Friday, January 22, 2010

SMT: Devil Survivor, part 3

God fucking dammit.

You know, for someone who claims to be able to notice subtlety in videogames, I certainly miss it at crucial times.

Here's the deal. It's Day 5. This guy Kaido wants to kill my former teammate Keisuke, but he can't find him. Around the same time, Keisuke and this woman Mari (Kaido's love interest!) are in danger. If Mari has this item in this bag you find, she is able to kill the demon threatening her. You find her bag, and are given a choice: give it to Mari, or keep it and give it to someone else.

The game had been telling me to create some sort of distraction for Kaido so he won't go off and kill Keisuke at 13:00. Stupid me didn't realize that the bag is the distraction! If you give it to Kaido, he'll run off and save Mari, and you'll be able to save Keisuke.

Guess what I did. I gave the bag to Mari because when I originally went to go find it, she told me she needed it to kill the demon. Seemed simple and harmless enough at the time. So I get the bag, get in the battle, save Mari as she kills the demon she wanted to kill, and I'm all "Okay, now to go save Keisuke," and I get there and then watch Kaido kill him.

Since I pretty much save before every battle and since this game has only one save file, I'm screwed if I want to save them both now unless I start over. Which is a stupid idea, I obviously won't. I'm going to ride my stupid decision out and see where it takes me. Maybe I'll go kill God after all, just to spite the freaking bag. Or something. I don't know.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

SMT: Devil Survivor, part 2

I am in Day 5 of Devil Survivor so far, and from what I gather on the GameSpite boards, I'm slightly overleveled. I'm okay with that though! I'm not doing it to break the game, I'm doing it because I'm having fun. I'm sure the game is slightly easier because of this, but oh well - so far, I feel like the difficulty is just right.

I can tell the game is getting tougher quickly, though. The enemies are starting to get some nasty powers such as Holy Dance (Almighty damage dealt randomly to different party members) and Makajamaon (high chance of Mute on all party members). That last one in particular has been giving me some headaches, that's for sure. It can actually turn the tide of a battle fairly quickly!

One of the things I'm guilty of in this game is not having a very large backup demon roster. I usually fuse the guys I want to use, then go into battle. So if one of them dies, and I summon another guy, he is usually level bullshit and gets demolished by a light breeze. I really need to remember to keep a stable of backup demons just in case. I've gotten screwed over a couple times because I forget, too.

One of the things I love about the SMT series is that now that I have played through a few games, when I see a new demon, I have an idea of what it is capable of. For example: I know when I see Thor to expect a badass thunder-wielding physical powerhouse (and I have gone out of my way to make sure I get him in each game)! This has given me a leg-up on some of the battles in Devil Survivor. Since I typically know what strengths and weaknesses certain demons have, battles are somewhat easier because I can exploit them better. The same goes for spell names, too - I knew what Makajamaon was going to do before it hit me that first time.

I just wish I was getting more powerful spells, though. I don't have access to any -dyne spells (the most powerful elemental spells end in -dyne, such as Agidyne, which is fire) yet and my Mazio, Mabufu, Maragi, and Mazan are getting a little weak (all multi-target spells start with Ma-). From what demons I know I'll be unlocking next, one of them has Agidyne - but it's Magic stat is way to low to be useful, really! Oh well. I'll fuse him with some other guys and spread that -dyne around as much as I can.

Storywise, I'm intrigued to see where this goes - supposedly, I have some big decision to make soon. From what I gather, it is basically do I want to: A. Become the King of the World and rule with my badass demons, B. Kill God and eliminate angels and demons from the world, or C. neutralize both angels and demons and banish the real bad guys from the world. Usually I would choose C in games like these because they are The Good Way, but that B looks mighty fine... I've never killed God in a videogame before. I don't mean, like, a God, either. I mean, GOD. Like Yahweh God.

And even if that means I turn into a heartless murderer, it would make for an awesome ending. And there's always New Game +, which will allow me to play through the game again with all the demons I already had unlocked (amongst other things)! So I can easily go get those other endings.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

SMT: Devil Survivor, part 1

Until I purchased Persona 3 last year on a whim after hearing about the series on a December 2008 podcast, I had never heard of the Shin Megami Tensei series. I wasn't even sure if I'd like it, as it had been a while since I had enjoyed a really tough RPG, and I had not played anything like Persona 3.

Fast forward to today. I now am on Atlus' e-mail list, something I typically despise, to follow as closely as I can when they release any games in this series. Every one I've played so far has been unique, interesting, and completely unlike any other games out there.

So after I had beat Persona 3 and had just gotten Persona 4, Atlus released a game called "Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor" for the DS. I picked it up, because I know how long Atlus games typically stay on shelves: not very long. The game is a strategy RPG, mostly in the vein of games like Final Fantasy Tactics or Shining Force. There is a few (okay, a lot) of twists, though. When a unit walks up to an enemy and engages it, you enter a separate screen and actually fight like in a Dragon Quest game. But you only get one (two if you fight well) rounds of attacks before the control goes back to the field as a whole.

Yeah, it's pretty weird. The game is split up into (as far as I can tell) 7 days. Your characters are trapped in a lockdown in Tokyo, and you have no idea why at first. You soon discover that your cousin has given you devices called COMPs, which can summon demons. You then set out to figure out what the hell is going on, and to survive the dangers you encounter.

When I first started playing the game, I got stuck in a late Day 2 battle where I had to protect a bunch of defenseless civilians from demons but also not let any demons leave the playing field through the northeast exit. This is a bitch and a half, and so far has been the most difficult battle for me. It doesn't help that the demons always target the civilians and the civilians always run around stupidly.

But anyway, I hated that battle and put the game down, only returning to it a few days ago because I was craving some difficult RPG action. I had started raising a new character in Etrian Odyssey to explore the last stratum that you find after the main story boss, but that was stupid and boring. So on a whim I decided to work hard on Devil Survivor.

And it has paid off. Rather than try to blow through the game without grinding (I read somewhere, likely on the GameSpite message boards, that you should never have to grind in a Shin Megami Tensei game. As it turns out, I am not an idiot savant like that guy), I have been slowing down and grinding when I need to. And, more importantly, I've shaken off a habit that I think I got from the Pokemon games: that is, I quickly get rid of old demons to upgrade to new ones that are more powerful, rather than try to raise my old ones. It took playing through both Persona games to learn that, and it still sometimes bothers me, but what are you going to do - the game is designed this way.

I'm now at somewhere around 14:00 in Day 3 and I'm loving it so far. I think I have a very tough battle coming at the end of the day, so who knows how frustrating that will be. I hope the game keeps these "protect so-and-so" battles to a minimum - they are annoying as hell and not fun at all.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I Feel Like Ranting

There are several games that go for upwards of $100 on eBay, and have since the site's inception. I just have one question.

Why don't publishers port the games to current systems?!

It makes no sense to me, when games like Suikoden II are selling for almost $200 used and Konami isn't releasing it anywhere. Not even a downloadable port! This is a Playstation 1 game. How hard can it be to make the thing run on current systems?! Hell, I bought the first Suikoden when it was released on PSN for just $6 just because it didn't cost one million dollars. I would do the same for Suikoden II, Konami! Come on!

I can understand why games like Panzer Dragoon Saga aren't being ported, though - Saturn emulation is incredibly hard to do. That game will probably eternally cost upwards of $200 and only get more expensive as more and more people buy it and then let it sit on their shelves for eternity. Hopefully somebody can figure out how to emulate the freaking Saturn so I can play it!

Earthbound, though. Earthbound! How is it possible that Nintendo has this game just sitting around and they aren't even releasing it on Virtual Console?! I would buy a $35 remake for DS! Hell, I'd pay $50 for a Wii remake! Nintendo says it's just because the game didn't sell well when it was first released here for SNES. NEWSFLASH, Nintendo! RPGs hadn't really taken off in America at the time! And do you remember your ad campaign? You put scratch and sniff fart cards in magazines! I remember thinking as a kid, "Well this game looks stupid. It's about smelling farts and looks like an original Nintendo game!" I was like eight at the time! How can you not sell a game to an eight year old that has farts in it?! You bungled your marketing hardcore, that's how. So how about rereleasing it and giving it another chance? You have a Game Boy Advance sequel that you could release, too, say, as a WiiWare or DSiWare title, also! Can you do that for me?

Can you do that so I don't have to pay eighty stupid dollars for your SNES game on eBay? That could be your money, Nintendo!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

"The After Years" and DLC. Also, Castlevania Post-mortem

I've had the first part of Final Fantasy IV: The After Years downloaded to my Wii for quite a few months now. I think I might have even downloaded it on its day of release. I played it for a few hours, then promptly ignored it until a few days ago.

I'm not sure what it was that made me boot it up again. I think I wanted to listen to a podcast or something while playing a videogame, and was sick of Mario at the time (it took me forever to find a coin in a level in World 6 and I was pissed off about it) and so I just booted it up.

Well, that was costly.

I beat the game (well, the first part of it anyway) and have now downloaded the next four parts at three bucks a pop. Luckily, I had some points left over on the Shop Channel. Regardless, I now have beaten two of the four DLC things - Rydia's Tale and Yang's Tale. I'm now playing through Palom's Tale and am probably close to beating it, honestly. They are pretty quick jaunts, about an hour or so each.

And for the most part, I'm enjoying myself. The most glaring problem? The encounter rate is ridiculously high! So high that I sometimes cannot stand playing the game because there have been numerous times where I've moved two spaces and then have to fight another battle!

The other problem is that each chapter is wildly different from the last in terms of party makeup. I hated playing through Rydia's Tale because there's her and her goofy dwarf friend and neither one of them have any healing spells. So I have to grind for cash and then buy a bunch of potions to heal. Then there is the chapter I'm on now: I have two mages in my party, one who can use White Magic, while both can use Black - and that's great! Only problem is, battles take longer because I have to watch the stupid magic animation play out every time, because neither one of them can hit for any damage above like 10, when they're able to hit at all with their physical attacks. It's pretty annoying!

But I really like seeing what happened to all these characters after Final Fantasy IV. Meeting the sons and daughters of characters like Cecil and Rosa is pretty neat (even when they name their kid Ceodore - that has got to be a translation error or something. What a stupid name!). There are a few nice touches, too - when there is a flashback to Final Fantasy IV, the sprites of all the characters revert to the old SNES style - the exact sprites that game used. It's subtle, but appreciated. And the graphics that remain are decent! They remind me a lot of Final Fantasy V, actually - somewhere in between FFIV and FFVI in polish - with slightly larger character sprites. And the music is basically FFIV's soundtrack, which was good. Some remixes would have been nice, though.

At any rate, I'll finish it one of these days.

I also played through and beat Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth today too! Finally figured out how to beat that final form of Dracula. It wasn't that hard and I'm somewhat embarrassed that I died on him as many times as I did that first time. The game took me about an hour to beat, and I discovered that I now have a stage select! Which is great because I'm already sick of the first two stages. Not a whole lot to say about the game that hasn't already been said - it's a solid Castlevania game, one that I'm sure I'll revisit periodically.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What I've Been Playing

So I got to the last boss in Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth the other day. I didn't beat him, because I died plenty of times on his final form (the third one) and I had stopped hurting him for some reason so I quit after like 20 tries.

This would have been fine if the game had a quicksave feature, so I could go right to Dracula and try again. It does not, though, so I haven't really played the game since. Someday, I will go back and actually beat it. Overall, it was definitely worth the ten bucks - a brand new Castlevania game in the old style with good level design? Yes please! Not much to say other than what already has been said, unfortunately.

I also beat New Super Mario Bros Wii tonight! That last level is epic. Probably my favorite moment in the game, and probably one of the best experiences I've had in a Mario game ever. I don't want to spoil too much, but it is intense and you have to put all your platforming skills to work. I had heard that the Bowser encounter was great, and it delivered. I would really like to try it with four people, though - would it even be possible?!

It would if you were badass.

Anyway, so now I'm going back through the levels and collecting all the Star Coins so I can play the secret levels. I already unlocked the first and second one, and played through the first, and it was pretty neat. Hopefully the secret levels get more awesome as I unlock more.

I'd also like to point out that certain elements of this game really resemble Yoshi's Island. I don't just mean Kamek messing around with the bosses, either. I mean many of the levels in World 8 seem like they would fit right in Yoshi's Island - from the rolling lava waves to the very tricky, precise, slow platforming found in many of the more difficult levels throughout the game really make the New Super Mario Bros. Wii seem like it builds a lot off of Yoshi's Island. And considering I had already said it builds off Super Mario World, it really has an amazing pedigree.

I have a feeling I'll be playing through this game much more often than New Super Mario Bros. DS. On to collect the Star Coins!