Saturday, April 7, 2012

Rare game alert! Xenoblade Chronicles finally released, but only to GameStop and Nintendo's online store

Xenoblade Chronicles is the latest title from Monolith Soft and Tetsuya Takahashi who is famous for his scenario work on Xenogears and the Xenosaga series. Not having imported the European version of the game, I can’t say how the game is, but knowing Takahashi’s work, I expect an incredible sci-fi JRPG-esque story. With Yoko Shimomura (Kingdom Hearts series, Mario and Luigi series) and Yasunori Mitsuda (Chrono Trigger, Xenogears) on board for the music, I’m sure the music is going to be pretty fantastic as well.

Thanks to Operation Rainfall, Nintendo finally released Xenoblade Chronicles in the US on April 6th 2012, almost 2 years after its release in Japan. Problem is that there is only 2 ways to get it: GameStop, Nintendo’s online store. With only 1 retail outlet to buy the game, the game would undoubtedly become rare before you know it.

Preorders of the game from GameStop nets you an art book that is very high quality although paperback and thin at only 20 pages. Of course, it is too late for preordering but if you call around your local GameStop stores, you might be able to get one. According to the Xenoblade preorder bonus thread on CheapAssGamer, some stores didn’t even get enough books to fulfill preorders while other stores have more than enough. Personally, I didn’t preorder the game, but was able to pick up both the game and the art book. As of this writing, the books are already up on eBay going for $20+.

For anybody who like to collector JRPGs that are high in demand but rare to find, I'm sure Xenoblade Chronicles would certainly rank high amongst the gems like Suikoden 2. Well, maybe not that high but you never know. If you missed the boat on this one, there’s a chance that Nintendo would reprint this game if they know the demand is high. They did so for Super Mario All Stars for the Wii and are doing so for the circle pad pro which is getting a second run from GameStop in July.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

FFXIII-2 DLC Jihl Nabaat coliseum battle strategy

Instead of dishing out only the playable characters from the first FFXIII, Square Enix released Jihl Nabaat, the silver-haired antagonist in the first game. Surprisingly, Nabaat is a much tougher opponent than both Lightning and Amodar. This is not a battle that you can go in unprepared with the usual ravager and commando decks. Most tough battles in FFXIII-2 can be conquered with ravagers, commandos, and sentinels, but Nabaat practically wrote her own rules for the fight and thus call for a different sort of strategy.

For starters, Nabaat is practically immune to any sort of attacks. Her most powerful attack, Sadistic Surge, will most likely kill at least a single character, and it even ignores defensive advantages like the Tortoise paradigm. Nabaat doesn’t fight alone. She summons Azure Behemoths, Nightblade Pumas, and Psicom Wardens to aid her. That means for most of the fight, you’ll be fighting 6 separate characters. Thankfully, they aren’t too powerful and can be ignored. Defeating the individual monsters won’t do much good because she’ll just resummon them in full health. There is a way to defeat the monsters in a strategic order to defeat her, but that strategy is not recommended.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

FFXIII-2 retail-exclusive preorder DLC now available on PSN and Xbox Live

Click image to see the variations of the  DLC weapons.
Remember the retail-exclusive preorder DLC for Final Fantasy XIII-2? All those add-ons plus more is now available on the PSN and Xbox live. I personally preordered from Best Buy to get the physical copy of the Episode i novella because I had a feeling Square Enix would do this sooner or later. There are 4 different iterations of each weapon which can all be bought at the Chocolina stores. The weapons themselves are relatively weak, but you’re really buying them for the passive abilities. Especially impressive is the Muramasa. In its final form, the True Muramasa, it has the added attribute of Chain Bonus 4, which can be very useful in the fight against Nabaat, a surprisingly tough DLC opponent. Check the home page later in the week when I post up my strategy for the Nabaat coliseum fight.

Serah’s weapons ($1 each): Genji Bow (GameStop preorder), Seraphic Wing (new), and Azrael (new, Xbox 360 exclusive) 

Noel’s weapons ($1 each): Catastrophe Blade (new) and Muramasa (new).

Serah’s outfit ($3): Summoner’s Garb (GameStop preorder)

Coliseum opponent ($3): Omega (Amazon preorder)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Twisted Metal: the reason why online passes don't work

Publishers combat the used and rental games market by using online passes in a form of a code in new copies of games that must be activated to play online multiplayer. Online passes wasn’t a problem for me until I rented a copy of Twisted Metal for the PS3, and as a long time fan, I was thrilled to try the game to see if I wanted to buy it new. The available single player, however, did nothing to make me want to play more. I can definitely feel the potential for some multiplayer fun in what was offered, but as I keep progressing through the game, the challenges just keep getting more and more unbalanced. When it becomes apparent that everybody in the arena was only aiming for me, it really breaks the fun.

In online multiplayer, I don’t expect that to happen, but I don’t get to try out any online multiplayer because of the online pass issue. That’s a real shame because the only way to play any multiplayer at all is through local split screen, and local multiplayer is never representative of the online multiplayer experience. Not getting to try out the online portion made me put away my $60 and return the game thinking I would only revisit Twisted Metal when it’s much cheaper.

Sony is capable of doing great trials, however, with the recent release of the Killzone 3 multiplayer and its demo on the PSN, which gives players a limited time to play the multiplayer. It’s enough for players to get a feel for what the game has to offer while teasing the player of new items by gaining levels. Maybe they can do the same for Twisted Metal. Online passes with a limited trial; that’s the way to go.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Q&A session with Jenova Chen of Journey from CAAM’s Play Salon

Journey just came out this week, and there has been nothing but praise for the game. I, of course, loved it and I’m sure all those other people that journeyed with me loved it too. Thatgamecompany’s games are always able to come up with game experiences that have never been done before.

After GDC, I was fortunate enough to attend a Q&A session with Jenova Chen and other game designers in San Francisco at an event called The Play Salon held by the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM). Here, I’ve transcribed the event, specifically what Jenova Chen said in light of Journey’s release. With the game finished, Chen was ready to answer questions about game design with what he learned during the development of Journey as well as all of his other games. Many of the questions asked were fairly unclear, but Chen was able to answer them clearly and concisely. That said, I replaced the questions with simple subject lines and paraphrases. 

There are a lot of insightful thoughts on design and fans of thatgamecompany’s works should have a lot of fun reading about them. I was always curious about how thatgamecompany is always able to communicate the game mechanics and objectives without beating the player over the head with tutorials and guides. Guiding a player through the vast desert was no small task, and Chen and his team at thatgamecompany really mastered the level design in the game. Some other interesting insights include his method of game design, his take on the current innovation of games, and his perception of the different platforms from console to mobile and PC.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Silent Hill 2: An Analysis of Memories

I wanted to share an essay I wrote on Silent Hill 2 a couple years ago because of the new Silent Hill HD collection coming soon. It's pretty heavy stuff and not exactly blog-friendly either, but here it is. It's an essay about the relationship of memories and the characters of Silent Hill 2, particularly the protagonist, James Sunderland. I've come to believe that SH2 might be what sets video games apart from the rest of the other media in terms of storytelling as an art form. Within you'd find how games are an interactive experience, but the control is still in the developers hands. Just because you want a certain outcome doesn't mean you'd get it. Silent Hill 2 is truly a revolutionary way of telling stories in a video game environment, and it's really a shame that no other game seems to have been able to replicate it. Please comment if you want to discuss about anything in the essay.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review: Rhythm Heaven Fever

It’s back to more crazy situations as the 3rd game in the Rhythm Heaven series launches on the Wii. Coming after the DS’s Rhythm Heaven (Rhythm Tengoku Gold in Japan), this new entry brings with it a multitude of new stages with its simple inputs. Unlike its DS brethren, Rhythm Heaven Fever uses more functional controls than the stylus taps and the unwieldy swipes. This entry continues to offer the stages that range from easy to exceedingly difficult, but as with everything musical, playing this game well just takes practice.

Unlike the peripheral based rhythm games like Guitar Hero that uses many different button inputs to play a song, Rhythm Heaven Fever only uses 2 inputs: the A button and the A and B buttons together. This may make the game sound like a walk in the park, but the game is certainly not. Because of the simple inputs, the game can just about throw any situation at you and all you have do is hit the A button or the A and B buttons to the rhythm to complete tasks such as testing a seesaw, tap dancing or even giving an after-match interview as a wrestler just to name a few.