Tag Archives: 2008

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia [Nintendo DS] – Review

Castlevania Order of Ecclesia - Nintendo DS - North American Box Art

In the lead up to my recent week of vacation, I planned out a few things I wanted to accomplish. Top of the list was getting some car repairs done. I also wanted to spend at least one day with my wife driving around a nearby Oklahoma county, hunting for historical markers and eating local BBQ. There were a few odds and ends to be done around the house as well but when it came to video games, I had only one objective: begin, and hopefully complete, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. That didn’t happen, but before I even started compiling my to-do list I was already preparing a contingency plan. Continue reading Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia [Nintendo DS] – Review

Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood [Nintendo DS] – Review

Sonic Chronicles The Dark Brotherhood - Nintendo DS - North American Box Art

Released for the Nintendo DS in September 2008, Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood is one of the most unique games in the iconic series. Unlike almost every other entry in the franchise, it eschews fast-paced platforming in favor of turn-based battles. This is unsurprising considering BioWare, the Edmonton, Alberta-based developer responsible for it, is best known for their various role-playing games. It features a few trademarks associated with their gameography but plays more like their spin on the Japanese RPG. Continue reading Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood [Nintendo DS] – Review

Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories [PlayStation 3] – Review

Kingdom Hearts Re Chain of Memories - PlayStation 2 - North American Box Art

With Kingdom Hearts completed, the logical next step in my exploration of the series was Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories. Designed as a connecting thread between the first game and the then-impending sequel, Chain of Memories was outsourced to Jupiter Corporation, the Japanese developer perhaps best known for their Nintendo published Picross titles. It was released for the Game Boy Advance in Japan on November 11, 2004, with its American debut following less than a month later. Square Enix then remade it for the PlayStation 2 and included it as a bonus with the Japanese release of Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix on March 29, 2007. This version received a standalone release in North America on December 2, 2008 and was eventually enhanced further in the PlayStation 3 compilation Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX, which is the way I experienced it. Continue reading Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories [PlayStation 3] – Review

Star Ocean: First Departure [PlayStation Portable] – Review

Star Ocean First Departure

When it comes to an established franchise, I find it hard to experience it in any other way than completely engrossing myself. Whether it’s soaking up each entry in a role-playing series, or binge-watching a movie franchise, I like to get the whole story from start to finish. So with the recent announcement of the fifth Star Ocean game, subtitled Integrity and Faithlessness, I’ve found myself visiting the series for the first time, and from the beginning. There’ve been plenty of opportunities for me to check the series out over the years, and I’ve owned entries for years without touching them. But, much like the dual announcements of new Guitar Hero and Rock Band releases reinvigorating my desire to play earlier entries in those series’, this one did it to the nth degree.

Battles took place in fully roamable arenas - an evolution of Tales of Phantasia.
Battles took place in fully roamable arenas – an evolution of Tales of Phantasia.

My first consciousness of the Star Ocean series occurred around the release of Tales of Symphonia. That seminal JRPG was one of the few on the GameCube and one of my favorites bar none. I turned to GameFAQs throughout that playthrough and the author of one FAQ in particular suggested Star Ocean: Till the End of Time so heartily, that I still remember that fact to this day. Needless to say I never checked it out (excluding a multiplayer match or two for the inaugural Game-a-Thon). Flash forward and I now own all but the most recent entry: The Last Hope. So, what better place to start than the first game?

Or truly, a remake of the first game as the western release lagged behind its Japanese debut. Star Ocean was originally released on July 19, 1996 for the Super Famicom. It didn’t make it to Western shores until the PlayStation Portable remake; First Departure was released in North America on October 21, 2008. Developed by tri-Ace, the game was the product of the studio’s collective experience making Tales of Phantasia and their love of Star Trek. It’s an action-RPG whose core elements stay true to likes of Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, but the battle system is quasi-real-time and the setting has more in common with Phantasy Star. The PSP remake appears to remain very true to the original, and with the exception of a few items, I could imagine this game being a direct port.

There was an omnipresent feeling of the future, even while on Roak.
There was an omnipresent feeling of the future, even while on Roak.

One of the elements that excited me the most in thinking about this series was the sci-fi setting. The ability for a lengthy RPG to fill out a world with backstory, characters, and places is a hallmark of the genre, and when that ability is buoyed by a sci-fi motif, well, let’s just say I’ve always been more interested in the future than the past. So I was disappointed when the majority of this game revolved around a fantasy setting. This was explained narratively in a way keeping true to its sci-fi background, and perhaps even by the constraints of the hardware or by the studio’s rookie nature.

Granted, this was all wrapped around the context of a sci-fi storyline and it did have its moments. The main protagonists hail from an undeveloped planet – one that the Federation (exactly what you’d think) has intentionally avoided until the inhabitants have reached their space age. So when the group is exposed to the Federation initially, there’s a lot of interesting story building that takes place. And again at the end, when the answers to the questions that have been posed throughout the game are being revealed; the sci-fi elements really sealed the deal. Plus, there’s time travel and that’s super sci-fi.

Most everything else is standard fare for the genre. I took the group from town to dungeon to town in search of this or that or whatever would progress the story. The combat system is an evolution of the real-time one pioneered in Tales of Phantasia. Instead of taking place on a 2D plane however, I controlled one of the party member’s in a 3D arena. There wasn’t a lot to fights other than mashing the attack button and maybe triggering a special attack every now and then. I was content to button mash and the lack of difficulty allowed me to breeze through the game.

An air of replayability was present as not all party members could be accessed in one playthrough.
An air of replayability was present as not all party members could be accessed in one playthrough.

I feel it was necessary for me to play this game, although I wouldn’t recommend it to others if they didn’t share my tendencies. It wasn’t a bad game, it just wasn’t that interesting. The settings offered an interesting clash, but this was mostly a fantasy game wrapped around the veneer of a sci-fi game. I found little to dislike about the combat system and could enjoy the monotonous task of mashing a button until a foe was dead, but I can’t praise it either. At roughly fifteen hours it’s the shortest JRPG I’ve played, but lengthy enough to tell a cohesive tale. Here’s hoping for a bright future.

Lost Odyssey and My Seeker of the Deep Woes

Lost Odyssey - Nooo!

So, after roughly 75 hours, I’m finished playing Lost Odyssey. That game had me engrossed like few other RPGs before it. I could’ve beaten the game around the 50 hour mark, but thanks in no small part to achievements, I found myself compelled to eke everything I could out of the game. I literally did everything that could be done in the main game save one thing – obtain all items from the treasure chests strewn about the world. This was an achievement, and the only reason I didn’t pop this one was because I fucked myself over roughly halfway in. Most items that are missed later appear in an auction house, and unfortunately I lost the first auction I entered and didn’t realize the consequences of that until much later. Likely, I missed other items too, so I probably wouldn’t have gotten this one anyways.

That’s not the point of this article, although it does provide additional details on my experience with the game. The main point of this article is how I fucked myself over in another way! After beating the final boss and enduring fifteen minutes of ludicrous cutscenes, I was prompted to save the clear data. Actually, I may have been prompted to save beforehand and I’d like to get my facts straight, but no enough to research it, I just wanted to let you know. Anyways, I saved right over my primary save not thinking twice about it. A day later, I decided it was time to do the very last thing on my Lost Odyssey agenda – play through the Seeker of the Deep DLC. But I saved clear data over my primary save. CLEAR DATA!

For those uninitiated with RPGs, and more specifically Japanese RPGs, clear data is generally an unplayable file only certifying that you completed the game. And really, what is the fucking use in that!? Lost Odyssey uses it for new game + purposes, so at least it’s put to use for something. It does me no good however. Reading online, the recommended levels to complete the DLC hover around the 90s, maybe the mid 80s. With party levels in the 70s, it would take me hours of grinding with the other saves to reach a comfortable party level, while loading my primary save starts the game at the very beginning, with a few perks. So, instead of spending a few more hours with Lost Odyssey, I’m finished with it.

Lost Odyssey and My Disc Four Woes

Lost Odyssey - Japan

“Are you kidding me?” I sat there and thought as I kept failing in my attempts to install the fourth disc of Lost Odyssey to my Xbox 360. You see, in the hopes of reducing load times and allowing my Xbox 360 to take it a little easier (less disc spinning should mean moving parts are being used less) I prefer to install any game I play. And, this tactic worked just fine for discs one, two, and three. The fourth disc on the other hand was being a bugbear and dampening my good feelings upon reaching it after 35 hours of traditional JRPG excellence.

So, when I had the opportunity, I took the troublesome disc to a local game shop to have it resurfaced. This, being Friday after work (aka payday) and accompanied by my closest gaming equal Jeff, we made an evening of the trip. As I always say: “it isn’t a weekend if I haven’t bought a video game!” The first stop – Tulsa’s midtown Vintage Stock – was a bust. Their disc resurfacing machine was out of order, but we took a look around nonetheless. Were it not for his suggestion to choose this Vintage Stock location, I wouldn’t have added Rippin’ Riders (Dreamcast), Murakumo: Renegade Mech Pursuit (Xbox), Battle Fantasia (Xbox 360), and Space Invaders Extreme 2 (Nintendo DS) to my collection. In other words, the trip wasn’t completely unfruitful.

Thus we headed to the Tulsa Hills Vintage Stock, with the foreknown knowledge that their resurfacing machine was in order. As it was getting late (around 9:00 at this point) and both he and I (as well as Jenny, back home) were ravished with hunger, I quickly scanned the walls and only walked away with Ferrari F355 Challenge for the PlayStation 2 and the strategy guide for Infinite Undiscovery. The former, in the hopes of comparing/contrasting it alongside the Dreamcast port, and the latter in the hopes of… well, we’ll see if I actually ever get around to playing that game; I mean, I’ve owned Lost Odyssey for a couple of years now, have wanted to experience it since its announcement, and I’m only now getting around to it!

With food retrieved (Chinese, if you must know) we enjoyed our meal with a humorous selection of videos courtesy of YouTube. Afterwards, we proceeded to play the first episode of Telltale Games’ Game of Thrones adaptation. Wait… what!? Well, Jeff had just played through it himself and was curious to see how my decisions contrasted with his. Personally, I very much enjoyed what I played. This was my first experience with the newer style of their games, and was a strong reminder that I NEED TO PLAY THE WALKING DEAD! When he vacated the premises to return to his abode, I sat down and set about installing the final disc of Lost Odyssey. And it got no further. Heck, I even tried multiple times, again.

“Okay, what’s really wrong with this disc” I thought to myself. As they generally do, the quick Google search I performed yielded the answer and luckily enough, the solution. It turns out, for the North American and European releases of the game, the clamshell packaging was only made to contain three discs (which I always thought was odd considering the secondhand copy I acquired had all four in the disc slot clearly labeled three). The solution was to place the fourth in a paper sleeve, which, at some point during shipping or storage or whatever, a thin film of grime was produced on this disc, which has proved difficult for most to remove. As I mentioned however, my Google search also yielded the solution, although I was equal parts hesitant and flummoxed at the suggestions: boil the game disc.

As a layman on the structure of a DVD, I was understandably incredulous. However, many disparate sources were suggesting the remedy with as many or more claiming it worked for them. “I can always acquire another copy, or borrow Jeff’s. Surely he still has his copy.” I thought, placating my doubts. And so, I started to boil a pot of water on the stove. As the water was getting to temperature, I tried installing the game yet again in the hopes I wouldn’t have to take such a drastic measure, but no dice. So, with the water at a steady boil, the disc took the plunge.

I held it just at the top for the recommended ten seconds, dried it off on a nearby towel and forced the plunge once more. As it neared the water, the heat emanating from the pot caused it to warp slightly, inflicting second doubts in my mind, but it returned to normal after the plunge. After a moment for it to dry and return to room temperature, I went back to the living room to try yet again; all the while leaving the water on a low boil in case it was needed once more. I sat patiently as the percentage slowly climbed. When the 40% figure was reached, I grew tentative. The Xbox 360 was audibly having difficulty and this was always around the percentage the system gave up. The odd starts and stops soon disappeared and it smashed past 50% and never looked back. I could get on with my life again – problem solved!

Thinking back on it now, there’s surely another reason for the fourth disc to cause so many people issues. I mean, I’ve played games that have been kept in paper sleeves and they worked just fine. Perhaps there was an issue with the manufacturing of the mentioned regions’ fourth disc. If it truly was the paper sleeve, it still comes down to Microsoft as the publisher choosing to skimp on the clamshell case and jury rigging a solution. Whatever the case may be, I can now resume a damn fine JRPG. Plus, I got an interesting story out of this predicament!

Random Game #21 – Golf: Tee It Up! [Xbox Live Arcade]

Golf Tee It Up!

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.

Now here’s a game I’ve actually played! Albeit, not in a very long time. Back in my achievement hunting days, I’d call this “an easy 200.” Gamerscore that is, but in truth, this was actually a decent golf game. Even with the limited experience I had with golf games, I was able to jump right in and have a good time. The only downside was the limited amount of content – reading about it now, the game has two courses (both 18 holes) with an additional one available for purchase. Pretty weak, still, for the handful of days that I played it, it was enjoyable and the online multiplayer was a plus.

Golf: Tee It Up! was developed by Housemarque, most recently known for their standout efforts on PSN, such as Super Stardust HD. It was published by Activision on Xbox Live Arcade on July 9, 2008.