Archive for 2008

Paradise and Hell in the Tower

Playing through Persona 3 gradually for nearly a month straight has really taken away my will to play; I’m considering just giving up on the main story and going on ahead to The Answer.

Perhaps as a reaction to Persona 3, in which the main dungeon is the endless-seeming tower of Tartarus, I started playing through Final Fantasy Legend, whose story centers around The Demon Tower.

The best feature of Final Fantasy Legend is the fact that it is mysterious – much like Drakkhen, I find myself coming back to it time and again if only in the hope I will find something new again this time around. FFL rarely disappoints. There are four “cardinal” worlds:

  • The starting world, which is standard fantasy fare: three kings seek to unify the world.
  • The ocean world, with pirates, wizards, and the dragon Seiryu’s undersea palace;
  • The sky world, in which Byakko’s glider-planes seek domination over an ongoing rebellion;
  • The post-apocalyptic world, in which the fiery phoenix Suzaku destroys all who stray from the few protected dwellings.

Of these four, the last has the most compelling plot, in which your party aids a small group in raiding an abandoned nuclear power plant to obtain the technology to neutralize Suzaku.

And yet, though these worlds have in themselves good sub-stories, still more miniature worlds hide in the Tower for the most adventurous to find.

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All you do…

Star Ocean didn’t last very long.  I’m again a bit sad – it’s a good enough game, but I couldn’t stick with it.  Part of the problem is that I just can’t play the game “normally” anymore.  The game is practically built to be broken via the item creation system, and it’s quite feasible to get some of the best equipment in the game before you’re even halfway in.

This is often a problem for me.  Some games are so geared towards being exploited (or at least played optimally) that playing it any other way is impossible once you know how to do it.  This makes the games feel more mechanical and less fun than the first time around.

Because I run into this problem, most of my favorite games are nearly impossible to break.  Lunar 2 is going to be pretty rough no matter how you try and play it – only some aspects are partially breakable (the Crest system) and that only gives you some smallish advantages.  Suikoden 2 is possible to optimize which makes the end of the game easier – but I’ve never had an easy time of taking down Luca Blight.  Wild Arms requires a lot of strategy, even fairly at the end.

Here’s the thing: I like breaking games, but I don’t like playing games again once I have broken them.  Final Fantasy Tactics is the only game that survives game-breaking easily, and that’s because there are so many ways to do it.

I suppose Star Ocean is the only game I can think of at the moment that’s really bad about this.  Some games (pretty much any Final Fantasy, for example) get pretty bad this way near the end.

The game I picked up after Star Ocean is pretty tough to break.  Persona 3 is my favorite RPG on the PS2, and the semi-expansion FES came out a week or so ago.  So far I’m about 1/3 of the way through the “regular” P3 story (The Journey) and the improvements are fairly minor, but it is better than the first time around.

One main complaint about the game (aside from Tartarus being “dungeon-crawly”), as so eloquently put by Junpei:

It seems like all you do is wander around and talk to people.

Part of the reason I like Persona 3 so much is that it’s practically a good book in addition to being a good game.  When you’re tired of messing around in Tartarus, you can always wander around and talk to people, and vice-versa.  Even minor characters in P3 are more three-dimensional than many RPG characters – some more so than characters from several novels I’ve read.  To be fair, I tend to favor moderately cheesy fantasy.  I think Persona 3 is pretty much the best game of this past generation, and I hope more games learn from its example.  Its biggest flaw is that it drags on a bit, but it still managed to get me to start a second play-through within half a year of the first.


Opoona finished; Brief Metal Saga disappointment

I finished Opoona over the weekend.  I’d say overall it’s not the best game ever, but definitely a game worth playing.  There is a raw charm to it that is appealing to me.  It may not be anything amazingly groundbreaking, but it is a good experience.

After Opoona, I briefly tried the old PS2 open RPG Metal Saga.  It was $15 new, and I figured I couldn’t lose.  I wouldn’t say I lost, but I just about broke even.

It sounds great.  Post-apocalyptic, tanks, exploring, anime-styled, open-ended.  It builds up a great atmosphere… then thoroughly disembowels it.

Imagine you’re walking through an abandoned office building… it’s a dark area, complete with overturned desks, some junk in the corner a few chairs, all covered in dust.  You’re scrounging through closets for anything useful to sell.  These pre-disaster places sometimes still have untouched stuff… then you get into an encounter.  Is it bat-wielding ruffians?  Perhaps some sort of mutated critter?  Not exactly.  You’re fighting a rifle standing atop two bare human legs.  It is called “Pocket Rocket”.

Plus it has the worst loading times in towns of any game I’d ever seen.  If it takes 10 seconds of loading to enter and exit a shop, you had better have a damn good rest of the game – sadly, it does not.  I wanted to give this game a try, and I don’t feel good about giving it up, but it is damnably frustrating.

I have since started Star Ocean: The Second Story for the third time.  I’m not sure if I’ll play it all the way through, but it’ll do for now.


More Opoonerism

The game has taken a twist toward more standard JRPG fare, and I’m not sure whether I’m somewhat depressed or relieved.  I do like how gradually the feel of the game changed, and the environments are still interesting… but at the same time it feels like an entirely different game, and not nearly as open-ended as the first portion.

That said, here are a few more screenshots.

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Opoona screenshots and brief impressions

Wow.  This game looks and sounds really nice.  It gets sci-fi right, with hints of anime and traditional JRPG style here and there.  Unfortunately, the translation is pretty bad (especially for a modern game), for example “Star” and “Planet” used interchangeably (almost always here, “Planet” is meant, whereas in Japanese these are both “Hoshi” and use the same kanji).  Maybe Koei can finally do an entirely new game right.

I played this game over five hours straight after I bought it.  Part of this is because it’s got a great style and good music, but part is because there’s a strong variety of minigames – some tedious, but most quite manageable.  Unfortunately it’s a bit easy to get lost in the first city.

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