Saturday, 27 March 2010

Phantasy Star Zero (DS) Review

I have always been a massive fan of the Phantasy Star series and I even managed to Stomach Phantasy Star Online Episode 3 which was a weird card battling video game. With that said I tried Phantasy Star Universe's add-on last year and in my opinion it was one of the worst follow up's to a much beloved online RPG that I have ever seen. It was way to grindy and everything about the game just felt uninspired I also did not like the poor item crafting system either. I was not the only one who disliked PSU as it seems that Sega have gone back to what made the Phantasy Star Online games so great, so much so in fact that Phantasy Star Zero is effectively being dubbed as the true squeal to Sega's awesome Dreamcast online RPG.

Multiplayer RPG's and portable consoles are big business in Japan these days. In fact unless it's on a portable generally Japan does not care any more.Games like Monster Hunter and Dragon Quest 9 insure that the multiplayer ad-hoc is not going anywhere any time soon. Phantasy Star Zero at first glance seems like a cheap cash in for the DS market to try and get some of that mad Monster Hunter yens. But if you look a little deeper you will find all the good stuff that you know and love from the original Phantasy Star Online series from way back on the Dreamcast but with some minor tweaks and a couple of imrpovements that makes Phantasy Star Zero worth your time and attention.

OK so this game seems to be a reboot of the series, hence the name. Zero meaning in video gaming terms in Japan that it's prequel to the first video game in the series which is filling in story elements that we just came up with several years later.What is a little puzzling is that Sega or games that Sega just happen to be publishing seem to be obsessed with Wild Arms because the main story non player characters looks exactly like the main characters from Wild Arms which is odd because that game was never really a big hit anywhere, not to my knowledge anyway.

Sometimes you are treated to nice animie style cut-scenes like this one here but normally you are just treated to being roasted alive by a giant enemy dragon who will terrorise you for a lot of the early part of the game.

So yeah this game takes place after one of the main Phantasy Star games (don't wish to mention which one due to spoilers) and things have seemed to have gone a little tits up in the Galaxy. Depending on what race you select will depend on what story you will get. But it's actually not a bad story for a game that's based around bashing monsters to take their gear to sell to the nearest merchant. The main hook of the story is to uncover what really happened to the world to cause a disaster called "The Great Blank" which has erased call the Casts (the robot race) memories, exiled a previously native race called Newmans from the planet. The there is the humans, forced to live in fear of monster attacked in a barren world with very little resources. The story can get a little cheesy at points but it's compelling enough to keep you playing till you beat the final boss.

ow is a good time to talk about the gameplay. The game pretty much plays like any old action RPG. You only have access to six abilities at a time (this also includes your standard attacks etc.) which may seem odd to people who are used to playing games like World of Warcraft or Aion but there is a strategic element to it. You have to prepare for battle, if you know your enemy is weak to ice then perhaps you might want to swap out that fire spell for something a little colder. You can always bring up an item menu but dipping in to the menu's will not pause the game so make sure your safe from harm before doing it. It's possible to lock on to enemies and roll out of the way of projectiles too then there is your MAG and it's "MAG Blast" which makes a triumphant return from PSO which trust me is much better than it's counterpart from PSU.

But bluntly MAG's are sidekicks. You feed them with items and spare equipment and in return depending on what you have fed them they grant you bonuses to your stats. After awhile it will change form and gain new food preferences but it will also become stronger and learn a "MAG Blast" which it can only perform after the player gets in to a lot of trouble and fills up a bar by getting hit a lot by attacks. These special attacks can either cause a lot of damage or do other things like heal everyone in the party or cast a spell on the team to increase their defensive or offensive capabilities. Leveling up your MAG and using it's special attack wisely is the key to victory speciality in the later boss battles which can shorten a battle considerably is repeated MAG attacks are pulled off successfully. You can also do team MAG attacks which do a lot more damage, I'll talk more about the multiplayer later.

WARNING!: Giant bad ass robot approaching! Luckily he is on your side!

Missions are always the same pretty much. Go in to an area that's crawling with monsters and kill them all for money and equipment. Then go up to the boss monster and kill him or her too. It's a simple layout but it works. Some might be a little annoyed with the lack of mission verity but there are plenty of zones to keep the player busy. And besides the escort missions in the Phantasy Star Online games alway sucked, I remember that mission where you had to escort this one guy
THOUGH THE SECOND LEVEL BOSS! It was one of the most frustrating missions in any game ever and even Sega knew it because in later instalments they fixed the mission where the guy would "play dead" leaving you to take care of the monster yourself without having to risk getting the guy your are protecting. There are bits of storyline within each mission that break up the action, nothing to intrusive but it's OK.

The equipment in this game is also pretty bad ass as there is plenty of it to obtain ranging from rifles, to bazookas to wands and great double handed swords. You are going to have to get good equipment to beat the harder monsters and the harder difficulties which you can play once you have finished the game one time. The monsters are mostly very creative and are very well designed and are also well animated. The levels look really nice for a DS game but don't have much in the way of detail within them. Most of the time each room is a big box or a collection of smaller boxes with create, traps and monsters in them. I guess this is to keep things as simple as possible for the DS's limited CPU but the game does not suffer for it in my opinion, just don't expect grand sweeping landscapes like in Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion or anything OK?

The online multiplayer actually works on this game which is a shocker. It's easy enough to get with friends assuming you have their friends code and hooking up with randoms is not a problem either and every game I have been in to date has been pretty much lag free and I have not be disconnected randomly either which is sweat because that was a big problem in the old Phantasy Star Online games as well as all the hacking that is. So yeah you can do a whole bunch of stuff in this game but all that most people wan to do is go for boss runs as that earns the best equipment hence the reason why I said mission verity was not that big of a deal earlier, keep things simple that's what I always say when it comes to dealing with the general public.

Overall the presentation on this game is sweat. the music and sound is great and the anime inspired cut-scenes are fantastic. The game is very colourful, you guys have probably have noticed how much I value colour in my video games so I won't crow about it. I do also like the art style it just seems, well er... nice I guess. This leaves me wondering what this game would of been like on a more powerful system like the PSP, Wii or Xbox 360 or even PS3? let's face it the modern generations of mainstream consoles need a decent RPG, it's a shame they are landing on the portables thanks to Japans obsession with Monster Hunter heh.

Overall Phantasy Star Zero is probably one of the best Online RPG's I have played in some time it's especially good that it's on the DS which means I get to play it while I commute two hours every day. What the game lacks in raw visuals (although the game's visuals are still good but it's because it's on a DS they lack the punch of the previous Phantasy Star Portable title) and mission verity it does make up for with how fun the combat is and it's great multiplayer, not to mention all that lovely loot that's there to be picked up by the player and oh yeah, the story is not bad either. [8/10]

My first impressions of Just Cause 2

Seems that Just Cause 2 is more of the same but with a nicer engine. They have changed Rico's character a lot but for the worst, he's lost all character and charm from the Rico of the first game. And the voice acting is some of the most grating I have herd in recent history. That Ravengers (what what ever the fuck they are called, can't say I was paying much attention to be perfectly honest!) leader chic has THE SINGLE WORST ACCENT EVER!! I can't even tell what accent she is trying to pull off it's that bad and she does not shut the fuck up either which is even more annoying, GAH!

Minor annoyances aside I love, LOVE the look of the island though, flying about a lot in the Mountain Area due to the gang I am working for and it looks lush. It's a nice game but might be best played in little blasts with breaks in between so it does not lose it's appeal.

Gunplay wise it's not to bad, played a lot worst on the PS3 that's for sure.

The grappling hook can be a little annoying from time to time but is fun to use although it's no Bionic Commando or anything. I love "double hooking" people to vehicles then driving around like a madman but that's just me. I have managed to 100% a few little areas so far. It seems that the developers have put a shit load of destroyable government stuff and collectables in each little village, town or base which is not a bad idea. It's easy enough to keep track of things as the game reminds you of your percentage every time you do something to contribute to "completing" that area. The area's don't seem so lifeless like they did in the original game and the vehicle handling is much better, I mostly use to Helicopters though as they are a god send for base takedowns and scavenger hunts so to speak.

You can still call for air drops of equipment and transport if you want, you can also get a rid to any place that you have cleared 100%. This fast travel thing is useful but I rarely use it as I actually like travelling the island as it looks so nice and the combination of driving, flying and grappling around the place is fun to me. You also can't use fast travel when the cops or army are after you which in my case is 90% of the time anyway heh.

Each weapon can be upgraded from the shop now, I have the limited edition which cost the same about as the standard version so I figured "why the hell not?".The most useful thing I have managed to obtain so far is the special Rico pistol which is like a hand cannon basicly. It's pretty awesome and if you have the money it can also be dual wielded which is absolutely bad ass. Two handed weapon wise I have mainly either been using the standard shotgun which is nice or the special sniper rifle which is friggin' sweet. It's very useful for picking off helicopter pilots or sniping annoying turret abusing guards from half a mile away.

Anyway it's safe to say that I am enjoying Just Cause 2 at the moment, time will tell if I stick around to actually finish it since it seems much bigger than most games of this type but I feel the game does have legs. I will keep you guys posted with more details should anything go astray.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Shotgun - ¥560,000

One of the best one liners I have ever seen in a video game, it's from an old Playstation 2 game called Yakuza which I have been playing again as well as it's squeal to get ready for Yakuza 3...

"A Shotgun, I brought this for you because this city is shady as fuck". ~ Weapons Dealer in Stardust - Final Chapter

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Microsoft's Game Room - Launch Day Impressions

Well it's finally arrived I suppose, Microsoft's Game Room (or MGR as I will be calling it from now on!) hit both the Xbox 360 and Games for Windows marketplace yesterday with 30 games that either you would of never of herd off or has been collected to death already but don't get me wrong this service is looking sweet and I can't wait for what the future holds.

I had a hold bunch of Microsoft Points left over from my Xbox 360 days and with nothing to spend it on in the Games for Windows marketplace (seriously what's up with that?) so I decided to do a little shopping in the MGR shop and see what all the fuss was about. I have to say from what games I have played so far that I am impressed with the emulation quality, the controls and the general feel of being in my "very own arcade" with all the sounds from all the arcade machines playing at once, it's like being back in Western-Super-Mere again when they used to have that awesome Peir with that massive arcade in it.

With that said, challenging friends to random Hi-Score battles is fun, you can even make your own timed high score board doing this so you know I challenged a couple of people to a Scramble High-Score showdown. There is no online multiplayer for the time being but this does make up for it in some way. That said it would make Combat a more compelling purchase if they did ever get around to adding online play in heh.

There are some concerns that to get all the achievements in MGR you need to spend a lot of money, well Microsoft from what I have herd from the media are playing to release 3000+ games on this service within the next few years, there are bound to be at least a small fraction (like 30 or so) of those you are going to like. Another concern and the one that bothers me more if I am being honest is will have I have to keep downloading whole packs of games just to get to the one or two games that I want from that pack? I can see this taking up a lot of room on a console owners hard drive especially later on when he start hitting the games released in the ninties that require a lot more rom chips to hold the data if you know what I mean?

Anyway while the games may not be considered 'Triple A' but a lot of people this Game Room doodad is showing some promise. I would like to see Tatio, Namco, SNK Playmore and Capcom jump on this and I would also like to see some more Konami games too like the Contra games for example and in no time I think they will get around to it because these games don't have to be ESRB rated which means there is little to no cost in putting these games in Microsoft's service unlike their competitors similar services.

Stay tuned for more impressions and reviews of games that come out on this service as the weeks roll by!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Let's Play Rainbow Six 3: Mission 4 - Shipyard of doom!

It's been awhile but I do mean to continue this, honest! :P (been really busy with new releases and work and the fact that my mum is in hospital lately really does not help either!)

Friday, 12 March 2010


I am now more interested in Super Street Fighter IV, FACT! That said I checked out how much this thing would cost and yeah it's £25 over at game and £21 at shop-to. So I will most definitely be picking this bad boy up when it comes out late April.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Was playing some CIV4 today and this made me chuckle...

I love Civilizations 4, for a while back in my childhood CIV2 was probably my favourite game ever made
. It's taken some time but CIV4 has now surpassed it so it will be interesting to see what they plan to do with CIV5 since in my mind CIV4 is pretty much perfect, but then again I said the same thing about CIV2 and look what happened there...

So yeah I am playing a huge, sixteen race custom game as a randomly selected race which just so happened to be the Celtic's. The pic you are seeing to your right is a snap I took while meeting France's Napoleon for the first time. This is kind of worrying since the guy from what I gathered from both this game an Napoleon: Total War is that he likes to conquer EVERYTHING! And not just fight people but blow them the fuck up with safely from miles away with artillery and shit. I could be in for a long slogg unless of course the Vikings come knocking on their door that is...

Tuesday, 2 March 2010