Save Point

Money can buy everything except “love”, “friendship” and “exp points”.

The 108 Calvinists of Destiny March 24, 2009

Filed under: New releases,Retro games,Specific games — haounomiko @ 11:03 pm
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I’ve spent most of my gaming time in Second Life recently, so I haven’t had much to blog about, but I did try the SNES game Castlevania IV for the first time. Are this game and Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts completely ripped off from each other? I’m not sure how two games that seem to have come out at approximately the same time can be so similar. Granted, I don’t know how much of this was set up by their respective precursors, as these are the earliest ones of their type I’ve played– but little things like the level advancement screen and even the rotating level are, no pun intended, eerily alike.

I also picked up Suikoden Tierkreis for the DS last week. So far, I’ve been unhappy with the clumsy way that it’s handled predestination; I expected better out of a Suikoden game. The game seems to want to blame every social ill upon the ruling society’s abstract philosophy instead of the corrupt rulers themselves, and that strikes me as being unlikely as well as out of line with the rest of the series. I don’t like the idea of fate any more than the next person, but historical societies that have believed in predestination were aware that it doesn’t work like that. Even if it turns out that the young naive heroes were all wrong, it’s still a strawman.

Well, we’ll see how it goes– hopefully it’ll improve. I do have high standards for the series that cause me to complain whenever it drops the ball, but in fact, the game is fun so far.

Last but not least, a friend and I are slugging through Donkey Kong Country 2 (SNES) bit by bit. Giant hives of bees, oh my.

 

The Finish Line February 12, 2009

So, I finished Ar tonelico 2 last week (Cloche’s path, third Reyvateil’s ending). It was a good follow-up to the first and a good bridge for the trilogy, but in my opinion it doesn’t stand well alone.

Initially, I had thought that it had promise to be greater than the first game, but that plateaued around the end of the first phase and it kept up a steady level of similar dramatic tension throughout. Even when the stakes were raised, the emotional investment was not. It was good for world- and character-building, and it probably helped establish some important things in preparation for the third game, but it did not snowball into the high climax that vindicates a 30-hour-minimum work of fiction. I would not recommend it to anyone who had not already finished the first game with the best ending, but it is a worthwhile experience for those who have.

After finishing Ar tonelico 2, I putzed around in the world for a while getting some of the optional things I hadn’t done. Ideally this game needs at least two more playthroughs, three if I want to see every ending, but I need a break before I play it again. Normally I’d even take a break before getting into another RPG, but I had stopped partway through Mother 3, and was eager to get back to it; I’m in chapter 8 closing in on the ending. Since I have a long weekend coming up, I might be able to finish it soon.

I was sick for a while last week, and I couldn’t sleep last night, so I found the rest of the puzzles in Professor Layton and the Curious Village, and unlocked the Riddle Master’s door to get at the last three. Now there’s only one final puzzle behind that door for me to finish and 100% the game– and it’s another sliding block puzzle. Nooooooo! I’ll probably just mess with it until I get the red block out, which is an unsatisfying method of solving puzzles, but I don’t know how to solve this kind (with the differently-shaped blocks) other than brute force or aimless fiddling.

 

If You Die In A Cut Scene, You Die In Real Life January 23, 2009

Filed under: Game tropes,Genres,Specific games — haounomiko @ 10:34 am
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One of my favourite things about the Ar tonelico series is that you can’t dodge the consequences of your actions simply by being the protagonist. You are held accountable to the same moral standards as the enemy, and you can’t just get away with the end justifying the means. Sometimes both sides look like the bad guy, and the game doesn’t try to excuse your side just because you’re on it.

The first game has a little of this, but it was downplayed because the story doesn’t revolve around political factions as much as the second game’s does. AT1 hints at it in the beginning, but you don’t see it really blossom until the end of the game. I think in AT2, the story’s genuine acceptance that both sides have a sincere point, and neither is pure evil but neither is perfect, has finally come into the spotlight.

I’m a big fan of that approach. When I was a kid I didn’t really notice, but nowadays I can’t help being critical of games that oversimplify and let the heroes get away with being as callously destructive as the enemy. Most RPGs tend to let that fly (other than the Suikoden series, which as far as I’m concerned is in a class of its own w.r.t. understanding of politics, morals, and the human heart), and I’m used to putting up with it, but it’s truly refreshing to see a game that applies a consistent set of standards to everyone in the story.

 

Jakuri Pod January 21, 2009

Filed under: Specific games,Translations — haounomiko @ 12:08 pm
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A mini-update, since I know a few of you are big Ar tonelico fans.

Apparently there was some concern that “Musume Power” was going to be translated as “Hymn Code”, which would be weird, completely irrelevant, and misleading since 3rd gens don’t have Hymn Codes. Worry not– it’s actually been translated as “Girl Power”, after all.

Some other translated names: Luca Trulyworth (which I hear is an error, as “waath” is “rebirth” in Hymmnos), Cloche (probably correct), and Jacqli (don’t worry, Ayulsa will brainwash you out of it). Sadly, everyone’s favourite snack is called Funboons.

 

Project A.T.2 begins January 19, 2009

Filed under: Specific games — haounomiko @ 2:14 pm
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The reason I’ve blogged so little this month is that I’ve been spending my gaming time on Second Life, which is a lot of fun but mostly doesn’t spark gaming-related thoughts (unless you count thoughts about its user interface for 3-D modelling). My home internet is currently down, though, and my pre-ordered copy of Ar tonelico 2 just arrived. This suggests a certain obvious activity to keep me busy while I can’t get into Lindenworld.

I’ve only played an hour or so into the game, and most of my comments have already been observed by fandom: the dialogue could use less innuendo, the main character is considerably more sensible than Lyner (although perhaps a little too cool to seem honestly comfortable), and so on. The opening is rather fanservicey, but it can also be read as cooperative and nurturing: two Reyvateils working together, not in competition for the dating sim protagonist. As for the opening plus the game beginning, I’m already curious about a few matters and a few flashes of things I’ve briefly seen. If AT1 is any indication, the briefer the glimpse of something, the more important it’ll be in the end.

 

Thank You For The Music December 30, 2008

Filed under: Hacks,Metagaming,Specific games,The gaming industry — haounomiko @ 10:43 pm
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In the past week, I’ve been playing a ROM of Mother 3/EarthBound 2, with a translation patch by the dedicated people at fobby.net who gave their time to rework this game for the sake of the fandom. As someone who liked EarthBound, but not enough to try to play the sequel with a walkthrough/script or read up on it or anything, I am one of those who would never have experienced the game without their translation. These people have worked hard in their free time without being paid to translate and patch an entire game, just because they cared about it that much, and because of that they’ve been able to bring it to more people who can appreciate it. Such an admirable, dedicated group of fans deserves praise, and I intend to deliver them some, as soon as I dare set foot on the interactive part of their site where spoilers are everywhere.

I have to say I’ve been quite impressed with the translation so far; as I would expect from a group of such dedicated, enthusiastic fans, they’ve done a great job bringing back the feeling of the Mother 2/EarthBound 1 translation. I can’t speak for how close they are to the original, but I trust them to be faithful. Even things like enemy names and English-language puns ring true. These translators deserve a giant helping of applause, and possibly jobs in the industry translating more of our RPGs.

As far as that industry goes, I’m in chapter seven at present, and discovering one major potential reason why Nintendo said they had no plans to bring it over to America: censorship and political concerns. The Magypsies are a group of magic-wielding, millenia-old, flamboyant lipsticked men with five o’clock shadow, and they’re turning out to be a huge part of the plot. They’re sturdily-built limp-wristed men who sit in giant pink heart-shaped glittery chairs. You can’t pretend they aren’t transvestites, and you also can’t pretend they’re really women, no matter what you make the dialogue say. They’re an extremely noticeable, important part of the game, and they are definitely the Good Guys. In Japan, people probably just laugh, but in America’s political climate, I don’t know how Nintendo would bring this game over without a lot of conservative Americans having a fit at the idea that their kids might play a game containing some transvestite characters (and ones who are good people, at that).

Gameplay is a little frustrating because the ROM– and its sound– aren’t perfectly synched with my button-pressing, which makes the rhythm-game aspect of the battles disappointingly chancy. I can actually hear the lag between the sound of my pushing a button and the sound of an enemy getting hit; emulation lag has never been this severe of an issue for me because my timing is often linked to also-lagging cues, but now it’s getting all up in my gameplay by interrupting rhythms that aren’t lagging in my head. Of course, the rhythm isn’t always meant to be smooth, either– the composers have made a great soundtrack full of battle themes that change tempo all the time. Some of these songs are going to take a lot of memorising to begin with. At least I have something to do during the random encounters.

At any rate, I’m enjoying this game (I did mention heaps of appreciation, right?) Due to life circumstances, I might have to put it on hold for a while in January, but part of me wants to just keep on playing.

 

Retrofest Continues November 25, 2008

Filed under: Retro games,Specific games — haounomiko @ 3:28 pm
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I finally finished Drakkhen, and I must admit I’m a bit relieved, though also proud of myself for sticking with it until the end this time. I feel accomplished. The best part of the game was being amused by the incoherent text, which actually was pretty good entertainment. The music wasn’t bad, and there were times when I thought the game could have been poignant if the designers had put a little more work into drawing players in, making it personal, and making us care about the world. I wonder if Drakkhen II/Dragon View is any good.

I also finished Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts properly. It’s worth a mention that this game seems to have been made by sexist developers. There’s a status ailment that turns your character into a girl, rendering him almost helpless– much in the vein of Bunny Link from Zelda 3, but misogynistic. The princess is also even more objectified than usual; beating the game gets you her measurements; and this in an age when there were plenty of female video game characters out there who could do as much as the male ones, like Samus and SMB2’s Princess Toadstool. I’m put in mind of all the media hype of game companies trying to make games for girls– those games usually suck, and any serious female gamer is more likely actually playing “boys’ games”, but developers seem to overlook this fact. Instead of assuming girls want to play a special different kind of game designed just for them, perhaps developers could try assuming that girls are playing the default games as well as boys, and not put in sexist things. I bet that would go further to address the gender imbalance in gaming than any amount of pink consoles or Barbie’s Little Mermaid Horse Race Babiez games. I know quite a few female gamers, and they all choose their games by whether they’re fun, not by whether the box is pink.

Am now playing Flashback: The Quest For Identity. I remember getting this game pretty late in the SNES era, when I already had a PSX and everything, and I think I wandered off to play something else as soon as I got stuck, which was within the first ten minutes. I think my attention span for video games was at an all-time low in that era; with Sony on the map, suddenly there were many more games available than I could ever keep up with, I could afford to buy more of them, and I couldn’t play them as fast as they were accumulating on my shelf. I wasn’t used to budgeting my time with only the games I really liked, and I was a bit overwhelmed.

Holiday weekend coming up. Anyone playing anything big over the weekend? (Or am I the only one who schedules the perfect time to immerse myself in certain games weeks in advance?)