With F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, I thought Monolith Productions developed a sequel that was more focused on action than horror. It was a fine game, and enjoyable for many reasons, but I still found it somewhat disappointing compared to the original. Unsurprisingly, the expansion F.E.A.R. 2: Reborn continued down this path. Released on September 3, 2009, roughly seven months after the base game, Reborn had a novel premise but was too brief to serve as anything other than a narrative introduction to F.E.A.R. 3.
Instead of controlling the Point Man, or another member of F.E.A.R., I was actually put in the shoes of Foxtrot 813, a Replica soldier. This offered a unique perspective since the Replica soldiers were one of a few groups of “bad guys” I had faced off against. With a runtime of about an hour though, there wasn’t much time to explore this role reversal. On a routine mission, Foxtrot 813 was telepathically coerced by Paxton Fettel to turn on his squad. Fettel, of course, was one of Alma’s offspring and an antagonist from the first game. He didn’t really feature in the second game, but following his commands, Foxtrot 813 eventually made it to his puppet master. Fettel then assumed Foxtrot’s body and was, ahem, reborn.
There were many differences between the first and second entries in the series, but one I failed to mention in my previous review is the way gunplay was handled. It was an FPS released in the wake of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and it showed, specifically when aiming down a gun’s sights. Pulling the right trigger to look down the sights with an enemy in the vicinity locked me onto that enemy, quickly and efficiently. This allowed for more precise gunplay, but offset with limited aiming speed adjustments and the plodding movement speed of my avatar, I couldn’t fine tune the controls to find a sweet spot that felt “right.” I made due, continuing to fiddle with the controls every now and then, but to no avail.
Between F.E.A.R. 2’s insane ending, Fettel’s appearance, and Alma’s attempts to prevent his return, I’m interested to see what happens in F.E.A.R. 3, the final installment in the series. Reborn, while offering a novel role reversal, brought little else of note to the series. The brief campaign had new environments and some exciting gunfights but was merely a proper explanation of Fettel’s return. At ten bucks, it’s hard to recommend to anyone other than zealous fans or achievement hunters.
As I engaged with allies, enemies, and explored the first few missions of F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, I couldn’t get over how good it looked. The visual detail present in character models and environments floored me. It was a remarkable improvement over F.E.A.R. and its two expansions, which released upwards of three-and-a-half years prior. Monolith Productions developed the first game during a transition period between console generations, while this entry was put together firmly within one, and it showed. That further familiarity with development tools and the platforms of release resulted in visual improvements isn’t surprising, however. But, personally it was a reminder of how good games of the previous generation could look, and how much improvement had been made in just a few years. Continue reading F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin [Xbox 360]- Review→
Years ago, during a PlayStation Network flash sale, I picked up Kurulin Fusion for a buck. A block-matching puzzle game for the PlayStation Portable, its sole claim to fame is the fact that Nobuo Uematsu served as musical director. The legendary composer, best known for his involvement with the Final Fantasy series, didn’t actually contribute any music for this game, however. Instead he provided instruction to Kenichiro Iwasaki, who arranged techno remixes of classic Johann Sebastian Bach compositions. Regardless of Uematsu’s level of involvement, the soundtrack was a delight and full of hummable earworms. The game, on the other hand… Continue reading Kurulin Fusion [PlayStation Portable] – Review→
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.
When I began writing about Uncharted: Drake’sFortune, 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→
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.