Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Journey worth getting lost on.

Lost Odyssey was described as Hironobu Sakaguchi's masterpiece and now that it's here is it safe to say that it is? Yes it is within certain bounds.

Lost Odyssey is somewhat of a mixed bag. While the story is certainly a masterpiece is every way the game is riddled with little technical glitches. However I will say this before we go on that those little problems should not stop you from playing the game as the positives more then make up for the negatives.

As many may know Lost Odyssey is the epic story of a man named Kaim Argonar. What do I mean by epic? 4 disc's and a incredible story thats what. The game starts at the Wohl Highlands during a war and by the end of the battle everyone is dead. Everyone except Kaim who is a Immortal and can not die and has lived for 1000 years. However Kaim doesn't remember much about who he is, where he comes from, or why he is here. Over the course of the game Kaim will slowly begin to regain his memories and discover why it is that he is immortal and why he is here. The story is full of Heart ache, Political intrigue, War, Murder, Love and there is even a bit of comedy here and there to. The great thing about Lost Odyssey is that it nails all of the emotions. This game will make you cry and if it doesn't you may not have a soul.

The real treat in Lost Odyssey is A Thousand Years of Dreams. When ever Kaim remembers something about his past it comes to him in the form of a dream which are presented as short stories. These stories all of which were written along with the entire game by acclaimed and award winning Japanese novelist Kiyoshi Shigematsu. These stories recall a specific event from Kaim's past and they are the most emotional stories you are likely to read in a long long time. Some tell of a lost loved one, some tell of a war that Kaim fought, while others are about the differences in the way people think in different parts of the world. Each will move you in some way shape or form and thats not a easy thing to do when each of them had to be translated.

The game play in Lost Odyssey is your classic turn based combat and I mean classic. The game goes back to the roots of Final Fantasy the series that Sakaguchi-san created all those years ago. While admittedly a bit slow by todays standards the game never feels dull. The reason behind this is that Lost Odyssey is turn based combat perfected. By midway through the game you will have 5 members active per battle and you will have various spells and abilities to choose from. Black Magic, White Magic, Spirit Magic and Composite Magic. Immortals do not learn skills and spells on their own like mortals do so you need to link a Immortal to a skill one of the mortals has to learn it. Immortals can also learn abilities by equipping items with skills attached to them. This system in essence allows you to customize your Immortals to perform how you like. The combat also incorporates a ring system. The ring systems allows you to enhance your attacks if your timing is good. Basically 2 rings appear on screen and you need to time it so they over lap for a bonus such as damage of a drain effect. Another nifty thing present in battles is that Immortals being just that can't really die. Sure they can get knocked out but leave them be and after a few turns they will get up on their own. Take caution though as if everyone in your party is reduced to 0 HP Immortal or not it will be game over.

So with all these nice things to say what is wrong with the game? Well game has frame rate stutters quite often even in areas where not a lot is happening. There is also a bit a screen tear every now and then but it doesn't happen to often. The graphics are also a mixed bag. The game uses the Unreal Engine 3. Some areas look absolutely stunning but for every area that looks stunning there are a few that look horrid. You can tell that the Unreal engine couldn't fully realize the artistic direction the game was meant to have but they did the best they could with what they had. Load times are also a bit to long and often. Also the game has somewhat of a slow start. The game won't really seem like anything special until the events that occur towards the end of the first disc about 7 hrs into the game. These events are what makes it almost impossible to not finish the game.

But like I said all the negatives should not stop you from playing Lost Odyssey. Had the game been kept in development for another month or 2 so they could iron out the bugs and frame rate issues the game could have been better. All the issues are superficial and should not stop you from experiencing one of the best stories gaming has seen in a long time.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Falling for the hype?

So I have been roaming around the net recently and have started to see something I don't know how I should feel about. Alot of the advance reviews for Grand Theft Auto IV are coming out and almost all are giving the game perfect scores across the board. Now granted I have yet to play GTA IV and once I do you can be sure to find my review right here. I just find it hard to believe that everyone is giving the game perfect scores across the board as if there is absolutely nothing wrong with it in anyway. We know as gamers no matter how good a game is it cannot be perfect it's just impossible. Now I have enjoyed GTA games in the past however I got fed up with the series after seeing the games were more or less rehashes of each other with minor upgrades.

So this begs the question. Why is the game getting such perfect reviews? Have the reviewers fallen for the hype and are overlooking every little bad thing in the game as a result? Are they all GTA fanboys? Do they really like gangster stories? Or is the game really that good? It amazes me that a game like Bioshock that I and many others consider a masterpiece didn't get scores as high as GTA and Bioshock did alot of things games had never done before. Even if GTA IV is that good it's just another GTA it's basically the same game GTA has always been just with way more spit and polish that the power of next gen allows.

I don't know maybe I'm selling GTA IV short and if that's the case we will all know once I get my hands on the game for a reivew.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Kawaii Heart.

Well Kawaii means cute and that must mean I'm talking about Arcana Heart. Yes Arcana Heart is out. Is it the fighter that fans have been waiting for? It's that and so much more.

Arcana Heart is a very pretty game the animation is very smooth and the sprites are sharp and look crisp. It's right up there with Guilty Gear. Each of the 11 characters are somewhat varied so there are a lot of animations to see add on to that the 11 arcana and there is a lot to see.

Now when it comes to game play Arcana Heart is one of those fighters that a master will always destroy a button masher. The reason is the complex nature of the battles in Arcana Heart. Blocking is a big part of the game if you don't learn to Block effectively you will lose very quickly. One of the unique features of the game is called Homing. Homing allows you to launch yourself at your opponent no matter where they are on the screen allowing you to get close and start some big combos. You can cancel Homing as well so there is a bit of strategy in psyching out a opponent. There are also all kinds of cancels and counters that you can learn.

Each of the 11 characters has a Arcana that is native to them however the plus point is that the game allows you to change that Arcana. Which effectively allows you to customize how you fight and find a style that suits you. While each characters move set isn't huge that is a good thing as it allows you to remember most of the moves once you learn them instead of limiting yourself to one character that you wanna master.

Arcana Heart has a very charming look and feel to it which is odd for a fighter in which the characters are beating each other senseless however it never feels out of place. With a Arcade Mode and a Story mode the game will keep you occupied for a decent amount of time and if you have a friend to play against then you can keep yourself interested for quite some time. At only 30$ if you are a 2d fighting fan it's hard to pass it up. And as with most Atlus titles if you don't pick a copy up soon you will be paying for it later so go out and pick it up.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Ryu comes to the DS.

I know what you all are thinking. Ninja Gaiden on the DS pffff. Yeah well that's justified but don't go discounting Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword just yet. Many wondered what Team Ninja was thinking when they announced a Ninja Gaiden game for the DS wondering how could the fast paced game play be translated over to the DS. Well let me tell you the game still feels just like Ninja Gaiden.

First off Ninja Gaiden DS is a very pretty game. The backgrounds are pre rendered giving the game a very crisp look. While talking to NPCs and during story segments the game utilizes a anime art style that is used to great effect it fits the Ninja Gaiden universe very well. The animation is about as good as it gets on the DS.

When it comes to game play the DS touch screen and stylus are put to full use. In fact that's all you will be using as everything in the game is controlled via the stylus. You will move by using the stylus similar to a mouse, Where you point Ryu will move. Attacking is as simple as using the stylus to slash enemies and Ryu will follow suit or tap a enemy to throw stars or shoot arrows at them. There are also more complex moves that require a bit more skill such as the Izuna Drop but that's the gist off it. You can also Block and while blocking simply making a movement with the stylus will result in a dodge that will be vital to surviving combat.

The story while simple is welcome to fans of the Ninja Gaiden series. It follows Ryu on his journey to rescue Kunoichi in training Momoji who happens to be the sister of the Shrine Maiden Kureha who some will remember dies at Doku's hands in the first game. While on his mission to rescue Momoji Ryu quickly finds out there is alot more going on then he first thought and it quickly becomes a mission to not only save Momoji but the world. Like I said the story is simple do to the nature of the game. Basically you will get a cut scene before and after each chapter. That said the game does still manage to introduce some compelling new characters such as the earlier mentioned Momoji and its nice to learn abit more about the inhabitants of the Hayabusa Village.

Any fan of the action genre will find alot to like in Ninja Gaiden DS. Fans of the series may find the game play a bit to easy but will enjoy the storyline regardless. So all in all it's a great game that may come as a shock to fans that thought Ninja Gaiden DS would be nothing more then a cash in. Team Ninja brought their trademark polish to the game and its a welcome addition to the Ninja Gaiden universe.