April 27, 2011
The past couple of times I’ve browsed through the game departments of Best Buy and Target, I’ve noticed a plethora of copies of Truth or Lies, and to my surprise Target had a pile of them on clearance for five dollars. I decided to take a shot in the dark with the game and pick it up after seeing if a friend would be interested in playing it as well. Truth or Lies was developed by Australian based Big Ant Studios, known for some Rugby and World of Outlaws games as well as a few ports. Truth or Lies is a party game that asks players questions that they then must answer truthfully to score the most points possible. A microphone is required to play the game but one was not packed in.
Truth or Lies asks players questions and the object is answer each question truthfully. The object is to ultimately win, after all this is a video game, and answering questions truthfully will net you more points. But what if an embarrassing question comes up? Then one would lie, but do so convincingly enough to trick the game.
Before my friend and I began, we each created a profile for the game. The game gave us a few questions and asked us to answer them truthfully or dishonestly, presumably to hear what we sound like in each scenario. Once our profiles were set up we jumped into the game proper. We picked a two person match and the game then asked how long the match should be; seeking the largest amount of achievements possible, we chose the longest match and it then asked us who was playing, kids, adults, etc.
Okay, now we were into the match. The questions we were asked were dumb. Even after selecting questions for adults, a lot of the questions seemed naïve. And most of the questions seemed uninspired, I mean on the front of the box one of the example questions asked what you would do if you had twenty-four hours to live? How would the game really know if someone was telling the truth anyways, it only gives you ten seconds to answer, and even then, my friend and I could’ve just horsed around when we were setting up our profiles? That said, we didn’t horse around when we set up our profiles and the game seemed to be fairly accurate when judging whether we were truthful or not.
The match we played was very long, about a half hour, and ultimately very boring. The format was similar throughout, all I remember is a lot of dull questions. Neither of us had any interest to play more of the game afterwards. We did check out the Hot Seat mode where we got to take turns asking each other questions, and that was pretty cool, but not enough to make us want to play more.
Truth or Lies boasts that it has over three thousand questions, thought-provoking ones no less, but the majority of the ones I saw were either naïve or just uninspired. After a match, I’d seen all of Truth or Lies that I needed to see. That’s not to say I didn’t have fun with the game, no, but the fun I garnered from the experience came from the dumb answers my friend and I gave, which became more absurd as the match continued. I would not recommend Truth or Lies.
Bonus: Check out the video tab on the Truth or Lies website (hyperlink) and watch some of the worst promotional videos for a video game ever. It seems like they were going for a sitcom vibe but they gave me serious wahjah.
April 25, 2011
Let’s see, posted two things last week: my review of the Final Fantasy XII collector’s edition and my review of The Legend of Zelda. It’s satisfying for me to post more than one article per week, but this week might not be one of those weeks.
The games I’ve been focusing on are the same two for the past couple of weeks, Animal Crossing: City Folk and Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber. Two important things in Animal Crossing: City Folk this week. Yesterday was Bunny Day, which means Zipper T. Bunny came and hid eggs. I was able to find them all and completed the egg furniture set. The second important thing I did was plant a lot of trees, like, twenty plus. They’re all oranges which is a nonnative fruit in my town which means they bring big Bells from Tom Nook, plus they’ll improve my town’s environment.
I was very close to quitting Ogre Battle 64 since talking about it last week. I failed a couple of times on a mission in particular and eventually redid my battalions so that each one would have a cleric and that helped immensely. Now that I have clerics in each battalion, I have had very few deaths and the past few missions haven’t been too difficult.
Besides the status quo of Animal Crossing: City Folk and Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber, I played a few co-op missions of Killzone 3. The early missions were set in a destroyed city, which was very drab, but the game played phenomenally. My friend bought the Helghast Edition and the items that came with it seemed quite cool. We also played through and completed Mad Dog McCree. I bought the Mad Dog McCree Gunslinger Pack for the Wii which has all three Mad Dog McCree games, so once I’ve completed the other two, expect a review.
The one sure thing that I’ll post this week (besides this) will be my review of Truth or Lies. Like I said last week, I have a completed review of Devil May Cry 4, but I want to compose a review of the collector’s edition first so I can post both around the same time.
April 22, 2011
I completed The Legend of Zelda a few weeks ago. I originally purchased it something like five years ago at a garage sale along with a Nintendo Entertainment System and some other games. At that time I was beginning to realize I really liked what The Legend of Zelda games offered. I played The Legend of Zelda and probably got halfway through it but gave up. But I recently decided to compose an encyclopedia dedicated to the franchise and thought I should begin with the first installment. Besides playing through the game, I crafted graph paper maps of the overworld and each dungeon, as well as an item list, a bestiary, and a synopsis.
The Legend of Zelda has no intricacy to the story. Ganon has captured princess Zelda and wishes to rule Hyrule. Link saves Zelda’s nursemaid who tells Link of this and he decides to save Zelda by completing the Triforce of Wisdom, which Zelda broke into eight shards to prevent Ganon from getting them. Akin to the story, Hyrule itself is rather sparse. There are towns in Hyrule, occasionally caves will house merchants or some helpful elderly citizens, but that’s it. The Legend of Zeldais a lonely adventure.
That’s not to say there isn’t much life in Hyrule, to the contrary. There is a plethora of enemies throughout the kingdom, as well as in the many dungeons. There’s actually a wide variety of enemies too. Sure some are variations of other monsters, e.g. red and blue versions, but defeating all these different enemies requires many weapons and items.
So now that Link has an objective, complete the Triforce of Wisdom and save princess Zelda, and he has enemies in between him and his goal, it’s quest time proper! But what’s an adventurer without a weapon? Well Link receives a sword at the very beginning of the game, the first screen to be precise, from a helpful old man. But besides the trusty sword, there are many additional weapons throughout Hyrule that are necessary to progression.
Even though I feel Hyrule is very sparse because of the lack of towns or humans, it’s a wonderful place to adventure through. Exploring Hyrule was often very satisfying, made more so as I completed another screen of my maps. With each screen, I stumbled upon a new arrangement of enemies, the screen itself a battle puzzle, and once I finished off the remaining enemies, I’d explore my surroundings and see if anything was out of place. At some point the areas of Hyrule I could reach would force me to battle through a new dungeon, obtaining a new weapon or item, and clue, that would help me defeat more enemies, reach new places, and hopefully, set me on the path to my next destination.
Once in a dungeon, the object is to reach the boss, defeat it, and claim the shard of the Triforce. Each dungeon has a dungeon map that reveals the layout and a compass that shows where the Triforce shard is located. In most dungeons, there is a secret item that is necessary to defeating that dungeon’s boss, or a subsequent dungeon’s boss. Also located in nearly every dungeon is an old man who gives a hint as to Link’s next steps. Some of the clues were vague, but it was enjoyable deciphering them and figuring out for myself what to do next.
I found the first half of the game quite easy. The areas of Hyrule I had access to at this stage was limited, due to the items I had at the moment, so the enemies weren’t too difficult. As I got closer to completing the Triforce though, I was able to explore Hyrule more fully, and not only that, but the dungeons began growing in size and becoming much more troublesome. The enemies took more hits to defeat and there was a greater quantity of them in the later dungeons. In many of the later dungeons I’d often get stuck on one room in particular, usually because it contained a lot of enemies that would take multiple hits to defeat. The layouts were more confusing as well; instead of obvious room to room progression, there’d be more dead ends or secret paths that opened when bombing walls. That aspect didn’t bother me at all however. It would be annoying when I ran out of bombs to try and find some more, but finding secret paths made me feel like I was mapping a world unseen.
Finding paths, deciphering clues, and mapping the world in general was very appealing to me. Completing The Legend of Zelda was fun, but much of my enjoyment came from making my maps and learning Hyrule. The combat got difficult in some areas, but it was also simple and fun. At some point, mapping dungeons or the overworld would become necessary to complete the game, but doing it from the beginning adds an extra sense of accomplishment and I will always have these maps to look back on.
April 19, 2011
Besides the standard version of Final Fantasy XII, Square Enix released a collector’s edition of the game, exclusively to GameStop and EB Games in the United States. This version included the game and the same manual, of course, but it also came in a SteelBook package, along with a DVD containing a few special features.
Many games have since been released in these SteelBook packages, but I think Final Fantasy XII has one of the best ones. The front cover is simple, while the art on the inside of the case is intricate and detailed. It looks nice as a display piece on a shelf; otherwise it slips nicely in with the rest of a video game library being the typical DVD size case.
Included on the DVD are developer interviews, a history of Final Fantasy featurette, an art gallery, and trailers for the game.
There are quite a few developer interviews, twelve exactly, and they offer insights into different aspects of the game, from the director and what he was in charge of to what went into the translation. They’re all under five minutes, but there’s actually a lot of content to take in, and I always like hearing about what went into making a game.
The history of Final Fantasy featurette is a great way for people unfamiliar with the mainline Final Fantasy catalogue to get up to speed. The narrator discusses similar concepts with each game, and it would’ve been nice if he delved a little deeper into each game, but at thirty minutes, it’s a great primer to the series.
Viewing an art gallery on a DVD is about the last thing I want to do, but to its credit, there is a bunch of art included and it’s all tucked away in categories to aid in finding something specific. I feel the same way about the trailers. They’re put together very nicely, but I’m not learning anything new from them.
The collector’s edition of Final Fantasy XII is a nice package. The developer interviews were insightful, the history of Final Fantasy featurette was informative, but the art gallery and the trailers didn’t interest me too much. At this point it appears to sell complete for about ten dollars, comparable to the standard edition so if you’re in the market for the game, I’d recommend the collector’s edition.
April 18, 2011
So, posted the review over Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure after composing it about two years ago. Which made me remember, I also wrote a review for Devil May Cry 4 and never posted it. But I’m not about to post that yet. I’d also like to talk about what comes in the collector’s edition of that game, so I need to compose that as well.
This past week hasn’t seen me veering from my normal games. I have played Animal Crossing: City Folk as per usual, a little each day, and Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber when time permits. I’ve finally gotten to a point in Ogre Battle where I’m not just rolling over the enemies, I’ll have to start thinking more, and hopefully not up and quit the game. I love tactical/strategy role-playing games in concept, but I get to a point in them where they get difficult and eventually take too much trial and error. But I plan to keep on with it for now.
I’ll post a short article talking about the goods that come with the collector’s edition of Final Fantasy XII this week, as well as possible reviews of either The Legend of Zelda, or Truth or Lies.
April 13, 2011
It may not be at the top of everyone’s list of fun things to do, but going to Universal Studios ought to be at the very least, a memorable experience. Not everybody can have that experience though; that’d be mad expensive! Definitely more than it’d cost to pick up Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure for the GamCube, and I thought it was a very memorable game… for all the wrong reasons. Universal Studios theme Park Adventure is a dull premised game, with very poor gameplay and a lack of nearly any fun.
In Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure, you play as a nameless child who has been told by Woody Woodpecker to go and check out Universal Studios. There is an objective and an end to the game. To complete the game you must ride every ride and collect the letters that spell out Universal Studios. At the beginning there is only one ride that’s open: E.T. Adventure, and actually that’s the only ride that’s ever open. To ride any rides after you complete E.T. Adventure you must buy hats that allow unlimited access to the other rides, I would’ve liked to know that before exploring the whole park and wondering: “How do I ride these other rides?”
Once you figure that out it’s just a matter of getting enough points to buy hats, it’s not that hard, not that fun either. You earn points by completing rides, finding letters, picking up garbage around the park, as well as shaking hands with mascots. Garbage is very prevalent but it doesn’t add up. Running into the mascots happens pretty frequently and there’s no reason not to shake their hands. However getting around is a chore. You do get a map but it’s nigh impossible to make sense of it. I eventually remembered the layout from memory, but even then, I still spent too much time trying to get places.
The attractions are the meat of the game, and wow, they’re stinkers. E.T. Adventure is the first attraction, and the one that’s always open; it plays like a not fun version of Paperboy. In Jaws, you are on a boat he’s attacking; you throw barrels and crates at Jaws to prevent him from attacking. It controls terribly and the timing of button pushes doesn’t seem to fit the on-screen action. Animation Celebration is a collection of three minigames: a trivia game, a puzzle, and a game of concentration; Animation Celebration is not required to complete the game, coincidentally, it’s not fun either. Back to the Future – The Ride is a chase ride where Biff has stolen the DeLorean and you must ram it until its health is depleted, which is harder than it sounds. In Backdraft you play as a firefighter and must rescue survivors, while putting out fires in an apartment building, and I didn’t totally hate it. In Jurassic Park – The Ride you operate a laser on the back of the Jeep from the first movie, while being chased by an assortment of dinosaurs. You can charge it up or just fire away; this attraction wasn’t terrible either; it’s very reminiscent of the Sega arcade/Dreamcast game Charge ‘n’ Blast. Waterworld. Waterworld has you watching a cutscene. But wait! You can view this cutscene from five different angles. Yes, that’s right, five! It’s probably the worst looking piece of CG video you’ll ever see, and it’s pointless. Five seconds and nothing interesting happens. Lastly The Wild, Wild, Wild West is in the vein of old light-gun arcade games where you shoot at targets, here you just need to be faster than the CPU.
The majority of the attractions are straight-up, not fun, and the compliments I could muster for the others are they’re not one-hundred percent not fun. In a weird way though, I enjoyed Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure. I don’t think many people will ever play this game so the knowledge that I have about it makes it seem worth more than the knowledge I have about a game a lot of people have played. I have a soft spot for the game, I feel sorry for it. That said, it’s not a fun game and I wouldn’t recommend it.
April 11, 2011
I’m glad I finally finished my article on Final Fantasy XII. With it I tried to think of three, or four takeaways from the game, basically what it did the best. It’s the longest article I’ve written for the site thus far.
I suppose what I write are reviews, I am halfway judging games after all, or expressing what I thought they did the best, but most of the games I write about are old and reviews aren’t necessary. I guess what I’m doing is writing about what I’ve been playing and say if the game is worth checking out still.
So what have I been doing since beating Final Fantasy XII? Well a few weeks ago a friend and I played this game called Truth or Lies. It’s available for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Nintendo Wii, but we played on the Xbox 360. I bought it a few weeks ago at Target for five dollars. We played through one match and the game was decent, but a little iffy. I’ve written something about the game so expect that sometime.
And last week I completed The Legend of Zelda for the NES. I did some mapmaking as I played through it and those are completed. I have a giant map of the over world (8 pages long and four pages high) as well as maps for each dungeon. That game was very difficult in the second half and I’d say the maps were almost necessary. I’ve also written something about that so that’ll be up soon as well.
But before I post either of those articles I’ll post a review I did for Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure for the GameCube. I wrote it in December of 2009 and never posted it anywhere, so I’ll finally get around to that.
And like last time I did one of these, I’ve been playing Animal Crossing: City Folk a ton; I have played it for a little everyday since I purchased it. Needless to say I love the game. I also started Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber a few days ago. I’m not the biggest fan of tactical role-playing games, I like them but never seem to finish them, but so far I’m enjoying it. The game’s battle system is much different from anything I’ve played, but we’ll see if I finish it.
So expect a Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure review soon, as well as a Truth or Lies review and a review for The Legend of Zelda.
April 6, 2011
I’ve completed another Final Fantasy, this time a more modern one, Final Fantasy XII. While I am knowledgeable about the series, I haven’t played a ton of them, but this is easily my favorite. I spent a month and a half playing through Final Fantasy XII in bits and pieces when I had the time and I’ve thought a lot about the game in the weeks since I beat it, what I’ve written are the my biggest takeaways from the game. I’ll talk about the world at large in Final Fantasy XII, Ivalice, the characters that form the party, the story very briefly, and the battle system. In general I feel Final Fantasy XII is a staple in the collection of anyone who enjoys role-playing games, and worth a look even for those don’t.
Final Fantasy XII takes place in Ivalice, a familiar environment for the series, home to the Final Fantasy Tactics games, as well as Vagrant Story. Ivalice spans many geographical regions, including many deserts, but it’s also home to snow covered mountains, tropical beaches, thick rainforests and more. Passing through these regions, I enjoyed not only the battles that took place in them, but marveling at the amount of work that went into making each location as detailed as they turned out.
Smack dab in the center of Ivalice is Dalmasca, home to Rabanastre, the city where much of the game takes place. Rabanastre is large, the largest city I’ve ever seen in a role-playing game, or any video game for that matter. Walking through its many areas, I viewed the beautiful architecture that it was composed of, reminiscent of a Europe of ages past. But Rabanastre isn’t the only large city in the game, there are others, but there is diversity in Final Fantasy XII; more common are the small gatherings of people, forming makeshift hubs, or villages in the heart of the wilderness, composed of foreign races.
After reading that the developers had visited Turkey and took an interest in European, Middle Eastern, and Asian cultures for the game, it’s easy to see that the influence has found a place in the game, specifically, much of Ivalice is set in a warmer climate, with Rabanastre being surrounded by deserts on all sides.
The vocabulary the characters often spoke with prompted me to look at some words’ meaning more than once and I’m not digging the game for it; I enjoyed hearing seemingly archaic words, broadening my own vocabulary; it’s something that helped reel me into the setting. Even though the game has an antique vibe, technology is everywhere. One of the first cut scenes in the game shows a battle raging with foot soldiers on the ground dressed in armor and swinging swords at each other; one side attempting to defend a castle-like structure with the other side attempting to capture it, meanwhile an aerial dogfight is going on between futuristic flying crafts, zipping about. This blend of swords and soldiers and futuristic sci-fi was an interesting juxtaposition of aesthetics.
Ivalice is a world built on the foundations of magicite; a magical crystal substance that holds power, power that inevitably will end up in the wrong hands. Long ago the Dynast-King Raithwall united all of Ivalice under his rule, with the help of magicite, bestowed to him by the mysterious Occuria, undying, god-like beings. The time of the Dynast-King Raithwall was thousands of years ago and current day Ivalice is on the brink of war.
The battle I mentioned earlier was between the Dalmascans, protecting Nabradia, the border between them and their attackers from the east, the Archadians. Archadia is a large kingdom, perhaps the most powerful at this time in Ivalice and they want Dalmasca. Why? Perhaps they want Dalmasca to allow them easy passage to a third kingdom, Rozarria in the far west. During the final moments of this battle, the king of Dalmasca has agreed to sign a treaty with Archadia, but he is assassinated directly after.
A couple of years after this, we are introduced to Vaan and Penelo, two orphans living in Rabanastre who both lost their parents in the war, as well as Vaan’s brother, who fought at Nabradia. Vaan has much disdain for the empire, after all the war took his whole family. Vaan doesn’t have much direction in life, he spends his days running errands for a shopkeeper along with other orphans of the war, but much of his time is spent stealing from others. His only real goal is to become a sky pirate and be able to live freely, going wherever he wants. Penelo seems to be the angel on Vaan’s shoulders, leading him out of trouble and attempting to prevent him from getting into any more. While Vaan has his goal of becoming a sky pirate, all it seems Penelo wants is to remain at Vaan’s side, and not lose anyone else.
Rabanastre is soon paid a visit by a member of the Archadian royal family, and the newest overseer of Rabanastre, Vayne Solidor, the son of the Archadian king. He is a charismatic person; as he begins speaking to the crowd of Rabanastrans, it’s apparent they don’t want what he’s selling, but Vayne is able to whip the crowd into frenzy and get behind his rule, at least somewhat, with a charming presence and an intelligent tone; he seems peculiar though. Vayne is tall, with long black hair, and a smile that seems… off, he just looks like an antagonist. After Vayne’s speech, Vaan decides to break into the royal tomb and steal something back from the empire and it’s during this escapade that he meets Balthier and Fran.
Balthier has a cool personality about him, he always appears to be in control of the situation; basically he’s the dashing pirate. His partner Fran is a viera, a woman with rabbit like features, including long ears and hair that practically flows to the ground. Like Balthier she also has a cool personality, never coming off as nervous. She definitely shows her smarts throughout the game, offering practical advice and necessary knowledge of magicite. As the game progresses Balthier comes to view himself as the leading man, and why not, being a sky pirate he has the airship that eventually transports the party, he shows an altruistic side later on and all in all, he’s just a fun character. And from the events that unfold, his past is brought to light and wow!
As they make their way out of the royal tomb, they soon stumble into a rebel group, headed by an unassuming beauty, who is later found out to be the princess of Dalmasca, Ashe. She is a strong-willed fighter who wants nothing more but to restore Dalmasca to the kingdom it was before Archadia took over. As the story progresses she has to find the strength within herself to do what she must; even though she is strong-willed, she has doubts about what she has to do, and whether she can pull off what must be done. At times she seems distant from the rest of the party members, almost focusing solely on what lies ahead for her, but with what lies ahead for her, who wouldn’t be focusing on that, after all, Ivalice’s future is practically on her shoulders.
Last, but not least, there is Basch, a former leader in the Dalmascan army, but now an outcast, as he has been charged with assassinating the king. The party finds him in prison, and while they know what he has done, they know they need him. But Basch does not have the demeanor or the attitude of a royal assassin; it becomes instantly apparent that this cannot be the man who murdered a king. He is a soldier through and through, showing respect for the rest of the party, and pledging allegiance to Ashe in particular.
There was a lot going on in the narrative of Final Fantasy XII, at times I felt overwhelmed, but I managed to sift through the dense amount of information and enjoyed the payoff. In the last ten or so hours of the game, all these story threads were coming to a close, and I didn’t want to stop playing; I was the most hooked to the game at the very end. I clocked in under 80 hours when I finally beat the game, and I still had plenty to do. I aim to replay Final Fantasy XII at some point, and I left plenty of side quests for that play through but I did an ample amount regardless. Final Fantasy XII is simply a massive game, with a massive amount of content.
I guess the only thing I haven’t talked about is the actual gameplay and the systems Final Fantasy XII employs. With each Final Fantasy, Square Enix implements a new battle system, or tweaks aspects of a previous one and Final Fantasy XII is no different.
Many role-playing games have plenty of areas to explore, and they’re usually broken up into towns, a world map that the party traverses, and dungeons. Typical of many RPGs, especially those from Japan are random battles. For instance, as I’m moving my party around the world map or a dungeon I see no enemies, but I’m randomly attacked and whisked off into a battle scene in which I choose the actions I want to take, and once I’ve won, I’m back to the world map or dungeon. Instead of random battles, when I wouldn’t know when I’d be attacked, Final Fantasy XII shows enemies while I’m traversing dangerous areas. This isn’t the biggest change however.
Just as random battles are common in role-playing games from Japan, so are turn-based battles, battles where everyone is allotted a turn, including the enemies. In games like this I would pick an action, my character would do that, and then the enemy would do the same. Instead of being whisked off to a battle scene in Final Fantasy XII, the party members begin attacking enemies whenever they’re in range, never being taken into a separate scene. Direct control was never taken away from me, I could move about and select the actions I wanted and when the battle was done, the party relinquished their weaponry and I continued exploring the area. This “Active Dimension Battle” system as Square Enix calls it requires real-time selection of actions, and as such, I didn’t wait for the enemy to have his turn and then take mine. I’d select an action for a party member to take, and then a bar would fill up and they would do that action, there are still elements of taking turns, but never losing direct control of my team went a long way in making me not feel limited.
Rather than entering in actions for each party member, I could assign “gambits” to them. Gambits tell the AI to “do this, if that.” There are hundreds of separate gambits and when paired up, they’ll tell an AI-controlled party member to do something. For instance, I could have Vaan use a potion on a party member when their health falls below a certain percentage, or attack only flying enemies. Each character can have twelve gambits assigned to them maximum, and they’ll follow them according to their priority. I felt as though I could pair gambits up for any occasion, even though I used fairly simple combinations, I knew I could get very creative with them. For the first twenty or so hours I assigned gambits to the two AI-controlled members of my party and chose every action for my main character, but I eventually had everyone using gambits. Instead of being a player on the field, I was more of a referee, changing actions when I thought something would work better or just healing somebody because I hadn’t told an AI member to watch out for a certain adverse affect.
With Final Fantasy XII, Square Enix developed Ivalice into one of the biggest and most detailed game worlds I’ve played through; introduced me to well-developed characters who did not seem like the played out caricatures I’m used to in role-playing games; showcased an interesting story, one that harkened back to the roots of Final Fantasy, with crystal-powered life, all the while, weaving an interesting mature tale of corruption and complex relationships. Lastly, I experienced gameplay systems that brought new elements to a genre I spend so much time with. For these things, and many smaller elements, Final Fantasy XII will be a game I gauge all others by.