UPDATE: As many of you have noticed, certain parts of the ad seem fake. Here is what my source told me when contacted:
“I cannot reveal my exact role, however, I can tell you that I work closely with the marketing department at Best Buy. This ad is a mock up at best of the ad to be released in just over two weeks. I cannot comment on the NeoGaf PS3 mock up as this is the material that we’re working with. Many images are often used as placeholders. The final ad will be touched up for grammar, punctuation, etc. Hope this helps.”
Here at the Big Man and Garrett we like groundbreaking things. Enjoy this. Pictures below. These were taken with a cell phone from an anonymous source. Real? Fake? Definitely Awesome?
Before beginning the final installment of my ‘Obscure RPG’ trilogy, I recommend you go back and read my reviews for Breath of Fire and Tecmo Secret of the Stars. With that plug out of the way, I have saved my favorite for last. The Legend of Dragoon is a game I am passionate about. I enjoyed it more than some of the SquareEnix games I have played. It is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated RPG’s ever made and one of several games in dire need of a sequel.
The Legend of Dragoon was released in the US on June 11, 2000. The game’s development spanned several years and required a group of over one hundred individuals. While Dragoon’s graphical and cinematic qualities were widely praised, the gameplay and plot elements were panned by critics as being unoriginal, repetitive or too difficult for the average player. This being said, the game sold well and has garnered a cult following since its initial release. For these reasons, Sony has in the past suggested that a sequel is in the works, but none has ever surfaced.
The Legend of Dragoon is in many ways your typical RPG. The world map takes you from one area to the next on a track system similar to that of Final Fantasy Tactics. As you walk around in these areas on the world map you encounter random enemies that your party must defeat. Each of your three characters gets a turn as does your opponent. Sound pretty typical, right? The biggest difference, and what makes The Legend of Dragoon worth playing, is the Additions combat system. Unlike Final Fantasy (in which Cloud runs up, slices the monster and runs back), once you have chosen the ‘Attack’ option, your character will run up to the enemy and perform a series of additions. Two squares appear. The first square is fixed and stays a small, constant size. The second square encompasses the first and is much larger. As the second square shrinks to match the size of the first, you must hit the ‘X’ button just as the two meet. This causes your character to slice. These additions usually come in sets and increase the damage you deal out as you complete them successfully. While this does take a few minutes to get the hang of, I promise it isn’t as complicated as it sounds. The game also sports the usual items, magic, and even a dragoon transforming phase that reveals other attacks and abilities. Perhaps not perfect, but definitely innovative and challenging.
Dart, the main character, has returned home from hunting the Black Monster that killed his parents. Upon discovering that his hometown has been destroyed and his childhood girlfriend kidnapped, he sets out on a mission to rescue her. This mission quickly snowballs, leaving Dart and his cohorts no choice but to save humanity from a madman bent on destruction. The plot seems fairly pedestrian at first, but as the game progresses, there are enough twists and turns to keep the player guessing. Also, the characters are very well developed. So well developed, in fact, that if one of them were to die (hint hint) I would react with as much emotion as I did when Aeris was killed. I think that the plot is a strength, not a weakness.
Now, maybe Dragoon isn’t the greatest game ever. While I love the game, I can also admit when something is done poorly. The battle system definitely has a learning curve. I remember that it took me an hour or so to get the timing just right. This could discourage a younger, or more impatient, person from playing. Also, the dragoon transformation segments, while cinematically stunning, are completely unnecessary. Turning into a dragoon doesn’t really add much to the game. Arguably, you could play through the whole thing and never use the ability. It just feels a little tacked on. Overall, though, the battle system was very innovative and could be amazing with just a few tweaks.
In conclusion, I just want to remind you all why I have written this series of articles. The RPG’s that I have reviewed are not necessarily the best of the best. I have done my damndest to present to you both their positives and negatives. The point of these articles is to remind the reader that there are games out there waiting to be dug up like so many hidden treasures in the Gulf of Mexico. Don’t be afraid to stray from the Final Fantasy’s of the world just because some magazine critic tells you a game isn’t that good. At the end of the day, the only reviewer that matters is YOU! If you only rent/buy one of the three games I have suggested, this is it. The Legend of Dragoon is a diamond-in-the-rough that, with some patience and understanding, can provide you with hours of entertainment.
Also, enjoy this video!
A little shout out there for the Monty Python fans…
Anyways, folks, I’ve decided to take my leave from the blog after all. Even though the blog has picked up, there are too many factors that keep me from putting this site on the top of my list of things to do. Here’s the low down:
First of all, I have too many obligations in my life to continue to post weekly; rather, obligations is the wrong word. These are my choices in life that I prefer to live by. My work, my other writing, my friends, family, and Allison are all dear to me and I am going to devote my time to them. Second, as I mentioned before, my other writing takes precedent over my “blogging.” I’m a novelist by love and a poet by experience; these articles have been an experiment in other forms. Unfortunately, I’ve been finding myself spending the only writing time I have updating this column rather than working on either of my current book projects. That being said, both of those projects must come first for me. Third, the response to the articles was all wrong. Aside from Celes and a few other gems out there, the intelligent conversation of gamers I wanted to spur on seems to have fallen flat, to quote Sotormayor or however you spell her name. Perhaps I had too much faith in people on the internet, but I’ve grown tired of having to reiterate the same points over and over again to readers who barely take the time to read the title, let alone read the article. Am I taking their criticisms to heart and leaving due to hurt feelings? No. I’m leaving to seek the avenue of intelligent, creative expression elsewhere.
Will I ever be back? I don’t know. You may see me in the back drop of a video blog here and there; though, I don’t know if the Big Man and Garrett will be pleased with me after this. As far as writing? Maybe if the clientele changes. Right now, these articles are posted to the winds of the internet where ignorance and lack of morals reigns supreme. If a day comes where the majority of readers respects the majority of authors as well as visa versa, then I’d happily come back and be a part of a dialogue that is currently nonexistent in today’s gaming culture.
To the few that joined in with me to talk above the bounds of “shoot him in the head,” thank you. You all have made the experience worthwhile. To those who tried to bring me down out of ignorance, My prayers are with you, because it will be the fools who destroy the world right along side evil. To the TBMAG staff, don’t hate me? Haha.
With that, peace and love interwebs. It’s been fun and don’t worry; I’ll still be checking the site and returning responses and I’ll still be gaming.
Flower, developed by ThatGameCompany (developers of Flow and Cloud), was released in February of this year on the PlayStation Network. Initially I was not interested in this game, as at first glance it appears to be little more than a screensaver. Ironically an idle screensaver of Flower is one of the things that I wish was included in the package.
First things first, the game is gorgeous. The flower petals, grass, and lighting effects are verdant, vibrant, and full of life. Blades of grass ripple in waves as the wind blows, and petals swirl majestically around and around. The music is top notch, gentle and unobtrusive, with a mild but nonetheless moving presentation. Soft guitars and other musical cues accompany your actions in a way that is both poignant, and subtle.
Gameplay is simple, yet features some of the best Sixaxis controls I have seen to date. The direction of the wind is controlled with sixaxis functionality, and holding any button increases the wind speed adding momentum to your slowly wafting petals. As the wind, you blow one petal into a flower, gathering more and more petals, in a beautiful elegant take on Katamari Damacy. Brushing against certain flowers will cause an area to eb revitalized and become greener, more lush, and more vibrant, as well as sprouting new flowers. Gameplay progresses through a handful of levels, and while more would certainly be nice, the story such as it fits nicely into the small framework.
The best part of Flower is the experience. There is a simple exhilarating thrill to be derived from this game, but at the same time, it can be very calm and relaxing. I will go into further detail, but bear in mind having the experience described will lessen the impact of experiencing it yourself. FOR ALL INTENTS AND PURPOSES CONSIDER THIS A SPOILER WARNING AND READ ON AT YOUR OWN RISK.
While the first levels deal with fairly open countryside, later levels introduce metal girders and electrical towers, culminating in a dark, thunderous, lightning filled level, where your cloud of petals can actually be singed by the electricity, which was surprising and due to my investment in the game at this point downright troubling. The final level begins in darkness, as you slowly move into a city, coming into contact with flowers and bringing life and color back to the area in an emotional rush the likes of which is rarely seen in video games. As the city springs back to life you encounter a giant tower built of girders and jutting metal pieces, and ascend it, knocking aside and clearing it away as you climb. While a simple concept, the scope of this whole level brought on a moment of near euphoria as the simple beauty of it all said more than could the most masterfully crafted dialogue.
END OF SPOILERS
Despite having only played this title recently, it has made my list of all time favorites. While its beauty may be lost on some people, for those receptive to it there is a tremendous experience in store. For those looking for something more traditional, there are trophies, as well as secret flowers scattered about each level. All in all my only real regret with Flower was that I waited until now to pick it up. While it may only loosely fit into preconceived notions of what a ‘game’ should be, the ride it takes you on is worth the 10 dollars, if not more. I highly recommend this title.
I enjoyed Judge Dredd. Yes, the film with Sylvester Stallone based on the comic book. I’m not claiming that it was the best film ever made or even that it was good. I just enjoyed it, alright? And I recommend that other people view it simply because it is entertaining. Tecmo Secret of the Stars is the Judge Dredd of videogames. You are probably thinking, “Isn’t the videogame ‘Judge Dredd’ the Judge Dredd of videogames?” Yes, I’ll review that later. What I mean is, Secret of the Stars is not that great a game. I am recommending it because it is an entertaining RPG for the Super Nintendo that was widely overlooked in the 1990’s.
First, let me tell you all the things that are wrong with this game so that somehow by the end of the article I can convince you to play it anyway. The game was released in 1995 and yet still features sound and graphics reminiscent of the NES. Battles are simplistic. Turn based confrontations consist of run-of-the-mill party members exchanging blows with run-of-the-mill enemies who rarely even have a special attack. There is no ‘run’ feature. Thus, you party moves across the ordinary landscape at a frustratingly slow pace. The story, or absence thereof, requires you to switch back and forth between two parties. This means you must perform twice the amount of leveling as usual, which is extremely time consuming. The entire thing was so poorly executed and received that Tecmo has yet to make another RPG since.
So why should you even bother? Secret of the Stars is a game to play when you aren’t feeling up to the challenge. A game meant for the days when you don’t care to think too much. The characters and storyline, while predictable and unmotivated, can be colorful and interesting. The battle system occurs from behind the protagonists, a perspective not widely used in other RPG’s of the time. The two party platform, while difficult to level up, creates some entertaining puzzles in which certain areas or paths are inaccessible without the skills of the other party (like Congress, but more fun). There is even a little town building sequence reminiscent of Sim City.
The story barely rates a paragraph. Homncruse and his evil minions are bent on conquering/destroying the entire planet for some reason. Ray and his band of Aqutallion Warriors must travel the globe with the help of their Kustera counterparts (the second party) in order to thwart the evil plot and save humanity. Again, this isn’t the stuff the great RPG’s are made of. It is the fast food fare that is not for everyday consumption, but can occasionally hit the spot.
The 90’s may be the most influential decade as far as RPG development. Yet, among that list of life-changing games you will not find Secret of the Stars. Haphazard development led Tecmo to release a game far below the par set by titles like Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger. Still, check this one out. I recommend emulation as the cartridge is rare and expensive. Also, you can speed up the frame rate so that walking and leveling are a bit more tolerable. As my boy Sly Stallone learned in a mediocre movie, sometimes we mustn’t ‘Judge’ too harshly.
I think it’s about time that I have my first special for this column. That’s right folks; I’m still alive after the M. Night ending of the last article in GYPLBS. Some of you may think that’s a good thing. Others may wish I burn in the flame wars that my articles seem to spark. Anyway, since I bested Metallic Jackie Chan, I’ll be doing a two-parter special edition of GYPLBS that I’m lovingly calling “Decisions and Morality: Who Controls Who?” This week will be devoted to the decisions that we’re told we’re making. Now, what recent game exemplifies this? That’s right Shepard, Mass Effect.
It’s already happening as you’re reading this. There are people leaving hate mail about how much of a *insert a string of expletives ending in a noun* I am for trashing one of their favorite games. Let me give a quick shout out to the Uncharted fanboys at N4G that have my last article removed no matter how much of a response it received. The fact of the matter is, yes, I am about to rag on another game that’s claimed another pinnacle, especially for X-Box 360. Seeing as I keep getting comments about it, let me say this right now:
I like Mass Effect. I have played it through completely twice and intend to again before the sequel is released. It is one of the better 360 games I have played. If you comment saying what an idiot I am for not liking this game, you hereby declare yourself a mindless sheeple fanboy that didn’t even take the time to glance at this article.
Hopefully, in time, I won’t have to put modifiers like that. Unfortunately, it seems that some of the readers are thinking that I hate every game in existence. Mass Effect is a great game; that doesn’t stop it from insulting the gamer’s intelligence. The designers over at BioWare got so much right when they were designing this game that the one thing they got wrong becomes a glaring embarrassment.
What made me fall in love with the game the most was the lack of morality in the game. Granted, there was Paragon and Renegade; however, these weren’t necessarily moral choices. Yes, sometimes Shepard would seem flat out evil when choosing Renegade, but not all of them were. It was about deciding whether or not the gamer wanted to follow inter-galactic laws or if he or she wanted to pave their own way. The gamer’s decisions were to affect the flow of the game a step above whether you were good or evil. In this way, BioWare became liars.
Let’s take one of the missions for example. So, my Shepard, a strange heavily bearded Asian looking fellow that somehow pulled the look off, went down to a planet with two alien buddies. Why two aliens? Because humans are boring. There they found a facility full of enemies… Cue lots of bullets and other people dying. Shepard and the two aliens make it to the back room; inside, one man holds a gun to a scientist’s head. Long story short, Shepard can keep both of them alive, have them both die, or kill the scientist himself and keep the armed man alive. Out of curiosity, I used the save features to do all three. Here are the admiral’s responses paraphrased:
1) “Good job, Shepard. The scientist will be put on trial and the guy will get the help he needs.”
2) “I heard what happened, Shepard. It’s disappointing that it had to go down that way.”
3) “You did what you felt was necessary, Shepard. I understand. I may have done the same in your shoes.”
So, I continued with each out of curiosity, as an experiment with Shepard in a way, which is ironic if you decided he or she was a “lone survivor” earlier in the game. Did Shepard get any additional quests through any of the choices? Did anyone react to Shepard any differently? Were certain areas locked or unlocked? No. None of them. All that happened was that the little meter in the character screen said Shepard was either more Paragon or more Renegade.
I can hear it now, “But Brandon! Wasn’t that just a side mission? Isn’t that a bad example?” No, it’s not a bad example when the whole game is geared like that. At every avenue, whether you choose Paragon or Renegade, the same things happen. It doesn’t matter if it’s during the main plot or if you’re on some random chunk of rock. The most you can actually decide with an effect is whether or not you want additional characters. Sure, you tell the council to basically go screw themselves, but you still go after the bad guy and the council still calls you with the same dialogue.
Like so many “decision-based” games, the only noticeable change is in the very final few minutes of the game. You have the choice of two to three endings depending on the choices you make at the end of the game. Very little of it is actually depending on how you’ve spent the last ten to twenty hours. You can go through the whole game helping everyone and just decide at the end to let basically everyone die. “But Brandon! What about the new dialogue options that open if you’re far enough to one side or another.” Okay, so you can talk down a situation or shoot everyone in the head; you still get basically the same things and the plot doesn’t deviate.
This is the obligatory wrongess of game companies these days. BioWare created a game and said, “Play through it and enjoy it; then you can play it again with completely different actions!” Yes, understand that there are different classes and that varies things up a bit, but the initial promise of “Your decisions affect the game,” is an outright lie. Rath
er than making well fleshed-out games at a decent rate, video game designers have become accustomed to designing games that are worthwhile the first time and then, compared to the lies told, waste the gamer’s time until the companies can produce another game the requires multiple play-throughs to hear every variant of dialogue. The idea of replayability due to amusement, power of plot, and intense game play has been replaced with the gimmick of “variable plots” that leave way too much to be desired.
So Mass Effect is a good game the first time, great even. Heck, just enjoying the game play through other classes is a great experience; however, we as gamers have been lied to and we need to stop accepting these broad promises spoon fed to us. As gamers who deserve to receive what is promised, Mass Effect is a game you probably like, but shouldn’t.