Archive for the ‘Playstation’ Category

PaRappa the Rapper

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

PaRappa is a two-dimensional dog-like thing in a three-dimensional world with a problem. He’s got a date with some two-dimensional flower-thing. But he doesn’t have any money. Or a car. Or a cake. So what does he do? He sings a lot of songs of course!

Now it wouldn’t make a lot of sense for him to just belt out a song and get a driver’s license or whatever. What he has to do is find a teacher who sings a song to him in little snippets that he has sing back to them with style and panache. Doing that will somehow give him the skills to cut in line to use a port-a-potty, along with the other nearly insane tasks you have to make him do.

I guess the ridiculous story kind of makes sense in its own universe, but that doesn’t really make much less insane.

I’ll admit, though, that I was pretty awful at this game. Mostly because I only played the store demo and then played it one time on my sister’s PlayStation. I’ll attribute the fact that I was pretty awful to my lack of familiarity with the PlayStation buttons. The controller sure felt like a Super NES controller, and I was real familiar with those, but the PlayStation controller is not a Super NES controller. Instead of A, B, X, and Y, we get a circle, a cross, a square, and a triangle. And I never could remember which ones were where. So after I failed spectacularly at the first couple of stages, I just decided to let my sister play through the game while I watched.

Which is way less creepy than I just made it sound.

Final Fantasy VIII

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

If there’s one good thing about the games in the Final Fantasy series it’s that even though there are 12ish games in the series, you generally don’t have to have played the previous installments to enjoy them. Each game is its own self-contained story, with some similarities thrown in so that you know it’s still Final Fantasy. So even if you, like me, couldn’t wrap your head completely around Final Fantasy VII you don’t need to do so to play VIII.

The story in this game is also quite convoluted and confusing, and I know I’m going to misremember and misinterpret some of it, but here’s what I can recall: You start out with Squall who’s a pointlessly rebellious guy in a military academy. He’s eventually sent, along with some of his classmates, on a mission to assassinate the ’sorceress’. The Sorceress is the latest in a line of sorceresses that have ill-defined magical powers and pass them down to some random girl every generation. The ragtag group of people, it happens, are all orphans that grew up together, at an orphanage run by what would become the current sorceress (and whose husband is headmaster of one of the military academies), but they don’t remember any of this because they have amnesia. Amnesia brought on by using powerful summoned creatures known as Guardian Forces. So the assassination attempt fails and two things happen: Squall’s new girlfriend becomes the new sorceress and a sorceress at some point in the future decides to do something called ‘time compression’ that makes all moments in time happen simultaneously. Oh, and there’s a side plot involving some guy whose daughter has the ability to send minds back in time to experience things, and things you do while in the past will influence the future.

Got all that?

Gameplay wise, it’s a lot like other Final Fantasy games. You run around fighting bizarre monsters while working your way to the next plot point. Where it differs is in how it handles stats.

Role Playing games are all about stats. Your stats determine your worth. Health Points dictate how much damage you can take before you die, Strength determines how hard you can hit, and so on. Typically, in a Final Fantasy game, you also have Magic Points. Each spell you have costs a certain amount of points to cast, and these come out of your pool. In this game, the developers have dispensed with this system in favor of the junction system. To gain magic spells in this game, you have to ‘draw’ them out of your enemies or from random points throughout the world. You then attach to your various stats for boosts. You are then immediately faced with a conundrum. The magic spells are typically some of your best attack and support avenues, and if you use the ones you have you decrease your stats. And an RPG character with sub-par stats is a pretty lame character.

The other problem has to do with the Guardian Force creatures. You use these creatures for extremely powerful attacks, but the attacks take a long time to play out. I fully understand that every time you do the attack that it always plays out to do the damage, but I would have loved the ability to skip them, especially when I got the longer ones.

Sure, they look cool the first couple dozen times you see them, but after seeing the same Guardian Force do the same minute-plus attack a hundred or more times, you just quit using them, opting for the slower, but much more interactive, mundane battle.

I’m the only person that I know that has actually finished this game, but I never felt compelled to play through it a second time. Or to complete any of the optional sidequests to fully understand the story. In fact, toward the end the it began to feel more like a chore than a game.

This would also be the last game in the series proper that I would play (not including Final Fantasy XI) since it was the last Final Fantasy game that would come out on the PC. Had IX, X, X-2, or XII come out for the PC, I’d have probably given them a shot. Not all of us own Playstation consoles, you know.

Jumping Flash!

Monday, November 19th, 2007

I only played Jumping Flash! one time at my cousin’s house. I didn’t come into possession of a Playstation console until several years afterward and had, by that time, nearly forgotten everything about it.

I never bothered to find out what the story was or what my motivation was, but I do remember that you see the action through the cockpit of a rabbit-shaped robot as you use your ludicrous jumping ability to collect things around a variety of stages.

I guess I just remember this game because it was such an early 3D game that developers didn’t know what to do. A lot of those early games just had landmasses floating in the air for no real reason and weirdness for the sake of weirdness. This game at least tried to make it fun, and it was oddly compelling. And it made me want to pilot a giant rabbit robot. Which still makes my shake my head when I think about it.

Bust A Groove

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

For a while, you could hardly walk around your local video game store without tripping over Dance Dance Revolution knockoffs. You might have even picked up one or two, thinking, ‘This can’t be totally terrible.’ And if that game was Bust A Groove, you’d be right.

I only played the game a couple of times, so I don’t really know the whys behind this game, but there are several people, all with dance-related superpowers, who compete in dance-offs. Presumably to save the world from some kind of rhythm-less fate.

It’s kind of hard to see what’s going on if you’re not familiar with the game, but each measure that goes by has 4 beats (4/4 time, I believe). You have the first 3 beats to input the arrow commands, and the fourth beat to input the selected button. Eventually you get the choice between two different sets of arrows, and the more complicated one will get you more points. You also charge up your special move meter and do the occasional super move in an attempt to trip up your opponent.

Since I didn’t play the game more than a couple of times, I didn’t really get familiar with its intricacies, but I did get familiar with the soundtrack, which it turns out that I liked a whole lot. Other than that, the game was pretty mediocre. Though it was good enough to spawn a sequel, which we’ll get into another day.

Final Fantasy VII

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

I know I’m going to catch a lot of heat for this, but I’m going to get it out of the way up front. Final Fantasy VII is not the best game ever made. What is? I don’t know. I haven’t played them all, so I don’t feel qualified to make that declaration. What I do feel qualified to say is that this game isn’t the best Final Fantasy title, which would automatically disqualify it from being the best game ever made.

Now, I’m not trying to say that the game is bad, far from it. It’s a solid Final Fantasy experience with a few flaws that still bug me today. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The storyline of this game is ridiculously convoluted. It starts out with your character hired by some rebels to destroy a power reactor. It seems that a giant corporation is powering the technology that most civilized people use with the life force of the planet. Through a series of events we learn that the evil company has done more evil things, including weird experiments on humans with alien DNA. One of the experimentees goes a bit crazy and tries to destroy the world. Our protagonist, also an experimentee and reluctant leader, is inexorably drawn into the conflict and has to (*gasp*) save the world.

Believe me, I’ve only just barely touched the surface of this game. If you decide to play it, I’d recommend that you take notes, but without a large amount of luck (or a walkthrough) you’re going to miss out on a large chunk of the backstory. This is a pretty big flaw. For a game with a story as massively convoluted as this, a great deal of the backstory is only available in optional side quests. In fact, most of these quests are subtly hidden and if you don’t know where to look (or aren’t obsessively scouring the game) there’s a good chance you’re going to miss them. I suppose if you don’t really care about the storyline, or the huge amounts of exposition, or the hows and whys of your mission and the world at large then this won’t bother you much.

So why, then, do people adore this game as much as they do? I’m not sure. It could be that the main character is an angsty loner with an unrequited love. Or it could be that folks just like the guys with huge swords.

Sephiroth with Sword
Cloud with Sword

Or it could even be that they liked seeing the giant summonable monsters and the new-fangled cutscenes. Or, just maybe, people like confounding overblown storylines, so they can discuss the minutiae and try and unravel the mysteries.

Oh! What game in the Final Fantasy series do I think is better than this one? Final Fantasy 6. But that’s another entry for another day.

The Game of Life

Monday, May 7th, 2007

Surely you’ve heard of the board game The Game of Life. It’s the board that simulates all the fun of living, working, having kids, and retiring, without the tedium of actually waiting for several dozen years while your actual life plays out.

The video game adaptation of this game is pretty true to the board game version, with the added bonus of there are less pieces to lose. You spin the wheel, drive forward the requisite number of spaces, have some life event happen (you have another daughter!, your house burns down!, etc.), you adjust your funds, and you steadily head for retirement. All the while a slightly cheesy (and very annoying) announcer emcees the whole deal. Pretty standard stuff.

However, unlike the board game (and completely inexplicably) there are little arcadey challenges that occasionally pop up. These completely break the flow of the game, and aren’t really more than tangentially related to the main game. Thankfully you do have the option to turn them off (I think), making it a $20 or so version of a $12 or so game that you can play on your television. What progress!