Dragon Quest VIII – end

As characters rise in level, they earn “skill points” that can be distributed into five different skills (different for each character). These include weapon skills, ability skills, and one “general” skill. For example, the hero’s general skill, “Bravery,” affects the rate at which he learns spells; pump enough points into this skill, and you’ll learn spells several levels in advance of the normal progression rate. This skill system, while far less robust than a full-out job system, adds a degree of customization to the leveling process.

Hand-drawn maps are available to help adventurers find their way around towns and dungeons. Players can either view these maps with annotations marking the staircases and shop locations or leave them blank for a greater challenge.

Two other systems, not accessible during the first several hours of play, are the “Monster Scout” system and the “Alchemy” system. Some high-level monsters are visible on the world map — defeat them, and they may join your party! Alchemy lets you combine two items to create a new one. Hints around the world provide clues about valid recipes; also, the Alchemy system tells you in advance whether or not two items can be successfully combined, saving you from using reagents unnecessarily.

So far, Sugiyama’s score has varied from so-so to pretty darn good. The overworld, dungeon, and battle themes are of excellent quality, but the town compositions are unpleasantly grating. It’s possible that last year’s Dragon Quest V remake for PlayStation 2, widely considered to have one of the series’ finest scores, preemptively dulled the excitement of hearing well-orchestrated Dragon Quest themes. Regardless, in a game as lengthy as Dragon Quest, it’s likely many of the most memorable songs are yet to come.

Unsurprisingly, the game contains no voice acting. The sound effects are a bizarre mix of 8-bit NES FM synthesis overlaid with digital sounds; casting a fireball spell, for example, plays both the traditional “boop boop” NES jingle and the sound of a roaring flame. It works well enough, and in some ways is a perfect encapsulation of the way Dragon Quest VIII strives to embrace both the nostalgic old and modern new.

Based on our time so far, as a Dragon Quest game, Dragon Quest VIII is an unqualified success. It manages to strike an almost perfect note between series traditions and modern production values; at times, it feels like a brand-new epic SNES RPG with PlayStation 2-level visuals. Unfortunately, most Americans would prefer a PlayStation 2 RPG with PS2-level presentation. According to Square Enix CEO Yoichi Wada, “We’d like to push Dragon Quest overseas. The soil is set for RPGs, with Final Fantasy being a success in Europe and North America, so we feel Dragon Quest can be a success.” But whereas Final Fantasy is a fast, fun series with twisting, addictive stories, Dragon Quest plays slowly, can be unforgivingly difficult, and features a by-the-RPG-books scenario. Japanese gamers and diehard series fans may find Dragon Quest’s VIII‘s lethargic pacing (expect to level up for hours before you can challenge the first boss), over-layered menus, four-letter character names, monospaced fonts, and mismapped face buttons nostalgic — but to U.S. gamers, they’re just awkward holdbacks from a long-dead age. If Square is serious about revitalizing the Dragon Quest brand in the U.S. beyond its core audience of old-school fans, a bit more polish for the English language version would go a long way. Dragon Quest has always been the populist RPG of choice in Japan, and with a few small tweaks and modernizations, this series might finally find an equally warm reception in the States.

Reviw of Dragon Quest VIII

For months, gamers have been bursting with questions about Dragon Quest VIII. With a new console, a new developer, a new graphical style, even a new publisher… how would the title compare with previous games in the series? Quite well, actually; though developer Level 5 has given the presentation a state-of-the-art makeover, the underlying gameplay remains nearly identical to previous games in the series. It is, after all, a Dragon Quest game.

The story begins with your caravan breaking camp and preparing to head to the nearby town of Trapetta. Initially, your party consists of the main character, a happy-go-lucky fellow who carries a pet mouse, Toppo, in his pocket, and Yangus, your basic heavyweight axe/hammer bruiser type. Also in your caravan (but absent from any battles) are King Torode and his daughter Mitea — the “cursed princess” of the game’s lengthy subtitle (The Sky, the Sea, the Earth, and the Cursed Princess). Torode’s appearance has been changed to that of a squat, green monster, while the princess has been turned into a white horse which is incapable of speech. Torode has been searching for a cure for their condition as well as the man who did this to them: the evil clown Dolmageth. After accidentally offending the locals and getting kicked out of town, a kind-hearted girl tells the group of a possible clue in the cave to the south. The party sets off to see what they can learn…

Dragon Quest VIII‘s most immediately striking feature is its gorgeous graphics. Dragon Quest VII, despite its success, was one of the ugliest games on the original PlayStation. VIII, in contrast, is one of the best-looking games on the PS2. Its beautiful cel-shaded graphics run at a near constant 30 frames-per-second, and in a shocking nod to modernity, a widescreen option is available for televisions that support it. Even more impressive is the insanely large draw distance; whether in town or on the immense overworld, the vista stretch further than any RPG in recent memory. A first-person view lets you take in your surroundings and is especially useful for noticing details and characters in town. There’s a great satisfaction to be found in noting a few tiny glittering pixels off in the distance, then trekking a minute or two off the beaten path to discover a treasure chest. The transition between day and night is handled well, with the sky gradually darkening and stars twinkling in as night falls.

In addition to the aforementioned Hero and Yangus, the whip-wielding magician Jessica and dashing swordsman Kukule eventually bring your party up to four full characters. The game’s battle system is the ultra-traditional turn-based battle system first introduced with Dragon Quest III. Characters fight, cast spells, use skills, and use items to overcome groups of enemies. In a change from earlier Dragon Quests, players can target individual enemies within an enemy group; i.e., within a group of three slimes, you can choose to specifically direct your attack at Slime A, B, or C. Commands are inputted from the traditional “first-person perspective,” but once the attacks unfold, both party members and enemies are visible as the camera swoops to provide the best view of the action. Enemy designs are up to the series’ regular adorably insane standards, and every creature has a variety of amusing animations. Battles are quick to start and quick to finish; they begin immediately from the field map, and the player is back on the field map within two seconds of a battle’s conclusion.

The “tension system” allows a character to skip turns to build up tension, then unleash an ultra-powerful attack. Your character is vulnerable while charging, but the total damage at the end well exceeds the sum of the individual skipped attacks. At the beginning of the game, the tension meter can be raised three times for a nearly 100% “bonus.” Released screenshots suggest that later on the tension meter can go even higher.

Review of Sleeping Dogs

This game I was hesitant on playing because I didn’t know if the game was going to be as fun as the demo claimed it would be.  I’m really skeptical on open-world games because I had bad experiences with them in the past (GTA San Andreas got too boring and Scarface : The World Is Yours, The Elder Scrolls V, inFamous, Mortal Kombat Gold and Just Cause 2 pissed me off), but I had a good experience with Saints Row The Third.  Was the same thing going to happen with Sleeping Dogs?  That’s what I was interested in finding out!

I decided to use the regular version instead of the Definitive Edition one as the regular one had the demo and I wanted to see how the regular version fared on my PC.  I’m disappointed that the full game has a benchmark mode and not the demo, so I used the benchmark tool to see where I was at.  I was at around 85-95 frames-per-second and that’s with the options turned on at the max (except Motion Blur as I had that option disabled because fuck Motion Blur!).  When I say “at the max”, I’m including anti-aliasing as well.

Normally, I would turn AA on at 2X and that’d be all I need for 900p, but for Sleeping Dogs, that’s not the case.  It’s bad enough that AA’s on automatically and there’s no option to turn it off, but it’s even worse when the highest AA setting is still not enough to eliminate aliasing.  Out of all the games I’ve played, the regular Sleeping Dogs has the worst AA feature I’ve ever seen.  You mean to tell me that with the highest AA settings, Fast Approximate Anti-Aliasing (FXAA) and Super Sampling Anti-Aliasing (SSAA) are on High and I’m still seeing aliasing at 900p?  Sounds like poor optimization to me!

The demo ran fine on my old PC and it ran even better on my new PC.  Playing the whole game, I had trouble getting out of it as it was that fun.  I loved doing the regular missions, the side missions, dressing up Wei Shen in different outfits, street races and a bunch of other stuff.  Sleeping Dogs was by far the best non-parody open-world game I’ve ever played thus far and I can’t wait until next year or the Steam Holiday Sale arrives so that I can get the Definitive Edition of the game for a cheap price!

Review of Aliens Colonial Marines

This one doesn’t affect me much as I wasn’t a victim, but there was absolutely no way how I could avoid talking about bad things of 2013 and not mention the biggest deception gamers experienced.  A game being deceptive in this scale either rarely happens or doesn’t happen at all and there’s no excuse for gamers to be promised one thing and not get what was promised as a result.  What game am I talking about?  It should be fairly obvious just by the mere mention that it’s the most deceptive game of the year, but in case anybody doesn’t get it, I’m talking about this game…

I had no interest in the game to begin with as I wasn’t aware about the game until controversy arrived.  Even if I had known about the game, I still wasn’t interested in it as scary movies don’t scare me anymore thanks to their plots (which could’ve been easily avoided) and the fact that I haven’t seen an Aliens movie.  If I had seen any Alien movie, it’s been THAT long since I’ve last seen it.  Despite that, even I had to be angry at the final result as what was shown prior to now was totally different and can ruin trust from gamers to developers/publishers.  That trust was going downhill anyway, but not up to this scale.

Gamers were promised some jaw dropping graphics, better AI, awesome new weapons and an Alien-like experience that could never be experienced elsewhere.  What gamers got instead were weaker graphics compared to the tech demo (and that’s just the PC version), annoying NPC partners and idiotic AI Aliens, I’m not sure about the weapons part, but from what I gathered, they also had a story that was inconsistent with the Alien storyline.  To make matters worse, Aliens Colonial Marines’ story is canon!

Not only did the story not live up to expectations, but the entire game didn’t live up to expectations.  Single player and multiplayer was a disappointment to fans who wanted to play the game and throwing a Season Pass on top of it was like an insult to injury.  Some fans were so disappointed with the game and the blatant false advertising that they sued the developers over it.  According to this website containing false advertising laws, whether the file was claimed through the FTC Act or the Lanham Act, Sega and Gearbox are in the clear despite public knowledge of what happened behind the scenes wasn’t mentioned until after Aliens Colonial Marines was released.  Even if Sega and Gearbox win the lawsuit, Aliens Colonial Marines did enough damage to gamers to lose a lot of trust with them.

As sad as it is that Sega and Gearbox can get away with this lawsuit, the fact remains that this game is most definitely the most deceptive game of this year and is probably the most deceptive game of the 21st century.  Gamers deserved better and both Sega and Gearbox should’ve apologized for the end result of the game.  As far as I know, neither company apologized, so they looked and probably do look bad thanks to the non-apology, despite gamers asking for one.  I feel sorry for every gamer that went through all the trouble of owning or renting the game, so let’s hope that no company does that next year or years afterwards.  And that’s it with this bonus entry!

Review of RESIDENT EVIL 2

This one is a little bit of a cheat because I played Resident Evil 2 before I played Resident Evil and that was before the Resident Evil remake on the GameCube.  I had borrowed it from one of my classmates (and by borrow I mean take it for a day and copy it) and played the game, not knowing what to expect, let alone having this game being the first survival horror game I’ve ever played.

I’ve played Resident Evil 2 on both PSOne (I so wanted to use the PSX abbreviation as that was used to describe the PlayStation back in the day) and PC and it was better on PC despite using the keyboard 100% of the time.  But this will only cover the PSOne version as I feel like using the PC version would be totally unfair, especially since I’ve only played the original Resident Evil on PSOne.  Now let’s talk about Resident Evil!

I don’t remember the first time I had played Resident Evil, but I do remember the last time I had played Resident Evil.  It was the Director’s Cut version which had vibration support and I couldn’t even finish 5% of the game.  It wasn’t because the game was so damn difficult as it wasn’t that difficult at all.  Then again, it was difficult in a different way: it was difficult to take the game seriously.  The acting from the live action cutscenes and the voiceover work were laughably bad; so bad that I was cracking up to the point where my stomach was hurting.  Thankfully the remake isn’t laughably bad in terms of voice acting, so that was the only way for me to handle that game.

Playing Resident Evil 2, it was pretty intense.  Of course, being a male, I started the game as Leon first.  Somehow, I didn’t die at the very beginning as I did waste some bullets on the zombies.  Going through the game for the first time as both Leon and Claire was intense, but at the same time, so exciting.  The voiceover work was well done, the story caught my attention and thankfully, they did away with live action cutscenes; they saved that for the movies starring Milla Jovovich.

I had replayed that game over and over again, but I never did the B-side stories until I had gotten the PC version and that was because the PC version had an unlimited ammo code that made going against Tyrant easy.  Even though I don’t play any horror games anymore (thank developers and publishers for that), Resident Evil 2 was THE game that got me into the survival horror genre and it was the game that got me to be a Resident Evil fan.

For the next game, let’s move on to the next generation and go to a game that celebrated the 10 year anniversary of this franchise while at the same time come out on the final year of the Dreamcast here in America…

A pretty game : Parking Warrior

Some time ago I came across the television show Parking Wars. I came upon the show while flipping channels and looking for a way to procrastinate. I’ve been hooked ever since. I would have to say that my favorite “character” is Tiffany.

Tiffany, whose nickname is Swoop, is a ticket agent. She was born in New York and has only been living in PA for the last ten years. I don’t know why but I find myself laughing out loud whenever she is in a episode of the show. I think it’s that sassy New York attitude.

Watching the show is definitely a lesson in human nature. People don’t like to be wrong. Most especially when they know they are wrong and they get called out on their bullshit. They bitch and complain about getting tickets and having their cars booted and towed but at the same time, if they would take personal responsibility for themselves, they wouldn’t be running into problems. But that’s a post for another day.

On the site, they have a cute fun game called Parking Warrior.

The object of the game is to get the cars into the parking spots without crashing into other cars, getting a ticket or getting towed. I did pretty good on my first try. I made it to level 3 before I got towed. I ended up with the second highest score of the day.

This is a nice easy fun online game that you can play when you want to while away a few minutes.

The Grow Game

The Grow Game was recommended to me by an acquaintance. After hearing about how much I love puzzle adventure games and how it was so hard to find any online, I was summarily directed to search for the The Grow Game online. I did and I have to say, thanks…thanks a lot. I am now addicted.

The Grow Game was created by ON of Eyemaze. The game involves placing items onto the playing field in a specific order. The thing is that the items “grow” as “time” passes and they interact with the other items you place on the field. The goal of The Grow Game is to place the items on the playing field in the correct order.

Currently there are 5 incarnations of The Grow Game. I played three of them this morning and plan on playing the other two when I get home from work tonight. Unlike my acquaintance, I will do you the honor of forewarning you that this game is addicting.