Friday, May 11, 2012

Video Game Roundup

It's been a while, so let's catch up...

Y's: The Ark of Napishtim

Good Enough for Cosplay
The thing about most Final Fantasy games is that some trick is required to beat them.  Whether it's unlocking hidden weapons (7,10), holding on to every super potion found in the game (12), or going in with a specific configuration that the boss is susceptible to (the rest, except for 8), it doesn't matter how much you "grind" your characters as you will have your ass handed to you on a plate if you didn't check Gamefaqs before walking past the last save point.

I played this Y's game on the PSP to satisfy my JRPG jonesin' while (for the most part) traveling, so it took some time to get through.  Being a portable title it's a little shorter than a full blown console game and it pads the game time with a merciless "grind".  Beating the same monsters over and over and over (and over) will be required to get past the dungeons (though oddly enough, not most of the bosses), but the game is fair.  After I had "grinded" my character to the limit I was rewarded with the ability to put the royal smack down on the baddies at the end.  For a portable game the music is top notch while the art and story are a reminder of a time gone by.  Three sandmiches for being a fun trip, minus two for hand cramps and that stupid wasp boss who was harder than the final boss and had to be fought twice!

Uncharted 3

Nolan North isn't just a Nathan Drake fan, he is Nathan Drake
I got caught up on this review because it's hard to add anything to the discussion of this game.  This was one of the few titles that I paid list for and also one of the few titles that I sucked up all the DLC for.  The single player game astounds with the visuals, but it feels like a set-piece exercise compared to the second title ("I made a level in a shipyard!"; "Good, write that into the story.").  Going in I figured it would be hard for this game to beat it's predecessor in terms of Uncharted 2's great story, amazing art and well done characters and the third game certainly met that low expectation!  If you're looking for a great single player game, I'd still go for the second title obviously, but the main reason I bought this was so that Kid Sandmich and I could play the co-op multiplayer.

The multiplayer in '3' is much improved and includes a variety of upgrades and locals to keep us busy.  We only played competitive multiplayer once, out of fear of the borg gamers out there, but even that was a blast as it was obvious none of the other players (who are paired off) were playing together on the same couch.  Four sandmiches for another outstanding title, minus one for thinking it could be as good as '2'.

SSX

It's difficult to put into words how big of a fan I was of the original SSX (12 years old! A Playstation 2 launch title) and then SSX 3.  The original SSX featured (among other things) an unlockable non-competitive open ended map featuring a great track from Hybrid (That video is worth checking out not only for the great tune, but the visuals from a game that was probably the best looking launch title on the PS2).  SSX 3 had the great outlandish characters cranked up, a great soundtrack and even better visuals; along with an amazing unlockable track down the mountain which combined the best race tracks into a 25 minute jaunt down the mountain (with no load lines!).

Somewhere in the development of the new SSX game, the developers managed to suck the fun out and replace it with an aggravating snowboard based platformer.  Make no mistake, it looks great and it handles great, and while not on a par with SSX 3, the soundtrack is acceptable.  Where it shines though is in the passive multiplayer.  I have several "friends" on my list (these are people I do not know), and some of them are noticeably inferior to my O-K SSX skills; so when I find that they've beaten one of my times, it's "game on".  I will sit for far too much time mastering the line on a course so that I can earn fake SSX bucks and provide the same level of aggregation to a player who had the audacity to beat my score.  As well, although I haven't gotten to that point yet, this the one game that I own where a platinum trophy is in the realm of feasibility.  Three and a half sandmiches, minus one and a half for sucking the life out of the colorful characters and maps, and for designing levels with swiss cheese like meshes in which your racer can become trapped.

Final Fantasy: Crisis Core

Also good enough for cosplay
It's difficult to talk about this game without giving spoilers to the game that it is a prequel to: Final Fantasy 7.  The problem is that it's a bit of a mystery who would play this outside of people who are at least vaguely familiar with 7.  The game is made for the PSP, which has no trouble outshining the crude PS1 visuals of Final Fantasy 7.  HDish locals and characters from the original game make appearances much to the delight of fans.  For those who love eco-pago-Christianity, you're in for another heaping serving of that as well!

That being said, the game is one of the better, if not best, Final Fantasy RPG off-shoots.  The "grind" is contained within missions, so I never felt like I was pointlessly wandering the map in a never ending effort to level up.  The missions might get to be a 'grind' as well, but they feature character appearances, great loot, and fun monsters.

While playing this game on my cheap PSP, a game that featured fully voiced cutscenes, a deep story, and long and engaging gameplay, a guy next to me while I was on a plane was playing this POS on his several hundred dollar iPad (I'd seen the game before because Kid Sandmich talked it up on his iPod).  My game design buddy thinks it's inevitable that the iStuff will reach FF:CC levels of gameplay, but none other than one of the execs at Unreal (who made one of the best iStuff games) thinks that won't happen because games have trouble cracking the dollar, let alone ten dollar price tag on the app store and that at least for the time being there is no market for a $30-$60 iStuff game that can amount to something more.

Anyway, four and half sandmiches for FF:CC, a great portable game that makes those long trips melt away, but losing a half a point for that somewhat grating storyline.

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