Archive for Game Reviews

Review – The Last Remnant

I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about The Last Remnant.  On the one hand, its Akitoshi Kawazu pedigree shines through, with an incredibly nuanced battle system that never fully makes up for its terrible plot.  On the other hand, that battle system is really very good and worth playing the game for on its own, it’s just that the plot was made even worse – seemingly deliberately – to balance things out.

Kawazu has a long history of working on the SaGa games, and it is entirely reasonable to call TLR a stealth entry in the series, since it has many of the hallmarks.  Aside from standard battle system/plot dichotomy, there’s a wonderfully imaginative world that very little is actually done with, entertaining side characters that never really break into the third dimension, incredibly good music that has only bits and pieces of substance to go with, and enough sidequests to deliberately avoid the main story for hour on end.  Atmosphere is fed in small spoonfuls for completing hour-long quests, while stat increases are passed out like candy on Halloween after every single battle.

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Review – Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky

I’ve heard many a tale of the popularity of Sora no Kiseki in Japan, but I had pretty much given up hope of seeing it in English barring a fan translation.  Given the sheer size of the series, fan translation itself would have been highly unlikely as well.  Luckily, XSeed has got our collective RPG-loving backs.  Despite the PSP’s near-dead status, they’ve committed to bringing over all three of the games in the series.  Now that I’ve finished the first one, I can confirm that it’s not just an impressive game, it’ll be an impressive series.

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GotM – Recettear

Shop sims have always interested me. A long, long time ago (I was… well, let’s just say this was around ’92), I was fascinated by an edutainment store simulator I remember only as “Bentley Bear’s Store”. I would play this game nonstop when I would get a chance, at a computer learning camp I attended through early elementary school. (Googling does not bring up the game, although it does indicate Bentley Bear was the main character in Crystal Castles – no help).

In this ancient shop simulation, you would buy various items (clothes, appliances, and so on) at a base price, and sell these items at a markup, arranging them in your store to draw in customers. You could even visit the nearby department huge store to view their prices, and undercut them slightly to draw in more people. I think there was even an initial debt to repay.

After I stopped going to that computer camp, I simply stopped playing the game. It was sort of interesting, but back then the internet was a mere fledgling of what it is now, and I doubt that the halls of AOL or Compuserve would have had any information on it regardless.

Recettear is the modern Bentley Bear’s Store. Known long-form as “An Item Shop’s Tale”, Recettear is the poster child for translation of Japanese indie (often called “doujin”) games. Much like the store-sim game of my youth, in Recettear you purchase items from either a Guild Shop or the global Marketplace, and sell them at a negotiated markup (that markup often depending upon the willingness of the customer in question to haggle). You arrange them in the store in such a way as to draw in customers, and later you can even design the walls, floor, and counters of your store to attract specific kinds.

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9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors

I know, I know – two posts in rapid succession.  Separate topics.

We don’t get visual novels much over here.  In fact, even one of the most popular ones to come out of Japan, Umineko no Naku Koro Ni, is fan translated but still has only a niche following.  Granted – it’s too large for me to get very far into even the second chapter of four – and that doesn’t count the “Chiru” chapters.  Many VNs have been translated, but the genre just hasn’t caught on in “official” channels.

Aksys, however, has (in their wisdom) granted us the chance to experience a fantastic sample of the genre on DS.  It has some great artwork, a thrilling plot, and some pretty cool puzzles to solve.  It deserves support, and you deserve to play it.

Unlike Umineko, 9/9/9 is very easy to get into.  After all – there are only nine characters and nine doors.  How complicated could it be?  The game certainly took me longer than nine hours, but I went through it five separate times.  Yes, I went through it five separate times and I just complained about not having enough time to play RPGs.  That’s because the writing in this game puts RPGs – or at least, the ones I’ve been playing recently – to shame.

Final Fantasy XIII, for example – for all the effort they put into deliberately wrenching around the player emotionally and intertwining the backgrounds of every single character – has awful characters.  9/9/9 is how all plot-centered games should be written; gradually getting to know the characters bit by bit.  This doesn’t mean finding out their life story, or even their hidden eccentricities – it means getting a feel for how they react to situations, how they start plotting against the other “players”, and so on.

I only have two complaints about this game.  The first is that text is incredibly slow the first time through, so I think my DS’s A button has nearly worn out.  Second, the requirements for getting the “intended” endings are not hinted at.  I accidentally got the least conclusive ending the first time through, and I was initially convinced all of them were that bland.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.

To conclude my meandering proto-review: play this game.


An Interesting Game Draws NieR

I’m a little late to this post-apocalyptic party.

I’m not even really sure NieR can be called a game.  While it has many elements of a game, so many of its parts are clearly parody – of Zelda, Resident Evil, text adventures,  God of War, and even bullet-hell games – that I’m not sure there’s much left you can really call NieR at its core.  Yet at the same time, it is a game with a highly serious plot.  On the other hand, it has all sorts of nonsensical banter – your floating-book companion, Grimoire Weiss, makes fun of you incessantly for accepting the most inane quests from villagers.  Kainé is also a wonderful vehicle for (more profane) banter.

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