Archive for August, 2005

Posted on: August 19th, 2005 by

Writing about web page http://www.ayacon.org.uk/


The fact this even was occurring here at Warwick had escaped my notice until a trip to the shop revealed a Piazza festooned with Chiis and Narutos.

Not that I would have attended, while I do like the animation and the songs of the ones I’ve seen, I can’t imagine myself dancing to them, and at the first sign of karaoke, skits or doushinju I’d be taking to the hills.

Bai bai.

Posted on: August 18th, 2005 by
game front cover Writing about web page http://na.square-enix.com/games/starocean/

Title:
Star Ocean: Till The End of Time (PS2)
Publisher:
UbiSoft
ASIN:
B00029P9NM
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars
This game is made by Square-Enix (formerly Squaresoft), who were responsible for what many regard as the pinnacle of console RPGs the Final Fantasy series. You may have heard of them.
This, though is not a Final Fantasy game and while I would be a liar if I said the bonus DVD featuring FF12 footage did not inflence my buying decision, I was kind of hoping there’d be a decent game on the other disc, too. I was wrong on two counts: there are two other discs (only the second 2DVD PS2 game I’ve encountered) and it’s rather a fine game.Square have done some other games besides FF before, and while some (like Unlimited SaGa) felt like they were made up of ideas rejected for inclusion in the next FF, others were sufficiently different to stand on their own.

Star Ocean
There was a “Star Ocean II” on the PS1, but it’s rather rare, and whatever SO1 ran on I can’t find it so I’m reviewing with no knowledge of the series as a whole.
The whole style is the anime-type thing we’ve seen before, so if spiky hair, big doe eyes and pointy noses and ears rub you up the wrong way, it’s not for you.
It is two types of game squished together. In the main you explore around, talking to people and advancing the story much like any other console RPG, with all the usual levels, equipment, magic skills as well as a few other things like inventing and cooking which I haven’t managed to unlock yet after about 12 hours of play. The other part is the battles they are real-time button-mashing affairs, switching between characters at will while the configurable AI controls the other party members, in battle you gain various trophies which are redeemable later. For some reason these trophies require a whopping 1.2Mb of your memory card (with each save game taking 500kb) and are not transferrable, so plan your memory cardage before playing.
Despite the name, the boxart and website pics I haven’t seen much in the way of space adventuring, having consecutively crashlanded on two “underdeveloped” planets and had to utilise my sword-swinging and face-punching skills to sort them out. Remember the Prime Directive, space cadets.

Controls
Overall rather well done, certainly very simple and hard to make an error. When you’re in a small room your character seems to move a bit fast, though, and it can be a bit frustrating to get them to line up just right in order to activate usuable items. There is no indication items are usable, apart from obvious treasure chests, so it’s trial and error for a while until you learn to spot them. Battle is okay, there are a few more moves than just hit-hit-hit and it’s actually quite a small part of the game time-wise.

Attention to detail
The character models are quite well done and used in all the cut scenes a few sword-poking-through-the-character and “steel hair” glitches, but you almost expect them in these types of games. The backgrounds though, deserve a rather special mention, still in a cartoon style they are much more detailed, and while they do have a stack of reusable stock furnishings they do manage to make every location seem custom-drawn. While many locations are simply labelled “Private Home” they have made the effort to make them all look unique.

Fun?
Yes, it’s quite fun. I’m still playing it and taking time time to enjoy it, too rather than rushing to the next quest. Will I play it again when I’ve finished it? Very unlikely.

I’ve given it four stars while it’s not as jaw-dropping as Jade Empire, I expect it will last me a lot longer.

Posted on: August 17th, 2005 by
game front cover Writing about web page http://jade.bioware.com/

Title:
Jade Empire Limited Edition (Xbox)
Publisher:
Microsoft
ASIN:
B000854CRO
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars
My first real game review. Could even be the first game review.

Creators
Bioware. Made Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights and Knights of the Old Republic. All of them Action RPGs with familiar backstories – the first two in a D&D setting with a game world spanning 11 games/add-ons and the last one being set in the Star Wars universe, hugely successful amongst the fans who had actually grown up since the original trilogy.

They could have made the sequel to Knights, but they didn’t: they made Jade Empire. I’m rather glad they did.

Graphics
While the consequence of this is that Knights II was rather clumsy graphically, Jade Empire is absolutely beautiful while the Xbox is probably the most powerful of the current consoles they get more out of it than I thought possible, given it’s based on technology which seems very outdated to PC users. Smoke effects, running water, rain, fountains, waterfalls and an amazing water trickling over stone effect all add to a believable and wonderfully detailed world. Typically as the Xbox’s replacement looms into view we only just begin to see what it is capable of.

Level Design
I always judge a good “map” or “level” by how easy it is to remember if after a couple of runs around you pretty much know your way around, the designers have done their job they’ve made it “real” and they’ve made it distinctive. A perfect map of the old Senate House corridors isn’t going to make a great level, and no level is going to win awards if it’s all made out of plain concrete.

New Thing
This is a new thing for Bioware the game world is basically ancient China, but a China where all the stories you ever heard about magic and demons and crazy kung foo antics were all true. Plenty of Emperors, Monks and Spirits too. They went a bit mad with it, and I’m not sure if there’s enough left for a sequel. What’s not new is the “Open Palm”/”Closed Fist” meter – it’s just the “Light Side”/”Dark Side” meter taken straight out of Knights and while the game has plenty to say on the merits of either course, in actuality it’s a good/evil choice as usual.

Gameplay
The controls are a little different from a regular RPG, and more what you’d expect from a game based around martial arts, but are nowhere near as hard to master as a straight beat-em-up. Actually there’s loads of things to help you there are buttons for healing, dealing more damage and even a “bullet-time” mode the latter two only really being necessary when you’re in a desperate scrape.

Summary
Overall I found it rather fun, most of the lines are spoken in not-too-annoying style, the good/bad thing works well, difficultly is constantly adjustable so you shouldn’t get stuck/bored, there’s a nice variety of missions from finding lost animals to repelling a siege, great story and it looks superb.
Having finished “good”, I will probably give it another play through as “evil”, but not right away.

The limited edition reviewed here gives you an extra selectable character Monk Zeng but his Leaping Tiger move is available to other characters, so I’m not sure if it’s an exclusive – it was my favourite move, though. You also get a Making Of DVD which is reasonably interesting, but recorded at a pitifully low resolution and probably available for download from the game TV channel it was taken from

Edit: on reflection have reduced the rating to four stars while it scores highly on all the criteria I am interested in, I will only play through it a maximum of two times, good and evil paths, unless a significant amount of extra content becomes available for it.