Archive for 2007

Skies of Addictiveness

I’m still playing Skies of Arcadia.

Even when Super Mario Galaxy (which is excellent by the way) ate into my time, Skies was in the back of my mind.

When my old addiction to the Three Kingdoms games kicked back in, Skies was still lurking about somewhere.

Even after two LAN parties, I still had an occasional urge to play it.

I’m now about 25 hours in.  I can’t say other games haven’t done this (Persona 3 and Lunar 2: Eternal Blue being the other two in recent memory), but Skies of Arcadia ranks up there among the highest current-gen games I’ve played.

And yet, I’m not sure why.  The battle system is sort of neat, but it’s all been done before, more or less.  It’s not particularly interesting.  The music is okay, but lurks around the level of “ambient”; instead of evoking emotions, it just emphasizes what you’re supposed to be feeling.  Two of the characters, at least, have shown very little depth.  Two more have been entertaining, but somewhat cliched.  The final two are sort of fleshed out so far.  It’s nothing on the level of the Personas, but it’s better than some RPGs.

I think it’s the world (see previous posts) and the situations that have kept me into the game.  I’ve reached the point where there’s a lot of exploration.  Even to find where you’re supposed to be going, which doesn’t often happen in games.  Even WA5, in which wandering around on the world map was vaguely pleasurable at times, you didn’t get the vague directions of “Oh, it’s rumored to be on the other side of this giant whirling vortex nobody’s been past.  Good luck!”.  I actually felt somewhat like a seasoned explorer after finding my way through said giant whirling vortex, to say nothing of how I felt once I actually found the place on the other side.

Not much else to say, really, other than I recommend that everyone who reads this try this game sometime.  It may not be for you.  But I’m not big on exploration normally (for example, the “exploring” systems in WA3 and F really just frustrated me), but Skies feels absolutely great.

I have also rediscovered my love of Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns.  Just about once a year (since I picked it up for $10) I play through the campaign.  It’s another game with a world that really does feel real (if not realistic); it’s got a good deal of history that ties into the campaign, as well as some pretty good voicing and some cool situations.  If Zelazny’s Amber series were made into a game, I would love it to feel like Kohan.

Not the sequel, though.  Please, not like the sequel.


List of lists, oh my

I’m usually not a huge fan of lists and rankings.  When I try to rank games myself, I always go back and change the scores up later – like back when I thought WA:ACF was the awesomest thing ever, or when I thought the first Suikoden was better than Suikoden III.  Of course, I could always use the “I was young and stupid” approach, but this was within the past year or so.

However, this post at GAF caught my eye: a top 100 list as voted by readers of Japan’s biggest videogame magazine Famitsu.

Granted, it’s not a great list; I could name a half-dozen games offhand that I think belong on there, but then I’m not Tanaka Six-pack.  I actually doubt such a list voted by, say, readers of Electronic Gaming Monthly would be better.

So instead, I thought it was more interesting to look at what was on there that I didn’t expect.

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Continuation of stuff

I’ve been continuing Skies of Arcadia.  I still love the flowing islandscape-of-sky.  Sadly, other addictions have burst in on this one, shutting down my gameplay of it…

First is Super Mario Galaxy.  Though I’m still not convinced it is the greatest game ever, it’s the best Wii game I’ve played so far (since the only other ones I’ve played are Sports and Super Monkey Ball, this isn’t saying much).  It actually has a feel vaguely like Skies, since it takes place on islands in space.  The perspective issues (where you, say, go upside-down but the camera angle remains unchanged) annoy me, but everything else about this game is great, for a platformer.  I’m only a little ways in so far, though.

After all, my other addiction has set in.  I finally caved in after I saw Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI used for $30.  Though the manual smelled vaguely like smoke and the game wasn’t in great shape, it plays fine – all too fine.  I started a game on easy to get used to it; playing Sun Jian in the Anti-Dong Zhuo Coalition, I’ve leapfrogged up from Jiang Dong to central China in order to confront Dong Zhuo early.  I managed to split his forces in half, but now I’m trapped holding two gates against Dong Zhuo’s stronger Western half while praying Cao Cao manages to seize Luoyang.  The combat in this game is nearly as intense as in IX; planning is essential, and having a decent supply line is key.

I’m looking forward to confronting Yuan Shao once Dong Zhuo’s taken care of, though.  He’s set himself up almost exactly as in history, and I’m guessing he’ll start whittling Gongsun Zan down to size before long.

Even though I bought Ys 3 for SNES recently, I haven’t managed to beat it yet due to these games stepping in and stealing my free time.  Maybe I’ll get a chance this weekend.

Oh, you may not have noticed but I just created a smallish section for Destiny of an Editor, an officer editing tool for the NES classic (in the minds of about a dozen people, myself included) Destiny of an Emperor.


The Cycle Continues

I beat Wild Arms 5, and I have to say – of all the games on the PS2, it has the second worst plot I’ve seen.   The first goes to Wild Arms 4 – whereas in WA5, it is implied throughout that children are the future, adults are stuck in their ways and stupid, and that you can do anything if you’re a kid and you don’t give up (or, in Greg’s case, if you fall in with a bunch of kids and don’t give up)… in WA4 it is pretty much outright stated.

I still like 2 of the characters in WA5, and 3 of them in WA4… but seriously.  The first three were a lot more refined in their plotlines.  I’m hoping they ditch this trend in the next one, but that may be an impossible hope.

Last week, and through this weekend, I was playing Azure Dreams, just about the worst game I keep coming back to.  At best, it’s a Nethack clone with more pets and more dating sim.  At worst, it’s… worse?   Anyway, it plays pretty nice, but (as the title implies), as usual I got bored with it in about 15 hours of gameplay.  At that point, you build the casino, netting you all the money you need.  You’ve resolved almost all of the simple plotlines (the next being ~5 floors higher than you’ve gone before), so the game pretty much boils down to finding enough Blue & Red sand to power your gear up while leveling your monsters.

Instead of trying to finish that game, which I doubt I will ever do, I switched over to an oft highly-regarded RPG classic: Skies of Arcadia

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My latest projects

Wild Arms 5 is still good. Just so you know. Unfortunately, it’s dragging on a bit – right now I’m supposed to destroy some four floozabads or some such, naturally along the path to saving the world from someone who started with a noble goal and descended down the path of evil, thereby proving that children are our future as long as they never give up.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the challenge of the battle system, I like the badge system, and I even like most aspects of the translation. But there’s very little that can save the vile cliche-filled main storyline of this game. Rebecca, Greg and Chuck are all good characters (which puts this game at 1-good-character better than FFXII, IMO) with some interesting sub-plots, and one of the evil characters is pretty cool, but there’s nothing new in the main plot.

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