Tag Archives: graphics

Final Fantasy VI: Why Sprites are Sometimes Better

As I’ve written in a past post, I have been trying to catch up on many of the old “Final Fantasy” games lately, and my next choice after “Final Fantasy VIII” (still left unfinished as of writing this, but I hope to beat it someday) was “Final Fantasy VI”, which I’ve heard is actually supposed to be as good as or even better than “Final Fantasy VII”, which is quite impressive, considering how amazing “FFVII” was. Well, after playing it, I can’t say it’s quite as good as “FFVII”, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because very few games are. Nevertheless, it is still a fantastic game, and I had a most wonderful time playing it.

As you may remember, I wasn’t a huge fan of “FFVIII”. I’m sorry, I just wasn’t. Fortunately, I found “FFVI” to be most refreshing because I really got the opportunity to see exactly what people were talking about when they said the old “FF” games were great. This game was indeed quite wonderful, with a good story and a lot of great characters, including the infamous Kefka, who I’ve heard is considered by some to be one of the best video game villains of all time, and I suppose I can see what they’re talking about, as he’s definitely…different, to say the least. Continue reading Final Fantasy VI: Why Sprites are Sometimes Better

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Muramasa the Demon Blade and Artwork vs. Realistic Graphics

Not long ago, I finished playing “Muramasa: The Demon Blade” after a two year break (I got a new XBox 360 halfway through and then was distracted by that and other various things for quite some time afterward).  What I noticed first and foremost about this game when I found it at the store was the interesting art style and the rich colors on the front and back covers, which ended up being the main reason I decided to buy it (plus, the game store was having some kind of sale, so why not?).  But, first, a summary of the game.

            This game is a side-scrolling action game.  Throughout the game, you collect or forge different swords, each with its own special skill, some of which can break different barriers that block your progress to various locations.  Battles are fought with three of your swords, which you can switch between, preferably before your current sword breaks, and switching swords at the right time allows you to attack all enemies on-screen at once.  The strategy involved in fighting in this game makes the battle system more interesting than simple button mashing (which is what I still largely did, though).  The game is also composed of two stories, the story of Momohime (though, I don’t know if that is accurate, as she is possessed nearly the entire time) and the story of Kisuke, plus multiple secret endings.  The stories and characters were fairly interesting, though they didn’t particularly appeal to me.  It was other aspects of the game that made it stand out to me the most.

            One aspect of the game I liked was that it takes place in Japan, and I enjoyed being able to play a game while also learning a bit about the country and its mythology.  (The game is actually named after the famous Japanese sword smith, Muramasa, whose blades were rumored to not return to their sheaths until they “tasted blood”, if you will, even forcing the wielder to commit suicide if no other victim could be found.)  I also encountered various monsters from Japanese folklore, like the Kappa, Tengu, and the most bizarre Kasa-obake, a strange umbrella monster that hops around on one foot.  The game, while having dialogue written in English, is also spoken entirely in Japanese, which I also found interesting.

            What distinguishes this game from others the most, though, is the style of artwork.  This game has some of the most stunning scenery I have ever seen.  The backgrounds (and characters) are more in a 2D style, but the background is kind of layered in a way, so it gives a more 3D feel to it.  The locations use such vibrant colors and are positively beautiful to behold, from a stormy ocean (with a cameo appearance of the famous woodblock print “The Great Wave of Kanagawa”) to snowy hills with a frozen river running off into the horizon, from mysterious forests to tranquil fields of wheat at sunset.  This game mainly involves fighting enemies and traveling, and the traveling doesn’t get as boring as I think it would have otherwise because the scenery is so lovely to look at.

            And this makes me think of other games that use beautiful art styles, like “Rayman Origins” and “Okami” (the latter of which uses more of the Japanese ink art style in its scenery and characters).  These games, along with “Muramasa”, stand out from other games, not because their graphics are realistic, but because they are unique and beautiful.  Sure, games like “Halo 4” and “Final Fantasy XIII” look amazing.  But, now that technology has reached that point, we’re going to see a lot more games that look like that.  It’s not going to be so novel anymore once most games look that good, and we have become used to it.

            It is the games with the different styles that will stand out in terms of graphics and are the ones that will always be beautiful to look at, even after the excitement of nearly-realistic graphics wears off.  It’s like the difference between a photo and a painting.  A well-taken photo can be nice to look at, but for me, a beautiful painting is so much more interesting to look at.  A painting can use a style and colors that brings out emotions that a photo can’t.  A photo shows you what’s there.  Yes, photographers can be artsy with lighting and angle, but paintings still can do things photos can’t.

            So I have gotten a bit off-topic about this game.  The game is a lot of fun, with a story and characters that are perfectly adequate (like I said, I didn’t get overly attached to these aspects, but they certainly weren’t bad).  But, it was the art style that stood out to me the most.  This game is an interactive piece of art, and it has one of the most beautiful art styles I have ever seen.  (I noticed this when I bought it, and this initial impression only grew when I saw that it also has one of the loveliest manuals and disks the world has ever known.)  So while this game is not among my list of favorites, it still will always stand out to me because of its stunning art style.  That alone might be reason enough to check this game out so you can see its glory for yourself.

The Duck Blade

Characters with Voices

I was looking at the back of my “Final Fantasy X” case, just ‘cuz, and I read a most amusing thing.  In the upper left is a short little thing undoubtedly left there to entice us to buy it.  And to the right are words beneath four pictures.  The top two read: “Characters with voices” and “Real-time facial expressions”.  I stared at this, then, burst out laughing.  Well, of course they have voices!  They’re not all mute!  Oh, big woop, facial expressions!  Why not awe us with a caption like “Characters with limbs”?

            But, then it all reminded me of how spoiled we are today.  The mere fact that these characters could speak and have expressions must have been new at the time.  I could hardly imagine a world where I never got to hear my favorite “Kingdom Hearts” characters’ voices or if bad guys could only yell threats during battle in less-than-intimidating speech bubbles.  Fear my font!  A terrible world indeed.

            And that reminds me of other things us gamers are spoiled with today.  Characters used to have what I call “karate hands”.  They had all their fingers stuck together except for the thumb.  And yeah, they had the same look on their faces the whole darn game.  But, I guess I shouldn’t complain.  Before that, our characters pretty much had no facial features whatsoever but eyes and maybe a ‘stache.  Not to mention the fingerless nub hands.

            And while I don’t really remember what my first game with voice-acting was, I do remember how bad it used to be.  Just terrible.  Methinks people didn’t take it very seriously at the time.  Now voice-acting is amazing and characters’ mouths move perfectly with what they are saying.  I saw this starting in the PS2.  I’m used to it now and don’t usually give it a second thought anymore, but it has come a long way.

            It was also first on the PS2 that I saw the most amazing graphics.  First in “FFX”, actually.  Certain scenes got the most beautiful graphics you’ve ever seen.  So perfect and lovely that I can’t completely describe it.  That’s one thing they should’ve included on the back of the case.  Now, though, all of “FFXIII”, for example, pretty much has perfect graphics, with certain cut scenes getting even better graphics.

            It’s amazing what they can do in games now.  I remember being absolutely amazed by this puddle of dirty water early on in “Halo: Reach”.  It was just a spectacular puddle of mud water.  It looked so real!  And I spent plenty of time admiring how the clothing on “Final Fantasy XIII” characters moves realistically, too.  Sometimes when I play, I think of the people who worked so hard just to make a game.  They design the characters, environments, creatures.  They compose music, create a story.  And yes, even give the characters voices.  I wish more things had this much love put into them.

            So, we are very spoiled.  Especially young kids now.  I would have to rant at them, “In my day, our characters had no voices, facial expressions, or even fingers!  Heck, before that, they hardly even had faces!  Rrr, razzle frazzle, control pad, grr!”  Then, they’d probably laugh at me.

A Duck, Now in Glorious 3-D!

The Duck’s Thoughts on Video Games

Sana requested a post in which I tell you guys about what I like in video games and what’s not my cup of tea.  Sounds fun.  Thanks for the idea!  Here I go!

THE GOOD

            The things I like are pretty obvious.  Of course, a game must be fun, but what makes some games stand out from others is when they have a good story and good characters.  These are pretty important.  That’s why I love games from the Kingdom Hearts and Jak and Daxter series so much.  Good stories, awesome characters.  And lots of fun.  The cut scenes are often as much fun as the game.  They get a very special place in my heart.  Like a nice apartment.  With a view.  Because I can’t fit houses in my heart.  I still, of course, like games that don’t have good plots, or plots at all, such as those from the Mario or Donkey Kong series because they are still fun and creative.  They are just not quite as special to me.  But, still special.  They get a slightly less nice apartment in my heart.

            Good graphics and music are always nice, but not super important.  Good, or at least, not bad dialogue helps, too.  Other things that make me happy are when you have a lot of places to explore, items to collect, new moves to learn, which is why I like Metroid games better than Halo, even though both are awesome.  In Metroid, you get upgraded weapons and moves as you play and can collect things to upgrade your health and missile capacity.  Plus, there are many places to explore.  Unique ideas are fun, too.  In “Okami”, for example, you drew things with a brush, which was neat.

            I also like when you can save often enough, don’t have to redo a lot when you die, and can skip cut scenes.  “Kingdom Hearts”, for example, made you rewatch cut scenes, and it was annoying.  Square Enix must have realized how annoying it was because you get to skip them now.  I also like when games are a challenge, but not ridiculous.  I hate absurdly hard games.

            Specifically, my favorite games are platformers, RPG’s, and other such things with action or exploring or whatever.

THE BAD

            Now for the things I hate.  These are the things that will cause me to sell or not even buy a game.  One is dirtiness.  Some games think that because they’re rated M, they need to have as many bad things as they’re allowed.  When I was looking at new games for the XBox 360, the only games that looked good were rated M, so I checked the back, and they had things I didn’t want.  So I’m not even going to try them.  What’s nice about the Halo series is all they have is violence and a little bit of swearing.  Being rated M, they could have more, but there is no dirty things and minimal swearing.  In fact, “Halo: Reach” doesn’t even have swearing.  I’m proud of you, Bungie.  On the other end of the spectrum, I don’t like super corny games.  I can only handle a small amount of corn.

            I was also kept from getting a game because I heard it had a limited number of saves.  That would be so annoying.  I also hate it in games when you can’t save at all.

            I also hate bad controls, like when the camera won’t obey you or you can’t control it at all, and you often die just because you can’t see where you’re going.  I also hate that “Sonic and the Secret Rings” is only hard because the controls are so bad.  They tried something new, where Sonic is always moving, and you tilt the Wii remote left or right to go left or right, forward to speed up, and back to slow down.  I think you can make Sonic stop, but it’s hard.  I feel like I have very little control over him.  It’s very aggravating.

            This next thing is tolerable or horrible, depending on what game it is.  I don’t like when games have battles start randomly.  Most games, you can see the enemies and choose if you want to fight.  In games like “Final Fantasy X” and “Quest 64”, you never know when a battle may start because you can’t see any enemies.  You’re just walking, and then suddenly you have to fight things and can’t easily get away.  In the former game, though, it’s a good game so it doesn’t bother me as much, but the latter is already not a great game, and this is pretty much the worst part of it.

            Also, like I said, I hate super hard games.  I really hate them.  It’s bad enough that the final bosses of “Vexx” and “Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep” are insane, but when a whole game is a chore…  No way.  I also hate having to do stupid things or you can’t move on, such as beating the super annoying “Donkey Kong Arcade” in “Donkey Kong 64” not once, but twice, in order to get a necessary item.  I also hate when you must fight zillions of enemies or when they take super long to kill.  All this fuels the duck’s feathery rage.

            The types of games I dislike are sports, really simple games like pinball or Pacman, and fighting games that aren’t “Super Smash Brothers” and racing games other than “Jak X” or “F-Zero”.

THE UGLY

            And now, the things that simply disappoint me.  For one thing, when things don’t feel complete.  In the 2006 version of “Sonic the Hedgehog”, it was a good game, but they left some things unfinished.  For example, things would fall in the water without a splash.  Such a simple thing to fix.  I felt like they sold the game before they were completely done with it.

            I am also disappointed by bad graphics and bad music, but that’s not a big deal.  I am saddened when games are too short, especially good ones.

            I also don’t like bad dialogue and skimpy outfits.  Too skimpy, and this nears the Bad.  I also don’t like when you get to the end of the game and aren’t allowed to return to previous areas, like in “Okami” and “Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier”.  I don’t mind when it’s a kind of game where there’s nothing to collect, but in these, there is, and I couldn’t go back for what I missed.

            I also don’t like when they think they’re too cool.  I’m talking to you, Sonic.  And the characters in “Jak X”.  I don’t think they were as obnoxious in the previous games….

            Well, there you go.

An Opinionated Duck