So, I completed my second playthrough of Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume (DS) -- just now, actually. Taking the "C path," this playthrough offered, of course, the most tragic of endings.
C-ending spoilers below...
So, this time around, I defeated Lenneth (the valkyrie in question), though Wyl comes to understand that only her physical body is defeated, and he gets to spend an eternity in Nifelheim pondering the valkyrie's immortality. Bottom line, Wyl got played by Ailyth (a spirit sent to aid him, who is actually Garm, an evil hound of the underworld) and Hel.
Oddly enough, with all my tactics, weapons and other goodies that carried over from the first playthrough, it still took me roughly another 15 hours to get through again. I'm not complaining, though. I enjoyed it quite a bit. The story is now keeping me going. One more playthrough to go -- the toughest path from what I understand -- and then I'll unlock the Seraphic Gate, a gauntlet of sorts you start out afresh -- no items, no levels, no tactics.
So, I finished my first run through Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume (DS) the other day. Now, I'm on my second playthrough, taking what's known as the "C path." It's also considered by popular opinion to be the easiest path. I actually meant to take that route initially, but failing to sacrifice a party member early in the game caused me to miss a story branch I didn't want to miss. Long story short, I went with the B path instead on my first time through and am now doing the C path.
Lotta convoluted stuff, eh?
See, Covenant is basically three games in one. There are three main story archs, but you can mix and match things also. There are several cruxes throughout the story, with the first one being chosen and the others being decided by the number of party members you sacrifice.
Context: The main character, Wyl (short for Wylfred), is on a quest for vengeance against the valkyrie Lenneth who summoned his father to be one of her einherjar. A feather from the battle maiden was found nearby the body of Wyl's father and given to Wyl as a keepsake. Hel, the ruler of Nifelheim, grants Wyl power through the feather so as to exact his revenge upon the valkyrie. In order to summon this power, Wyl must sacrifice someone close to him.
In some respects, it's kinda like Fire Emblem. Once a party member has been sacrificed in battle, they're gone from your party for good. However, once they perish, you're granted a new power unique to that character. That right there offers a huge incentive to play through each of the branching storylines in order to gain as main of the "tactics" as you can, especially since they carry over into new game+.
The other, and huge, incentive is that each story arch offers a very different perspective of the story, not to mention new gameplay. Though you repeat a couple of the same battles and watch some of the same cutscenes, most of what each story leg has to offer is new content. It's pretty damn awesome if you ask me.
I finished my first playthrough in about 15 hours. I'm now at about 21 hours on my save file (less than halfway through playthrough 2). There's one more playthrough to go after this, plus something called the Seraphic Gate, which unlocks after you've completed all three story archs...dreamy RPG goodness.
The good thing about any game drought is that it forces you to pick up those games you either put on the back burner or never opened at all. For me, the latest is Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume.
I actually tried to get into this game a few times. After several false starts, I put it aside for a bit. Recently, though, I've been hankering for a good strategy game to play on DS. To my surprise -- though this game is excellent -- it's not really a strategy game at all.
Well, that's not entirely true. I mean, there is definitely strategy in how you play the battlefield, but the appearance of the game really is kinda deceiving. On the surface, it looks like your typical SRPG, and when moving your party members around the map, it plays out that way. But it's really a Valkyrie Profile RPG.
At least, based on what I know of the series...
I've never actually played another VP game. From what I know of the battle system of past games, however, it's very much the same thing.
I read 1Up's review (I read a ton of reviews, actually, after becoming completely entralled by the game), and their description of the A.I. -- being "dumb as a bag of rocks" -- really makes perfect sense...if you think of this game as an SRPG. Thing is, you have to aggro enemies like you would in an action RPG -- totally weird for an SRPG. In something like FF Tactics or other similar games, the enemies are usually working their battle plan into motion each turn. Not here.
For this game, though, it's a perfect fit. See, in order to mine each mission for all the goodies you can get, you have to take full advantage of group attacks, which, of course, means moving your party into the right positions in order to execute combos. If enemies were constantly on the move, it'd never work.
Anyway, the game just has so many perfectly fine-tuned mechanics melded to an absolutely incredible story. The dialogue is literally some of the best I've read in any video game, and you'll see and do things in this game that evoke some powerful emotions.
Great, little adventure...
I have yet to get my own system. We just got a PSP for our son (two, actually, since once the younger son saw the PSP in action, he wanted one as an "early birthday" present for himself). So, my wife and I agreed we didn't want to steal their thunder by bringing a Nintendo 3DS home right away.
But, we made a trek out to my older son's favorite Chinese buffet today, and before heading for the trough, we made a pitstop at the nearby Best Buy. They had a 3DS...
Okay, so considering the system was tethered to a kiosk, I couldn't effectively test out things like Face Raiders or the AR games, but we all took Pilot Wings Resort (PWR) out for a substantial test drive.
A whole lot less impressed than I thought I would be by the system. For one, finding that "sweet spot" takes a bit of practice. You have to tweak the 3D slider, move your head close enough to the system, and position the direction of your head just right. Once you get there, it's admittedly pretty neat. But it's not what I was expecting...
I was expecting more outward 3D, and honestly, I didn't see any. In the case of Pilot Wings -- my only frame of reference thus far -- it's all inward 3D, very much the type of experience you get from a hologram or a ViewMaster -- cool to look at, but nothing like what you'd see when viewing the average 3D movie these days.
Disappointed? I'll reserve my judgment. I'm not sure what the limits are yet in regards to outward 3D on 3DS. Perhaps other games are more effective, offering true outward 3D. Pilot Wings, however, ain't -- either that, or I'm unable to perceive the 3D on the system. Thing is, I've never had trouble perceiving 3D at the movie theater.
The hardware, however, is very impressive. I love the ergonomics of the system, and it's actually a metallic housing, as opposed to the plastic casing of the original DS. The screens are gorgeous, and the graphics, even with the very simplistic art sty1e of PWR, are sharp and impressive. The thumb nub is awesome! The UI? Also awesome.
I look forward to getting my own system and trying out a few different games to see the true extent of the 3D, but for now I'm a bit on the fence.
Finally got around to renting Borderlands. They sent us the original version for some reason, though I thought I put the GotY edition in my Q. No big deal, though. My wife and I started the game last night, and I think it's a definite doer. As a matter of fact, this is the type of co-op gameplay I've been looking for for a long, long time.
I'm playing as the soldier, and my wife is the siren. I picked the soldier because I'm a big fan of turrets in any game; they usually give you a great strategic advantage. There are a few downsides to the UI when playing in splitscreen, but on the whole, this game is just great fun so far.
The art sty1e...man, it really is wonderful to look at. We're playing the PS3 version, and though it looks a little framey, it's doable for this type of game. As a huge Diablo fan, my wife is instantly digging the whole loot-lust thing. I'm really enjoying the shooting mechanics. It doesn't feel plodding like Fallout 3. I also prefer the more tongue-in-cheek nature of the story and characters over Fallout's very grim atmosphere.
Of course, they're very different games, so please don't take offense to my comparisons. With respect to co-op, this game just works. There's enough room to move around on your own without either feeling too tethered to your partner or having trouble finding them when you need them. The action is really satisfying, too.
As an aside, does anyone know whether or not the GotY edition will use the save for the original version? I'd like to go ahead and buy the GotY version, but it would kinda suck having to start the entire campaign again from scratch.
So, almost every week I like to check in and see what's new on PSN -- try a demo or three. This week, a game called Moon Diver is up on the system. Never heard of the game before today. Downloaded the demo, and wow, this is a cool, little game. It's kinda like a marriage of Legend of Kage and Contra. Definitely check out the demo if you've got a PS3 (it might be on 360 too -- not sure).
It seems to have drop-in/drop-out, four-player co-op, but I haven't had a chance to do any multiplayer. As an aside, Free Realms was also added to the PSN. I can't remember too clearly, but I think I wrote a piece on a PC version of the game a while back. Anyway, it seems to be a free-to-play MMO for the PS3 (ported, of course), which is a pretty wild concept. It plays a bit like Fable, doesn't look great, but like Battlefield Heroes, you get what you pay for. Long *** loads, but probably worth checking out if you're into free time-wasters.
So, the series has been off the air since, what, 2009? Well, I just discovered it. But I do that with a lot of things, really. I often don't bother with what's fashionable until, well, it's out of fashion.
On one of my mother's visits about two years back, she brought with her a huge box of old DVDs and video tapes. I sifted through the lot, and most of it was garbage (in my opinion). Season 1 of Boston Legal, however, was mixed into the bunch, and it was a series I always meant to check out but never did -- it has the Shat after all, and I'm a fanboy.
Well, this past weekend I was bored -- bored with every game I own, every movie on the shelf, so I said, eh, what the hey. Now, I'm hooked. Probably the best work Shatner and Spader have ever done, and I've been watching them both for years. This junk is addictive. Just plain addictive!
And I love her.
This crazy lady comes home today and says she feels I should buy the 3DS because, you know, I'm in gaming and all that. I tried to talk some sense into her, but I don't think I was very convincing.
Yes, I said I was waiting 'til next year -- blogged about it recently -- but if I gotta, I gotta.
I'll consider this "taking one for the team."
Okay, this is perhaps the best news I've read in a while. According to IGN, Square Enix has announced a sequel to Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime. It's going to be for 3DS, of course, fully polygonal, with online and 3D-visual features.
The first game of this series was on GBA, but I don't believe it ever released outside of Japan. You can play the second one on DS (screenshot above), however, which I highly recommend. It is such an awesome, little game.
Anyway, here's a link to the official teaser site if you're interested. This game is all the excuse I need now to purchase a 3DS.
So glad demos are a regular part of game marketing. Finally got around to trying out Mass Effect 2 on PS3, and yeah, it's not my thing.
No need to push the panic button. I see its appeal, but I'm just not down for it, at least not right now. Gimmie more Jade Empire. Now, that was a universe I could lose myself in. And the Bioware-sty1e dialogue exploration seemed a much better fit with that game than it does with ME2. This game feels like an action game, which is fine. But stopping mid-stride for fireside chats is, well, jarring. The UI is also kinda played. A game set in space should probably be cutting the edges when it comes to that sort of thing.
Meh...the impression I got was it is a space soap opera. Not really my favorite type of storytelling.
I do not actively watch or read the news, so I discovered this a bit late, I believe. I am, however, subscribed to Al Jazeera on Youtube, who reported this latest disaster.
This is a terrible, terrible event for the people of Japan. Not only is the safety of the people of immediate concern, destruction to oil wells and nuclear facilities will surely cause great strife for them in the months/years ahead.
You probably didn't even know the game existed; no, not A GeekyDad and His Blob -- that game doesn't exist. I mean, de Blob 2 for DS. You probably never even considered there was a portable version of the game, am I right?
Anyway, I took the review assignment (GameDynamo), and I'm really glad I did. It's not going to de-throne Mario, but then, you knew that. It's a really fun adventure, though. I tried a bit of the Wii version of de Blob 2, which was decent, but I easily have been enjoying the DS version quite a bit more. It's a pretty straightforward, 2.5D platformer, and though the gameplay is much more laidback, it kind of reminds me a bit of Sonic.
As you can see in the pic above, you have to use certain colors in order to activate platforms, and that also plays in reverse, i.e. in order get past certain obstacles, you have to be a different color than the obstacle itself. It's a really cool concept, one the developers are very playful with.
Also been playing...more Black Ops. Hate that ******* game, but I can't stop playing it. Can't believe I paid another $15 for the map pack. Never buying another Treyarch game (I hope).
I also started doing some daily news writing for the GameDynamo website. Not making a windfall doing so, but I'm helping out a couple of friends I used to work for at Che@t Code Central. What that basically mean is, I'm currently looking for work. Eh...
When 3DS was announced, I was onboard with both feet. As estimates of the price came in, I grew apprehensive. This past December, I took my leave from Che@t Code Central, and now reviewing games is, well, not that big a part of my life (unfortunately). So, my wife and I decided to hold off on the next round of handhelds. We still want one, but since I don't need one to review games, we can wait until our 2012 anniversay.
Until then, I'll be envying all of you who do opt in early with the 3DS. The system looks great, the games look great, and this time around, third parties won't be taking a watching-and-waiting approach; the success of the DS has ensured that everyone and anyone will want a piece of the 3DS action. Sure, there will be shovelware, but I'm certain we'll also see some truly tremendous games on the system.
As excited as I am, I'm still sad to see the original DS go. With the 3D of the 3DS, we're likely not going to see many (or any) games where you directly control the action on the bottom screen, a la Phantom Hourglass. Game makers will surely feel pressure to create action in 3D, relegating the touch screen mostly to hub usage and indirect touch-screen gameplay. It's something I've considered a lot when it comes to 3DS. I am still really looking forward to the games and the 3D visuals, but I'm not sure the trade-off will be worth it. Either way, I'll have to wait at least a year to find out.
(Note: The reason I chose that picture is because Nintendogs was my first game purchase when I bought my DS, oh, so many years ago, and I intend to make Nintendogs & Cats my first 3DS purchase. I thought the original game/app was adorable and entertaining, and I'm looking forward to christening my 3DS one day with this title.)
johnsteed7 beat me to the punch, but it seems my experiences with the game are a bit different, so I'll share my two-cent worth as well. We got the game Thursday, and as was our plan, we've been having an unofficial family MvC3 party here at the house. We got some hot wings and things for last night's dinner (our regularly scheduled "no-veggie" night), and we've been having at it.
I'll be honest, my opinion of this game has gone back and forth over the course of the last few days. I started out loving it, really diggin' the aesthetic of the game, the character choices and animations, to feeling like it was an over-priced and shallow button masher. As most folks probably already know, the game has two distinct control options to choose from: Normal and Simple, and boy, are they different. In Normal mode, you play the game a lot like you would Tatsunoko vs. Capcom or MvC2 -- a fast-paced, four-button onslaught that requires skill without being as much of a studied experience as something like Street Fighter.
Here's the thing, though: Simple mode is ridiculous! Mash the X button (playing on PS3), and regardless of your character selection, you can easily and consistently pull off team air combos. There's no skill involved, and the gameplay quickly becomes boring. I initially started out playing the game using my handy dandy Street Fighter IV fighting stick, but since my kids could wipe the floor with me with minimal effort using Simple mode, I promptly dropped the stick in lieu of a regular controller set to Simple. The game quickly became stale.
Then, last night, my youngest started tinkering with Normal mode, discovering all the OTHER stuff you DON'T get when playing Simple mode, and my tune has once again changed. We're all really diggin' this game a whole lot more now. I still think Capcom went a little overboard with the Simple controls, but at least they present players with a real incentive to evolve past the Simple setting. With TvC, the basic, Wii Remote control settings were a bit more balanced. You couldn't easily pull off air combos, but using specials and hyper combos was still as simple as pushing a single button. In MvC3, it's just TOO easy. That being said, I think skilled players get a decent enough advantage to make the package worthwhile.
What I'm still having trouble getting over, however, is the intensely skimpy nature of the package. Ten stages? Are you freaking kidding me?! And they want to charge an extra $10 for two characters? The roster is already small enough compared to MvC2. Capcom are getting offensive now with how much they gouge their fighting fans.
Lastly, I want to mention my experience of the online gameplay, since johnsteed7 seemed to really have trouble getting a decent match going on his end. For us, the performance is about on par with SSFIV, which is to say it's decent. You get some really good matches, you get some slightly laggy matches, and you get some that are completely unplayable, with characters moving at just a few frames per second, if that. However, we haven't had any issues with being unable to connect to matches. The lobby system is merely okay, and not being able to spectate matches in progress while in a lobby is a terrible omission.
I know it sounds like I have a lot of negative things to say about the game, and that's simply because I think in some key areas the game misses the mark in a way that seems uncharacteristic of Capcom. Then again, it's still another awesome Capcom fighting game. I recommend folks rent it first, but it's definitely still "worthy," either way.
I finally got around to seeing this movie. It was kind of what I expected, but it was also quite a bit different. From the bit I knew about the movie before actually watching it, I got the impression it was perhaps an allegory regarding apartheid in South Africa and other parts of the world. However, it is much more than that. I'm not sure what to think of it after watching it in full, but I will say this, I can't stop thinking about it.
I guess if there is one thing I've taken away from the film is a reminder of just how intense the negative power of fear is. Though the story is obviously based in the realm of science fiction, the human behavior portrayed in the movie feels all too familiar and real.
On a technical note, the movie is probably a masterpiece. The acting is amazing, as is the cinematography, and this has to be the best thing Peter Jackson's ever been involved in. Kudos to him for taking the project under his wing.
Actually, I haven't done it yet, but I'm gonna go ahead and prestige again in Black Ops. I'm sitting on about 70k CoD points, and I'm getting a bit burnt out of the game. My frustration with the game isn't born out of boredom, though; it's strictly due to the technical issues with the game. However, I still love it. When the game is good, it's damned good. When I stopped to think about it, I'm not really utilizing the benefits of the Pro-version perks as much as I thought I would. They're more of a novelty than a necessity. I gave up on Mask Pro for a while, and getting most of the other Pro perks I like isn't all that difficult.
So...I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna push the button again. I'm just sorry I wasted all this time when I could probably be about fourth prestige by now. I'm thinking of going all the way -- all the way to level 15 prestige.
*tryhard mode engaged*
Natsume has a new (old) WiiWare game hitting today called...S.C.A.T. Evidently, this game was released in some form or another in Japan for NES (Famicon), and it's now making its way to WiiWare. Someone in their P.R. department really should have stepped in and stopped them from using that game name.
Looks a bit like Contra. Terrible, terrible name, though.
I got this game around the time it released, but I also got the DS version of Plants vs. Zombies (like I needed another version of the game). Though I'm really loving Ghost Trick, the ease of picking up PvZ for a quick fix has been distracting me from the game.
The scenes above represent the area of the game I completed last night. Though I'm taking my time with the game, I really am savoring every moment of it. I tried to get into the Phoenix Wright games, but I never can get through much of one. This game, however -- also created by Shu Takumi -- just "does it for me." For starters, the game is beautiful to look at. I'll be honest, I've never, ever been a subscriber to the camp of "graphics don't matter." To me, they matter. They don't make a game, of course, but I like pretty things. This game is gorgeous. The backgrounds are detailed, 2D drawings, and the characters (though they do also look hand-drawn) are stunning 3D animations. Talk about maximizing the power of the DS...
The game has also surprised me in that it's one continuous, organic adventure. I assumed beforehand that it would be a series of levels, a la Exit, but you actually move about the game world in real time. There are, of course, segments that are timed, but everything comes together so naturally. Those parts of the game are all about timing, too. It almost has a Zelda feel when it comes to the puzzles. You don't know exactly what you're supposed to do until you try different things, and then a light bulb goes off and it's like "ah...cool!"
Anyway, great game so far. Good story, very, very interesting characters, and I haven't really played anything else quite like it.
WARNING: Black Ops Ahead!
So, yeah...this isn't a blog about anything life changing. But I did have a really good day today playing Black Ops. The game was recently patched (again), but I honestly don't notice too much of a difference. Host lag is still very much an issue for me, but on the upside, players now get credit for all kills when downing someone using the Second Chance Perk -- woot!
The reason I'm so giddy, though, is that I had a really good game and I'm really getting a better idea of how I want to play. For those of you also hooked on CoD, I'm sure you can appreciate my personal revelation. I just earned my first, real Huey. Sure, I've gotten them before...in care packages, and I have had better kill streaks (18 is currently my best), but I recently threw caution to the wind, bought and equipped the chopper-gunner kill streak. I finished the game 30-2, top of my team, and it was a real high for me. My KDR is now up at 1.22 and climbing. I feel like I'm getting a better grasp on a multiplayer approach that works for me, but I do still have to contend with quite a few games where I get five or more hit markers and yet the enemy player doesn't even flinch.
Ah well...still feels good, man.