Archive for Game of the Moment

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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Game of the Moment: Snake Rattle ‘n Roll

The NES had so many goofy oddball games, it’s nearly impossible to keep track of them all.  Snake Rattle ‘n Roll stands out from the hordes via upbeat jazz music, a bizarre (therefore original) sense of style, and fun cooperative gameplay.

You play the snake(s) appropriately named Rattle (and Roll).  To get through the stages, you avoid or defeat strange, snake-hating enemies, from water-dwelling sharks to razor blade traps to giant, snake-crushing disembodied feet.  Your objective is to get to the moon for reasons unknown.  Placed at specific points in the level are pellet dispensers, which shoot out pellets which you can eat.  The pellets try to avoid you in a different way each level; the early ones simply roll or walk, while later ones will bounce or fly away.  In an interesting touch, the walking pellets have tiny white feet; after your snake consumes one, it spits out said feet.  Likewise with the later wings, et cetera.

Mmm, generic-looking food

Eating serves a couple different purposes.  The first is that it lets you survive a bit longer against easy enemies.  As you eat, you get additional segments added to your body, and if you’re hit you lose one.  The second purpose is that it’s the only way to beat levels (aside from the warps scattered throughout early levels).  Your snake has to reach its maximum weight, then stand on a scale to open a door.  After going through the door, you’ve beaten the level.

The first purpose of pellets is quickly defeated.  The game is full of spikes, the evil giant feet, anvils, and other evil things that kill in one hit.  Jumping puzzles are quite tricky, especially in later levels.  Dying to spikes or pits, however, is entertaining as your snake will make a high-pitched, plaintive “Aaaaaaaarrrrrgg” complete with text coming out as it falls.


Though it’s tough to beat, Snake Rattle ‘n Roll is a great little bit of entertainment.  It was among Rare’s first games, and is definitely one of the cooler cooperative NES games,  So long as your buddy doesn’t hog all of the tongue upgrades.


Game of the Moment: Drakkhen

There are few games that can inspire a sense of true exploration; a feeling of awe at how large or detailed they can be.  Fewer still are the games that can bring out that feeling even after you’ve beaten them.  For some reason, despite being only a so-so game in nearly every other respect, Drakkhen (of a few systems, though most notably the SNES) still holds uncounted mysteries in my mind.

Drakkhen Field

The most likely source of this awe is simply that the game is so abominably random.  I never owned the instruction book, and the introduction only gives vagaries as to the plot (blah blah, 4 elements, 2 poles of power).  Fact is, you create a party and start in the middle of the Earth area with little direction.  You’re told that you have to collect 8 Tears of Power, and that you should check at the nearby castle first.   Oh, the introductory information tells you a decent amount about the game’s system.  What it *doesn’t* tell you, though, is what’s ironically most important.

For example, observe.
Evil dog!

This mysterious black dog head will attack you if you bump into a grave.  Any grave.  It will also pretty much kill your entire party if you blunder into it before you’re level 15 or so – better have the best equipment just in case.

Combat in general is quite random.  You move your selected character around, and if you walk into enemies he or she will occasionally attack.  It’s vaguely like the Gauntlets, but more just painful.  To be fair, if you know what you’re doing the game’s none too rough – you can get all your equipment from the various castles, and it regenerates if you move two areas away, so you can max out on the Power Armor as soon as you find it (in one of the Water castles, I think).  Bows are crucial for the late-game as yet another random encounter starts popping up – at night, if you look at the constellations funny, they come down and start attacking you.  Yes, the constellations will beat the crap out of your party – often, if you don’t have bows.  If that weren’t enough, you have all sorts of bizarre and occasionally unfair random encounters, like giants crawling out of the ground or slimes that will crush any early-game party.

Hordkhen’s place

As if the game weren’t random enough, I distinctly remember the early-game: after you go into Hordkhen’s castle and talk to him, he sends you to the other side of the Earth area.  There is a huge verboten line across the whole Earth continent for some hellish reason, and if you try to cross it you’ll get stopped by a guard.  This guard manages to simultaneously be everywhere along the line at once.  The solution?

Obvious security flaw

Yes, the solution is to go around the line.  There’s an area just perfect to slip by – not far enough into the other region that you’re in danger, but enough outside the line the soldier can’t stop you.  I have played few games where the solutions I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to use feel so jury-rigged.

Even the merchants in the game are random encounters – old men who teleport in and have goods based on the area.  Sometimes they just want to chat, though.  Never had a random encounter in any other game where some batty old wizard pops in, says one line of dialogue, then warps out.

All in all, though, despite how raw the game feels, it’s quite natural.  You can save wherever you want, so it’s not especially unfair either.  It’s not that the game was made to be unforgiving – it’s that the world you live in hates humans in general.  Even though I’ve beaten it twice, every so often this game still calls out to me, as if there are still areas I haven’t explored, constellations I haven’t conquered, and loot hiding in the dungeon of a castle I haven’t plundered yet.  Every so often I hear the soft, calming music while wandering the world map, avoiding sharks on drawbridges (oh yeah, watch out for that second castle)… ahh, great memories.

I would never recommend this game to someone who was looking for anything easy or logical, but it’s entertaining enough and has pretty good music, too.  It’d score about average on a fair rating scale, but it’s enjoyable enough and not very long if you FAQ a bit instead of wondering what to do.

No, I’m not bringing back Game of the Day.  I have neither enough games nor enough motivation, but I’m planning to cover random games as I remember them.

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Game of the Day Wrap-Up

Here’s what I might have – and might still(?) write about for Game of the Day, which ended back in April 2006.

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GOTD – Valkyrie Profile

Valkyrie Profile – RPG (PSX)
Tri-Ace / Enix

So here I’m going to start re-iterating part of what others have already said – but I truly hope it is only a part.

Valkyrie Profile is simultaneously one of the most well-known and rare games that there is. It’s been hailed nearly universally as an example of an RPG everybody should play and that should be remade (and it was!). Unfortunately, the game is not all awesome, but it is good.

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