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10:02 PM on 07.25.2009

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Review!

((Note: Yes, I know I haven't been updating lately. Summer job has been keeping me busy, preventing me from playing as many games as I want. But, I managed to finish this one! :D))

My history with the Shin Megami Tensei series has been somewhat mixed. I've always been intrigued by the ideas, but I guess I've never been "hardcore" enough to finish any of them. Or rather, I never learned to think like the game wants me too. What does that mean? Not really sure, but it sounded good. :P

I've been able to get my hands on Nocturne, but I wasn't able to really get into it. The idea of the game," It's the end of the world, now what?" intrigued me at the time, along with the nice demon designs, but the story wasn't able to hook me in. So, I sent it back to gamefly. I got my hands on Persona 3, as the concept intrigued me, but I got to a boss I couldn't beat, gave up, and sent it back. (There was more frustration than just a boss battle, but I digress).

So, here I am. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor (henceforth known as SMT:DS) once again drew me in with its interesting concept. Tokyo is in lockdown when demon show up. Now, armed with your demon-summoning DS's (Called COMPs in game) you and your pals have to survive the chaos. And I am proud to say that SMT:DS is the first SMT game I completed, and I'm eager to look back into other games in the series.

Box Art showing off the characters, tho in game they are far more colorful than just red.

The set-up is above, and I won't go into detail about the story. Suffice to say, it's really quite good, quirky, but realistic, and lots of fun. A wide cast of characters with nice portraits do a great job. I only wish there was some voice acting, and maybe a few more portraits. Character art, while expressive, is quite limited. Maybe 5 different poses for each character.

Graphics are also well done. SMT games have a history of looking slick and this game is no different. Everything fits together nicely with a lot of thought clearly put in. The menus seem a little cluttered at first, but after about a half hour or so you'll be surprised just how much they display in a very logical manner. In battle, the character sprites that move around the grinds are well-done, but when attacking all you get is still shots of the (kickass) demons.

Speaking of battle, this is where the game really shines. Playing like a combination of Final Fantasy Tactics, EarthBound, and Pokemon, the game feels old and new at the same time. You move your group of up to four parties around a generally small grid, attacking groups of demons. Your parties consist of one human flanked by two demons. Here's the pokemon element. There are well-over 100 demons in the game, and you can use them in battle. You don't have to "catch them all" however, you can just go to the "Demon Auction" and buy them.

When you attack another group of demons, battle switches to a first-person perspective where you select your attacks EarthBound style. You fight three-on-three battles against evil demons. Battles have a variety of missions too, ranging from the general "Kill them all" to "protect person X" and many others. And they are difficult too! Not for the faint of heart!

The game is divided into 7 days, and each day you only have around 10 in-game hours to do tasks. This may sound like a lot, but just about every action you take, with the exception of leveling-battles, consumes a half hour of time. So, you'll have to choose how you spend it wisely, and it's impossible to see everything on one playthrough, giving the game quite a bit of replay value.

And that's really the surface of the game. There is a lot more to it that I just didn't cover here (Cuz I'm sleep-deprived). Basically, go out and buy this game. It's awesome. :)   read

8:28 PM on 07.05.2009

BlazBlue: First Impressions

So, a bit of personal backstory. I never had 2D fighters as a kid. My parents were the "Fighting is violent and wrong and you can't see it" Type, so fighting games were completely out of the question. I'm lucky to have been able to play Sonic the Hedgehog. The first fighting game I ever owned was Power Stone on the ill-fated Dreamcast (very much the opposite of 2D fighters). Then came Power Stone 2, and from there was Smash Brothers. Then, Soul Calibur 2 for my gamecube.

In a sense, I've never played any 2D fighters...

I picked up Guilty Gear X2 on the PS2 (Which I still have) and got completely and utterly lost in it. Being a youngster, I had no idea how difficult those motions could be to pull off. The game was played about 3 times, and to this day continues to collect dust in my collection. I rented Street Fighter IV, and still don't know my Hakoukens from my Shoriukens. (I'm sure I butchered the spelling on those...).

Now, on a trip to Gamestop to sell some old games I'll never, EVER play. (Things like Lego Racers, Harry Potter) I got some good cash, and decided to give 2D fighters a last hurrah. I purchased the limited edition of BlazBlue, almost solely because of the beginner guide included, and I must say...

I've fallen in love...

BlazBlue is the shit.

I'll start with my favorite part. The characters. I know they aren't for everyone, but if you're ANYthing like me, you can at least appreciate all the details in their designs. Plus, I'm a sucker for anime designs, so this game already has a win in that category.

Fighting seems to be fairly standard fare for the genre, at least to my experience. However, at least for me, it feels better. More responsive. And I think that has to do with it being more forgiving with your actions. Granted, it's not a button masher by any means, but doing the quarter-circles seems easier (meaning I can pull them off with some consistency)

I've only had the game for about a day so far, and I must say that the guide disk is incredibly helpful. It takes a few viewings to really absorb what they say, as it does kind of go kind of fast, but I've watched it about 3 times for the characters I wanna learn and it's very helpful.

I haven't tried story mode yet, tho I am incredibly eager to. :D

And, I went online. There is some lag leading up to the match, the pre-fight animations seem to skip a little, but during actual fights, I have to admit, I'm almost completely lag free. Which is such a plus. :)

I've only really tried one character (Noel) and I intend to stick with her for a while until I learn the fighter better. And that's it. I'm off to play some more. See you online! (PSN: Ryoma90)   read

12:17 PM on 06.13.2009

Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin Review

You may wonder why, with games like Infamous and Punch-Out, I would be playing a DS game, an older DS game, in a series like Castlevania. With such high-profile, incredibly exciting titles on the more advanced systems, why would I play an old-style 2D platformer? Because gamefly didn't have anything more interesting to send. :P

In all seriousness, I've never played a Castlevania game before. Never. This was my first foray into the realm of Dracula-slaying. So, this review is not from someone who knows Belmonts from whoever else, this is the review from someone who never picked up a Castlevania game before, didn't know anything about the series. I added it to my gamefly as an afterthought, surprised to find it in my mailbox.

But, holy crap, what the hell have I been missing out on?

I know it's not the official NA box, but I like this one more. :D

Castlevania begins with Dracula's castle rising out of the ground for some reason, and two people, Charlotte and Jonathon are apparently the only two that can do something about it. Who are they? Why are they in the Castle? What makes them so special? Well, the game kind of explains this, but the story isn't really that interesting. Jonathon is a member of a family that isn't Belmont, but knows the Belmonts, and he has the Vampire Killer for some reason but can't use it...or something. I don't really know, the cutscenes were very brief and uninformative. But, what was there was fairly smartly written and at times humorous, which I found surprising.

Needless to say, it's the gameplay that really drives the game. At first, I was kind of disappointed with the gameplay. You don't really have any fighting combos, you just kinda hit a button for one strike. And you jump. Charlotte has magic, Jon has weapons, and you can switch. That's about it, at first. But then, I got more stuff, could perform more actions, and gameplay took off.

This was helped immensely by the awesome music. I had no idea Castlevania's tunes were so dang catchy. I found myself humming the songs long after turning off the DS, something that -very- rarely happens. I started searching for the soundtracks, and everything. It's great.

Graphics in the game are 2D, but very nicely done and well animated. The smoothness of the sprite's animation varies depending on the character, but for the most part, they are very fluid. Monsters are all beautifully rendered in a great art style. The character portraits are generic anime, but the actual monsters you fight are far more original.

Speaking of monsters, Castlevania has really awesome boss battles. They followed a kind of formula, at least I found. You would fight, die twice, on the third attempt get the hang of it, and win on your fourth. Otherwise, the game isn't really overly difficult, but not exactly easy either. It was the perfect difficulty, just challenging enough to keep things interesting.

I do have some complaints. There has to be a better way to switch specials then pausing the game each time, and going through the menus. It's tedious, and more than a few times in epic boss battles I would think I had one special equipped only to have a different one. Also, the two-character idea isn't very useful. I played most of the game as Jon, and switched to Charlotte in very specific circumstances.

But that's all nitpicky stuff. Overall, Casltevania is one of the most fun games I've played in a while. I'm definitely a fan, and now I'm going to search out the others. :D   read

5:52 PM on 06.02.2009


So, I know that there will probably be a -ton- of posts like this one on the site from now until the end of E3, and I will probably get swept aside with all the rest, but even still, I figure it's worth a shot, see if anyone wants to see what I thought.

I didn't watch the Microsoft Conference just because I don't own an Xbox and don't really care about what they are doing. However, I was really intrigued by the "Milo" project. The idea of a virtual kid that read your tone of voice and see your facial expressions is a certainly interesting idea. However, I can't see this getting added to games without the game just having you say key words...I don't know, but it seems like it can't be much more than a tech demo.

I did watch the Nintendo one, and it seems like it was an improvement over last year's. At least they had some games that we actually cared about this time, not just Wii Music. the Motion plus seems interesting, but I hope it's not too expensive to buy, that would be such a pain in my wallet. I don't know how I feel about the new Metroid...Samus is talking? But, Mario Galaxy 2 (Despite looking almost identical to the original) Seems excting and worth playing, and the New Super Mario Bros. Wii looks like Mario + Four Swords, so hopefully that will be fun too.

One thing that Nintendo seemed to tone back on was the casual games. However, their presence was still clear as day. There's nothing wrong with casual stuff, the problem comes with having them at E3. The people who will be playing these games ARE NOT watching E3, so stop showing them. :)

Lastly, I watched only part of the Sony Conference, because life did its best to get in the way, but I saw a few games. Uncharted 2 looks lots of fun, like an action movie. God of War 3 looks like a glorified Beat-em-up, but I haven't played the others (Yet, they are on my list) so I can't say for sure. Sony has it's own WiiMote now, and it looks somewhat impressive, the 1-to-1 tracking was very accurate judging from the videos. However, it's a blatant WiiMote, so I don't know if it'll ever take off.

I still miss Sly Cooper and Jak and Daxter...Hopefully they come back soon. :D

And, that's my rant.   read

3:52 PM on 05.29.2009

Prince of Persia (The New One) Review

My first experience with the Prince of Persia series was, like many people, The Sands of Time. I got it for my gamecube somewhat later in the lifecycle, I think Warrior Within was on it's way, but I still played it. And fell in love with it. The Prince was a fun character, Farah was really lovable, the platforming was excellent and the fights cinematic. It was short, but it was hugely enjoyable.

Then, Warrior Within was released and killed everything I liked about Sands of Time. I won't go into the details, but to this day I have never touched that game.

Then, Two Thrones. I heard it fixed the issues of the previous game, but for one reason or another I didn't get around to playing it until it was released on the Wii under the title Rival Swords. I played it, it was good, but it wasn't Sands. It still had something missing, something that was lost.

Now, there's a new PoP game. This one looked different from Sands but not in a necessarily bad way. So, I played it. And while it's nowhere near Sands, there's a lot to like in this reboot.

Prince has a whole new look!

From the outset, it's clear this game is quite different from any previous version. The game has a more distinct art style, not quite anime, but far from realistic. We meet Prince in a Sandstorm looking for his donkey Farah (A clever nod that made me happy) and he literally runs into love interest Elika. About five minutes later the world hangs in the balance of Prince and Elika's actions.

Immediately the game is obviously trying to get a lot of the charm of Sands back into the series. Prince and Elika have good chemistry together when they argue and bicker, and the voice acting is very good. The story itself is as complicated as you want it to be, with lots of optional conversations filling out the backstory. The graphics are very very nice, and the animations are smooth.

However, story and graphics are the best part about this game. Gameplay is incredibly repetitive in this version. You can choose the order you explore the many areas, but this presents a problem. Since you can choose, the areas never get any harder than any other. Granted, they're all run to a certain point, but there's no difficulty change. Because if there was, the difficulty curve would be thrown all over the place if you chose the hard area first. It's a tradeoff, but I'd much prefer something more linear.

Graphics are nice. :D

However, the main repetiveness of the game isn't the running sequences. Those are actually quite fun throughout. The game has 4 main bosses. And you fight them, 5 times each! Every time you go to finish a world, you have to fought the boss of the area. And there are four sections of a world, with a final face-off at the end! The bosses don't really change up each time you fight them either. Same strategy each time. This gets REAL old, REAL fast.

However, the game is still fairly enjoyable. Prince and Elika are a good pair, and I didn't mind the fact you couldn't die. (Elika prevents it, you will NEVER die). What really ticked me off was the fact that ubisoft didn't finish the game. You have to pay an extra ten bucks for the 'real' ending! Really? You're not going to let me finish a game, gotta pay extra for it? No thanks!

With that said, there is certainly plenty to dislike about this new Prince of Persia. However, there is also plenty to like, if you let yourself get immersed in it, which it does do numerous times. I eagerly await a sequel.   read

10:45 AM on 05.19.2009

Eternal Sonata Review!

It can be easy to view today's games as all rather dark and dirty, consisting of mainly grays...and more grays. So, it's quite refreshing to sit down and pick up a game that isn't afraid to show bright colors, but at the same time, has a mature storyline with some deep themes hidden within.

Eternal Sonata is my first PS3 RPG, and I must say, I was very impressed by what I played. It wasn't a perfect game, not by any means, but I always found it enjoyable to play because of it's battle system. But, I'll get there in a minute.

Frederick Francois Chopin lies on his deathbed in Paris, and his last and final dream is certainly a doozy. This dream is far more vivid that anything I could ever have dreamed, with lots of characters, and a world that feels quite magical. As the game goes on, it begins to feel something close to a Disney movie. Sure, the characters can be annoying at times, but they are all endearing, if a little generic. The story can be slow, but it keeps you going regardless, eager to see what happens.

Nice graphics! Somewhat annoying characters

It doesn't take long to really appreciate the graphics of the game, which are beautiful. Half of the fun it seemed was moving from one beautiful location to another, just to see what kind of strange worlds the game would take you too. The subtle music references (Every character has a musical name for example), and the very bright and colorful worlds make this game certainly nice looking.

Cutscenes are also well done, though the lip-syncing, like many RPGs, is pretty off. The voice acting is decent during the scenes, with mostly familiar anime actors providing the voices, but some characters (*Cough* Beat and Salsa *Cough) have voices that can just be grating. The game does provide the option to listen to the Japanese voice work if you choose, so that is good.

The gameplay consists of running through linear worlds, with monsters on the map that you hit to fight, like many RPGs out there. The Battle System is a lot of fun however. You are taken to a world, and then your character will have four or five seconds to act before it goes to another character's term. There's a lot of depth here, such as light and dark areas, special moves, etc.

The battles move quickly and always keep me on my toes, however, they never really seemed to be much more than pound away at X and then hit triangle. I mean, there is more to it than that, but that strategy seemed to work a lot of the time.

One of the MANY battles you will face

Anyway, overall, I really liked Eternal Sonata. I can't quite place my finger on why, but it was enjoyable all the way through with it's light and fun characters, slow storyline, and fast battles. It wasn't perfect, but it was very enjoyable. Chopin would be proud.

GRADE: B+   read

8:29 PM on 05.09.2009

Game Difficulty? What makes the "Sweet Spot?"

Some people may argue that games nowadays are too easy, and I would agree with them. The "old-skool" difficulty of the NES days is simply gone now. The glory days of having 3 lives to complete a level has been replaced with refilling health bars, or checkpoints placed at almost every jump. Does this make the game experience less frustrating, or does it just make the games easier?

This is a question that I think everyone will have a different opinion on, and there isn't really a right or wrong way to feel about it. And, the views can also very for game to game. Maybe lives are necessary in a platformer, but they have become unneeded in a shooter?

Do lives make Mario Galaxy harder, or more frustrating?

Lives in a game, to me, are necessary. I always think it's kind of unfair to be able to die as many times as I want trying to make a jump, with no real penalty. Here's an example. In the Jak and Daxter Series, when you miss a jump, you restart at the nearest checkpoint. This is all well and good, but there's really no penalty for messing up. Okay, maybe you have to walk a few steps extra, but really, what challenge is that?

In Mario Galaxy on the Wii, there are certain spots where you have to get to a certain point. You have so many tries, and then if you fail, you are kicked out to start the level over again. This feels like a better setting because it gives you some incentive to take your time, and try harder not to fail. The punishment is just right, not frustrating, but reason enough to avoid failing 100 times. (Unless you have 100 lives, which in Mario Galaxy, wasn't an overly difficult task)

The shooter genre today also seems to have wimped out in some regards. You take hits, but in many games, you are no longer frantically seeking out those health packs. Instead you simply hide in a corner, and wait for your no doubt magical blood to make it all go away. (I'm looking at you, KillZone) This makes the game have more flow, yes, and your characters do feel somewhat fragile, as it doesn't take many more than a few bullets to make you a mangled corpse, but still. Find some cover, stay there for 5 seconds, and it's ALL better.

Let's go men! We all have that magical blood, right?!

I know I'm exaggerating a little, but do these changes to make the game flow better really make the game all that better? I suppose this brings up another question then.

Are Difficult Games Fun?

Personally, I think so. I love trying really hard to beat a boss or whatever, only to lose a few times, throw my controller in frustration, and then pick it up an hour later and then finally win! Victory comes with a feeling of pride, but if there is no difficulty in getting there, it feels like a cheat, and leaves me personally with a hollow feeling inside.

So, yeah, I love struggling in video games, but I can understand those who want their games to just flow, and be an experience. But, I can understand those who might be frustrated with the life-system. It just comes down if you like struggling to beat a boss, or if you prefer to just move through the experience in a continuous flow.

And that's my first editorial-style blog about video games. I hope you enjoyed, and I hope I wasn't -too- all the over place.   read

12:59 AM on 05.09.2009

Coming Back from College

Well, this is my FIRST POST! *throws a small party*

Yeah, basically, I just finished my freshmen year at college, but I didn't have any of the new game consoles up here. I had a gamecube, but I didn't really have much time to play it. However, now that summer is finally rolling around, I can try and catch up on what's going on in the gaming world. I've tried to keep up with the updates but it's easy to fall behind, so hopefully I can keep up.

I have a PS3 and a Wii that I'm currently gaming on, recently purchased Burnout Paradise. It's a lot of fun, especially since I've been playing it for about...let's see...2 hours since buying it this morning off PSN. I got the "Ultimate Bundle" though it hardly seems ultimate since the only thing really in is the Bikes and the online modes. But hey, I was happy. I'm enjoying the beauty that is Lib...No...Paradise City. I've been doing that a lot. Gotta love GTA.

ANYWAY, I get off track really easily...But yeah, I've found that my gaming skills have essentially died as of lately, I've lost a lot of those Twitch-style reflexes. Gonna try to get back into the swing of things though, and hopefully start going into the wonderland of online gaming that seems to have passed me by. With the PS3 at home while I was on campus, I had no way of getting online. BUT NOW I DOOOOO! :D

My PSN (whatever the equivalent of a gamertag is called) is Ryoma90, same as my username. I'm hoping to meet some people here and online to just play games and have fun with. So, with that, I end my first blog post. It's getting late over here.

PS. I need an upper banner..thing...What should I put there...?   read

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