Tales of the Abyss (PS2) – Review

Tales of the Abyss - CoverTales of the Abyss, part of the “Tales” series from Bandai-Namco games, is definitely a return to form after the disappointing Tales of Legendia, and feels more like a gameplay sequel to the more popular Tales of Symphonia. The story is very engaging with pretty good RPG elements in combat and the like, but suffers the same problem that Disk 2 of Xenogears has, in that the last 1/3rd of the game lacks a lot of user interaction and combat, and feels poorly paced overall.

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Sam and Max Season 1 (PC) – Review

Sam and Max Season 1When LucasArts canned Sam and Max Freelance Police back in March 2004 (as well as a sequel to Full Throttle) despite the team making good progress on the game, many fans feared that killed off any hopes for the adventure game genre. However, as word got around that Telltale Games had acquired the rights for the Sam and Max franchise and were working on a new game, joy spread out across the land. Telltale Games, working along with Steve Purcell, creator of the dog/lagomorph duo, has created a 6 part, episodic approach to adventure game, which was released roughly monthly over an 8 month period through several channels, including through GameTap as well as downloadable versions direct from Telltale. Sam and Max Season 1 is definitely a return to classic form for the adventure game as well as appealing to Sam and Max fans everywhere, though the episodic nature of the game does limit the difficulty of puzzles that can be put in while keeping each episode playable without having completed the rest.

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Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords (PSP, DS) – Review

Puzzle Quest - Cover (PSP)“Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords” produced by Vicious Cycle Software and Infinite Interaction and distributed by D3 Publisher for both the Sony PSP and the Nintendo DS, is a simple Bejeweled clone at it’s core, but offers a lot of RPG and collectable card game-type components that readily mixes up the basic formula to produce a game that’s fun to play in short bursts or long sessions.

The version reviewed here is the PSP version. While there are noted differences in graphics and presentation of the DS and PSP version, the core game is basically the same.

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Super Paper Mario (Wii) – Review

Super Paper Mario - CoverSuper Paper Mario published by Intelligent Systems and distributed by Nintendo, is an effort to combine classic 2D platforming gameplay with RGP elements from the past Paper Mario series, with a few additional twists to make the game interesting. While overall the game is very good, those coming into the game expected to find platforming-type gameplay as from New Super Mario Bros. will likely be disappointed due to how tedious and disjointed it ends up being. Regardless, the game is still a top-notch title, and continues the excellent Paper Mario series quite well.

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Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories (GBA) – Initial Impresion (of sorts)

Ok, I know it’s older, though I did play it when it came out, though I got towards the end levels and started having major problems, mostly because I just kept spamming cards.  I don’t remember, in playing through it the one time, of being able to easily get more cash to buy more cards in order to create more powerful decks for beating tougher foes. (More on the gameplay in a bit).

So, on a whim after reading up on some Kingdom Hearts news, I decided to put it back in, and suddenly I figured out how you level grind in the game (you can “reinitialize” an open door and thus generate new foes and rewards, ad infinitium).

The game uses a weird collectable card game varient.  You have a deck but it’s in a fixed order and all visible to you though you can cycle  through to play the one you want.  All have a number on them indicating their rough power, but if a foe plays a card with a higher number, they cancel your attack (a Zero card can negate other attacks if played afterwards, however).  Cards including usual melee attacks as well as magic and healing.  You also get “friend” cards that randomly drop during battle.  When the deck’s empty, you can reload it though it’s longer to reload each time you do so. You can also stock three cards to possibly unleash a more powerful attack though you lose one of the cards for the rest of battle.  To some extent I wish the battle speed was just a bit slower, as it’s hard to be able to move about to dodge attacks and to select the cards you want at the speed that some characters move.

You can earn cards in battle, or buy from Moogles in a typical CCG fashion: completely random.  Thus, it pays to visit the Moogles ofter to get the best cards to fill your deck.  Your deck is limited by it’s overall power, so you can’t just stock it with the best you have, so there’s a bit of usual CCG strategy involved.  The worst part is that if you want to rearrange the deck, it’s just as easy to empty the deck out completely and refill it than to insert just one card at a specific spot.

Each world is a map of rooms; to get to a previously unexplored room (or even explored) you must supply special map cards for the door per the door requirements.  Some map cards generate save points or Moogle shops, others affect the random encounters in the room.  As noted above, if you didn’t try to regenerate these rooms, you’d be faced with a fixed number of enemies and would not be able to level grind, so it does help to know the trick of resetting a room.

It’s not a bad game, definitely a change of pace from usual RPGs, though does have a handful of flaws.  But, it does link the two other KH games, so we’ll see how far I get this time.

Super Paper Mario (Wii) – Mid-Game Thoughts (~50%)

Just completed the 4th world today, so I know I’m at 50% for the game.

First of all, this is a great game.  However…

I think this is a game that came with expectations, and while it’s meeting those in spades, there’s just something… different about the game.

It’s definitely not a pure platformer.  Those hoping for such will be disappointed.  There’s not a lot of challenging platforming elements in the form of jumps over bottomless pits, masses of foes, or the like.

It’s also not an RPG.  This isn’t “1000-yr door” either.

It truly is a .. “meeting” of both.  “Mix” isn’t the right word, as the resulting game is very hard to separate the line from platformer and RPG, and as such, I have a feeling people expecting one or the other are going to be disappointed, to some degree.  The resulting genre is still good, but basically has the problem of trying to be what seems to be a fast paced action game burdened with a lot of dialog-heavy scenes.  “1000-yr door” being more an RPG, worked fine as I expected that much.

If you can get over that, the game has some very nice mechanics.   The whole 2D/3D thing is both implemented well in terms of controls (basically which only use the remote as a classic NES controller with a few motion moves at times), and in terms of gameplay elements, with the need to switch dimension modes a lot to proceed.   Basically, if you think you’re stuck, you just switch to 3D and there’s usually a hint, at worst, of what to do next.  Mind you, a few areas are a bit mazelike, so switching back and forth to find the next place may take some time (4 worlds took me about 6 hrs, so you get an idea of that).  As you also can switch who you control in your party as well as what special power you get via companions called Pixls, there’s a lot of possible ways to approach some puzzles.  Of course, my biggest annoyance here is that you have to bring up the menu every time to switch, when it would have been nice to have at least one of these on a control if possible.

Dialog and other additions are pretty good (3rd world is a geek’s fantasy, for example), but again, it is very talk heavy for what’s really hard to call an RPG.

So it’s definitely a good game, but, I think it’s very different than I anticipated, and while I’m not disappointed, I know there were those hoping for a lot more platformer action than this game really allows.

Earth Defense Force 2017 (360) – Initial Impressions

This game definitely falls under what I would call “stupid fun”.

Story is simple stupid: aliens have come to invade earth and it’s your job to try to stop it as part of Earth Defense Force.

Gameplay is a basic third-person shooter in a rather fragile city and other environs, generic enough that it doesn’t matter too much about the layout or simplicity or repetition, just that it works fine. Just that, as opposed to most shooters, you’re faced with a boat load of enemies at any time (think “Starship Troopers” and you’re probably right on the ball with the numbers that you’re facing). The basic foes go down easily but some take a lot more work. You can get more weapons and armor by picking up drops from both friendly help that has fallen as well as the foes, and the variation in weapons along with the increasing size of the foes you face (including giant walking fortresses, for example), make this just a pure adrenalin game that’s easy to jump into and take a bit at a time.

Enchanted Arms (360) – Review

Enchanted Arms - CoverCalling itself “one of the first true next-gen role-playing adventures”, “Enchanted Arms”, developed by From Software and distributed by Ubisoft for the Xbox 360 and now the PlayStation 3, the game may be the first next-gen RPG, but it definitely falls short of being a memorial title. The game does try to add a few elements to the standard JRPG format that would make non-RPG players more comfortable with the game, but the end result is a very lackluster performance that doesn’t compare well with the established likes of Square Enix and other long-time standbys in the RPG world.

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Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords (PSP) – Initial Impressions

I’ve heard a lot of word of mouth about this title, and so once I found it (it’s a surprise hit, so shelf copies are limited in many places), I will say the initial premise and game looks very very promising.

It’s basically a Bejeweled puzzle/casual game dressed as a fantasy RPG.  Your character takes on quests, during which he or she must ‘fight’ opponents.  Battles are done using a standard Bejeweled board with multiple types of tokens with the usual rules: swap any two adjacent tokens to make a line of three as to clear them and have more tokens fall to fill that.  However, the types of tokens you clear become important: there’s colored ones that represent mana for magic spells, experience tokens, gold tokens, and skulls which can be matched to instantly hurt your opponent.  Yes, your opponent, because as opposed to the usual Bejeweled approach, you take turns between your opponent to move tokens and reap the benefits.  This usually prevents you from setting up long combos that you could sometimes do in Bejeweled as the computer opponent is likely going to find the best point for those (and I’ve heard reports that the AI, as you get up there, is realllly good), so it’s a matter of considering the current board.  The mana you get for spells (which get more powerful with experience) can be used instead of swapping at any turn to cast a spell usually damaging your opponent.   Vary store and quest items change the frequency of how pieces come on the board during battle and other aspects.

I’ve only done a few handful of missions but this combination of RPG/casual game (which is very pick-up and go) already has me hooked.

I will note that this game also exists for the DS, but as I’ve read it, the PSP tends to be better, the graphics outweighing the simplicity of the DS controls.

Enchanted Arms (360) – Mid-game Thoughts (~20hr/60%)

So I’ve put a good chunk of time into Enchanted Arms over the weekend (broke 10,000 Gamerpoints with it, woo!)

I will say that without knowing how the game lets you improve your skills, the skill/battle system seems awfully random.  However, once I recognized that nearly every skill has a progressively better one that the character will eventually require (“standard”, “High”, and “Mega”, so far) similar to the progression for magic spells in Final Fantasy, and that the levels doesn’t change the location or range of the attack, just the power of the attack, it made chosing which 5 skills to carry along rather easy save in a few cases where you need to opt for a healing/support skill over another attack-type skill with a different target range as the others.

Once I got used to that, nearly every battle that I was in, I just let the computer perform the AI on it, save for boss battles and some of the more difficult random encounters.   And I only had to spend a few minutes leveling up only to get enough cash to get health regeneration for a tough boss battle.

The story does get somewhat better after you get past the first 5 or so hours; it’s still not a Final Fantasy quality story, but there’s a bit more depth to the characters and what’s going on in the world.