Tag Archives: 2011

L.A. Noire [Xbox 360] – Review

l-a-noire-xbox-360-north-america

Growing up with video game magazines in the early 2000s, it always stuck out when writers would mention the film noir genre. It didn’t happen often since there weren’t many comparable video games, nonetheless when they did, it was universally positive. Whether referencing typical themes, character traits, or distinct audio/visual elements, the writers conveyed to me that films belonging to this genre oozed a classic cool. It took many years before I actually watched a noir film but once I did, I was sold. Accordingly, when I finally got around to playing L.A. Noire I fell head over heels. Continue reading L.A. Noire [Xbox 360] – Review

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Radiant Historia [Nintendo DS] – Review

Radiant Historia

I came to Radiant Historia with high expectations. After all, it arrived from Amazon on a Friday with my first case of Surge since the late 1990s. But seriously, having waited to play it for a few years, I’d built it up in my head, and for the most part, it met my expectations. The characters were well-defined and featured substantial development while the time-traveling story touched upon many mature themes. In general, the game featured a high level maturity – something I rarely, and unfortunately, don’t associate with many JRPGs.

What I wasn’t expecting was that my attention would be diverted while I played through it, turning the middle third into more of a slough. Coincidentally, this was also the same section where I began to notice poor qualities surrounding the battle system. I grew to strongly dislike the combat, and for a while, avoided enemy battles altogether. My opinion never rebounded, even though my overall opinion of the game did when I once again devoted my full attention to it.

The game's setting reminded me of Final Fantasy VI.
The game’s setting reminded me of Final Fantasy VI.

The game is set on the war-torn continent of Vainqueur, home to a handful of key countries and races. The setting is mostly fantasy, but there is a strong steampunk influence. Although I haven’t played much of it, this game reminded me strongly of Final Fantasy VI. Among the countries calling Vainqueur home, Alistel and Granorg are dominant. They’re the two archetypal western civilizations, populated with modern folk living in the capital cities. Less prominent nations included those occupying sandy desert oases and forest villages, home to beastkind. In other words, this game is in the mold of classic JRPGs.

On a more personal level, the game also featured typical characters that ran the gamut from amnesiac protagonist, closely related and destined royal heiress, to the strong silent beastman. Despite the seeming caricatures in play, the characters themselves were actually much more complex than I’d lead you to believe. As the plot unfolded, allegiances changed and personal feelings were put on the backburner for affairs more important than simply seeing one country dominate another; affairs such as the revelation of truth to the masses and the salvation of the world.

The battle system was relatively simple, and it bogged down my overall impression of the game.
The battle system was relatively simple, and it bogged down my overall impression of the game.

Ultimately, the game featured two types of characters: leaders and followers. When untruths became ever more evident, some characters rallied behind their misplaced beliefs and held firm to the orders of their leaders. Others saw through to the eventual outcome and changed course as needed. Regardless, the actions of all involved were compelling because the characters were well-defined and acted in ways resonant to their continual evolution. The final third was particularly engrossing as the story was reaching its climax and the true antagonist was revealed. That character’s actions were understandable, and the pivot made to the “dark side” was something palpable. That character was human and not just a soulless antagonist, à la Final Fantasy IV’s Exdeath.

And still, there was one more piece binding the narrative together: time travel. Thanks to an item bestowed upon the protagonist early on, two timelines were accessible and freely available to jump between at all times. The standard and alternate timelines illustrated how things would be different through decision making, although both culminated in a shared conclusion. Often, I would stick to one timeline until I reached an impassable portion. Jumping to the other timeline would eventually yield a resolution to my problem in the other. Both had to be seen through to their conclusion to reach the end, but there were many sidequests to perform all the while, reminding me a little bit of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask and the Mass Effect series.

Those two were instrumental in the time traveling.
Those two were instrumental in the time traveling.

What dragged down my otherwise high opinion on the game was the battle system. Encountering on-field enemies led to battle scenes featuring said enemies on a 9×9 grid. Using the three members of my party, I did my best to group as many enemies together on the same grid. When done correctly, I could damage these enemies with each attack or apply the same status ailment. Beyond learning new moves to assist in this goal, that was the extent of combat development. In itself, that’s not a negative, but around the second third of the game, just dealing with the basic enemies was a tough task.

This turned into such an annoying aspect for me that I turned to avoiding enemy encounters. I never allowed my party to get under leveled, but it really felt like I was missing something. I turned to GameFAQs for recommendations, but sure enough, my party level was in keeping with suggested levels. However, I never deviated from using the same two optional allies. Due to timeline jumping, my party consistency was always changing, with the exception of these two characters, generally. Using other party members would’ve required much grinding to get them on the same page, so why bother? This probably contributed to my dislike for the combat and battle system, but it wasn’t that great anyways.

There were a few "puzzle" segments revolving around block-pushing.
There were a few “puzzle” segments revolving around block-pushing.

Ultimately, Radiant Historia left me pondering the topic of personal purpose and contributions to the greater good of the world. On a more granular level, many other themes were touched upon, and it was a wholly engrossing game with great character development. What’s more, the time traveling mechanic was more than a fun novelty, although it was that too. It offered a diverse creative opportunity for the story to develop while providing many ingenuitive sidequests. The battle system was a letdown however, leading me to try and entirely forego any unnecessary experiences with it. Finally, I learned that I can’t hope to enjoy an involving video game, if I’m also trying to watch The X-Files.

Random Game #20 – Prince of Persia Trilogy [PlayStation 3]

Prince of Persia Trilogy

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.

Random Game #7 – Deus Ex: Human Revolution [Xbox 360]

Deus Ex Human RevolutionWhen 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 completed Deus Ex: Human Revolution about this time last year. Rereading my review, it’s clear that I enjoyed the open-ended nature of the game; especially the ability to play through the game non-lethally. It also offered much variety in a general sense, thanks to the RPG skill tree and the many “features” Adam Jensen had. The questions its story raised weren’t new, but I found them thought-provoking and appreciated the many sides portrayed in the game. It should be remembered as one of the best games of the seventh generation, even if its amalgamated gameplay was becoming commonplace and the boss fights were disappointing.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution was developed by Eidos Montreal and it served as their first project. It was published in North America on August 23, 2011 by Square Enix and released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. A special edition was released too, and you can read my thoughts on it here. A Mac version was later released and finally a Director’s Cut was issued and released for the aforementioned platforms, as well as the Wii U.

Random Game #5 – Bit.Trip Complete [Wii]

Bit.Trip CompleteWhen 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.

The Bit.Trip series was one of the big things to happen to Nintendo’s WiiWare service. The series of six games had retro gameplay, a distinct graphical style, and chiptune soundtracks before every indie game had those specific bullet points. Gameplay was varied between each, but all contained fundamentally simple rule sets that were easy to learn, difficult to master. Like, really tough! A conceptual storyline following Commander Video connected the games together, but most of the fun was following the developer’s blog. Unique to this compilation are additional challenge stages for each game and a sampler sountrack.

Each game was developed by Gaijin Games (now known as Choice Provisions) and released onto the North American WiiWare service from March 16, 2009 to February 28, 2011.This compilation was published by Aksys Games on September 13, 2011.

Kingdom Rush [Android] – Review

Completing Kingdom Rush earlier this month represented the first time I’ve beaten a tower defense game, let alone played one for more than a few minutes. It’s a popular genre to dig on, and I was cold on it initially. My many nighttime sessions with it turned me around on the genre though as it slowly ramped up the complexity. As the complexity increased, so too did the enjoyment I garnered from squashing the always pressing enemy waves.

To me, an admitted genre layman, the game seemed very typical. Enemy waves traveled snaking pathways attempting to bust through my side of the screen. If too many got through, it’d be game over. At my disposal were four tower types and many upgrades that I could build, money permitting, at predetermined spots along the pathways. I could also summon foot soldiers and command a very powerful hero. Most of the strategy stemmed from which towers and upgrades I chose and my placement of them.

But don't take my word for it!
But don’t take my word for it!

Playing through and scoring 3 stars out of 3 on stages wasn’t challenging. For the most part, it was a pushover, requiring me to restart only in the later stages. Upon completion of each stage though, two much tougher variations are unlocked. I’ve since tested my strategies out on a few of these, and my strategies need work. Much like the Mario games, most of the challenge is on the backend. Kingdom Rush kept me entertained with an always expanding fleet of defenses and it was a great fit for my Nexus 7.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Boss Fights

Lots of goldish hues in this game.
Lots of goldish hues in this game.

I didn’t touch on this in my review of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but I really didn’t like the structure of the boss fights. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as the boss fights were universally panned when the game was originally released. So much so that Square Enix actually revealed that they were outsourced, as if to shield Eidos Montreal or the otherwise stellar game from negative press. I didn’t care for them for one very specific reason – they didn’t coalesce with the way I role-played the game.

Yep, the bosses had Adam on his knees most of the time.
Yep, the bosses had Adam on his knees most of the time.

As I mentioned in my review, I played through the game attempting to go unseen. I also approached confrontations with the goal of non-lethally taking enemies out or bypassing them entirely. Neither of those play styles were options when it came to the bosses. Adam Jensen eventually came across these antagonists as the narrative unfolded, and he confronted them head on. The only resolution was to kill them very bluntly – guns blazing.

Since I role-played Adam in a different way, I was generally lacking in the hardware required to take the antagonists out. That made these fights difficult for me. The first fight was horrendously difficult as I had to get accustomed to a different play style. Meanwhile, Adam would die in a scant few hits from this initial boss. It was tough not to rage quit. I was more prepared with the later boss battles as I began always keeping a select few lethal weapons in my inventory. I didn’t find these as tough, but they weren’t easy.

For narrative purposes, these antagonists had to die. Adam talking them down or converting them to a different way of thinking would’ve stripped away the intensity and sense of threat posed by these baddies. After all, if Adam could talk everyone down, who are the ideologues leading his opposition? In that scenario, no one would believe that their point of view is the “correct” one. There wouldn’t be any honest opposition or nefarious individuals.

Oh, goodie.
Oh, goodie.

How should this be remedied? I don’t know. This has reportedly been addressed with the Director’s Cut so I’m curious what their resolution was. In conversations with friends, I’ve forwarded the thought that Adam could’ve found a way to sneak up on these enemies. That solves one of my qualms but he, or someone else, still needs to take them out. If Batman has taught us one thing, it’s futile locking the Joker up. One way or the other, he’s going to escape. In the end, it boils down to me role-playing Adam Jensen in a way not consistent with the narrative. However, Eidos Montreal sent mixed signals. The gameplay is open-ended, but the narrative doesn’t completely gel with any play style. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a game that touts multiple paths but perhaps there’s only one true way.