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An RPG Draws Near!

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Nep Nep Ahoy!
Our friends at Idea Factory International have been kind enough to hook us up with 4 copies of Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 2! 2 for Steam and 2 for Vita! How awesome is that? What is Hyperdimension you ask? Well here is ...

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Dragon's Dogma

Feel the power in new Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen trailer


Sparkle sparkle
Mar 13
// Raz Rauf
Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen is coming to our shores next month. Thus Capcom has decided to remind us of that fact by showing off this flashy trailer, illustrating the various powers and tricks a sorcerer can unleash in battl...
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An RPG Draws Near! Dark Cloud 2


May 01
// Conrad Zimmerman
Dark Cloud was an interesting action/RPG and one that I purchased not long after acquiring a PlayStation 2. It suffered from some design choices, such as permanent weapon breakage, which made it utterly intolerable to play at...

An RPG Draws Near! Jade Cocoon

Apr 03 // Colette Bennett
Title: Jade Cocoon: Story of the TamamayuDeveloper: GenkiPublisher: Ubisoft, CraveReleased: 1999Platform: PlayStation 1 [embed]126849:18482[/embed] Speaking of Miyazaki films, if you've ever seen either of his eco-classics, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind or Princess Mononoke, the feel of Jade Cocoon will seem familiar to you. The story takes place in a world closely packed with forests, and within them dwell monsters call Minions. You play the role of Levant, a young man training to become a Cocoon Master, whose job it is to capture and "purify" these Minions. By doing so, you can use the Minions for a variety of purposes, including training them to fight for you, fusing them to form stronger Minions, or spinning them into silk for money (doing the last thing always made me feel a bit guilty). You are introduced to Levant in the start of the game as he meets and is defeated by a mysterious man in a dream world. Soon after, the village that Levant lives in is attacked by a swarm of insects called Onibubu. They leave the residents of the village under a sleeping spell. As the Cocoon Master, it is Levant's job to protect the village, so he must venture out into the forest and try to find the source of the trouble in hopes of undoing this curse. After being wed to Mahbu (and talk about bad timing for a wedding -- hey honey, I love you, now I'm off to the forest to be mauled by bugs), Levant heads into the Beetle Forest, which is the first of four surrounding forests that you will explore during the course of the game. There is a blue Cocoon Master in this forest named Koris that will teach Levant the basics of fighting and capturing Minions. Koris will help you out more later too, but he wants you to prove yourself by exploring the forest a bit first and trying out your handy new skills. Eventually he'll tell you about an herb that can sure the sleeping villagers called the Calabas Herb, and from here on out it'll be your job to locate it. Fighting and capturing monsters is probably going to feel a little bit like a Pokemon game to you if you've ever played one. Of course, Jade Cocoon presents the mechanic in a much more mature setting. The possibilites of what you can create with the Minions you capture seems endless (there are about 150 Minions to find!), and much like the Persona and Devil Summoner games, there's a lot of fun just mashing together random beasties and seeing what you come up with. Now, I won't ruin any more of the story for you, but I will tell you that once you complete the game, you unlock a special feature called The Eternal Corridor. The corridor is comprised of a series of randomly generated rooms that each split into two paths. Only one of these two paths leads to the end of the room, which will either sound to you like a challenge or an exercise in maddening futility. You will also meet wild Minions as you go, which can be captured and may also drop "skins" which you can use when fusing Minions to alter their appearances. Also, new items become available in the shop once you are able to set foot in the Eternal Corridor, such as the ridiculously expensive Icicle sword. Jade Cocoon's pre-rendered backgrounds were gorgeous by 1999's standards, and even though they look dated now, it's still easy to see the reason why this game was stunningly gorgeous in it's prime. The soundtrack, composed by Kimitaka Matsumae, also perfectly fit the dark and mysterious aura of the cloaked world Levant explores (and I highly recommend it for any fan of game soundtracks). Of course, once you get away from the lovely backdrops and into actual battles, Jade Cocoon suffers the same fate as many PS one games did -- it just looks kind of blocky and ugly, especially in comparison to the PS2 sequel that came along a few years later. On the other hand, the sequel is a LOT less dark, so if it's atmosphere you're looking for you may want to just suck up the blocky graphics and give the original a try. Jade Cocoon was really different in comparison to the other RPGs around it at the time of its release, and I still think there's a lot to be said for it's interesting story and gameplay. On the other hand, having to repeat some of the dungeons and the fairly straightforward turn based battles can get a little repetitive. Also, the controls suffer from that sticky feeling that titles like Resident Evil and Silent Hill also suffered from. It's one of those RPGs that holds a fond place in my memory, but may not be something everyone will enjoy going back to. >Attack: If an innovative story and lovely art far trumps the ability to control your character in an easy-to-move manner. >Parry: If you stopped playing Resident Evil because the controls made you want to bash your head against the TV screen. 
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I had more or less forgotten completely that the PS1 RPG Jade Cocoon existed until a recent cblog post from Dtoid community member Ckarasu. One look at the cover, and a literal flood of memories came spilling back about how m...

An RPG Draws Near! Alundra

Mar 20 // Conrad Zimmerman
Title: AlundraDeveloper: Matrix SoftwareReleased: 1997Platform: PlayStation For a game which ultimately feels fresh and innovative, Alundra begins with the one of the most cliché openings in videogame history. Driven by dreams he does not understand, the titular character is traveling on a ship named The Klark to the village of Inoa. As the ship approaches port, the elfin Alundra has a nightmare in which he is given a dire portent of doom from a great wizard and awakens to find the ship hurtling to its destruction. Shipwrecked, Alundra is discovered by Jess, the kindly blacksmith of Inoa, and taken in. Upon awakening, he comes to discover that the people of this once peaceful village are being cursed by nightmares. The dreams are causing physical illness and trapping the souls of people within their own subconscious. Desperate for a solution, a researcher who has come to the island seeking a cure meets Alundra and observes a scar on his forehead. This signifies to him that Alundra is part of a forgotten legend and has the ability to transfer his consciousness into the dreams of others and release them from their torment. We've seen all of these aspects of the story countless times in games. Frankly, the set-up feels almost directly ripped from the beginning of Link's Awakening (save the motivation and purpose of the hero's quest) and the similarities don't end there by far. This game is straight-up ripped from the essential gameplay elements of the Zelda series. There is a group of powerful artifacts which must be collected to seal away an ancient evil, a number of powerful weapons used both to defeat monsters and solve puzzles and dungeons filled with unrelenting foes. Where it differs is in the utter lack of fear displayed by the developers in telling their story. The people of Inoa are frequently deep characters with their own goals and passions who question why fate has chosen for them to suffer. They are heartwrenching in their pain and those who still have hope for the future have that feeling constantly challenged and, all too often, defeated. Death and loss are major themes woven throughout the tale and Working Designs is unflinching about demonstrating that. Characters you care about will meet a cruel fate and cause you to wonder if all your hard work will be for nothing. At the same time, the writing and characterizations are so strong that you want to save them that much more and what begins as a fairly standard adventure becomes a very personal battle against evil. Dungeons in the game are divided into two different varieties. Along with the standard levels which you must seek out in the massive overworld, there are also the villager's nightmares to contend with. These are tailored specifically to the characters who have them and often represent their deepest fears and regrets. It's a powerful mechanic for both character development and story pacing. Most games which follow this design aesthetic stick to the tried-and-true exploration methods: Travel the map until you find a previously inaccessible area to explore, find its local dungeon, defeat a boss to gain a new item, rinse and repeat. The nightmare levels break that flow deliciously and are engineered specifically to reinforce your desire to succeed and remind you of the odds of Alundra's success. Regardless of what type of level you are traversing, all are packed full of clever and challenging puzzles and deadly enemies. The puzzles are so good, in fact, that it is not uncommon to have to spend a few minutes pondering how to solve them. Failure often means returning to an earlier point in the dungeon and having to fight your way back or, worse, perform difficult tasks again and you will quickly learn to take your time in approaching them for fear that you may not get a second opportunity as your life is cut short by the denizens which inhabit these dark places. One aspect in particular is highly frustrating to deal with, however. The environments are designed using a tile system in which elements are stacked one on top of another to give depth. Nothing particularly novel, but the design team decided to make jumping a major component of the game and, frankly, Alundra isn't very good at jumping. The tight and responsive controls which are so frequently helpful for making quick turns when surrounded by foes work against you when hopping from platform to platform and many areas involve jumps which must be performed with absolute precision in order to succeed. In addition, the perspective the game uses will screw with you. Because of the tricks it uses to create a sense of a 3D world in a 2D game, such as the angle of the camera and the aforementioned tiles, it can be very difficult to determine exactly where on the vertical plane platforms actually are when you're jumping towards them. Any leap towards the top or bottom of the screen becomes one of faith as you hope that where you're jumping is actually at the height you perceive it to be and that Alundra successfully clears the distance. The jumping mechanic ramps up the difficulty considerably but can make the game so frustrating to play at times that controllers around the world pray to grow wings as they are hurled across rooms. Worse yet, the challenge of making these leaps doesn't manifest itself until you are already so invested in the world and characters that abandoning them due to a failure to master its controls seems unthinkable.  Since this is a game that uses sprites at a time in which most titles were making the jump to 3D polygons, it looks fantastic in comparison to a lot of its peers, especially years later. While other RPGs from the PlayStation generation have a terribly dated appearance in comparison to what is available today, this still manages to look fantastic. Great care was taken to animate characters and the visuals feel epic and beautiful. Alundra's music too sounds amazing. Distinct songs accompany every area of the game with gorgeous, mood-setting arrangements. It can effortlessly make you excited, pensive or sad on a dime and is a perfect accent to the experience. I really can't sing the praises of Alundra enough. It is one of the finest examples of action/RPG gaming that I have ever had the experience of playing and deserves to be resting on a shelf next to Secret of Mana and Chrono Trigger. Fans of the genre will find much to love here and I heartily recommend it to anyone who may have missed this utter gem of a game. Command? >Attack: If you like Zelda, this is an absolute must-play. Perfect for players who crave a compelling story without the extensive length or grinding aspects in most RPGs. >Parry: Alundra is hard and extremely frustrating at points. Players who have a short fuse or are easily frustrated may want give this one a wide berth or risk destroying their hardware out of blind rage.
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Alundra is a game which I have purchased on no less than four separate occasions. It seems that nearly every time I have felt the urge to pop it back into my PlayStation, the disc is nowhere to be found and the impulse to pla...

An RPG Draws Near! The Magic of Scheherazade

Feb 27 // Colette Bennett
Title: The Magic of ScheherzadePublisher: Culture Brain Released: 1989 Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System     Just look at that cover. It just screams "intrigue, adventure, danger!" I'll never forget walking home from the game store with this game, because at the time the art was simply fascinating to me (although a lot of NES games had very simple box art, so that may have contributed to the reason why). The game's story begins with you playing the role of a hero who was once a great magician named Isfa. Isfa tried to defend Arabia from the token super scary evil magician Sabaron and failed way back when, ending up being hurled to a different time period. You begin with no memories (of course) and one objective: to rescue Princess Scheherazade and return to your former glory to defeat Sabaron. The adventure will take you through three worlds and challenge you to rescue Scheherazade's three sisters, her father and finally the princess herself. Luckily, you'll have help from quite a few NPCs along the way. I feel like any fan of the original Legend of Zelda will instantly relate to this game's top-down format and similar screen-to-screen movement, and I may not have realized that majorly influenced how easily I got absorbed into the gameplay (as Magic of Scheherazade feels a bit like Zelda with towns sometimes). In the start of the game, you will be able to choose between three classes: fighter, saint and magician. While the influence these choices have on the game is not titanic, it will definitely affect the way you play as well as dealing with the bosses that lay in wait for you at the end of each level. I was a fan of the fighter class because I prefer physical strength over magic in most games, but I played the game through using magician class as well as still had fun. It is of note that you can only gain one of the NPCs in level three by choosing saint class, though! In each of the game's five worlds, the hero will need to speak people in towns to gather information and then venture out into the land to fight his way to the boss. To do so, he is armed with two weapons: a sword for close range attacks and a magic rod for long distance. You will also have magic spells and items available to help fight against the enemies you face. Fights are random and turn-based, and while you'll be taking them on yourself at first, later up to two NPCs can join you in battle. Finding some of the NPCs will require you to change your class during the game, which you can do at anytime by going to a Mosque and paying a fee. As a kid of course I never noticed this, but as an adult I look back at this class shuffling and think it doesn't make much sense. You can't just flip a switch and know how to cast hardcore magic spells whenever you want! Ah, suspension of disbelief: what would I have done without you back then? The levels also have another interesting feature: Time Gates. These allow you to move back and forth through time, which you will need to do to complete certain tasks before you can progress. I recall this was one of my favorites parts of The Magic of Scheherazade, as it made me feel the's game expanse was greater than it really was. Each of the game's five areas also features a wise man who can grant the player the ability to cast one of five Great Magic spells. In Chapter 3, for instance, the spell learned can be cast in the future to put a temporary stop to the eternal winter, which drains the player's hitpoints as he tries to progress. Another event you can use to your advantage is the Alalart Solar Eclipse, which allows you to cast the aforementioned Great Magic spells as well as perform cool tasks like planting a tree in the past which will harvest money for you in the future. While the bosses of Magic of Scheherazade probably look a little dinky now, they looked pretty epic to me when I fought them, and I distinctly remember being kind of scared to fight a few of them in fear they would pound me. And they did, in fact. They filled upmost of the screen and were often hard to hit -- knowing how to use the rod in these fights was often the thing that would save your ass. The game was released for the Super Famicom as Arabian Dream Scheherazade. It differs from the American release quite a bit, from look to maps to music (the soundtrack was simpler than Magic of Scheherazade's). There was also a manga based on the title, which you can see scans of here. I love the art style and think I possibly could have enjoyed this version of the game even more than I did the original, but being able to read Japanese would be a must to play it. While a lot of NES owners discovered a Dragon Warrior or Ultima title as their first RPG, this quirky title was one of the only ones that really stuck with me from that time period. I loved the unique setting (I guess I wasn't that into the medieval stuff even then) and the music, and despite the fact that the town characters speak those cryptic short sentences and there are parts that are outdated, I still love it. If you want to know more, I urge to check out this excellent resource for more on the game if you're interested -- it has all kinds of goodies worth poring over. Command? >Attack: If you don't mind a slightly dated feel in exchange for a unique setting, you want to hear some rad old game music and you have a soft spot for adventures with a bit of time travel. >Parry: If you like your RPGs brand spanking new and super pretty, have a hard time playing really old games or onyl find yourself attracted to RPGs with classic settings.  
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The Nintendo Entertainment System had the great advantage of being easy to develop for, resulting in a lot of very unique titles for gamers to explore. I remember staring with intense fascination at the cover of The Magic of ...

An RPG Draws Near! Mother 3

Oct 21 // Colette Bennett
Mother 3Publisher: Nintendo Released: 2006 Platform: Game Boy Advance With all the pretty new RPGs on the market, what exactly is it about this old GBA game that is worth the trouble of downloading, emulating AND patching in English in order for me to play it? Such methods do not appeal to the lazy, and even fans of all things retro may not understand what it is about Mother 3 that makes it so special to so many people. I had an inkling, but felt I couldn't really understand until I had played it in English. Over this past weekend, I settled down to give it a whirl, thanks to the hard work of the fine people at Starmen.Net. If you've never played a previous Mother title (Mother 2 was released as EarthBound in the US), you don't have to worry: while the games are numbered in order, the stories are stand-alones much like the Final Fantasy series. The thing that ties the three games together are the final bosses, but I leave it to you to find out what exactly those ties are all about. If you have even a scrap of appreciation for older games, you will quickly notice that this game is absolutely charming. If you are positively fed up with wandering around medieval worlds in your RPGs (I certainly am), Mother 3 presents the perfect solution of a Western setting with a slightly Japanese perspective. It's basically the polar opposite of generic, from fights to interaction with NPCs. The story begins by introducing you to multiple characters, all of whom you will either play or interact with during the course of the story. Throughout the game's eight chapters, you will play as Flint, the father, Dustin, a limping thief, Salsa, the monkey, and finally as Lucas, Flint's son. Through their adventures, you discover that Nowhere Islands (the land in which the story takes place) has been invaded by the Pig Mask Army and you must fight to save it. Creator Shigesato Itoi embraces a quirky sense of humor, and it definitely shows in the title. Everything from saving your game by talking to frogs to reports on the inactivity of NPCs that fight with you is absolutely charming, and you'll find a smile plastered across your face while you play more often than not. That's not to say that the entire game is a bucket of laughs. The slogan for the game's Japanese release was "Strange, Funny and Heartrending", and it most certainly is all of those things. Fans of EarthBound have definitely noted that Mother 3 is a darker game despite the humor, and while it balances well, expect to be shaken up. This is not a game afraid to make you feel something (which makes me love it all the more). So how does combat work, you ask? Well, you'll recognize the basic, turn-based format if you've played any RPG, but not only are the battles quick and fluid to move through, but the things you fight are hilarious. Sure, I may have to fight forty dung beetles before I can move forward, but if you can keep me amused while I do so, grinding feels a lot less like a chore. I really appreciate that in a title. In addition, you have an optional method of fighting that is one of more clever twists I have seen in any turn-based title: the Music Combo system. Each enemy you encounter has their own theme, and when you attack, you can score combos by pressing the A button along with the beat of their theme. Sometimes the tempo varies, challenging the player to keep up. Sure, you don't have to use it at all, but considering you can score up to a 16 hit combo by using it, you might want to get your foot to tapping. After spending some quality time with this game, I feel I can honestly call it the antidote to the common RPG syndrome. I love the Final Fantasy series, but since it favors a serious dramatic route, there's rarely room for laughs. The execution of the humor in Mother 3 (and how elegantly it intertwines with more serious events) is truly what makes the game a masterpiece. I don't care if you have to borrow, beg or steal to get your hands on it, but any fan of retro RPGs that has not played this game really must do so. Actually, I do care if you steal -- you should buy a copy and then download the rom and apply the English patch. Much like my Super Famicom copy of Chrono Trigger, you may not actually be able to play and understand the original, but there's a talismanic power immediately granted to all gamers by simply owning that original cartridge. Frame it and put it up in the bathroom. I call that art. Command? >Attack: Immediately. Stop reading this article and go get it right now. As an RPG fan, you should be ashamed of not having the experience of this game under your belt.>Parry: If the same recycled medieval settings are your bread and butter. Even if they are, try to be open-minded and get this game anyway.It's simply not to be missed.
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If you are already a fan of the other games in the series, there's no question why the excitement is so great for the English translation of Mother 3. Maybe you haven't discussed or even heard of the game, and reading all the...

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An RPG draws near! Tombs and Treasure


Mar 24
// Colette Bennett
Summer, 1989. I was twelve years old and would basically play anything given to me in the shape of a Nintendo cartridge (I feel lucky now that some cunning bully didn't find this out and craft my demise cleverely concealed in...

An RPG draws near! Skies of Arcadia

Mar 03 // Colette Bennett
Skies of Arcadia (Eternal Arcadia)Publisher: SegaReleased: 2000 Platform: Dreamcast (rereleased for the GameCube as Skies of Arcadia Legends) An RPG draws near! When Skies of Arcadia came out in 2000, RPG enthusiasts were already grumbling a little about the repetitive themes of their favorite games -- from saving an unusual girl with magic powers she doesn't quite comprehend to fighting for the glory of the empire, we'd done it all before. Skies retained the general structure, but bravely instilled the game with a new setting, which made it feel like something brand new and exciting. Before I get to the story, a quick side note for ganers thinking about going back to replay Skies -- the game was originally released for the Dreamcast, but was rereleased in 2003 for the Nintendo GameCube under the new title Skies of Arcadia Legends. Load times are reduced and there are 24 new discoveries to be made, but the title also cut out some of the mature content of the original, so things like cigarettes and alcohol vanished from the remake. It also features a new character, the assassin Piastol. Skies of Arcadia begins with a bang. Young Silvite girl Fina is fleeing across the skies in her airship, being pursued by Valuan Admiral Alfonso on the orders of Lord Galcian. He opens fire on her ship and it is about to go down when she is saved by a Blue Rogue vessel. This is how we meet Vyse and Aika, pirates extraordinaire. They save Fina and bring her back to their secret hideout, Pirate Island (which is cleverly disguised as "Windmill Island.") After a trip the next day to gather resources for their ship, Vyse and Aika find Pirate Island has been attacked by the Valuan Armada and many Blue Rogues have been kidnapped. This is all because of Fina, of course, and she quickly becomes the quintessential female which we will pursue across the game's endless skies and dungeons. While trying to unravel the mystery of Fina's mission. the party must defend her (and themselves!) from the powerful Valuan Armada. You're saying, "But didn't you just describe the structure that you said RPG gamers were burnt out on in the first paragraph?" I did, but here is why: As I mentioned before, Skies retains the classic structure that addicted RPG players to the genre in the first place, but by adding a healthy dose of bravado and quirk, it stuck in a way that I needed as a gamer in that time. It made me remember what I loved most about adventure games. Skies of Arcadia has two different types of combat. Character to monster battle happens in the overworld and is fairly straightforward as turn-based battle systems go. These battles were frequent enough to make some players complain, which caused Sega to reduce the frequency of battles for the GameCube release of the title. Later in the game you have the ability to avoid overworld combat, but this is the one point of the game where it shines less than the rest, pretty much following the general battle pattern of RPGs. The second type of battle, ship-to-ship, was a totally fun new way to fight at the time of the game's release, and it really lent a lot to the devil-may-care vibe of your pirate party. There's something really gratifying about firing giant cannons on your enemy. You can also battle against powerful creatures called Gigas with your ship, although these encounters are also later in the game. If only all battles in RPGs were as lighthearted and fun as these! Of course, the biggest element of what gives the game its memorable tone are the characters. Skies of Arcadia is rich with personality and the new faces you meet are more likely to stick with you than your usual NPCs. Vyse, Aika and Fina are the permanent party you play with, but you will meet more road-hung pirates, proud princes and dashing rogues than you know what to do with. When I see Johnny Depp's excellent Captain Jack Sparrow character, I often find myself thinking fondly of meeting similar individuals in Skies of Arcadia. The game's soundtrack is absolutely stellar and in fact ranks in my top ten favorite scores of all time. It was composed by Yutaka Minobe and Tatsuyuki Maeda and is originally known as Eternal Arcadia, which was the game's Japanese title. With 67 tracks weighing in at over two hours, this score is not to be missed and should be a part of every game music enthusiast's collection. It truly captures the spirit of the game. I can't begin to describe to you what a fulfilling adventure Skies of Arcadia is to play. Much like the Indiana Jones films, Skies neatly fits the bill for everything I would expect from a truly epic adventure title that refuses to take itself too seriously. Your characters laugh in the face of danger, but never fail in showing their humanity as well. Somehow, that makes them a lot more like me -- in which case I found it entirely natural to dissolve into their story and imagine myself piloting an airship bravely across the skies. Command?  >Attack: If your favorite feel for an RPG is epic yet fun, you love to explore, you enjoy a solid dose of swashbucking, and you want to hear one of the most wonderful soundtracks in RPG history. >Parry: If serious RPGs are more your cup of tea, you dislike pirates, and you hate watching people having fun. Because fun sucks, you know.
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Although most RPGs aim to provide an epic storyline for gamers to lose themselves in, very few succeed in such a complete way that they engrave the adventure on your memories. Whether it was my childhood dreams of being a pir...


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