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Malik (7/12/10)

The Silver Lining came out this weekend. It was due out Saturday morning, but I think the masses of eager fans derailed that a bit by overwhelming the poor servers. So, I ended up waiting until pretty late to go the game.

For those who don't know about this game, it's one of the single most awesome stories possible of fans who know what they want and know what is right and will stick to their guns to see it through. The trek started a long time ago (around ten years back) when some fans realized that King's Quest was done, and KQ8 would be the final chapter. The problem was, KQ8 was anything but a real King's Quest game.

KQ8 was an action/adventure game which felt more like a primitive attempt to make a Tomb Raider style game into a pseudo-RPG. Not a KQ vibe if you ask me, or many of the loyal KQ fans.

Soon a group emerged to make a KQ9. A proper ending of the franchise. The problem, of course, was that fans don't typically hold licenses. Before long, the game started to seem to take some shape when Vivendi sent out the cease and desist order. Being good people, Phoenix Online (the studio these fans formed) stopped. They wanted to conclude KQ, but they were not out to cause problems.

I just want to add that this is how to rightfully go about bringing change to the world. You do what's right, but you also know what limitations you must face. You cannot bring about change through being a douche who ignores the rights of others.

Of course, this was soon reversed (the C&D order), when Phoenix started talking with Vivendi. Before long a good agreement came around. Phoenix would use the characters and settings of KQ, but would drop the King's Quest title from the actual game. They would also not charge for the game when it was released, which Phoenix seems to have always wanted anyway. The game was back on.

After Activision took control of Vivendi, the C&D dance came around again. This was earlier this year. Well, through another round of talks, and another round of fans petitioning Activision to let the project continue, things started to turn for the better again. Activision granted permission a couple weeks ago after seeing that the game would be a shining moment in the series and not just a typically shoddy fan-fic.

The first episode is now out and it is damned good. Yes, some people are a bit turned off right now due to various things, but it is a really good game that shows professional skills, not the skills you'd expect from people who did this for free in their free time between jobs and other real responsibilities. There is quality voice acting, some good nostalgic but quality modern visuals, and a great plot that allows new and old KQ fans to get into the game pretty smoothly.

The one problem that is mentioned a lot on message boards is the length and challenge of the first chapter. Really, I don't see it. Yes, the first episode is short and has no real puzzles. However, it looks like this was meant to be a quick and simply return to the world of the Daventry royal family. I think once episode two rolls around, this will all be forgotten. As long as Phoenix keeps up with the rumored release schedule (one episode every few months), shortness on a single chapter will not be a problem at all. Plus, for a free game to bring us back to the classic adventuring ways of King's Quest, who can really complain?


Malik (7/16/10)

I picked up Dragon Quest IX a couple days ago. I was torn on if I should get the game or not. On one hand, it was a new RPG, with old school nostalgic mechanics, and some nice deep game play features (like the job system). On the other hand, it's designed for the worst type of multiplayer; the type that is only local and takes away from the base game.

The large problem with the multiplayer is that it means characters have no personalities or development, in the plot sense. In fact, the main character never speaks, and the other characters are all generated by the player and can be replaced and remade at any time, making them uninteresting (never speaking). It is, more or less, the same type of character development one would find from Final Fantasy 1. The characters are there to solve problems, but never to contribute anything else to the world.

Still, the need for a new RPG won out. It also doesn't hurt that it's a $35 game (I expected $40 for this DS title). Plus, since I wanted a portable game (going on a trip soon), it fit the requirements in nearly every way.

So, I am now a good six to eight hours in, but taking my time. I'm looking for quests, hidden areas, bonus items, item farming locations (you can item farm on the world map), and trying to open up some new skills in the job system. The game offers a lot of diversions from the main quest.

While I don't care for the lack of character personalities (especially after how much I enjoyed the characters of DQ8), it's nothing an old school RPG fan couldn't get past. I mean the old wild west days of the NES and SNES saw more main characters/protagonists without personality than one would probably care to admit in some of the truly great games. DQ 1-3, FF 1-3, Inindo, the Mana (Secret of...) games, SaGa games (FF Legend on the Gameboy), any Zelda title (Link still has no personality)...the list can go on and on. However, while the lack of personality in the protagonist(s) is a sad thing at times, it doesn't have to hurt the game when the rest of the world is clearly defined and involved.

I think my only true complaint with DQ9, besides the fact that the multiplayer (which I will probably never use) is only local, is that the text can be a bit slow at times. In particular, it's at its worst when using the frequent services (inn, saving at the church), during menu access, and using alchemy (item creation). Ironically enough, the opposite problem can occur as well, in which the text goes way too fast. For example during some battles the game might say something like, "Boss monster is getting angry. Boss monster..." Unfortunately, that's all I could read before the text was gone.

Complaints aside, DQ9 is a better experience, so far, than I expected when I first heard of the game going to multiplayer.


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