rpg

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

Half-Hour Handheld

Legend of Zelda Links Awakening CoverMy favorite game is—and most likely will always be—The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It's a videogame that raised me, coddled me through the early years, showed me the potential games held, and reminded me that there's still good in this world. And strangely, there's never been anything quite like it since its debut way back in November 1992. I guess some games do come close: 3D Dot Game Heroes, Alundra, Beyond Oasis, and Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime. Not surprisingly, nobody does Zelda quite like Nintendo.

Nintendo's 2011 E3 conference opened with some love for the Zelda franchise, now twenty-five years big, and a surprise announcement was that The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening was going to be available very soon on the Nintendo 3DS eshop. Sadly, I never got to experience this game before on the GameBoy, and a quick bit of research revealed that it both looked and played similar to what I consider to be gaming nirvana. Well, I downloaded it as soon as I could. Let's hope it lives up to my lofty expectations...

I Didn't Beat This Game: Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies

Blog Post

Dragon Quest 9 CoverI knew full well going into Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies that it was going to be a long game. Its pedigree was more than enough, I had friends who had played the previous entries for hundreds of hours, and the series is known for essentially being the Japanese RPG.

But Dragon Quest IX had quickly gained the reputation of being the Nintendo DS RPG, so I wasn’t going to miss out on this event. I plugged away at the game for hours, over 30 in total, but then I stopped. I turned it off one day last August and that was it. I tried getting back into the game a few times, but each time I died quickly or was completely lost on where to go next.

It’s almost a little disappointing to me that I don’t really have a good immediate reason on why I quit, but maybe I can tease something out of myself with a little mind dumping.

Suikoden

First Hour Review

Suikoden CoverI tend to be conscious of the games I buy. When I plunk the cash onto the counter, I've usually made the decision to do so months in advance. I've read some previews, watched plenty of gameplay clips, and probably played a demo (if available). This is normal for people to do when they're about to shell out $60 and tax, but I tend to do my research even when the game can be bought for a Hamilton. What can I say? I'm kind of stingy. Chicks love a pennypincher.

I indulged in a blind-buy some time ago, when a game called Suikoden went on sale from the infallible PlayStation Network for a scant three dollars. I guess I can't really call it a "blind" purchase, considering I'd heard of the series, knew it was some sort of JRPG, and recalled some praise for it throughout the years. Still, this was a small triumph for my freewheeling, devil-may-care side. The side that grins mischievously as a tossed beer can ends up in the trash rather than the recycling bin. The side that saunters across the street with reckless abandon when the orange hand in the crosswalk orders me to halt.

I've finally worked up the courage to start playing this recklessly-bought game. Will it turn out to be as thrilling as the initial purchase, or will I pledge to never blind-buy again?

Dragon Age: Origins

Full Review

Dragon age Origins CoverI don't like to give up on a game I'm invested in. I'm fine with quitting after an hour, and maybe even a few hours after that I can safely move on without second thought. But when the clock strikes double digit hours, I'm in for the long haul, or I have to make the usually difficult decision to stop for my own sanity. Back in January 2010, I made the bizarre decision to start playing Dragon Age: Origins immediately after I finished Knights of the Old Republic and just three weeks before Mass Effect 2 was released. Suffice it to say, I didn't get very far, and the call of Commander Shepard was too strong.

Almost exactly a year later, I finally returned to Ferelden to finish job. I booted up my old mage and rediscovered the hilarity of my party members and utter deepness of the gameplay. I'll admit right here and now, the first thing I did was crank the difficulty down to Casual. I wasn't playing again to make some sort of statement to nobody that I was any good at this type of game, I just wanted to experience everything Dragon Age: Origins had to offer... in terms of story and world building.

I was actually pretty hyped for Dragon Age before it was released, I read the first book, The Stolen Throne, and Grant and I checked out the web-based spinoff, Dragon Age Journeys. My first hour review of the game went decently well, but the origin story of the Dalish Elf was kind of dull which encouraged me to try another origin when I was ready to play for real. And while it took way too long to finally beat the game, it was well worth the wait in the end.

Here's my review of Dragon Age: Origins on the Xbox 360. While I would normally write a many thousands of words on a BioWare game, I'm going to try and move at a bit swifter pace. If you're interested, Ian also reviewed this game a few months ago, this is strictly my opinion.

Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar

Half-Hour Handheld

Harvest Moon Grand Bazaar CoverLike many, I was first introduced to the concept of farming simulation via an obscure Facebook title called Farmville. Not sure if that game flopped or not, but I didn't stick around too long to find out as the idea of caring for crops day in, day out did little to excite me. Sure, I like managing and being organized and earning faux money, but in the end, there wasn't really much to do with Farmville other than pester friends with countless requests and click on the same things over and over. After some time passed, I got the hankering again to water some crops and decided to give Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon a try; unfortunately, despite being a farming simulator with bonus RPG dungeon-crawling elements, I still wasn't entertained.

Scanning the shelves of my local GameStop recently, I noticed a bunch of other Harvest Moon games on the DS. Like, a ton. There were at least three sitting eye-level, staring me in the face, begging to be watered. And I got that itch again. I decided to give the most newest title a chance. Let's see if Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar is different enough to grow into something fun, something edible. 

Monster Tale

Full Review

Monster Tale CoverI love genre mashing, and Monster Tale is certainly a special case of mixed, but excellent heredity. We have the popular and super combination of Metroid and Castlevania, plus monster training that mixes Pokemon, Tamagotchi, and E.V.O.: Search for Eden. Excellent genes also bears the burden of high expectations, however, can Monster Tale possibly meet them?

Released on the Nintendo DS late last month, Monster Tale was developed by DreamRift and published by Majesco. It pairs up a young girl and her monster that evolves and grows throughout the game. Trapped in a world ran by children who think themselves royalty, our young heroine is a bit like Dorothy in Oz, just with Chomp for companionship.

I originally meant to write at least a half-hour handheld review of Monster Tale, but I kept playing and before I knew it, the game was over. Here is my review of Monster Tale for the Nintendo DS.

Radiant Historia or: How I learned to enjoy Japanese RPGs again

Full Review

Radiant Historia CoverA year ago I vented how Persona 3 and Odin Sphere had destroyed my love for Japanese RPGs, one of my favorite video game genres growing up. I might have been a bit dramatic about the situation, but the two games left such bad tastes in my mouth I had to take a break from the genre. This lasted about six months before I ventured back into the land of turn-based rising sun with Sega’s Infinite Space, a game that has all the trappings of crappy JRPGs but turned out to be pretty great in the end.

Since then I’ve beaten Golden Sun 3: Dark Dawn, Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled, and Radiant Historia. It’s been a mixed bag and a reminder that I’m not back in love with the genre, but one game in particular pretty much brought me back into the fold: Atlus’ newest Nintendo DS title, Radiant Historia.

Released in February, Radiant Historia chewed up more portable gaming time than anything I’ve played in recent memory. The idea that a 50 hour game should be imposing to someone with limited gaming time like myself didn’t matter, I plowed through it and the game was worth every minute. Here’s my review of Radiant Historia.

Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled

Full Review

Black Sigil CoverDuring the Super Nintendo era, Squaresoft was peaking with Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy VI, and Chrono Trigger. The developer defined the Japanese RPG genre with those titles and also completely owned the marketplace for years to come. It’s easily arguable that Square has since lost the JRPG title to other developers such as Atlus (with its recent bit of awesomeness titled Radiant Historia in particular), but they’ll never have their triumphant 16-bit period taken away from them.

Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled is a love letter to that era. With sprites and animations seemingly ripped straight out of Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI, and a story that sounds by-the-formula familiar to fans of the genre, this 2009 Nintendo DS release appears to be just another Japanese RPG title. But surprisingly, Black Sigil was developed in Montreal, so yes, this is one of those rare Canadian Japanese RPGs.

Developed by Studio Archcraft and published by Graffiti Entertainment, Black Sigil is also a bit of an indie title. The credits listed the same eight names over and over while the title was so long in development that it was originally targeted for the Game Boy Advance.

Unfortunately, the team had their goals so loftily set that I believe they lost sight of what made Squaresoft’s games so great: they were fun. Black Sigil is plagued by some major issues that most people will find the game unplayable beyond a few hours. I stuck it out though, and here’s my review.

Radiant Historia

First Hour Review

Radiant Historia CoverRadiant Historia hasn’t been on my radar for very long, but ever since I learned about it a month ago, I have been very excited to play it. As a Japanese RPG from Atlus, the game already has the pedigree, but the story is what really grabbed me. Radiant Historia is a time traveling game where your goal is to correct the timeline and save your homeland. Yes, this sounds a bit like Chrono Trigger, and you wouldn’t be totally wrong comparing them, but Radiant Historia has its own unique twists to offer up.

The game’s timeline is presented like you’re navigating a large skill tree, with decisions made creating forks in the fabric of time. You can revisit these forks and make different decisions, and even learn skills and information in a dead-end timeline to return to the correct route and proceed. This sounded just like the game I’ve been wanting to play for a long time.

Released yesterday, Radiant Historia has been getting some great early reviews. I was able to get my hands on it to present my impressions as quick as possible. Here’s the first hour of Radiant Historia.

Mass Effect 2 (PS3)

Full Review

Mass Effect 2 ps3 CoverSome games are just so damn popular and beloved that you can't ignore them, no matter how hard you try.

When Mass Effect invaded my world in 2007, I couldn't have cared less. Sure, it was from the same BioWare that produced the excellent Knights of the Old Republic, and seducing blue women sounded like a pretty good time, but it definitely wasn't enough to put a 360 in my life. I'd grown weary of shooters of all kinds since burning out on Halo 2, and with RPG elements mashed in, it only seemed less enticing. I even gave the game a try last year on a friend's machine and didn't make it off the Citadel before losing interest.

The hype hasn't fallen on deaf ears, though. The rave reviews, rave first hour reviews, GOTY awards, and FOX News scare tactic hilarity all kept me up at night, wondering if I was missing out. EA was intent on making me give the series another shot, as they recently completed a PS3 port of Mass Effect 2. Because one of the series' bullet points is importing player-dictated narrative choices from the first game into the second, Dark Horse Comics was called in to help create a short interactive comic that fills in PS3 owners on some of the events that they missed out on from Commander Shepard's first adventure, even allowing the player to make some of the more important decisions to impact their experience with the full sequel.

As it turns out, that comic is DLC, unlockable either by a code included in the game's box or for $15. I rented the game and didn't plan on shelling out fifteen bucks for a fifteen minute comic, so I ended up going into the sequel without much knowledge from the first game. From that starting point aboard the exploding Normandy to the final trip through the Omega 4 relay, I've experienced just about everything included on the PS3 disc of Mass Effect 2 -- as much as you can in one playthrough, anyway -- as Elmer Shepard, a Vanguard of equal parts paragon and renegade, lover and fighter, savior and failure. And sometimes he forgets to feed his fish, and they die.

Greg has already written about the Mass Effect series extensively, having played both games and plenty of extra content on the 360. With that in mind, I'll try (but likely fail) to keep this brief. If you need a primer or refresher for the series, check out one of his excellent writeups. An avid fan of the series, he does a much better job of explaining the core elements of Mass Effect than I could.

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