Random Game #32 – Panzer Dragoon Orta [Xbox]

Panzer Dragoon Orta

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.

My experience with the Panzer Dragoon series is limited. When my friend purchased a Saturn a year or two ago, Panzer Dragoon was one of the first games he got. We played a small chunk of it and enjoyed it. Other than that, I’ve fawned over Panzer Dragoon Saga on eBay and daydreamed about finding a copy at a garage sale. I’ve always been interested in the series, and when I purchased this game early last year, I finally granted myself the best opportunity to play one of the games. What I remember most about this game was reading the strategy guide in a period Tips & Tricks magazine. It seemed like there was a lot of unlockables and a lot of various requirements. A game I’ll need to check out.

Panzer Dragoon Orta was developed by Smilebit and released exclusively on the Xbox. It was published by Sega; originally on December 19, 2002 in Japan with the North American released happening January 14, 2003. All previous games had been developed by Team Andromeda, which was folded together with a few other companies to form Smilebit. Despite this, it was the first (and last, I suppose) game to feature no involvement from Yukio Futatsugi, the director for the previous games. He has since made Crimson Dragon on the Xbox One.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes [PlayStation 4] – Review

Metal Gear Solid V Ground Zeroes

Honestly, I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. Granted, it was the first game I acquired and played on my PlayStation 4. That maybe had more to do with its budget price though. That, however, was also a factor that colored my interpretation of the game when it launched March 18, 2014. Most of what I remember about the game’s reception was negativity regarding its length and cost. I totally agree with that assessment after playing it, but I also agree with those who praised it for many reasons. It’s an incredibly polished, brief experience that one can easily be seduced into playing for more than the requisite hour.

The “core” mission is very short – I believe I completed it in about an hour. Snake infiltrates an American black site on Cuba with the goal of rescuing two young members of his special unit. The game opened, per usual, with a lengthy, awe-inspiring cinematic cutscene. The focus was a man with a disfigured face and his conversation with one of the hostages, just after he’d (presumably) violently interrogated the other. As I haven’t played any of the games dealing with these characters and this time period, I was a little lost in regards to their importance. Still, Snake had his mission and I obliged.

Holding enemies hostage was a way of obtaining non-crucial information.
Holding enemies hostage was a way of obtaining non-crucial information.

Upon the completion of the game, a handful of other “Side Ops” could be unlocked. These weren’t cinematic ventures directly related to the impending big show (Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain), but rather, just more missions. Everything took place in the same environment, and after playing for a half-dozen hours, I’m very familiar with this black site! The lack of variety didn’t bog down my impressions of the game though. If anything, it helped me to appreciate it more.

As I went Trophy hunting, I replayed these missions a handful of times, and restarted more than I’d like to admit! After all of this though, I’m very familiar with the depth of my actions in tackling any given scenario – it had a definite open-world vibe to it. The game was difficult to get acclimated to at first, especially as I haven’t played a game in the series in two or three years. But, as I was driven to collect Trophies, I stuck with the game after each mission’s initial completion, and really grew to relish the opportunity in sneaking about and stealthily resolving enemy threats how I wanted.

It would be a Metal Gear Solid game without sneaking. It'd be a Metal Gear Rising game!
It would be a Metal Gear Solid game without sneaking. It’d be a Metal Gear Rising game!

I won’t dive too deep into the nitty gritty of the gameplay, but there were a couple new mechanics worth mentioning. In my opinion, “Reflex Mode” was the most impactful. If I was spotted, time would slow for about three seconds and I’d have the opportunity to react and potentially prevent a compound-wide alert from taking place. Most usually, I’d land a headshot with a tranquilizer and instantly put my foe to sleep. Maybe I was close enough to grab hold of him, get some information and then knock him out. I probably wouldn’t be careless enough to have a lethal weapon equipped, because after I landed the fatal headshot, another guard would’ve possibly been alerted by the sound. In any instance, I would immediately stash the body.

Another new element to the series seems to have been lifted directly from Far Cry 3. Snake has a great pair of binoculars in his possession, and when an enemy is spotted, they’re permanently marked. A red triangle hovers above that enemy’s head which is visible from any point on the compound. The enemy is also permanently visible on Snake’s iDroid (an all-in-one map utility), which seems out of place considering the time period, if only name wise. Also, when nearby, Snake would occasionally catch a glimpse of the enemy in detail, even through walls; this is described as a “stealth instinct”, or something to that effect, but it’s very reminiscent of the abilities of Batman in the Batman: Arkham series.

Just kicking back on the beach, mowing this fool down, what about you?
Just kicking back on the beach, mowing this fool down, what about you?

The Metal Gear Solid series is one of those series’ that if it wasn’t around, video games would just feel different. Early on the series had an impact that few other games can claim – it inspired other game developers. I don’t know if the series has that same weight behind it today, for whatever reason one can gin up. One thing remains the same: the attention to detail and care that goes into these games’ development is palpable. Despite this game’s length and stated purpose as an introduction to the “true” Metal Gear Solid V, the level of its refinement and depth is kind of crazy. It’s a very challenging game, especially if one’s driven to collect Trophies, but it’s an incredibly well-playing game. It may have been decisive when it released with a $40 price tag, but at its current $20 (or even $7 on PSN!), it’s a no-brainer.

The Top 10 Games I Played in 2014

TopGames2014In keeping with tradition, I’m going to forego writing a best-of list, just like I forgot to do in 2012. Scratch that, I mean I’m going to simply order these games alphabetically instead of ordering them. This list is very Wii U heavy, which makes sense as I purchased the system shortly after Mario Kart 8 released. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back in the sense that there were plenty of titles available and coming soon that I wanted to play. And of course, this list is diverse with older games as I usually don’t play many new titles. In that regard, this list is unlike any other I’ve constructed.

Bayonetta 2 – Now this is a video game. Platinum Games, Sega, and  Nintendo expanded upon the formula of the original by blowing it out of the water. This was easily the most fun I had playing a game by myself this year.

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence – I’ve been a big fan of the series since playing Aria of Sorrow but this was my first foray into a 3D entry. I did’t think the game was outstanding, but the focus Koji Igarashi and his team had was. An enjoyable action game.

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem – The same can be said for this game – that I didn’t find it to be outstanding. It just hasn’t seemed to age super well. Still, this was a fun game to play through with a friend and I’m glad to finally check it off my backlog.

Gyruss - With this game, my friend and I had a great high-score competition going that stretched from late 2013 into early 2014. We had long breaks in between, but the rivalry was fierce. The game and our rivalry was a great example of the Golden Age of Arcade Games.

Mario Kart 8 – This was the game that pushed me over the edge on the Wii U and what a game! If it’s not my favorite in the series, it’s easily #2, right behind Double Dash. A great selection of courses, great DLC, and solid online wooed me in the early days with my new system.

New Super Luigi U – This was another early adoption title that wooed me. I played through the entirety of this in co-op, and it was such a pleasurable experience. A great blend of traditionally designed platforming stages, with super tough requirements, and fun implementation of the Wii U Gamepad.

Pokémon Emerald – I limited myself to one Pokémon game, so despite the more traditional Platinum, HeartGold and the less traditional XD: Gale of Darkness, Battle Revolution, Ranch, and Trozei, I chose this. Having skipped this game in its time, I was excited to revisit Hoenn and see the things I missed out on.

Scribblenauts: Unlimited – My friend and I haven’t beaten this game. We’re maybe halfway through it. Still, the amount of fun we had brainstorming ridiculous creations was probably the most fun I had with a video game all year. Highly recommended.

Super Mario Bros. – I mean, come on. This game is legendary. I finally beat it this year after many attempts and the assistance of my friend. What a sense of accomplishment afterwards! Talk about checking something off of a backlog, this is more like a bucket list item!

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U – What a stupid name. Still, this is such a highly refined, balanced game with enough content to keep me content for years. Rest assured, I will play this game until its successor comes out and it will be in the mulitplayer lineup that long too.

Random Game #31 – Castlevania [NES]

Castlevania

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.

I can still recall the garage sale I got my first NES, this game, and about a dozen-and-a-half others including Contra, Metroid, and The Legend of Zelda. I was already interested in vintage video games having read Tips & Tricks for a while at this point, marveling at the Collector’s Corner section mostly. To find all these goodies, and for practically nothing, I was ecstatic. I actually haven’t played this game too much, which is a shock considering I’m such a fan of the more modern releases. It’s a very difficult game and I can only recall getting to the third or fourth section of the castle. The gameplay was solid however and the soundtrack is an undeniable classic. Something I need to play more of for sure.

Castlevania was developed and published by Konami. It was first released on the Famicom Disk System in Japan on September 26, 1986. Its first release in North America was on the NES on May 1, 1987. It was later ported to the Game Boy Advance as part of the Classic NES series. It has also been ported to all of Nintendo’s Virtual Console services (Wii, Wii U, and 3DS – what a mess, needs consolidation!).

Random Game #30 – Ridge Racer V [PlayStation 2]

Ridge Racer V

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.

There was a time when it wasn’t a PlayStation launch without a Ridge Racer game. The series’ peak was arguably confined to the era of the first PlayStation, but this game is also very well regarded. The only games in the series I’ve spent a great deal of time with are this game’s predecessor and successor. I have played this game maybe once. I’m interested to play it more but I don’t believe there’s a ton to do. This was a launch title for the PlayStation 2 and I would bet the development was constrained due to the impending launch of the system. I still get a kick out of reading OPM and PSM during this game’s preview cycle and reading the writers’ praise for the graphics though.

Ridge Racer V was developed and published by Namco. It was available for the PlayStation 2’s launch in all three major video game markets, which means it was available in North America on October 26, 2000. One cool unlockable is the ability to play as Pac-Man and his ghost enemies.

Random Game #29 – Deep Labyrinth [Nintendo DS]

Deep Labyrinth

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 fairly recent addition to my collection. During one of the more recent buy 2, get 1 free promotions at Vintage Stock, I acquired this game. I have yet to play it, and I’m doubtful that I’ll complete it once I check it out. It’s an old-school first-person dungeon crawling RPG which I can dig, but I’m unsure of the game’s quality. The game is sitting at 55% on GameRankings, and even taking into account that RPGs generally don’t fare too well with western critics, that’s low. However, Ii do enjoy making graph paper maps and this game may bring out that need and other minor OCD tendencies.

Deep Labyrinth was developed by Interactive Brains and originally released as a mobile game in Japan on December 1, 2004. They ported it to the Nintendo DS and it was published by Atlus in North America on August 15, 2006. It has some revered individuals behind it according to Wikipedia; namely, the script writer behind many Square classics Masato Kato and the prolific composer Yasunori Mitsuda.

The internet's source for Mansion of Hidden Souls.

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