Archive for Game Reviews

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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Now a true RPG fan!

It’s been a while since my last post.  I’ve been shoring up some of the other pages (creating an HTML version of the FFL2 FAQ in honor of SaGa2 DS and updating the Destiny of an Editor section to reflect more recent work).

I have also been playing one of the most popular RPG “classics” of our recently departed generation: Final Fantasy X.  This, no doubt, will give me the internet equivalent of street cred and my blog will now overflow with posts debating whether Sephiroth is the best villain ever.  My review follows.

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Tales of Symphonia

My friends have recommended this game to me many times, but I only just now got around to playing it due to the imminent release of Tales of Symphonia 2: Dawn of the New World.

Tales of Symphonia reminds me of Growlanser: Heritage of War for several reasons.  First is that the characters seem horribly cliched at first glance.  Second is that combat is almost unbelievably smooth; very, very few RPGs get this right, and ToS has pretty much no down-time (no loading time, no gameplay freezes during battle over .5s, easy controls).  Third is that the ToS world is full of intrigue and certain NPCs switch sides at least three times – when they don’t actively admit they’re working towards three different goals.  Fourth is that, sadly, I may forget this game before too long because the experience is almost too smooth.

But it really surpasses G:HOW in many respects.  The characters are actually pretty deep, and I found myself liking all of them (except Zelos, of course; nobody likes Zelos.  I suppose Genis gets a “meh” as well).  ToS has the JRPG standard where you explore the entire world and solve everybody’s problems.  In this respect it’s cliche; in the way that sometimes people die, and they’re not always bad people, it is not.  ToS also has good music, more balanced combat, and a much more enjoyable story.

All in all, a good game with a few flaws.  Some of the puzzles in dungeons are really annoying – not in the “hard-to-solve” way but rather the “why did they force me to do the same sequence 5 times” way.  AI is occasionally sketchy, but generally at least decent.  Difficulty is fairly well-balanced.  I lost a few boss battles along the way, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a team reorganization and a bit more planning.

Tales of Symphonia is highly derivative of Tales of Destiny 2 (Tales of Eternia, for those “in the know”) plot-wise but does just about everything better.  I would particularly recommend it for someone who hasn’t played any of the Tales series before.  It’s a really polished Action RPG, even if it does everything you’d expect from a JRPG.

I’m looking forward to Dawn of the New World.


Suikoden I-V Wrap-up

Suikoden 1: Graphics: 6/10 Sound: 8/10 Gameplay: 8/10 Story: 8/10 Translation: 8/10 Overall: 7.8/10

Suikoden 2: Graphics: 8.5/10 Sound: 8.5/10 Gameplay: 9/10 Story: 9.5/10 Translation: 6.5/10 Overall: 9.4/10

Suikoden 3: Graphics: 9/10 Sound: 6/10 Gameplay: 9/10 Story: 9.8/10 Translation: 9/10 Overall: 9/10

Suikoden 4: Graphics: 9/10 Sound: 8/10 Gameplay: 6/10 Story: 7/10 Translation: 8.5/10 Overall: 7/10

Suikoden 5: Graphics: 7/10 Sound: 9/10 Gameplay: 9.5/10 Story: 9.3/10 Translation: 10/10 Overall: 9.3/10

This is going to be an unusual review in that I’m looking at a whole series. I’ll mention briefly the overall themes, then describe each game in turn.

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