Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Memorable Melodies: Law of the Battlefield from Trails of Cold Steel 2


Song: Law of the Battlefield
Game: The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 2
Composers: Hayato Sonada, and Takahiro Unisuga (Not 100% sure)

For the past few weeks I've been working my way through Trails of Cold Steel 2. It's a direct followup to the previous game, so if you don't want to be spoiled on the first game then I'd suggest you don;t even watch trailers for the second one. 

The first act was decent, but I found it to be a little lackluster. It was in-between the first and second acts that the game finally clicked with me. Part of that has to do with the new enemies who really didn't get much screen time in the initial act of the game. Eventually they're all given motivation, and turn out to be pretty interesting. I'm not here to get into the story of an 80 hour long JRPG though.

I am however here because of this fresh jam. Almost always when your party comes up against someone who is much stronger than them this song plays as they talk in the lead-up to an awesome fight. The song really lets you know that the people you're interacting with are no joke. Every time it plays I get so excited, because this is one of the few games I've ever played where the main characters aren't the strongest people in the world. It's cool to have characters who aren't all powerful and can definitely get trounced in a fight, This song introduces all the badasses who can crush your team and that's awesome.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Memorable Melodies: Character Select from Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game

Song: Character Select
Game: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game
Artist: Anamanaguchi

Most people have probably heard of Scott Pilgrim before. It is an amazing graphic novel series by Brian Lee O'malley, which got its start 12 years ago. Approximately six years ago there was even a halfway competent movie adaptation. The story follows 23 year old Scott Pilgrim as he pursues his love interest Romona Flowers. In order to "be with her" Scott must defeat her seven evil exes. It's heavily inspired by anime and video games, so it only makes sense that the series came full circle and was made into a video game as well.

The game itself falls into the classic brawler style. You pick from a few characters and beat the living crap out of enemies until you get to a boss. Then you beat the crap out of the boss. It's a little deeper than old school brawlers like Streets of Rage in that you can level up and increase your ability to beat down on thugs. 

The creator of the series was able to do all of the art, so everything is very close to the way it appears in the comics, but a little bit more pixelated. To go along with the pixel-art style a chiptune soundtrack was composed by the band Anamanguchi. If you've listened to my podcast I actually use an Anamanaguchi track as its theme song. This game was actually the way I was first introduced to the band, and I quickly fell in love.

I fell so much in love that this very song has been my ringtone and alarm since the game was released back in 2010. What's a bummer is that the character select music isn't actually on the game's official OST, but obviously that doesn't stop it from being ripped onto the Internet in extremely high quality. 

I'd tell you to run out and buy the game digitally, but it is no longer available for sale. In December of 2014 the licence expired, and Ubisoft decided it was too expensive to renew. It's a bummer, but licensing deals are expensive and they don't last forever. Hopefully someday this wonderful game will be put back on the market for new people to discover and enjoy.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Podcast Episode 19 - Monster Hunter

You may have heard me talk about Monster Hunter on the blog before, but now you can hear all about it in Podcast form! Get ready to be regaled with tales of how I've lost hundreds of hours to this series!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Game Time - August 2016

I went quite a bit without playing video games this month, because I went on a week long vacation. Somehow, despite all the relaxation I managed to play a whole lot more in August than I thought I did.

Originally I expected to be playing a whole ton of No Man's Sky. However it didn't turn out to be as captivating as I wanted it to be. Don't get me wrong, I think it's a really cool game, but the "gameplay" aspect of it leaves a lot to be desired. That's why I ended up playing a whole ton of Starbound, which finally exited early access with its official 1.0 release.

Before I get into all the space video game talk let me regale you with tales of how I got homebrew to work on my 3DS and imported the newest Taiko Drum Master! It's game time!

Taiko no Tatsujin: Dondon! Mystery Adventure

Nintendo has been region locking their consoles forever, which is a total bummer. It's especially odd since both Sony and Microsoft have given up on the practice. There are a ton of games, especially on Nintendo platforms that don't make it outside of Japan. I've known of ways to make the 3DS region free for a long time, but the easiest and most common method required a cartridge that costs a ton. Somehow on the newest version of the 3DS firmware an exploit was discovered in the web browser that would let you run unsigned code by visiting a certain website. It's incredibly easy to do. I don't want to get into the specifics here. If you're interested look up 3DS browserhax and menuhax.

Now that my 3DS can play games from any region I made the choice to import a game that I've been wanting for a long time. Long time readers may remember that the last game I imported was Taiko Dum Master V Version for the Vita. The series releases on one console at a time, and for the most recent release it happened to be the 3DS's turn. V version introduced RPG battles to the classic rhythm game formula, but this new game takes it a step further. Instead of just battling Myustery Adventure adds a whole RPG adventure. You still battle enemies, but you also get to walk around an overworld and interact with various characters.

Explore the world as a friendly talking drum!

The core gameplay is the same as it has always been.  Red notes indicate head hits and blue notes indicate rim hits. If you're large they require you to hit two buttons of each type. It's easy to learn, but crazy hard to master. It still has the ridiculous Oni difficulty, which I don't know how anyone can realistically do.

Since the whole thing is in Japanese I don't really know what's going on in the story. This means that I get the most satisfaction from just playing the rhythm portion of the game. In the story mode you get into random battles as you walk around. This is fun until you realize that you're going to be hearing the same song over and over in each battle. Eventually the songs change as you advance, but the battles happen with such frequency that you'll grow to get annoyed by the songs rather quickly. Outside of that the battles are interesting. You collect monsters to fight alongside you and they all have their own unique skills. Luckily the google translate app works with pictures now, so I can loosely know what each creature does.

Recruit all kinds of monsters to do your bidding in battle!

So far I like the game quite  a bit, but I always like the core gameplay of Taiko Drum Master. It's cool that they're trying to add in more replayability as they continue on with the series, but I don't how valuable it is in the end. Yes, you're doing "different" things in the game, but in reality you're still just playing a Japanese rhythm game. That's totally fine by me.

No Man's Sky

When I first heard about No Man's Sky I became very excited. The thought of exploring a procedurally generated galaxy with all kinds of interesting planets. Then I realized that the team making the game was the same team that had made Joe Danger. For those who are unfamiliar Joe Danger is a sidescrolling motorbike game where you try to do tricks. It controls well and is a lot of fun. As you may have surmised it is vastly different from No Man's Sky in almost every single way. It was because of this that I tempered my expectations. Hello Games had made games before, but nothing on the scale of No Man's Sky.

Apparently most people who bought No Man's Sky didn't adjust their expectations as I did. The backlash I've seen for this game is bonkers. I'd like to say that it's totally undeserved, but it isn't. While I don't think No Man's Sky is a great game I do think that it's a technical feat. While they delivered a sprawling galaxy for players to explore it isn't necessarily "fun" like I wanted it to be. Yes there are technically a Quintilian planets, but when there's nothing to do on them other than mine for resources so you can get to other planets it doesn't make for a very compelling loop.

Who likes to mine resources?

See, that's what happens in  the game. You're stranded on a planet and you need to find the resources to fix your downed ship. You can go off on your own, or follow the path of Atlas and be guided to where you need to go. Once you get the resources you can move off the planet and go to another one. Then you, just kind of do the same thing over and over until you get to the center of the universe. You collect resources so that you can upgrade your equipment and collect more resources. There's a little more to do than that, but I'm largely being serious when I say all you do is collect resources.

This wouldn't be so detrimental to the experience if you started off with an appreciable amount of inventory space. Instead you'll be full up within minutes of starting the game. Inventory management isn't fun! Items don't even stack. If you get some carbon, you'll be able to carry a stack of it, but if an NPC gives you a magic ball you can only keep one per inventory slot. You can upgrade your personal inventory and get larger ships with more space, but you still need to be constantly looking in your inventory because there are other systems that require you to do so. You have life support systems that need to be replenished with resources, and your ship's fuel needs to be refilled as well. It's all a bit tedious.

You're going to be refilling your ship's fuel a lot.

When you're not foraging for resources you may come across one of a handful of events. There are settlements you can come across that will either have a person inside, a "puzzle" to solve, or a weird plant infection. I'm not exaggerating these are the three events you can have happen when you come across a settlement. Talking to NPCs is interesting, because at first you don't understand their language. As you explore plenets there are obelisks to find that will teach you a single word of the local alien language when you approach them. So far this has been my favorite part of the game.

Planets will also be inhabited by flora and fauna too. You can scan them and then upload the discoveries to the server for a reward. Each discovery grants some currency you can use to buy more resources. If you want you can name each discovery, but I found myself uploading them with their default names most of the time.

No planet I visited looked as cool as this.

No Man's Sky is really cool. The procedurally generated animals, plants, and landscapes are fun to see. However, that doesn't mean that you'll want to be doing it for long periods of time. This is why people are unhappy with the game. There isn't a lot to do other than explore. The lead on the game Sean Murray gave plenty of interviews prior to the games release and talked about tons of features they were planning. Not all of those features are in the final game, or have not yet been implemented, so now people are accusing Hello Games of false advertising. While I'd normally say this is ludicrous I do think that the marketing campaign behind this game could have been handled better For a very long time most people had absolutely no idea what the game even was. All they heard was that it had almost unlimited content through procedural generation and their minds filled in the rest. No one told them they were wrong, and instead the hype around the game grew to epic proportions. Like I've said a few times, the game is cool. I honestly think that with a few content patches this game could get a lot better, but right now it's just not doing it for me.

Starbound

Years ago I started to play Terraria with my brother and a few friends. I liked it better than Minecraft because it had a clear progression and minute to minute goals. I'm not the kind of person who can just build and have fun for hours at a time. I need clear and directed goals, which Terraria has. One night my brother showed us that a "space Terraria" was in development, which happened to be Starbound. It purported to be a Terraria-like game, but it took place in space with procedurally generated planets. At that time the game was in pre-production, but it eventually came out in early access and has now been fully released.

I played Starbound when it first came out in early access and enjoyed it to a certain extent. I began to tire of seeing the same prison colony on almost every planet and decided to give the game a rest. However, it did what an early access game is supposed to do. It showed me what the base gameplay would be like, so I knew what to expect when the game was completed. Now that the game is released officially I do like it a whole lot more.

Building is always more fun with friends.

To start I don't think that Starbound should be compared directly to No Man's Sky despite the fact that they are both procedurally generated space games. Starbound is meant to be a building game like Terraria and Minecraft. Hell, it looks exactly like Terraria because the lead artist is the same on both games. The comparison I will make though is that Starbound has a whole lot more going on with its planets than No  Man's Sky does. To be fair it is a lot harder to make 3D content than it is to make a ton of 2D sprites.

Starbound is almost literally Terraria in space. I know I've said that a few times, but it's 100% accurate. While in Terraria you have a single world, Starbound gives you an insane amount of planets to travel to. You can build on a planet, but you also have your own ship that you can place objects on. Since you'll be traveling across the galaxy it's best to store all of your resources and crafting tables on the thing you'll have with you everywhere. Starbound has an actual story progression to it, which I find to be refreshing. In Terraria all you did was beat bosses in order to unlock the next tier of ore and armor, but here you're on a quest to save the universe from a great threat.

This is Earth before it gets totally wiped out.

In order to save the universe you'll be visiting various planets and scanning objects that pertain to each of the game's races. Once you've done enough you'll be able to enter a mission, fight a boss, and then move on to the next mission. You don't have to though. If you're one of those people who's all about building and crafting sweet items you can do that as well. The story isn't a requirement and you can access everything without interacting with it.

When I find something cool on a planet in Starbound I get genuinely excited. Eventually I started to see some repeating areas, but then there are still new items to discover in chests as well. I feel bad comparing No Man's Sky to a much smaller 2D game, but it doesn't stop me from wanting to like exploring in No Man's Sky. In Starbound there is sweet loot to find, but in No Man's Sky all you can really find are new resources to mine and that's lame!

It's Time For More Cold Steel

God Eater 2 Rage Burst came out a few days ago and I've been playing a ton of that. Ir's the only Monster Hunter-like game that I still enjoy for some reason. Perhaps it's because the extreme anime edge the game has. It also helps that the combat is less nuanced than Monster Hunter, so I can mash like an idiot if I really need to. I've already played it for like 20 hours, so expect more on this anime hunting game in the next edition of game time.

You can also expect me to regale you with tales of Ace Attorney 6 and the 10 billion hour long RPG, Trails of Cold Steel 2. I played through the first game a few months ago with a friend and had a great time with it. It has one of the craziest ending twists that I've ever seen in a video game. I did the bare minimum and it still took me around 60 hours to get through, so I expect the second game to be similar in length. I don't know if I'll have enough time to beat it, but I will definitely be pumped to talk about it regardless.

It's been nice ranting at you all, but it's 4 AM now and I really need to get to sleep. See you next time!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Memorable Melodies: Intro from Shining Force



Song: Intro
Game: Shining Force
Composer: Masahiko Yoshimura

For the past few years I've been working my way through all three parts of Shining Force 3 with a friend. Since I don'y have a Sega Saturn we're playing through on an Emulator, which makes the music sound awful. So instead of thinking of the horrifically out of pitch tunes in Shining Force 3 I chose to look back on the first song you hear in the original Shining Force. 

There are two things I like about the song. The first is that it's simplistic, while at the same time building suspense. It plays when the game first launches and let's you know what's going on in the story. Then at the end it really starts to pick up and shows off the title card. The second thing I like about it is that it's a great representation of what the Sega Genesis' sound chip can do. Growing up I didn't have a Genesis, so I'm more accustomed to the sounds of Super Nintendo. I still prefer the sounds of the SNES, but the Genesis is a lot more grimy. It's got some killer bass, and Shining Force shows that it's capable of making noise that doesn't exclusively sound like electronic farts!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Memorable Melodies: Main Theme from Luigi's Mansion


Song: Main Theme
Game: Luigi's Mansion
Composer: Kazumi Totaka

Last night I stayed up way too late playing Tricky Towers online multiplayer with a few of my friends. It's a cool Tetris-like game where you use Tetris blocks, but need to think about physics in order to build a tower. There are very few musical tracks in the game, so eventually I started to whistle along, or so I thought. Much to my surprise the song from Tricky Towers never came out, and instead I ended up whistling the main theme of Luigi's Mansion. 

I first played Luigi's Mansion right around when it came out. One of my best friend's at the time was given a Gamecube by his parents to celebrate some major life event I can't recall. Sadly he ended up with no games, so we had to go and rent some. We ended up getting Luigi's Mansion and we tried to complete it in a single night. As an added challenge bonus he didn't have a memory card either, so we had to leave the game running the whole time. When it was time for me to go we hadn't completed it, so I still have never seen the end of Luigi's Mansion.

Having only really played the game once I don't know why I remember the music from it so vividly. Perhaps it's because I always liked how Luigi would hum along to the music as he went around the mansion trying to nab ghosts. 

Note: I feel like I've put songs up called Main Theme a lot on this feature. I don't know why these songs don't get real names. It's kind of lame.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Podcast Episode 18 - I am Setsuna

This month's podcast is all about the newly released I am Setsuna. It pays homage the the SNES JRPGs of old (specifically Chrono Trigger).