I tend to go through phases with gaming; I'll be tremendously enthusiastic about it for a few months, then I'll get burned out. Sometimes, I just want to relax with a good book and a cup of tea and forget about everything else. Of course, after a month or two of reading in my spare time, I remember that I like video games: "Oh yeah, I could read this entire history text the size of a brick, or I could explore a DUNGEON! I love dungeons!" You get the idea.
It's slightly disturbing that most of my favorite games to play lately use the same basic concepts; most of the stuff that rotates through my DS, barring oddities like My Japanese Coach, involves a dungeon in some capacity. I don't know why this genre appeals to me so much, especially because my big complaint with shooters is that it always seems like the same damned game over and over again (and yeah, I know that's hypocritical; you don't need to enlighten me.) Still, WHY I like them so much should remain a problem for another day.
Early Impressions: The Dark Spire
I was pumped for this game ever since Destructoid started posting news about it. I tend to gravitate towards the entire Atlus product line, however what was really exciting about this game is that it harkens back to the likes of Wizardry and its ilk, early dungeon crawlers that paved the way for my current favorites. I could just play Wizardry of course, but the graphic and sound capabilities of the DS allow for a fresh coat of paint that makes the prospect more appealing for me. I don't NEED pretty graphics, but rightly or wrongly I am used to them at this point.
Since I primarily play dungeon games I'm used to being at least decent at them; people bitch that Etrian Odyssey is stupidly hard, and though I haven't finished it yet, I find that game to be a pleasant experience. So I was a little bit surprised to find myself making myriad mistakes interpreting the interface, losing characters left and right, and generally sucking at it. It is hard by any reasonable standard, but the real problem is actually caused by my experience playing other dungeon crawlers: A lot of the rules have been reversed on me. Wilson, teh BF
who has been playing D&D for practically his entire life, jumped right in (in WIREFRAME mode no less) and was doing great; that was because he immediately knew that he needed to get the characters' armor class ratings down as far as possible before worrying about anything else, a concept that I have no familiarity with. I wanted to hit the enemies hard; I didn't realize that my party was so weak, and my offensive capabilities so lacking that the only viable strategy was to pile on the defense and hope the enemies would miss me.
Now that I've revived several party members several times-- strangely, I have yet to actually get a game over-- and have seen Wilson play, I'll probably do better the next time I pick it up, so here's hoping. On the surface, the game looks merely adequate, but the art style is nice in a gritty way, and the music is quite good in a simplified-rock sort of way. Also, the writing has some charm to it, which is always welcome.
Not-So-Early Impressions: Izuna 2; the Unemployed Ninja Returns
Yaaay, a game I'm good at! This is a not-so early impression because while I haven't finished it yet, I'm pretty far in. I devoured the first Izuna and enjoyed the hell out of it
, so it's not surprising that I'm enjoying the sequel for a lot of the same reasons. While it is a lot of the same, there have been several gameplay tweaks that switch things up nicely.
The first is tagging, which at first I thought was going to be merely a gimmick, but it's far more. The most annoying thing in the first Izuna was constantly getting hammered by status effects, and that's been almost completely ameliorated by tagging: Suffering from poison? Switch characters. Your secondary character will be fresh as a daisy, and switching automatically gets rid of most status effects, so character #1 will be cured whenever you're ready to switch back. Having two characters makes you more powerful, especially with the addition of powerful tag attacks that you can use frequently, however there's a trade-off: Two characters equals two mouths to feed. Both share the same inventory, and naturally you're dividing your resources between the two. If you're a completist and you want to level up all of the available characters, you'll start to have real problems with money and storage space. While the mechanics of combat haven't really changed one iota, giving Izuna a partner makes Izuna 2 feel like a fresh game, because every aspect of your decision making is affected by having two characters.
The second major change is the fact that the option to burn talismans into your equipment has been reserved for the postgame only, which I'm not as pleased with. Burning in allowed you to make stupidly powerful weapons and armor if you wanted to spend the time in the first game, but the key word is "time". It's a tedious process, and in my view, if I want to spend several hours making a godly weapon so I can completely dominate the next dungeon, that should be my choice. I imagine they removed it because of balance issues, but IMO, if something takes a really long time to do, it's not broken. Taking away a major part of the weapon-upgrade system is like taking away the ability to power-level before a boss in a traditional RPG. Some people like to spend the time powering up and have an easy fight, some people like to do it the expedient way and win by the skin of their teeth; it's a question of play style. I didn't go as overboard powering up my weapons in the first Izuna as I could have, but I appreciated the fact that the option was there. I would have been really disappointed if they'd taken that feature out completely, but since it's available for the harder post-game dungeons when you really need it, it's a minor complaint.
That's all for now, I'll keep you posted if anything enters my DS that isn't a dungeon crawler...I almost want to play one of those terrible girly-games, like the Imagine Figure Skating, just so I can bitch about it. That can't possibly be healthy, can it?