Tag Archives: atlus

Cubivore: Survival of the Fittest [GameCube] – Review

Cubivore - GameCube - North American Cover

An ecological game with a sense of humor, Cubivore: Survival of the Fittest is endearing in a loveably bizarre way, despite frequent battles against an unanticipated foe: the camera.

Developed by Saru Brunei with assistance from Intelligent Systems, it was originally intended to release on the Nintendo 64DD before winding up on the GameCube. Nintendo published it in Japan in early 2002 but opted to forgo a western release, prompting Atlus to localize it for North America, where it launched on November 5, 2002. Continue reading Cubivore: Survival of the Fittest [GameCube] – Review

Mahjong Cub3d [Nintendo 3DS] – Review

Mahjong Cub3d - Nintendo 3DS - United States Cover

I had my first hands-on experience with mahjong a few months ago with Shanghai on the Sega Master System. Having enjoyed it, I scoured my collection for another mahjong game and came across Mahjong Cub3d for the Nintendo 3DS. Developed by Sunsoft and published in the United States by Atlus on October 11, 2011, it’s a Picross 3D styled adaptation of solitaire mahjong. I enjoyed clearing 3D mahjong piles despite a perplexing lack of touch screen controls. When I wanted something more traditional I attempted to solve deviously difficult standard mahjong puzzles. Now that I’ve played this a while, I believe my hunger for mahjong has been filled. Continue reading Mahjong Cub3d [Nintendo 3DS] – Review

3D Dot Game Heroes [PlayStation 3] – Review

3D Dot Game Heroes

Outside of obtaining the branding, there’s little else Silicon Studio could’ve done to make 3D Dot Game Heroes more of a Zelda game. This is a classic 2D Zelda game through and through, although I’m hesitant to call it a clone as that implies a derisive reaction and I truly dig this game. The developer’s love for Japanese RPGs from the 1980s/1990s exudes in the innumerable references and qualities this game shares with the genre. The polish applied is evident on all fronts, from the gameplay and side quests to the visuals and audio. It’s easy to tell this was a passion project for the studio and they delivered a quality video game in turn.
Continue reading 3D Dot Game Heroes [PlayStation 3] – Review

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 #29 – Deep Labyrinth [Nintendo DS]

Deep Labyrinth

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 is a fairly recent addition to my collection. During one of the more recent buy 2, get 1 free promotions at Vintage Stock, I acquired this game. I have yet to play it, and I’m doubtful that I’ll complete it once I check it out. It’s an old-school first-person dungeon crawling RPG which I can dig, but I’m unsure of the game’s quality. The game is sitting at 55% on GameRankings, and even taking into account that RPGs generally don’t fare too well with western critics, that’s low. However, Ii do enjoy making graph paper maps and this game may bring out that need and other minor OCD tendencies.

Deep Labyrinth was developed by Interactive Brains and originally released as a mobile game in Japan on December 1, 2004. They ported it to the Nintendo DS and it was published by Atlus in North America on August 15, 2006. It has some revered individuals behind it according to Wikipedia; namely, the script writer behind many Square classics Masato Kato and the prolific composer Yasunori Mitsuda.

Samurai Western – Review

The game’s cast consists of about a dozen recurring characters.

Released in 2005 for the PlayStation 2, Samurai Western is a spinoff of Acquire’s Way of the Samurai series. To say the developer, also known for the Tenchu and Shinobido series’, dabbled in similar games, thematically and genre-wise, would be an understatement; samurai and ninja are their bread and butter. Dropping a samurai in the Wild West should instantly intrigue most people, and their execution pays homage to classic westerns and samurai films, if not directly aping tropes. However, the combat is basic and controlling the protagonist exemplifies the brittleness to the combo system and his mechanical movement.

Gojiro Kiryu, a samurai vehemently dedicated to the tradition, has traveled to the Wild West in search of his brother. Rando has forsaken the way of the samurai after coming to the conclusion that the sword is obsolete in a world that’ll soon be ruled by guns. Gojiro’s search takes him to a picturesque western town with a massive bar, wooden facades of buildings, and of course a tyrannical leader. That leader, Goldberg, has co-opted Gojiro’s brother and with the help of the (no longer) lone gunman Ralph, the dopey sheriff Donald, and many townsfolk, Gojiro defeats Goldberg and his goons and eventually settles the score with his brother.

Samurai Western’s story unravels through diary entries of main characters and brief cutscenes, and it’s a no-frills experience all the way through. Stereotypes and tropes are abundant as players plow through Samurai Western’s fifteen short stages, but the game still took me longer to complete than I expected thanks to the RPG elements it incorporates.

The game sure doesn’t wow me visually.

Not relying solely on the subpar combat, Samurai Western also features a smidgen of character development and customization. Like a typical RPG, Gojiro gains experience from killing enemies and when he levels up, I can assign experience points into his health, magic, strength, or defense. A few bosses were way too tough for me initially; requiring me to replay earlier stages a dozen or so times to beef up. Even then, those bosses were still super challenging. There were also unlockable accessories that improved my character’s stats, and spiffed him up.

Back to the subpar combat comment. Samurai Western’s combat doesn’t have a flow; I know I’m just pressing buttons to chain together attacks, but there are so many other games that can do it and make me feel like I’m not just pressing buttons such as God of War, another 2005 action game. It might’ve been the animation or the timing required for combos, but I couldn’t make the game’s combat a habit.

Something that had me confused as I was slicing cowboys into tiny bits (not really) was the lack of clear objectives. I would know to defeat all of so-and-so’s minions, but it sometimes seemed like I really needed to get to a certain point in the stage. Other times, stages would drag on and I imagine I needed to kill a specific number of goons. This lack of clarity oftentimes had me doubting the clear conditions after minutes of combat and I’d begin wandering around until I arrived at a place that looked like somewhere I needed to go.

Although many other games have done it, I noticed Samurai Western adapted the enemy health bars originally (?) introduced in Streets of Rage 2.

I enjoyed Samurai Western, but it’s not entirely a recommendable game. Japanese and Americans both have a definite nostalgia for their manly men, and it’s fitting that they get mashed together in a surreal way. The gameplay in Samurai Western seems very mechanical though and honestly, the story isn’t new; I’m sure most people are familiar with its rehashed tropes. Of course, I’m still glad I played it.

In Between Posts, May 20, 2012

What a week! More precisely, I mean what a weekend. Friday night, my girlfriend and another couple went to the movies and watched The Dictator. Coming from Sacha Baron Cohen I expected disturbing language and imagery, and there was plenty of that, but I wasn’t expecting such a smart and entertaining satire of world politics. Since graduating from high school, I’ve become an incredible news junkie, and because of that, I was able to appreciate each and every poke and jab and reference. Still, without an in depth knowledge of that sort of stuff, the movie was still quite funny, in a gross-out way most of the time.

Saturday night, my friend and I went to a Daughtry concert and despite my indifference towards the performer, I had a good time, especially so because we weren’t paying! The first opener consisted of an acoustic guitarist and a keyboardist, and the guitarist was laughable. He could sing well, but his insistence on reminding the audience his name (Mike Sanchez) and that we were at a rock show grew to be ironically humorous. SafetySuit was the other opener and they blew me away. They had an energy that I associate more with a punk band and that energy livened up the audience and made for a memorable set. Lastly Daughtry. Him and his band rocked a lot heavier than I was expecting and he of course performed all of his hits, but I actually preferred SafetySuit. Still, the audience clearly didn’t as they were on their feet for the duration of his hour-and-a-half set.

Now I’m finally to today’s events. After work, a friend and I played tennis for three hours. It was my first time playing with him and we are on the same level, which makes any competitive event so much more fun. Throughout our session, I downed three bottles of water and a Gatorade! Despite these activities, I also put in twenty-four hours at work in those past three days. Still, life is good!

What have I been up to video game wise? Well I took a break from Xenoblade Chronicles to check out (and complete I guess) Samurai Western, a PS2 action game from the Japanese developer Acquire and Atlus. I’m writing a review for the game and that should be up tomorrow or at least in the next few days. With that done, it’s back to Xenoblade Chronicles!

The Cursed Crusade – Demo Impressions

The game boasts co-op play so that's a plus.

The Cursed Crusade is a soon to be released action-adventure game that appears to be cashing in on the surprising popularity of the brutally tough Demon’s Souls. Set in the same sort of medieval environment, the demo for The Cursed Crusade gave me a glimpse of its dark setting, plot, and gameplay.

The demo for The Cursed Crusade had me playing as a mercenary in a group of soldiers preparing to storm a castle. The leader of this bunch was giving a speech in the first cutscene and quelling the fears of some of the soldiers. It was hard to take them seriously however as the voice acting was really awful; their tone didn’t match the scene because their lines were given halfheartedly. The commander got them going regardless, thanks to my character and a Spaniard.

The castle we stormed was filled with archers so to approach it the soldiers had to advance behind two-person shields. When a storm of arrows rained from the sky, I had to stop and take cover. Once the Spaniard and I were close enough, we had to throw an explosive to break open the door. Before I could do that, I had to take out some nearby archers with my crossbow. This section was varied, but it wasn’t that entertaining. Maybe the dialogue between the mercenary and the Spaniard was supposed to be a prominent feature here, but the audio mixing made it hard to listen without the aid of subtitles.

Enemies fought with different weapons which I could pick use when they were defeated.

Once we breached the castle there were a few open areas and it was very easy to take control… just kidding. These areas were full of foot soldiers and it was time to whip out my trusty blade and cut some fools down. The combat was really sluggish; I’d press an attack button and my character would swing his sword in a drawn out animation cycle. I couldn’t halt the animation once it had started and trying to get multiple swings in a row was tough to do. Couple that with unclear indications on if I should be timing my attacks a certain way and I walked away from the combat less than satisfied.

The demo ended with a boss fight that seemed to indicate there’s much more to The Cursed Crusade than what’s apparent on the surface. As I was duking it out with the head honcho of the castle, he turned into a demon! Then the mercenary and the Spaniard turned into demons! The mercenary seemed to know what was happening, but the Spaniard thought he was having a nightmare, and he was right. The demo ended there and left me wondering how this crusade would link to supernatural and religious matters.

You know it's demon time when that happens.

The Cursed Crusade wasn’t a pretty game to look at. The graphics were dated, looking like an early Xbox 360 or PS3 game, and the general design wasn’t my thing, primarily the dark colors and ugly environments. I didn’t enjoy the combat much either. I could pick up the weapons my fallen foes would drop, which was cool, but the actual combat between enemies didn’t seem fine-tuned. Having not played Demon’s Souls I can’t say with certainty, but The Cursed Crusade seems like an attempt to cash in on its surprising popularity, more so considering this game is being published by Atlus, like Demon’s Souls. There wasn’t anything I found appealing about The Cursed Crusade and I won’t be picking it up when it releases October 25, 2011. It was developed by the French developer Kylotonn Games and will be published by Atlus for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Links:

The Cursed Crusade
Kylotonn Games
Atlus

Catherine – Demo Impressions

While Vincent is in a relationship with Katherine, another girl, named Catherine, apparently has a role to play in his life.

So last week the demo for Catherine was released. I downloaded it on my PlayStation 3 and got around to playing it the other day. With the barrage of prerelease media I’ve seen about the game since its original announcement, to the excitement the crew at Giant Bomb has for it, I was interested to finally play it for myself.

The demo began with little introduction. Immediately I began tackling what looks to be Catherine’s primary gameplay. I controlled a thirty-something man named Vincent. He was having a nightmare and had to scale an enormous wall to escape from a massive creature.

The wall was made out of blocks that I could push around and pull out when I needed to. Vincent could only climb one block at a time, and his path was not always conducive to climbing. Frequently I would have to push blocks to the side, or pull some out from in front of me; Vincent would grab onto the ledge instead of falling down. Blocks would levitate as long as they were touching on a corner, which means they can defy gravity.

The demo contained two stages and they each lasted five to ten minutes. I racked up a score along the way and was graded at the end of both stages; I can already foresee trophies, achievements, and leaderboards. From the prerelease media I saw for the game, I didn’t expect to like the gameplay that much. As long as the stages keep introducing tricky maneuvering, I anticipate not growing bored with the gameplay by the time the game is done.

So why was Vincent having a nightmare?  Well, recently young men who probably weren’t totally loyal to their partners have wound up dead in their sleep, and Vincent might not have been the most faithful to his girlfriend Katherine.

There are two major cutscenes in the demo for the game. The first shows Vincent and Katherine having a talk after his nightmare. Katherine wants to discuss marriage with Vincent, but he likes where they are, it’s easy he tells her. In the second cutscene, Vincent is at the bar with his two friends. They discuss relationships and the mysterious deaths that have been happening.

The demo ended fairly abruptly as a scantily clad woman appeared. After this the demo showed a mash-up of cutscenes and gameplay from the rest of the game. This final cutscene piqued my interest in seeing how Catherine unfolds.

Catherine is being developed and published by Atlus. It’s scheduled to come out for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on July 26, 2011. I’m very interested in the game, but would ultimately recommend playing the demo for yourself to decide if you would buy right away.

Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber – First Impressions

A lengthy adventure awaits for anyone who comes across a copy of this "rare" game, then again it is on the Wii's Virtual Console.

Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber is a peculiar game. Developed by Quest and published by Atlus for the Nintendo 64, it was released in North America in late 2000, and is notable for being one of the only RPG’s on the system. I initially thought it to be a tactical role-playing game similar to Final Fantasy Tactics, but it’s not. There are role-playing aspects such as customization and battle scenes, but the control I had over a small army reminded of the real-time strategy genre.

The game begins with the main character, Magnus Gallant, graduating from a military academy. In this sequence, I was asked questions and my answers decided the type of class Magnus would be. Upon graduation Magnus is sent to the southern reaches of Palatinus to put down an uprising by the lower class. Magnus wields his sword protecting the status quo of the monarchy and early on realizes the unjust nature of the class system he is fighting to protect.

Before each mission, Magnus is briefed on the strategy he should employ and what to expect.

The game offers the player choices at main intersections in the story, the first guiding Magnus along the path he is currently on, or allowing him to join the revolutionary army and fight for equality against the upper class. Each mission usually undertakes similar related concepts, in a much smaller scope, but each one evolves Magnus’ perspective on the world around him. Of the few choices I had to make, few of them had an obvious good and bad element. I had to sit and think about the route I would take and how it would affect the cause that Magnus fought for.

Before missions, Magnus would be briefed on the battlefield, the enemies, and the situation in general. Each mission took place in a fairly small geographical region, but they usually had a handful of towns. The objective was always to reach the opposite end of the map, capturing the enemy headquarters. Once I’d been given control, I would begin dispatching battalions and giving those battalions destinations. Both dispatching and issuing destinations was a redundant task. Lacking the ability to choose a group of battalions, I had to issue destinations and dispatch battalions one at a time.

If a battalion of mine ran into an enemy battalion, a battle would ensue. Once a battle between battalions started, everything happened automatically, dictated by the battle strategy I chose for that battalion. Rather than picking each action for each character, all I did was pick a battle strategy such as attack leader, and my characters would act accordingly. Not being able to choose individual targets was frustrating in some situations. Even when I told a battalion to attack the weakest enemy, sometimes they would attack a target with full hit points instead of an opponent with a low amount of hit points. The path to victories however was customization.

Once on the battlefield, Magnus issued commands to individual battalions, represented by their leaders.

Battalions are a nine by nine grid that could be composed of up to five characters. The placement of the characters was vital for battles. If a soldier was placed on the front lines he would be able to attack twice, anywhere else, he would attack only once. Similarly, if I placed an Amazon (archer) on the back row instead of the front row, she would attack twice rather than once.

Besides the placement of characters, it was important to make sure that battalions were balanced class-wise. Early on, I was losing more characters than I wanted, so I added clerics to each battalion; because of this, battalions could participate in more battles and fewer of my characters died. With customization of individual characters being a vital component of the game, I wish the process of equipping characters and buying goods was easier.

In between missions I’d do all of my customization. I’d view my entire army and select individual battalions and then, individual characters. I’d change their equipment, alter their formation, change characters between battalions, there was a lot I could do!

But I gave up on Ogre Battle 64. There were many missions that required trial and error, perhaps because I became too cocky and decided to forego strategy and tactics after a few easy wins. But I attempted the fifteenth mission half a dozen times before I realized the characters I was fighting were a decent amount of levels ahead of my characters. To continue I would have to spend an hour or two grinding my character’s levels, and after all the times I went through the set up of the mission, which takes five to ten minutes, I was done.

When a battalion of mine encountered an enemy battalion, a battle would ensue.

I fear that I was playing the game “wrong” by leveling up my battalions equally instead of focusing on a few. It’s the same way I feel whenever I play tactical role-playing games. At some point it feels like there is one correct way of completing each mission, and the trial and error it takes for me to reach that correct way is frustrating and drives me to stop playing altogether.

I would like to return to Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber and potentially complete it at some point, but not for a while, I just need some time away from it. Ogre Battle 64 had a serious story that contained mature topics and having a choice in my actions was thrilling. And the gameplay was exciting; it was something I’ve never experienced. Instead of finding a tactical role-playing game as I thought I would, I found an interesting game that combined the customization and leveling aspects of a role-playing game with the strategy and direct control over multiple units of a real-time strategy game. I spent thirty hours playing Ogre Battle 64 and there’s easily another thirty hours in it, but because it frustrated me too much, I’m moving on for now.