Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep Impressions
The PSP-only Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep is actually three games in one, each weighing in between 10 and 15 hours depending on how much you level/ability grind. There is a short Prologue that shows us a curious relationship between Ventus, who looks remarkably like Kingdom Hearts II’s Roxas, and the infamous Xehanort on the familiar-looking setting of Destiny Islands. We flash to the present, where the young Ventus, the strong Terra, and the mage Aqua are honing their keyblade skills on the Land of Departure. You control Ventus (call him “Ven”, mainly because he tells everyone he meets that that’s what everyone calls him) as you chase Terra and Aqua through an obstacle course on the way to the sparring grounds. This is Square-Enix and Disney’s improved tutorial system that takes 15 minutes instead of the two-hour intro/tutorial grounds of past games that were spliced with plot cinematics before the game’s logo even appeared on the screen. It was a big relief to find that I could jump right into the game, and after completing a character’s storyline you can skip this entire sequence for the next playthrough.
After the sparring match, I chose to start my game with Ven. It seemed logical, as he was a major part of the Prologue and he was the one you controlled most during the tutorial. I was curious to see how his backstory played out, though after completing his story and beginning again as Terra, I found Terra’s story provided many more answers about the game’s world and would have been a far better starting story.
Ven controls like Sora or Roxas did. He is agile, quick, and balanced between strength and magic. His story begins when Terra takes off after taking the test to become Keyblade Master. Ven is visited in his room by a masked boy who looks straight out of Xenogears, who nudges him to follow Terra, saying Terra will not return as the person Ven knows. Ven becomes concerned for his friend, and chases after him in a story that will talk strongly of themes of friendship, light, darkness, and sinister plans to unlock the world of Kingdom Hearts. This path has a similar tone to Sora’s adventures, as it is mostly light-hearted protecting of Disney characters with thoughts of his two best friends pushing him through. His story unfortunately does not include much information about the game’s random enemies, the Unversed, until the very end, and as little about Xehanort’s true plan until the same point. This information is given early on in Terra’s story, though. For much of my 15-hour playthrough with Ven I was wondering what the things I was fighting were (since they were not Heartless), and in this respect Ven’s story is better left for the second playthrough.
You’ll have new interactions with Disney characters along the way and explore portions of Disney worlds that have not been seen in other Kingdom Hearts games. The beauty of the three storylines is that each one feels like a separate game within the story. You get different cut scenes, explore different parts of each world, and visit each world in a different order depending on who you choose to play as.
So far I’m enjoying Birth By Sleep, but even having completed one of three stories, I still feel like there’s a lot more for me to discover, even within the main plot.
PSP’s Half-Minute Hero To Get A Sequel
According to a Famitsu report, last year’s briefest, 8-bitiest PSP game, Half-Minute Hero, will be getting a sequel. The new iteration of the game is said to continue to place heavy emphasis on fast adventuring and plowing quickly through battle, though time will freeze while traversing the overworld map.
The original game featured four modes. In Hero 30, you are given 30 seconds to save the Princess from the Evil Lord, where random battles consist of the hero and enemy running at each other until one of them dies. Time can be extended by offering money to the time goddess, though it costs more each visit. Princess 30 puts you in charge of the Princess who must leave the castle to find an item that will save her dying father, however due to danger the queen will only keep the door open for 30 seconds. Evil Lord 30 puts you into a real-time strategy game in which the Evil Lord must gather troops and take down the opposing force - you guessed it, in 30 seconds. Lastly, Knight 30 flips the stage. The knight must hold off oncoming attacks while a sage takes 30 seconds to cast a spell ridding the area of monsters.
The sequel will include four new modes as well as a four-player co-op mode, a quest creation tool, and a neverending battle mode in which the player will go up against the game’s bosses in succession.
Currently translated as “Hero 30 Second”, the game is expected to be released in Japan on November 4.
[Originally posted on Crispy Gamer]
Rob’s SRPG Month
|Gallian Militia’s Rosie blasts away at a lowly Imperial scout in Valkyria Chronicles.|
|A magical armlet attaches to Joan of Arc, allowing the French to better stand against the English.|
What I’m Still Playing: Dissidia: Final Fantasy
Every time I look at Dissidia: Final Fantasy’s graphics/art design I feel proud to own a PSP. The game marries Final Fantasy X-level graphics with the main characters from each Final Fantasy game from I through X, and seeing each character so well put-together makes me want to play or replay each of their original titles. In this way, Dissidia has succeeded in being the ultimate marketing tool: it is a game that can run a person up to 100 hours (should they try to level up each character) while advertising ten Final Fantasy games across multiple systems (eleven, if what I hear about a hidden character is correct) and also selling the PSP on its graphical capabilities. In fact, I went so far as to buy Final Fantasy III and IV on DS because playing Dissidia on PSP made me want play through the Onion Knight and Cecil’s storylines.
Dissidia is a lengthy game. I’ve stretched 25 or so hours over many months by playing in bursts, but I could easily continue to play for three times as long. Each “light” character from the first ten of the series has a five-level single player story complete with cut scenes. That’s 50 levels just to start. Then there’re the four or five levels that unlock for you to complete the story, Arcade Mode, which is a series of random matches without rest or items, and Quick Battle/Mutiplayer, which give you experience toward leveling up. Now, imagine trying to max out the levels on ten good guys and ten bad guys? And then going up against opponents online? You can easily play this game for the rest of your PSP’s lifespan.
I have 14 or 15 levels to go: Bartz’ and Zidane’s stories plus the final story levels (in which you choose who to play through as). Due to Final Fantasy V’s job system, Bartz was given the Mimic job class in Dissidia, so he has special moves from many of the other titles’ main characters. That’s who I’m playing through as now. I’m saving Zidane for last, then I may play through the last few levels as Squall.
And again, the graphics really take hold of you, especially when using special moves with fancy bursts of light and energy. I really hope there will be a Final Fantasy VI remake using Dissidia’s graphics engine — Terra looks absolutely perfect — though Square will probably continue their plan to put it out on the 3DS instead. It’s too bad, they really have something here. Though Dissidia’s marketing power is so great it may just make me buy a 3DS for Final Fantasy V and VI should they come out on the platform.
|* Ah, Cloud - always the romantic. *|
Currently gaming: God of War 3, Final Fantasy 3 (DS remake), Dissidia: Final Fantasy, LittleBigPlanet, The Conduit, Wario Land: Shake It!, and thinking of exploring more in Fallout 3. Think I’m overdoing it? I really wanna leave work and play.
What I’m Gaming, 04.19.10
I loved Windwaker on GameCube, so when The Phantom Hourglass came out on DS as a direct sequel I was very excited. That is, until I was maliciously forced to return to one dungeon over and over again, replaying the parts I had last completed just to get to the next part. This level mechanic could only be described as broken, as it sucked all the enjoyment out of the game and forced you to avoid enemies you could not stand up to in a fight despite having improved your weaponry before each return trip. Everyone knew this system was terrible, and when The Spirit Tracks was announced the developers stated they had fixed the problem that dungeon had by using the same revisit-the-same-place-over-and-over system but with stairs to unexplored levels instead of traveling through the completed ones!
It sounded fine, and I love the Zelda series so I had faith in this one. Unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing creative about this iteration. There are the standard elemental temples Link must visit - which is fine - but there’s nothing aside from that, really, and you have to travel by train tracks. The train system takes any and all exploration out of the game leaving you only with a chance to find and capture rabbits in the wild. I hated the train system. Your train is not nearly fast enough. There are warp gates, but you have to drive at the slow pace to get to them. You can upgrade your train, but collecting items to trade for the parts requires you to go out and find them, so unless you set out to upgrade your train you most likely won’t before the end of the game.
The lack of creativity shows as the game progresses. The weapons you find are the standard Zelda game weapons, in a very similar order of previous games. Other Zelda games have thrown in variations here and there - a double hookshot, a grappling hook, empty bottles, the Lens of Truth, etc., and though we do get a sand-based item later on (similar to a Link to the Past item) the only other surprise is a whip that functions exactly like the grappling hook. Very anti-climactic. This would be acceptable if the dungeon puzzles utilized the weapons in clever ways - a way other Zelda games excel - and in some places it does. However, aside from some interesting uses of sand and using the boomerang for lighting torches in specific orders, you spend most of your dungeon time controlling armored knights instead of Link. This adds complexity to the dungeons, but eventually becomes another repeated gameplay device.
Princess Zelda’s body is stolen and only her spirit remains with Link, allowing her to possess the dark knights that appeared in The Phantom Hourglass. Different types of knights have different abilities (warping, rolling, flame sword) used for various puzzles, and it’s fun at first, unfortunately you end up spending more time as the possessed knight than you do doing cool things as Link himself. However, each temple has an epic-looking boss that takes up both screens in height which Link must slay - another thing that seems awesome at first, until you realize every boss’ behavior is similar in the same type of room and takes the same amount of hits to take down.
I missed catching poes, bottling fairies and spring water, collecting heart pieces, sailing the open seas and galloping along on Epona. I missed the Zora and Gannondorf, and - come on - the frakking Triforce. The Spirit Tracks feels so stripped down and simplified.
One last gripe, and this one goes more toward DS games in general: Who thought it was a good idea to build a blow-into-the-mic mechanic into a portable game? The Spirit Tracks became impossible to play on the train because of the need to blow into the mic to use the whirlwind weapon or play a song on Link’s pan flute. That’s not something I want to do, let alone in public. Also, the subtle breeze from the train car’s air conditioning kept screwing with the blowing system so even when I sucked it up and decided to blow into the damn pan flute like an idiot the air conditioning screwed up my duet with the spirit guardians! Bah! One more temple and I’m finished, and I’m glad I’ll be. I’m done.
LocoRoco 2 (PSP)
I needed something simple, short, and to the point to hold me over. The game’s very cutesy, which does amuse me despite my maleness, but the music is maddening. It’s like little girls performing a French/Japanese fusion pop chant. The premise is some evil things are messing with the good, nature-loving things, and you - a yellow blob - must roll and bounce your way to driving the evil things away (while collecting things, of course).
If you collect red flowers you grow fatter, allowing you to gain more momentum but blocking you out of c spaces. However, you can split into multiple blobs to fit through and then reform into a large blob again, should the situation require it. The control scheme consists of tilting the screen using L or R, and jumping by pressing both together. Very simple, but very effective. The flat, cartoon graphics and the bright colors make LocoRoco 2 enjoyable to look at, and the game is surprisingly addictive because of its physical twists and turns. Fun for the collector gamer and the completionist. It’s the kind of game you have to see in action to appreciate
LocoRoco 2 is a fun game to play if you only have ten or so minutes at a time, or just want something you don’t have to think much about. I’m enjoying it.
My Holiday Gaming Wishlist
Note: Not all games I want are on here, as I plan to borrow several from friends.
LittleBigPlanet: Game of the Year Edition
God Of War Collection
Prince of Persia
PS3 Dual Shock 3 Controller w/vibration
EDIT: I forgot to add Brutal Legend
Final Fantasy Dissidia
GTA: The Chinatown Wars
Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
New Super Mario Bros. Wii
Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles
Dead Space: Extraction
Muramasa: The Demon Blade
GTA IV: Episodes from Liberty City
Halo 3: ODST
The Last Remnant
Magna Carta 2
XBOX 360 Controller
PSN, Wii, or XBOX Live Gift Cards