To the music folder!

I am a big fan of game music, specifically old chip tunes. Anyone who only hears bleeps and bloops is willfully ignoring melody, harmony and rhythm and stupidly focusing only on timbre. Games with “real” soundtracks don’t excite me the same way old game tunes do. I already have access to real music.

More importantly, I have this theory that old game music is very close to metal (the music, not material that readily loses electrons in order to form positive ions). Game music was predominately a force compelling you onward and thus was often fast, driving and even possibly relentless. And like my favorite metal, my favorite game tunes are often display virtuosity (check out Medusa’s Phantasy Star track).

As games became more complicated and technology improved, we were offered scores with wider variety and this led to less metal influence as well as a loss off something intangible. →  Go ahead, read my day.

Review – Final Fantasy IV

Let’s be honest kids, it’s not a real Final Fantasy game until I review it here on your favoritest ever videogame site videolamer (tell your friends). Of course, as it turns out, Final Fantasy IV actually already was a real videogame, like, a billion years ago back on the SNES when we Americans called it Final Fantasy II because we didn’t know any better.

Now, full disclosure, back on the SNES, Final Fantasy IV/II was the first RPG I ever beat; I was in Kindergarten, my older brother beat it first, and to this day I lord over him the fact that I found the crystal sword (best sword in the game, now retranslated as Ragnarok) before he did.

I also beat it on its PS1 rerelease, and again as the GBA game, Final Fantasy IV Advance. →  Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this post!

Review – Soul Calibur IV

Ever since Soul Calibur 2, it has been clear that Namco decided that their once experimental, more serious fighting game series could be another cash cow, if only they made a few tweaks. Thus we have been getting sequels that continuously emphasize style over substance, chock full of nerd bait for people on both shores.

True, the classic combat engine has always been there, but without any real dedication to the arcade scene it has become increasingly useless to the veteran fighting game fan. By the time Soul Calibur 4 was coming ’round the bend, the series was facing bugs, confused single player modes, and balance issues. When the early screenshots indicated an increasing focus on titillation, I was ready to write off the series.

But old habits die hard, and the allure of online play was strong. →  Postsona 3 FES

Best Game Ever – Seven Kingdoms II

Playing the disappointment that was Seven Kingdoms: Conquest got me nostalgic for Seven Kingdoms 2.

I’m not going to talk about the plot, because there is no plot. There are 12 (increased from seven) nationalities, existing alongside a half-dozen or so Fryhtans. No past or future given. The campaign is a set of randomly-generated scenarios, with the ability to carry over your king (and up to five selected “royal units”) to each successive scenario.

The heart of Seven Kingdoms 2 is in its great complexity. Simply put, no other RTS has the depth of SK2. This is somewhat hidden – after all, each nation only has three units, and one of these is the villager type, identical for all human nations. Doesn’t sound complicated, but SK2 is altogether a big numbers-game with highly intuitive systems. →  Readalations: Persona

Review – Braid

We can spend a lot of time talking about Braid, trying to interpret it and stamp out a definitive idea on what it is and what it says. There isn’t much of a point in it though. Braid, for all its flaws, is literature, something that has meaning. Anything I say about its message or its power may be quite different from what you would see on a playthrough. What we can do is look at it as a game.

Braid is a puzzle platformer. Some have called it “just a puzzle game with platforming elements.” We saw it with Portal, where people called it a puzzle game and forgot is was also in the first person. I’m not sure why that happened; Portal’s puzzles often thrive on how the player moves and positions himself, so the perspective (and the controls inherited from it) cannot be ignored. →  [post launches in virtual reality]

Review – Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2

On Gameplay: the battle system, the law system, and quests

Golden Jew
Before you pick up a copy of Tactics A2, there’s a simple question you need to ask yourself. “Do I love SRPG battles?” It’s really quite simple because this game is basically a lot of tactics battles. For the most part, random encounters have been eliminated and are instead replaced with 300 quests for you to complete.

Augmenting pixilated slaughter, there are run and fetch quests, and a few “dispatch the right person” quests, where the fun lies in trying to figure out what the proper class/race is. For example, an intuitive one asks for a sexy barmaid – so of course you send a viera. But others are slightly more obscure and can be irritating (and therefore FAQ-worthy). →  Secread of Evermore

Rearmed and Ready – Are you?

Bionic Commando: Rearmed is now out in all intended formats. If you have one of these formats, and you love the challenge and the feel of classic 2d games, I hope you have it already. If you don’t, might I suggest you give it a download? Until Mega Man 9 hopefully rocks our socks, this is the best thing to come around this year for retro enthusiasts, except for maybe Space Invaders Extreme or Bangai-O Spirits. I don’t want to go too far into discussion (save that for the review!), but suffice it to say that this is a remake that gets it. It feels right, both old and new, careful and bold. Its the kind of game where just seeing it in action makes me happy.

In any case, it is still too early to say how well it has sold, but something tells me that neither I nor Capcom is going to like it. →  The Adventures of Cookie and Read

Review – Seven Kingdoms: Conquest

Imagine throwing the major pre-gunpowder empires in history into a grand free-for-all. The Japanese would have samurai and ninja, Vikings would have axethrowers and berserkers, Normans would have crossbowmen and knights, and so on. Now imagine adding in random demon lairs that attack human settlements. This is the setting of Seven Kingdoms, an RTS with several fairly deep mechanics, including unit loyalty, economy balancing, and a great espionage system. Its sequel would go on to refine each of these, adding more civilizations and the ability to play as the demonic races of the Fryhtans. Both have a deep complexity that keeps me playing when other RTS games start to feel too shallow.

Unfortunately, I am reviewing neither of these games here.

Seven Kingdoms: Conquest appears, at first glance, to be a continuation of the first two games. →  Tony Hawk's Posting Ground

Review – Alone in the Dark

Apparently, it is becoming the rule rather than the exception for games to be rushed to release, rather than given the time to properly simmer. There are a slew of factors causing this, such as soaring costs, tricky console hardware, and the fickle, tiny window of attention that the hype machine grants.

Of course, a rushed game can come in different flavors. In my last review, we saw how Army of Two lost most of its grand cooperative aspirations, but still managed to ship as a stable and competent action game. From a business perspective, this is acceptable as gamers will buy something derivative if it is polished well enough.

Another result is something like Alone in the Dark, where the grandiose ideas remain, but are held together by duct tape and the hope that bugs and glitches are not severe enough to cause the game to crash out from under the player’s feet. →  The Last Readment

Review – Song Summoner

A game for the iPod? Don’t make me laugh! It’s one of those puzzle games, right? Maybe trivia? Rhythm-based? Well, “rhythm” is getting a bit closer. Of all the genres I thought I’d see on the iPod, a Strategy RPG would be last. Hence why, a mere day after hearing about Song Summoner, I bought it and gave it a try.

When you’re not expecting much, a game can amaze simply by being mediocre. This game cost me about the same as a fast-food meal, and I expected it to keep me entertained about as long. It exceeded my expectations – with decent style and good artwork and music – even though I can’t recommend it against many other strategy RPGs.

If you’re comfortable with the iPod track-circle controls, Song Summoner is pretty easy to get a hang of. →  Now you’re reading with power.

Review – Jake Hunter

You likely play video games for one of the following reasons:

To enjoy fun gameplay
To be amazed by pretty graphics
To fall in love with characters
To listen to an enthralling score
To read a well written story
To kill time because your life is entirely devoid of meaning, even fake, self-created, existentialist meaning

Bad news for those who play primarily for any of the first five reasons – Jake Hunter fulfills none of them.

The Hazakura temple or Neo Olde Tokyo would be nice.

Adventure games, specifically Japanese text adventure games, tend to lack dynamic gameplay and, as such, have a niche audience. If you enjoyed Phoenix Wright or Hotel Dusk you likely don’t mind game mechanics that are under-developed and only there to bridge text box A with text box B. →  Read, I am your father!

Review – Army of Two

Army of Two is an attempt at many things, one of which is to capitalize on the recent enthusiasm for cooperative games. Co-op is arguably the number one most important bullet point a game can have in its press release. Even if it is hardly suitable for the game at hand, excluding it will cause many people not to buy your product.

In order to distinguish itself from the deluge of co-op titles, Army of Two attempts to integrate cooperative measures into every aspect of the game. It also tries to deliver some social commentary like so many hotshot developers and players crave in their desire to legitimize their hobby. Ultimately, the game shares the same major fault of so many of its competitors: it was rushed. The interesting ideas and promise shown in early previews are all missing, and the end product is the usual kind of worthless. →  How many games must a gamer play before you call him a gamer?

RPGs are bad “games”

The JRPG genre is filled to the brim with games that are so ridiculously easy they are bad “games” – in the sense that a game is something you should have to play optimally to achieve success. The Suikoden series, my favorite of the past two generations, has gone from being “somewhat tricky in one or two battles” to “a breeze at its hardest, with pretty much no thought involved.”

Part of this is a plague of the genre – the phenomenon of grinding. For those who don’t want to think about what they’re doing, grinding is an easy way out. There’s no need to play perfectly when you can spend a few hours killing baddies and come back able to beat the tar out of the bigger baddies. It takes time, but then JRPGs are filled with fluff already (mostly grinding, actually), so spending a bit of time leveling up doesn’t sound too bad. →  The gamers have only interpreted the games, in various ways. The point, however, is to change them.