New Game: Folklore

Playing on: Playstation 3

Year: 2007

I haven’t posted in a little while but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been playing games and slowly chipping away at a few. The newest game I’ve picked up to play is Folklore on PS3.

Folklore was an early game for the PS3 and offers a very unique RPG experience….well sort of RPG experience. See despite so many sources calling Folklore an RPG I feel like it just barely qualifies. There are levels you gain with experience which does up your HP but that’s about all the RPG elements we get as far as mechanics go. The game actually has a a lot more in common with action/adventure games like Zelda really though since I qualify that game as a RPG…or RPG like I’ll pass Folklore as well if even on the flimsiest of qualifications.

Folklore is an action “RPG” (as stated will be using the term loosely here) that takes place in a small Irish town where you alternate between two characters, Ellen and Keats, who have the ability to enter the Netherworld and interact with the dead.  The game plays out almost like a sort of murder mystery where your characters are attempting to unravel mysterious deaths that took place 17 years ago. To achieve this end they collect information and “mementos” from townspeople and then at night they enter the spirit world where the battles take place.

Combat is a third person action oriented with a dash of Pokemon. you capture monsters by use of the PS3 Sixaxis motion controls and then use them as attacks in combat. The worlds that Keats and Ellen move through are more of less the same but with different dialog and some of the monsters and placement are different. Also monster attacks are subtlety different depending on who your playing as.

Is it just me or does Ellen always look like she is nodding in the cut screens?

As the story progresses you travel though different netherworld’s that have something to do with mankind’s different loose interpretations of death. The first is a fairy world while the second deals with war and the third is underwater and that’s as far as I’ve gotten thus far.

The worlds almost play out like dungeons and they typically have a mid boss and then a large end boss or “Folklore” to defeat. There are not different armor or weapons but each monster you capture has a different attack and elemental affinity. As you progress through the dungeons you find pieces of a fairytale book that has images that give clues to what attacks work on what creatures. I actually really like this aspect as well as the boss battles. For instance there is a giant eel creature at the end of the underwater stage which firt requires you use a specific attack to freeze its tail and then another to hack the tail off followed by figuring out what attacks will stun the head.

There are items in the game such as powders and seeds but I honestly have no idea what they do. I think they augment your monsters in some fashion but as yet I’ve had no reason to figure them out. As I said the RPG elements are extremely light in Folklore but there is XP acquired when you defeat a monster which very slowly levels you up. For instance I’m in the third netherworld and i’m only at about level 4 for Keats and level 3 for Ellen. Other then that there are side missions but none of them have been to interesting thus far.

The atmosphere of Folklore is very unique being a somewhat modern version of an isolated Irish village and the game looks great for an early PS3 game. That said i’m not really crazy about it and just kind of slogging it out till the end. Don’t get me wrong, the game isn’t bad by any means I just am not finding it to be my cup of tea. Hopefully things will catch my intrest a little better in the second half.

 

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New Game: Tales of Phantasia

Playing on: Playstation

Year: 1998 (ps1 release)

Ive really been hankering for a more traditional JRPG lately and I’m hoping Tales of Phantasia will hit the spot. Tales was originally a Japan exclusive Super Famicom release but received a also Japan exclusive Playstation release in 1998. This is the version I am playing via a modded Playstation one and a English fan patched game disc.

I am playing the Playstation version of the game instead of the original Super Famicom or later Game Boy Advance release as it is generally regarded as the definitive version of Tales. It expands and tweaks the content of the original while also giving a nice visual upgrade and not going so far that it feels like a different game

The only other game Ive played in the series so far is Tales of Destiny many years ago and I quite enjoyed that game. I also feel like the game plays very similar to the Star Ocean series and has the same feel.

The claim to fame of the Tales series is the side view real time combat system. It’s almost a updated version of the combat from Legend of Zelda II. Well, maybe that’s a bad analogy but basically you enter random battles just like many other RPGs of the era but instead of going to a traditional turn based mode you go into a 2d side action combat mode where you control you main character with the AI controlling your other party members. You can assign tactics to your other party members so you do have some control over what they do. This style of play was probably pretty unique on the Super Famicom original and it still works great in the playstation remaster here.

I’m only about 6 hours into my game play as I write this but so far I’m enjoying the game. besides the combat system the game is a fairly traditional JRPG thus far with a fantasy setting and a story line that of course revolves around an evil king trying to take over the world. It’s mixed up a little bit by some time travel but so far its pretty bog standard. I’m not really complaining though since so far it’s well done and as I said at the beginning of my post this is pretty much exactly what I’m looking for at the moment.

I’m not really far enough into the game as yet to see if there’s anything more to the main villain then just wanting to conquer the world but he does seem intent on draining all magic as this appears to be the only means of actually harming him. We have a standard game world as well with a traversable overworld and a spattering of towns which contain locations such as weapon/armor shops, inns and item shops. There is also a cooking dynamic to the game where you gather cooking ingredients and can cook certain recipes you learn to do things such as recover health.

The main character is predefined for you as they are in the bulk of console RPGs of the era and all you really do is give him a name (if you want to change it). The story does kick off pretty fast though as an unknown enemy raids your town while your away and your parents as well as your best friends sister and most of the townsfolk are slain. Revenge is sworn and your off to adventure and the unraveling of a larger plot.

Difficulty thus far is pretty fair with a few tough spots if your not properly equipped and leveled. So far I’ve only been completely wiped out once when I engaged a statue creature that I knew would end up attacking me but for whatever reason I neglected to use the save point just prior and had to do the dungeon over again as my last save was just outside the entrance.

My first impressions of Tales of Phantasia are quite good and I look forward to playing through the rest of the game and reporting if the game holds up throughout. Even if the story and world thus far feel very traditional the battle system really helps the game stand out thus far and I have a feeling that the story is going to have some twists and turns as it goes on. I’ve also never played the SF original but i’m really digging this Playstation version as it really still  feels like a SNES game with some mildly souped up visual effects and CD quality sound.

RPG 162 BEATEN: Valkyria Chronicles

Playing on: Playstation 3

Year: 2008

Well, another game down that I once half finished but gave up on. Was this one worth it? I’d say so. Though I can’t say it is among my favorite tactical RPG’s I did quite enjoy it and It certainly was pretty unique to the genre.

I’ll start this time with the good. First off I really did enjoy the atmosphere and game world even if it did parallel a little to close to WWII. The moden(ish) era isn’t one you see to often in Tactical RPG games and it worked very well for the game. The enemy was also appropriately ominous as the heavily German influenced “Empire” with a healthy dash of Soviet era Russians and even though they seemed more of a monarchist state I couldn’t help laughingly thinking of the Commie-Nazis from the Simpsons.

Speaking of the enemies I feel main villains were done well and each general seemed to have a certain motivation without being to over the top. Certain cutscreens even humanized the enemies soldiers bringing a greater sense of realism to the game.

I do have to commend the game though as it does a pretty decent job of developing the world and characters through cutscreens and various readable materials in game that you can read.

The game also features permanent character death which isn’t something you see all that often anymore outside of tactical RPG’s like the Fire Emblem. Its is a little hard to happen though as a character must lose all HP in a battle and then either lay unattended for a certain amount of time or be touched by an enemy who admittedly are a little brain dead on the matter and frequently run right pass downed characters. Thankfully you have a pretty large pool of characters you can dip into to replace fallen comrades and as I said if your careful death won’t come very often.

Missions types aren’t terribly varied but I really never found myself getting bored to any degree. I also liked the idea of getting access to new weaponry as the war progressed and you as you leveled classes such as rocket propelled grenades becoming available for scouts at level 10. There are also some nice details such as your tank getting visual upgrades

The game certainly was not without its faults though. One issue that really bothered me was the delay a character had when moving into position and attacking. See once you selected a character you can move them across the map and of course attack. during this phase if you crossed the field of fire of any enemies they can take shots at you, this also works the other way around as on the enemies phase and believe me, many a brain dead enemy AI ran headlong into my positions to their death. The issue I had was the seeming delay my AI soldiers had in firing at enemies where the enemy had almost none and at any given time running across a map the enemy would get in a lot more accurate pot shots at my soldiers then I could at theirs.

This issue also occurred after halting movement and setting hitting the attack button which basically freezes the game and allows you to choose your weapon and target you attack. between stopping and then entering this targeting mode there is a delay though and if your in front of an enemy during this delay they are able to continue firing at you getting in several cheap shots. When things are the opposite though it seems that there is almost no delay and the enemies immediately enter targeting mode.

My only other minor complaint is the field of view which seemed random at times. sometimes it felt just right but other times it seemed like enemies would skirt past well placed positions without being seen and fired upon even if they seemed pretty obviously within the field of view. This can get pretty annoying as you can lose a match if your base is captured.

Overall I liked this game and it kept me interesting. The water colored art style was very pleasant and all the main characters seemed to get some decent development. Sure elements of the story were pretty cliche such as the “triumph of the power of love” but the WWII(ish) setting kept things fresh compared to most RPG’s being a medieval or magic heavy setting.

The Grade

Game World – B

Controls – D+

Game play – B-

Plot – C+

Graphics/Sound – B+

Protagonist (Main Character) – B

NPC’s, Antagonist (main villain) – B-

Weapons/armor/items/magic – C+

Enemies – C+

Stability – N/A

Overall – B- (87)

Personnel Rating – B

New Game: Darkest Dungeon

Playing on: Steam, Windows 10 PC (2.5ghz Core2quad, HD 6450, 4GB DDR2)

Year: 2016 (crimson court 2017)

In a world of modern RPGs (and games in general) that tend to hand hold and present no challenges or consequences for death Darkest Dungeon is a breath of fresh air and that fresh air is filled with permanent character death, tactical thinking and dungeon runs filled with tension.

Darkest dungeon is a very atmospheric side scrolling dungeon crawler with a heavy Lovecraft influence which lends itself perfectly to the game.

To summarize the story your family estate and the surrounding town/country side has fallen into massive disrepair after your family member who lived in the hilltop manor house “delved to deep” into the occult unleashing unnamed horrors that now prowl the estate and surrounding lands. After his apparent insanity and suicide you play as a relative come to reclaim the manor and right the wrongs of your family all the while learning the story of your relatives decent into madness.

You don’t actually dungeon delve as this family member but the premise is your basically hiring and equipping these adventurers that you then send into the manor and grounds around it. you acquire these adventurers from the stagecoach which is an upgradable area of the town. Part of the game is about upgrading various buildings in town such as the church, sanitarium, smithy and bar buy using various things found on dungeon runs. upgrading the various structures results in things such as better equipment, lower prices for various services, ect depending on the building being upgraded.

after you put together a group of four adventures from a variety of classes such as highwaymen (thieves with guns), crusaders (fighters/paladins) and vestals (healers) you choose from a selection of tasks such as exploring 90% of the map, defeating a boss or recovering three holy relics from various parts of the manor or surrounding area. your individual party members also come with a variety of negative and positive traits and can gain more of either type during dungeon runs. After this you equip you party with supplies such as torches and food and then set off.

Exploration is done via a side view with battles, quest objects and items being randomly placed within the dungeon which consists of “rooms” linked by “halls”. Battles also take place in a the same side view and are turn based.

When I said that the games difficulty was a breath of fresh air I meant that this game when compared to many of its contemporaries is hard. Not Wizardry level hard but you can see the influences from said game. Character deaths are permanent (with rare exceptions) and surviving a dungeon run can entirely depend on luck sometimes, oh and the game saves constantly so no loading an older save to get back a favorite character that may of bit the dust. Being a veteran of older much harder games I haven’t found the game as unforgiving as some but comparatively to something like Diablo III which I completed recently it is absolutely brutal.

One of the main pulls the game has going for it is it’s Lovecraft inspired atmosphere which deals with unseen Eldritch horrors and elements such as insanity. As your adventurers progress through a dungeon run they accumulate stress which is basically a stand in for insanity points. Stress is accumulated by things such as taking critical hits, finding disturbing material or even just walking through the dungeon when your torch is to low. It feels like a lot to handle at first but I quickly got the hang of it and have become fairly good at managing stress levels. high stress can lead to conditions such as paranoia or irrational behavior where characters will make actions outside of your control and on rarer occasions can lead to a positive condition. To much accumulated stress can even lead to death via a heart attack.

After either retreating or completing a dungeon run characters stress levels can be lowered through placing stressed characters at a bar to drink or gamble or at a church to pray among other available selections. negative traits can even be removed via the sanitarium but all for a price of course and those characters become unavailable for your next dungeon run.

So far I’m really enjoying this game  for the atmosphere and challenge and look forward to restoring honor to the disgraced family name.

 

Introduction of the Simplified Games Ranking Chart

One thing that’s bothered me since starting this blog is my games ranking system. I tried to differentiate it a little by using a letter grading system among other things in an attempt to make it different from some “other blogs” that cover this same material. In doing so I think I made it a little over complicated especially with adding the + and – system giving a game a 1-15 potential score in each of the 9 categories giving a somewhat awkward total of 9-135 total points which then equate to a latter grade.  It’s a bit late for me to go back and revise this so it’s going to stay the same.

One thing that has always really annoyed me though is when a game gains a high score relative to my personnel opinion. This has happened a few times, namely Fable III and more recently Diablo III where the games received a relatively good score due to positive aspects but personally I maybe just didn’t like the game at all. It’s kind of like having a very well regarded movie that everyone loves and that is maybe well shot and expertly acted but for whatever reason you really didn’t enjoy watching it.

My new Simplified Games Ranking chart corrects this issue and works along side my standard chart. This chart will simply give each game an A, B, C, D or F letter grade based solely off my personnel feeling of the game and emotional enjoyment I derived from it.

A – Loved the game
B – Really enjoyed the game
C – Had an okay time playing the game
D – Didn’t really enjoy the game
F – Hated the game

The link to this new chart can be found Here

as well as from a link on the standard games ranking page.

RPG 161 Beaten: Diablo III

Playing on : Windows 10 PC (AMD fx-8350, GTX 970 FTW, 12GB DDR3)

Year: 2012 (Reaper of Souls 2014) (Rise of the Necromancer 2017)

And thus the latest Diablo and it’s expansions fall before me. Where to begin with this one. In all honesty I feel like I should of replayed Diablo and Diablo II before tackling this game since it would of greatly assisted me in determining what was simply feelings nostalgia and what was not when comparing this game to others in the series.

I guess I’ll talk about what I liked first off. First off and I guess this doesn’t technically count but I’m really happy they didn’t go with the cartoonish “World of Warcraft” art style the game was said to be originally made in though it would of matched a few aspects of the game which I’ll talk about shortly. As for the art style they did go with I think it looks really good for what Diablo is and it feels like a natural progression from the earlier games. Its obviously newer and better looking but it sticks with a similar realistic look of Diablo I and II.

The game world itself is pretty expansive. I don’t remember exactly how much world traveling you did in Diablo II (it’s been over a decade since I beat that game) but in Diablo III and its expansion you get to visit a variety of areas, some which are quite beautiful to behold. From New Tristrim to the deserts and to the frozen battlefields you get to see possibly more of the world of Diablo then ever before. This game more then the others (if I recall correctly)  delves into the lore of Diablo and shows us more of the demons and angels that play such a significant role in events. The game even eventually takes you to battle in the high heavens and a final showdown with a reborn and more powerful Diablo, the games namesake and end boss of the original game.

The game also did a great job of bringing back characters and concluding the story of the trilogy (while allowing future games of course). It was especially nice to see old Deckard Cain back, if only for a brief time, and his iconic voice beckoning me to “stay awhile and listen”.  The story in my opinion is the highlight of the game and overall its pretty well done and even throws in some twists. As the game progresses not only do you unravel the story as it goes on but there are many tombs in the various dungeons that reveal much of the games overall backstory from the madness of the king in Tristrim to the affairs of the demons and angels.

Another positive is the expansion, Reaper of Souls, which I feel is a very worth expansion adding a significantly beefy act as well as compelling villain. The Demon lords such as Diablo are evil simply because they are evil but the angel of death in Reaper of Souls has more complex motives and was once the wisest of all the angels making him a much more interesting villain.

Controls and the interface are basically like the first two games in the series with 2 globes to represent your life and mana pool as well as the traditional grid inventory with limited space. I played as the Necromancer, my favorite class from Diablo II so most of my battling was done by my minions as I stood back and threw spells. There were a few times where the amount of enemies on screen was pretty high and you could tend to get dog piled but this didn’t happen often if your careful.

One of the big pools of Diablo has always been collecting the loot and the excitement of what will drop from defeating enemies and especially bosses but the thing is I didn’t feel the same rush as I did in Diablo I and II. Somehow the items in Diablo III just felt really….generic. Now to be fair maybe I’m the problem and not the game, maybe my tastes have just changed but I distinctly remember getting excited about the variety of drops that occurred in Diablo and Diablo II and taking time to maximize states and match armor sets. In Diablo III I just wasn’t feeling any of it. Maybe this is the fault of the lack of challenge which I’ll tackle in a moment but loot drops just weren’t satisfying to me as they used to be.

Gold and potions I also found pretty useless and I pretty much never used either throughout the entire game.

And now for what I disliked most about Diablo III, the difficulty.  As I mentioned earlier it’s been a very long time since I played the first two Diablo games but I do remember a challenge, I remember fear when encountering Diablo and I remember making good use of my potions. Diablo II is without a doubt and without mincing words, an absolute cakewalk. I was so shocked at how easy the game was I went online and did some googling because I couldn’t believe the game was without this much challenge. So I went back and restarted the game on the hardest difficulty available (I’ll get to this) but it was hardly any more of a challenge. I’m not a big fan of RPG’s with variable difficulty levels in the first place and would prefer a standard experience more hand crafted by the developer but regardless I set my difficulty to what I believe was called “expert” and started anew. The first 30 minutes or so actually felt a little closer to the challenge I remember from the previous games but as soon as I started gaining levels and spells things quickly became unbelievably easy again.

Maybe The Necromancer class is overpowered with its spawnable minions but every victory I achieved in the game felt hallow and unearned. Even death held very little penalty as the two or three times I died during the entire game only meant my weapon and item durability dropped a little and just required a quick visit to the blacksmith a few gold to fix of which I had acquired tons of gold. You even get the option to simply respawn right where you died if you want.

Okay, to be fair you do get higher difficulty options open up to you once you reach level 60 but come on. you basically have to beat the game before you are allowed to set it to any kind of challenge level. So you either have to restart on “master” level or forge on and perhaps set it to “torment” or “torment II”. even with the higher difficulty settings it just feels like it makes the game just more tedious rather then challenging.

The second issue that many people have brought up is the “always online” aspect. Diablo III requires the player to connect to a server to play even when playing single player. Now I’m not for this sort of thing at all and I can’t help wonder what will happen when those servers go down even if it takes a long while for this to happen. Even though in theory I really dislike this I have to admit it never hindered my game experience. I never had any issues connecting to the servers and it never slowed the game down. The only time it had any effect was when I left the game up and took a break only to come back and find my game disconnected due to inactivity and I lost some progress….not something that crossed my mind would happen for a single player RPG.

I didn’t hate Diablo III but beating it felt like an empty victory. RPG games by there nature aren’t as challenging as say a platformer that takes skill. In an RPG you can usually just spend some time grinding XP and leveling until your strong enough if you can’t get by a point but even that grants a sense of accomplishment by putting in some sort of effort to pass a point. Diablo III really offers no challenge. Adding the master difficulty setting from the start probably would of gone a long way to fixing that problem. The scenery was nice and the story was pretty good but it was my least favorite of the trilogy. Deckard Cain you will be missed.

The Grade

Game World – B

Controls – B-

Game play – D-

Plot – B+

Graphics/Sound – B+

Protagonist (Main Character) – C

NPC’s, Antagonist (main villain) – B

Weapons/armor/items/magic – B-

Enemies – C+

Stability – B

Overall – B- (87)

Personnel Rating – D

New Game: Valkyria Chronicles

Playing on: Playstation 3

Year: 2008

Valkyria Chronicles is a very highly regarded tactical RPG that came out fairly early in the PS3s life. I remember it was also one of the first games I picked up for the PS3 when I finally had enough money to buy one though I didn’t get around to playing it until a bit later. Oddly enough my first time around playing the game back in 2009 or 2010 The game didn’t really click with me. I liked it but it just didn’t spark that feeling in me that drove me to keep at it and progress. Since then I’ve lost that PS3 that I originally played the game on and with it my save so this time around I’m pretty determined to complete things.

As I said the game is a tactical RPG set in a time and world very much like our Would War II period. When I say very much I mean almost exactly with slight differences. The world is basically Europe and they even call it Europa with political lines drawn up very much like during the cold war. The enemy is a strange mix of the Soviets and the Germans and call themselves the Empire and they are at war with the Atlantic Federation (NATO/Allies) though you play characters from a neutral small (baltic) nation that comes under attack. There is even a first great war that is heavily referenced. Technology is largely in line with our world war period except instead of oil used to power everything the world of Valkyria Chronicles uses a oar called Ragnite. There is also a lack of aircraft development in this world and airplanes are seen as prototype machines. To top it off there is even a oppressed group of peoples that are commonly seen as second class citizens and that the Empire uses as forced labor. There are some mystical elements though such as a magical shield and lance the Empire obtains that gives one extreme powers.

The art style and way Valkyria Chronicles plays is very unique and is presented as chapters in a book which consist of short cut screens that tell the story and then battles where the tactical combat takes place. The art style is sort of a water painting type imagery and I haven’t seen many, if any games presented this way. Its not quite cell shading art but very similar. I’m playing this game on a Plasma and the image really pops.

your squad is made of of members you choose of various classes (snipers, scout, assault, anti-tank, ect) and yourself. There is usually some set objective which your tasked to complete. On your turn you have a certain amount of command points that you can use to issue orders or most likely select units to move and attack.

Besides the setting it’s very much like a traditional tactical RPG since your characters have various statistics such as HP, accuracy and armor and rifles and machine guns replace swords and bows. once a unit is selected to move you have mostly free reign to move around as your stamina meter allows (this amount varies with class) though enemies within distance can fire on you as you move. Once your in position you choose your target and weapon and attack. After attacking you can continue to move as long as you still have stamina and you you can re select characters to attack again as long as you have the command points.

There’s a hefty amount of characters you can pick for your squad and they all have basic personalities and traits although there is a main cast that gets more cut screen time and character development.

After every battle you get a grade and you get experience points and gold accordingly. you can use XP at the training grounds and you level your characters by class. For example if I put enough experience into my scout class all scouts go up a level and thier states increase accordingly.

So far I feel like I’ve had a lot more fun this time around then originally but i’m really not sure why that is. As of this post I’m on chapter 9 and although the game starts out reletivly easy starting at chapter 7 things are seeming to get pretty tough. Two stages stand out to me in difficulty. The first being the battle of chapter 7 where your squad faces off in a pretty long battle against a super tank and a later a super powered enemy and if your not leveled up or pick the right squad this is a very tough fight.

The second mission that drove me insane is a sort of escort/sneaking mission where you and your sargent get separated from the squad and you have to navigate through an enemy filled and mined forest. One part in particular half way through where I had to get past a few powerful enemies drove me to want to scream since if either of your characters die you have to replay the mission over. Admittedly it only takes about 7 or 10 minutes to get back to the point but after doing the first part of the mission over and over it gets really old fast.

I have a few other issues with the game but I’ll save them for the beaten post. Thus far its a pretty fun game and I haven’t played a tactical RPG in awhile or any RPG on my PS3 so it’s a nice change of pace for me.

I’m on the final stretch for Diablo 3 so expect that post soon as well as my initial thoughts on the indy game Darkest Dungeon which is a modern indi dungeon crawler that channels the difficulty style of the old Wizardry game…of which I really need to get back to Wizardry 1.

RPG 160 Beaten: Loren the Amazon Princess

Playing on: Steam, Windows 10 PC (2.5ghz Core2quad, HD 6450, 4GB DDR2)

Year: 2012 (The Castle Of N’mar 2012)

The party roster

After completing Loren the Amazon Princess, lets call it LAP for the duration, I maintain that this was a really enjoyable laid back RPG experience for me. I can also report that despite being related to the “visual novel” genre it never went into full blown hentai territory but I’ll talk about that momentarily.

LAP focuses fairly heavily on building a game world and characters and I think in this respect it does well with the visual novel style helping. The world itself isn’t anything new as far as fantasy goes, as a matter of fact its pretty standard with your human empire, nature loving elves, dwarves that love to mine and the exiled dark elves. The most original faction is actually the amazons who well…aren’t very original in fantasy but compared to dwarves and elves don’t take center stage so much.

Despite the pretty stock fantasy world the game does do a decent job of introducing the factions and it was fun to playing out the initial chapters which see you ending a war between the elves and humans and uniting the nations against the coming demons. The story itself is pretty standard fair but there  is  some minor branching story lines where depending on what you do you initially end up in a more human or elf centric beginning. There are also a few other branching story paths in the game as well as the option to take personnel quests from party members. None of it effects the end result much but its cool that its there.

All controls were done with the mouse and it all worked pretty well. When its your characters turn you just pick a spell or attack and then click your target. I can’t really think of any glaring issues that poped up during my playthrough. There were even a couple cool sections where the combat and controls were switched up such as at the end where your leading an army to face the final baddy. you face multiple encounters but have the possibility to skip them by sending an element of your army forward which has a set percentage chance of winning or losing. One really nice ability is to save anywhere in the game you want so its good to play say on a laptop during breaks at work.

As is the case with many of these modern indy games I guess my biggest complaint would be the difficulty level. The game was pretty easy and very rarely did I find myself having to grind in the fairly limited fashion the game allows to be able to progress. I wouldn’t call it laughably easy and if you mess up or get unlucky you can die but it seemed very unlikely. This wasnt an epic 45 hour Square RPG but for what it was the length actually felt pretty good to me.

Judging sound and visuals is a little tricky since obviously this isn’t a triple A 3d RPG game or even a retro style 8 bit affair so its not fair to judge them against current games of that nature just as it’s not fair to judge the visuals of a 1985 CRPG against Fallout 3. In general the art is passable to mediocre. There was no point that stood out as looking great but also nothing that was drawn to horribly though during the erotic scene with the druid (I’ll get to it) the art seemed obviously of lesser quality from earlier images of her. Music was fine and even a little catchy but nothing to epic.

Interacting with fellow party members really does shine and I actually enjoyed learning about the members of my party via cutscreens that happen throughout the game and from talking to party members while in camp. The roster of potential members is pretty varied and I felt like everyone was well developed, likable and interesting to learn about. I feel this was one of the real strengths of the game and possibly of the visual novel RPG style. Most of your party members felt like they really had thier own motivations and personalities. Of course I have to talk about the romancing which in itself is nothing new in RPG’s but visual novel style games have a reputation for being especially pervy. You arn’t required to romance anyone and you can avoid it by simply never selecting the “romance” option in conversation but it does add a good deal of depth and story to the game. Overall I think the romancing is done well and feels pretty natural and different depending on who you romance. You do get a “special” naughty scene for whomever you end up romancing before the big finale but it doesn’t necessarily contain any nudity or explicit content. depending on who you romance the erotic scene is anywhere from PG-13 to R but nothing at hardcore hentai level as I said earlier. Keep in mind there is a option to turn explicit content off.

The roster of characters is pretty large though I found myself just using a few select characters throughout the game. Even when ignoring certain characters they still get XP at certain points in the game so none of my party fell to far behind the others which is good because there were parts that require you to use almost all your characters.

The game did feel like it focused a lot more on developing the players own party then it did the enemy characters. The big bad evil is a animated undead suit of armor called a “Death Knight” whom is amassing a demon army to overrun the world. Its not terribly original and there’s nothing that makes him stand out among the endless parade of other fantasy world dominating villains. His second in commands are a bit more interesting being a goblin shaman and a succubus but they don’t get an awful lot of screen time. The expansion adds a few more characters including a death knight that may be an ally. I don’t know because I decided to just kill him just to be safe though your actions with dealing with this death knight do effect the ending. Enemies were your basic stock goblins, giant insects, demons and lizard men. Nothing to original but at least there was a decent selection of enemies.

There are a few towns that you can mostly visit at any point after initially finding them and they all have weapons and armor shops with varied good. Although there is a pretty decent selection of items and armor I didn’t really find my selections effecting my character that much. They do give stat boosts but usually its just 2 or 3 points and not much to get excited about. Magic is acquired by using skill points as you level for those characters able to use it but I found most of the spells to be more or less identical but just having a different elemental affinity.

I liked this game for what it was. It felt like a new experience since there aren’t many RPG’s I know of in this particular sub genre. One of the big strengths as I said was the characters and I really enjoyed getting to know the cast and their motivations. Watching the titular amazon princess grow from being a sheltered close minded leader into someone leading a multinational force while questioning the practices of her own society was interesting and well done for this kind of game. The villains were mostly throw away and the world was pretty typical but I did find the amazons and how the game delved into their culture interesting. This is certainly not a triple A title but if you adjust your expectations and don’t mind reading you should find playing LAP pretty satisfying.

The Grade

Game World – C+

Controls – C+

Game play – C+

Plot – D

Graphics/Sound – C-

Protagonist (Main Characters) – A-

NPC’s, Antagonist (main villain) – D

Weapons/armor/items/magic – C

Enemies – C

Overall – C+ (73)

Personnel Rating – B

RPG 159 Beaten: Light Crusader

Playing on: Genesis

Year: 1995

In goblin disguise

I have to say after initially reading so many negative reviews on this game I thought it was going to be really bad but aside from the controls which I touched on in part one its really a pretty fun game with some interesting points. I certainly can see how the controls can turn some people off and its easily the worst aspect of Light Crusader but once you get used to them its not unmanageable.

The game world of Light Crusader was fairly limited in the same vain as other Genesis RPG’s like Shining in the Darkness as the world consisted of one town and a dungeon. In this case it was a eight level dungeon. In my first post on this game I commented that the town stays pretty static throughout. This isn’t true, as I progressed further dialog of townspeople as well as other characters I rescued below appeared in town adding a bit of life to the world.

The dungeon itself was also an interesting place as a few levels seemed to mix things up with sections like a goblin town where you could actually wear a disguise and interact with the goblin townspeople and a level that featured a crystal that you had to enter and be teleported to several mini dungeons that took place in different time periods. This was pretty unexpected. I know some people don’t like to mix their fantasy and sci-fi but I do at times enjoy the mash-ups and the different mini dungeons were a nice change. They varied from a wild west setting to ancient Japan motif to a futuristic world and of course the time traveling staple of the World War II setting which, I kid you not, ends in one of the tougher fights with a boss fight with a German panzer tank.

As I mentioned before the isometric view of the game makes certain platforming sections of the game unnecessarily tedious and the poor and limited combat can be a bit of a chore but the fact that the game is more or less very easy with health refilling food being everywhere really mitigates the challenge.

There were some other issues with the overall interface I noticed. For one I couldn’t seem to find a way to drop items. This can be an issue when you get a large amount of something relatively useless, for me it was water that acts as a antidote. I know you can potentially sell items at a few areas but I could find no way to drop items and you cant use items if you can’t utilize them. For example I couldn’t use a water to get rid of it if I wasn’t poisoned. Of course this information may be in the manual which I didn’t check to be honest but even so it shouldn’t be so user unfriendly to just drop an item.

the game itself was a tad on the easy side overall with none of the bosses with the exception of maybe one or two being a real challenge. Even the final boss was a huge pushover. It was also a bit shorter then I expected with only about eight levels if I’m remembering correctly and I think this game could be beaten in only a few sittings if you really try at it. There is one Boss near the end that requires you see and hit his shadow which I guess could be a challenge since it took me a minute to notice the hardly visible shadow. There are plenty of puzzles but there all pretty simple with trial and error.

There aren’t any crazy plot twists unless you count the main bad guy wizard resurrecting a demon as the final boss a twist. Speaking of both the head wizard and the big bad demon not much information is given on either and just the skeleton of a backstory about how the wizard wants revenge on the king for dismissing him or something a rather. Same story with the hero as hes just given the barest of stories with “hero knight rides into town”. It’s a simple game though so it doesn’t really effect things that much.

  Outrageous!

On the visual and audio level I felt the audio was okay. I’m not a big audiophile so tunes rarely stand out to me but The tracks seemed to fit the mood of the game. Visuals were certainly interesting and you could tell Treasure was attempting to use various graphical tricks to spice up the visuals. Several of the enemies were created with what looked like polygons or spheres to give a 3D look that was fairly unique on the system. Similar effects were also used on several objects in the environment.

equipable weapons and armor are a bit on the anemic side with only a handful of swords and armor of increasing strength but on the other hand there are many different food and items to restore health a magic system that is pretty interesting.

For magic you have four different types which can be gathered up to 100 points and drop just like items from enemies. using the spell takes a certain number of points. Spells can be mixed and matched to have different effects. Its a pretty uncommon magic system and it has potential but I found myself rarely having to use it throughout the game and when I did use the magic it was mainly the heal spell. Only in one spot of the game are you really required to use a certain spell and even then if you have a certain sword you don’t have to use it.

Enemies throughout the game were pretty varied and well done ranging from goblins, zombies, worms and dragons all the way to cowboys, ninjas and (what appeared to be) WWII German soldiers. Bosses were also fairly varied and interesting. None of them were much of a challenge but they were varied and fairly well drawn.

I ended up really liking Light Crusader despite the bad reviews. My two biggest complaints would be the fairly low difficulty and pretty poor controls and interfaces. The puzzles I felt were dead on as they made you think but none were crushingly difficult. The size of the dungeon floors and overall length of the game felt right as well. The game didn’t seem to overstay its welcome and dungeon levels weren’t maze like to the point I wanted to throw in the towel. I can see why this isn’t a game for everyone but Don’t let bad reviews deter you from giving it a chance.

The Grade

Game World – C-

Controls – D

Game play – C+

Plot – D+

Graphics/Sound – B

Protagonist (Main Character) – C-

NPC’s, Antagonist (main villain) – D+

Weapons/armor/items/magic – C+

Enemies – B-

Overall – C (70)

Personnel Rating – C

 

 

 

New Game: Loren the Amazon Princess

Playing on:  Steam, Windows 10 PC (2.5ghz Core2quad, HD 6450, 4GB DDR2)

Year: 2012 (The Castle Of N’mar 2012)

The visual novel genre has never been to popular in the United States or anywhere outside of Japan as far as I can recall. Visual novels usually play out like a sort of choose your own adventure book in digital form and can potentially have very well crafted stories but little in the way of interaction besides making static decisions and then watching the results. Loren the Amazon Princess though is the first Visual novel RPG game I’ve ever played and I have to say I love it.

Loren the Amazon Princess, I’ll just refer to it as LAP from this point on blends the excellent story telling and beautiful (if you have a good artist) 2D art of a visual novel with the turn based combat of and RPG as well as a few other staples of the genre such as leveling and equipment customization to create a new sub genre that at least I have never experienced before.

The story in a nutshell is pretty basic with a resurrected demon threating the world but is well done none the less. There is a subplot dealing with a changing point of view one of the main characters, an amazon from a female dominated society and her male servant (at least in my story). As the story goes on this amazon princess begins to have possible feelings for the male and in turn questions her whole view of amazon society. This story may change though as upon starting a new game you get to choose between playing as the male slave or a female elf slave.

Which in turn leads me to bring up the romance subplots. Yes, this is one of those games but you would be wrong to label  LAP as a glorified dating sim or some kind of hentai game because those it is not. The game does have an option to give characters more risqué looks with more revealing clothing but there’s no nudity or explicit sex scenes (at least not yet in my playthrough). There also seems to be a great deal of choice in your romancing as most characters seem to be able to be romanced regardless of gender. You can disregard the romancing all together if you want though and although I would say it does make the storyline more interesting if its not your thing it can be largely disregarded.

Travel across the game world is done by fixed points on the map which are accessible or become inaccessible as the game progresses. generally you can return to previous areas if you want to. Like many RPG’s towns can be used as places to buy equipment or engage in “tasks” which are basically battles for money and XP if you feel like grinding. You can also encounter enemies outside of fixed battles as random encounters when traveling between areas.

Battles are conducted in a turn based fashion with spots for up to six party members on the bottom half of the screen and up to six enemies occupying the upper half with front and back rows. attacking on your characters turn is as easy as selecting an enemy and either doing a melee, ranged, magic or special movie attack though as expected characters in the rear cannot do melee attacks or special attacks with melee weapons.

Initially the story is just about Loren the amazon princess leaving her sheltered life to find her lost mother the queen ad her interactions with the male dominated human society as well as the elves but quickly revolves around the resurrection of a demon lord who predictably plans to take over the world and at first puts into a motion to scheme to set the human and elven nations at war with one another. The plot on the surface seems pretty cliché but it actually feels surprisingly fresh as you go around and attempt to end the war and bring the two nations together.

There are many times in dialog where your character (either the human male slave or the elf female slave) must make a decision by a selection of multiple choice or respond to the various party members you pick up along the way by either a joking, friendly or forceful response (or sometimes romantic).

So far I really like the game. The story and world though a bit cliché are still fun and it’s interesting seeing the Amazon character Loren adjust to the idea of men being possible equals. I also like the laid back pace of the game as well as the competently done artwork.

My biggest complaint so far is the low difficulty level but this is a common issue with modern RPG’s. I don’t want an impossible difficulty level but a challenge would be nice now and then in a newer RPG without having to turn to the Soul’s franchise which kind of overdoes it sometimes.

I’m eager to see how the rest of the game turns out and hopefully will see more games in this visual novel RGP sub genre in the future.