Game Over: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors

January 22, 2011

As 999 was coming out I had some interest, but only some. The buzz was that the game had a deep, compelling story and characters; from that I was instantly intrigued. Unfortunately, as I started to see art work for 999 I began to lose my interest. Considering the hype being that it was a truly mature, Mature rated game, the art direction seemed a bit childish. Hotel Dusk had a much more fitting art style and the reason I bring it up is because it is a similar game. I figured that I would just let the game come out, not sell, price drop and pick it up on the cheap. About a month later the game was still getting talked about, a lot. I was surprised by how much attention 999 was receiving weeks after it’s release. Word was spreading that it was starting to become difficult to find in stores so I looked around. True enough, the GameStop that I work at was the only store anywhere close that still had the game. I decide that I would buy it before it was any more difficult to get a hold of.

And so my voyage began. Instantly I was drawn in to the world of 999. The opening is truly fantastic and it slightly over sold the game to me. One thing besides the storytelling that stood out was the use of sound, something that doesn’t get much attention in DS games. While the use of ambiance is used throughout I did expect it to be more involved based of the first minutes of the game. Environments look nice and the music kept me playing with my headphones on late into the night.

9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors can be broken down to three parts. The first part is the story and the second part is the puzzles. The third part is the ending.

The story; as well as the translation from the original Japanese is all nicely done. There is a lot of text and I only found two instances where there was a typo. The characters within the game build off each other creating a strong cast and their dialog is almost always interesting. I never found myself breezing past the text. There is also a rich mythology surrounding the story that borrows inspiration from the likes of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle and the many rumors surrounding the Titanic. I am a sucker for that kind of storytelling. Another key part in the story is your involvement through dialog choices of the character you play as. This directs the path the story will take and how it will inevitably end.

Scattered throughout 999 are environmental puzzles. Rather than having the whole game subjected to keeping track of found items to solve puzzles hours later (as in Hotel Dusk) 999 segments puzzles into single or multiple room area. In these areas you must discover a way to escape by finding objects and clues to solve math problems, visual puzzles and riddles.

After you reach the end of the game you will be left with questions, and you may feel unsatisfied by the turn of events. Don’t worry, this is likely the most important part of the game. 999 is designed to be played through multiple times; with multiple paths to be explored and in doing so you will unravel the mystery of 999. There are more puzzles to solve and new details to learn about the characters. I know by the time I reached the true ending I was glad I took the time to find it, and if any of this sounds interesting to you I think you will be too.



Game Over: Sonic Colors

January 18, 2011

Last year I beat my first Sonic game ever. I’m not what you would call a Sonic fan. I didn’t own a Sega system until the Dreamcast so I only ever got to play Sonic games occasionally during the Genesis days. I liked the original Sonic games okay, but after a few levels the games charm wore off on me. More recent Sonic games have done an even poorer job at capturing my attention. That is until Sonic Unleashed. I played a demo of Sonic Unleashed and really enjoyed the day stage that I played, but I never bought it to play the whole game because of all the bad things I heard about the night stages where you play as the Werehog.  When Sonic Colors was announced I was instantly intrigued at the prospect of playing a whole game in the style of Unleashed’s day stages. This designed decision proved to make a great game, and my new favorite Sonic game; although I don’t know if I could really tell what it was before.

There is a clear inspiration from Super Mario Galaxy in Sonic Colors. From the amount of side-scrolling sections, to the power-ups (most specifically the drill power that Sonic has), to the epic orchestrated score of the games start menu. The game is overall done very well. Most level bring something unique so I never felt bored by any of the levels, the too few and far between between cut-scenes looked nice and made me laugh. The cut-scenes before boss fights were strange in that they don’t show of the actual boss and has not dialog coming from the boss either, Sonic just talks to himself. I think this was done on purpose based on Sonic’s own questioning on why none of the bosses talk back to him.

I’m glad I bought Sonic Colors. While I wait for Sega to possibly make a sequel, there is plenty of game for to go back to. There are a red rings hidden each level and I missed many of them from earlier levels that require going back through once you unlock power up from later in the game. There are also leader boards for each level that I could try to place on if I felt like I was good enough to do so. I’ll just stick to having fun rather than frustrating myself over high scores.

Game Over: Autumn

November 7, 2010

I have been waiting to make this post until I finished just one more game that I have been working on. I have bundled 3 games into this Game Over; where I blurb about games that I have finished.

Super Scribblenauts

The original Scribblenuats was a hype machine. Its ambitious premise and sharp art style made it a phenomena before it was even released. Despite some minor issues with the first game; like controls for Maxwell and and many of the Action stages, I really enjoyed Scibblenauts. Sadly I never finished the first game. I had no real intention of playing through all the Action stages and at some point other games distracted me. Once Super Scribblenauts was announced, I traded my old Scribblenauts knowing that if I want to get me some Starites that I would inevitably play the superior version.

But is Super Scribblenauts really all that superior?

Super Scribblenauts has an improved interface, an emphasis on puzzle stages,  improved controls, and the addition of adjectives that can be applied to the nouns; which drastically changes how you can solve puzzles.  The use of adjectives makes for my favorite parts of the whole game; those being the the stages where you must wear and equip objects that will appeal to a group of different people, the stages where you have to place an object between other objects and it must share a quality with those surrounding objects, and the single level where you battle a witch by summoning  monsters that have opposite qualities to the monsters she summons.

I had fun the entire time I was playing Super Scribblenuats but I feel like that time ended too soon. It’s a shame that there wasn’t a mode that took the stage types that I mentioned as being my favorites and mix in a random component to them so that they could be played over and over.

I really enjoyed Super Scribblenauts and I look forward to what 5th Cell has in the works. They just announced an Xbox Live Arcade game called Hybrid. I hope to be posting a blog in the near future on what I think 5th Cell should do with the Scribblenauts game engine.

Kirby’s Epic Yarn

I also recently beat Kirby’s Epic Yarn. It’s a game that anyone could beat if they wanted to. Having a completely accessible game is something Nintendo has being toying around with for some time now. I believe I read somewhere that when Nintendo was working Mother in Japan, Shigeru Miyamoto had noted that he didn’t care for playing RPGs but was interesting in the fact that with enough time you could level up high enough to beat them even if you had little skill. More recently Nintendo has developed the Super Guide, a tool that plays a difficult section of a game for the player so they can continue on past something too difficult for them.

Epic Yarn takes yet another approach to this idea with the inability to die. The security blanket knitted into Kirby’s Epic Yarn did make the game very easy but it did not take away from the game’s fun. I savored every uniquely designed level. I would even get excited to see a clever way traditional and non-traditional stage settings were made with fabrics. That is not to say there was no challenge to the game. Scoring a gold medal in stage would some time be a bit difficult and later challenges offered by your apartment neighbors could get nerve racking. Kirby games aren’t known for being too difficult, but they are almost always fun and this is no exception.

Read my early impressions of Kirby’s Epic Yarn here.

The 4 Warriors of Light

Tonight I finally beat Final Fantasy The 4 Warriors of Light. I like playing  role playing games but it is not often that I finish one. I currently have over 20 RPGs that I have started and never finished. This game won me over quickly with the art style, the music and the initial simplicity and eluded variety. The 4 Warriors of light takes a page from the early console role playing games but delivers with more modern trappings. The story and sense of direction is gained through dialog with towns people  and bosses. The battle system is simple; with a almost perfect automated targeting system, but offers more and more depth with each new class, or crown, unlocked.

Listen to the music or Buy the music

Read my early impressions of The 4 Warriors of Light here.

Now do I continue with The 4 Warriors of Light of do I get back into Dragon Quest 9?

Game Over: Metroid Other M

September 12, 2010

I have only become a fan of the Metroid series in the past year. When Metroid Other M was first announced at last years E3 I was blown away by the teaser trailer. It was odd how giddy I was for a series that I had spent very little time playing. Back in the 90’s I remember watching my best friend playing Super Metroid and thinking to myself, “This game looks cool, but it looks too hard.” I don’t remember even trying to play Super Metroid at that time.Years Later I tried another friend’s copy of Metroid Prime, I couldn’t get into the game. I couldn’t even beat an early boss. Then Metroid Prime: Corruption came out and I figured I give the series another go; afterall, the Wii didn’t have many games at that point, I hadn’t started buying tons of PS2 and Gamecube games for my backlogue. I wanted something to play. The controls for Corruption were great and I played it for around 7 hours but quickly became disinterested.

It wasn’t until after the announcement of Other M that I bought both Metroid Zero Mission and Metroid Fusion for Gameboy Advance and Super Metroid for Wii Virtual Console. It only took me playing through Zero Mission to turn me into a hardcore Metroid fan. I then started Super Metroid and finished it just before the release of Other M.

As I started playing Other M and got sucked in right away. I enjoyed watching the cut scenes, I think that the voice acting is actually good and fits the haunting feeling of solitude for which the Metroid series is known. The controls work great and have a familiar yet new feel at the same time. The auto-aiming makes shooting enemies easier than past Metroid games but the addition of close quarters attacks keeps combat interesting. Even the first person aiming that I was worried about mostly works. My only issue is with the few parts where scanning a specific and easily over looked object is required to continue and sometimes takes patience.

The story of Metroid Other M takes place after Super Metroid chronologically and before Fusion. With it’s greater focus on story it does a great job of connecting the stories of the main Metroid games. Unfortunatly it leaves important information unsaid, assuming that you have played the other games and know details from the Japanese manga. I personally enjoyed the story and back story, reinforcement of Samus Aran as a strong female character and a human with heart. The inclusion of more story builds upon what was started in Fusion; a more linear game because the stronger emphasis on story keeps pushing the game forward. Other M is much like Fusion, it makes me wonder why some are so vocally outraged by Other M as not being enough like a Metroid game. I enjoyed playing though Other M and would very much like to see another game built on this engine with some refinements.

Game Over: June

July 3, 2010

After a stint of rail shooters, shmups and reverse shmups, sort of, I am now sitting on a total of 15 games beat this year. This is by far my best year for beating games. That number my not be very impressive to most gamers but I have had a bad track record the last few years of starting games, playing them for a few hours and never touching them ever again. The first game I’ll mention is  Hero Core. I have already written about Hero Core as seen here, but what I can say after beating the game is that it is a solid experience. After you beat the normal game it unlocks new modes. One of the new modes has an almost roguelike, dungeon exploring feel to it that I jumped into directly after I beat the game.

House of the Dead Overkill for the Wii is a grind house style arcade shooter. The game makes use of very over the top XXX content. While that may be off putting for some, I thought it really added to the hilarity of the experience. All of the previous House of the Dead games had started as arcade games first; and while they were violent, it was kept to a minimum level due to it’s availability to the general public. Overkill is free to take on a much more adult oriented concept. I refrain from using the word “mature” because it frankly lacks a sophisticated level of maturity. Instead House of the Dead: Overkill drops F bombs all over the place, gives far more attention to detail on the main females breasts than her hair, and a good helping of always fun dismemberment.

Another game that is all about the dismemberment, is Dead Space: Extraction. A that was more than likely overlooked as yet another rail shooter side story, when all Wii owners want is some more, high quality 3rd person shooters; at least I wouldn’t mind seeing more.  Dead Space: Extraction is not a bad game. That may be because I am a huge fan of the Dead Space Universe, I have Dead Space on Xbox 360, I own the terrible movie, and I enjoyed the (sort of) animated comic. I might have also liked Extraction because I have recently kindled a deep burning love for rail shooters. All throughout playing Overkill, Extraction, and more recently the beautifully stunning Sin & Punishment 2, I have made jokes about how much fun it would be to play [INSERT NAME OF GAME HERE] as a rail shooter. While I say these things a jokes; there is a nugget of truth to them. Rail shooters can be fun, if done well. Star Fox and Star Fox 64 remain my favorites of the series, games like Life Force are rail shooters, and even Modern Warfare 2 and the wildly superior Bad Company 2 have rail shooter sections.

Back on topic. Dead Space: Extraction has a well executed story; with good writing and good voice acting. Graphically Extraction might not look as crisp as the Original Dead Space on PC but it still looks good. I could easily recognize familiar places on the USG Ishimura. There were only a few places that I though could have been explained better. Dead Space: Extraction does somethings that I have never seen done in rail shooters. After playing it I sort of understand EA’s use of the buzz words “Guided First Person Experience” as a legitimate description of the game. Extraction was very organic and I would mind seeing EA and Visceral Games taking what they learned making this game and make an even better outing. As far as what else they could do with Dead Space, I’d still like to see  a side scrolling game that plays like Super Metroid. I think that would be great for the 3DS.

I also recently beat Topsy Turvy Life: Turvys Strike Back. Available for DSiWare for only 200 points, it wasn’t a horrible buy, but after about 30 minutes of game play you’ve pretty much seen and done everything there is to see or do. It’s a cute idea for a game, you basically play the role of the enemy in a top down shooter like Xevious or Galaxian. It even mimics a retro style reminiscent of old top down shooters. As cheep as Turvys Strike Back is I think I’d still rather play Retro Game Challenge or Space Invaders Extreme on my DSi.

Game Over: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers

May 2, 2010

Tonight I finished FFCCCB, my 11th game of the year; which ties the number of games that I beat last year. I started playing The Crystal Bearers in the beginning of the year shortly after its Dec 26th release date. I put in a couple of good nights and got about halfway through the story. I was impressed that Square Enix was able to put together a game like nothing that I have ever played. Heavy on story, with hints of Zelda, and mini games weaving everything together. I hesitate some to say that the game is pushed forward by mini games given the bad taste in my mouth left by the so many shovel ware mini game cash ins on the Wii, but the way they are used is often times a clever used of the games mechanics and fits well to what is going on in the story.

The subtle blend of mini games, cut scenes, and boss fights are but only one reason I enjoyed playing The Crystal Bearers. I gladly welcomed the return of an interesting world full of the Clavats, Yukes, Selkies, and Lilties, fantastic music and areas full of flavor that I was used to form previous Crystal Chronicles games. Added to this game was character driven story that didn’t have the angsty coming of age that so many Square Enix titles have; instead Layle, the main protagonist, has already gone through his awkward teenage years and is fairly comfortable in his own skin, this makes the story far more interesting from the get go. This outing is lighter on the RPG elements than it’s relatives, there are ways to increase Layle’s heath by clearing an area of enemies within a given time, using enemy drops you can make accessories that increases Layle’s Crystal Powers; which are not unlike telekinesis. Beyond that you have all skills available to from the start. There is no all powerful sword to unearth from an ancient civilization, and you don’t later discover that Layle is some kind of diety with immense dormant abilities.

Even with everything I enjoyed from The Crystal Bearers; there were still somethings that I think could have been done better. The biggest issue was lack of polish but at  the same time I understand most developers aren’t willing to put money into something that they are not sure will sell. The voices were good, occasionally someone says something that doesn’t quite fit the mood of the scene. The graphics are good but it would have been nice to have some more detailed character models for some of the bigger cut scenes. There was also a missed opportunity to utilized the Wii Remote in new any ways, but all in all The Crystal Bearers was a worthwhile journey.

All pictures used in this blog were taken with the in-game camera function.

Game Over: April 14

April 14, 2010

In the past few weeks I have completed 3 games, I knocked out Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon (including one day of over 10 hours straight on a day off). I thought this game was an eerie, yet beautiful story of exploration. I liked the environments with an exception of some of the later areas. I liked the stories linked to the item found throughout the game, especially the stories from the Video Game Cartridge, and the Colored Bells. I liked the characters in both design and in their personalities.

With the somber tones of death, loss, and loneliness, mixed with friendship, love and survival Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon is in my view, a survival horror minus the horror, overflowing with Japanese culture and ascetics. If you can get past the colorful anime characters and are looking for a slower paced game, light on combat and heavy on the melancholy I recommend you try this game out.

The next game that I played and beat is Red Steel 2. All I have to say about it that it mostly looks good, somewhat like Borderlands with more American Western and Traditional Japanese stylings. The controls are mostly good, but not the 1 to 1 motion as promised although that would have made the game worse in my opinion. The fore mentioned details kept me playing the game until the end, but the writing and story concept were boring and the enemies lacked much diversity, I would have loved warding off murders of crows, sneaking behind sentry guns, and using my earth shaking Bear attack to stop a charging boar. Unfortunatly, while their is some intrest in Red Steel 2; not many people are picking it up. Any hopes for a even better Red Steel 3 are pretty much crushed.

I beat Cave Story on the Wii before work yesterday. It is one of my absolute favorite games now. Everything about the game is amazing. The artwork is perfect, great music, lovable characters, lush environments, and a story of a silent hero named Quote that is wrapped in the mythology of an island that is just as much a character and the island in Lost.

Rather than put more words on internet paper about how much I like Cave Story I will just post a video because mere pictures cannot attempt to do this game justice.