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11:01 PM on 02.07.2008

Feature: Living the Fantasy

I have never played a Final Fantasy. That’s right, I said it. I expect surprised expressions from hardcore gamers after saying this, but when someone from the coveted casual demographic appears shocked, there is something terribly, terribly wrong. I admit missing this series was largely due to my ignorance; I did not know what a RPG was back in my wee days, let alone have any interest in them. My Nintendo 64 consumed most of my gaming time while Final Fantasy 7 stormed the world. And I never picked up any subsequent installments. I never owned a Playstation 2, so there went all of the great RPGs that graced the system. So now, after many years of elusion (and thanks to a backwards compatible Playstation 3) I can finally play this series. But does it live up to the hype? Read on to find out my impressions of latest main installment in the series.

Note: The first stop on my journey is Final Fantasy 12. This game interested me the most, so I decided to start at the most recent game and work my way backwards. Plus, I wanted to try the Gambit System, which had some gamers in a tizzy.

The gaming community lauds Final Fantasy for being a cinematic and story-driven experience. Final Fantasy 12 is no exception. The cut scenes are some of the best I have seen ever. The detail of the environments during these moments plays a role, but most of the credit has to go to the characters themselves. The characters are detailed and lively; it really makes you wonder if this is even a PS2 effort, and not a current-generation one. An excellent example of this is in a scene between Lord Larsa and Penelo. As they speak, you feel the intensity of their emotions emanating from them. Ok, so they are not real people, and are not capable of authentic human emotions. But Square-Enix is getting close.


Another big slice of the game is the gambit system. What I found intriguing was how deep it is. Initially, I thought gambits were just a method for automatically attacking in a battle. Boy, was I wrong. There are gambits for nearly every action you can take. Gambits allow you to delegate what actions a character will do in battle. You can have one character use a potion on an ally whose hit points is less than 70%, attack an enemy, and use an item to attack a foe in any order you wish. Using gambits plays such an important role in Final
Fantasy 12 that the game encourages you to utilize them. And by encourage, I mean force. I managed to get to the second major boss, the Mimic Queen, without any significant alterations to my gambits. This battle changed that. I think after being soundly defeated three times is cause for a different battle strategy, am I right?

For all the good things I have to say about this game, there is one major personal issue I had with it. Final Fantasy 12 drained me mentally and physically. There is so much happening story-wise by the time I regain control of the characters again, my energy is wasted. I only played this game in short bursts, one hour session at a time before turning it off. There are few, if any games that sapped my strength like FF12 does. If a game did sap my strength, at the end of the day I felt a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I don’t experience that feeling with this game. There is only nap time afterwards, nothing more.

Final Fantasy 12 is a game you may love or hate for various reasons. Some hate it because of the gambit system; others despise Japanese role-playing games; I just don’t like the fact this game is an interactive leech. Games should not be energy sapping machines, but a form of recreation and enjoyment. For this reason, I did not enjoy my foray into the series. I only hope the next title I pick up keeps me wanting to play more, and not sleep instead.   read

1:07 AM on 02.05.2008

Pixel Junk Monsters Impressions

I scoured the Playstation Store for months looking for a game to purchase. There were some titles that piqued my interest-Calling All Cars, Flow, Super Stardust HD to name a few. Still, none of the offerings appealed to me strongly enough to justify a purchase. That is, until Pixel Junk Monsters arrived.

Pixel Junk Monsters is a simple game. You build a variety of towers to defend the base from your enemies. Building a tower is relatively painless. You unlock towers by collecting gems from fallen foes and purchasing the tower you want at the base while coins allow you to build the towers you unlock. To create your fortification, you go to a tree and press X to bring up a wheel that displays the towers you unlocked and select the tower of choice, provided you have enough coins to do so. You can also remove a tower to regain some coins to build other battlements, which is helpful in tight situations.

In theory, this all of this sounds simple. In practice, it is quite a feat. The game tends to throw a mixed bag of attackers at you in each level. Not only does this mean you must make decisions on the fly, but also balance the different types of towers at your disposal. Have too many cannon based towers, you say? Airborne enemies will cruise to your base unscathed. On the other hand, building too many anti-air towers will result in ground enemies will loving your pacifistic stand on the battlefield. With that said, balance and strategy are keys to holding a successful defensive position in this game.

The main problem I have with this game is that the difficulty revs up a little too quickly. I made short work of the tutorial stage and first level, but now find myself having trouble on the third stage. I think this would scare off many of the “casual” gamers out there. I mean, after all, don’t developers make shorter games like this with this group in mind? If the developers toned down the game just a bit more, it would be more accessible for the masses. As it stands, though, the game gets too difficult too fast.

For what it is, Pixel Junk Monsters is a breath of fresh air following the high profile titles of last quarter. There are some quirks, particularly the early increase in difficulty, but in the end, the game is a deep, enjoyable affair.   read

5:31 PM on 01.08.2008

LittleBigPlanet, More Little than Big?

LittleBigPlanet made a big splash at last year's Game Developers Conference. People fell in love with the cutesy art style and the concept of "Play, Share, Create"; I was one of those people. However, after viewing the title's latest showing at the Consumer Electronics Show, my interest has waned a bit.

I was enlivened when I saw LBG at GDC 2007. One of the main reasons for this was because the game appeared out of nowhere. I think few expected Sony to unleash this game unto the world at GDC. What's more the game appeared very interesting, more interesting than any game I had seen on the platform. Sure, Resistance: Fall of Man was a great title, but LBP offered something different. It offered the ability to create your own levels, share them, and even play with your friends. Simply put, LittleBigPlanet was, in my eyes, revolutionary. For that, it won a fan. We were told to expect a demo in the fall of last year. I planned to finally take the plunge and purchase a Playstation 3 before the demo arrived.

I succeeded in my endeavor. But it doesn't matter if I got the console in March 2007 or at this very moment; my LittleBigPlanet hype died down significantly after waiting this long and after viewing the CES footage. I know games take time to craft and even more time to craft well. Nevertheless, it has been an excruciating wait. In all honesty, I wished Sony held off and revealed the game at this year�s GDC. That way the hype train could keep going strong. At this point, the game does not feel revolutionary anymore; it has lost its luster and damaged the interest of a fan.

Has anyone else felt the same way about LBP? Has the wait hurt your interest in the game? Or am I in a minority of one?   read

12:23 AM on 01.07.2008

Call of Duty 4 PS3: Graphics Impressions

The game starts off like a blockbuster action film and the adrenaline rush does not stop. The game takes place across several locales, and through the perspectives of three people-“Soap” MacTavish, Sargeant Paul Jackson, and Captain Price. At the end of the day you are met with a decent, but predictive ending and catchy credit music. But I am not devoting this post to the intricacies of the game play or the relatively thin (yet engaging) story, this post is meant to praise an aspect of the game that caught me by surprise, the graphics.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is a graphical beast. While some games only possess a high degree of polish in certain areas-environments, character models, weapon design, etc-COD4 maintains this throughout the entire experience. The game is by no means graphical perfection, but it is cake, very sweet cake that any first-person shooter fan should devour.

The character modeling is exemplary. The character models are impressively well-crafted and detailed. At the end of the Bog, for instance, one soldier in particular is drenched in sweat after an intense battle. Seeing a comrade, whether AI or human, traversing the same struggle as you makes the player seem as though they are the actual character. This small touch makes you feel like you truly accomplished something, a feat some games today can only dream to match.

The environments on the other hand do not truly match up to the standard of the character models. But, then again, this is not an adventure game, so that is to be expected. You can tell Infinity Ward spent their time and energy making sure all the aspects of the battlefield was up to snuff. This is the place where the finer details were of grave importance and it shows. The lighting effects and smoke are excellently done. In fact, the smoke is the most beautiful smoke I have ever seen, period. This is no doubt due to the shot of realism Western developers try to inject their first-person shooters with. But if smoke, or any effect for that matter, can look this good in a video game, I want an overdose of it. It is simply that good.

COD4’s graphical prowess is undeniable. From the realistic water to the sexy smoke, this game screams current-gen. There are FPSs that claim to offer a realistic experience, and then there is Call of Duty 4. Choose COD4, you will be glad you did.   read

8:59 PM on 12.31.2007

Bye 2007, Hello 2008

2007 was my first full year out of my parent's household and I have to say, it has been an enlightening experience. I spread my wings into the realm of independence, became more spiritually aware, and even had a touch of nostalgia when I revisited my previous residence, Atlanta, Georgia. Of course, the gaming scene was juicy as well. The Wii and Playstation 3 entered their first full year on the market and the Xbox 360 celebrated its second. Then, of course, was all of the fantastic software that graced those consoles-Super Mario Galaxy, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, and The Orange Box just to name a few. Now, to finish the year off with a bang, I add my first Community Blog post to that list.

For this post I decided highlight my top three 2008 New Year's Resolutions:

(1) Be Involved in the Destructoid Community.

I read Destructoid a lot. In fact, you can label me a DToid reading addict. I simply never plucked up the courage to become involved in the site's community. This post is the plunge, and 2008 will be the swimming. Look forward to far more posts on this blog over the course of the year.

(2) [b]Work harder and smarter. Become the ULTIMATE MACHINE.
My step-mother always touted a work smarter not harder mentality; I believe this is simply not true. You need to be a hard and smart worker in order to be successful. I am going to apply this to all facets of my life whether it is college, my job, or writing. When I become the ultimate machine, someone please slap some humanity back into me.

(3) Exercise. Exercise. Exercise.

Exercise? I dread that word. I dread it so much I am actually going to engage in it this year. No, I am not overweight; actually, you probably could not identify me in a field of six foot tall toothpicks. Nevertheless, I am out of shape and I know I can do better. That's right gym, I am coming for you in 2008.

These three things pretty much sum up what I want to accomplish in 2008. Now, with less than an hour to go, I am off to catch the countdown.

Happy New Year!!!

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