Archive for 2010

Freeware Spotlights

It’s been a long time since I mentioned Freeware/Indie stuff, so I figure I’ll bring ’em out shotgun-style.

First, The Spirit Engine 2 is now Freeware!  It joins its somewhat more aged predecessor as a standout among free RPGs.  Not only is it *not* RPGMaker (therefore liberating itself from engine and font constraints – both are fantastic), but it’s got a great character-driven and moderately political plot.  There are some significant subplot differences based on which characters you pick, too, so I actually played through it twice in rapid succession.  It’s about 8-10 hours long, I’d estimate, on a first playthrough.

The second is really a group.  Recently I became aware of Daniel Remar‘s various games, and played through a couple of them.

Iji is to me the standout of the two.  An action-RPG similar in some ways to both Super Metroid and System Shock 2, it has a plot that shifts in tone based on your decisions and – more significantly – actions in the game.  The trailer, if nothing else, is worth watching to get an idea what it’s like.  The full game took me a little under 3 hours, but I’ve already replayed it once and plan to go through a third time.

Hero Core is more recent and less polished, but also shorter and probably more accessible than either of the above two games.  It’s a more directly Metroid-ish game, but it actually reminded me a little bit of The Guardian Legend, too.  Lots of nifty optional content, but still takes only a little over an hour to complete and the difficulty is spot-on.  It’s very retro-styled and even contains a “retro” language setting which is really great to read.

All of these are worthwhile games, and none are longer than 10 hours.  The price, of course, is the most reasonable of all.  It’s interesting to note, also – all three of these games (aside from the music) was made by one individual (Mark Pay for TSE2 and Daniel Remar for the others).  That’s some inspiring dedication!


Random Game Highlight: Conquest of the Crystal Palace

This one really is random.  There’s pretty much no other category I would put this game in.  It’s neither especially good nor terribly bad.  It’s really nothing special, but it is random.

I don’t particularly have the urge to boot it up now, because I might get sucked into it (however briefly).  You play some kid who had his magic kingdom taken over by an evil guy when he was a baby.  His magical dog saved him and made sure he was raised appropriately (I think that’s how it goes), then reveals the truth to him.  Anyway, there’s a lot of fighting, and you have a magic dog, and there are shopkeepers that are entirely too chatty.  That’s about all I remember about the plot.  It’s sort of like a weaker Clash at Demonhead.  It’s anime-inspired, clearly, and there are bizarre goings-on, but they’re just bizarre enough to support the premise of the game.

Similar to 8 Eyes, your dog is a companion who you have limited control over.  He can be helpful, but (again like 8 Eyes’ Cutrus) he is entirely to weak to be your front-line and will likely die quickly.  Unlike 8 Eyes, he cannot be played by a second player, making this game a sad case of could-have-been.

It’s not like it’s a total loss, though.  The reason I still remember this game – and, in fact, what inspired me to post again so quickly – was the song for the first stage, which is unbelievably catchy (and linked below).  The composer credited with this is Masaharu Iwata, a wonderfully prolific and talented composer who is probably best known for his work alongside Hitoshi Sakimoto on games like FFXII and Opoona.   Incidentally, he also composed the music for the original Japanese release of Baroque.

Conquest of the Crystal Palace – Stage 1


SaGa Love (Especially 2)

There are a few games that I absolutely love, despite all reasons I would ever want to hate them.  Part of the reason I like them so much, I’ll gladly admit, is nostalgia.  Most such games left an impression on me growing up, and overcoming the (often many) frustrations and learning to play them the best way possible was a big inspiration for me to pursue problem-solving and mathematics.

Another, more significant part, is that they really rock.  Seriously, these are some damn good games, even when they have a few knocks against them.  It’s not a “they shore don’t make’m like they used ta” feeling, because one of these games is Persona 3.  It’s not even a “this game is good because it was made by X” because I dislike Suikoden 4, Wild Arms 4, Persona 2… and so on.  Simply put, it’s not all fanboyism and it’s not all nostalgia.  A significant amount of the reasons I like these games is because they’re a blast to play.  In some cases, the story is deep or satisfying enough that it doesn’t matter that it’s not.

All these words to say I love SaGa 2 (which, I may add, is actually Final Fantasy Legend 2 in disguise, or vice versa)  I have just written a review for videolamer, as usual, but there I try to pursue some vestiges of professionalism.  This game is fantastic; how many games let you shoot rhinoceroses with a PSI rifle?  How often do you get to battle (scaled up) microphages using a robot with a battle-ax?  The answer is not enough.  The best part of the game is its difficulty; ironic when most of my favorite games are easy.   In SaGa 2, your party is perpetually armed to the hilt with the most up to date weaponry and you are still just barely hanging on against the hordes of flying fish, oversized spiders, goblins, terrorists, the occasional demigod, robots, and so on.  Some of the original SaGa 1 / FF Legend artwork is evocative here:

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March is on fire for games; also other stuff.

So it’s been a long time since I wrote up anything here.  More than two months, in fact.

My main purpose in posting here is to point out the nice swath of RPG/strategy (or in one case, just incredibly interesting) games that are coming out in March.

Infinite Space is a Sega RPG on DS that looks to have more breadth and depth than most of Sega’s fare; I’m hoping it turns out as good or better than Valkyria Chronicles.  From what I’ve heard so far, you get to do some exploring reminiscent of Skies and command a fleet of ships, assigning roles to various crew members and such.  It sounds very interesting, and I haven’t read anything negative about it yet – but it’s a bit early for that, obviously.  It’s out 3/16.

Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon is an adventure / survival game for the Wii where the main character wanders alone in a post-apocalyptic world filled mostly with ruins.  Although it has combat, it sounds like the focus is more on puzzle and story elements.  I love any game with a somber or lonely tone (if only because they’re so rare).  It sounded for a while like this was going to be yet another Japan-only game, but XSeed picked it up and it will also release 3/16.

Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love is appropriately titled, given it is a PS2 game.  It will also release on the Wii in a less-deluxe set.  It’s the first game in the much-vaunted Sakura Wars series to reach our shores.  Other games in the series routinely find their way to the top of fan-voted lists, so even if this game is a pale shadow of the best games in the series it will probably be worth it to see what all the fuss is about.  The series is sort of relationship-RPG-strategy, where how well you get along with your companions affects their performance in battle.  It will probably be at least partly Guilty Pleasure genre, but still should be a good time.  It comes out on 3/23.

Finally, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey will be coming out for DS.  The SMT series is so consistently solid mechanics-wise and intriguing story-wise that it would be hard to pass this one up.  Particularly after Devil Survivor was so good, Strange Journey should be one hell of a trip to the Antarctic.  It will also release 3/23.

January and February look sort of slow – the actual US release of White Knight Chronicle aside – so I’m hoping to knock my current set of games well out of the way so that I can start in on these entries once they arrive.

Lately I’ve been playing Eternal Sonata and Civ 4: Colonization.  Eternal Sonata is pretty and sounds very nice, but the difficulty is just short of crushing.  If it gets much worse, I might not end up beating it.  Story-wise it’s like a standard JRPG interrupted briefly by History Channel-esque segments on events in Chopin’s life.  I’m not even seeing much in the way of allegory here.  As far as Colonization goes, I enjoyed the original a lot and this is just more of the same – slightly improved, spiffier-looking, and more expensive.  Can’t really complain.

Projects are trucking along as always – sometimes more, sometimes less, including some minor work continuing on Jesus.  There’s not much to show at this point – or more accurately, what there is is hardly mine to show, as I’m just retranslating.  Stardust Crusaders of offered to take a look at expanding things, so he’s doing the hard part.

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