Friday, January 30, 2015

Zelda and Final Fantasy Mashup Fanart

http://shattered-earth.tumblr.com/post/108955943476/finished-a-tribute-to-the-beauty-of-final-fantasy

An Artist called Shattered Earth made a series of Legend of Zelda title screens in the style of Final Fantasy.  They work out really nicely, my personal favorite is the Links Awakening one for how cool the wind fish looks. 

Have a look!

-D

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

MIDI Week Singles: "Overworld Battle" - Paladin's Quest (SNES)


"Overworld Battle" from Paladin's Quest on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (1993).
Released by Future Land in 1992.
Composer: Kohei Tanaka
Game Developer: Enix

video

Paladin's Quest, or Lennus: Memories of an Ancient Machine as it was titled in Japan, was a fairly obscure JRPG that was released in late 1993 in the US (about five months before Final Fantasy III on the SNES), but it was a fun looking game that I knew nothing about, and was being released by Enix, who I knew had released the Dragon Warrior series and ActRaiser, so I figured that it might a good investment.

The music was composed by Kohei Tanaka, whom I currently know nothing about (until just now), which was his second score for a video game; the first being Wizardry V: Hearts of the Maelstrom.  Like music for the overworld, battle music is something that has to be catchy enough to stand hearing it over-and-over again throughout a 40+ hour RPG.  Kohei Tanaka's "Overworld Battle" does just that in a somewhat unconventional way for an epic JRPG about preventing the destruction of the world; standard fair really.

What I find odd about this piece is how bouncy the song feels somewhat akin to a swing beat.  The melody is also pretty light hearted, but taking into account that this is for a brightly colored JRPG, the style is fitting.  The overall tone of the song is also fitting when compared with the rest of the soundtrack, so it doesn't come across as jarring every 30 seconds you get pulled into a random monster encounter.

If this song has interested you to check out the rest of the soundtrack or even locate the game (emulated or otherwise), I highly suggest it as the game was never even covered in Nintendo Power  (I even wrote them to find out why and was told something along the lines of not having enough time to dedicate to the game) despite receiving a North American release.



~JWfW/JDub/Jaconian

Monday, January 26, 2015

Full Review: Weapon Shop de Omasse (3DS)


So I finished Weapon Shop de Omasse the other night, and then I finished it an additional four times the next day, but I will get to that later on.  This game was created by developer Level 5 (Professor Layton series, Starship Damrey) and conceptualized by Japanese comedian Yoshiyuki Hirai and that comedic sense and timing comes across frequently during the game, referencing both video game culture and TV culture; "I stick them with the. . .which end was it?" said one generic NPC during a battle.

Gameplay
As stated a few weeks back, Weapon Shop de Omasse is a comedic blacksmithing parody simulation of traditional JRPGs.  The game is spent between a number of mini-game-esque type tasks. 

1) Smithing: You are able to create various types of weapons (Sword, Dagger, Spear, Axe, Dao, Club, et cetera).  You strike the chunk of heated metal to a musical theme that is associated with a Hero character.  It basically acts like a rhythm matching/mimicking game, but you have to strike the metal in different areas and "carve" away the unwanted material in order to get the shape of the specific weapon you are creating.  While smithing, you also have to keep an eye on the temperature of the metal because if it cools down too much, the metal will not be as malleable and you will fail in your smithing task.

Chaining hammer falls will increase the bonus to whichever attribute
the game currently wants to assign your bonus to.
Smithing is actually where I had the biggest issue.  As you complete a musical phrase, you add a certain attribute (slash, pierce or bludgeon) bonus to that weapon although I was never able to figure out how the game decided to choose which attribute was going to be assigned.  For example, I would be smithing an axe that would need to have a high slashing attribute and the first two "chains" on a musical phrase would add points to slash, but then for the rest of the song, points would go to pierce and bludgeon.  Upon finishing, each weapon is rated (Lame, Not Bad, Good, Great) and if the weapon's primary attribute was rated as "Lame," your weapon would often be classified as "Dull," which is not something you want an axe you crafted for your Grandmother who is questing to find her husband to be swinging around.  I am positive I must have missed something early on in the game when this was explained, so that is my own loss.

2) Polishing: Once a weapon is created or returned, you have to polish it back to its presentable beauty.  Polishing also buffs a weapon's attributes (slash, pierce, bludgeon) by about 10 points in each category., you Weapons of various types and strengths are unlocked as the owner of the shop buys additional materials which allow you to create new weapons as well as your customers who return their rented weapons along with some items used to modify the weapons you make.

The rest of the game is spent keeping track of which weapons you have in stock, which weapons you need to make for heroes who have put in orders to be picked up later, and what materials you currently have in stock to create the aforementioned weapons.


Story

The story in Omasse, is a very stereotypical one for people who have played a JRPG or twelve: Small village near "Starting City" where you play as Yhan, an apprentice to the local master blacksmith, Oyaji where customers come in and rent weapons to complete quests in anticipation of the returning Dark Lord and his minions.  Yuhan and Oyaji have a subtle comedic relationship, but the majority of the laughs come from Oyaji's blunt reaction to characters who enter the shop.



There are a number of hero characters who have their own individual stories, which are fairly amusing and at times I often felt like a bartender, hearing them talk about some aspect of their lives and the particular quest they were going on.  And while you do deal with the hero characters, the other half of the time you deal with generic NPCs (which I found odd that they were all male where as there is one transgender and four female hero characters) who acknowledge the fact that they are not heros by saying things like, "Wouldn't you rather rent this out to a real character?" and "I like repeating the same actions!"


The Grindcast, which you can select a single person to read their feed.
Some characters will also use hashtags like #weaponreviews.
Half of the story is told by the face-t0-face interactions in the store while the other half is through a game mechanic called the "Grindcast."  Grind referring to the JRPG aspect of games grinding for levels between story points and Cast from, I am assuming, podcasts.  The characters are told that there is a device on each weapon that allows the people in the shop to keep track of them on their quest and the weapons.  The Grindcast plays in the background too while you perform various tasks around the shop (smithing, polishing, inventory management) and it can be kind of hard to keep track of what the heros are up to while also paying attention to smithing that wavy-bladed flamberge.  There will also be times when unlabeled and unknown characters' quest updates will appear on the Grindcast, but these are not explained and they come across as just general chatter.

[no_spoilers]There were two separate and unrelated story elements that I was surprised that the game took.  The first I saw coming but was still surprised that it happened, knowing that the "traditional American producer" would say that the audience would not want to see that happen to a character.  The second event I did not see coming at all and felt it was rather abrupt.  Upon later reflection, it made a little bit of sense, but it felt a little out of place.  That is all I will say[/no_spoilers].

Master Blacksmith Oyaji.
Proper protection is necessary around the forge.
Graphics

With the exception of some of the design for one of the hero characters, I was overall very happy with the overall look of the game.  Being on the 3DS, I was not going in expecting modded Skyrim level of graphics, but you could say that based on the title screen, I was expecting something more akin to Akira Toriyama with a little bit less in the spikey hair department.  There was one character who did look like they could have come from a Dragon Warrior game as the best friend or part time sidekick of Loto/Erdrick.


3D Effectiveness

The 3D effect worked very well for the majority of the game.  Most of the time I had the slider at about 50-75%.  My favorite part was looking over the various weapons I had created with the slider on, but seeing as how NPCs or heroes would frequently walk into the shop or I had weapons to forge or polish, there did not leave a whole lot of time (when I thought about it) to admire my handiwork.


Music & Sound

Since at least half of the smithing aspect of the game involved hammering out weapons to music, the music would have to be catchy enough not to become annoying; pretty much what every overworld and battle music in every RPG ever has to strive to achieve.  Each style of weapon would have a specific song associated with it and while the songs became repetitive pretty early on, the rhythm that you had to hammer out changed depending on the level of the weapon; higher level weapons mean a more complicated rhythm.

Some of the songs associated with the characters are rather silly and probably should not be taken too seriously, but if you are already in the mindset that this is a comedic game, then you will be right at home with the tunes.

Something else I found to be interesting was that there was no vocal localization for English speaking countries (not that everything has to be English-centric).  All of the spoken dialogue in the game, which came from Oyaji, is all spoken in Japanese.  I know can make the general sounds associated with "Lame, Not Bad" and "Great."  There are other praises/scolds you are given upon completing each weapon and you can tell by the inflection in Oyaji's voice if he is pleased or not.  You can also assume that a dull weapon should not be part of the store's inventory.  I was and am very glad that the games spoken dialogue was not localized, but then again I tend to favor original language and subtitles over dubbed versions of anything anyhow.


Final Thoughts
So the game took about 15 hours to complete and as far as I can tell, that will be about the average amount it takes in order to beat the game every time as the events are scripted and even if you make weapons faster than I did, it will not mean that they will be rented out and returned any faster.  Some people, who are better blacksmiths than I and better judges of character when choosing which weapon to rent out may not take as long as hero quests are repeated until they succeed and advance their story.

An additional 11 hours have not changed my high recommendation for Weapon Shop de Omasse one bit as I still would recommend it to anyone with a 3DS.  While the game became tedious at points and frustrating trying to figure out why my weapons were coming out dull or when my money became so low that I couldn't afford to but the highest level materials to make the strongest weapons for the higher level quests heros and NPCs needed to accomplish in order to help make the weapon shop money so they could afford to by better materials to make better weapons. . .and so on and so forth.  

But what is a fun and memorable game without a little bit of work and frustration?  Not worth playing in my opinion.



~JWfW/JDub/Jaconian

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

MIDI Week Singles: "Revived Power" - Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)


"Revived Power" from Shadow of the Colossus on Playstation 2
Record Label: King records (Japan)
Composer: Ko Otani
Game Developer: Team Ico





The soundtrack for Shadow of the Colossus is, on a whole, fantastic.  Orchestral, exciting, at times dark and fearsome, it might be hard to pick an appropriate single.  However,  Shadow of the Colossus also uses event-triggered music, blending different tracks together.  Anyone who plays this game will agree that the music does a lot of work to augment the experience of the player.  

In this way, the track Revived Power stands out above the rest.  When I hear this track, I am clinging for dear life to the shoulders of a fifty foot tall behemoth, slowly climbing my way to my goal.  It's been a struggle to get here, but the tides are turning in my favor.  

I also hear flavors of John Williams in this track by Japanese composer Ko Otani.  This might be my imagination, or a product of my limited musical vocabulary.  However, if Otani is indeed standing on the shoulder of giants (or colossus), well then, that only seems appropriate.

-D

Monday, January 19, 2015

Second Impressions: Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)

http://rebloggy.com/post/gaming-design-poster-fan-art-shadow-of-the-colossus/74106064450

I am midway through Shadow of the Colossus, and I really think I should write something about this game.  The first time I encountered this second release from Team Ico, was when it was new, watching Zor the Red play, and sometimes taking turns.  It left a strong impression on me, and I knew this game would stand out over the test of time.

A few years later, I find myself with access to a PS3, and an earnest desire to play this game again.  Thank you ebay, I now own a copy of Ico/Shadow of the Colossus for PS3.  Though, I do not actually own the console I play it on.  This could be an issue in the future.

For the present, I definitely think Shadow of the Colossus holds up.  The art direction is just fantastic.  The graphics aren't terribly dated, and graphics aren't much of a problem for me as I am perpetually behind on the latest and greatest.  The gameplay is in some ways very simplistic, and this works to its advantage.  The few features in the game are fantastically well honed with very few exceptions.  

Much of the time in this game is spent simply going from point A to point B,  and it's beautiful and peaceful, a stark contrast to the actual Colossus fights.  For this, you employ your horse, Agro.  Agro takes a little getting used to.  My best equine advice I can give is not to try and control Agro too closely.  He's actually pretty smart, and will follow the curvature of the landscape.  He'll get on your nerves sometimes, and he can be a pain in the neck.  But it would take an extraordinarily long time to walk to your various destinations.  

One of the poorest features of the game is actually the difficulty in mounting your horse.  The mount button is also the jump button, and if you're not positioned just so, you'll end up jumping around like a goofball, which can quickly become annoying.  Apart from mounting, the camera can take some getting used to.  It has a mind of its own, and there are times when it simply won't cooperate when I want to get a look at something.  On the other hand, one of the best features of this game are the incredible majestic camera angles you are treated to.  Still, when the camera is a problem, and an 80 ton colossus is bearing down on  you, I'm less concerned about the directors vision and more concerned about not-dying.

The controls, and the gameplay in general requires patience.  This game is not a pick-up and play platforming adventure.  The controls are quirky.  However, with difficulty, there is always the exchange.  Every quirk contributes in some way to the overall artful payoff.  The heaviness of the hero's motions is really great to watch, even if he isn't as agile or quick as I'd like him to be.  If you have the patience and the will, you can become quite adepts at Shadow of the Colossus, and reap the rewards of beautiful, epic monster battles.  

One important thing to note is the third colossus battle.  This is the time in the game when the wheels come off, and everything seems to fall apart.  Typically, a colossus takes me about 30 minutes, start to finish, but the third battle took an hour and fifteen, and that doesn't include when I rage-quit and started again a later time.  And I remember having the same problem the first time through, when Zor and I felt we were slamming our heads into a brick wall.  Still, I made it through, even without consulting a strategy guide.  For anyone else:  consult a strategy guide.  Save yourself the heartache.  It's really amazing how an entire game can seem so terrible when you're having a bad time.  

Ultimately, Shadow of the Colossus is a sort of high-risk, high reward game, that I'm enjoying more and more as I get older.  If you can-- play it.  I'll buy you a copy.  (maybe)

-D




Friday, January 16, 2015

Playing PC Games on the 3DS.

In Dr. Potts' recent Pak Watch post, he mentioned two games that are some damn fine looking 16-bit era games reminiscent of two of my favorite series: Castlevania and The Legend of Zelda.  This got me to thinking about my recent experience with VVVVVV on the 3DS and how I know that the 3DS hardware could handle these games and how much fun they would be to play on the go.

So naturally I go to see what the possibilities are with playing existing PC games through an emulator on my 3DS.  

Apparently, there are no options.  Or at least none that I was able to find.

There is the Ri 4Gold card to play NES games on the 3DS, but that's not exactly what I was looking for.  And I am not looking to play Skyrim or Amnesia, but games that would translate well to a small screen.  Games like Super Meat Boy, The Binding of Isaac, Guacamelee and Full Bore. Games like Slain and Courier of the Crypts.  Additionally, I don't think that these games have to have an official Nintendo eShop release with full 3D capabilities either (although all mentioned games modified for 3D would be admittedly pretty awesome if done correctly).

The closest thing I was able to find for was how to transfer videos from the PC to the 3DS and while that's not really what I was looking for, it might be something to look into if I get the time and brainpower to figure it all out.

So this is where I am at, at the moment.  It's not that there aren't enough good games out or coming out on the 3DS that I am starting to look to other sources, but there are games that I feel that I would enjoy a lot more if I did not have to play them on or through a PC; even if that PC is HDMI'd through the TV and I am using a controller (still looking at you Super Meat Boy).

This is apparently all that my brain can muster at the moment and rather than pad this thing out to what would visually look like enough meat for this post-sandwich, I'm going to call it and send it to the printer before anything weird starts to happen, if it hasn't happened already.

We'll see you on the flip side of a sunny-side-up egg.  Oh, and a side of house browns with a cup of coffee, black.



~JWfW/JDub/Jaconian
[SPOILER]

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

MIDI Week Singles: "Disused Military Depot" - GoldenEye 007 (N64)


AAAAAAAHhhhhhhhhh!!

We're late today and it's all my fault, but moving on.

"Disused Military Depot" from Goldeneye 007 on the Nintendo 64
No official soundtrack release that I am aware of.
Game Developer: Rare.


Sure, sure.  There could have been any number of tracks from this N64 gem of 1997 you say.  "What about the 'Mission Briefing' theme or the hard hitting tunes from the 'Severnaya Installation?"  And you know what, you're right on both counts, those are both great tracks and I may just have to go and do a Game Scores article, now that you've talked me into it.

But we're here today to listen and hear me talk about "Disused Military Depot" which y'all may remember from the "Depot" level about 2/3rds of the way through the game.  Upon hearing this, I immediately become nervous about having to go through this damned level on 00 Agent difficulty.  Even during the song I can hear the rapid fire of the DK5 Deutsche (fictional version of the HK MP5K if you're at all interested) and the "click-chick" of reloading after every tenth shot fired throughout the majority of the level.  I know for certain that I will make a mistake as the warehouse doors are opening, misfire at the Russian soldiers and end up taking one more point of damage that I knew I could have avoided, which leads to the inevitable restart.

What I find great about this song is that it starts off with your typical "spy in a dangerous action situation," but by 0:48, some MIDI trumpets come in and semi-heroic motif and you start to think that things are swinging your way.  Then at 1:02, deeper resonating and more heroic MIDI horns come in to let you know that America (or in this case Britain and MI6) is here to save the day.  

Oddly enough, this is one of the few tracks from the game that doesn't contain that hollow pipe break-drum sound that was so prominent in both the game and the movie that spawned this glorious child.  It also doesn't contain any inkling of the traditional Monty Norman James Bond theme.  This tune is a lot more militaristic, possibly because of the setting and the prominent use of snare drums throughout most of the song.

So even if this isn't you're particular favorite track from Goldeneye 007, maybe it will be covered in the future or if Dr. Potts wants to compose his own MWS using a track from the same game.  Until next week then.



~JWfW/JDub/Jaconian
How Did It Ever Begin?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Second Impressions: VVVVVV (3DS)


I say "Second" because Dr. Potts had already created a First Impressions about a year and-a-half ago, but I found it on sale through Nintendo's eShop a few weeks back for a price I couldn't refuse.  I have also been wanting to play it on my 3DS for a good long while after only being able to play it on my PC for a measly 25 minutes.  I enjoyed the game enough during the first stage in the ship, but once I left the ship I felt overwhelmed by the minimalist aspect of the game combined with the apparent size of the map as well as playing an Atari/NES era styled game on the PC.  I also felt demoralized upon finding out that the game kept track of how often I died.  

My death count was upwards of 80+ after not even 30 minutes.

I don't remember when I last played VVVVVV on the PC since Steam for some reason doesn't have that information available (maybe there's it loses track after a year of inactivity?), but when I saw it on sale in the eShop last month, I quickly picked it up.  There's just something about the 3DS handheld platform that made the game seem like it would be more approachable and somehow less intimidating.  Additionally, the 3D effect in the stills through the eShop looked good and I feel that VVVVVV lends itself very well to being converted to 3D.

While there are some differences between the 3DS port and the PC version,  such as altering the graininess of the screen, the biggest difference is that you cannot create custom levels; you can, however play other player (from where?) created levels.  It is not clear if these levels are pre installed or if you can acquire them throughout the game or if the game is updated with new user levels to play.  So far, I haven't found these differences to be detrimental to my feelings about the game or how it plays.

So far I have been having as much fun as I wanted to have in the PC version.  The controls are about as basic as it gets and the response is perfect without any lag.  The 3D effect also looks great with the backgrounds being pulled back from the Captain and the platforms in the foreground.  The music too is identical to that of the PC game and absolutely not loss in sound quality so Souleye's work can be enjoyed unhindered with the rest of the game.  I have nothing negative about this game in this format.

Enjoying VVVVVV as much as I have on the 3DS has made me wonder if I would like Super Meat Boy more than I have if I were to also have access to it on the 3DS platform.  Somehow I do not see the goriness of that game getting by Nintendo's eShop custodians, but I guess stranger things have happened, so we will just have to wait and see.



~JWfW/JDub/Jaconian
Instrumental

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Pak Watch: Crypts and Towers


Slain: The Seven Towers
Slain is a PC game being developed by Andrew Gilmour and published by Wolfbrewgames.  It's in a retro style that I love, and is heavy on the gothic horror.  Demons and Bleeding trees and a hero with a big beard and a giant sword.  What can I say?  I like indie games with a 16-bit style with detailed backgrounds.  And gothic horror is always fun.  I think Slain fits the bill, so I'm in support of it.  The website over at wolfbrew games has information if you care to know more.  You can also like their page over on facebook.  I did.




---------------------------------------




Courier of the Crypts
This game is another 16-bit style game being developed by a tiny team- 2 people, by the names of Primoz Vovk and Zdravko Djorjevic.  The game is a top down dungeon explorer with the central mechanic revolving around lighting torches and solving puzzles.  This mechanic seems reminiscent of the third Zelda game.  Graphically, the imagery looks to be tailored to the different lighting effects.

The team did not reach their goal with their indiegogo campaign.  While the campaign is closed, there is a demo available, and the game did achieve greenlight status on Steam. 

I originally heard about this game from an article in indie gaming news, a prolific website with regular news on upcoming indie games.  

-D





Friday, January 9, 2015

First Impressions: Dead Island Riptide (PC)




This has been a combination of my experiences playing the game so far.

Images like these:


Coupled with frequent noises like this:

video

The noise that I recorded is only at 80 dB whereas it can jump at random (as if this isn't random enough) to 120 dB.  This is what I have read from various sources online as I do not actually own a decibel meter. No I do not have one on my phone.

My last session lasted an hour so that I could get an idea how often the screeching static noise would last and how frequently it would grace me with its presence, so in an unscientific manner, here is what I recorded:

7:07 minutes of no noise
0:43 seconds of noise
3:12 no noise
2:29 minutes of noise
0:26 no noise
3:38 minutes of noise
1:44 no noise
6:29 minutes of noise
1:13 no noise
5:21 minutes of noise
0:35 no noise
2:27 minutes of noise
0:02 no noise
0:03 seconds of noise
12:59 (unknown as the volume was turned off).

Týr knows why, but I've presently put five hours into this game even with the sound effects volume in-game turned down to practically nil and even then, the sound (120 dB) will still poke it's ugly head out of my speakers.

Last week (as 0f when I wrote this back in December) I contacted tech support at Deep Silver relating my problem to them to see if they knew what was going on.  I was then prompted to run a diagnostic tool and email them the results so they could have a better idea as to the specs of my computer and what I was dealing with.  I felt perfectly fine doing this as I did something very similar when I applied for the Elder Scrolls Online Beta request.  Within 24 hours I received a straightforward reply which suggested that I update my drivers, which I hadn't realized that I hadn't updated in a while.  So I followed the supplied links and was able to download three of the five drivers.  The two sound card drivers I was not able to download/install  as they are integrated drivers and even knowing the manufacturer and name, I could not locate the correct driver to download.

So I went back to the game with bright polished up video drivers hoping against hope that my problems were fixed.  The game played fine for about eight minutes before the screeching wail of dying souls and banished ear drums returned to mock my computer and mine own ears.  I played for maybe another 15 minutes before ultimately giving up.

I do not know if I will be going back to Dead Island: Riptide anytime soon as it is the only game that seems to have a problem with my apparently lackluster sound card.  Even games that have come out more recently than April 2013 have operated fine without any sound issues.  Maybe after I acquire my next computer (do not know what that will be) I will come back and see if my experience improves.



~JWfW/JDub/Jaconian
Instrumental

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

MIDI Week Singles: "Dark Flute" - Super Brothers: Sword and Sworcery EP (PC) (Android)



"Dark Flute" from Sword and Sworcery EP (PC)(Android)
Publisher: SuperBrothers and Jim Guthrie
Composer: Jim Guthrie
Developer: SuperBrothers




I chose this song because it has been my ringtone for over a year.  Truly, there are many excellent songs from Sword and Sworcery EP, and I may want to do a Game Scores feature to cast a light on the whole, beautiful soundtrack.  I got this game as part of a Humble Indie Bundle, and fortunately, I was able to get a copy of the soundtrack to Sword and Sworcery EP and several other games as part of this bundle.  This soundtrack and others made their rounds on my phone during work.

I'm very happy to be sharing a song from this soundtrack, as it is one of my favorite soundtracks and favorite games of the last three years.  Dark, and haunting, with sweeping rises in volume and intensity, Jim Guthrie's composition style is very atmospheric while also exciting.  

-D

Monday, January 5, 2015

First Impressions (Of Sorts): Weapon Shop de Omasse (3DS)


"In the world of RPGs, many heroes arise, but someone's got to make their weapons."  That's the tagline and hook for the 3DS eShop game, Weapon Shop de Omasse from developers, Level-5 (Professor Layton series).  The premise is a pretty simple one and is stated in the tagline: you are a blacksmith (actually the apprentice to the blacksmith) and are making weapons in a village during a typical JRPG setting: in that the Dark Lord has returned after being defeated 50 years prior.  It's your job to create the weapons (which vary among daggers, swords, spears, axes, katanas and the like).

I credit in large part my history with "traditional" JRPGs such as Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior/Quest and Paladin's Quest for easily falling into this game, similar to how I was able to buy into the gameplay and aesthetic of Witch and Hero. If you aren't immediately okay with the idea that there is an absolute evil and that there are people out questing AND that the game makes light of this common convention, then this probably won't be the game for you.

Gameplay is a mix between overly simplified blacksmith simulation crossbred with a rhythm game with a bit of multitasking (keeping the temperature of the metal between the correct temperature) thrown in for good measure.  You also have to keep track of your blacksmithing materials, which weapons you have already created and who has which weapon out on a quest.

There are also some rather divergent elements to this game that are not a part of most RPGs.You are in charge of selecting the proper weapon for your customers which means looking at the weakness of the monster they are going after along with their personal preference for a certain type of weapon.  You are also in charge of polishing the weapons after they are made and when they return in order, I think, to help level up the weapons.  The most "different" thing is that weapons are rented as opposed to sold.  It sounds very odd, and even the characters in-game comment on how odd this is for a village blacksmith in an RPG game to be doing, but that's one of the game mechanics and it works pretty well.

There have been times between customers coming into the store that I wish I had time to craft some of the newly available weapons (due to new materials coming into the shop), but the store is just too busy.  Then there's downtime, which is something that exists in nearly every job.  I have created all the weapons that I needed to, all the weapons have been polished, the store is stocked with enough materials for additional smithing if need be. . . there's just nothing to do.  So your character just hangs around the store while you, the player, reads from the Grindcast (a twitterfeed-type device that lets you read about what the heros/NPCs are doing while they're out with one of the weapons they've rented from your store.

Presently, I've put almost four hours into this game and while entertained, there hadn't been that moment that often happens in games where you just sit back and are like, "Wow. . . huh."  That happened last night for me.  I had finished crafting a handful of new weapons, some of which came out dull (and I'm still trying to figure out why) and I knew that my (in-game) Grandma was coming by to pick up a weapon for a specific type of enemy.  Well, she showed up a lot sooner than I had thought, but I had just crafted a new type of axe that would give her a 60% chance of success so I rented it to her.  It wasn't until after she left that I went back to polishing some weapons when I realized that I had rented my Grandmother an unpolished weapon.  I felt shame.  That I had let my Grandmother leave a store that her grandchild worked at with an axe that I had failed to make as presentable as possible (I am just a little bit afraid that she's going to bring this fact up when she returns the weapon).  That was when I knew for sure that this game had it's proverbial hooks in me.

There is still a lot that I have not covered (artwork, music, spoken dialogue, written script, more in depth of the Grindcast, et cetera) and that will have to wait for the Full Review to come whenever I finish the game, which will definitely happen.  The game, unfortunately, is no longer on sale through the eShop, but I would have been happy if I had paid full price, even though the fact that it was on sale is what made me purchase the game, but if you're still on the fence, the demo is available and gives a great example of what the rest of the game would play like.  I highly recommend it.



~JWfW/JDub/Jaconian

Friday, January 2, 2015

Year In Review: 2014

Ahhhh, 2014 is over and another year of the non-leap variety has begun, this time ending in the newly minted 2015 style.  But seriously, who talks that way!?

2014 was a good year for us here.  I felt our writing has increased quite a bit since we started over two years ago and we continue to be more and more coherent and consistent.  Dr. Potts with his newly NP inspired title Pak Watch which will be seeing further development in the coming year and the creation of Wednesdays' MIDI Week Singles of which both of us are always excited about writing for.

Looking back, I feel that I re-submerged myself in the board game playing industry, mainly towards the end of the year and partly because Conklederp and I got married which brought in some gifts in the board gaming department.  Although, I feel that this re-germinated seed began earlier in the year when Chreekat's mom moved up to Portlandia and we played Settlers of Catan.  Since then, we've played a fair amount of Mansions of Madness, Pandemic, as well as a handful of other games (7 Wonders, Camel Up!, Blokus, DiXit) with some other friends.  Our current year looks to be even more expansive with Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition that I am planning to get started in the coming weeks/months.

I also noticed that I started watching a lot more episodes from both Extra Credits and LoadingReadyRun as well as listening to podcasts of Roosterteeth's The Patch.  Coupled with my reading of Penny-Arcade and the occasional article from PC Gamer and Kotaku, these are my primary sources for gaming news and information (and I guess occasional hilarity) from the past year and 2015 doesn't look to be any different.

Gaming-wise, there's a lot more to cover and after creating a list of the games I had played, finished and stopped playing, I decided not to subjugate our reader to that kind of monotony.  But now that Steam's Winter Sale is over (as of roughly four and-a-half hours ago) and that my 3DS has filled up with games from Nintendo's eShop sale (oddly a lot for Nintendo), I am perfectly content to wallow about in this (I guess technically it's last) years haul which includes old (and a couple newer) titles such as Castle Crashers, Trine 2, Wasteland, Child of Light, VVVVVV, Crimson Shard and Weapon Shop de Omasse [which I am definitely going to write about in the coming week(s)].

With the move that Conklederp and I just completed a few weeks back, we'll be putting in a retro gaming room (SNES, N64 and GameCube) so look for more articles about games that Dr. Potts, Conklederp and I all grew up with.  With any luck, I might be able to acquire the NES from my parents house (once my older sister and I determine custody).  I've also re-installed my magnifying light which means that I will be getting back into painting miniatures, which I am very excited to do again after a three plus year dry spell.

Oh, and I had nearly forgotten that 2014 marked my official foray into the world of online gaming with The Elder Scrolls Online, of which I played for about four months before having to stop due to a lack of incoming income, and Path of Exile, which I am still playing, but appear to be unable to find the time to make my way up and through the Pyramid in a single sitting.  Ah, first world problems.  Amiright!?

So when I am not being all accountable (eh, EH!?) this upcoming school year, I'll be keeping busy with one of many forms of gaming, which I will keep y'all updated on, because that's why we exist here.

Happy 2015.



~JWfW/JDub/Jaconian

Pak Watch: Undertale (PC)



Undertale

So, this one time, I was thinking about the subject of violence in video games.  Right, right, it's an old debate that typically goes nowhere.  I wasn't thinking about censorship, but I was thinking about content.  For example:  RPGs.  In most RPG games, much of the action consists of finding animals or monsters, killing them, and looting their corpses.  It's highly unrealistic, as snakes and rats don't typically keep gold on them, but this is where disbelief is suspended.  Still, I wondered to myself if it were possible to make an RPG where you didn't kill everything.

Lo and behold!  Toby Fox has gone and done just that.  Undertale is a low-fi indie RPG game, with the tagline 'A traditional role playing game where nobody has to get hurt.'  In this game, you have the option to spare the lives of the enemies.  I haven't played it yet, so I'm not sure how the mechanic plays, but I'm very curious.  

Undertale has been successfully funded via kickstarter, and is currently available as a demo.  Also, it appears that the game is downright adorable.  If you are prepared for some serious cuteness, I suggest watching the video below.  You won't be disappointed.  



video


You can find updates on Toby's progress with Undertale at undertale.tumblr.com.  Also, the soundtrack to the demo is available for purchase or to listen online.  And of course, you can download the demo here.

-D