My vacation is still in full swing. However, unlike the last
two Mondays, I'm posting today (I've been pretty bad about the last
two Mondays) and my vacation is, sadly, in it's home stretch.
Right about now I'm really tempted to look at my vast abundance of
sick days to continue this thing until there isn't another day off
to milk. I don't think I could get away with that, but it's so
This last weekend was
PAX in my neighborhood (well, I'm in a suburb of Seattle...so it's
almost the same as being in my neighborhood). Once again I
didn't attend. Although, I think the only part I would have
really been excited for would have been seeing the
Keynote by Wil Wheaton. I don't really care much about
social gaming, since I think it's the current major problem facing
games, but Wheaton is one interesting person to hear when it comes
to his thoughts on geek culture and his thoughts on
how conventions should be handled and perceived by all involved
parties (the link goes to a less than work-friendly site, so
click it at home if your work monitors what you surf on the job).
It's almost amazing how funny and insightful the guy can be,
considering how I always took him to be the worst problem on The
Next Generation when I was young.
I didn't go to PAX, for
the fourth year running, for one reason; I really don't care for
conventions. True, at PAX, they had Rock Band playable.
They also had a bunch of other games up and running that won't be
gracing my rec room for a few good months. Despite this, I
have attended too many conferences in my younger years and I'm
always left with one main impression;
Standing in line to
probably not end up playing the most hyped game is not my idea of a
well spent admission price ($30 for PAX). I have only so much
money and I like to find a larger sense of satisfaction from using
that limited resource. For example, if I took the ~$50 I
could've spent to get into PAX, I could have walked away with a new
game (like for example, tomorrow, getting Blue Dragon...which I aim
to get) instead. So, I would not have to stand in line, not
put up with the geek smell (sorry, but every convention, with anime
being the worst offender, has too many geeks who sacrificed
deodorant money to get in the front door...and you know if you're
one of these people and if so, you should do us all a favor and drop
the extra $2 on a stick of Old Spice), and be able to do things on
my own time.
Yes, that might be me
being antisocial or something, but I just like to have some instant
gratification for my money. I get so little of it to spare
each month, and each saved dollar in my pocket is a good thing.
When I can save a good 30 to 50 of this dollars at once, then I'm
extra happy. It's money I could use on games, food, or other
things that bring me much needed happiness. Plus, anything
that gets me out of standing in line is my idea of a good use of my
did have some friends who attended, who are part of my Guitar Hero
group. So, I'm hoping, since PAX is more of their thing, that
they had fun. Especially if they had fun with Rock Band and
can tell me some impressions. I already know I'll be getting
the game, but I really want more fuel for the hype fire.
So, how did I spend
my weekend? Besides a little of the usual house related stuff
(gardening, cleaning, blah, blah), I mainly felt a need to take on
the world of Civ 4. I played through a game going for as many
victories as I could tolerate. I had cultural quickly enough
(around 2035), and my next one was either domination (I had the
population, but needed a few more cities to convert to my culture to
get the land mass) or diplomatic. I couldn't get quite enough
diplomatic votes, so I prepared to focus all of my attention on
dominance. Being in charge of the UN, I would not allow votes
on a nuclear non-proliferation treaty, since I was still considering
taking some cities by force (Shaka was not being a nice neighbor and
had some much desired cities that a few nukes could help me to
earn). Well, my joy for the game ended when I didn't consider
the nuclear option as anything more than a safe bet for some easy
wins. I didn't think that the Vikings would go crazy with
nukes (against Shaka, of all people) and hand the domination victory
over to the barbarians (which is what happens with a nuclear
Armageddon). That's also when the climate went to ass (even
playing through the domination failure) causing my population to
plummet (along with everyone else's populations) and I just couldn't
take anymore. At least I gained the cultural victory before
the world cracked like an egg.
I'm now thinking of
getting in one more epic Civ4 game (Next War is a great mod for
Beyond the Sword) before Blue Dragon comes along. I tried to
start one last night, but sadly had to deal with Genghis Kahn too
quickly. Hopefully, I'll get one more more or less random game
in without Genghis screwing the world (nothing like his ability to
anger everyone and put them all back in the stone age...just like
real life, I guess...but I want a world with more...sanity to it).
Anyway, I have some
Civ4 to play and I'm rambling. Probably a mix of too much
coffee, too little sleep, and too much excitement about playing some
good games. So here's where I'll wrap things up for today...my
final Monday of freedom (not counting next Monday, with the three
day weekend...I just made myself more happy).
It is now, sadly
and officially, less than 48 hours before my vacation ends.
While I did not get in as much geeking as I wanted, it's been too
good of a vacation to end so damned soon. While seeing my
vacation end is never anything good, the part that most frustrates
me about this is how the games that could have made these last two
and a half weeks the most enjoyable are coming along either at the
end of my vacation or shortly after it's all done.
There is nothing I
would have liked more than to have this summer time vacation turn
out like my old summer breaks of my high school (and earlier) days.
In other words, to find a great new RPG (there was always a good
SNES or Playstation RPG when I needed one in those days...like how
Final Fantasy 1, Lufia 2, and a few others were in my grasp during
the summer) and to play the hell out of it each and every day.
There would be no work, no responsibilities, and nothing keeping me
from enjoying them for marathon sessions, except for the prospect of
other fun things.
Now my vacation is
more of a sad event. Games rarely see summer releases anymore.
Those that do come along in the sunny months tend to be boring or
geared towards a different audience than myself (Madden, brain
training games, blah, blah). The only game from the summer of
2007 that kept me happy during my vacation was Picross DS (and, in a
way, Beyond the Sword for Civ4...although that was a partial game
since it's an expansion). Blue Dragon, the game I've wanted
since it was first announced (around two years ago), is going to
come in too late for my vacation to truly devour. Picross DS
did give me some good times (and frustrated and annoying times), but
it's not what I needed. Civ4 also gave some good times, and it
is a true time addiction, but it also is not the same as a good old
I could have gone
with Persona 3, but I'm still a bit turned off from that franchise
due to the obsessive level of challenge. I need an RPG that
has the classic feel. While Blue Dragon is supposedly a bit
too easy, it probably still offers enough of a challenge to keep my
interest rolling. Too much challenge is the ultimate killer
for myself when it comes to RPGs. I've felt this way ever
since my ass was handed to me by the draconian system of good and
evil in Ultima: Quest of the Avatar. I'd rather take an RPG
that's bordering on insultingly easy than one that borders on
Anyway, I don't
really know the point of all of this I'm posting. Maybe I'm
just venting, thinking, or something like that. However, the
one thing I feel for certain is that I hate how Blue Dragon (my
current obsession in obtaining) could not have come out around the
start of my vacation. I'm also frustrated by the fact that it
has a release date of today, but I will probably not find it in a
store until tomorrow (the final day of my freedom) since release
dates are now "shipping dates". A game will ship quickly if
it's a major player (Madden, Halo, and so forth), but any minor game
(like Blue Dragon and most RPGs) will take an extra day in transit.
If I'm lucky, I may find a copy early today, when I search through
the local game stores in a quest for a little something to do.
However, I'm willing to bet than none of the stores I check will
have it in stock until around noon tomorrow. I know that's how
Fry's will be already (since their ads are rarely wrong), but I'll
still check the other stores in my local cluster of commerce...and
walk away disappointed.
That's when I'll
come home, start another game of Civ4 and lay waste to the world,
like watching Roosevelt declair war on an underpowered Lincoln after
the two of them handed me a diplomatic victory.
Yesterday I tried
to find Blue Dragon. As I expected, there was no sign of the
game anywhere. I had time to kill, so I checked every logical
prospective store; Toys R Us (the masters of the early release),
Target, Best Buy, Circuit City, Gamestop, Fry's, and Fred Meyers (a
long shot for any game on release day). I really did try.
However, half way through my search, I came home for a bit and
decided to read up on another new release that I found at various
stores; Metroid Prime 3.
Well, what I read
about MP3 was actually good. The game received some good
reviews and impressions for all of the things I actually hated about
MP1&2. The game allowed the player to combine weapons,
scanning shit was less important this time around, and the battles
with normal enemies were not nearly as epic as they fell quicker.
You also didn't start with the same "lose all the previous powers"
bullshit. Yes, you don't have the different weapons, like ice,
light, dark, plasma, or whatever else you had in MP1&2.
However, you do get to start with the double jump ability, the
charge beam, the morph ball, and bombs. You even start, this
time around, with several visors and the ability to be healed by
pahzon radiation (well, you almost start with it and it happens
before you ever reach phazon areas). You don't have the "fresh
start" that went so against the idea of a sequel.
So, I decided to
buy the game. I needed something to fill my time, and screwing
over different civilizations in Civ4 was not doing it for me any
longer. So, at my final attempt to find Blue Dragon, I bought
MP3. Strangely, despite how much I was annoyed by MP1 and how
much I completely hated MP2, I am loving MP3.
change, versus the starting with some equipment thing, that I'm
digging about MP3 is that Retro Studios tried to give the game a
plot of a larger scale. There are people to talk to, other
bounty hunters, and a lot of things to really get interactive with
to help bring the experience to the player. If you find a
switch, you will be able to pull your wiimote to move the switch or
level. If you want to jump as the ball form (which you can do
from the start; no more relying only on bomb jumping!), you simply
flick the wiimote up to bounce. You can simply do so much
more. The controls are beyond intuitive and are beyond fun to
The most important
change in the game is that things just feel smooth and controllable.
For example, battles, beyond boss fights, don't feel like the same
life or death struggle as in MP1&2, but rather they feel like the
endless hordes of the original 2D Metroid titles; annoying, but that
you are the dominant species. Even the plot is fun enough to
keep the game rolling along nicely.
I don't have too
much to say about the game, yet. I'm only a bit into the game
and have only fought a few bosses. What I can say is that boss
fights are amazing, the new hypermode (in which you use phazon
energy, like during the last fight of MP1) is awesome, and the plot
and interactions with the world make this a whole new game. If
only MP1&2 were more like this, then I wouldn't have hated the
series so badly. As long as the game continues this way
(without having painful dark worlds or forced scanning of
everything...which looks promising so far), I will really enjoy a 3D
first person Metroid title for the first time ever.
I'm going to keep
this post short-ish. It's my final day of vacation, and I
don't know if I'll ever get one again of this length. So, it's
time to...I'd love to say "live it up", but rather it's more time to
get caffeinated so that I can plan for some more house remodeling
before heading out to find Blue Dragon without a pre-order.
I am now,
officially and sadly, off of my wonderful time of vacation. I'm back
to my daily grind of working in a lab and trying to remember why I
am yet another biotech drone in a world of unobtainable vacations
and no chance of using sick days. Yup. My life is back to normal,
which is the saddest thing I can think of at this moment.
However, to get
back on the upbeat side, I did another search for Blue Dragon
yesterday. I started with Best Buy and Circuit City, since I left
before noon (Fry's said they'd have the game by noon in their Monday
ad). Also, Fry's, being the furthest store from my house and the
worst commute in the region, was not looking like a fun option.
So, first I found
nothing at Best Buy (despite their store pickup on their web site
saying the game was in), then a lot of nothing at Circuit City. Then
I hit Fry's, and took one hell of a bad commute already, but made it
worse by it being lunch time (more traffic on the interstate). I got
there around 12:30 PM and was told the game would show up by
Thursday. I would've called, but with it being the last few days of
my cell phone billing cycle, I cannot afford to talk any until 9PM,
when unlimited minutes start.
Due to traffic, on
my way home, I happened to needed to get off the interstate around
the shopping district where I originally started. Driving through
there, I decided to go for the Hail Mary play and check out Gamestop...for
a much demanded game, without a pre-order, on what may or may not be
the launch day. I luckily found two copies left for non-pre-ordered
So, how if Blue
Dragon? Well, I hated the demo that popped up on XBox Live a few
months ago. It was the worst demo I ever tried. Luckily, the real
game is amazingly more enjoyable to play. This is the game for
people who would pick up a new Dragon Quest game before buying the
latest Final Fantasy. In other words, this is old school RPG fun in
it's purest form.
The visuals may
have an overhaul and the battles may not be completely random (you
can see enemies on the map and strategize how to fight them to your
advantage), but the game is still the same turn based fun that
Sakaguchi first showed the world with FF1...but with a hybrid format
of the job systems found in DQ7 and DQ8.
Best of all,
despite making the game appear "kiddy" (I hate people who ignore
games when a kiddy image makes them think enjoying the game could
risk damaging their manhood...your penis will not disappear if you
enjoy Blue Dragon, Earthbound, Lufia 2, Wind Waker, or any other
"kiddy" game), the game uses plenty of Earthbound style humor in the
monsters (poo is a common occurrence in fights), with a DQ8 feel to
the plot and rest of the game world.
enjoying the job system. You can, once you unlock your class menu,
change jobs any time you want (as long as you're not in a fight).
You start with just a few jobs (white and black mages and a user of
magic sword attacks) but can unlock more as you gain character
levels. As your class gains SP (like experience, but for
jobs/classes/skills), you reach new ranks. Each rank may or may not
grant a new ability. These abilities then can be equipped...but to a
limit of how many skill slots you have.
One class, the
generalist, is designed as a weak class that doesn't do much, but
earns skills that increase your equipment and skill slots. Since you
can equip skills from any class (as long as you gained said skills),
you then can use the skill slot increase from the generalist to make
a white mage who casts other types of spells (black, barrier,
support), uses the counter attack abilities of a monk, and can steal
like an assassin. In other words, it's a lot like FFV, but with more
room to customize, and with (sadly) a lot fewer of classes to gain
(but more skills per class).
Also, since I
found it being mentioned a lot in message boards; you don't equip
weapons and armors, but you do equip perfect equivalent items. You
can use four accessories at a time (more special slots open with
generalist skills). One type will usually only increase physical
attack (making it the same as a standard RPG's weapon), on increases
defense, one does magical defense, and one does magical offense.
There are probably more special equipment, but I can only speak from
about 3.5 hours into the game.
The only bad part
about Blue Dragon, so far, is that it's hard to handle the map
system. I honestly never can tell where I'm heading when I enter a
dungeon/swamp/desert/not-world-map. You get a radar of sorts that
looks like a Dragonball Radar from DBZ, but it really doesn't let
you know too well on where the hell you're heading to. I will
probably get used to it with time, but for now this is my only
frustration in an otherwise solid game.
Now the only bad
thing for me (besides being off of my vacation) is that I have both
Metroid Prime 3 and Blue Dragon fighting for my limited free time. I
guess that's a good problem to have, versus the last month (which
was a true gaming drought).
I spent some more
time last night with Blue Dragon...probably a little more time than
I could have afforded to spend playing a game. Then again, who
really cares since it was a good use of my time after rejoining the
American workforce (from my vacation) and rejoining the world of
being yet another drone in a place that doesn't understand proper
wages and compensation.
Enough of that. BD
is really impressing me so far.
For one thing,
I've heard a lot of bad things about how BD has a lack of plot
presence in the first part of the game. I've also heard that the
plot really picks up near the very end of the game. Well, I have to
The start of BD
finds your small group of adventurers being stranded far from home.
Their quest, at first, is to simply find their way home. In reality,
this is very similar to the plot of another game from the three
geniuses who brought us BD; Toriyama, Sakaguchi, and Nobuo (forgive
any misspelled names). It's a lot like Chrono Trigger. That game
started with you being stranded a far time (rather than place) from
home and with no sense of where you fit into the world anymore.
BD has this same
general feeling. You start your quest home in a large wasteland like
desert area and the only sign of sentient life is from a small tribe
of sheep people. Then, as you progress, and as you defeat a boss or
two, you start to find new areas that really remind me of Chrono
Trigger. For one thing, you eventually come across some futuristic
ruins deep under the ground. This place is inhabited with ghosts and
a lot of equipment that didn't feel at home in your starting
village. In other words, it's like traveling to the domed future of
CT, or even the time displaced area of Chrono Cross.
Yes, the character
development is slightly underwhelming at this point in the game. But
then again, it was the same in Chrono Trigger. In fact, the plot is
still more enticing in BD (partly because CT had a lack of real plot
due to the era in which it was made). It's not a traditional plot
you're being shown, but rather the different type that focuses on
the world instead of the quest or the heroes. In other words, it's
more of a brief history lesson to show you how you'll eventually fit
into the world.
It's also a great
time to learn the basics of this game's control system. A system
that is both shallow enough to be comfortable and deep enough to
allow some fun with customization. The battles are traditional turn
based events, which apparently is a bad thing...I never understood
this since it's been a part of my favorite genre for longer than
I've been into RPGs. It's a staple and when it's handled correctly
(like in BD) it can be a great joy to experience.
On that same note,
this is obviously not a game for those who couldn't stand RPGs until
Square made them popular with FFVII. This is a RPG for those who
loved RPGs that came from the SNES era and those who love games like
Dragon Quest (any of them, since they never broke away from
however, does grant some great fun in it's level of customization.
Right now, I still have three characters (out of five total), and
each one is being able to grow into whatever specialized class I
choose. For example, I have the generalist class (which grants more
skill slots...think of FFV and how you could only have one extra
non-class skill at a time in most cases, and now think of adding new
slots to it...and having three by default) being developed for each
character. Beyond that, I have my main black mage (with a little
assassin action to negotiate lower prices in stores and to steal
items in combat), a white mage (with some monk to grant a little
offense when healing is not needed), and my main powerhouse of sword
master (offensive sword attacks charged with magic), monk (more
power and charged up attacks), and enough white magic to give some
healing in a pinch.
This system makes
me think of what I really wanted to have in FFV. While FFV would
allow me to have some characters who were incredibly awesome and
able to form great strategies, I always felt limited in that I could
only use two possible skill sets at once. That's a thing of the past
with BD and being able to have somewhere around 10 skills (not
counting your current class/basic skill; like magic for mages or
charged offensive strikes for a monk) and a lot of possibilities. I
just wish the game had more classes like DQ6 or 7 and you had to
work to unlock them (like DQ7 or FF Tactics). I also wish the
instructions did not tell you all of the skills for each class and
when you get them. It may make it easier to strategize development,
but it also takes out some of the magic of not knowing what awaits
you. Afterall, your characters just started to gain these abilities
for the first time after the game starts...so why should the player,
by default, know more than those of the game's world?
Anyway, this is
the Japanese inspired RPG I have been waiting for ever since the
current generation of consoles started. It's fun, nostalgic, and
offers some new things, but while showing that old genres and ideas
don't need to be euthanized just because Square Enix has turned
their back on them.
However, if you're
a fan of Square Enix and their euthanizing of traditions, then you'd
be best staying far away from this awesome game.
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