Archive for April, 2011

Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection: sequel included

, | Game diaries

I’m a sucker. I know this and Square-Enix knows this. I’m not alone, either. Like a lot of gamers my age the early Final Fantasy games hold a special place in my heart and that warm glow of nostalgia is enough to ensure that I will never stop re-buying those games. To date I have bought most of the 8 & 16 bit Final Fantasy games three or four times. I put up with absurd load times in the PlayStation compilations. I bought a Gameboy Advance SP as a dedicated Final Fantasy jukebox when Square began porting the Wonderswan Color remakes for the Western market. I’ve avoided the hideous 3D remakes of III and IV for the Nintendo DS on sheer principle.

Luckily, at the same time as Square-Enix has been uglifying Final Fantasy for the DS, they’ve also been creating what have to be the definitive 2D versions for the PlayStation Portable. In 2007 they released Final Fantasy: Anniversary Edition, compiling remastered versions of Final Fantasy I and II to celebrate twenty years since the release of the first game. Now, for the 20th anniversary of Final Fantasy’s first appearance on the SNES, Square-Enix has released Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection for the PSP. Like the Anniversary Edition, it features updated, high resolution sprites, backgrounds and fantastic new 3D spell effects. But best of all, it packs in the episodic sequel, The After Years, previously only available on Japanese cellphones and WiiWare, and a brand new bridging story, Final Fantasy IV: Interlude.

After the jump, I’m finally getting what I’ve always secretly wanted: a new 16 bit Final Fantasy Continue reading →

Gears of War 3: shotgun blues

, | Game diaries

I’m hunkered down behind a wall of packed dirt and loose stone. The bullets rip the air a few inches from my face. The wall behind me and the surrounding dirt and cobblestone path explode into bits of debris that rise to form a cloud of dust. A smoke grenade comes sailing in and I slide further down my cover to avoid being stunned. My enemies believe I’m stunned, and I want them to.

After the jump, I count on it. Continue reading →

BlazBlue Continuum Shift: you are not ready

, | Game diaries

In David Mamet’s Redbelt, a movie he inexplicably made about karate, Chiwetel Ejiofor plays a champion karateist. He explains to a woman how martial arts can teach her to control difficult situations. To demonstrate, he indicates a place across the room from her.

“Could I strike you from there?” he asks.

“No,” she says.

He stands close enough to grapple her, where his arms can’t move freely.

“Could I strike you now?”


“Where can I strike you?”

She takes a step backwards, spaced so that his arms would be able to throw a punch and connect.

“Don’t stand there,” he concludes.

And that’s what I like about fighting games.

After the jump, let’s go to gain a little patch of ground Continue reading →

Weekly Little Big Planet: dark on the rock

, | Features

You see, their young enter through the ears and wrap themselves around the cerebral cortex. This has the effect of rendering the victim extremely susceptible to suggestion. Later, as they grow, follows madness and death.

Full disclosure: I’m cheating this week.

That’s not a screenshot of a community level up there. I want to bring you community levels for the above-the-fold part of these weekly columns. The way I did with the dailies. But I couldn’t for this week. My PS3 went all wonky last week and refused to connect to the Play-Stay-shone Network. This happens from time-to-time. Usually I just ride it out. But I couldn’t for this week’s column because I was fixing to go out of town and needed a couple levels in the bank. So I cheated and played a story level. It was called “Invasion of the Body Invaders” and it was great. You go into the body of Dr. Higginbotham and fight infections.

Heh. That makes me think of PC gaming all of a sudden. How stupid that is! With all of those nasty viruses. Glad I switched to my trusty console. Phew! I’m sure all this PSN silliness will be sorted out by the time I get back hom—

Wait. What?

After the jump, stockpile syndrome Continue reading →

Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection: the JRPG singularity

, | Game diaries

The first Final Fantasy was very different from what would be released little more than a year later as Final Fantasy II in America (and is properly known as Final Fantasy IV). People misremember how open the original was, your progress was always gated in the world by very specific choke points even if the game didn’t always tell you where to go next, or why. And while you were able to create your own party of characters, you still never made any decisions that affected the game’s outcome. Final Fantasy IV used that linearity to craft a much tighter, more resonant story. It also eliminated the character creation and substituted a large cast of well defined characters around whom the narrative revolved.

In Japan this was an evolution that took four years and four games, but for the English audience there was little more than a year between the two releases. The change was stark and shocking. By this time the Japanese role-playing game had strayed very far afield of the computer or pen and paper that had once been the inspiration. More than any game before it, Final Fantasy IV placed character drama at the forefront. The result was perhaps the most influential game the genre has ever seen.

After the jump, the primordial ooze from whence all JRPGs are descended. Continue reading →

War in the East: is Taifun that movie with the giant robots?

, | Game diaries

This year will be the 70th anniversary of the launching of the final German drive on Moscow, Operation Typhoon (in German: Taifun). And it’s the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Russia itself, obviously. Don’t bogart my point, which is that this game diary entry is about Operation Typhoon. It’s probably one of the most significant battles in the history of the world, and some would argue that the outcome was decided before it started. Others would argue that it didn’t have to happen at all. The latter group would be wargamers.

Apologies to Italians, Hungarians, and Rumanians for what they’ll read after the jump Continue reading →

Latest patch ensures you’ll never see another Fallout: New Vegas bug

, | Games

I don’t think Bethesda is clear on how patches for videogames are supposed to work. Ideally, a patch makes a game work better. But with each successive patch for Fallout: New Vegas, Bethesda has made is increasingly difficult for me to play the game on the Xbox 360, where Microsoft’s certification process is doing a fine job being asleep at the switch.

With the first patch, Fallout: New Vegas locked up every time I went into the main city hub. With the second patch, the game locked up every time I entered combat. Now, with the patch that was just released today, Fallout: New Vegas locks up every time I try to load a saved game. Bethesda is nothing if not consistent!

Mortal Kombat captures all the fun of a face stabbing

, | Game reviews

I don’t really know why I like gory horror movies. I hate actual gore. I’m squeamish about the sight of blood. After 9/11, I went to give blood and I fainted before they managed to wring even a pint out of my arm. I hate seeing people get hurt for real in supposedly funny YouTube videos. I once saw someone get hit by a car in the real world, and I was surprised at my reaction: I turned my head away. It only lasted for a moment, and I pretty quickly got my wits about me and went to help the guy. But I’ll never forget my reflexive reaction was to turn my head so I wouldn’t see what was going to happen.

But I like horror movies, on a couple of different levels. A really good horror movie is actually horrifying and cathartic and hopefully has some sort of larger message, but I won’t recommend it to most people, because if it affected me, it’s got to be pretty dire. A really bad horror movie is just flat-out disgusting and I want no part of it. But most horror movies are in between and I would characterize them as basically funny. There’s something fundamentally absurd about movie gore, and slasher films, and creature features, and so forth. That’s why I love a recent horror movie called Rubber, which features shots of exploding heads, but in the context of a meta message about watching horror movies. In its own absurd and slightly pretentious way, Rubber clarified for me why I like gory horror movies.

Speaking of absurd and pretentious, I’ll actually get around to reviewing Mortal Kombat after the jump. Continue reading →

Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection: back in the day

, | Game diaries

When I was in elementary school two of my best friends, Jeff and Nick, lived within easy biking distance, just three houses away from each other. Nick was a latchkey kid and had the run of his house for a few hours each day after school. Obviously, that was where we always went to hang out. During the summer break, this translated into even more unsupervised time which naturally made his house the home base for all our youthful shenanigans. We built elaborate water parks in his backyard, watched movies were weren’t supposed to, and fought a secret war in the neighboring woods against a pack of rival kids from a nearby cul-de-sac. It was an ideal, free-range childhood.

We also played a lot of video games, mostly the NES titles all nine-year-olds were into at the time: Mario, Metroid, Contra, Mega Man. We played crappier games, too, like Battle Toads or Silver Surfer, games that had us beating our heads against a wall each time the difficulty spiked and passing the controller around until we prevailed. Our tastes were simple and we usually just played whatever had the coolest box art at the local rental shop.

But then we met Chad.

After the jump, my introduction to true nerditry. Continue reading →

Best thing you’ll see all week: Super

, | Movie reviews

One of the minor things that bothers me about Inception is that it’s so high concept that it doesn’t afford much room for characters. So you get tremendously talented actors like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, and Ellen Page, but you come away from the movie with no inkling how talented they are.

After the jump, Super to the rescue Continue reading →

Section 8: Prejudice: the 185th best team player in the world

, | Game diaries

One of the modern FPS mechanics Section 8: Prejudice uses is unlocks through advancement. Don’t get too worked up about it though, since all of the weapons and almost all of the equipment and armor mods are available at level one. You start out with the basic tools to get the job done but as you advance up you get more tools in the toolbox to specialize, surprise, and more closely match your style of play.

After the jump, unlock-o-rama by the numbers Continue reading →

World of Tanks: balance is hell

, | Game diaries

World of Tanks is a hard game to categorize. It’s certainly not an FPS, since the vehicles that are your “character” evolve over the course of thousands of battles in a process that owes much to RPG’s. On the other hand, it’s not really an MMORPG, since there are never more than 29 other players on the battlefield with you. I suppose “FPS/MMORPG hybrid” is the best way to describe it, aside from the horrendous acronym that results. Whatever label you prefer, the fact is that balance is crucial in such a game. With no PvE content and a player base that’s paying close attention, World of Tanks needs to get the balance right. As of today, I’d say they’re doing a mediocre job at best.

After the jump: matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match Continue reading →

Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past: farewell

, | Game diaries

The Ice Palace is easily my favorite dungeon. Flocks of man-eating penguins line the walls. When Link enters a room, they run and toboggan toward him, their beaks yawning. At the same time, ice spirits come flailing out of the other walls like stunt men afire. The iced-over floors makes dodging a slippery giddy panic, and at times it looks a little like an episode of Benny Hill.

I’ve been playing long enough that all my instincts for solving Zelda puzzles have reactivated. Show me a configuration of blocks on the floor, a statue, two switches, and four torches, and the whole solution flashes in my mind like the crime footage in CSI. I pass effortlessly through locked doors, and descend to the depths of the Ice Palace where I pincushion the boss — a trio of floating eyes named Kholdstare — with arrows.

After the jump, I can’t stop now. Continue reading →

Weekly iCross: better off dead

, | Features

Back on April 21st I saw a little $0.99 game emerge on the App Store called Bunny the Zombie Slayer. Upon first inspection, it seemed like a trifecta of “cynical iPhone cash-in game” syndrome: a cute name (a riff on Buffy the Vampire Slayer), obvious similarities to other major hits (Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies), and a timed release with a major holiday theme (Easter). The klaxons went off. There was no way I was going to give these guys my dollar. These…Hothead Games…guys? Wait, the same Hothead that made the enjoyable-despite-its-flaws Deathspank and Penny Aracade games? The ones with that neat looking Horde? Ron Gilbert* Hothead? Shit. Here’s my dollar.

After the jump: Do not give these guys your dollar. Continue reading →

Section 8: Prejudice: citronella armor

, | Game diaries

“Citronella Armor” is the name for the achievement you get when you complete a Swarm mission in Section 8: Prejudice without dying on Medium or Hard difficulty. You don’t actually get new armor, it unlocks some ammo type or something. I’m not too sure because I haven’t gotten it yet. Mainly because I’m trying to win missions and unlike some horde modes of recent games you can die an respawn as many times as you like.

After the jump, I don’t recommend dying repeatedly Continue reading →