Tag: video games

Infornography

On to more serial experiments lain. In Layer 11: Infornography, the opening changes a bit. The title screen is made of up screens from the previous episode, and the voice-over is still missing from the cityscape. Instead, we see Lain being tied up in cables. Much of the episode is essentially a recap, going through the events of the series so far in a fast edited series of clips of previous episodes and a handful of other phrases flashing on the screen, but with the largest portion, especially near the end, focusing on Alice. Eiri then appears and tells Lain that she is, essentially, software, though Lain doesn’t like him talking about her as if she’s a machine. She then appears in the street and sees Chisa and the Cyberia shooter, who have a brief discussion about dying, and Lain finds herself holding the shooter’s gun with him telling her how to shoot herself (she doesn’t).

Then, it cuts to Alice’s room, where Alice is watching a message from Julie, who wants to set her up on a date to dispel rumours about her relationship with a teacher. Lain shows up with the body of that alien from last episode, talks about the “other” Lain and how she can fix the rumours. Alice is skeptical, but of course, the next day she realises that Lain really did make everyone but her forget what had happened.

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Mischief Making in Two Wonderful Dimensions

MMboxSo, this past week I got a request to review a video game. It’s a bit outside the “bibliophile’s journal” theme I’ve been doing, but since I have posted about a few games before I thought it would be a nice change of pace. Also, this guy suggested that I’d look like some kind of nerd if I only write about books all the time, and I certainly wouldn’t want that. Anyone interested solely in Serious Business can come back next week, when I’ll have a post on Klemens von Metternich, followed by more from William Shakespeare.

Before we get to the main subject, though, let’s go back to the mid-90’s. The PlayStation and Nintendo 64 were the coolest things around, because now, for the first time on home consoles, games were in three dee! The days of side-scrolling in a mere two dimensions were gone, and now we could walk around awkwardly in three dimensions. Let me say, I was in elementary school at the time and was the first kid in my class to get an N64, and my social standing among my peers has never been higher, before or since.

Looking back, those early 3D games have, for the most part, aged pretty badly. Even in cases where the designers got the controls right, which certainly could not be taken for granted, the graphics were hideous. Very blocky with few textures was the house style for those early N64 games. Frankly, Super NES games were far more aesthetically appealing.…

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Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis

The short review of Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis is that it’s Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together but smaller.

Not that it’s a small game by any means, especially for the Game Boy Advance. It’s shorter and has fewer classes and side-quests, but I easily got thirty hours of gameplay out of it, and could see myself replaying it in the future to see the other endings. The graphics and music are both appealing, and look pretty good for a portable game, and though the story and characters aren’t as good as the original game, they’re still enjoyable. The gameplay is very similar to the older Tactics Ogre as well, so fans of that game, or tactical RPG’s in general, should be able to pick it up quickly.

There are some things about the game that annoy me, though. In Let Us Cling Together, I mentioned that I much preferred the large armies in the sister series, Ogre Battle, as opposed to fielding only ten characters at a time for each mission. In Knight, the number of characters on the attack team is reduced further, to just eight at a time. This does force the player to think even more carefully about which characters and classes to use, but also reduces the number of strategies available, especially with the reduced number of classes in this game. As a result, though the game never felt monotonous, there’s less variety from one mission to another than there could be.

Another change for the worse is that in Knight, turns are taken a full team at a time. So, the player’s army moves first, and once every character has done something, the entire enemy team moves, and so on. In Together, turns were taken on a per-character basis, not per-team, beginning with the fastest characters. Furthermore, if the difference in characters’ speed stats was great enough, a very fast character might move twice before a really slow one. This added an extra layer of complexity to planning out a strategy, which is simplified here to no benefit that I can see.

A couple more minor things, the game is very stingy with certain types of equipment. Swords are plentiful, for example, but archers are significantly less useful here than in the original game because they’re using outdated bows for a good 1/3 of the later missions. Also, about halfway through there’s a mission where the player has to split his army. Now, you can recruit about as many characters as you want, but since you only field eight per mission the obvious strategy is to come up with a standard team of eight and only use those. So when you suddenly need to field two teams, you find yourself with eight strong characters and a bunch of bench-warmers.

One improvement over the original is that enemies no longer have a set level, but their strength is set in each mission relative to the player’s army. So, they’ll always be slightly stronger than player characters, which is good because the AI is noticeably dumber than before. Of course, the dumber AI also means that this game is a bit on the easy side; I only had to replay a few levels, and though you can’t just coast through, as long as you stick to a handful of winning strategies there are only a handful of missions that present much of a challenge.

Perhaps the best thing of all is that, because enemy strength is relative to the player’s, you don’t have to spend nearly as much time in the insufferable training mode.

So, overall, The Knight of Lodis is a worthwhile sequel, just not as good as the original. Play Let Us Cling Together first, but for fans of the franchise Knight will be worth your time.…

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Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together

Though I haven’t played video games with any regularity in several years, there are a few games that I still remember very fondly and even revisit once in a great while. A couple of my favourites are the two fantasy-themed Ogre Battle games, both the Super NES original and its Nintendo 64 sequel. For years, I’ve also owned the two Tactics Ogre spin-off games, but never really played either of them until now, and I’ve just finished the PlayStation port of Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together.

Tactics Ogre is a tactical RPG, similar to Final Fantasy Tactics, which followed it and shared the same director, Matsuno Yasumi. Though this style of gameplay became fairly popular after FFT, I never really cared much for it, which is why it took me this long to get more than a couple hours into TO. While I understand the appeal, these systems feel somewhat tedious to me, moving characters around individually rather than in groups (as in Ogre Battle) and controlling every little thing. Also, one thing I liked about the Ogre Battle games is that directing units of characters around a fairly large map made the game feel more epic in scale, like I was a general carrying out a full campaign involving dozens, even over a hundred (IIRC) soldiers. Moving only ten characters at a time on a small map in TO, though, doesn’t make me feel like a general on campaign, it makes me feel like I went to the local bar and after a few drinks too many some bros and I decided “This empire’s goin’ down.” Actually, that’s not too far off, since the game starts with the main character, his sister, and a friend deciding to ambush a company of foreign knights.
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Pokemon Twelve Years Later

The last Pokemon game I bought was Red back in 1998, which I played so thoroughly over the next year or so that the resulting burnout has lasted over ten years now. A few days ago, while at work, I felt a strong urge to play again. Who knows why? The next day, though, I bought a copy of the recently-released Pokemon: White Version (not Black, because I prefer to hang around Pokemon that look like me lulz). Anyway, I thought the impressions of a prodigal Pokemon fan may interest those who’ve kept up with the series, so I’ll share my thoughts so far.

First of all, the basic gameplay hasn’t changed at all, as far as I can tell (I just got the first badge about 1.5 hours in). You wander around, catch little critters, train them, and fight them against other little critters. It’s still a great premise, and I can certainly see why the franchise has continued to sell so well.

As for changes, White and Black are more politically correct than Red and Blue. For one thing, instead of Prof. Oak we have some woman professor, and instead of having to play as a boy you can choose between a girl and a boy who looks like a girl. Enough girls play Pokemon that having a girl avatar is probably a good move (though I’m guessing it’s one that’s a few generations old now). Also, there’s a lot more talk about the special relationship between humans and Pokemon and what it means to be a good trainer. I think Red/Blue touched on this, but it wasn’t a major theme. I guess it’s a decent way to teach younger players to take care of animals, but really I just want to catch monsters and fight them.

Which brings me to Team Plasma, our antagonists who want to liberate the world’s Pokemon. They seem shady and I hear they have some ulterior motive, but… I don’t know. I always liked the original games’ simplicity. Not that White/Black is a new Hamlet or anything, but Red/Blue seemed to focus more on just catching and training Pokemon. Your rival there was Gary, who was your rival because he was a jerk and… that was it really. No motive that I can remember. He just was a jerk. Oh, and I guess Team Rocket was there too doing, ah, whatever their big plan was. Conquer the world or something. I realise that after over a decade you need to mix up the story a bit, but there’s something to be said about the almost perfect simplicity of the originals, which really captured that childlike feeling of adventure better than almost any other game I know of. I’ll wait until I finish the games to decide whether the new Pokemon measures up.…

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