Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Last Story and the return of Japan only

Anyone whose followed video games in the past few weeks knows about the Last Story. It’s being developed by Mistwalker, the company founded by Hironobu Sakaguchi once he jumped ship from Square Enix in the early/mid 2000’s, and has released some relatively passable JRPGs, most notably Lost Odyssey (oh, and Blue Dragon, which Fern didn’t like very much). They’re good guys, and The Last Story looks to be a game following through on a lot of good ideas about how to fix the JRPG. Hell, I think it’s so cool, I covered it before it was cool.

The question, of course, is American release. Which is no longer a given. It became that way because of a related, but different, title, Xenoblade.
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Some brief thoughts on Final Fantasies

Yes, I know, I said no news here, but I am a liar! A big fat, possibly Greek liar (yes, I went there. It’s early enough in the morning to go there). But you know what? Final Fantasy deserves an exception because I love making fun of Final Fantasy. It’s just so ludicrous that it deserves brutal mocking, and BRUTAL MOCKING I CAN PROVIDE. Or, kind of provide. And it’s hard to spoil anything when the whole thing is in Japanese, a language I definitely do not speak.

So, the news of the day was the release of trailers for every one of Square Enix’s identical action RPG products. If you want the trailers, I’ve linked them under the cut. I don’t really care to give Square Enix promotion, but I figure making fun of their games balances out any promotional concern. Your level of snark for the day is determined by the header picture which means we’re about at Snark Code Orange. Because I dug up the Final Fantasy movie in all your collective minds.

The big* announcement**, of course***, was Final Fantasy XIII-2. It is, affectionately, a game that shouldn’t exist. It’s probably spawned out of the fact that they made so much extra, useless content for Final Fantasy XIII, and in good Japanese tradition they couldn’t just throw it out. This game has the least trailer support (literally, half the trailer is the ending of XIII, which I pretty much called four hours in, down to the setting), and honestly doesn’t inspire confidence. Then again, it would require a fair amount of work to make me interested in anything with Final Fantasy XIII attached.

Square Enix then spent 12 minutes trying really hard to make me interested in things with Final Fantasy XIII attached. Read the rest of this entry

What Minecraft is good for

I like to imagine Notch living in a palatial estate, thinking up new ways users can create viral content with his game. I mean, I like Minecraft. I like Minecraft a lot. But I think I’ve watch more of other, absolutely batshit insane people playing Minecraft than I actually have.

This is not bad, actually. Case in point: this video, which clearly the new update was literally designed for. I mean, music blocks basically makes Minecraft a modern day Mario Paint in pure musical possibility, and a certain other addition made this video an absolute necessity. Its author has created something which feels like it should have always been, and for that, we commend them.

I’m not sure it tops the working Minecraft computer in pure excess, but it wins in sheer geekery. Which is something. All it does for me is it makes me want to play Minecraft.

Review: Cthulhu Saves the World

There aren’t enough games made about Cthulhu. Point of fact. Ancient, eldritch alien evils of insanity are, frankly, a lot better than grandstanding idiots, various varieties of demons, and the lord Jesus Christ. This is empirical fact.

And hell, Cthulhu Saves the World shows that those eldritch evils make fine Japanese Role Playing Game protagonists, too. Heck, I’d take the shirtless, tentacled majesty of Cthulhu over Tidus any day. This is another positive development in the history of Western civilization.

There are two audiences for Cthulhu Saves the World, the newest game from Zeboyd Games, creators of Breath of Death VII: Cthulhu maniacs and old school JRPG fans. The game succeeds in short, brilliant bursts for the first crowd, and in a long, sustained burn for the latter.

I am in both groups, so you may take me saying this is a great game and the best role playing game of 2010 with a slight grain of salt. But it really was. Sure, I’m going to pick a nit in this review (and, frankly, it’s pretty large), but that does not detract from the overall experience, which is phenomenal and falls among the best games I played last year.
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Mass Effect 2 (PS3) prediction

I’m going to channel my inner Michael Pachter here and make a bold prediction: Mass Effect 2 for the Playstation 3 will fail. It will move some copies, yes, but it’s unclear whether BioWare will even recoup the mild investment of porting ME2’s content onto the ME3 engine and optimizing things for the PS3.

Some of this is based on fact: the sales data I compile for indie news site Huliq includes pre-order data, and the PS3 version of Mass Effect 2 is barely on the radar blip. It is a year-old game by now, and some people (like myself) will pick it up once the price drops to get the “definitive” version because I have yet to spring for any of the DLC on my 360 copy, so we may have a ‘long tail’ situation as far as sales go. Still, I would be surprised to see 500,000 copies move by the time Mass Effect 3 comes out.

My other reason is much more subjective: for all of the “GOTY” praise the game is getting from last year, it’s becoming fashionable to bash the numerous design flaws of the game. BioWare would have won an instant pre-order from me, for example, if they had said “screw it, no-one liked the planet scanning, we’re taking it out”. Or if they’d found a more substantial way to integrate the Firewalker prototype vehicle into the main game. Or, well, more than simply putting the standard “GOTY” edition on a different system than the game released for initially.

Fanboys and girls out there, feel free to prove me wrong here.

Hyperdimension Neptunia is what the fuck?

Okay, I know I said I’m going to stop caring about new games, and I make no illusions that this is not the first time I have made excuses to post about new games, but I’m making an exception because this game looks, literally, batshit insane. And it’s coming to America, so unlike posts about Xenoblade and The Last Story, it’s relevant to your interests!

I…there are no words for this game. It’s unfortunate that all these promising RPGs have been pushed back to the same two week period of time in late February/early March, inexplicably to avoid competition with first person shooters, because I honestly cannot justify purchasing this game. Which is depressing, because this is a game about video game consoles that transform into sexy ladies (one of whom sounds like she’s voiced by Michelle Ruff, aka Yukari “Hawkeye” Takeba). Seriously.

There are no words.

The pre-boss fight: giving our nemesis context

[Contains SPOILERS for Assassin’s Creed 2, Knights of the Old Republic, and Bioshock. Consider yourself warned.]

I recently completed a play-through of Assassin’s Creed 2, which left me with a rather negative taste in my mouth. Part of it had to do with the wild ‘conspiracy theory’ story reveal at the end, but a lot of it had to do with bad game design, principally the way Ezio deals with his nemesis: Rodrigo Borgia.

Rodrigo is introduced to the player very early in the game, is clearly telegraphed as Ezio’s final object of revenge, and hovers behind the largely indiscriminate slaughter Ezio inflicts on the guards of various cities in Renaissance Italy. Despite ‘meeting’ him in various cutscenes, Ezio catches up with him for the first time about 85% of the way through the game. The battle is rather well-done at the outset, and is easily one of the more memorable parts of the game. The fact that Rodrigo is one of the more formidable enemies of the game despite only wielding a sword (though he does summon help) is actually quite impressive. Normally, sword-wielding guards are little more than practice dummies for Ezio.

Ultimately, however, this is still Assassin’s Creed 2, and combat can be overcome by mashing the attack button. Though there were a few tense moments, within a minute or two I had Rodrigo thrown to the ground and was about to kill him—and then one of my “allies” suddenly appeared, in order to “help” me—allowing Rodrigo to escape. I forget the plot contrivance for this; suffice it to say, the game designers would never have let me kill Rodrigo at this point, because this was a pre-boss fight. In other words, it is a battle that features the final boss, but you can’t possibly win (at least in any final sense).

Other players may not have triggered this interruption in quite so ridiculous a fashion, but the obvious scripting in play really pissed me off. After enduring a cut-scene, I/Ezio calmed down, and hoped for the best in our final encounter. The fight really had been interesting, so I expected Ubisoft Montreal to have something really special in store for the grand finale.
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Amnesia a good memory for Frictional

I love indies, especially indies who put out super high quality, retail type experiences, but I can’t play horror games. This has made me something of a cheerleader for Frictional Games, whose Amnesia: The Dark Descent was, by many accounts, one of the best games released last year that I absolutely couldn’t play. This hasn’t stopped me from encouraging others to buy it, and enjoying fantastic videos like the one above. To quote one of my friends, who deals with horror so I don’t have to, Frictional make “the only genuinely frightening games available.” Trust him, he is a doctor, and has seen pretty much every horror film in the world. They make good games, those guys. I bet they’re even good guys.

So it does my heart good when I read things like this, which says that Amnesia has sold over 200,000 copies. While that doesn’t seem like a major success compared to console blockbusters, it’s quite a bit, as their blog post explains. Without a publisher collecting on an advance and then taking 75% of royalties from each sale, a developer can succeed quite comfortably selling 200K units, especially with a small team (whereas, if a game that required 50 people and had a publisher sold that many, they’d be up shit creek without a paddle).

No word on what sort of terrible horror that I will never, ever play they will release on the world, but I bet it’ll be a good one. And guys, one day, make something that won’t scare the pants off of me, so I can play your brilliant games. Thanks.

X-Men Destiny detailed

It shouldn’t be a secret that I love the X-Men. X-Men Legends was one of my favorite games, and I’ve been keeping people abreast of X-Men Destiny since it was announced. Yes, this is nominally because it is being developed by Silicon Knights, who made such games as Eternal Darkness, but less than secretly because I love the X-Men.

Now we have some foundational information, from OXM (via CVG, who always seem to get magazines early), about the title which is even more convincing. Emphasis on choice being the big one, as well as the fact that there’s an RPG-like skill progression, based loosely around the whole secondary mutation thing that happened in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. More importantly, the X-Men have suffered a “devastating loss”, which probably means they’re going to set it in the underappreciated time when Magneto was headmaster of Xavier’s School.
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The Great Sucking Sound

That noise you hear? That is the wind being violently ripped from the 3DS’ sails.

It sounds a lot like three to five hour battery life, which, supposedly, is only when the backlight is turned down. We in the trade call this the “Non-Nintendo handheld” trap, because it’s what has doomed every handheld going against Nintendo since day one: no one wants a handheld console with no battery life. We want Nintendo’s weaker toys, because we can take them places and not be tethered to the wall.

No one expected Nintendo to fall into a trap with its name on it. Really. How fucking ludicrous is that? You’re a company who have made billions of dollars off of doing things one way, and then you decide, whoops, not good enough, let’s change it.

Of course, that’s big news, but coupled with the other news of the week, it’s a clear sign of something big: that Nintendo is punting on the 3DS for the year. No other way about it.
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