Black (PS2) – Review

Black - Cover

Black for the PS2 (also for the original Xbox), developed by Criterion Games (the developers of the Burnout series) and published by Electronic Arts, is a first person shooter that really tries to focus in on weapon realism and rather destructive environments. While these parts are captured well by the game, the rest of the game feels lacking in areas such as level design and challenging AI. It’s also got a pretty short run-through that make the game a renter more than anything else. Continue reading

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (PSP, PS2) – Review

Vice City Stories - CoverGrand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (VCS), developed by Rockstar North and Leeds, and distributed by Rockstar Games, is a prequel to the events in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, but adds several new features to the game to make it feel much less like an expansion pack that Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories did compared to Grand Theft Auto 3. The new features, in addition to a new soundtrack, returning voice actors, and Phil Collins (!), really help to make this game shine as a worth sequel to Vice City, and is highly recommended for anyone that is looking for some GTA action to tide them over prior to the release of Grand Theft Auto IV.

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Grim Grimoire (PS2) – Initial Impressions

Just a note that this is slightly spoilerish, though if you’ve read any pre-press literature for the game, it’s not revealing anything new.

The game is done in a very similar graphics style as Odin Sphere including what appears to be the same artist, but also the same use of 2D “living” art, and the like.  It is definitely up there among the pretty games.

The game as far as I’ve gotten is a simplified RTS.  There’s resource gathering (using elves to mine mana), offensive units, and more.  So far, I’m still in the “training” portion of the game where each unit is introduced, but so far nothing terribly hard.

What I’m waiting to see is how the time loop comes into play.  Your character, after 5 days, will be brought back to day 1, and will try to prevent events from happening a certain way, but I don’t know if you make choices or gameplay decisions that affect the direction of this plot.  I’m really hoping for something like a Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask type experience where, as you play, you learn what you need to and when you need to be at places to stop events, but in this game, the time resolution is by “days”, each day comprising a bit of story/plot and then an RTS battle, so I don’t necessarily see how that will play out.   I’m going to try to at least work through one loop today to see if it’s just a linear plot or if there’s more flexibility given what the player does. If Odin Sphere is any indication, there’s more than just a linear plot involved, but we’ll see.

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (PS2, PSP) – Review

Liberty City Stories Cover (PS2 version)Adapting the Grand Theft Auto games to the PSP seems like a no-brainer particularly to help boost the lagging sales of the portable console, just as Grand Theft Auto 3 was successful in boosting sales of the PS2. Certainly, one can expect certain concessions to be made to work within the limited PSP scheme, but with Liberty City Stories, developed by Rockstar’s Leeds and North divisions, and published by Rockstar games, there may have been too much made in the graphics department and too little in the controls. Furthermore, the game adds little new to what GTA3 provided, making the game feel like a rehash rather than a sequel.

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Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm (PS2) – Initial Impressions

Haven’t gotten too far into this (have yet to hit on alchemy, which I’m hoping is closer to the first installment than the second, in that you can experiment a bit more with the alchemy recipes), but they seem to have taken at least some concepts from FFXII; while I’m sure there’s an overarcing plot, your characters are acting this out through performing quests and missions posted at a guild, and you can’t take some quests until you’ve reached a level at that guild.  This hopefully will make the game feel less linear than a typical RPG.

“Dungeon” fields are a bit more interesting; you warp to them from a special point near the town, and you can only stay in the field for a limited amount of time before you’re pulled back.  And just like FFXII, there’s a map of the areas within the field that indicates where your destination is to help you plan your travels better.   Each field also has a set of mini-goals unrelated to the mission (such as killing a number of a certain foe) to gain additional rewards.

Combat is much the same as before, though now the initiative bar is represented by a stack of cards; when you make a move with a character, their card is pushed back so many spaces in the deck.  As with the other Atelier Iris games, it’s possible to perform moves to time your next initiative better either to get an attack in before an enemy, or to have an attack work in conjunction with a teammate.  There’s a new overlimit-type mode, though based on how many consecutive attacks you do on foes and how much damage you take, but when full and activated, basically stuns your foes, gives you full mana power, and allows you to create long chains and damage cycles that lead to post-combat bonuses.

I’m finding a lot of similarities between this and FFXII, though it simply may be coincidence.  Otherwise, the game looks the same (the use of 2D sprites via a 3D engine, reusing numerous sprites and creatures from past games in the series), and definitely familiar.   Once I hit the alchemy section, that’s where I hope to see some interesting changes.

Odin Sphere (PS2) – Initial Impressions

Atlus has been known to make some of the more interesting games in terms of mechanics (examples include Disgaia and Trauma Center), so whenever they do come out with a new game, typically people will take notice. Odin Sphere already has a couple of things going for it: the artwork is simply amazing – it’s based on bright colorful 2D sprites that look more out of a watercolor than a computer screen.  The gameplay is definitely interesting.  Battle is done real time on a map that’s like “Defender” but easier to think of as a roundabout/traffic circle in 2D, that you can move around quickly.  There’s some strange aspects of combat and leveling up that I’m still trying to figure out, but there are additional features like Alchemy that you learn as you go along.  A chapter in the game consists of clearing all of these “traffic circles”  (10 or so) and defeating bosses.

The sad part is that there are parts of this game that remind me of a failed Square Enix title, “Unlimited Saga”, in the presentation (as if a watercolor), and jumping from field to field.  Of course, combat is much more different, and there were aspects of USaga that were just nearly impossible to figure out without spending a lot of time in the manual.  So Odin Sphere definitely has a leg up.

Shadow Hearts (PS2) – Review

Shadow Hearts - CoverShadow Hearts, developed by Sacnoth and published by Midway, is pretty much a standard turn-based RPG that adds some new concepts to the usual mix, has a rather interesting story, and shows the signs of what the series will become in future installments, but is otherwise a lackluster title that looks like a PS1 game despite being released well after the release of the Ps2.

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