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→
Why don’t I play MMORPGs? It’s a question that’ll come up in conversation every now and then, and one worthy of asking considering my soft spot for games like Final Fantasy XII and Xenoblade Chronicles, games which are essentially single-player MMORPGs. I know I’d love a game like Final Fantasy XIV, especially having watched my wife play it and witnessed firsthand the ludicrous amount of things to do and places to go. But that’s the thing. I know my completionist tendencies would require me to devote so much time to the game, time I’m sure I’d enjoy, but time that would be monopolized by a single game. I’d much rather experience a variety of diverse games. That’s the theory in my head, at least. And it sounds good, too, until a game like Fire Emblem: Three Houses comes along. Continue reading Fire Emblem: Three Houses [Switch] – Review→
At the beginning of 2018, I made a conscious effort to work through my backlog and play those games I’d always wanted to, but never did for this reason or that. Happily, I actually worked through a not insignificant portion before the summer. Then, the home buying process, and Octopath Traveler, took up any free time I had. When the dust settled, I was bombarded by new releases that occupied my time for the last half of the year.
So, remember earlier this year when I began my Xenoblade Chronicles review talking about how I no longer had the time for lengthy RPGs? Well… apparently I do. Three months and 125 hours later, I’m finally done playing that game’s sequel, Xenoblade Chronicles X. Originally published in Japan by Nintendo on April 29, 2015, Monolith Soft’s Wii U follow-up arrived in the west half a year later, on December 4, 2015. Featuring no narrative continuity with its predecessor, this entry recounted humanity’s survival on an alien planet following the destruction of Earth. In nearly every way, the developer’s improved upon and expanded the systems they introduced in the previous game, making for an incredibly deep, and fulfilling experience. Continue reading Xenoblade Chronicles X [Wii U] – Review→
While I have a soft spot for them, I just don’t have the time to devote to lengthy RPGs like I used to. So before I started Xenoblade Chronicles, I was fearful it’d take me months to complete. Instead, I was immediately hooked on Monolith Soft’s seminal Wii RPG and saw credits within a month, having found a couple hours for it each night. Originally published by Nintendo of Japan on June 10, 2010, it took the grassroots Operation Rainfall movement for it to see the light of day in the United States. Half a year after it was localized for the European market, and with British voice-acting still intact, it released here on April 6, 2012. Featuring an enthralling storyline, active combat reminiscent of MMORPGs, a robust collection of interlocking gameplay systems, and expansive areas chock full of enemies and distractions, it was a supremely enjoyable, highly addictive experience that has me seriously contemplating jumping into Xenoblade Chronicles X. Continue reading Xenoblade Chronicles [Wii] – Review→
Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean is a role-playing game released in late 2004 for the GameCube. It was co-developed by Monolith Soft (known for the Xenosaga series and the recently released Xenoblade Chronicles) and tri-Crescendo (Eternal Sonata) and published by Namco. The game is a story of revenge for Kalas, the primary protagonist but it also focuses on his (and his compatriots) quest to save the world. I didn’t find the story or characters interesting, but what’s exceptional about the game is its card-based battle system, which could’ve been its biggest liability.
Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean takes place in a fantastical world, a world where landmasses float in the sky, oceans are a thing of legend, and the human inhabitants have wings. The young adult Kalas is on a mission of revenge as he searches for the murderer of his brother and grandfather. He believes the person responsible is a soldier in the imperialistic Alfard Empire. The game begins as he awakens, confused but not suffering from amnesia, in a remote village. Soon after this point, he meets Xelha, a kind but mysterious girl who believes the Empire is on the verge of unleashing a great evil. Although Kalas believes he has no need for her, they join together as their goals run a similar course.
At the point I finished (about a dozen hours in), I had met a third party member: a rural fisherman named Gibari. He was beefed up and helpful in the rural town I found him in, but he wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. Beyond those three, I can’t comment on anyone else as I didn’t sink enough time into the game to meet anyone else. After joining up with Xelha, I visited another town or two and trekked through a few enemy-riddled areas, but the main focus was the routine run-ins with the Empire, which helped narrow the protagonists’ motives.
I don’t really have an opinion on the general story because I only played it for a dozen or so hours, but in that time span I already knew that I didn’t like Kalas. He was off-putting from the get go with his lack of respect for others and rudeness. Of course, naïve characters are the norm for role-playing games of this ilk; I’m sure that over the course of the estimated sixty hours of gameplay, he would mature and grow as a person. A lot of my opinion of him (and others) was based on the poor voice acting and that didn’t help in forming my opinion. It’s not necessarily that characters over or under act, instead my grievance lies with the quality of the audio – it sounds like I’m listening to people in a sound booth, as if whatever audio mixing that would remove this aura wasn’t done.
On the back of the game’s box is a quote from Nintendo Power: “It’s possibly the most beautiful GCN title ever made,” which I’d have to agree with. The game’s locales are like paintings that you walk around in, or like the PlayStation 1 era Final Fantasy games; they feature a fixed camera perspective with no player control of it. The pre-rendered backgrounds of the towns are intricately detailed and will often have animated bits and pieces, but because I wasn’t able to control the camera, navigating these areas was sometimes less than great; for instance when Kalas would walk into the background and shrink to signify distance from the camera. This isn’t a problem with Baten Kaitos, it’s just a style that I don’t prefer.
What makes Baten Kaitos unique compared to other RPGs is its reliance on Magnus (playing cards) for items, attacks, equipment, and just about anything else. Each character had a deck of cards that they used in battles. As they leveled up, the amount of cards they could put into it, as well as their hand size in battles grew.
Battles revolved around each character’s deck of Magnus. A good deck would contain a mixture of offensive, defensive, and healing cards that were suited to take advantage of enemies’ elemental weaknesses. In battles, characters would have a hand of cards and I’d try my best to link them together to create optimal attacks and defensive maneuvers. I found that if I didn’t suit my deck to each area and continually keep it fresh, I wouldn’t advance.
The Magnus weren’t just used in battles though; they were used in place of items too. Special Magnus could capture the essence of an item, say water, and I could then use that Magnus to solve a puzzle, such as putting out a fire. I had to be careful with Magnus however, as the cards would age and their properties would change. For instance, if I had a Magnus with green bananas on it, as time passed, the bananas would ripen and the card’s effect would change. This aspect of the Magnus kept me on my toes and was in some instances, annoying.
Card-battling games have a reputation for being obtuse, complicated, and slow-paced. Of course, they’re also known for requiring strategy, skill, and a little luck. What’s great about Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean is that it takes the best things about card-battling games: strategy in deck building, skillful combinations of cards, and a little luck of the draw, while reducing the negatives by speeding up the battle system and easing players into the extensive number of Magnus. It may not have captured my attention for too long, but damned if I didn’t absolutely enjoy its battle system.
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!