Review — Suikoden Tactics

Disclaimer: Not really a “glorious revival” of videolamer, but I’ve written this stuff on my own site and by gum this site deserves some activity.  Don’t worry, I’ll probably only update once or twice before the site goes back into hibernation.

Recently, I finally beat Suikoden Tactics, the Strategy RPG semi-sequel to Suikoden IV.  As a long-time fan of the series, I had intended to beat the game for some time, held off by two things.  First, Suikoden IV wasn’t very good and the story never resonated with me.  Second, Suikoden Tactics has the much-maligned feature of permanent death for non-story characters.  When combined with the grid elemental system and a massive set of things enemies can do, it’s extremely difficult at times to predict whether a character will die in any given situation. →  Go ahead, read my day.

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. →  Can you read me now?

Review – Shadow Hearts

Continuing my trend of catching up on PS2 RPGs, I picked up the Shadow Hearts series a few months ago. Since a recent spate of games (including Demon’s Souls, which seems to be a videolamer favorite) has kept me busy, I’m just now making my way through the series. The PS2 may have an impressive spread of RPGs – as I’ve discovered, still playing games I had barely heard about – but Shadow Hearts really stands apart, despite being an early game on the system that hasn’t really aged well.

By far the most impressive part of Shadow Hearts is the atmosphere. Set a little over a year before World War I and taking place in both East Asia and Western Europe, SH manages to portray a surprisingly realistic world, given its focus on demons both internal and external. →  They’re reading her… and then they’re going to read me!

Review – Digital Devil Saga 2

I have heard it said that the second Digital Devil Saga was rushed. The four hour long final dungeon might be evidence of this, given that the whole game is still only about 25 hours long total. This makes DDS2 only a bit longer than the first one. While DDS2 maintains the solid Press combat system of the first game, in terms of scope and story, it is leaps and bounds more engrossing.

In Digital Devil Saga 1, the player would often find himself wondering what in the blazes could be going on. Each new answer brought with it two or three new questions, making for a veritable hydra of a storyline. While DDS was interesting enough on its own, DDS2 actually does answer all of these questions. It adds a few more at the end, but they are the usual questions one might expect of the genre – “What is the nature of mankind?”, →  Lords of the Read 2

Review – Digital Devil Saga

Atlus has a reputation for releasing games that appreciate in value. They print a bunch of copies, but they sell slowly at first but eventually you’ll need to trade in a console or two to have enough credit to pick them up.

Recently, they have been trying to curb that reputation – partly by printing more copies of new titles, but also by reprinting old games. Shortly before the ultimate demise of the PS1, they reprinted Persona 2, for example. More recently, they reprinted three Shin Megami Tensei PS2 games: Nocturne and the two Digital Devil Saga games, each of which had been selling for more than $60 for a good while.

Being the dedicated RPG enthusiast I am, I completed my PS2 SMT collection with the two DDSes when I heard the news. →  Sega Ages 2500 Series Vol. 5: Golden Post

The King of Fighters ’98: Ultimate Match

By the end of 2008, the situation concerning Western localizations of SNK games was at its grimmest. No one could tell what was happening with the US Branch. Did they actually have any power? If they did, why did they choose not to use it? Why were their games being released over a year after their announcements? What financial/business decisions forced them to use different developers for each port, leading to localizations of incredibly mixed (and now universally poor) quality? Why hasn’t their website been updated since last summer, and why are their forums dead?

At this point I have only a guess, based on the nature of their current lineup – after the remnants of old announcements are wrapped up and shipped out, SNK US may only exist for branding and licensing purposes, while all development, localization, and PR for future products is handled by Ignition Entertainment. →  Game. James Game.

Review – Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria

The original Valkyrie Profile was, for a time, the poster child for good, rare, and probably overpriced PSX RPGs. In a surprising move a few years ago, Square Enix announced (to the joy of JRPG fans) not only a sequel, but a remake of the original. At the time I was interested, but had played through the original a couple of years earlier – not so long that I would want to replay it, but long enough that I had forgotten all the subplot related to the principal character of the sequel – the Valkyrie Silmeria. Not that there is a whole lot of it or anything, but it was important to me at the time. Despite the fact it is a prequel I’m glad I waited until I replayed the original – although it isn’t necessary, it clarifies much of the ending. →  Contains 10% more consonants than comparable articles.

Review – Persona 4

After blue comes yellow. So it would seem with the release of Persona 4, which has the same engine and battle system as its predecessor. Despite all this, it comes off as a much better game – Atlus clearly took the time to figure out what went wrong in Persona 3 and fix it. At the same time, they came up with a plot I found easier to connect with, composed better music, and even came up with better swag to lure people into buying the game. It’s no surprise, then, that Persona 4 is my new favorite RPG on the PS2.

Several improvements make up the core of the reason I enjoyed playing Persona 4 so much. You can pretty much copy the gripes from my Persona 3 and FES reviews and every single one of them has been mitigated if not completely resolved. →  I’d buy that for a dollar.

Review – Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones

There are quite a few game series with planned trilogies in the works, but the modern Prince of Persia games are one of the first successful trilogies to wrap itself up in a few years time. Its successes and failures highlight several important points that these future sagas must address if they wish to avoid some of the pitfalls that keep the PoP trilogy from sheer greatness.

First off, a good trilogy needs to stay consistent. We all know about the hiccups that occurred in Warrior Within, though I found them far less offensive than most. Their true damage can be seen in the final chapter of the series, Two Thrones. Ubisoft felt that the angsty, goth direction of Warrior went too far. One over steer leads to another, and suddenly the angry, darker prince is replaced with his old voice actor and personality, and even new clothes. →  Are anyone else's nipples hard?

Review – Guitar Hero: Aerosmith

Say what you will of Activision and Neversoft’s handling of Guitar Hero, but the idea of themed games revolving around a particular band is a good one. Celebrating the history and catalog (as well as the conflicts) of a world famous band is a great honor. It allows young players to learn some rock history, and for their moms and dads to relive their younger years.

Say what you will about Aerosmith, but the band fits the above description, and have been a huge influence on the rock world for better or worse. Finally, I get to say that while I like Neversoft more than a lot of gamers, there are a few kinks they need to address if they wish to continue making these themed games. GH Aerosmith is better than I expected, featuring more care and new content than I anticipated. →  Read more? No, I’ll read it all.

Review – Persona 3 FES

Atlus used to be rather stingy about bringing games over. We received the first Persona, sure, but it was missing a large sidequest and the story was changed to make it take place in the US. We didn’t receive the first half of Persona 2, although the second half came introduced us to Atlus par: a good translation, but a small release that could not match demand. They are finally making up for their earlier slacking with Persona 3: FES.

FES contains the original Persona 3 (called “The Journey” here) with tweaks and improvements as well as an epilogue in the form of “The Answer.” Between them, we get about 100 hours of solid, story-heavy JRPG, all for the wonderful price of $30.

For those who weren’t reading the first time around, Persona 3 is about a group of highschoolers who find themselves wielding a power, called Persona, that they don’t fully understand. →  Game is dead. Game remains dead. And we have killed it.

Review – Call of Duty 2: Big Red One

I have a confession to make. Despite my general crankiness about the game industry, as well as my increasingly picky taste, I have a soft spot for a bane of the industry: World War 2 shooters. Chalk it up to the fact I am a history buff with a desire to compare in-game depictions of certain battles and weaponry to reality. This weakness has led me to play some of the worst Medal of Honor games, as well as to attempt to beat Call of Duty 3 on two different platforms (I finished neither). Finally the genre has provided a diamond in the rough.

When Call of Duty 2 was released on 360 and PC, someone decided to give gamers still using “old gen” consoles a consolation prize. A “bitch game” if you will. →  Sounds mildly entertaining, I guess.

A survey of 2007s role playing games

Last year was a fairly interesting one for RPG fans. Some of the biggest names in the genre finished their PS2 swan songs long ago, and went off in search of new platforms. This left 2007 as a year for new ideas and lesser known series to take root and grab the hearts and money of fans. 2007 may not have had a big new Final Fantasy, but perhaps that is a good thing, as it allowed these other games to stand out, rough edges and all. While it comes a bit late, the following is an assessment of some of 2007’s biggest RPGs from both Chris (vl’s resident RPG expert) and Christian (who continues to look for the genre’s masterpiece). We also included FF12 in the mix. It may be a bit old to us modern folk living in 2008, but it is such a major departure from Square’s usual offerings that it deserves a bit more discussion on the site. →  READ3R

Review – Yakuza

As a fan of the Shenmue series I was induced to try Sega’s Yakuza (non-neutered Japanese name: Ryu go Gotaku, or Like a Dragon). Hardly a review was written that avoided comparing some aspect of the game or the game itself to Sega’s acclaimed series. If you have not already played them, I am here to tell you that these are drastically different games. While there are some cosmetic similarities, the crowd that adores Shenmue (at least those who do so for the same reasons I do) will not find a spiritual successor here. While both games are basically brawlers in an open world, with plenty of side quests and dark corners to explore, the heart of Ryo is absent from the muscular Kazuma.

Shenmue has many strengths (and several weakness), but chief among them is Ryo’s hesitance to resort to violence unnecessarily and his ineptness in many adult situations. →  Michigan: Article from Hell

Review – Superman Returns

As you are happily whiling away the hours on the great games that have come out in the past few months, allow me to darken your day with another reminders of how much shit last year’s flood of licensed games sucked.

As a child, I spent a fair amount of my time educating myself, to a very precise degree, on the capabilities of superheroes, should a need arise to discuss how such powers would fair in various hypothetical conflicts. For example, I know the powers of each superhero so well, I could tell, with scientific accuracy, who would win in a battle royal between Namor, Aquaman, Namorita, Black Manta, and Aqua Lad.*

The sound of dueling banjos plays in the distance...

Later in life I developed a deep resentment when I came upon two crushing realizations. The first, and perhaps the one that should have been foreseeable, was that no one ever got laid due to their wielding of such knowledge. →  Final Post VII

Review – Manhunt 2

Rockstar Games’ Hot Coffee scandal is something of a classic debate among myself and some of the staff writers. Long before that in the summer of 2005, I waged war against two good friends (and even better gamers) about the topic. We spent the last hour and a half of work arguing about who to blame and what it means, the debate continuing into the Walmart parking lot and only ending when we stepped into our cars.

The last point of discussion was a desperate attempt of a younger (and much more idealistic) me to fight for the future of gaming. I claimed that Rockstar could have used both the Hot Coffee mini game and the fiasco itself to prove just how unfairly harsh critics of the gaming industry are compared to other media outlets. →  Today I consider myself the luckiest reader on the face of the earth.

Review – Growlanser: Heritage of War

The third Growlanser game we’ve received stateside, Heritage of War, is actually the fifth in the series. We received Growlansers 2 and 3 as the last games of the late Working Designs (what is Gaijinworks up to, anyways?) in the Generations package. This game is a more than adequate successor.

Similar to the third Growlanser, Heritage of War is a Strategy RPG with leanings toward the RPG side. You move around the world exploring cities and caves, but when a battle starts, you enter a sort of active-time strategy mode in which you can pause anytime to give orders to any of your allies. For those of you who’ve tried Final Fantasy XII, it’s a lot like that with a faster pace and pausing while giving orders. In random battles, your allies’ AI can usually take care of things on its own. →  Let’s get read-y.

Review – King Of Fighters XI

I am still in a state of shock – SNK actually managed to bring the PS2 port King of Fighters XI to America. For a long time we heard nothing even regarding a possibility of release, and, in typical SNK fashion, it was announced and released so quietly that people only knew it was shipping via automated Amazon emails. I think the Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting compilations from earlier in the year got more press coverage than King Of Fighters XI.

Rest assured dear readers, the game is here; mostly intact from the Japanese release (we lost online play) and sporting its own beautiful cover art. Part of me is, of course, glad to simply have a chance to play it, but a smaller part wishes it would get the attention it deserves. →  Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Post

Review – Guitar Hero 3

Guitar Hero 3 does a lot to make me question game reviews. Or should I say, it brings to light many of their problems.

As I expected, it loses out with much of the standard, value driven review sites. While it stays afloat in many reviewer’s minds by adding online multiplayer and more tracks, it has also been grilled for things such as lack of create a character (a criticism I actually agree with, if for no other reason than developer Neversoft has been doing this since 2000) or online co-op play. Once a good game becomes a franchise, the stakes become continuously higher, and nothing short of a disc filled to the brim with their checklist of standard game features will make a reviewer happy. It also makes me question how every tacky addition to each year’s Madden avoids getting clobbered the same way. →  But the future refused to change.

Review – Wild Arms 5

Let me start off this review by telling a little story I think everyone here knows.

There’s this kid, see – well, maybe I should call him a young man, he’s around 15 or 16. He lives in a small village far from civilization, where he lives on his own (his parents are dead or missing). He is brought up with good values, like honesty, kindness, independence, and obliviousness. Soon after we are introduced to him, an incredible event occurs that sends him on the path to solving many of the problems in the world (almost all of them, if you like sidequests).

Along the way he finds a few plucky characters to join him and his pair of love interests on their quest. As he progresses, he confronts the underlings of evil, finding them variously misguided, ignorant, insane, or all three. →  Read more, before it’s too late!