Random Game #41 – P.N. 03 [GameCube]

P.N. 03

When I think of Sam’s Club, I tend to look back fondly on my middle school/high school gaming habits. With the plethora of $13 games I added to my collection, I experienced some of the best low sellers of that period. One of those titles was P.N. 03 – a futuristic character-action game from Shinji Mikami. It was set in a clean science-fiction environment, looked stunning, but played tepidly. Much of the game is lost to me now, but I do remember it being poorly received. In fact, I remember not being that big of a fan, although I played through the entirety of it, and played more to unlock additional costumes for Vanessa Z. Schneider. I’m willing to pop it in again, but I’m afraid I’ll be greeted with stilted combat that hasn’t aged well.

P.N. 03 was developed by Capcom Production Studio 4, and naturally, published by Capcom. It was spearheaded by Shinji Mikami and was one of the “Capcom Five.” In fact, this was the sole game of the lot that remained exclusive to the GameCube. Thankfully, this game turned out to be more of a testing ground for Mikami’s ideas; ideas that went on to create the brilliant Vanquish. P.N. 03 was originally released in Japan on March 27, 2003 and was released in North America on September 9, 2003.

Random Game #40 – Amped: Freestyle Snowboarding [Xbox]

Amped Freestyle Snowboarding

Now here’s a genre that has subsided as the cost of video game development has risen. Thinking back to the period that this game was released, both Microsoft and Nintendo had first party snowboarding games, while Sony had the original SSX exclusively, not to mention a few other third-party snowboarding games. This period also saw the bubble of extreme sports video games, which we don’t see as often anymore. I haven’t played Amped: Freestyle Snowboarding, but I recall it (and its predecessors) being well received. A quick scan of its Wikipedia page reveals that it made use of the Xbox’s built-in hard drive. It allowed for entire mountains to be played on (instead of single courses as in SSX or 1080°) and the ability to create custom soundtracks. I’ve always enjoyed this style of game and look forward to playing Microsoft’s answer to the genre.

Amped: Freestyle Snowboarding was developed by Indie Built. The studio had a long history dating back to the early days of commercial PC video games (then known as Access Software), and are perhaps most known for their Tex Murphy or Links series’ of games. This was a launch title for the Xbox, releasing November 19, 2001 in the U.S. Microsoft purchased the studio in 1999, and thus published this game under their Microsoft Game Studios label.

Radiant Historia [Nintendo DS] – Review

Radiant Historia

I came to Radiant Historia with high expectations. After all, it arrived from Amazon on a Friday with my first case of Surge since the late 1990s. But seriously, having waited to play it for a few years, I’d built it up in my head, and for the most part, it met my expectations. The characters were well-defined and featured substantial development while the time-traveling story touched upon many mature themes. In general, the game featured a high level maturity – something I rarely, and unfortunately, don’t associate with many JRPGs.

What I wasn’t expecting was that my attention would be diverted while I played through it, turning the middle third into more of a slough. Coincidentally, this was also the same section where I began to notice poor qualities surrounding the battle system. I grew to strongly dislike the combat, and for a while, avoided enemy battles altogether. My opinion never rebounded, even though my overall opinion of the game did when I once again devoted my full attention to it.

The game's setting reminded me of Final Fantasy VI.
The game’s setting reminded me of Final Fantasy VI.

The game is set on the war-torn continent of Vainqueur, home to a handful of key countries and races. The setting is mostly fantasy, but there is a strong steampunk influence. Although I haven’t played much of it, this game reminded me strongly of Final Fantasy VI. Among the countries calling Vainqueur home, Alistel and Granorg are dominant. They’re the two archetypal western civilizations, populated with modern folk living in the capital cities. Less prominent nations included those occupying sandy desert oases and forest villages, home to beastkind. In other words, this game is in the mold of classic JRPGs.

On a more personal level, the game also featured typical characters that ran the gamut from amnesiac protagonist, closely related and destined royal heiress, to the strong silent beastman. Despite the seeming caricatures in play, the characters themselves were actually much more complex than I’d lead you to believe. As the plot unfolded, allegiances changed and personal feelings were put on the backburner for affairs more important than simply seeing one country dominate another; affairs such as the revelation of truth to the masses and the salvation of the world.

The battle system was relatively simple, and it bogged down my overall impression of the game.
The battle system was relatively simple, and it bogged down my overall impression of the game.

Ultimately, the game featured two types of characters: leaders and followers. When untruths became ever more evident, some characters rallied behind their misplaced beliefs and held firm to the orders of their leaders. Others saw through to the eventual outcome and changed course as needed. Regardless, the actions of all involved were compelling because the characters were well-defined and acted in ways resonant to their continual evolution. The final third was particularly engrossing as the story was reaching its climax and the true antagonist was revealed. That character’s actions were understandable, and the pivot made to the “dark side” was something palpable. That character was human and not just a soulless antagonist, à la Final Fantasy IV’s Exdeath.

And still, there was one more piece binding the narrative together: time travel. Thanks to an item bestowed upon the protagonist early on, two timelines were accessible and freely available to jump between at all times. The standard and alternate timelines illustrated how things would be different through decision making, although both culminated in a shared conclusion. Often, I would stick to one timeline until I reached an impassable portion. Jumping to the other timeline would eventually yield a resolution to my problem in the other. Both had to be seen through to their conclusion to reach the end, but there were many sidequests to perform all the while, reminding me a little bit of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask and the Mass Effect series.

Those two were instrumental in the time traveling.
Those two were instrumental in the time traveling.

What dragged down my otherwise high opinion on the game was the battle system. Encountering on-field enemies led to battle scenes featuring said enemies on a 9×9 grid. Using the three members of my party, I did my best to group as many enemies together on the same grid. When done correctly, I could damage these enemies with each attack or apply the same status ailment. Beyond learning new moves to assist in this goal, that was the extent of combat development. In itself, that’s not a negative, but around the second third of the game, just dealing with the basic enemies was a tough task.

This turned into such an annoying aspect for me that I turned to avoiding enemy encounters. I never allowed my party to get under leveled, but it really felt like I was missing something. I turned to GameFAQs for recommendations, but sure enough, my party level was in keeping with suggested levels. However, I never deviated from using the same two optional allies. Due to timeline jumping, my party consistency was always changing, with the exception of these two characters, generally. Using other party members would’ve required much grinding to get them on the same page, so why bother? This probably contributed to my dislike for the combat and battle system, but it wasn’t that great anyways.

There were a few "puzzle" segments revolving around block-pushing.
There were a few “puzzle” segments revolving around block-pushing.

Ultimately, Radiant Historia left me pondering the topic of personal purpose and contributions to the greater good of the world. On a more granular level, many other themes were touched upon, and it was a wholly engrossing game with great character development. What’s more, the time traveling mechanic was more than a fun novelty, although it was that too. It offered a diverse creative opportunity for the story to develop while providing many ingenuitive sidequests. The battle system was a letdown however, leading me to try and entirely forego any unnecessary experiences with it. Finally, I learned that I can’t hope to enjoy an involving video game, if I’m also trying to watch The X-Files.

Random Game #39 – Arcade Hits Pack: Gunblade NY and L.A. Machineguns [Wii]

Arcade Hits Pack

When you have a video game collection like mine, it can be hard to play all of the games. This is especially true when additions are made on an almost weekly basis. Still, I appreciate nearly every game I’ve accumulated for this reason or that. In the hopes of improving my writing through continuous effort and promoting ongoing learning of these games, I’m going to compose brief, descriptive articles.

This is a surprise recent acquisition of mine. Having gone through a period seeking out arcade compilations on home consoles, this game was of course on my radar. But, I never found a copy in the price range I was expecting to pay. Just a few weeks ago, Jenny and I made a trip to the mall to get a filter for our fridge, and I felt like popping into GameStop. They had a display of heavily discounted Wii games along with loose GameCube and PS2 games. This was in the bunch, complete for a few dollars. Eureka, my search had ended! I also picked up Sin & Punishment: Star Successor for a few dollars as well; complete no less.

Both games hail from your movie theater lobby, circa 1999. Actually, Gunblade NY was released in 1995 while L.A. Machineguns followed in 1998, but you get my point. Sega was responsible for both, and since I haven’t played this compilation yet I can’t say with certainty, but I believe they were developed by Sega AM3. This compilation was originally released for the Wii in Australia on August 26, 2010, with releases following in Europe and North America on the 27th and 30th, respectively. After enjoying Ghost Squad, I’m looking forward to these. Plus, they’ll take around twenty or thirty minutes to beat and should provide a fun co-op experience.

Random Game #38 – Tokyo Jungle [PlayStation Network]

Tokyo Jungle

When you have a video game collection like mine, it can be hard to play all of the games. This is especially true when additions are made on an almost weekly basis. Still, I appreciate nearlyevery game I’ve accumulated for this reason or that. In the hopes of improving my writing through continuous effort and promoting ongoing learning of these games, I’m going to compose brief, descriptive articles.

Now this is the sort of game that gets me excited about video games! There’s something about the zany concepts and systems that video games of Japanese origin tend to have that really excite me. So when I first heard about this title, I figured I’d be into. Fast forward to many months after its initial release and it happens to be discounted to $0.99 on a PSN sale and of course I bought it. Fast forward to today when I’m writing this, and I still haven’t played it. Jenny has played it somewhat, stating that she thought it was weird and kind of difficult. From what I gather, it’s a survival game set in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo where you play as an animal and attempt to procreate and ensure your future lineage. Pomeranian dogs seem to the favored avatar too. That’s what I’m talking about!

Tokyo Jungle was developed by Crispy’s! in conjunction with Sony Computer Entertainment’s Japan Studio. It was originally released physically for the PlayStation 3 in Japan on June 7, 2012, and had its North American release exclusively on PSN on September 25, 2012. I’m not familiar with the developer, although it appears they’ve developed a handful of other games – mostly Japanese only.

Random Game #37 – Gran Turismo 4 [PlayStation 2]

Gran Turismo 4

When you have a video game collection like mine, it can be hard to play all of the games. This is especially true when additions are made on an almost weekly basis. Still, I appreciate nearly every game I’ve accumulated for this reason or that. In the hopes of improving my writing through continuous effort and promoting ongoing learning of these games, I’m going to compose brief, descriptive articles.

This was the first brand new game I purchased for the PlayStation 2. I can still remember so clearly walking into the newly opened GameStop in my town and picking this game up. It had to have been six months to a year after release as it was about thirty dollars, if memory serves. This was the first “major” simulation racing game I played. I was enveloped in the experience as a result and spent so much time playing, unlocking car after car. That was one of the things that kept me hooked. Since I grew up on Pokémon, I can dig collecting, and Gran Turismo is one of those series where there’s an immense amount of cars to collect. I didn’t fully complete it, and I daydream about returning to it, almost instead of trying my hand at one of its sequels. This will remain a collection of some of my fondest PS2 memories.

Gran Turismo 4 was developed by Polyphony Digital and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. It was released for the PlayStation 2 in North America on February 22, 2005, following the original December 28, 2004 Japanese release. As is the case with every title in the series currently, its development was overseen by Kazunori Yamauchi. Also, in keeping with tradition, this game was subject to many delays. That being said, no one can dispute the quality of the final product.

Random Game #36 – Oscura: Second Shadow [Android]

OSCURA_SS_logo

When you have a video game collection like mine, it can be hard to play all of the games. This is especially true when additions are made on an almost weekly basis. Still, I appreciate nearly every game I’ve accumulated for this reason or that. In the hopes of improving my writing through continuous effort and promoting ongoing learning of these games, I’m going to compose brief, descriptive articles.

Oscura: Second Shadow is a game I have yet to play. Like most of the games I have for Android or Steam, this one was acquired through a Humble Bundle, and remains untouched. Instead of personal experience then, I can only write about what I know of the game through quick research. Fortunately, the game’s website has a press kit that filled me in. The game takes inspiration from platformers from the 1990s, specifically the Super Mario and Rayman series of games. Stylistically, much inspiration is drawn from Tim Burton’s repertoire, and I’d also say Limbo. I’ll have to give it a shot sometime to see how it handles on a touch-based device, as I’ve not had much good things to say about platformers on such devices.

The game was developed by Ole Alfheim in conjunction with Chocolate Liberation Front. It was published by Surprise Attack Games, initially on iOS on June 26, 2014 and two months later (August 26, 2014) on Android. Per the game’s press kit, Ole appears to be an Australian and the brains behind this game and its predecessor.

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