Monday, September 19, 2011

Still Here, Just Quiet

I haven't had a lot to post about lately.  I've been mostly just killing time by playing League of Legends and Red Orchestra 2.  League I've already talked about in depth and I'm still not sure what I think about RO2.  It's a WWII game set on the Russia/German front that's a lot more realistic than most first persons shooters.  I'm hoping my brother will do a write up for A Green Mushroom on it soon, since he's had more hands on time with the game than I have.

Gears of War 3 is releasing tomorrow, and I'm very excited for it.  I'm not expecting anything new or groundbreaking.  I'm just looking forward to playing a series I love that's been polished to perfection.  All the reviews I've seen have been positive.  It's also a great excuse to get someone to sit down and play couch co-op with me.

On the MMO front I'm starting to feel twinges of interest in Guild Wars 2.  That's saying a lot since I still feel burned out on MMOs from my last stint in Azeroth.  SWTOR is looking more and more like a WoW clone with an interesting license, but GW2 seems to actually be doing some new things.  I'll keep my eye on it.

To make up for my absence, I come bearing this awesome link.  Read the article.  I know it's Cracked and it's supposed to be humor/satire, but a lot of the points hit home with me since I'm now a husband, father, full-time worker, and a gamer.  While I don't think I'm getting too old for gaming, as the article claims, it does bring up some valid points.  As I'm settling into my adult life I'm treating gaming differently then I used to.  Anyway, check that one out.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

No 3DS for Me

The 3DS is bombing.  Sales numbers are way lower than projected and Nintendo has already done a massive price cut in the hopes of increasing holiday sales and hype.  Executives are taking pay cuts and apologizing to investors.  The rumors are circulating that Nintendo is considering a hardware redesign already.  They have rewarded early adopters with free games, but that doesn't fix the main problem, that people aren't buying their system.

I can't speak for everyone, but I can tell you why I don't own a 3DS.  In a nutshell, I've been spoiled by the price of mobile games.  I play games on my ipod touch almost every day and the most I paid for one was around the $8 mark but even that is the exception.  95% of my games were in the 1 to 2 dollar range.  I get hours upon hours of play out of the games I purchase and for $1 it's a steal.

When I'm getting so much playtime for a few bucks on my mobile device how can I justify paying $30+ for each 3DS game?  Realistically, I can't.  It's not the full-fledged experience that I pay for on the PC or Xbox 360.  The 3DS is inherently a mobile gaming platform.  Despite the 3D hardware, with the prevalence of smartphones we have new standards upon which we judge mobile gaming.  Unfortunately for the 3DS it's still playing by the old rules.  It may be cool new hardware with a big name behind it, but I don't think fortune is in it's favor.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Final Fantasy II Impressions: Hitting Myself in the Face

Despite the title, I like Final Fantasy II.  I'll get to the face hitting part in a moment.  Overall, Final Fantasy II is very similar to FFI and, really, any other classic JRPG out there.  All the genre staples are present; armor, weapons, gaining power, new abilities, a heroic quest.  The 2D sprites are classic, but nothing to write home about.  It's obvious that when Squaresoft was making FFII they wanted to keep it close to the first game.

Don't count out those game designers at Square completely, there are differences in FFII.  Whether they're good or not is another question.

The leveling system has been completely redesigned.  Each individual skill levels up with use instead of leveling up as an entire character.  In theory it sounds interesting, and it's been used to great success in some modern games, but the problem is with the execution.  For example, if a character ends a battle with much less health than they started it with (by taking massive damage) their max hp will increase.  This was great and all until I realized that the enemies didn't have to be the ones that caused the damage.

I immediately started gaming the system.  I would go up against minor monsters while wandering the overworld and kill off all but one in battle.  Then I would have all of my characters hit themselves in the face (I assume they aim for the face because I find that hilarious) until their health was critical, at which point they would finish the battle.  This way their max health would go up after every battle.  Face-hitting is the most funny example but spamming white magic on full-health party members worked great too.  My spell levels skyrocketed with little effort.

In Final Fantasy II's defense there were improvements.  There are real characters in this game, with a back-story and motivations.  It's much better than the empty shells in Final Fantasy I.  And, better yet, there's a story!  Things happen, there is cause and effect, events change the world.  In FFI I was told that the enemy was evil and I had to kill his minions and then him.  In FFII characters come and go, rebels rise and fall, superweapons are made and villages are decimated.  It's nice to feel a connection to the story instead of just playing through the game as a series of dungeon crawls.

The leveling system is an improvement in some sense.  While it can be abused it also makes for interesting characters because there are no pre-set classes.  My Firion isn't locked into being a mage, he can be whatever I want him to be.  The same goes for the rest of my party.  I feel like this is foreshadowing some of the ideas in FFVII's Materia system down the line.  I ended up making most of my characters into the equivalent of a red mage and I'm having fun with the result.

More of the Final Fantasy traditions are also emerging.  I've already run into chocobos that can be ridden and a Cid that flies a handy airship.  It will be interesting to see more of these appear as the series continues.

Final Fantasy II is a decent old school JRPG and I'm having fun with it in bite-sized chunks.  5 minutes of play here, 10 minutes there and I'm happy.  I don't know if I could sit down with this game for an hour straight, but I would still recommend it as a pick up and play title for mobile devices.