base with my Nikita missiles. Those jerkfaces don't know what's coming!

Check out the poly count on this close-up. I'd say I've seen photo-realism before, but this takes the cake.

Man! I totally got owned there!

Just when you think you've won the battle, the enemy comes in for a regrouped assault, making me wait in the trenches for another fifteen minutes.

As a "hacker" you must crack the code in order to infiltrate the base and win. Watch out for "website crashes" or else you'll be forced to start over.

Just like in the offline game, helpful comments steer you towards your goals.

MAN! What an incredible game...
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We're getting older. One day, before you know it, you'll be walking by O'Douls pub on Granville street, and see kids with their Fallout Boy haircuts and, for some reason, see that half of them are dressed like zombies, and you'll say to yourself: "I am so not a bright-eyed youth any more."

And that's okay. We all grow older. There's good things about it, too. For instance: I'm almost done paying off my 2004 Mustang GT, which most of us couldn't have afforded as a teenager. (Except for you rich jerks with nice parents.) I have an apartment with no parents around. I can afford to buy more than one video game system at a time.

There's one thing that's been on my mind recently, as I age: am I getting better or worse at video games?


Evidence: Deus Ex for the PC.

Use your stealth powers... in the face!

I received Deus Ex as a Christmas present in the year 2000, at the tender age of 20. I installed it on my then-pretty-good Athlon Thunderbird PC with a half-decent Matrox card. Unfortunately, it didn't run great at the time. While I loved the ideas behind the game, I remember that it was a constant source of frustration. The game was pushing you towards being stealthy and non-lethal, but at the same time, was pretty stingy with its ammunition, especially non-lethal stuff like tranquilizer darts and stun prods. The very first mission, in the ruins of the Statue of Liberty, I remember taking me hours upon hours. I couldn't do it without getting caught and killing dozens. I did keep on playing it until I eventually got very stuck, without ammo, and hemmed in by the pretty good AI. Then when I wiped my system and reinstalled everything with a better video card, and couldn't reinstall Deus Ex, the disk had reading errors.

Deus Ex lay on my computer desk for the next seven years, until a few weeks ago, whereupon I had learned of the freezing trick for getting a scratched CD to work. I tried it with a copy of Blue Stinger, and hey, it works. I put it in the freezer overnight, let it thaw out in the fridge for an hour, and the disk worked. Stressing and contracting the surface plastic expands the scratches, so they obscure the disk less, or something. Anyway. I installed Deux Ex on my much faster PC, and tried it again. The Statue of Liberty? No problem. Playing it on the "realistic" difficulty level, too. Getting stealthily by all those guards wasn't a big deal at all. I'm more methodical. I save often, check nooks and crannies for any datapads left around, and then hotwire the security systems to make them do the work for me. Maybe it's that I've got more experience with the stealth genre now. Or just more experience with video games in general. I also am not so impulsive, and I've realized that game designers, especially in these open-ended PC worlds, almost always give you a back-door option that is intrinsically easier. BioShock taught me the joys of letter machines and others do the work for you. The game is well-designed in letting you be as sneaky as you want, something I just didn't get at 20.

That being said, I am at a pretty hard point in the game - tracking down the Ambrosia shipment means going into a room with half a dozen soldiers, not easy to do if your goal is to not kill anyone. Gas grenades ahoy, I think!

Evidence: SpellCaster for the Sega Master System.

1989: Freaky hard. 2007: Pffft. No problem.

This Castlevania-crossed-with-Shadowgate action / adventure hybrid stumped me as a kid. My brother purchased it in 1989, as it was billed as being a follow-up to Phantasy Star in Electronic Gaming Monthly or Video Games and Computer Entertainment. It wasn't, but it was still good. But I couldn't play it. I was terrible at it. The action sequences were just too hard for me. Now, by that time I was almost 10. My running and jumping skills were fine, but decoding the boss battles was a little more than I could handle.

Cut to 2007, and I'm on vacation back at my parents house in Ottawa. I hook up the old Sega Master System, and give SpellCaster a try. Admittedly, I'm using the six-button Genesis asciipad and not one of those shitty Sega Master System controllers, but this game is easier. Much easier. Yeah, I have GameFAQs to lean on for the slightly incomprehensible adventuring portions, but the boss-battles were not the challenges they once were. What has changed? I've learned to look into all the magic spells available. There are plenty there that do lots of damage, or heal you completely. Save your magic for the boss, use your strong attack magic, and you can pretty much just sit there and destroy him. I didn't consider that possibility as a kid. Now they're toast. Also, it gave you a flying spell you could use to get past the worst of the platforming sections, which, given my abhorrence for precision jumping, came in useful.


Evidence: Mega Man 1/2 for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Pretty much what watching me play Mega Man looks like.

I used to be not bad at these games, not bad at all. I remember renting Mega Man 2 with my friend Lee for his Nintendo, and destroying it pretty quickly with him. And that was without even knowing the best combinations of weapons to use with what boss - he didn't have a Nintendo Power subscription.

Now, going back and playing the Mega Man games on the XBox collection, I'm finding myself really, really bad at these action / platforming sections. I fall all the time. Seriously, all the fucking time. While the bosses are much easier than they use to be, getting there takes me hours. I have vivid memories of getting through the Elec Man and Fire Man stages fast, but now... it's just brutal.

Evidence: Wonder Boy in Monster Land for the Sega Master System.

About as far as I can get in this game before throwing controller down in disgust.

This side-scrolling Zelda II style game was great for the time, with one caveat: you couldn't save your game. Ever. Imagine a six hour quest, with difficult bosses, upgraded weapons, etcetera, where you can't save. It's nuts. I believe that my brother bought this with his own money, or received it as a birthday present in 1987 or 1988.

But I got pretty close to beating it. My brother Nick (11 or 12) beat it. I used to not mind the idea that I would be sent back tot he beginning of the game if I died (though you could get extra lives).

I try playing it now, and I can't make it past the second boss. Maybe it's a lack of desire. Maybe I'm just not as good as I used to be. Maybe I'm so out of the rhythms required to be good at these games. I know that I'm absolute shit at most platformers now, but it was a skill that I once had. Is it because I'm getting old?

(Note: My dad finished Super Monster World. He was 40. So there you go.)

Sorry for not writing for a while, my core writing time has been taken up by Professor Layton and that freaking Curious Village. Honestly, though, love the game... definitely the best DS game I've played. I don't get why people hate the music, though. I guess I have a soft spot for accordians.
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My second attempt at keeping a log on my progress with the giant pile of JRPGs that I'm working through. As you can see, I only tackled two of the games on my list, although I probably should note that you could also add Golden Sun and Suikoden to the list but I really only played both for about an hour each in the past couple of months, so I wouldn't really worry about them.

Without further ado, here are my exploits for the past two weeks. The Chrono Trigger bit is loooooong... feel free to skip.

As always, remember, plenty of spoilers.

Chrono Trigger

Estimated Progress: Half-way through? Maybe more. I know it's a short game.
Where Am I? When you last heard from Modus (Crono) and his crew, they'd just entered the End of Time, with the strange man waiting at a lamppost for us. Also open was the opportunity to fight Lavos, which upon loading the game, I figured I might as well try for. So, Lavos is a collection of every boss fight in the game, huh? That's what it seems like as I chopped through his many forms. At first, he was ridiculously easy, and I just used the same strategies that I did for the bosses the first time around. And then I fought a couple of bosses I'd yet to encounter - a bit of a spoiler for myself, perhaps, but what the hey. I was surprised enough that I could mow through a few more with no problem. The third boss in from where I was at in the game, though, eventually killed us. I can't remember exactly what the form was, but it was a fairly easy victory for Lavos. Needless to say, I wasn't ready to fight him.
So there were portals open now to Prehistoric Times, back to the year 600, the Proto Dome in 2300, and the village of Medina (I think? Funky and cold?). I thought about heading back to the past, but figured that I needed to get everyone back to our time. So I headed to the village of Medina, a weird monster-ran village where everyone was dancing around a statue of the big baddy, Magus. The village isn't particularly friendly, though. Pretty much every monster guy I talk to ends up fighting me, and I have to graciously slam their ugly monster faces into the ground. Possibly not the best behavior for a guest, I admit. Everyone is enjoying their magic powers, except for Aygo (Robo) who didn't get any. What with being a robot and all. So, Modus, Fabia (the girl), and Aygo go next door, to this human guy hiding in a cabin. He seems unusually located, but still offers to sell us stuff. I buy, and then we head into the cave. Ah, Final Fantasy caves. That is to say, this area seemed very Final Fantasy-like. I run a big sweeping path through the place, getting to the whirlpool at the end quickly. The boss there is dispatched easily, no match for our skill.
From there, we are unceremoniously ejected from the water spout, and sent flying back to the village where the game started. From there, I find another time portal thingie, and head back in, which pushes me back to the End of Time. From there, I head back to the year 600, why, I can't quite remember. There I find that the kingdom is in a big kerfuffle with the monsters to the south, and everyone is talking about a new hero kid walking around. There's lots of wounded soldiers, and the cook is acting like kind of a dick because he's pissed off with his brother fighting down south. I go to the bridge, and see soldiers getting their asses handed to them. I can't go and fight with them, for some reason, although I'm pretty sure at this point I could easily destroy the enemies there. No, I have to go back, convince the cook to do his fricking job, cart that food back to the bridge, and then finally fight wave after wave of skeletons. Easy enough. Then I have to fight a zombie boss, whose legs and head are separate creatures. Still, not too hard, though I think he did end up killing one of my people. The bridge cleared, I make my way to the two available towns to see if I can find the hero. Everyone's talking about him, but he's not there. They also mention a frog hiding out in the forest, so I check that out. Tigra, the frog knight, is there, but he feels cowed by the new hero everyone's raving about. I go out to the mountains, and find out that the hero is actually some scared kid who found the hero medal. Then I get some flashbacks to the frog, who was previously human, watching his knight friend get totally owned by Magus and his floaty friend.
Some more fighting, beat a boss, get the sword part of Masamune. I take that back to the frog man, stopping by way of the hero's house to watch him get totally scolded by his dad. Little dork. Take everything back to the frog, and I get both parts of the sword. By deciphering the clue on the sword, which is helpfully explained to me by Aygo, I realize that I have to bring it back to that guy by the village of Medina. Christ, that's a lot of time hopping. I do that, and he says he can fix it if I get some of those red rocks that haven't existed for thousands of years. Taking the cue, I know that I just need to go on one more ride in the whirlpool, and head to the Prehistoric Era.
Fabia, Ignis (Lucia), and Modus all get prehistorical on people, fighting through some jungle areas and meeting a new friend, Agila (the cavewoman there.) There's some partying, some dancing, and then I'm told about a hunting ground I can take everyone on where I can some rare loot, d00d. I go to what I think is the hunting ground, but is actually a valley that I need to go to much later. I'm curious about why the enemies are so difficult, but press on until the end, where I find... nothing. Nothing but an oddly glimmering red star which I figure has absolutely nothing to do with something later. So I go back to see Agila, and this time, we end up needing to get our time-travelling pendant back. Stolen by some dino-jerks. I follow the footprints back to their tower, eventually, and then get instantly bugged by this maze.
I realize eventually you can fall through a variety of holes as dug by the little burrowing guys, so I try foolhardily to get every damn little treasure chest out there. No luck, I can't figure out how to get into one of the entrances, and I'm tired of fighting the same damn enemies over and over. I give up, and then slaughter the big dino-boss, and get my pendant back. Agila stays in her time, but I get the impression I'll see her again soon.
Back in the year 1000, I get the sword fixed, with the help of Aygo, in a very vintage-90s cutscene.
I take that back to the year 600, give it to Tigra, who decides to quit his whining and help out. We all head over to Magus's hideout, which ends up being a very NES looking castle. (The outside view of the castle isn't exactly a graphical highlight of the game, even if it's detailed.) Then I do some rummaging around inside, fight Slash and Flea (oh, I get it.) before tackling big floaty Ozzie. Easy-peazy, Japanesey, especially with the Tigra-Aygo-Modus Delta attack.. From there, I launch an all-out assault on Magus, who turns the tables by triggering some kinda time thing. Not exactly sure what happened there, but it wasn't good. I end up back in Prehistoric times, Agila joins me, and then Rooo points out where the actual hunting grounds are. Oh. So I go do some fighting there, kill a Nu thing, and then go back to that place where I found the red star before - which turns out to be good ol' Lavos coming in for some killin'. From there, I confront the king of all the Dinos (for some reason). After besting him, he whines a bit, and then... uh. I think somehow I end up in 12,000 BC, in which the world is covered by an ice age, and snotty intellectuals float up in the sky. I meet a brother and sister, get arrested by their bitchy Mom, charge up my pendant, and then narrowly escape, the portal back to that time being sealed.
And that's about where I am now. I went around looking for magic-locked chests in a couple of time periods, got bugged that I couldn't upgrade Agila with magic (She's from a time before magic? Pffft. Whatever.) and then went back to the Proto Dome time. I was challenged to a race again, which I lost at the last second, ugh, and got a race log. Oh, Square games, always making me do shit I don't care about, like future car racing or Blitzball. Anyway. I went back to the place I remembered a magic-locked door from, the dome with the depressed villagers. No luck getting to the door - I can see it, but can't reach it. I'm trying to remember if I saw another one around there. I'll do some more exploring soon.
Thoughts So Far: It reminds me of an action-RPG that has turn-based combat almost imposed on it. I could see the whole game working relatively well as a Secret of Mana action RPG, not much would really be lost on it. The combo system with your characters is my favorite part of the relatively simple combat system, reminding me of some awesome combos you could get going in Phantasy Star IV. The game works best due to, and I think is so fondly remembered because of the myriad little adventures included in it. Instead of having one overreaching goal with which you are handed irritating roadblocks, the game seems very episodic, with interesting little chapters, each with their own goals. Only after defeating Magus did the forward momentum of the plot start to lag. I know what I'm supposed to do right now, but going back here just isn't too exciting. And I have to find the right damn door. I see one. Why can't I open the stupid thing? Why? Oh well. I'll figure it out.

Lost Odyssey

Estimated Progress: One quarter of the way through? Onto disk 2 now.
Where Am I? Last we left our heroes, we were in Numara, and I was looking into getting some crystal fragments for a whiny artist. I decided to bite the bullet and go west, which I knew would lead me to about two hours of crying. I was right. That's a whole lot of crying. Kaim is reunited with his daughter, and grand-children, Palom and Porum. Most of the direct control during this sequence involves stick gathering and flower-picking. It cuts back to some very Final Fantasy XII / Tactics style scenes involving the conniving (yet kinda hot) Gongora and the noble prince. The prince gets attacked and kills that one mustached guy, but then you see that, wait, the mustached guy was actually killed by a giant snake, who either is Gongora, or is controlled by him, or something, as evidenced by his big laughing head being super-imposed over the snake. Anyway. Back to funeral time, and the ridiculously dressed funeral coordinator bosses around the kids for a while until, in an actually rather poignant scene, they burn the ties binding them physically to their mother, who floats off to the sea. Lets hope she doesn't get snagged on some rocks nearby, or the kids are gonna have a nasty surprise in a few weeks when they investigate what the seagulls are pecking at.
Mack, being a child, gets into trouble by running away. Unfortunately, there is no option to "shrug your shoulders and move on", so I have to go save him from the spooky forest. I stop by Numara first, find a couple of dreams, buy some items, and then experience the joy of the game crashing. I find the dreams again, find a third dream, rebuy the items, get my skills all linked and in order, save and try to leave Numara again. The game crashes again.
I leave the game for the night, and come back to it, working my way through the forest, my progress halted by three more irritating crashes. The worst seems to be when the Kelokons (or however you write it) call for help - frequently when they summon aid, the screen freezes and then gives me the unreadable disk error.
Before wrapping up the crimson forest, I decide to call Microsoft to see about getting my older 360 serviced. I'm told that the extension to the warranty only covers the Red Rings of Death, and then the ever-so-helpful support guy told me how to clear out my cache, which I've already done before. Oh well. No luck. I go back and attack the final boss of the disk, an epic fight against... Mack! Unfortunately, my strategy of making everyone attack him results in his quick death, so in attempt 2, I stumble around with status effects until I find the one that works. Porum's rescued, flowers grow, and then... insert disk 2! Which Rooo is still finishing up with, so Lost Odyssey is on hiatus.
After ejecting the disk, I notice that it is a little dirty. Hm. I'll try cleaning it, and there's always the freezer trick, which recently resurrected a copy of Blue Stinger and Deus Ex. Oh, the freezer trick.
Thoughts So Far Makes me wish I had a newer 360. This unreadable disk shit is annoying. I'll clean the disk and get a DVD lens cleaning disk too, just to make sure that that's not a problem. I would like this game a whole lot more if it didn't crash, or the music didn't randomly halt.
As for the game itself, well... I like the stories. The three that I found were good, especially the one about Myna. Myra? The Letters from a Weakling one. The combat is great, but the stalling is getting so distracting that I rue it. Plus the frequent random encounters do take a little too long.

So that's it. No Lost Odyssey for a little while, or at least, until Rooo is done with Disk 2. Going to try to finish Chrono Trigger and go back to Earthbound and Final Fantasy XII.

I'm not sure if I'm happy with this format. Too long winded... just trying something new. I am thinking about getting a RCA-to-DV box and directly recording some gameplay, cut down on the writing and just bringing you the highlights and videos of my actual gameplaying, which would be a heck of a lot more interesting. The box is less then a hundred bucks on the eBay..