Archive for Games

Final Fantasy XIII-2: Fool me twice…

I’m feeling kind of ashamed right now, because I have to write another anti-review.

I call it an anti-review because I haven’t completed the game.  Even in the case of a game that I don’t enjoy – take Fragile Dreams for Wii, for instance – if I feel I must talk about it, I beat the game to get the full picture.  I cannot bear to continue playing FFXIII-2.

It’s not the battle system – at least, not exactly.  By itself, it’s reasonably fun.  Monster raising was a good addition, and adds much-needed variety.  The changes to the leveling system, though, give you a dichotomy: focus on a COM/RAV build, making all random battles a cakewalk, or diversify for boss battles, making random battles longer and less profitable.  Regardless, the vast majority of battles end up being “X to victory” once again, with paradigm shifts only occasionally being necessary.

Boring battle systems and poorly balanced leveling mechanics can be forgiven, if there is enough substance to the rest of the game.  I can think of plenty of simpler games I’ve played and enjoyed.  Unfortunately, Final Fantasy XIII-2 has no substance.  It has been forsaken entirely for style.

One need only look at the interactions between the characters for a perfect example: very short exchanges, with occasional dialogue choices.  The few interactions that take longer are usually punctuated with action, whether it’s the sudden appearance of unexpected enemies or the in-cutscene take-down of a large monster (with a Quick Time Event, usually).  It’s like playing the equivalent of a Michael Bay movie.  When the game is loaded, you get a little “The Story So Far” cutscene – just like in a bad anime or TV series (“In last night’s episode…”) – although I only played a subset of the game, The Story So Far was consistently filled with explosions, sword-swinging and very little, um, story.

The straw that broke the camel’s back may in fact have been the most clear-spoken character in the game: the mascot character, Mog.  Unfortunately, Mog is also unbearable conceptually; not only is he totally unexplained, but he’s also consistently a centerpiece of initial conversation (“oh my, do you have a toy moogle?!”) and a focus of exploration (necessary to find hidden items and advance to new areas).  He has no point whatsoever except to be cute, yet is a constant fixture in cutscenes, as if the designer wanted to kill suspension of disbelief every five minutes.

I’m not going to claim that the genre has been much better; but it’s certainly placed a greater emphasis on subtlety, simplicity, and quality.  If this is going to be a trend-setter for JRPGs, I think I’ll stick to older games.

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7th Saga, Revisited

I find the vast majority of things that Toastyfrog/GameSpite comes up with to be well-written, comprehensive, and correct.  Parish & co., who I have much respect for, consistently create good publications that I spend actual money on – a rarity when the internet is full of people who will tell you their opinion on video games for free (prime example right here).

However, Journal #10’s 7th Saga segment, posted just today, has in my view wronged a game.  I do not protest the overall treatment; I agree fully with the overall premise that 7th Saga is bad.

However, since I played the game to completion for the first time just a few months ago, I feel obligated to point out some incorrect or overblown parts of Jake Alley’s article.

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2011 In Review

First off – 2011 was a banner year for video games.  I play a lot of old games – whether out of habit, desire for nostalgia, or the fact that they actually are good is debatable, but I found myself thoroughly enjoying the best 2011 had to offer, despite the relative dearth of console JRPGs and strategy games.

However, some games in particular deserve mention for being especially outstanding.  I managed to only write three articles at www.videolamer.com last year, so I guess I’ll have to branch out from those.

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Ar Tonelico and other Gustiness

For a long time, I avoided Studio Gust.  It’s not that I expected their games to be bad, merely that I expected them to feel wrong in some way.  Unlike other studios, they seem to embrace the quirkiness and stereotypes of anime, lending them an even more bubblegum feel than the Persona games.  Such fears were, of course, not wholly unmerited – having played the first Ar Tonelico and the recent Atelier Totori, while not making me an expert in the subject of Gust games, at least tells me that much.

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Paladin’s Quest Review

In the vein of games like Arcana and 7th Saga, I picked up a copy of Paladin’s Quest.  Unlike the former two, I find Paladin’s Quest to be quite tolerable in difficulty, if unintuitive.  All three have their strong points, but PQ is by far the most playable.

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