Review – Radiant Historia

Radiant Historia gets so, so close to being a bona fide classic. For three quarters of its length, it was my favorite genre-piece since Demon’s Souls. After that, it segued into its (shockingly) boring, generic final act. The biggest surprise of 2011 became the biggest headscratcher.

Radiant Historia is a classically styled jRPG with a time travel mechanic at its core. The player guides the protagonist through two different timelines, with the ability to travel to the past or present of either of them at will, maybe to fix a mistake, or to ensure that a certain event occurs. Time travel is at the very core of the game’s design. It drives, and explains, so much of what goes on. For example, while the hero can travel between the timelines, he can’t travel into the future (at least, not any future he has yet to experience). →  Read or Alive 2: Hardcore

Portal 2 Review Part 2/2: The Negative Review

Any motion picture–such as 2001:A Space Odyssey; Demon Seed; Silent Running or Forbidden Planet–or Star Wars–in which the most identifiable, likeable characters are robots, is a film without people. And that is a film that’s shallow, that cannot uplift or enrich in any genuine sense, because it is a film without soul, without a core. It is merely a diversion, a cheap entertainment, a quick fix with sugar-water, intended to distract, divert and keep an audience from coming to grips with itself.” — Harlan Ellison

It is probably safe to say at this point that everyone loves Portal 2. Just look at Metacritic, just look at the sales charts, just look at what anyone, anywhere is saying about it. So what’s even the point of different publications hiring different reviewers anymore? →  Now with fewer vowels.

Portal 2 Review Part 1/2: The Positive Review

The first Portal seemed so undeserving of its success. It was essentially a Half-Life 2 mod similar to Research And Development only with a new gameplay gimmick. The story was only added later in the playtesting phase because players were getting bored with room after room of puzzles. Since the developers didn’t have time to model and animate characters a disembodied voice was created from the same disembodied voice that appears in both Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress 2. The end result was barely marketed at all and distributed merely as a small bonus bundled with other “real” games. By all rights, Portal should have been enjoyed for what it was and forgotten afterwards, along with every other short puzzle game. But it wasn’t. Everyone loved the final product, puzzles, storyline, dialog, and all. →  A reader is you.

Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl Non-Review

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl has been a game I’ve declined to review. There are some things I’m just not comfortable casting judgment on. A review implies that the reviewer has authority over the game, an intellectual superiority. I can tell you what I think about Stalker, but Stalker is a complex game full of loose ends; it calls upon a creative power within its players to piece them together. What I think about it is constantly changing the more I play and the more I learn. Any review of the game will say much more about the reviewer than the game itself. This is my non-review. It’s just what I think right now.

I’m going to go ahead and say that I like Stalker–a lot. It’s one of my favorite games ever and I still can’t stop talking about. →  Sounds amazing, I must read it now!

Review – AquaNox 2: Revelation

The bottom of the ocean is a lot like space–both are dark and mysterious, both require special equipment in order for us to survive, and both appear as a peaceful shade of blue from our viewpoint. There are, however, some sharp differences between them. No one really goes to space (at least not outside of Earth’s orbit), whereas many people spend lots of their time living underwater. One reason for this is the fact that there isn’t much of anything in space. Every single book, movie, or videogame set in space is forced to make up a bunch of stuff to fill its multi-light-year spanning void. Unless you want to use the Moon as a setting (such as in Moonbase Alpha or the film Moon) then making up a bunch of fantasy stuff is really your only option.

 →  It’s time to read and chew bubblegum… and I’m all outta gum.

Review – Nier

The first thing you will hear when you start up Nier is swearing. Its intro, as with many other aspects of the game, may be an attempt to be unique. It also foreshadows (or is reminiscent of) a significant plot event. Either way, it’s certainly unusual. Much of the game seems like the intro sequence: it may be an attempt to be unique. It’s harsh and initially somewhat intriguing but each time through it loses a little bit of its charm. In the end, Nier seems to be saying something, but aside from a decent story filled with the requisite twists and turns, it’s impossible to really tell what.

Nier is not entirely a love-it-or-hate-it game, despite all appearances. Most reviewers panned it, saying its quests are too repetitive, its graphics too bland, its gameplay too derivative of the genre(s) it pulls from. →  Is that an article in your pants, or are you just happy to read me?

Review – What Did I Do to Deserve This, My Lord!?

One of the first games I played on my computer was the Dungeon Keeper series. I was an evil overlord who managed my dungeon with more gusto than a sixteen year old who had been newly promoted to fry manager at McDonald’s. I strove to be as evil as I could and I was good at it. Sometimes I think I missed my dictatorial calling in life. I loved being able to build traps and spawn new monsters to kill whatever hero was foolish enough to traipse into my lair.

Unfortunately, after Dungeon Keeper 2, Bullfrog stopped making the series and my dungeon-building prowess dulled – the lands were freed of my evil grasp. I have always wanted a game to fill the dungeon keeping hole in my heart but alas, the void remained…until recently. →  All I want for Christmas is my PSP.

Review – Ys Seven

Ys Seven is a momentous release for developer Falcom. It is the first Ys game developed natively on the PSP, and it is also the first game in a major licensing deal struck with publisher XSeed Games. Westerners can finally play an original Ys game exactly as it was intended, rather than through a shoddy port.

Anyone excited for their first taste of this cult franchise will be sorely disappointed, however. If you’re looking for an introduction to Ys, you’re better off with Oath in Felghana, or the upcoming Ys 1 & 2 Chronicles. As for Seven, it isn’t an awful game, but even someone as hardly experienced with Ys as I am can tell that it isn’t the best showing the series has to offer.

Ys Seven still uses a realtime combat system, but lacks any need for strategy or precision outside of the boss battles. →  All happy games are alike; each unhappy game is unhappy in its own way.

Review – Ys: The Oath in Felghana

Ys: The Oath in Felghana is a modern remake of Ys 3, one of the more radical entries in Falcom’s long running franchise.  While the first two games were top down adventures in the same vein as Zelda 1, Ys3 is a side scroller similar to Zelda 2.  The promotional website for Oath in Felghana goes into detail as to what the remake entails, stressing that it expands upon the original without heavy alterations or retconning.  I can’t say for certain if it succeeds in this regard, but I can take a guess, because Oath is an excellent game on its own.  It has an old school charm without feeling arcahic, yet it is a careful update that avoids adding the cruft and excesses of modern games.

Oath in Felghana once again stars series heroes Adol and Dogi, who have continued adventuring together after the events of Ys 1 and 2.  →  It’s dangerous to read alone, take this.

Monster Hunter Tri

If at first you don’t succeed ha ha ha ha. This is now the third attempt at a review of Monster Hunter Tri. Before I start can I just say that it isn’t actually a review. My inner critic has been blinded by adoration. It is more of a love letter? Hmmm. Maybe more of a state of the union of gaming as exemplified through this one game? Who knows what it will be? I don’t. But it begins now in any case.

I wasn’t a fan of Monster Hunter on the best PlayStation. I remember playing the demo that came with Devil May Cry and being a bit underwhelmed by it. Then later I was given a copy of the game and still not really swung. I’ll be honest though. →  What can change the nature of a post?

Review – Half Minute Hero

Half Minute Hero is a wonderful little game, but it is also one which, in my experience, was  poorly described upon release. It features several modes of play, but one of them, labeled “Hero 30”, compromises at least fifty percent of game time.  As a result, this one mode received the majority of attention from the media, and this skewed perspective is what caused me to lose interest in the title.  I couldn’t believe that its core concept could sustain itself for any length of time, and when it comes to Hero 30, I was correct in that belief.  Yet while the other modes are significantly shorter, they’re also a lot of fun, and their existence makes the whole package worthwhile.

Half Minute Hero is a sendup of old school 8 and 16 bit RPGs.   →  You fool. Don’t you understand? No one wishes to read on…

Digitally Delivered

Since I spent the first half of 2010 doing my part to keep Bioware in business, I recently decided I could stand to play some smaller, but nonetheless worthwhile titles.  I have a running list in my head of all the creative and fun downloadable games I would like to play, and finally set aside the time to follow through on a few of them.

NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits

Spanish developer Over The Top Games could teach a master class on developing with the strengths of the Wii in mind (they could not, however, teach any kind of class on the English language).  NyxQuest is primarily a platformer with a few sections that combine light-gun-style-shooting or some other novel mechanic with the core jumping and navigating obstacles formula.  After completing a section where you need to use the pointer to move obstacles out of your way and drag items behind you, shake the remote to rid yourself of hindrances, then shoot at charging enemies, the only reason you won’t wonder why larger developers can’t make a game that understands the Wii controls this well is because you will be too involved in the game.   →  Mrs. Article, you’re trying to seduce me.

Extra Lives Review

Tom Bissell’s latest work, Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter, doesn’t include much discussion on the subject of why video games matter. This has very little weight on the text itself, but I think every reader should be aware of that fact before opening a copy. Extra Lives is about Bissell’s fascination with videogames and videogame developers, and about his own experiences playing games. The basic point of the book is, well, I can’t really say. Any central thesis has gone far over my head because as far as my reading comprehension extends I couldn’t find any real point to the book. Each chapter is tied to the others by the fact that it’s about videogames. Videogames: that’s basically the point of the book.

It's like... some sort of life.... it's an... EXTRA Life!?!?!!!

Is it a good or a bad book? →  Postsona 3 FES

Review – Burger Island

I recently [not recently – Ed.] spent a good portion of my Memorial Day weekend remembering our fallen soldiers by playing Burger Island with my daughter.

“Do you want a turn making milkshakes, daddy?” she asked in a cute manner.

“I will do it! I will do it for those that died at Normandy!” I cried.

And thus began my nightmarish decent into the maddening world of Burger Island.

Burger Island, I learned the hard way while simultaneously paying tribute to the ultimate sacrifice of others, is a lie.

The island in the title is not a gigantic delicious hamburger. It is not a Burger Island. The point of the game is not to gorge your stranded survivor on the island itself in the name of survival, slowly eating the very piece of juicy, flame-broiled land that also keeps you safe. →  Ridge Reader V

Review: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers

Presumably, there is a design doc at Square Enix that defines what defines a Crystal Chronicles game.  A character called Cid, cactuars, marlboros, flans, chocobos, airships, trains and magical jewelery are all borrowed from the main series. What makes a Crystal Chronicles game seems to be an obsession with talking about crystals, carrying things above your head, real time combat and a world populated by four different races. What I didn’t know until I hit the Final Fantasy Wiki is that all of the Crystal Chronicles games are set in the same universe but thousands of years apart. Which is nice and explains the obsession with crystals.

In my little world at least, Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles titles are always released with little in the way of fanfare, especially when compared to the main series of games, and often received a mixed reception. →  Article Hominid

Review – SSX Tricky

In the early days of the GameCube one of the first games I made sure to get was SSX Tricky. It was awesome and I played it endlessly until I had mastered every single trick of every single character on every single course. Eventually I got bored of it because, well, it stopped being fun after doing the same “über trick” for the umptillionth time. It burned out my brain and I couldn’t take it any longer. From whatever was left of those brain cells lingered a memory of an incredible experience. Sometimes SSX Tricky would wander back into my daydreams and I would reminisce about how much fun I had. So you know what I did? I decided that nine years later it was time to play it again.

The game hasn’t changed much in nine years, other than the size of the TV I played it on. →  Some say the world will end in fire, some say in read more

Review – League of Legends: Season One

Following many months of “live,” but not “ranked” gameplay, League of Legends, published by Riot Games, has gone pro, launching their competitive Season One. Featuring several ranked ladder modes: “solo” (actually solo or duo play) 5v5, full premade 5v5 and full premade 3v3, the ladders will culminate with tournament play and $100,000 of cash and prizes. Although Riot will not release simultaneous usage numbers, they have confirmed through various online sources they have over 3 million registered accounts. With the DOTA community estimated at 7-9 million players built over a decade, Riot should be proud of how quickly their game has caught on and distinguished itself in broad field of incumbents and competitors.

Unsurprisingly, Season One is mostly more of the same. On the cosmetic side, both the website and the game’s launcher UI received new snazzy themes and sound track. →  Theme Postital

Review – Fragile Dreams

I had high hopes for Fragile Dreams. It seemed to have an unusual story, focused on post-apocalyptic loneliness and exploring a more or less empty, shattered world. And, even after moderately bad reviews, I looked forward to trying out what I still hoped would be a good game. After all, Opoona and Baroque both got worse reviews, and in my opinion they are a couple of the best third-party titles on the system.

Then I started the game. And therein lies the problem. Fragile Dreams, despite its nifty artwork, decent plot, and great music, purports first and foremost to be a game. And although it does not completely fail at being a game, it does come pretty damn close. It has a decent atmosphere – chilling, occasionally with that edge of tension that only decent survival horror games can manage – and then you get into combat and everything turns awful. →  These are the games I know, I know. These are the games I know.

Review – No More Heroes: Desperate Struggle

No More Heroes was a fine game, but it was one that worked best as a solitary experience. Parodies of gamer, geek, and otaku culture are a tricky business, and the game managed to address this issue well. Going for it a second time around would be pushing it, and having to reconcile the true ending of its predecessor would probably cheapen it in the end.

But really, it was the pessimist inside me that made me most concerned about NMH2. One of the E3 trailers indicated that the protagonist, Travis Touchdown, was going to start fighting as only the 50th ranked assassin. I knew there was a snowball’s chance in hell that Grasshopper Manufacture (or any developer, for that matter) was going to come up with fifty new boss battles to fight. →  Let’s get read-y.

Review – Flower, Sun and Rain

My first thought when I began playing Grasshopper Manufacture’s “Flower, Sun and Rain” was that it reminded me a bit of Killer 7. This isn’t any sort of surprise, considering Grasshopper (and it’s rebellious leader Suda51) was behind both games. It was, however, an informative revelation; Killer 7 is often praised for it’s unique audio and visual design, but as it turns out, these concepts were already being played with in FSR. The game features a well dressed protagonist, a mysterious briefcases, and character voices that sound like garbled computer voices. You could even argue that the the primitive visuals are an attempt at basic cell shading.

Flower, Sun and Rain, then, is indicative of our awkwardly evolving awareness of Japanese entertainment. These days, Western audiences still don’t get every game, anime or album that comes out of Japan, but at the very least, people will know of their existence. →  Think outside the post.