December 27, 2010
Here we are again with Doritos Unlock Xbox campaign. In short, Doritos puts together a competition for individuals to brainstorm some game ideas that relate somehow to the Doritos brand, judges go on to vote for the one’s they like the best, and eventually Doritos funds the winning concept(s) and the final product(s) get released via Xbox Live Arcade for free. In December 2008, Doritos Dash of Destruction was released and it wasn’t terrible, especially for achievements which were easily the main selling point to anyone who played it, like the two new games: Doritos Crash Course and Harms Way.
Doritos Crash Course is side-scrolling platformer that presents itself like a game show, similar to Ninja Warrior or Wipeout. You take your avatar through fifteen levels of increasingly complex platforming levels, boosting, jumping, swinging, and sliding your way to the end. Towards the end Doritos Crash Course became very complex and at times difficult, but what it required me to do was always within my means and in the end, down to timing on my part. I played through the game racing a pal online and I’d say it took us less than an hour. It was a blast and an easy game to get into and figure out.
Harms Way on the other hand is more of a complex game, both mechanically and visually. Doritos Crash Course looks
great, but Harms Way has a photorealistic aesthetic and looks wonderful considering it’s free; then again, there are a lot of yellows and browns in it… In Harms Way you can control either a vehicle or a stationary turret. When driving a vehicle you are, of course, competing for first place by finishing three laps the fastest, but along the tracks are shortcuts, which require turrets to blow open and power ups. Turrets are stationary and as a turret user you manually switch between them, with plenty scattered throughout the courses. When playing as a team, a driver and a turret user, the driver can pick up turret upgrades allowing the turret user different weapons. I preferred playing as a turret; the driving wasn’t bad, but I’ve played plenty of racing games like Harms Way, I haven’t played a racing game where I man a stationary turret and take out my driver’s competitors. I had a blast playing this co-op and strategizing with my driver, it felt like he needed me and we had to work together communicating.
Both these games are worth checking out, they’re free after all, and they’re both quite good considering. They’ll each take about an hour to get everything that you want out of them and they’re both better with more people, either online or off.
December 15, 2010
Playing Call of Duty Classic on the hardest difficulty is the worst game experience I’ve had in recent memory, and probably up there as one of the worst mistakes I’ve made playing video games. I suppose the initial reason for choosing this difficulty was the ability to get all of the achievements (playing the Xbox 360 version) on one play through; I didn’t take into account that it would be nigh impossible and make me want to break my controller on multiple occasions.
Going through Call of Duty Classic on veteran reminds me of Call of Duty 3 on veteran, which I did a year or two ago. I had a terrible time, and hindered my impressions of that game, and I actually broke an Xbox 360 controller during that play through. You’d think I’d learn my lesson after that; hopefully I have after this time, what’s the saying again: fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me?
Call of Duty Classic is straight up difficult; your health doesn’t recharge and there aren’t any health pickups, it usually only takes an enemy two shots to take you out, they can spot you from very far away, and they utilize cover, often leaving their heads or arms vulnerable for a few seconds. The checkpoint system is frustrating as well. It seems to checkpoint at certain times, naturally, but only if you have more than half health. I can see how this is helpful, preventing you from continuing a long level with barely any health after getting shot early on.
So that’s how it’s difficult, what makes it frustrating and just a terrible time is the amount of repetition. In many sections, I’d have to repeat them multiple times, with some taking double digit retries. To progress, I’d literally have to kill one enemy and then die by the next, just to figure out where that second enemy is hiding, and then make it one enemy/wave farther, hopefully not getting shot and thus triggering a checkpoint.
It’s not that Call of Duty Classic is a terrible game, it’s probably a very good World War II shooter, and I guess I wouldn’t really know having only played a handful. The game seems to include many familiar scenes, albeit all the highlights it seems that should be in a WWII product; to someone who has played many WWII shooters it probably feels stagnant. Playing the game on the hardest difficulty makes me want to yell as loud as I can (expletives), smash my controller into anything that’ll produce a loud sound, get up and storm around, quit the game in a rage and never play a game on the hardest difficulty again! For some reason I stuck through it all though, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone else to do the same.
December 3, 2010
With Grandia II, Game Arts took the formula they implemented in Grandia, simply iterated upon it, which works with me, I loved Grandia and it creates another fantastic Japanese role-playing game with a fun battle system and compelling story. Grandia II, as with Grandia, is set in a, mostly, bright and colorful world.
If I were to condense the themes presented in Grandia, I’d say it focused on adventure and discovery, of exploring unknown territories and learning about new cultures. Grandia II on the other hand focuses more on our spiritual relationships and the role and impact of religion in the world. Grandia II is the story of Ryudo, a gun-for-hire and Elena, a songstress in the Church of Granas. Ryudo is hired to be her bodyguard, but things go awry early on and they soon learn that Valmar (the evil god and Granas’ opposite) could reawaken and bring destruction to their world, what’s more, Elena is possessed by a piece of Valmar, which manifests itself occasionally, and transforms Elena into Millenia. This shape shifting element is interesting and provides for a character that is the polar opposite of Elena, like Granas to Valmar. Throughout the game they meet new party members who give a taste of the different regions in the game and are generally likeable. This wasn’t the case with Ryudo; at first he was a prick and very ignorant of others; the way he responded to peoples questions and concerns was off-putting, but as the game progressed, he became more comfortable with the people around him and as the on-going situations evolved, he revealed more about himself and became a more likeable character. Like, Grandia, Grandia II is light-hearted for the most part, with plenty of humor and fun gameplay, although the progression appears very formulaic, town, dungeon, town dungeon, etc.
Throughout the game, the story unraveled more and more, finally reaching a crescendo of understanding and going pass that crescendo into a surprising twist in lore. Grandia II is a more succinct adventure than Grandia with the game lacking in extra content. There isn’t any reason to go back and play more when done , there isn’t a new game plus mode, and the way the game ends it’s sort of hard to anyways, which is a shame because as with Grandia, I would still go back and battle more If I could.
The battle system, originating in Grandia takes turn-based battles, and added an element of real-time choice to it, creating a satisfying blend of action, which hit a spot in my psyche that loves being in control. The battle system has changed very little from Grandia. There are only a few things off the top of my head that I can think of that changed from Grandia to Grandia II. Instead of leveling up magic and special skills through use, you now attribute points to the individual moves. I thought it very clever in Grandia that special moves and magic leveled up and became stronger through use, thus, I used stat boosting/reducing spells more than I normally would in another JRPG. Also, instead of learning new magic spells by reaching certain requirements with certain elements of magic, in Grandia II you receive eggs which contain 18 preselected spells. There are more eggs than party members so there is always ample choice.
Noriyuki Iwadare returns as the composer and I enjoy his soundtracks a great deal. They are lighthearted and fun, which matches the general tone of Grandia II. Although there are, darker sections of the game, his compositions match the feeling, often, if not always. Familiar tonal themes are repeated throughout the game, with the actual compositions changing up slightly. I can see many people listening to the soundtrack and thinking it is quite cheesy with his ample use of electrical guitar, but I find it befitting the action and look of the game. The appearance, like in Grandia, is very appealing to me; the game is very bright, set in a, mostly, colorful world, with anime-like character designs–this is from Japan after all. The voice acting is fine, although what bugs me is that it isn’t totally voice-acted, barely any is, and this inconsistency always bothers me. The CG is also infrequent, and in most cases, very poor. The CG for cutscenes is almost laughably bad and strangely grainy, but when it is implemented into the higher level magic and special moves, the blend of normal graphics and CG or animation provides a unique clash that, at first seemed off putting, but quickly grew on me.
Grandia II was initially released on the Dreamcast in 2000, and then later ported to the PlayStation 2 and PC in 2002. I completed the Dreamcast version, played a bit of the PS2 version, and didn’t play the PC version. The Dreamcast version comes with a soundtrack CD that has twelve tracks of Grandia II related music, and I say related only because there are two remixes not present in the game. I enjoyed the selections and thought they provided a good cross section of Noriyuki Iwadare’s work here. The PS2 version included new CG cutscenes which take advantage of the hardware better, but still have the aspect of clashing with other aspects of the game. I played the PS2 version on a PlayStation 3 and due to this the game looked much crisper; this would probably be the way to play it. The PS2 version didn’t come with anything extra although the manual is very detailed. One of the main complaints against the PS2 version at its release was a poor port job, with the game hitching at times, I didn’t play very much of it, but did notice the game slowed down at points, but never when it mattered.
Grandia II is one of the finest games on the Dreamcast, and a fine Japanese role-playing game. With a well paced story and an incredible battle system, it’s worth seeking out if you’re a fan of JRPGs.