G’day, folks! Just thought I’d share with you all a new t-shirt design I added over on my Spreadshirt Marketplace. I actually haven’t added any designs in over a year or so, but I finally had some inspiration. And it all started with a little piece of fan art I did… Continue reading New Eiffel Tower T-Shirt Design!
The newest of the 30-day video game topics is my current or most recent video game-themed wallpaper. As much as I would like to have actual video game wallpaper, I’m assuming they must mean my computer’s desktop. And due to my obvious level of obsession with all things gaming, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I do indeed have a video game desktop.
I actually went through many different images for my desktop in the semi-distant past. I…don’t remember most of them, but I do recall having a screenshot of the secret ending of Donkey Kong Country 2, where the Kongs are gazing at the sunset, along with a Jak 2 screensaver. That’s right, there was a Jak 2 screensaver, which I earned by completing this odd, little game on the game’s official web site. It had Jak sitting in jail, looking bored, while bugs crawled around and the sky outside would change depending on the time of day. Kind of…weird, to say the last. Continue reading Day 14: Current (or Most Recent) Gaming Wallpaper
I think it’s safe to say that many gamers find tutorials tedious, whether they be an entire level devoted to teaching the basics of a game or frequent interruptions where we are forced to read pages of text explaining every detail of every action we can perform in, even such simple tasks as buying a potion in a store. As if the Buy option was not intuitive enough.
I have long been bothered by tutorials. They cause me to rush through the beginning of a game just so I can get through the boring…hand holding. I don’t think any of us want the game to hold our hands along the way. I bought this game to have an adventure, to have fun, to do things I can’t do in the real world. I’m not having much fun when I try to run ahead and explore and am tugged back by the game’s belief that I still haven’t learned the basics of jumping yet, so I ought to try it a few more times. Continue reading No More Hand Holding
It took about 95 hours, but I am finally done with Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns, and I don’t think I want to play another RPG again for a long, long time. Nevertheless, I ended up having a lot of fun with the game, even if my initial impressions weren’t great. Before I get into my thoughts, however, it would probably be best to summarize what you can expect from this game if you haven’t already played it.
In this game, the world is going to end in about 13 days (less, if you aren’t careful), and Lightning has been tasked by the deity Bhunivelze to save the souls of as many people as possible so they can make it to the new world. You will have more or less time in order to complete this monumental task depending on the number of souls you collect, which is accomplished by completing several main quests and a bunch of side quests in four main locations. The game’s battle system is far better than that of the first two games of the trilogy, as you actually have control over Lightning. Plain and simple. The battles of the other two games largely involved watching your characters while they did everything pretty much on their own, while this one allows you to control Lightning on the battlefield, guard, attack, etc. You have three different schemas you can switch between during battle (kind of like in Final Fantasy X-2, but not quite as…upsetting), and each schema can have up to four commands. You do not level up from fighting, however, but through side quests, which was actually a nice change from traditional RPGs. Continue reading The Completion of Lightning Returns and a Question
I recently had the immense pleasure of playing through a truly spectacular RPG, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. This game excelled in storytelling and characters you could really feel attached to. The graphics were beautiful. And the music, well, it all fit perfectly in this amazing world and served to enhance something that was already truly special. Behold, my top five songs from Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. Continue reading Top Songs from Ni no Kuni
Lately, I have really begun to lose my affection for RPGs, a genre I used to love after discovering how amazing they could be thanks to my first playthroughs of Square’s Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy X. Those games were truly special and introduced me to some complex and deep stories and characters I could really fall in love with (but not in that way, you silly people!). For this reason, I came to look to Square Enix for good RPGs, I found myself, nevertheless, underwhelmed with the release of FFXII and FFXIII. While I did have a lot of fun checking out some of the old RPGs, like FFVI and FFIX, I still had quite a bit of trouble finding any good new games of the genre, and as my schedule became busier, I also had less desire to spend such a huge quantity of time on a whole category of games that, in general, felt slow-paced and tedious.
That all changed when I was first introduced to Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch on the gaming blog, RPG Square. Something about it caught my interest, and I ended up finding it at Wal-Mart when I was in possession of a gift card. And yet, at the same time, I must admit that my initial impression of the game was a bit reluctant. I didn’t know about the cartoony style of graphics (I know, I’m a snob sometimes), and when I saw the creature on the cover (who turned out to be Mr. Drippy), I thought, oh, no, not another cutesy sidekick. Continue reading The (Tidy) Return of the Old RPGs
I went on a bit of a spending spree around Christmas time. When I was stocking up on supplies for this year’s masquerade, I decided, while I was at it, I might as well buy a whole bunch of Ratchet and Clank figurines. As if that wasn’t enough, I also decided this was a great time to catch up on some of the games I had missed from the series, as well, so I went ahead and bought Quest for Booty and Into the Nexus (the latter was just $10, which was a pretty good deal, I think, and I am well aware of the fact that Nexus is supposed to come with a downloadable copy of Quest for Booty, but I like hard copies, darn it!).
Now, the reason I didn’t bother buying these games at first was because I heard they were short. I mean, it’s great that Insomniac has been making so many R&C games, but any joy this might bring is greatly lessened when many of their games lately are so absurdly tiny. I don’t want to spend all that money on a game that’s 5 hours long. I know they are priced cheaper than typical games, but I’d much rather pay full price for a full-length game myself. And yet, the pain of feeling left out spurred me to buy these games to see what I had been missing because I am weak like that. Continue reading Into the Nexus, I Hardly Knew Thee
“Kingdom Hearts” is one of my favorite games ever. Seriously. I love it. And I love it so much, it’s not even easy for me to write a post about it. There’s just too much I can rant on. The story is amazing, complex, and beautiful. The characters are wonderful. And the way they combine “Final Fantasy”, Disney, and original characters and locations is just… I don’t know how they do it. It just works. Disney and “Final Fantasy” don’t really seem like they’d fit, but Square managed to combine it all in a way that is just perfect, in a way I think few others could pull off. In short, I adore this game and the series as a whole, but there’s strangely not a whole lot I can say.
The game is simply perfect, or nearly as close to perfect as a game can get, and with the long-awaited “Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix” finally being released for the first time outside of Japan, I was so excited to play this beloved game again and finally get to see the extras I had been missing out on for so long. And so when I was thinking about what to write for this post, I thought this game needed something extra special to remember my time with it. Plus, if you haven’t played this game yet, I have no more to say except for, oh my gosh, what are you waiting for, go play it! And if you have already played it, you don’t need to hear me ranting about what you already know. So for this post, I will simply be discussing my experience with the most amazing “Final Mix”.
Even though I had already played this game twice before the “Final Mix” version was released in my part of the world, I had such a great experience playing this enhanced version of the game. Things started out rough at first, as there is this secret battle with someone called Unknown (I know it’s you, Xemnas…) that I wanted so badly to get to fight. I thought to myself, the easiest way to unlock this battle would surely be to play the game in Proud Mode, as there are fewer requirements than in Normal Mode. After all, the only time I got the secret ending of “Kingdom Hearts 2” was when I beat it on Proud Mode, because I just could not get 100% in the game on the regular difficulty. Surely the same method will work here, right? Wrong. Proud Mode turned out to be much more absurd than I expected, and when I was being completely annihilated in Traverse Town (Traverse Town! On your first visit!), I decided I’d never even get through the game like this, and so I started over in normal mode.
Things went much more smoothly this time, and I decided that I was going to try my hardest to fulfill the requirements for fighting Xemnas (sorry, Unknown…), but if I didn’t, I didn’t. At least, I’d be able to beat the game and see all the other secrets that “Final Mix” had to offer. So as I played the game, I worked to collect all the Dalmatians (in the end, I found all of them on my own except for the 70-72 set), found all trinities, and I was surprised to find that there were actually bosses that appeared in the original version of the game that were new to me, not to mention enemies that really were exclusive to this version. I guess I wasn’t very observant last time. And not being entirely certain of what exactly was needed to fight Xemnas/Unknown, and for the pure fun of it, once I got to the final location of the game, I went back and got to work getting everything I had missed.
After lots of leveling up, I kicked butt in Olympus Coliseum (the regular matches, where you have to fight a zillion things), but Sephiroth remained too difficult for now. I went back and defeated Kurt Zisa in the desert and beat the Ice Titan once I figured out how to actually hit him. It took a long time to get strong enough to beat the most terrifying Phantom, but I finally beat that thing, as well. (I loved that battle, though. I love fighting scary things. And I was down to almost no magic, with all my Ethers used up, when I finally dealt the finishing blow. How relieved I was.)
And all the while I worked on collecting items I needed for item synthesis (which I called my “Kingdom Hearts” grocery list) so that I could eventually obtain the Ultima Weapon, at the same time getting stronger and stronger so it would be easier to beat the bosses I couldn’t…beat. I had trials and tribulations sneaking around, trying to take out Sniperwilds before they spotted me, and I had quite a frustrating time attempting to get Mystery Goo from those darn White Mushrooms (they’re adorable, but sometimes I just wish they’d use their words), and I tried countless times in Deep Jungle to get the stupid Pink Agaricus to just give me a Serenity Power already! Eventually, I got the hang of all this and the Ultima Weapon was mine (I didn’t bother with Donald or Goofy’s better weapons, as I was so sick at that point of trying to get rare enemies to appear so I could get the items needed).
Even at this point, however, defeating Sephiroth seemed impossible, as I simply could not stop his Heartless Angel attack (it reduces your MP to 0 and your HP to 1, and then he attacks you before you can say “time out!”). I thought I’d perhaps fight random enemies a little longer and get Sora to level 100 to see if that would do it (even if that wouldn’t prevent Sephiroth’s most horrible attack, but hey, I had to try something). But first, just in case I can’t beat him, why not go and see if the battle with Xemnas is unlocked yet. To my surprise, it was (apparently defeating Sephiroth is not required to fight Xemnas, even though I heard it was), and you have no idea how excited I was to find that today was the day I was waiting for, when I could finally try that secret battle I had been working so hard for. Oh, glorious day!
After several tries, Xemnas was defeated during a battle where I just went berserk on him in an effort to beat him as quickly as I could, with the hopes that this would allow me to face his worst attack as few times as possible (it drains your HP and doesn’t allow you to heal until you press the right button at the right time, and it makes me rather sad, not to mention trying to avoid him while staring at the bottom left corner of the screen and waiting for the correct command to appear is not easy). Overjoyed, I then went ahead and got Sora to level 100, and I went to face Sephiroth again…and you know what? I beat him. Twice. (I mean, it would be pretty pathetic if I couldn’t beat him even at level 100, and a much better gamer would have done it much earlier, but hey, I was proud anyway!) Another bout of being a berserk lunatic in battle won the day against this one-winged monster, and my journal was complete.
And not about to waste time with the Gummi Ship missions (I hated the Gummi Ship levels; they were the only part of this masterpiece that was cheaply made) and lacking the will to try and collect rare items ever, ever again, I was as done as I was ever going to be. Not only did I get to see this version of “Kingdom Hearts”, new cut scenes and enemies and all, but this was also the first time I actually got the full experience, defeating all the bosses and finding all the lost puppies and the trinities and, yes, even tracking down items that made me tear my feathers out in wrath when an enemy I needed wouldn’t appear or that stupid Pink Agaricus refused to drop a Serenity Power yet again! It was time to beat the game, and I did, in a most-unsatisfying final battle, since it was no challenge because I was so darn strong at that point.
I love this game, even more now than I ever had before. This was my third time through, but I realized this time that I had never really played this game before, not really, as there was so much I was missing originally. There is so much more to experience than just the game’s main story. I left so much unfinished my first two times, and this was the first time I actually stuck it out and completed nearly everything I could no matter how tough it got. It was a whole new experience, and I guess you can say I kind of bonded with this game in a way I never had before. I had been through so much in this game. And so that’s why I wanted to share my experiences with this game with you, because it is not often you discover a masterpiece like this after having already played it.
There are many games that I hear good things about that I never end up playing. “Bioshock”, “Mass Effect”, “Skyrim”. But every time I look into these games, they are rated M for all kinds of naughty things, and I decide I don’t want to play them, no matter how much other people like them. And I might be missing out, but such games are often not my thing. (I watch “Andy Griffith” on TV, for crying out loud!) And then I kept hearing about how great a game called “Portal 2” was, and I looked into it, and guess what, it was rated E. E! (Well, E 10+, but I have a theory that’s just an extra paranoid rating invented to prevent lawsuits, because a “Kirby” game is certainly not harmful to those younger than 10, and those games have that rating nowadays, too.) Now that is more my thing. More my thing indeed.
And so I bought it, and as is normally the next step after buying a video game (well, after taking off the plastic, I suppose, a task that involves varying degrees of difficulty, and putting the disc in the console, which also can be difficult when it doesn’t want to come out of the case, I’m looking at you, GameCube discs…), I finally got around to playing it. My first impressions? First, it was funny. Very funny, actually. Second, it was fun and challenging in a whole new way I had never seen before. Third, I love it. I love the game. But, I get ahead of myself.
When I first started playing this game, it did take some getting used to. In case you haven’t yet played this delightful game, all the puzzles are solved using this portal gun that can make up to two portals at a time. And it is pretty disorientating at times. I mean, my first time through a portal, I was watching myself go through it at the same time. Which was pretty weird. It was also a rather frightening experience at first falling through portals far below and then being shot out another one. And it was pretty darn confusing at first, too. You finally get the portal gun and the ability to make not one, but two portals, and I just didn’t know what to do with myself. (And it didn’t help that I was looking at some useful diagrams sideways at one point…)
But, once I did get used to it all, it was awesome. Seriously. This game has such creative, challenging puzzles. It’s not just the portals, though those are the main things you use. There are also solid bridges of light to traverse and lasers to redirect and turrets to avoid, and it was just great. I loved these puzzles. One of my favorite things in games are challenging puzzles (which is why the “Zelda” series is one of my favorites, when the puzzles are actually difficult), but too often, puzzles are too uninspired and easy, or they are hard, but you start seeing repeats, and they just get old. A puzzle is no good anymore once you’ve seen it a dozen times before, even if it was challenging the first few times you did it. One example is the puzzles in the “Zelda” series, involving Link sliding a block over ice to get it to a certain location, and once you push the block, it slides until it hits something. Well, “Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box” had the same thing, only instead of a block, it was the Professor ice-skating over a frozen lake. It was fun, but I had seen it before. (And spoiler, figure out your route backwards…)
But, sometimes something awesome and grand happens. Sometimes a game actually offers something new in terms of puzzles. What, creativity? Who’s heard of such a thing! The first example that comes to mind is “Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time”, which involves the most creative puzzles involving time and multiple recordings of yourself. These puzzles involved Clank recording himself doing actions, then, he could play recordings of himself pressing buttons and other such things and work with those recordings to get to places he couldn’t go alone. That may not make any sense, but trust me, they were some of the best puzzles I’ve ever seen. That game was worth it just for those puzzles and the humor alone.
And being too lazy to think of more examples, or perhaps, there aren’t any (no, there probably are, and I’m just too lazy), I return to my discussion of “Portal 2” (and likely the game that came before it, but as of writing this post, I have not played that yet). It’s just a really wonderful game. The puzzles were just so creative and challenging. Sometimes, I just wandered around for twenty minutes before I figured one out. But, I always did. That’s what makes them so great. They are difficult, but they are all do-able. In fact, the solutions are pretty easy once you figure out what they are. Sometimes, you jus have to try things or backtrack a little, and then the solution just comes to you.
Another thing that needs mentioning is that they managed to make this into an actual game-game, which is also impressive. What I mean is, it’s not just a series of puzzles the entire time like I expected. There is more to the gameplay than just that (which I’ll get to in the next paragraph), plus a story and two great characters, the robots GLaDOS (a character that I’ve heard about specifically and who played a large role in me getting the game so I could see who she was) and Wheatley, who have some of the best dialogue ever, making this game so much more fun to play.
And then, besides the rooms of puzzles you go through at certain points throughout the game, a good chunk of the game is also spent exploring the abandoned Aperture facility (all the while learning about some of the history of the company), and the only way to explore this crumbling, old place is to use your brain, the portal gun, and your environment. The catwalk is missing, and the door you must reach is a good 50 feet away? No problem. Just find a good place to make portals, and you’re as good as there. Your door is now 50 feet up? Pshaw, portal gun and some blue gel. Pow! I’m so through that door it’s not even funny! (Or is it?) So if you’re like me and don’t want a game that’s simply a collection of puzzles, well, this one isn’t. I mean, it really is, but the puzzles are hidden amidst the exploring.
So people who have told me “Portal 2” is great, thank you. I would have never bought the game if no one had told me how good it was. I saw it in stores, but always just passed it by, not giving it a second thought. But, now that I’ve tried it, I really enjoyed it, and I just love when I can get a game that has creative, challenging puzzles, and I am so impressed they were able to make this game into something more. I didn’t expect that. In short, puzzles. Humor. Exploring. Plus GLaDOS and Wheatley. Is a good time.
Few Know That the D in GLaDOS Stands For Duck…
Over a year after buying it, I finally got around to playing “Final Fantasy XIII-2”. Am I slow or am I slow? Wait, don’t answer that. Anyway, I often hear that you should have an actual theme of some sort for your game posts (really, not just a disjointed bunch of rambling?), something I am not very good at. But, starting now, I’m going to try that. Behold my trying. But first, a summary.
Different from what you’d expect, even though Lightning is on the cover, this game actually stars her sister, Serah, and a new character named Noel. Apparently, during the events at the end of the previous game, Serah had remembered seeing Lightning, but then suddenly, her sister was gone, and no one else remembers seeing her at all. (Quit with the booze, Serah! Gosh.) Well, it turns out something weird happened to the timeline, changing what really was supposed to happen (the details of which I never fully worked out), and when a man from the future shows up (this is where Noel comes in, because he’s the man, okay, I’m sure you got that), Serah finds that Lightning is in a place at the end of time called Valhalla, and her sister had sent Noel to the past to find Serah. (Is this making any sense?) Well, whether or not you understood all that, what happens is that they then embark on a quest that involves them traveling through time, solving paradoxes, and trying to restore the true history of the world. And of course, try to reach Lightning in Valhalla.
As confusing as my summary is, this game has a, well, it’s a mostly understandable story, for an RPG. Even though I still don’t fully grasp why this game’s antagonist thinks that screwing up history is going to achieve what he wants, or what happened in the game’s confusing and very disappointing ending (I get it, you’re going to have a third game, but can we at least finish this one, please?…), I still enjoyed the game for other reasons, while I was a bit disappointed to varying degrees by others. First, the slight disappointments.
First of all, this game is quite different from traditional “FF” games. That doesn’t mean it’s bad (despite the common notion I’ve been hearing that seems to suggest if a game differs from other entries of the series, it is automatically dubbed as terrible). But, I do admit that some aspects of the game do make me miss the usual “Final Fantasy” formula. This game only involves Serah and Noel as playable characters, along with a third creature to fight alongside you, consisting of one of dozens of monsters you can collect and level up, which is fun and strange at the same time. Like I said, different does not mean bad, but I do admit that I miss having a bunch of new, interesting characters to meet. I like Noel a great deal and have since grown attached to Mog the moogle (they’re always named Mog…) once I got over being repelled by the excessive cuteness (I’m sorry, Serah, but I’m just not a fan of you), but overall, I still think this game is lacking in the character department. The game also has the same battle system as from “FFXIII”, where the characters mainly fight on their own, and you’re mainly there to switch paradigms so they can change to different roles (like Medic and Ravager and stuff). It’s all right, but I do miss the older games where you had more control over your characters. The gameplay was still fun, though, and includes some pretty challenging puzzles at various points throughout the game. Those clock ones. Oh, my aching brain, forced to actually…think!
But, despite the disappointments, there was one big aspect to the game that made it really stand out to me. And that was time traveling. I’ve heard of other games that have that, but I don’t own many that involve such things myself. Yeah, Link travels between childhood and adulthood in “Ocarina of Time”, but rarely do I play a game where I travel back and forth between 700 years of a game’s history. That’s right, 700 years. Some people may dislike that each location is separate, so no exploring big, huge worlds, and many locations only seem different in terms of weather or time of day, despite visiting it 200 years later. They are lacking in some aspects of the time traveling, I must say. But, there are some areas where they do great.
You see, Noel comes from a world set 700 years in the future, where the world is barren, and he has become the last human left alive. This last-man-on-Earth story has always been of interest to me. How sad would it be to be utterly alone? Not like, my boyfriend left me, and I’ll never find someone else, and I’ll die alone! But, like, there is not one other person out there. Anywhere. Sure, people can bother me, but living in a world with absolutely no one, which only occurred after all the people you cared about died, would be pretty darn hard, to say the least. His world is hopeless, and that’s why I care so much for Noel and his story. He decides to get help from the goddess Etro, and he receives this help in the form of time travel, so he can travel back in time, find what caused his world to become the way it had, and stop it. (I would travel back in time and convince Rareware not to butcher everything their “Banjo-Kazooie” series stands for. A bit less noble, I know, but lots of “B-K” fans would be pretty happy.)
That brings me to my theme. Or really, this game’s theme. Forgive my corniness, but this game’s theme is hope. Not the character, the idea (though, it is ironic that a character created during the previous game has the name of Hope). A man like Noel should have given up on hope, really. No one’s out there. What else is there to do but survive and wait for death? Serah had hope. Lightning had disappeared and really had no chance of coming back (or “no hope” should I say?). Everyone had some kind of hope, including the villain, whose still rather ridiculous plan was all in an effort to save the one he cared about, which caused me to pity him even while I hated him. Which even gave me some hope that he would change. Hope felt for the villain and by the villain. Hope for two sisters being reunited. Hope for…gasp…the world!
This game is about that idea, not about time travel. Time travel just allows you to see the possibilities of the world, and when you see something horrible is going to happen centuries in the future, you can’t just wallow in despair at what’s to come or just go about your life, thinking, well, I’ll be dead before it happens anyway. You have to have hope. Hope that you can prevent the horrors of the future or else untold destruction will occur. Without hope, there is no chance the future will change because no one will even try to fix it. In a way, hope is actually life because to live without it is no life at all, is it? And without it, people like Noel will have to watch everyone die around them until they have nothing left. Come on, have hope. For Noel.
So there, I managed to write about a theme, even if I came off as sappy, but hey, I tried. This game is not perfect, and it doesn’t need to be. It is fine that it differs from other games of the series. Luckily, it has enough heart that it is still wonderful. I was especially touched by Noel’s hopeless story that turned into him giving the world a second chance, and as I said, I couldn’t help but see the antagonist’s side of things, despite how wrong it was. Don’t pass this game up just because it’s not the same as the other “FF” games you love. And don’t dislike this game too much if you already have played it. This game still may not compare to other games of the series, but it has a unique form of gameplay and a heartfelt story that makes it beautiful in my eyes. I have hope that you will come to love it. Yes.
The Duck Who Traveled Through Time and Didn’t Even Use the TARDIS…