About this time last year, I decided to begin playing the Star Ocean series in anticipation of the release of Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness. After completing the PlayStation Portable remakes of the first two games, I finally got around to playing Star Ocean: Till the End of Time on the PlayStation 2, the third entry (discounting the Japan only Game Boy Color release Blue Sphere). Developed by tri-Ace and published by Square Enix in the United States on August 31, 2004, it’s well-regarded among many RPG fans. Conceptually, the series has always been ambitious, but I feel it was with this release that the developers were able to execute their vision in an overwhelmingly successful manner. Continue reading Star Ocean: Till the End of Time [PlayStation 2] – Review→
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 a memorable purchase for me. While in St. Louis for Sonic Boom 2013, my friend and visited many video game retailers, with a focus on the mom and pop game shops in the various suburbs. However, I acquired this at a Toys ‘R’ Us alongside Eternal Sonata for the Xbox 360. As is usually the case, I haven’t played this yet, but I really do want to! I can recall reading Game Informer’s review of The Sands of Time while riding the backseat of my parent’s car. I thought it looked so cool, and so did they. I was less interested in the sequels, although they were well received too.
The Prince of Persia Trilogy contains the PS2 versions of The Sands of Time, Warrior Within, and The Two Thrones, all originally developed by Ubisoft Montreal. The HD ports were handled by Ubisoft Sofia. This collection was originally released for the PS2, exclusively in Europe on October 27, 2006, but the PS3 version was released in North America on April 19, 2011 – 5 months after its European release. These HD remakes are also available individually on PSN.
Light-gun style games are almost always lacking in content, but feature-rich in replayability. Ghost Squad for the Wii is no exception. It was originally developed by Sega AM2 and released into the arcades in 2004, but was ported to the Wii by Polygon Magic in 2007. I just played through it with a friend and it literally took us less than a half-hour. There’s a handful of reasons to replay the game, but with the exception of one, they’re hard to justify actually do so. That said, this brief experience was a blast as the game was well-executed. Continue reading Ghost Squad [Wii] – Review→
Released back in 2004, Pokémon Colosseum was Nintendo’s first attempt at making a full-scale console RPG out of their Pokémon series. Having been an avid fan at the time it was originally released, I remember being severely let down by the nontraditional take on the Pokémon formula. My teenage self couldn’t even bother to complete the game, despite the allure of trading some truly worthy Pokémon into Pokémon Ruby. Think of all the free time I had then! I’m revisiting the game now as a part of my grand Pokémon ambition, and I came away enjoying it more than I originally did for the exact reason I disliked it then – it’s different.
Wes, the player’s avatar, is a mute antihero attempting to foil the plans of the nefarious gang he recently betrayed. Alongside a spunky girl named Rui, who is the only known person able to detect Shadow Pokémon, the duo set about snagging and purifying all Pokémon that have had their hearts corrupted. I thought the storyline and characters were ridiculously simple, although some were just plain ridiculous. Of course, I didn’t begin this game with expectations of a riveting story. In fact, I don’t think anyone plays these games for their story; it’s the gameplay that draws people in.
The backdrop of the game is the Orre region, and as it is rather desolate, and a little more rough-and-tumble than other regions, there aren’t any wild Pokémon. The only method of building one’s collection in this game is snagging Shadow Pokémon from other trainers, which goes against everything that had been ingrained in the series up to this point. Once they’ve been snagged, they need to be rehabilitated through use in battle, among other procedures. While battling, Shadow Pokémon may enter Hyper Mode from time to time. While in this mode, their chances of striking a critical-hit increase, however, they may also ignore orders. Calling their name will calm them down.
A second distinguishing feature of this game is the battles themselves. For the duration of the storyline, every battle is a double battle. Each trainer plays with two active Pokémon. I really enjoyed the developer’s dedication to this feature. Most other games only feature double battles intermittently, which in a way, dilutes their appeal. Instead, the opportunity presented itself to build my party around combinations that made sense. I didn’t necessarily strategize in such a way, but the other trainers sure did; the combination of Earthquake and floating Pokémon did grow to be annoying.
Due to the structure of the game, there is a set number of obtainable Pokémon. Following the storyline and having an inquisitive nature will generally result in catching snagging them all. Once the game has been completed, players can freely trade between Pokémon Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald. There is also Mt. Battle, a 100-trainer challenge, and a few multiplayer battling modes. Should one snag and purify every Pokémon and complete Mt. Battle, they’ll be awarded a Ho-oh – my current quest.
Back in the day, I couldn’t get beyond Colosseum’s differences from the Game Boy Advance games. I simply wanted one of those games with full-scale console graphics, nothing more and nothing less. Instead, Nintendo and developer Genius Sonority developed a different type of Pokémon game. Coming to it now, and with tempered expectations, I actually really enjoyed myself. The gameplay differences kept it fresh as I was coming to it having just completed LeafGreen– a very traditional game. Not only that, getting to see so many Pokémon visualized in respectable 3D was exciting for me. This isn’t your grandfather’s Pokémon game.
Pokémon LeafGreen, and its retail buddy Pokémon FireRed, are remakes of the original Pokémon games. Released for the Game Boy Advance in 2004, LeafGreen and FireRed are 3rd generation Pokémon titles and the first remakes in the series. As such, there are major improvements over their originators. However, the improvements are primarily relegated to updated graphics, which are much more detailed compared to their Game Boy brethren. There is a decent amount of new post-game content too, mostly introducing Pokémon from newer generations. It’s a solid title, with the toughest Elite Four in the series and a selection of Pokémon that isn’t completely overwhelming.
By the way, the theme for the 4th and 5th Sevii Islands totally rocks. It’s so hot, I have it on my iPod!
Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean is a role-playing game released in late 2004 for the GameCube. It was co-developed by Monolith Soft (known for the Xenosaga series and the recently released Xenoblade Chronicles) and tri-Crescendo (Eternal Sonata) and published by Namco. The game is a story of revenge for Kalas, the primary protagonist but it also focuses on his (and his compatriots) quest to save the world. I didn’t find the story or characters interesting, but what’s exceptional about the game is its card-based battle system, which could’ve been its biggest liability.
Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean takes place in a fantastical world, a world where landmasses float in the sky, oceans are a thing of legend, and the human inhabitants have wings. The young adult Kalas is on a mission of revenge as he searches for the murderer of his brother and grandfather. He believes the person responsible is a soldier in the imperialistic Alfard Empire. The game begins as he awakens, confused but not suffering from amnesia, in a remote village. Soon after this point, he meets Xelha, a kind but mysterious girl who believes the Empire is on the verge of unleashing a great evil. Although Kalas believes he has no need for her, they join together as their goals run a similar course.
At the point I finished (about a dozen hours in), I had met a third party member: a rural fisherman named Gibari. He was beefed up and helpful in the rural town I found him in, but he wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. Beyond those three, I can’t comment on anyone else as I didn’t sink enough time into the game to meet anyone else. After joining up with Xelha, I visited another town or two and trekked through a few enemy-riddled areas, but the main focus was the routine run-ins with the Empire, which helped narrow the protagonists’ motives.
I don’t really have an opinion on the general story because I only played it for a dozen or so hours, but in that time span I already knew that I didn’t like Kalas. He was off-putting from the get go with his lack of respect for others and rudeness. Of course, naïve characters are the norm for role-playing games of this ilk; I’m sure that over the course of the estimated sixty hours of gameplay, he would mature and grow as a person. A lot of my opinion of him (and others) was based on the poor voice acting and that didn’t help in forming my opinion. It’s not necessarily that characters over or under act, instead my grievance lies with the quality of the audio – it sounds like I’m listening to people in a sound booth, as if whatever audio mixing that would remove this aura wasn’t done.
On the back of the game’s box is a quote from Nintendo Power: “It’s possibly the most beautiful GCN title ever made,” which I’d have to agree with. The game’s locales are like paintings that you walk around in, or like the PlayStation 1 era Final Fantasy games; they feature a fixed camera perspective with no player control of it. The pre-rendered backgrounds of the towns are intricately detailed and will often have animated bits and pieces, but because I wasn’t able to control the camera, navigating these areas was sometimes less than great; for instance when Kalas would walk into the background and shrink to signify distance from the camera. This isn’t a problem with Baten Kaitos, it’s just a style that I don’t prefer.
What makes Baten Kaitos unique compared to other RPGs is its reliance on Magnus (playing cards) for items, attacks, equipment, and just about anything else. Each character had a deck of cards that they used in battles. As they leveled up, the amount of cards they could put into it, as well as their hand size in battles grew.
Battles revolved around each character’s deck of Magnus. A good deck would contain a mixture of offensive, defensive, and healing cards that were suited to take advantage of enemies’ elemental weaknesses. In battles, characters would have a hand of cards and I’d try my best to link them together to create optimal attacks and defensive maneuvers. I found that if I didn’t suit my deck to each area and continually keep it fresh, I wouldn’t advance.
The Magnus weren’t just used in battles though; they were used in place of items too. Special Magnus could capture the essence of an item, say water, and I could then use that Magnus to solve a puzzle, such as putting out a fire. I had to be careful with Magnus however, as the cards would age and their properties would change. For instance, if I had a Magnus with green bananas on it, as time passed, the bananas would ripen and the card’s effect would change. This aspect of the Magnus kept me on my toes and was in some instances, annoying.
Card-battling games have a reputation for being obtuse, complicated, and slow-paced. Of course, they’re also known for requiring strategy, skill, and a little luck. What’s great about Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean is that it takes the best things about card-battling games: strategy in deck building, skillful combinations of cards, and a little luck of the draw, while reducing the negatives by speeding up the battle system and easing players into the extensive number of Magnus. It may not have captured my attention for too long, but damned if I didn’t absolutely enjoy its battle system.
Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits. It’s a game about digging to the bottom of sometimes infinite voids, and while it isn’t packed with enough content to fill the void left by major releases, its fast-paced gameplay and moments of surviving by just an inch are apt enough to fill the void in between other things.
Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits is an action/puzzle game for the Nintendo DS. It was developed and published by Namco and released on November 30, 2004, about a week after the DS was released.
A spiritual successor of sorts to the arcade game Dig Dug, my objective was to dig deep. I had to dig through rocks shaped like squares and composed of different colors. I needed to be careful so the rocks wouldn’t drop on me while also keeping an eye out for oxygen tanks as I had a limited supply of oxygen. The gameplay was easy to grasp, tough to master, and fast-paced; I found it very fun.
Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits is light on content. There are three single player modes and they’re just slightly different from each other. Mission driller is the primary mode; here I was tasked to dig through increasingly deeper stages and was rewarded with minimal amounts of conversation and unlockable characters. In pressure driller mode I had to escape an enormous driller while also attacking it with ammunition I had to pick up and then fire at it. The third single player mode was a time attack mode where I had to complete stages as quickly as possible.
The game also has multiplayer, but it requires each person to have a copy of the game so that was out of the question for me. Its gameplay is easy to grasp and it can get frantic so I would’ve liked the option for single-cart multiplayer to try it out, but it’s not present.
The single player modes were challenging. It was easy for me to complete the early levels in the modes, but I needed to evolve my techniques to make headway, something I had a hard time doing. I gather the ideal way to play Mr. Driller is to zigzag through the stages. Doing this makes it easier to gather pickups and prevents rocks from falling onto my character as they would join with rocks of the same color or get caught on other rocks. I had to train myself to dig horizontal when my inclination was to dig vertical.
I liked Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits’ gameplay. It was simple and fast-paced, but it became very challenging. I was able to complete the game, but I found little reason to play afterwards. I could play as other characters and get different conversations, but that wasn’t that appealing. I did find the gameplay enticing enough to play post completion just competing for higher scores however. It’s fun while it lasts and it’s fun to play afterwards for small chunks of time and with complete copies selling for five bucks on the internet that sounds like a good deal.