Once again our two heroes, Zack and Gillman, play through one of the most recent games to have graced the face of modern gaming. This week is the sequel to the critically well received Tales of Xillia. Won’t you join us as our two heroes enjoy some classy JRPG times.
Stark and Gillman are at it again. This week they are playing through a swath of Atelier Escha and Logy. Things go weird and with their minds fully in the gutter after about 20 minutes of play, because of course we do. We hang out for about three hours, starting at 9 AM, and are kind of planning on doing this going forward for awhile because we have nothing better to do. Feel free to join us next week to experience the fun live!
There were two great mysteries in my life as a child, what jerk of a mother allowed their off spring to circle all of the items in the image find in Highlights in the doctor’s office, and why wasn’t that magazine offered to normal people who weren’t under an oath more awesome and legally binding than the Green Lanterns. At some point during my search for answers the image find section seemed to have found a life of its own, because I guess saying “I have lost my shoe in this room full of fish,” and then gauging other person’s response is no longer how you decide if someone is sane enough to stand trial.
The game is held together, loosely, by a series of in game dialogs that are supposed to explain why I am trying to find one non-descript purse in an apartment just full of purse like objects. These rooms, of course, come with a list of objects that you are supposed to be looking for—while ignoring the more troubling signs of both neglect and possible mental health issues of whatever environment that they are in (who even uses CDs anymore and why is every TV just left on “static” by default). The game calmly asks me to get the character ready for her investigation while asking for things like a laptop and then a towel, I don’t know many people that need a towel when they are about to go gallivanting around the world chasing international museum thieves, but I am pretty sure the list was written by Douglas Adams.
It isn’t that everything in the game is bad, it was interesting to see load times in a downloadable game with simple graphics and almost no sound, and the way that the main character constantly looks surprised by everything that is happening at any given moment in the game is—not charming—depressingly amusing. There is hope, though, as a direct story based sequel to this game has been released to the same e-shop—possibly of hopes of fixing all of the short falls of this title. There may be hope at the end of the road, fans of this odd genre.
I am sure that for every single animal out there someone is simply dying to attempt to train it to become the world’s greatest source of friendship and afterschool entertainment. I too have longed to spend my quiet hours with a hairy nosed wombat that I have poorly trained to do the most mundane tricks imaginable; my knowledge of how highly endangered these amazing creatures are is the only thing that stops me from simply jumping on a plane to Australia, taking the long bus ride to Queensland, trekking illegally into Epping Forest National Park, and then capturing one of the 30 remaining breeding stock of females. Thankfully I don’t have to worry any more as my dreams have come to fruition with the 101 animal series; I can finally own, poorly train, mockingly dress, and force a creature of my choosing (depending on the title) into demoralizing competitions with others of its captured ilk.
This flavor of 101 Pets comes in Dolphin variety, allowing the captive sentient mammalian free rein of the pool behind what I am assuming is supposed to be the player’s ranch style house. While this raises certain questions about the priorities in the way of salt water tanks/pool and exotic creatures expenditures vs. living conditions, it also seems odd that there are pet stores in this world that are happy to sell me various Hawaiian shirts that are form fitting for a dolphin. I have never made that request of a clothier before, but I assume that the police would become involved if it was ever brought up. For some reason in my mind at the end of this scenario it ends with me drunkenly explaining why I also needed my dolphin to have UV protecting sunglasses. The answer, of course, is because he is awesome.
Amusingly hard to justify separation of disbelief aside, the parts of the game that are supposed to be a game never seemed to be that enjoyable. There are a series of mini-games that ask the player to use the touch screen to trace all the similar images for monetary rewards, the problem being that the touch screen is not responsive enough to trace anything let alone a heart less than the size of a dime. All of the games are explained, at great length, through walls of text—which I mostly skipped through because 11 pages is way too much tell me to avoid stars and collect coins while my dude swims. Look, I understand that I have trained Austin (as I have thus named him, after the best Power setting) so little that he could be considered functionally retarded even by animal standards, but I think placing him third in any event where he is the only person on a podium–and probably the only one that entered, is a little harsh.
101 Hawaiian Shirted Dolphins doesn’t fail because of its concept, if anything I would applaud it for allowing me to illegally own one of nature’s most aware beings and forcing it into a small and confined space to amuse me until I got my own afterschool special staring the living Corey. The developers dreamed big with this game, and aiming for the stars should always be commended even when you fail to leave the state and end in a landfill. I simply wanted to spend more time hanging out and high fiving my aqua friend then slowly grinding away at broken mini-games to award him with a sweet new skateboard or something.
There are some game series out there that seemingly get better with time; which apparently is against the norm for the industry that is only be interested in driving every idea they have into the ground. The overarching Shin Megami Tensei has not only managed to evolve and improve its story telling since it was introduced, but the gameplay and interface doesn’t seem to be afraid to mix things up enough to make it simply not the same game presented a year later. The only real downside that can be mentioned is that the series seems to have an arbitrary naming convention, which when it comes down to it is probably the least of things to fault a JRPG with.
It wasn’t that long ago that almost every SMT game to come out rightfully earned the moniker of being only for the hardest of the hardcore gamer. Over the last decade the series has been slowly stepping away from that, and while some of the challenge remains in additional content or side story quests, most of the game is not much harder than many other classic JRPGs. With this newest addition there is even more of a modification as the game has introduced the ability to change the difficulty level if needed, allowing newer players to reduce the game to an easy mode. The game is now allowing players to continue even after they are killed by buying their way out of Hell with either Macca (in game currency) or Play Coins from their 3DS, although seeing as how it is now possible to save anywhere in the game it seems like it would just make sense to revert to a recent save then shit through the process of losing money.
Mega Ten 4 is also rather well written with an interesting mechanic of fading in and out of focus whoever is talking. The style of the story telling works rather well on the 3DS, and most segments are fully or partially voiced in some way. While the story focuses on several new recruit Samurai, basically the local cops of the area, it quickly spreads from that and establishes the world around it as something that is living and breathing. It isn’t enough to follow the heroes as they stumble through the world, the game also introduces a weird dichotomy between haves and have nots in society, and even a world where people don’t know about literature. It isn’t so much painting a story about strong willed heroes going on an adventure in a new world, it is a fantastically realized world in which these people find themselves on an adventure.
The battle mechanics of the game are relatively similar to what they have been in the past, turn based combat where the player’s goal most of the time is to hit the enemy’s elemental weakness to cause the most damage and gain an extra move. This time around the heroes’ team fights first, then the foes have a turn, and back and forth until one side either dies or is recruited by the player. One of the larger differences this time is that the NPCs that will randomly escort the player through an area will join in the battle, although they only engage in random attacks. The largest change is the way that merging demons works, in that the game presents “recommendations” for what it thinks that the player should have at that moment, strangely most of which are normally pretty good about being very useful in a given area. It is possible to look through a list of possible fusions, but it does normally require a little digging to find it.
For anyone who is a fan of JRPGS with a 3DS should run out and buy this game, and anyone who doesn’t own a 3DS and enjoys the genre should really start considering buying one. Not only are there enough great games out for the system, but the entire venture has officially reached a tipping point to where it is easy to point to one game and declare that is why you bought the handheld. That game is Shin Megami Tensei IV. It is out now and it is worth every penny that they are charging for it.