I concluded my review of Suikoden II stating that “It’s tale of war, viewed from macro and micro perspectives, was better executed than its predecessor, and one that I’ll inevitably judge its successors upon.” Well, the rubber meets the road now that I’ve completed Suikoden III.Continue reading Suikoden III [PlayStation 2] – Review
Last week was pretty great, and not just because I played through a different Metal Slug game each day. No, it was pretty great because I spent the week with my three month old son. My wife’s FMLA was scheduled to end and accordingly, we had planned for me to use up some accrued vacation time to prolong daycare one more week, and you know, get some quality time with our little tree frog. I had taken off the week when he was born, and of course we had plenty of bonding time in the evenings and on weekends when my wife would get a break, but nonetheless, spending so much unbroken time with him was immensely fulfilling. At this stage in his development, he seemed to make noticeable improvements with his motor skills daily; and I may be a little biased, but everything he does is so fascinating!Continue reading Metal Slug Anthology [PlayStation 4] – Review
The middle class Japanese family just couldn’t catch a break in the late 1990s and early 2000s, could they? Besides having to deal with the economic ramifications of the Lost Decade, many were put in situations that caused them to risk life and limb. Take the Tanamatsuri family, as highlighted in Incredible Crisis. On a very special day – grandma’s 80th birthday – the family had to deal with all manner of ludicrous obstacles. Their day-to-day routines were interrupted by snowboarding bank robbers, kaiju teddy bears, and so many sinking boats. Other families had their interpersonal relationships put to the test, such as the Yamada family. In the particular summer highlighted in Mister Mosquito, they were plagued by the eponymous bloodsucking pest. For them, he brought about more than itchy bites; he nearly tore the family apart!Continue reading Mister Mosquito [PlayStation 2] – Review
After experiencing the three titles that make up the Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix compilation in quick succession last year, I needed a break. It was a desire to join in on the zeitgeist surrounding the release of Kingdom Hearts III that prompted me to finally jump into the series, though truth be told I’d always been interested. I started itching to get back into the series while playing the F.E.A.R. games last year, if anything to experience something a little more uplifting. First up: Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix. Continue reading Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix [PlayStation 3] – Review
Up until playing it, I’ve only ever had two associations when thinking about Shadow Hearts. One related to the game’s Judgment Ring, an appealing mechanic that added an element of action to otherwise typical turn-based battles. The other, more prominent association was the proximity of its release to Final Fantasy X, one of the most anticipated games at the time. At first blush, this seems like unfortunate timing, but in actuality it was opportunistic: a hope that those awaiting Final Fantasy X would purchase Shadow Hearts to bide their time with a similar role-playing game, albeit one with a much smaller development budget. With this in mind, I long ago established modest expectations. Now that I’ve completed it, I’ve found that these expectations were spot-on, which isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy playing Shadow Hearts, but it was somewhat unimpressive. Continue reading Shadow Hearts [PlayStation 2] – Review
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
Half-Life is a game I’ve probably started a half-dozen times, yet never completed. It was one of the first video games I owned for a computer and I can still recall, quite vividly, when my mom bought it for me at a garage sale. Around this time – middle school – I had a burgeoning interest in video games, just as my enthusiasm for soccer waned. I had never heard of the game before but upon seeing the acclaim advertised on the big box Game of the Year Edition, I decided I needed to know about it.
Following an awkward period acquainting myself with mouse and keyboard controls, I assumed the role of Dr. Gordon Freeman and did my best to escape Black Mesa. At some point, struggling to overcome the odds, I burned out. Every now and then, as the years passed, I’d revisit the game, start a new save file, and proceed down the same path. Despite my inability to get very far, it’s remained on my to-do list ever since, especially considering its heralded status as a first-person shooter. Well, like I’ve done with many other games this year, I can finally mark it complete. Continue reading Half-Life [PlayStation 2] – Review
It’s been about a month since Jeff and I completed Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Generally, I try and write about a game within a few days of completing it but this game wound up provoking so many mixed emotions for me. It’s left me awestricken in many ways, some good and some bad. This is a game that’s often touted as the first postmodern video game, and while I’m too much of a dullard to fully comprehend this statement, the way my own opinion has been split in so many ways is indicative of its provocative nature. It’s a game I admire and disdain at the same time, and I’ll try my best to detail some of the major reasons why.
Like our recent playthrough of Metal Gear Solid, this wasn’t my first experience with this game. I originally played it a couple of years after its release and recall thinking the world of it then. As a sequel, the narrative subverts most preconceived notions of what to expect, and I think high school John really got a kick out of that. As an adult, I still find that fascinating, perhaps more so now, especially having directly completed its predecessor. One of the most notable ways Kojima did this was through a bait-and-switch of the protagonist.
While the first hour or so of the game stars Solid Snake, as one would expect, the true star of the game is Raiden. As a character, he’s anything like Solid Snake, the gruff, self-assured action-movie hero one expects in a game like this. Instead, Raiden is supposed to represent the player, a novice whose preparations for the big time constituted training in virtual reality. These preparations leave him undoubtedly skilled, but not with a mindset capable of being successful in the ways Solid Snake has been previously. His lack of confidence was grating to witness, although his character arc climaxed with my impression of him notching up a little bit.
The story of Metal Gear Solid may have grown convoluted but it doesn’t hold a candle to anything on display here. At its most basic, this game centers on Snake and Otacon’s quest for Metal Gear nonproliferation and Raiden’s journey to discover himself. Then about a dozen layers are added on top of those and any further comprehension requires extensive notetaking and periods of downtime to digest the events of the lengthy and frequent cutscenes. The breakdown between actually playing the game and watching it was somewhat jarring, although I did enjoy watching more than playing. Maybe I feel that way because the time I had to develop my stealth and combat skills was squashed between lengthy conversations that took me out of the experience? Either way, I felt my performance was less impressive compared to the previous game.
Due to narrative reasons that are mind-blowing, the events of the game are purposefully similar to the Shadow Moses Incident and wind up serving as little more than a test to creating a solider equal to Solid Snake. Pulling the strings is a shadow organization known as the Patriots. Already in control of the United States (every election has been a sham and most major government officials are representatives of the organization) they’re seeking control of the flow of digital information now. A new Metal Gear was designed and the AI contained within, GW, is the construct to achieve their goal. There are about another dozen crucial characters and their allegiances and double crosses become confusing narrative fodder. Thankfully I did take detailed notes but even so, I remain unclear on many things and feel another playthrough is necessary to really comprehend everything. Nonetheless, the narrative was the freshest aspect of this game and it was unpredictable at every point.
Likewise, the depth found in the gameplay has also been drastically increased. The increased AI is no joke; no longer do guards make buffoonish decisions when catching a glimpse of Snake in a box. Rather, they call reinforcements more often than not and send in additional soldiers to “clear” an area, searching in most nooks and crannies. It felt like setting off an alert resulted in many more mission failed screens compared to the previous game. I want to say in addition to the more stringent AI, the alerts lasted longer too. Frequently, I would throw Raiden or Snake in the line of fire just to get a quick reset instead of hiding for the few minutes it would take for things to cool down. This resulted in a less enjoyable gameplay experience. It’s also one of the reasons I’d like to replay the game again, just to take my time and devote all my focus to remaining stealthy and see if my performance and enjoyment increase.
The gameplay improvements are not relegated solely to stealth actions. Gunplay received an overhaul in the form of first-person shooting. First-person shooting provided a greater level of accuracy when eliminating enemy threats, and provided some fun when taking them by surprise. Individual body parts could be targeted, including the ability to shoot the radios an enemy may call for reinforcements with. This viewpoint was only useful in specific cases though as the character would remain locked in position – the game couldn’t be entirely played like a first-person shooter. It was a smart addition nonetheless and added a further layer of complexity to approaching a situation.
Like its predecessor, there were many great set piece scenes with most of them revolving around the varied boss fights. Again, there was a rogues’ gallery of bad guys to defeat and each encounter was a unique experience. I can’t think of any being down-to-earth showdowns; for instance, Raiden battling a roller-skating mad bomber of sorts or his showdown with a small force of towering Metal Gears. The set pieces extended beyond cinematic fights though, including one particularly frustrating platforming section. One section in particular ate our lunch, seeing us retry twenty or so times. Raiden was forced to navigate a narrow strip of piping across a body of water and the various obstacles highlighted why such a section didn’t jive with the super responsive character movements.
What do I think of this game? The narrative is bold, but tough to follow. I want to replay and reread my notes to try and piece everything together. I didn’t much care for Raiden although I felt he was redeemed by the end; for a deeper analysis that I agree with (and reasoning why this game is postmodern), read this. The gameplay split my opinion the most. I like the improvements, even though the increased AI resulted in a tougher game with more frustrations. Again, it’s another reason I’d like to replay, in order to have a more enjoyable experience. As it stands, it was enjoyable seeing what happened in the game, less so to actually play. I still think the original is unsurpassed as a pure video game or piece of entertainment. I would agree that this game is incredibly bold and deserves most every ounce of praise; it just wasn’t as fun to play.
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 the first brand new game I purchased for the PlayStation 2. I can still remember so clearly walking into the newly opened GameStop in my town and picking this game up. It had to have been six months to a year after release as it was about thirty dollars, if memory serves. This was the first “major” simulation racing game I played. I was enveloped in the experience as a result and spent so much time playing, unlocking car after car. That was one of the things that kept me hooked. Since I grew up on Pokémon, I can dig collecting, and Gran Turismo is one of those series where there’s an immense amount of cars to collect. I didn’t fully complete it, and I daydream about returning to it, almost instead of trying my hand at one of its sequels. This will remain a collection of some of my fondest PS2 memories.
Gran Turismo 4 was developed by Polyphony Digital and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. It was released for the PlayStation 2 in North America on February 22, 2005, following the original December 28, 2004 Japanese release. As is the case with every title in the series currently, its development was overseen by Kazunori Yamauchi. Also, in keeping with tradition, this game was subject to many delays. That being said, no one can dispute the quality of the final product.