Tag Archives: 2009

Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard [Xbox 360] – Review

eat-lead-xbox-360-north-american-box-art

In an effort to begin a new tradition, my friend and I decided to kick off the New Year by completing a “bad” game. We’d done this previously, completing Fugitive Hunter: War on Terror at my behest back in 2012. It was a barely competent first-person shooter that was otherwise unremarkable, save for the ludicrous fistfight against Osama Bin Laden that capped it off. This year, we compiled a list of suitable titles from my collection, paired them against each other in the Tournament of Terribleness and wound up selecting Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard as the game we’d start 2017 with. Oh boy.

Continue reading Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard [Xbox 360] – Review

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves [PlayStation 3] – Review

Uncharted 2 Among Thieves

When I began writing about Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, I considered it the high-water mark of the PlayStation 3’s library, at that point in the platform’s lifecycle. Having completed its sequel, Among Thieves, I can testify that it unquestionably usurped that role, and deserves recognition as one of the best games of the contemporary cinematic era. Originally released in North America on October 13, 2009, Naughty Dog maintained the excellent blend of third-person, cover-based shooting and wowing traversal that put the series on the map with the first game. What carried my interest however was the engaging narrative. Characters both familiar and fresh intertwined with Nate’s search for Marco Polo’s lost fleet. Danger and drama kept Nate busy across the game’s dozen hour runtime and the numerous set pieces often had me in disbelief and culminated in an experience that played like a greatest hits of the action-adventure genre. Continue reading Uncharted 2: Among Thieves [PlayStation 3] – Review

Star Ocean: Second Evolution [PlayStation Portable] – Review

Star Ocean Second Evolution

When I played Star Ocean: First Departure earlier this year, I came away disappointed. I was looking forward to an epic sci-fi JRPG and instead encountered a brief fantasy tale wrapped in a sci-fi veneer. My eagerness to bask in the series wasn’t washed away however and I promptly began the follow-up Star Ocean: Second Evolution. Another remake for the PSP, this one was of Star Ocean: The Second Story which originally released on the PlayStation in North America in 1999. This version was released ten years later and left me with many of the same grievances, but I wound up enjoying it more.

Much everything remained the same from the previous remake.
Much everything remained the same from the previous remake.

Of the Star Ocean games released to date, this is the only one to serve as a direct sequel to another. Set twenty years after the events of First Departure, this game is primarily the tale of Claude Kenny, the son of one of the original protagonists. I say primarily because players can also choose Rena Lanford as the centerpiece of the game. Both characters embark on a journey of self-discovery and their paths cross very early on at which point they remain together through the end. Having done a single playthrough I can’t comment on the differences caused by picking the other, but since they join up so early on, I can’t imagine there’s much uniqueness.

Pretty quickly after starting, Claude gets separated from his father’s Federation crew and he’s left to fend for himself on a technologically inferior planet. Here he comes across Rena and the two eventually embark on a quest to rid planet Expel of the monsters that have freshly infested it. As their quest unfolds they meet likeminded individuals who join up as comrades. Like the previous game, this is a game meant to be replayed as all party members aren’t obtainable in a single playthrough. Unfortunately, tri-Ace pulled the same stunt of developing a fantasy JRPG in the veneer of a sci-fi setting – translated, the sci-fi aspects bookend fantasy elements comprising the bulk of the experience. I’m fine with either setting, but I would caution any readers planning to dive in – these first two games aren’t entirely sci-fi tales!

Private Actions returned again but I made little use of them.
Private Actions returned again but I made little use of them.

The sci-fi elements on display were more pronounced however, with the final third taking place on another, further advanced planet. Energy Nede as it was called had an interesting backstory and was home to the Ten Wise Men. This group served as the eventual antagonistic force and they are one of the most memorable I’ve seen in a JRPG. They weren’t particularly fleshed out, but each one was unique and the progression in battling them made the conclusion an event. A few in particular were downright dastardly and evoked major tantrums in me. When they were felled, it was a satisfying event and ultimately everything ended on a cheerful note.

Battles and exploration were identical to First Departure, down to the UI. These remakes were developed at the same time and accordingly, it was all very familiar to me. I still relied upon spamming the basic attack and this continued to be a decent strategy. I will say there were more enemies that required me to flank and others that I had to earnestly avoid attacks, so the battles were a little less monotonous than I’d previously experienced. The skill system returned too and I, again, really enjoyed spending the accrued skill points increasing individual character’s stats and skills. It was an addictive facet that that had a noticeable impact on my party’s performance in battle, making it all the more incentivizing.

There were attractions and other diversions that I also didn't invest myself in.
There were attractions and other diversions that I also didn’t invest myself in.

Visually, I found this game very appealing. It was originally made during the era of prerendered backgrounds and they were left intact for this remake. Games aren’t often made with this style of prerendered backgrounds anymore as the horsepower in our consoles and computers no longer calls for it. The buildings and towns were constructed using this graphical style and they look dated, which sounds offensive; I really liked them so I would say they looked… nostalgic. Because this style is still new to me, I was able to give some things a pass, like the poor scaling.

Some backgrounds were portrayed with such depth, that as I navigated Claude he would continue to shrink until I could barely make him out. Frequently, this made locating objects to interact with a bit of a chore. Part of the blame lies with the viewing area of the PSP’s screen. This was a console game originally so naturally it was meant to be played on a larger viewing receptacle. It wasn’t until I plugged my PSP into the TV and blew the image up that the visuals really looked right. The game was entirely playable on the PSP, and I usually prefer my RPGs in this form (apt for bedtime sessions), but the game’s roots begged for it to be played on the TV.

Those prerendered backgrounds were begging to be seen on a TV!
Those prerendered backgrounds were begging to be seen on a TV!

Star Ocean: Second Evolution was a more enjoyable game than its predecessor. The story was largely forgettable (what even happened in the middle, I couldn’t tell you) but it did have a larger concentration of sci-fi elements. As was the case with First Departure, it was when the narrative placed the characters in a futuristic setting that my attention was grabbed (especially when the Ten Wise Men were in play). But, it still felt like a fantasy JRPG wrapped in a sci-fi shell. The core gameplay mechanics– battling and adventuring – were identical to the previous game; they still remained fun after another twenty hours due to the additional challenge breaking up the monotony. And graphically the game was presented in a way that felt fresh to me, despite the dated stylings. It’s the best Star Ocean I’ve played to date, but much of it was largely forgettable and perhaps not worth seeking out. A better future was found, but here’s hoping for an even brighter one.

Random Game #44 – Dissidia Final Fantasy [PlayStation Portable]

Dissidia Final Fantasy

Perhaps the greatest love letter to the Final Fantasy series came from within the walls of Square Enix itself. Featuring the protagonists and antagonists of the first ten games, this title brought them together in a universe-melding fashion. Two warring gods summon these individuals to do their bidding, which plays out in a cross between the fighting and RPG genres. I’ve yet to play it myself, but I’ve heard tell of Tridrakious spending upwards of 100 hours with it, so the game has to have considerable depth. Another game I’ve got to get around to. Too bad it lacks much content from Final Fantasy XII though.

Dissidia Final Fantasy was originally released for the PlayStation Portable in Japan on December 18, 2008, in North America nearly a full year later on August 25, 2009, and another month later in Europe – September 4, 2009. It was developed and published by Square Enix. I picked it up from All Your Base in Broken Arrow, not too long after the shop had moved into PJ Gamers.

Random Game #28 – Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearer [Wii]

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles The Crystal Bearers

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’m drawing on a blank on where and when I acquire this game. I’ve played this game with a friend as it has limited co-op functionality. We played for about an hour, so we didn’t complete the game or anything, but what we experienced was enough to make me want to revisit it. Rather than a traditional Final Fantasy RPG system, or a Crystal Chronicles action-RPG system, this game was an action-adventure affair. I ran around as the player-character and interacted with a variety of objects, inspecting them and using them to fight enemies. My friend could do the same. There seemed to be a lot of diversity in the gameplay, a well-presented story, and colorful graphics and designs. A game I’ll have to revisit.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers was developed and published by Square Enix. It was released for the Wii in North America on December 26, 2009.

Random Game #10 – Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure [Nintendo DS]

Henry Hatsworth and the Puzzling AdventureWhen 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.

Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure is a deceptively charming game. One part platformer, one part tile-matcher, all parts difficult! Players navigate the upstanding British adventurer on his quest to attain a golden suit in standard action-platformer fare. Jumping around and attacking enemies is the name of the game. This is all relegated to the top screen however; the key differentiating feature is the tile-matching game that takes place on the bottom screen. Players must switch between both screens to stay alive, and gain power-ups in order to survive and excel. That gets tough too as the game’s difficulty curve eventually skyrockets. It was too much for me to bear and it remains unfinished. It’s a well-crafted and unique game nonetheless.

The developer might come as a surprise to some: EA Tiburon – the Madden NFL studio. The figureheads behind the game broke out and formed their own company afterwards – DreamRift. It was published by EA Games in North America on the Nintendo DS on March 17, 2009.

Pokemon Platinum [Nintendo DS] – Review

Pokemon PlatinumA retread of the region of Sinnoh, Pokémon Platinum is an enhanced remake of Diamond and Pearl – the fourth generation of Pokémon games and the ones that ushered in the era of the Nintendo DS. Released in the spring of 2009, two years after its predecessors, it’s a game that I never played until now. Nonetheless, the remake sticks so closely to its predecessors that little feels unfamiliar. Like everything before it, it’s a solid entry that refines the classic formula but does little to improve upon it.

Environments popped a little more in this generation thanks to the 3D accents.
Environments popped a little more in this generation thanks to the 3D accents.

As I did with Emerald, I started in an uncommon way. Thanks to owning multiple handhelds and games, I was able to start with all three starters. Not only that, since some were traded, they earned 1.5x experience and leveled faster than normal. Due to this, the difficulty ranged from pushover to frustrating. At points, my Pokémon would grow too strong and would only listen to me occasionally. This was very frustrating! About four gym leaders in (out of eight) this wasn’t much of a concern anymore. The only other time I had issues was facing the Elite Four. Conquering them required grinding – but it seemed like less compared to Emerald.

The Distortion World was a mind-bending area where Giratina resided.
The Distortion World was a mind-bending area where Giratina resided.

This generation introduced many new features, although for my purposes, there’s little that I wanted to, or could, interact with. Arguably the biggest feature was the introduction of online trading and battling. With the Nintendo WFC shutdown now, this is a nonstarter though. The next most important introduction would probably be the use of the touch screen via the Pokétech. Consisting of twentyish apps, the majority of them are useless novelties. This was the biggest lost opportunity. Naturally, there were more Pokémon introduced and many more gameplay additions and tweaks too.

If the poor use of the touch screen was the biggest lost opportunity, perhaps the second would be the lackluster visuals. The environments – routes, dungeons, and towns – are set on 2D backgrounds, but for the first time, use 3D accents. Buildings, trees, and other objects are displayed in such a way that they pop up and out visually. Battles however, still show off the battling Pokémon in flat 2D drawings that offer little animation. There’s probably more fidelity than in previous games, but it’s hard to tell.

Battles still used basic 2D sprites mostly lacking animation.
Battles still used basic 2D sprites mostly lacking animation.

Being three mainline games into my Grand Ambition at this point, it’s very easy for the games to run together and seem less distinct. With the major new addition to the series obsolete today, Pokémon Platinum had little to offer in newness. The most enticing new feature was the Pokémon themselves. Going back and capturing the Pokémon that I did back in high school was a comforting task. Sinnoh wasn’t as memorable a region for me as Hoenn was, but it was still nice to go back. This, despite the fact that most of the additions were either poor or unused by me, as I focused nearly solely on beating the game and capturing the legendaries.