Thursday, June 17, 2010

Picross 3D

I totally forgot I had this blog. Well, I didn't forget, but I briefly moved it to its own domain which I pretty much stopped updating after a few months, then let expire. Those posts are very likely lost to the Internet monster, although I'm sure something somewhere has them. I may try to recover them and post them here. Maybe not.

At any rate, I find it kind of interesting that my last update here (almost three years ago!) was for Picross DS, a game I'm not sure I ever finished all the puzzles in. I should check that out. Still, I love the concept, and if there's more to solve, I'm all for it. But why is that neat? Because one of my more recent purchases was, as the title would suggest, Picross 3D, also for the DS. For Picross 3D, Nintendo took the basic color-by-number idea of Picross and stuck it on 3D objects. Rather than coloring squares, you're essentially carving an object out of a rectangular prism. It's not perfect, but it's a lot of fun. My biggest complaint is somewhat of a big one, actually. Because the numbers used in the game are on the puzzle itself rather than surrounding it, they chose to use circles and squares around those numbers to note when those pieces are not connected. A circle for one space, and a square for two or more. For instance, a circled five means there's two portions of some combination, while squaring that five means there could be anywhere from three to five parts totally five squares in that row. It seems easy, but with the DS's somewhat limited resolution, it can be difficult to tell which is which from an angle, which leads to errors, which leads to a less than perfect score, and perfect scores are necessary to unlocking all the puzzles.

At this point, I've completed the vast majority of the included puzzles, but have a few more to unlock, but Nintendo is already releasing new puzzle sets for download, with six packs of five puzzles available last I checked. Despite its minor flaws, I would heartily recommend this to anyone looking for a cheap puzzle game that will provide hours of playtime and more in the future.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Picross DS

Picross DS came out this week. For those who don't know, Picross is a pretty old number puzzle. Games Magazine has it fairly often as "Paint By Number." Nintendo's been making Picross games for a long time, on pretty much every system they've had, going back at least as far as the original GameBoy. To give a brief description that won't make any sense if you haven't actually played the game, thus negating the NEED to describe it: you have a square grid (in this game, but it doesn't HAVE to be) that's bordered on the top and left edges with numbers. The numbers tell you the clusters of filled in squares in the grid along the line the number is on. That's it, really. It's a pretty fun logic game.

Previous games from Nintendo have had Mario themes for the most part, and it's surprising that this one doesn't. I haven't gotten through many puzzles, yet, I don't think, but they've been almost entirely things like animals and letters and such. No complaints, I'm in for the journey, not the destination, to be completely cliche.

There's a handful of modes to play in: Picross, Daily Picross, and online multiplayer. Picross is just the basic game. It has two modes, as well, Easy/Normal (two modes, but basically the same), and Free. Easy and Normal modes give you a time limit of 60 minutes to finish a puzzle. If you make an error in filling in a block, it adds to your time. Too many errors and you're done. Free doesn't do this. It's more like doing it on paper. You can plan out what you think you want to do, and then do it or not. Daily Picross is kind of like the daily training mode in Brain Age. It has a bunch of minigames, but I only have two unlocked so far. The first one times how long it takes you to do a series of fairly simple puzzles, adding time for errors, much like Normal mode. The other one is similar, but doesn't allow you to lay Xes for known empty spots. It tracks your time and gives you a couple basic statistics, nothing major.

The graphics and sound are nothing to really write home about, but they do the job. The graphics are nice without being overly flashy. The sound gives you feedback on what you're doing and some basic music for distraction. Nothing too special, but not bad. The controls are simple, but what's really needed? You can play with the stylus with optional use of the face buttons or the d-pad and face buttons. I use the stylus, myself, but it's entirely choice, of course.

The online play mode gives you a pair of puzzles to solve playing against someone else. Whoever finishes both first wins, nothing major. There's also the ability to download new puzzle packs, but none are currently up for the US (Japan has something like 20 and Europe has 2).

Overall, I like the game. It does what it sets out to do, and does it well. There's the possibility of more puzzles in the future, which is certainly nice. So yeah, I can't complain at all.

Other new purchases
Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales (DS)
Overlord (360)
Forza Racing 2 (360)
Bomberman Live (360 Arcade)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

XBox 360

It's been awhile since my last post. No real reason, just haven't posted.

A couple months ago, I was thinking of finally taking the plunge and getting an XBox 360. Shortly thereafter I heard about the upcoming XBox 360 Elite, which sported a 120 GB hard drive, HDMI out, and a black case and accessories. Same hardware otherwise - apparently, the 65 nm process CPUs weren't ready in time for the Elite shipment. Anyway, I decided to wait it out till it was released. Come April 29, it hit stores. I didn't bother to get up and get one and the following Tuesday I stopped by Best Buy and they had one on the shelf so I got it. It's a lot better than I was expecting. The 360 in general, not specifically the Elite. The Elite has the ability to upconvert DVDs over HDMI, which I wasn't aware of when I got it, but it saves me getting an upconverting DVD player which I had wanted, so that was a nice surprise.

XBox Live is significantly improved over the original XBox. It's pretty much omnipresent while the system is on. DVDs, arcade games, single player, whatever, it's on and running. Friends can message you regardless of what you're doing, and it just pops a little bubble up telling you about it. Hitting the home button opens a blade that lets you check messages, online friends, and such.

Live Arcade is also greatly improved over the original XBox which wasn't much more than some ports of old games. The 360 Arcade is largely original content. There's some old classics like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Arcade and Contra, as well as some online puzzle games like Bejeweled, and even some real world stuff like Catan and UNO. Still, a lot of the original games are very well-made and fun to play. Most have online multiplayer, which is mostly lag-free. The Live community is still full of 12 year olds who think swearing is the funniest thing on the planet, but there's also some fun people, especially on the more social games like UNO.

The games look very, very nice, from what I've seen (Crackdown and Gears of War) - certainly improved over last generation's best, and anything I've seen on the Wii. I'm sure they'll only get better as time goes on.

I guess my overall feeling on the console are that it's definitely an evolution of the last generation, but nothing really revolutionary, although I think XBox Live is what Playstation Network will strive to be (not so much Wii's online capabilities). It doesn't do anything really new, but does old stuff well, and is certainly more powerful. I can't complain about the system in the least as long as it continues to work.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

After a ton of waffling about it, I finally picked up Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (man, that word looks way misspelled, but it's not) for the DS. Phoenix Wright is an adventure game in the old school point and click manner, more or less. You, of course, play as Phoenix Wright, a defense attorney fresh out of law school. Your first case? Defending your lifelong best friend in a murder trial. Of course, being a video game, court doesn't exactly follow real-world rules. As far as I can tell, defendents are guilty until proven innocent. In each of the three cases I've played (well, two, plus the one I'm currently on), the defendents are nearly claimed guilty due to lack of proof that they DIDN'T do it. Oh yeah, and there's no jury; the judge hands down the judgments. Anyway, from what I seem to recall, it's a port of a GBA game we never got here, with some minor DS functionality added. BUT WHAT FUNCTIONALITY! Yes, being a lawyer means one thing: yelling OBJECTION! in court. And you can do it! If you want, it's not required. The gameplay is pretty simple. You examine crime scenes by pointing at things and hitting a button. Most of the trials are just pressing the witnesses. Oh, another fun thing about the world of Phoenix Wright: the cops seem to actively ensure that defense lawyers get as little information as possible both from witnesses and crime scenes. The story's pretty good, and has plenty of humor mixed out. Quite a lot of puns with Phoenix's last name, but they tend to work.

Overall, it's a pretty fun game, but short on actual gameplay. I think the $30 I spent was probably a bit much, but not that much.

In other news, I got my Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin preorder bonus, but not the actual game, which is in tomorrow. I can't wait.

Space Channel 5 Special Editio
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Burger King XBox Games

For whatever reason, Burger King decided to release a handful of XBox/XBox 360 games. I put the slash there since they managed to put native versions for both consoles on a single disc. Anyway, the three games are Sneak King, Mini Bike Racer, and Big Bumpin'. For $3.99 with a value meal each, I couldn't really resist. Worst comes to worst, I'm out less than breakfast. At Burger King.

Sneak King is the best of the bunch in my opinion. The basic premise is that you play as the Burger King, sneak up on people, and give them food. That's it. But you know what? It's a lot of fun. To be sure, the people have sight cones that make Metal Gear Solid guards seem realistic, but that's okay. When you surprise someone to give them food, a meter pops up on-screen, similar to in a golf game, and the higher you get, the better the surprise and the more points you get. You get combos which increase the points for the goals you get as long as you're not seen. Additionally, there's hiding spots which you can go in to jump out at the people which increases the points even more. And that's all it is. A points game. The graphics are good enough. Not state of the art, but they suffice. The sound works perfectly for the game, and has no faults. For $4, you can't really lose here.

Mini Bike Racer is basically an average kart racing game. Only instead of gokarts, the characters drive minibikes (as the title would suggest). It really offers nothing new that hasn't been done, and better, by any of a dozen kart racers. Still, for $4, I can't really complain. There's a pretty big cast of playable characters ranging from the Burger King to a Whopper Jr. to...Brooke Burke. Yeah, her. There's a handful of bikes to choose from, but only two to start. It's pretty tough. The AI is good, without cheating.

Big Bumping is the worst of the lot. It's a bumper car game. You drive bumper cars and have a life meter that seems to go down on its own. The controls are kind of silly in that it's an overhead view and you move in the direction you press. I was expecting something like Rock n Roll Racing (as far as controls go). The gameplay's shallow, and the cars are kind of small, which makes seeing things a bit rough. The $4 is almost too much for it, really. It may be better in multiplayer, but I don't really know.

In other news
It took roughly 15 hours, but I'm finally enjoying Final Fantasy XII. I finally stopped resisting the battle system, and set gambits for everyone, including the party leader. It basically lets you just walk towards some enemies, then put down the controller. I also started differentiating the characters, so they're all a bit different now. I'm trying to get some set roles for them, which I think I'm doing okay with. Well, three pairs of roles, at any rate. Once I got past all that, it became a lot more fun.

Friday, November 17, 2006

PS3 release day

Today Sony released the Playstation 3, after a couple years of hype. I didn't get one. In some of the bigger markets, people have been lined up for days to get one. Here? Not so much. There were lines, but not nearly as long. I went to Wal-Mart last night, and the line was 15-20 people long at 9:30 PM. It was a 24 hour store, so they were going on sale at 12:01 AM. I could have gotten one if I felt like it, I think. That's one of the few nice things about this area -- there doesn't sem to be *quite* that many gamers. Case in point: I got Contact for DS a week after release, when internet people were having trouble getting it the day after. Still, it was fun reading about all the crap that happened to people waiting in lines for PS3s: robberies, shootings, and so on.

As it is, I'm not really interested in the PS3. The release titles don't interest me at all, and there doesn't seem to be anything I'm really interested in coming out for a few months in the least. Metal Gear Solid 4 and Final Fantasy XIII being the big ones. There's really nothing much more, since it seems like everything else is a shooter of some sort. The first-person type which I only like sometimes. My entire collection has maybe a half dozen FPS games, which I don't play terribly often. Anyway, the point is that I'm not really interested in it. Contrast that with the Wii where a large number of the games seem like things that are just fun. I know I'll be one of those dorks waiting in the cold at 9 tomorrow night.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

God Hand

This is the only game I've bought since I started this blog, and I bought it solely based on the developer, despite rather poor reviews across the board. GameRankings has it with a 75% average rating, which I guess is average. Anyway, it's developed by Capcom's Clover team, who are responsible for such gems (no sarcasm here) as Viewtiful Joe and Okami. Of course, since Capcom's shut them down, I guess it's the LAST game from them, which is terribly unfortunate. I've actually only just completed the first stage, but that took about two hours and many continues (you have an unlimited supply) to do so. It's tough.

God Hand is essentially a modernized version of an old-school side scrolling beat em up, like Final Fight, or The Simpsons Arcade. Instead of being a sidescroller, God Hand has a behind the back view, which it holds to as much as possible. The camera is fixed behind Jean when moving and doing basic attacks, the main character, but will change for special attacks. It's a little difficult to deal with. There's no jumpling at all, and a dazed enemy will allow you to do special attacks which generally require you to mash buttons as quickly as possible. You find and buy new attacks in a wide variety of styles, even drunken boxing, which is always fun to use. You can, of course, change your attacks to use more powerful ones at any time. You have a God hand meter, which fills as you attack and kill enemies. Once it's full, you can trigger your God hand, which makes you incredibly fast, strong, and unblockable. While in use, the meter drains, and you lose it once it's gone. When you die, you keep your meters, powerups, and money, which is handy. At the end of each section of a stage, which usually consists of a dozen or so enemies, you can save the game, go shop, fight in the Extreme Fighting Arena, and gamble in a casino for more money. When you die, you simply restart the section, hopefully learning from your mistakes.

From what I'm told, the game is intended to be a parody of the beat em up genre. Everything is very over the top, including the enemies. The first stage midbosses are a pair of flamingly gay black men. In thongs. The boss of the level is a very fat man who smokes a cigar. As far as I can tell, Jean is lacking in motives, and just goes through the motions.

Graphically, it looks very nice. It's certainly modern for the PS2, so no complaints there. The music is very repetative. It doesn't change at all in the first stage. It has a bit of a country/western twang to it, which at least fits. The voice acting is better than Resident Evil, but still over the top. It does the job.

There's really not much to say about the game, since it's frankly incredibly shallow. I'm not really sure if I'd recommend it as anything other than Clover's take on Final Fight. Of course, it's $30 brand new, so that's always a good thing.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime

Today I'm doing something new. I'm going to talk about a game I've ACTUALLY FINISHED. This probably won't happen too often since, well, I don't finish many games. Anyway, Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime is a Squeenix spin-off of the long-running Dragon Quest/Warrior series (Dragon Quest VIII is the first one we've gotten as Quest, not Warrior) for the Nintendo DS. Rocket Slime features one of the lovable slimes from the series, named Rocket in his own adventure to save all his friends.

The game basically features two types of gameplay: a Zelda-like main game, and a series of tank battles. Yeah, you heard me. TANK BATTLES. The game starts with Rocket's town being attacked by the evil Platypunks, who kidnap all his friends and destroy the town, like any good villains. You run around a series of levels solving an occasional puzzle and progressing the story. Most levels have various parts unlocked as the story moves forward. Rocket's main attack is a slingshot-like attack. You hold a button and press the direction on the D-pad that you want to slingshot, then release, and he goes flying. It takes a few hits to kill most enemies, BUT when you hit one, and many items throughout the game world, then move underneath it, you can carry it around, and throw. Throwing enemies at eachother is a pretty effective way of killing them. Alternately, you can throw them on any of the many carts throughout the game that sends them back to your town, where they apparently give up their evil ways and live happily ever after. Throwing an item on a cart lets you use it later in your tank. Oh yeah, tank battles...

Throughout every level are several midbosses and one main boss who challenge you to a tank battle. Rocket's tank naturally looks like a giant slime-shaped castle. The tank battles are pretty simple, but fun. You run through your tank and grab pieces of ammo, all of which have different characteristics. Most simply get shot to the enemy and do damage, but they do different amounts of damage and move at different speeds. Some have other effects. There's a bottle of oil that creates a blanket of fire in the enemy's gunroom. There's some shields, which naturally block enemy fire, and mirrors which reflect it. Later on, you get the option of having a crew of two to help you out, which is extremely useful. The crew can fire cannons, infiltrate the enemy tank and steal their stuff, and heal you. The strategy in the battles is pretty simplistic, but that's okay. They get very, very hectic.

The game is FULL of puns. One of the first town members you find is a platypunk named Ducktor Cid. Yeah, Squeenix is using him in DQ games now. There's a vampire slime named Dragoola, and things like that. It's silly, but fun. The graphics are purely sprite-based, but fit the game very well. The sound is nothing special, but does its job, so no complaints. The plotline isn't terribly special. It's pretty much just there to get you to the next point in the game, but it does the job admirably. Over all, Rocket Slime doesn't really show off the abilities and power of the DS, but it's a ton of fun for the 20 or so hours it lasts. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants something that's simply fun.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Castlevania: Curse of Darkness

As of this year, Castlevania has been in the US 20 years. I was four when the first CV game came out for the NES. It may be a little older in Japan, but I don't really know. Still, 20 years. That's a pretty long time. Anyway, I'm not sure whether Curse of Darkness or Dawn of Sorrow came out first, but the former is the main topic today. CoD is the most recent console release in the Castlevania series. It reuses the 3D engine first developed for Lament of Innocence, a PS2 exclusive. I haven't played LoI, but most of the impressions I've gotten were "at least it's not Castlevania 64." That doesn't really inspire confidence in the title. As an aside, Konami's current subtitling system of "* of *" is getting a bit redundant. Hell, even Squeenix stole it for FFVII: Dirge of Cerberus. At any rate, CoD is the first one I can think of where you play a bad guy...not including Alucard's appearances.

CoD is a follow-up to Castlevania III for the NES, which featured Trevor Belmont. In this one, you play as Hector, one of Dracula's Devil Forgemaster. What's a Devil Forgemaster? One who forges devils, of course! Basically, Hector can summon demons, called Innocent Devils, to help him on his quest to find the OTHER Devil Forgemaster, Isaac, who killed the love of his life. Like every CV game since Symphony of the Night (with the exception of Castlevania Chronicles, a remake of an earlier game), you run around a completely connected map, beating up enemies, earning experience, and getting new weapons. Well, not so much the last bit. Another part of being a Devil Forgemaster is making weapons. Throughout the game, you collect various materials that allow you to build new, more powerful weapons. The map is layed out such that every area is connected somehow, but you may need new abilities to access new areas. There's the usual backtracking if you couldn't get something, as well as the usual need to level properly to get to new areas.

Playing the game is a lot like playing pretty much any modern action game. You have a bunch of enemies in a room, and can attack, block, and dodge them, obviously hoping to kill them all. And that's where the game mostly fails. It's generic. Other than Trevor showing up for an unwinnable fight (I HATE THOSE), and the enemies, there's really nothing that feels properly Castlevania about this game. Don't get me wrong, though, I'm not saying it's by any means BAD, it's just that it could be any game. There's some of the classic CV enemies (no Medusa heads that I've seen yet, thankfully), and the same types of music, but it's just...generic.

Either way, I'm still enjoying it. I like the weapon building system, although it's one of those things that often drives me crazy since it makes me very reluctant to sell or combine anything. I don't want to combine that early sword when it could be used as the ULTIMATE WEAPON at the end of the game. Not that that's ever the case, but you never know. I know if I was designing games, I'd do it, just to piss people off. But I'm a horrible person, so my game ideas probably aren't for the best. Along with the weapons, the Innocent Devils level up, and eat crystals that can eventually evolve them, like a demented Pokémon. The problem here is how it's done. When you kill enemies, they'll often drop crystals. The color of crystal depends on the weapon type (sword, axe/club, spear, knuckle, special) that you use. Different crystals level the Innocent Devils in different ways, but there's no way to tell what a given evolution will do. So you wing it. Hopefully, they'll grow up to be a nice, strong Innocent Devil. But maybe not. I just use the weapons I want, rather than try to level them in certain ways. I figure they'll turn out okay.

Anyway, it's a fun enough game. Not the best in the series, but it's not like SotN is going to be beaten any time soon. I'm glad the series is evolving into the new era, but still really prefer the 2D games. What I'd really like to see is a really old school, level-based game. No backtracking, multiple paths, and no RPG elements. I know it won't happen, but it would still be fun. Oh well.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Final Fantasy XII

I've played most of the games in the FF series to at least SOME extent. I've only finished a few, and watched another couple get played by others. I've played lots of other RPGs, as well, which has led me to desire more than Square has been giving us in the previous few installments. From what I can tell, an FF game can be split into three main componants: story, battle system, and levelling/ability system. I'm putting levelling and abilities together because in a most cases they're in separable. So let's look at FFXII.

I haven't really gotten too far along in the narrative, so it's hard for me to make that great an assessment, but from what I've seen so far, it rivals FFVI in complexity and scale. It seems to be a story of various kingdoms fighting over the world they all inhabit. It's actually very similar to FFT in that regards, which makes sense. It needs a glossary and summary page like FFT had, though. The characters seem okay, if a bit generic. None of them are terribly annoying.

FFXII is the first single-player Final Fantasy where battle take place on the main screen. Presumably FFXI Online is the same, but I haven't played it, nor do I intend to. It doesn't take you off to another battle screen with differently rendered characters. You run around and start wacking away at anything you see. Or you can fairly easily run from them. The system allows (well, requires) you to set up "Gambits" for all the characters which are basically if...then statements telling your party what to do. in a given situation. For example, you can set it such that Fran will cast Cure any time anyone gets below 70% HP. I haven't purchased many Gambits, yet, but I can already see how this could be a very handy tool. Each character has a time bar, similar to an ATB bar from previous games, that shows you what they're doing and when they'll do it. Pretty much everything has a charge-up time before it can be performed. Items are nearly instant, and spells usually take a few seconds, as do attacks. You can switch members in and out of your party at any time, as long as they're not being targeted, which is a nice feature borrowed from FFX. It's fun and fast paced, and definitely a step up from what we've seen before.

Up till this point, the ATB system was the most innovative the series has gotten. Admittedly, the ATB in FFX-2 was so fast, it was almost real-time, but it was still essentially the same ATB we've been using since FFIV. I'm not knocking it, mind you, but variety is the spice of life, after all. At least it's not Dragon Quest VIII, which uses basically the same turn-based combat system Enix has been using since the first Dragon Quest. There's a series that doesn't move forward. I don't know, I think I've just been spoiled by more active combat systems like in the Tales and Star Ocean series.

Anyway, I'm enjoying the combat. It brings back from selecting options to feeling like you're taking a part in the battle. Of course, with a good Gambit setup, you can basically set the controller down and do something else while it plays itself.

As far as levelling goes, FFXII returns to the standard XP system. Gain enough XP, and you gain a level, with some increased stats. Where it diverges is in the abilities. The new License system is kind of like FFX's Sphere Grid on speed. Every enemy gives you LP, which you spend on the License Grid, to buy the ability to use spells, techniques, weapons, armor, and accessories. This thing is, you only buy the ability to use them. You still have to buy the actual spells and weapons with actual Gil, which is exceedingly scarce in the game. Enemies don't drop it, for the most part. Human enemies do, but not creatures. They drop loot which can be sold for Gil. Anyway, every character starts at almost the same places on the board. They're not really more than a few spots apart. Naturally, this makes it pretty simple to create a bunch of identical characters, something I've never really liked. At least with the Sphere Grid, the characters started at different areas that didn't really converge for a long time. The grid is pretty big, and I doubt I'll fill it out for anyone. I think I need to start specializing characters, but the problem is that even if I give someone a bunch of spell types, I still need to BUY the actual spells. Grind, grind, grind.

The graphics are amazing, all around. It seriously looks better than some of the next-gen stuff I've seen. The music is prety good, but nothing too memorable yet. The voice acting is acceptable, however, the sound quality of it is pretty poor. Basically, the whole game sounds like it's being spoken through a walk-talkie. Overall it's a neat game, but I still haven't decided if I like it, which kind of scares me.

God Hand