Suikoden Retrospective at 1UP

1UP.com has done a nice retrospective of the first game in the Suikoden series, which is just about my favorite RPG series of all time. I've lost count of the number of times I've replayed Suikoden, made possible by it being one of the few RPGs not beset by needless padding and stretching of the game to reach some magical number of hours the publisher can then boast about on the cover. As covered in 1UP's article, the game is tightly made and fast - no problems with load times or 30 minute cut scenes here!


Diary of an RPGamer - 2011-11-18: Atelier Totori

Really got stuck into Atelier Totori overnight after not really giving it the attention it deserved (too many games half-played). Finding it more compelling than Rorona so far; I much prefer the focus on exploring the world along with the item creation. There is certainly a feeling of freedom that I think was sometimes missing with the previous game - you can generally maintain whatever balance between item creation, exploration and fighting monsters that you prefer.

Many of the supporting characters do a good job of adding some life to the game as well; Mimi, Cordelia, Ceci, Melvia and Sterk in particular are well voiced, well written and interesting and/or funny, as the situation requires. Switching party members often leads to some enjoyable dialogue between the characters, especially if it's the first time they've been used in combination or something significant has recently occurred.

On a related topic, NISA recently announced that the follow up title, Atelier Meruru, will be released in 2012 during the (Northern Hemisphere) Spring.


Chrono Cross coming to PSN next week

The classic PlayStation RPG Chrono Cross will be released on the US PlayStation Store on November 8th. The follow up to the Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross was originally released in 2000.

Also coming to PSN this month (on the 22nd) is the PS1 port of Final Fantasy 5.


Doom 3 source ready to be released: Carmack

After announcing at QuakeCon earlier this year that Doom 3's code would be released, John Carmack announced on Twitter that a release was almost here:
"doom 3 source is packaged and tested, we are waiting on final lawyer clearance for release."
I can't wait to see what the community winds up producing following the release - there have been many, many wonderful projects based around the earlier release of the Doom and Wolfenstein 3D source so hopefully there are some interesting things to come.


Diary of an RPGamer - 2011-11-01

Flitting between titles at the moment:

  • Started Atelier Totori; has quite a few improvements in the interface over Atelier Rorona, graphics are a bit nicer too.
  • Found Final Fantasy XIII for $25 (new) in a bargain bin over the weekend, so giving that another crack. Liking it a little more this time around but we shall see...
  • Got Finnel's Good Ending in Ar Tonelico Qoga, moving onto the true ending (also for Finnel). Not sure if I'll have a crack at getting Saki's, Tyria's or Cocona's.
  • Had the briefest of brief goes at Disgaea 4; probably going to finish up with one or two of the other games I'm playing before giving it a serious look.


The Daytona XBLA/PSN remake will launch at the end of this month - 26th October on Xbox 360 for 800 Microsoft Points, and on 25th October on PS3 for US$9.99. The game features the original artwork (cleaned up and in widescreen) along with the original arcade music (also available in Karaoke mode *cringe*).


1UP.com FFXIII-2 Interview and Preview

The battle system seems to be identical to that of the first game.

Interesting article from 1UP.com on the changes being made for FFXIII-2, the follow up to the very un-RPG-ish (it's a word *ahem*) FFXIII. The good news: towns are in, linearity is out. Sounds like there will be sidequests as well as the option to move around the world freely.

No longer will players simply run from point A to point B; the world is built of more traditional RPG hub and dungeons. The demo that Square Enix has been showing off for the past few months sets players in a town that feels an awful lot like Rabinastre from Final Fantasy XII and gives them multiple secondary objectives to fulfill in addition to the main goal of defeating a massive colossus named Atlas.

"When we toured Europe and North America promoting FFXIII, we picked up on a lot of criticism," admits Kitase. "Some was what media people told us, and some were bitter comments we read on the Internet, and we were very much aware of what was going on -- whether people were liking or disliking. We set ourselves out with a mission to address every single aspect of FFXIII that was criticized and come up with a solution, and we feel we have achieved that."
KITASE Yoshinori, Producer

Look, a town! For reals!

"Even though Final Fantasy X 
and X-2 shared the same characters, everything else was different. We actually set out to make absolutely everything different. We had a very poppy atmosphere. As opposed to that, when we reviewed FFXIII, we thought the in-game universe and story were two good points, and people generally liked them. So then we wanted to continue in the same universe and the same storyline.
"Something that people didn't like and criticized was the fact that FFXIII was very much story driven and linear. Therefore, we wanted FFXIII-2 to be more player-driven, so that the players will be allowed to make their own choices and decide what actions they want to take."
"The other thing that went down very well in FFXIII-2 was the battle system. This time around, because of the new features we've added, it'll be a more strategic battle. For example, you can recruit up to 150 different types of monsters. You can use them in your tactics and strategy as you battle."
TORIYAMA Motomu, Director

Lucky media types get to spend a few days with the demo ahead of TGS, I guess the rest of us will just have to wait for their reports. It certainly is sounding quite promising though


Diary of an RPGamer - 2011-09-09

I've been utterly obsessed with Ar Tonelico Qoga over the last few days after taking a brief break. Once I start it generally sucks me in completely - for example, the BGM was stuck in my head on a loop while I was trying to get some sleep after a bit of a marathon session.

There are a few decision points during the game that affect how the remainder plays out - I've taken to keeping a pen and paper nearby to keep track of which save games reflect which choice. The worst part was when I ran out of time during a boss battle but the game continued as if it was one of those typical RPG story battles where you lose no matter what. Unfortunately I continued playing for 3 or 4 hours before going back to an earlier save to try the battle again - sure enough, with a better strategy and some upgraded super moves, the battle was won within the time allotted and the story changed appropriately. From what I gather, losing the battle leads to a bad ending while winning leads to a normal or good ending.

My main save is approaching the 40 hour mark now and the story seems to be going into the final stretch. I'm still loving the battle system, which is fortunate in a game of this length, and the number of extra things to do on the side makes a nice diversion as well.


Diary of an RPGamer - 2011-08-24

Playing this week -
Ar Tonelico Qoga (PS3)
Agarest Senki (PS3)
Infinite Undiscovery (360)

I found myself hopelessly addicted to the third Ar Tonelico game this week - after receiving it on Friday last, it dominated my weekend almost entirely (helped by the rain that tumbled down almost the whole time). When I was younger it was almost a matter of routine to plow six or so hours into a gaming session but that has become much less frequent these days. However, that was exactly the manner in which I found myself playing the first 20 or so hours of Qoga - in three or four marathon sessions because I just couldn't put it down.

The combat system is really quite addictive; there are so many things to keep an eye on while fighting that it never becomes mundane and unleashing a powered up attack from your Reyvateil support can be quite spectacular. Add to this the Item Creation system, which yields quite practical rewards in the form of super moves and updated weapons; along with the Dive System, which literally allows your character into the mind of one of your Reyvateil companions in order to improve and aid their mental state by completing such bizarre things as giant board games or classic RPG tributes.

I also found myself playing a few hours of Agarest Senki (Record of Agarest War) after a long break (since May last year, according to the save data!) Initially I found the going awkward but finally got into a bit of a rhythm and spent quite an enjoyable time with the game. The generous serving of free DLC certainly helped, bringing some nice items and power ups along with bonus dungeons to explore.

Last but not least is the 360's Infinite Undiscovery, released prior to Star Ocean: The Last Hope and sharing this same engine, along with a similar play style; It's pretty much Star Ocean in a straight-up fantasy setting. This game doesn't seem to get a lot of love and it's one of the few 360 exclusive RPGs from Japan that was never ported to another system.

It has some nice features that set it apart from some of its contemporaries: battles are enjoined on the same screen - no touching an enemy then waiting for the battle screen to load - and there's a feel of "seamlessness" to the towns and areas as there's virtually no load time when entering buildings, etc. In addition there's the usual Item Crafting system to help you make weapons and become stinking rich. Each character has a different trait that must be leveled up to allow for more advanced crafting, so there are certainly rewards for persevering.


Diary of an RPGamer - 2011-08-05

Continuing the theme of picking up titles I'd not played for months or years, I finally went back to the Sega Saturn RPG Madou Monogatari, which I'd put down in 2009 (according to the save file) and not been back to since.

Madou Monogatari (Sega Saturn) from 1998 is the last in a long running series that began in the late 80s on the MSX (although a mobile-only game was released in Japan in 2005). For anyone interested, Hardcore Gaming 101 covered the series as part of their overview of the Puyo Puyo games.

 The game is a pretty standard RPG, featuring turn-based battles using a party of up to 3 characters (typically 2 story characters plus a guest). The heroine, Arle, uses only magic attacks but all other characters have some combination of physical and magical abilities. Some enemies are resistant or boosted by certain types of magic, so the player needs to be careful to remember their foes.

The game is generally presented in an isometric layout, whether in town or in a dungeon, while battles are shown side-on with nice looking 2D sprites. Conversations are overlayed with large, nicely drawn portraits of the characters to bring some life to the scene. The overworld view is simply a map with dots representing areas your party can visit; clicking on a location will send you straight there.

Each character has an SP gauge that, when full, allows them to use a special skill (grayed out when the SP bar is not flashing, as seen in the screenshot above). These skills can prove very useful against stronger enemies and bosses. The SP gauge will drain even if the player opts to use a normal move - however that move is significantly boosted in power and effect.

I'm about 4 or 5 hours in at the moment and so far it's been an enjoyable romp. The characters (and even most enemies) are packed with charm making this a good RPG to play when you don't feel like being hammered by a typical story centering on the end of the world.

As far as the series goes, I've only played this Saturn version and the SNES title Madou Monogatari: Hanamaru Daiyouchi Enji - out of the two of them, I'd definitely recommend the Saturn game - Hanamaru Daiyouchi Enji is really more of an RPG-lite type game, seemingly aimed at children. It does, however, boast the advantage of having a fan-made English translation patch available.


Diary of an RPGamer - 2011-08-02

In an effort to re-connect with some RPGs that I'd let pass me by, I endeavored to dust off some of my more neglected titles, namely: Blue Dragon (360), Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana (PS2) and Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis (PS2).

I'd abandoned (or at least lost interest) in Blue Dragon about 10 hours in, so I wasn't expecting much when I fired it up again for the first time in at least six months. How wrong I turned out to be though - I was quickly caught up in the action and, three hours later, and to force myself to save and take a break.

I remember the opening to the game being fairly slow, without a lot of story to get your teeth into but, by the time your party is escorting the population of your village to safety, things start moving at a decent pace and it feels like the game starts to come to life. I think I'll be putting some more time into this one after all.

Embarrassingly, the only reason I'd put Atelier Iris down in the first place was my own amazing ability to get lost. It took watching a video of the relevant section before I finally realized what I'd missed (a small pathway obscured by trees) and then I could finally get back into a game that I'd been enjoying up until that point.

I quite like that the regular RPG combat system that has been spiced up with Alchemy elements - creating attack/healing items on the fly is quite a nice touch - but it would have been nice to have more than three active characters in battle.

The world itself is made to feel quite large as you're forced to walk long distances between settings and there's a good amount of variety in terms of the enemies you battle. There are also rewards for finding the many (many!) items available as well as side-quests focusing on the Alchemy side of the game.

I've spent quite a bit of time with Atelier Rorona (PS3) which as a traditional Atelier game focuses mainly on item creation and running a shop, so it's nice to see those elements added (in a slightly watered down fashion) to a traditional RPG style game.

I gave Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis a try due to it being a part of the Atelier series but with a few new twists. The most significant is that the setting is a high school (well, the Alchemy version of one, at any rate) much like in Persona 3/4, which changes the focus from wandering the world to things like relationships with other students/teachers and attending classes/completing assignments. While much of this is just another way of setting up fetch/create quests like in most of the games, it still feels a bit weird to be signing up for classes and completing homework...

I've only had a quick look at this one, but one highlight (for me) so far is the strong Seiyuu lineup, featuring actors very familiar to Anime fans such as Nonoka Ai, Satou Rina, Kawasumi Ayako and Nogawa Sakura. A nice touch and one that suits the setting of the game completely.

In terms of polish Mana Khemia doesn't feel like much of a step up from earlier PS2 titles but that's not really the aim of this sort of release, is it? The characters I've met so far seem to be reasonably strong and fleshed out, so hopefully they, along with the story, are enough to keep interest levels high through the various item creation quests that no doubt await me.


First Impression: Akane the Kunoichi

Akane no Kunoichi
XBOX LIVE Indie - 80pts

Akane no Kunoichi is a platform game featuring the titular Akane fighting enemies and traversing the usual platform puzzles and traps while trying to request her master (and secret crush). It's quite nicely realized for an indie title, with simple, clean graphics and fairly tight controls. Attacks are performed by way of throwing knives at your opponents, some of whom have projectile weapons of their own.

One very nice feature is the in-built Trophy system, which functions much the same as Battle Trophies in Star Ocean or, indeed, Trophies/Achievements on full retail games. This addition provides plenty of replay value for each level, setting different goals for which to aim rather than simple completing the stage.