Monday, January 29, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #4: SMT: Nocturne - Part 2

While I didn't get the chance to put the kind of time in that I'd hoped to, I'm glad I was able to play a bit more of SMT:N. In addition to leaving the first area (Shinjuku Medical Center), I was able to start adding demons to my party. Yes, it's Pokemon with demons. I should have named my character Ash and the other characters Brock and Misty. Maybe the next time I try it.

I did do the first boss battle (a rather demonic looking manta ray) and got my first glimpse of Dante, a special added bonus over the original Japanese only version. It's a cool game that I can see playing in bits and pieces. I don't think it will be too hard to pick up and play again - the menus are easy to use and the battles are fairly straight forward. That is becoming one of the advantages of this process that I didn't originally plan on - the ability to have a set of games that I can come back to whenever I have the time because I've already gotten into the game and know how to play them. There are still many facets of the game that I don't really grasp (when to use magatama, for example) and I figure that because the game is rated as hard there are certain resources that will need to be hoarded and used sparingly (like ammo in a Resident Evil game). One of the dangers of an RPG, but I'm glad I got into this one, nonetheless.

For next week, I thought that since I started the month with an older title, Ace Combat 04, I would end the month with a brand new one - Hotel Dusk: Room 215. This just came out for the DS and has been getting some very good reviews. Plus this will be my first Game-a-Week handheld title, giving me the ability to play it just before bed (as in just before turning out the lights) and/or at lunch time. It will be interesting to see how it goes.

Other bits: Our little squad of FFXI highbies has hit 65, found itself a new linkshell to join, and completed one of the three crags needed to enter CoP. Been a good week in Vana'diel....I got the Shadowrun cartridge and it does indeed have the right ROM. Booting it up, I forgot how good SNES games looked. That is still an amazing system. I'll have to plan a retro Game-a-Week month at some point. Can't forget our video gaming roots.

Monday, January 22, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #3: Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne

After last week's fairly easy pick, I thought something more challenging was in order for this week. Also, I've been (dare I say) possessed with the desire to acquire all the games from this series - one that I only really started to notice after the arresting visuals from the latest title, Devil Summoner. (Hey, who can ignore a sexy chick dressed up like a SS vampire?) I figured that I should start to play at least one of these games that I've spent considerably more on than what my usual used or even new games cost. SMT has always been way below the standard retail radar. Considering the gruesome nature of the games and the fact they are VERY Japanese, that's probably a good thing.

As this is a very long game (and very hard from what I've read), I've decided to make this a two week effort. So far I've gotten about an hour and a half into it and I'm still in the first location! The game is done in a cell shaded style with lots of lengthy cut scenes. I haven't gotten lost or stuck yet, but I'm not sure I have a real good understanding of the mechanics of the game. What is interesting is the similarity to Pokemon. You run around with a party of demons (or other creatures - one is a fairy so far) fighting random battles and trying to capture more demons - to add to your party to get the idea. It's not tedious at this point (there is an "auto-fight" button that speeds up the fights considerably), but it may get to be a bit much as the game goes on. It controls nicely, but I do wish the camera was more like other games (ie, FFXI). Anyhow, I'm going to try to get more into it this week and will post final thoughts next Monday. If I can get a copy, I may start up that new DS game, Hotel Dusk, and play it during lunch some this week.

Other bits: Our FFXI band of merry misfits has made it to level 64 (well, the main jobs). It's a bit unsettling the way SquareEnix keeps changing the game. For example, we took some lowbies (my budding BLM) out and were able to fight "toughs" in the La Theine at level 6! When I started playing, you stayed in the Ronafure for at least 8 levels. Going into La Theine that low was suicide even with a PL....Wii's are still selling like mad, but I'm not going for one. The control concept just doesn't fit my kind of gameplay.....I finally got Shadowrun off eBay. Hope this one is actually in the case lol.....Got around to playing Super Mario World on the GBA. I haven't gotten my fingers working on the buttons as well as they did when I played the SNES one all those years ago. I'm hoping I can retrain them.

Monday, January 15, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #2: SpyHunter

Ok, so I admit it, this was a bit of a softball as games go. But I was a big fan of the original arcade game and this one was always on my "I hope I play it someday" list. However, instead of a gameplay experience, I got more of an experience in comparative game qualities over different platforms. I started playing the Gamecube version and while not awful, I really thought the cut scenes could have been of a better quality; they were pixelated and blotchy. Checking the game on Gamespot, I found the Cube version to be 1.1 points lower than the PS2 version (which was released first), mostly because the graphics were so much worse. So, I went to Gamestop and picked up the PS2 version for a cheap $6 (gotta love Gamestop!) and low and behold, the graphics were MUCH better. And not just the cut scenes, but the gameplay too. I also liked playing it on the PS2 because of the controller differences. (One thing I've never liked about my beloved Cube is the large shoulder buttons on the controller - they're great for lock-on but suck for things like firing guns and accelerators in vehicles).

This problem, of one version of a multi-platform game being so much better or worse than another, is a constant concern for me. In general I've always figured the Cube and Xbox versions of any game would be superior, even if just a little, to the same game on PS2. Such is not always the case. I may have to look deeper into my collection and see if I've got the best versions of titles that appear on more than one platform (within reason, of course). Stocks of what are now "last generation" games are at their highest point as people clear out game collections to build up credit for 360's, PS3's, and Wii's. Eventually that flood will trickle out and dry up. I don't want to be caught in that drought. My game console plans don't include buying any new hardware any time soon.

I didn't do much more than play the tutorial levels in both and the first level in the Cube version, but this is a good pick up and play type of game (a bit hard though). The levels seem to only last about 10 minutes or less, and it's a good quick shoot'em up. I'll probably pop this one in now and again to see if I can get anywhere with it. In general, it's about as hard as the old arcade game - I loved it, but it kicked my ass regularly.

This week I'm going to jump into (or at least sample) a game from a series that has had me searching eBay and Gamestops like a possessed lunatic - Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne.

Monday, January 08, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #1: Ace Combat 04

The title of these posts seems a bit unwieldy, but it will do for now. So this was my first game to work on for a week and for the most part it went well - even though I wasn't (BAD flu). If this self-imposed exercise gives me a chance to experience games that would otherwise just sit on the shelf, it's a good thing.

I found Ace Combat 04 (it's "04" because the missions take place in, yeah) to be like two games in one. The first is an incredible fighting flight sim; very easy to play (limited number of buttons to remember), awesome graphics for the PS2, arcade-like but with a touch of realism (the tactical summary fly throughs during the point summary are probably lost on most people). The other is an anime style story that plays out in bits between the missions. The game is about a fictious war in a fictious land, very similar to the war in "Howl's Moving Castle", except with modern weapons instead of dark fantasy ones. I didn't realize that this very USA military looking game was very Japanese. The singing and flying doves at the beginning were a bit of a shock! It was also a little unsettling to see that the "enemy" was portrayed with US soldiers and equipment. Were they trying to refight the end of WWII in the modern day? Have to look into that some in the online reviews. I also wonder what the original Japanese music sounded like. Oh, to be able to play imports. :P

I may try to play more of this, weekly commitments allowing. Have to see how I get back at Yellow 13! For this week: Spyhunter on the Cube.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy Gnu Year '07

Time has passed, weeks became months and here we are in 2007.

Out of curiosity, I looked back at my first January 2006 post. My first thought is that I have finally stopped the hobby flipping that I used to do. Video gaming has been my sole past time for over a year now. Nice to buckle down and concentrate on something at the chipper age of 45.

In this first 2006 post I had given my thoughts on Obscure and the new consoles (the then just released 360 and the to be released PS3 and "Revolution"). Aside from the name change, not too much has changed over a years time - stores still carry the old console games along side the new ones. By this time next year that will undoubtedly change. I was more positive on the PS3 back then, but that was before the $600 price tag and lack of good games. As for the 360, not much has really changed in my view of it other than the games I want to play on it and the thought that going first was probably a good idea after all. What I missed altogether was the crushing strength of the DS. Well, back then I didn't even own one.

As 2007 opens, I have to think what it will bring. PS3 (and Sony) will have a tough time of it, I think. The system is just too expensive and it's not like games are pouring out. The 360 will get a refit this year that I believe will make it cheaper and more intergrated, but I still won't buy it til the next Burnout is released. I hope that by next year it will be nearly 100% BC. And Nin doesn't really have to worry about the Wii - even if it flops, they can live off the money DS Lite is making. But I doubt the Wii will fail as it has become the media darling this holiday season. I don't know if I will get one or not yet, but I can't say I'm really that interested. The control scheme just doesn't work for the games I play. Of course, it can always be a Cube replacement.

As for my "game plan" for 2007, I have decided to play one new (to me) game every week. Play starts Monday and finishes Sunday with a review post on the next Monday. During that week I will pick the next week's game. (I had thought about random, triple-A titles only, by release date, etc. but none of them seemed worth the time to work out.) I got off to a slow start this week as I was sick last night, but I have picked Ace Combat 4 as my first game. I haven't played a flight sim in a long time and never (that I can remember) on the PS2. I will play other games during this year, but at least this will help me work through my collection some.

Little notes: I played some of Call of Cthulhu and other than being very dark (as in hard to see) it's a good adventure game so far. A bit slow though...Not too much FFXI going on as Rath was in England and not feeling well to boot... Traded some crap games from the collection into Gameworld, instead of wasting time and money on eBay sales, to get a collector's copy of FFXII...Finally decided to go with the Cube version of Zelda and started playing this weekend. Great, but it's like OoT with better graphics. Not a big step up in design, but enjoyable...Found the Shin Megami Tensei series and am trying to get all the games...Gave up on playing through Fable:TLC. Too much to redo that I just don't want to do again to get to new stuff...Also had to give up on Still Life. Game was like CSI:Myst. Plot was interesting, but I couldn't do the puzzles without a cheat sheet and playing a game like that is no fun.