April 11, 2009
In some nice video game related news, I beat another game today! It was the expansion of Warcraft 3, titled The Frozen Throne. Quite honestly, it was very badass. Moving on.
We had Odin Sphere at #5, Resident Evil 4 at #4, and Chrono Cross at #3. What will be #2?
#2: Chrono Trigger. Yes, I am that unimaginative. But honestly. Chrono Trigger is amazing. But first I’ll tell you reasons why some people seem to NOT like it…
Chrono Trigger was released in the early 90’s for the SNES. It was a good meaty RPGthat was pretty impressive for its own time. It was a good length with interesting substance and a nice, happy ending. But for some reason there are people who still criticize this game. Why? Well for one thing, it has your typical “We’re a bunch of teenage kids let’s go save the world” plotline. And this is true. They are a bunch of teenage kids (minus the frog and the robot…oh, and the crazy prehistorc lady) who are just out saving the world from your typical bad guy who just wants to end all life or envelop the world in darkness or *insert unreachable goal here*. Also the characters aren’t quite that original–except for the secret 7th character, who, in my opinion, is probably one of the best characters in any video game ever.
And quite honestly, I didn’t start loving Chrono Triggerso much until about 5 months ago. Why? Well, I received it as a gift for Christmas–it recently was rereleased onto the DSbecause of it’s popularity. Of course I was excited, but when I started playing it, I couldn’t stop! I would wake up at 7 in the morning with a DS on my face and wonderful Chrono Trigger music blaring into my ears. No joke. I actually played myself to sleep.
So just why do I love it? Sure the story isn’t that original, and sure the characters are somewhat typical, but oh, the way the story is executed, and the way the characters interact, ah, it’s just wonderful. Not to mention that secret character you can have in your party–you know, the one who is obviously a villain at the start, but as you go through the game, you learn his motives and why he’s such a villain, and really, he’s not typical at all. And besides, why wouldn’t you put him on your team? He’s got wicked awesome magic.
Ok so maybe half the reason why I love Chrono Trigger is that I happen to have a silly girl crush on one of the characters. The other half is simply because the game is good. It may be familiar yes, but it takes all the good things about familiarityand puts them together to make a happy awesome game that will toy withyour emotions, but also leave you feeling lovely and wonderful at the conclusion. So please, if not for yourself, but for me–seek out this game. It’s been rereleased at least 3 times which should be enough of a testament to it’s awesomeness. You owe it yourself to play this wonderfully amazing game.
April 10, 2009
Recap: Odin Sphere #5, Resident Evil #4. Moving on…
#3: Chrono Cross.
This should come as no suprise seeing as how I love RPG’s. Chrono Cross was released in 2000 for the ps1 and was meant to be a sequel to another amazing RPG, Chrono Trigger. Chrono Cross was not as accepted as Chrono Trigger and for many decent reasons.
For one thing, Chrono Cross was not a direct sequel and that bothered everyone. It featured a completely new cast of over one hundred characters and not one of them ever appeared in Chrono Trigger. In fact, the main characters of Chono Trigger were mostly forgotten, mentioned one or two times in passing dialogue.
Another thing that bothered people about Chrono Cross is the battle system. Well, I will admit, it’s rather convoluted. The interface during a battle can give many a video game veteran a “wtf” feel. Also, the level system was eliminated from Chrono Cross and replaced with some fruity star system–now instead of leveling a single character the entirety of the cast of characters level together. Not exactly what fans had in mind, but whatever.
One of the biggest things that bothered people were the characters themselves. While Chrono Trigger had only 6 playable characters to choose from, Chrono Cross had over one hundred characters to choose from to battle with. Because of this, not a lot of thought was given to them. They had a backstory sure, but that was about it.
Oh, what are the good things about Chrono Cross? Right, reasons why it’s my #3 favorite game of all time.
Music. Chrono Cross single handedly, in my opinion, has probably the best soundtrack of any game ever. Of course I can’t say for sure since I haven’t played every game ever. But out of the ones I’ve played, Chrono Cross’s music has definitely moved me the most.
Story. I didn’t understand Chrono Cross when I first played it since I hadn’t played Chrono Trigger and a lot of the story is based on the events in Chrono Trigger. So I didn’t have any idea what was going on. After playing it several times and finally playing Chrono Trigger, however, I got it–and was it wonderful. The story is so complicated and yet so interwoven there was no way it couldn’t not make sense. See what I mean? Exactly.
Ok, the battle system, while not my favorite thing in the world, did not confuse me. Sure the interface intimidated me, but once I played the game enough, it became apparent what I had to do to win: hit stuff, build up a meter, and use my special attacks which drain the meter. Rinse. Repeat. Move on.
So really, I quickly got over all the faults of Chrono Cross by simply not realizing they were there. The story and music of this game alone are enough reason for any JRPG buff to try it out–and while yes, I’m disappointed that there are no appearances from the original casts, I feel that at the very least, the main characters in the game more than make up for the lack of personality on behalf of everyone else.
April 4, 2009
Last time I blogged about Odin Sphere, it being my #5 favorite game of all time. Now we have #4….
#4. Resident Evil 4.
Ha. Irony. Alright. Many people will criticize me for saying RE4 is one of my favorite games. In fact, several people have. A lot of people say RE4 changed too much of the classic RE4 formula.
Honestly, I haven’t played much of the originals. I played both the first and second RE games and was too frightened to really remember a lot about them. Plus, it was quite some time ago.
Nevertheless when RE4 came out on the Gamecube in early 2005 and received some incredibly high scores, I wanted to play it. But it was on the Gamecube, a system I did not have, and I remember quite clearly the director of the game stating he would kill himself if RE4 came out on any other platform.
Let’s all giggle now, because 9 months later RE4 came out on the ps2. I bought it quickly and played it about five or six times before finally putting it away. From time to time, I STILL feel the need to play it.
What makes RE4 so good, you ask? Well, for one thing, RE4 is probably #1 as far as atmosphere goes. It’s right up there with Bioshock and several of the Silent Hill games. From start to finish RE4 had me on the edge of my seat. And yes, I was afraid. I was very afraid.
For example, have you ever been walking down the hallway of a dirty, disgusting, dank, dark hospital? You haven’t? Let’s throw in some heavy breathing and some footsteps that you can’t tell which direction it’s coming from. Did that help? Oh, you’re playing at 2am and the lights are off in your room?
Apart from the lovely atmosphere, RE4 features the type of 3rd person shooting that required some skill: over the shoulder aiming. Sure, you had to stop, take aim–but when you got that headshot just right, you could take a sigh of relief. Or could you?
Regardless the 3rd person shooting mechcanics were a dream. If RE4 had features run and gunning and your typical auto-aim, well….I wouldn’t play it just for zombies. I wouldn’t play it at all. Thank goodness for the two redeeming qualities that made RE4 one of my favorite games of all time.
Did I mention I have a sort of school girl crush on Leon Kennedy, the hero of RE4? I didn’t? Well, with an unlockable costume like this, why wouldn’t I?
Resident Evil 4 reintroduced me to the series–and just in time. With one of the best and scariest atmospheres in the history of gaming (so far!), it definitely made an impact on me and earned a spot in my heart.
April 1, 2009
I haven’t been able to post, thanks to this crazy thing called life. Turns out college doesn’t negate the fact you still have one, or the fact that your family isn’t immortal. My stepdad had heart transplant and right after he healed up my uncle decided to get thrown into prison. So…
But now I’m back on track, I promise. Here, have 1/5 of a list. Everyone loves lists. These are my top 5 favorite games of all time. Enjoy my rambling about them
- 5. Odin Sphere (developed by Vanillaware, localized by Atlus)
Odin Sphere is a side scrolling RPG released on the ps2 during late spring of 2007. It received generally positive reviews because of it’s lovely art style–some of the best in RPGs at the time, but there was also harsh criticism following the game. It was too hard. the voice acting sucked. the frame rate was low. there was too much repetition. Oh, how I could go on.
But before I could even think that there was anything wrong with this game, before anyone pointed out its many flaws to me, I thought it was amazing ( and I still do). Why? Well for one thing, I was so engrossed with the story that I couldn’t tell the voice acting was horrendous. I hardly paid attention to it. In fact half the time I switched the voices to Japanese. I also played the game on easy–still hard, but hey, it’s an RPG. Learn to level up and get stronger and nothing will stand in your way.
The story circles around 5 main characters. Each of them is unique, ranging from a Valkyrie princess to a shadow knight to a forest witch to a faerie princess to a prince-turned-pooka (adorable bunny like creatures). Did I get them all? They all have their own fighting style that revolved around collecting psyphers, blue magic things that leveled up your weapons and such. The plot dealt with your typical “end of the world Armageddon”, but it told the story from each character’s viewpoint, sometimes overlapping plot lines from a different perspective or sometimes from an enemy perspective. The story was wonderfully told and interwoven, and there were different endings depending on how you fought the final bosses. It was too touching for me to handle. Yes, I cried.
Quite honestly though, I did not have a problem with the low frame rate. When a million enemies were on screen with me and I was kicking their butts and I got a critical hit on them and everything was in slow motion cause indeed, the frame rate is low–I thought it was kinda cool. Yes, I am easily amused.
So despite the fact that you play 5 characters through the same 5 levels, despite the bad voice acting, despite the low frame rate, Odin sphere is just a lovely game. It’s beautiful to look at, fun to play, easy to pick up, and easy to love. If you have a ps2 and 20$, I implore you–get it.
Here’s a fun fact that might negate any negative airs around this game. It was made by 18 people. Considering some RPGs take years to make with teams of 300+, that is quite impressive. wonderful job, Vanillaware. Just wonderful.
Before you go, here, have a picture of a pooka. So cute!
March 21, 2009
I’m pretty sure these genres are self-explanatory. However some of the history behind them is quite interesting so I though I’d share.
Tennis for Two was actually one of the first sports games–and one of the first games in general–to be released. It could only be played on a main frame computer at rich and spendy universities, so not many people are aware this game even exists. Since Tennis for Two was released sports and racing games were few and far between. There were only 3 that are memorable or mention worthy since 1958. Baseball (yep, just Baseball) was released in 1971 but the man who created it, Don Daglow, continued to write and rewrite the code for it, making changes and improvements to the game.
Most of the sports games released in the 70’s were in arcades. Night Driver appeared in 1976, and Atari Gold showed up in 1978.
Between 1980 and 1984 however, Atari and Intellevision competed with each by showing off and releasing a plethora of sports games. Atari had been in the business longer and could market games at the lower price due to their roots in arcade games, but Intellevision had superior looking games than Atari. Both companies released at least one game each for baseball, American football, hockey, basketball, auto racing and association football. Ads during this were popular for both companies showing off these games side by side.
in 1984 Gamestar was born. Gamestar released many more sports games and was the most successful sports game company of the era. Gamestar led in EA games n 1989, which is responsible for all those NHL, NCAA, NASCAR racing, and Knockout Kings games that were updated each year to feature new “characters” and rosters.
Once we get to 1995 “extreme sports” enter the picture. These were games like Tony Hawk’s Proskater, SSX, and Supreme Snowboarding. These weren’t updated every year but have had several sequels and spin offs made.
After this time, unfortunately, sports and racing games become cookie-cutters of each other. I’m sure everyone has seen Madden 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 00….I could go on for a while.
However sports and racing do have some sub genres.
An Arcade style sports game is just that–compete with another player or cpu and obtain the high score.
Simulation features a more realistic approach to sports games and often lets the player take control of a character on a field.
Management is where the played assumes the role of team manager. They don’t usually play the actual game but instead spend their time best managing the team and making decisions based on stats.
Fantasy sports genre let the player assemble their own team and play against other players who have done the same. this is becoming increasingly popular with the advent of the internet.
Sports RPG, awkwardly enough allows the player to rack up points or experience that can be used to strengthen their team.
If there’s a sport out there, there’s bound to be a video game for it. Check it out here. You might be surprised.
Next time, I will start my list blogs. Everyone loves opinions and lists, so you get the best of both worlds.
March 17, 2009
Everyone remembers or has played Tetris sometime in their life, right?
Puzzles games have become more popular with the release of the Nintendo Wii and the advent of targeting casual gamers. Puzzle games usually featured something simple, to the effect of Tetris. Players could move around blocks or other objects in a certain pattern. When the pattern was unlocked, players were allowed to go to the next level.
Some games mixed it up by adding a time factor or other elements to the game. Puzzle games so rarely had a story that sometimes, if a game resembled a puzzle, they would have an extra puzzle mode, with and without a timed mode.
Puzzle games have evolved over the years. Most puzzle games have added a story and built the puzzles around it. Edutainment, a game genre that is designed to strengthen the brain, stem from the puzzle genre. These games include Professor Layton and the Curious Village, where the player solves a series of mysteries in order to progress throughout the game and learn more about the story.
Most other game genres have featured puzzles in some way or another. Resident Evil, the Legend of Zelda series, and the Silent Hill series have featured puzzles in order to progress in the story.
Since this would have been too short a blog, and speaking of Resident Evil, I’ve already completed Resident Evil 5. It only took about 8 hours, which is disappointing since Resident Evil 4 was closer to 20 hours. However I would think that Resident Evil has made a switch of genres. It used to be survival horror, but has made a shift towards action adventure, which is quite unfortunate since Resident Evil is known for being survival horror.
I also started a new hand held, Dragon Quest 5. DQ5 is a Japanese RPG, and a very popular series. DQ series is known for making thousands of Japanese children and business miss school and work (which is why the game is now released only on weekends in Japan). The series isn’t as popular in America, but since this is the second time DQ5 has been ported or remade, it obviously has made quite a splash.
Next blog I plan on finishing up the genre blogs. Since the last few genres need little explanation I hope to wrap them up quick.
March 15, 2009
MM. Role-playing games. This is another very broad genre in the video game world.
RPGs, of course, derive from earlier role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons. Most of the earliest RPGs were text-based. In 1980 though, Rogue was released. Rogue was a dungeon crawler, which is a RPG that features randomly generated maps in “dungeons”. Rogue’s popularity spawned a whole mess of clones called roguelikes.
After the great success of Dragon Quest in 1986 and Final Fantasy in 1989 in Japan, RPGs split into two categories. Now there are Western RPGs, or computer RPGs, and Japanese RPGs, or console RPGs. This is mainly due to a difference in culture. At the time, more people in Japan used consoles and other countries used personal computers.
RPGs, gameplay wise, are complex. Like adventures they rely heavily on story and characterization. The interface of many RPGs use windows and menus to progress in the story, although modern RPGs are evolving away from that.
One thing that sets RPGs aside from many other genres is the depth of customization. RPGs often use the experience points system. When a character gains enough, they level up, which increases their statistics like strength and intelligence, which in turn makes them stronger in battle. Accompanying this is often a skill point system. With each level, or after every battle, a character will gain fewer points in another category that may be allocated towards skills or strengthening a character another way.
Combat in an RPG is usually categorized in two ways. Real Time combat is quicker and forces the player to make quick decisions. Turn based is much slower and allows the player to plan and make decisions. There are lots of arguments for both kinds of combat, but for a long time turn-based was the most popular.
There are a lot of different off-shoots of RPGs. Tactical or Strategy RPGs feature a grid that players move characters on. Several popular SRPGs include the Fire Emblem series and the majority of the games released by Nippon Ichi Software, like the Disgaea series.
There are also Action RPGs. I covered these in one of my other blogs. Basically they’re just RPGs that expand on combat and make a more intense combat system.
There are also MMORPGs. Usually these RPGs feature real time combat and little story, but offer lots of exploration and leveling for the player to do.
As mentioned above there are Roguelikes, or Dungeon Crawlers. These games also emphasize leveling and exploration, though the maps are random.
Several RPGs have made a lot of ground in the genre. Dragon Warrior is a perfect example of a classic RPG: level grinding and questing, but Final Fantasy broke molds with several of their games, including the original Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy VII, and Final Fantasy X, when the game finally featured voice actors.
More on the Western RPG versus Japanese RPGs can be found here.
March 12, 2009
This genre is pretty self-explanatory. There’s a first person perspective and you shoot stuff with a variety of guns. Simple, but popular. The fun part is that FPSs are actually pretty new to the video game world.
There were a few crappy FPSs that came out in the early 70’s, but the game that takes the credit for really getting the FPS genre out there is Wolfenstein 3D in 1992. Chances are that the majority of the world has heard of or played this game. It was a PC game and even my mother knows about it and could tell anyone a good deal about it (it was her brother after all that used her computer on end to play it).
Doom came out shortly after Wolfenstein did. It improved on a lot Wolfenstein had to offer, like smoother textures, flickering lights and shadows that created a more realistic environment, and perhaps most important, Doom added a multiplayer mode called “deathmatches”. Doom is considered to be one of the most important FPS ever released and also had a huge impact on the gaming world in general. Until Doom came out multiplayer mode was practically unheard of. Now almost every game released features some sort of multiplayer with it.
Several other shooters came out in lieu of Wolfenstein and Doom, but none were quite as successful. Duke Nukem 3D, released in 1996, was considered to be the last great sprite-based FPS before the leap to 3D.
Quake, released in 1996, was the first FPS to feature polygon models instead of sprites. Like the great FPSs before it, it had fast-paced gory action and lots and lots of multiplayer.
There were a few FPSs released for the Sony Playstation from 1995-1997, but none were really successful. That is, until Goldeneye 007 came along. the game was based off James Bond movies and was critically acclaimed thanks to great gameplay in both single player levels and multiplayer maps. The game also featured a sniper rifle and the ever-so-important headshot, where the player can instantly kill an enemy if they manage to shoot them in the head.
1998 Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six started a trend of “tactical” shooters. Although tactical FPSs had been released before TCR6 was the first game to really perfect the idea. The game featured team-based realistic design and often had themes like war or counter-terrorism. Games like the Medal of Honor series and the Call of Duty series followed in its wake.
Half-Life was released in 1998. While the game was met with luke-warm reactions, it became a great success. Half-Life featured things FPSs had never seen before, like a well-done story, lack of power ups, strong AI and a great attention to detail. Both Half-Life and Half-Life 2 are considered to be among the best of FPSs.
Then of course, in 2000, Bungie released the sickeningly popular Halo (which actually began as a generic 3rd-person shooter). It was acclaimed for its narrative and the characters featured in the game, for which the developers thank Half-Life for the inspiration. The entire Halo series features strong multiplayer, so much so that in fact some players don’t even bother with the single player levels.
Since Halo FPSs have strived to include a strong story with larger levels and better graphics. Games like the FarCry series, Resistance series, and the more modern Call of Duty 4 and Call of Duty 5 have succeded, although there aren’t as many groundbreaking games now as there have been in the past.
Next up, my favorite: Role-Playing Games.
March 11, 2009
Ah, the platformer. So simple, yet hundreds of thousands of games have been made in this genre, some awful, some ground breaking.
But what is a platformer? It’s probably the most simple of games. In a platformer you jump onto platforms or over obstacles. Sometimes you swing over things.
Yep. that’s it.
But don’t be fooled, because in a platformer, it’s imperative that you are actually pressing buttons to jump. Some games feature automatic jumps when the character reaches a ledge. This, readers, is not a pure platformer, but some other genre in which the game is borrowing platforming elements.
Platformers came about sometime in the early 80’s. The term “Platformer” wasn’t actually coined until about 1983. The earliest platformer were strictly 2D. 3D successors didn’t show up until the 90’s.
Platforming is probably one of the easiest genres to mix. You can throw some shooting in there to create Contra, adventure to create Flashback, or my favorite, RPG elements to create the Castlevania series. Platforming is a great genre to mix other genres with, and because of this, there are several sub-genres.
Platforming, at the peak of it’s success in the early 80’s, dominated about 1/4 of the video game market. 1/4 of video games made were either pure platformer or platformer mixed with another genre.
Platformers, however, at their most simplistic featured just one screen. One screen the character would move up, and once they got to the top–you guessed it–they’d move on to another one screen level. The most popular example of this is of course Donkey Kong.
Jump Bug was the first game to feature a rolling screen, in which the screen would move up or down and left or right depending on how far the player was. This game came out long before it was the trend to have a scrolling screen, so we didn’t see more of these until a few years after it.
Let’s not forget the most influential platformer of all: Super Mario Bros. Super Mario Bros took a hint from a game released a year earlier in 1984 and featured parallax scrolling, a technique used to give depth to 2D video games.
When 16-bit consoles were released game companies went nuts making more and more platformers with better scrolling graphics. Sonic was released at this time, becoming a competitor for Mario. Many companies followed suit, releasing mascot after mascot to stick into a platforming game, but only Mario and Sonic remained memorable All to emerge in this era were platformers based off popular movies–although back then, they were probably much better than they are now.
Next came 3D platformers-or as some call them, 2.5D, since they feature flat graphics in a somewhat 3D universe, or vice versa. Although several companies struggled with this concept, one game nailed it. Bug! was a game for the Sega Saturn that managed to pull off a smooth looking 2.5D look. Now that the example was out there, game companies began to follow suit.
And then of course, the leap into 3D. Super Mario 64 pulled it off well, turning a flat land into a vast explorable world. However 3D platformers, while still successful, would never achieve the popularity 2D platformers once had. The market was beginning to grow and expand as better RPGs, action/adventure, and First Person Shooters were released.
Still, some platformers have remained highly successful. Games like Super Mario Galaxy, the Rachet and Clank series, and LittleBigPlanet still sold well and continue to do so. Platformers are not dead–it’s just difficult to find a good one anymore.
Next up, First Person Shooters (FPS).
March 10, 2009
I haven’t been able to access the internet until today since I’ve been traveling all Spring Break. But now I have the internet and will make up the blogs I’ve missed.
So onto genres, I’ll start with two basic genres: Action/Adventure. These two genres can stand along but are often found side by side.
An action game focuses a lot on combat. There is some story but in action games stories tend to be less developed. The story basically serves as a device to move the combat along from place to place or person to person. Combat consists of pressing buttons to string together combos. More recently there has developed an off-shoot of action games called “Beat-em-ups”, where the story is practically nonexistent and you spend a lot of time mashing buttons to kill lots and lots of enemies. One example of this is the Devil May Cry series, which started out as a high-rated action game and slowly, over the years turned into a beat-em-up. The game is still highly-rated but the combos and combat in the DMC series is more outrageous than ever.
An adventure game on the other hand doesn’t focus so much on combat as it does on exploration and story. There are usually puzzles, of course, the further the story of the game. An off-shoot of adventure is certain survival horror games like The Silent hill series, specifically Silent Hill 2. This game features an option in the beginning to have no combat whatsoever so the player can focus on solving puzzles and figuring out the plot.
So therefore, an action/adventure game combines combat with exploration and puzzles! Simple, yes? A classic example of this is the Legend of Zelda series. The games features simplistic combat and controls and lots of searching, lots of puzzle solving, few enemies, and good dose of story. The very first action adventure game however is considered to be Colossal Cave Adventure, released in 1976. It was a computer game that featured vector maps based off a real cave. The game is known by many names and has been re-released and re-made since.
There are several off-shoots to this genre as a whole. Like I mentioned above, beat-em-ups and survival horror are also off-shoots. To name a few more…
Platform-adventuring: This genre still has emphasis on solving puzzles, but also features simple combat and traditional platform elements like jumping. There may or may not be a lot of story involved with these types of games.
Action role-playing: This genre emphasizes action and combat, usually featuring a complex combat system. It also features traditional Role-playing elements, including statistics and levels for your characters, a developed story, and lots and lots of cut scenes.
First-person action-adventure: Wow that’s a lot of genres. This genre uses first-person game play but forsakes constant action. In lieu of action we have environmental puzzles, problem-solving, and a good plot.
Next time, more genres! Specifically, the platform genre, perhaps the most popular and simplistic genre. Yes, I could easily fill a blog with this one.