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Malik (1/9/13)

After a long break, I am back for the first time in 2013. I've been on vacation, which also meant a vacation from Geek-Asylum in order to work on stuff for the Infinite Lives Podcast, as well as a ton of live streaming of games for the Infinite Lives Podcast account. In other words, I've been working hard at my non-paying (but fun) job which taking a break from my regular paying, but a little less than fun (too serious to call fun) normal day job.

So, to catch up on what I've been doing, I can say that I've started a few games. However, two standout the most as they are also games I've finished during my vacation, with both being streamed for some, or all, of my playing time. First up would be The Last Story, for the Wii. Which, I think, is the last story my Wii will ever tell. It was a great game, but this is the last time I see myself using my Wii (especially since I now have a Roku to do my Netflix duties in my bedroom...the previous only use for my Wii since Super Mario Galaxy 2 came out).

The Last Story is an old school feeling RPG from Mistwalker (Sakaguchi's studio) and X-Seed. However, to break from old school atmosphere, the game has a really fluid and smooth battle system that's based on real time action combat and a party that uses better AI than more NPC controlled squads or parties in any FPS or RPG I've played. In fact, nine times out of ten, if a failure occurred in a combat, the blame was on my main character, who is the only one I was actively controlling.

Additionally, the game has a different than standard feel as an RPG by making the game far more streamlined than typical RPGs. Travel time is almost gone entirely, as you can quick travel almost anywhere and at anytime. Dungeons feel very open and large, but actually play as very linear and quick, making for a wonderful illusion of having enough to do while not feeling bogged down in overly long exploration scenes. Battles are all pre-set in ways that don't feel like Mistwalker was eliminating random battles as much as telling a story that had certain encounters to build up the personalities of the party members. Lastly, the plot is told in 44 (some optional) chapters that make the game feel more like a fairy tale for adults than as a long drawn out RPG. The plot is in small pieces of glorious material, with amazing character development (for example, the emo kid in the party actually grows and stops being an emo brat), and best of all is the almost complete lack of times when the plot is now being expanded upon. In other words, this is an RPG all about being "all killer and no filler" in nearly every way.

In the end, my only complaints with The Last Story actually come more from the technology of the Wii than with the game itself. I mean the game is designed on the Wii, so it is made for either a classic controller layout (the only good way to play) or the Wiimote and nunchuck. This leaves the classic controller having unused or underutilized buttons, such as two block buttons (R and RZ), no use for + or -, no real use in battle for B, and some other issues that evolve into the A button being used for too many actions. Hold the A, and you get a different effect than pressing A, unless in certain circumstances. It's a mess or one button being (depending on game configuration options) attack, action (open doors, etc.), gale (your main special attack), take cover, and leap over obstacles. This is not a good situation when you have one should button duplicated, no use for Y unless in first person aiming (crossbow/seek mode), and no use for B.

The other two Wii based complaints would be too long of loading times, which can be annoying in a few chapters, and visuals that are too nice for the Wii to handle. The visuals are the best I think we'll ever see on the Wii, but I just cannot help to think what it could have been if on a HD console. It's not as much a complaint as a desire to have seen what Mistwalker could have done with a bit more technology behind the game. It's like having a wonderful dinner, but not being able to smell it due to having a cold.

The other game I started and ended was Mark of the Ninja (on PC, through Steam). I'll leave this a bit shorter and just say that I hate stealth action games with a passion. On the other hand, Mark of the Ninja is probably in my top ten games for 2012 due to being so much fun despite being a stealth game. You will die if you fail at the stealth elements, but you are given chances to learn, chances to try alternate concepts to pass guards, and are given infinite lives with constant checkpoints to keep the game flowing forward at all times. Add in a wonderful cartoon look (reminiscent of Samurai Jack and Sly Cooper put together), super fluid controls, and a wide variety of optional goals and you have a solid game. When you beat optional goals, you get points to use to buy upgrades and new tools, and the game then just goes beyond all my expectations. You also can unlock new costumes, called styles, and you have entirely new ways to play as you change focus from balanced to combat, stealth, or pure intimidation of the enemy.

In fact, I cannot end this any other way than saying one simple fact; if you have the correct hardware, buy both Mark of the Ninja and The Last Story.


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