Time for some random thoughts on various games I’ve been playing!
I’ve never actually beaten Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne on Hard mode and I figured this was something that needed to be rectified so I started up a new game a week or two ago. And besides seeing just how well the game holds up after several years in all major ways (art style, soundtrack, gameplay, and story), what really struck me this time is just how fast combat is. First off, the load times are quick. Second, you don’t have to search around in menus much – characters can only have up to 8 special abilities (some of which might be passives or dialogue options) so it just sticks Attack & all of your abilities in a single menu (you can press left or right to bring up other menus like items). Third, animations are really quick. Regular attack animations take all of a second (if that) and special ability animations take just long enough to look cool and give the player all the relevant information. Fourth, there’s no downtime – characters don’t need to run up to attack, there are no ATB meters that need to fill up; you’re either selecting a command or watching a move, and that’s it. All of these small but essential design choices create a game where combat is as fast as possible despite being turn-based and strategic – essential for a game that’s primarily about combat.
Oh and the main character’s default attack is punch. No need for a sword; just punch the devil in the face. Now that’s hardcore.
When Lunar came out on the iPhone & iPad just recently, I made a comment on the Neogaf forums that it looked like the PS1 version was still the best version to get and that I ought to go look for a used copy to replay it (I already owned the sequel, Lunar: Eternal Blue, since it’s one of my favorite games of all time). Vic Ireland of Working Designs (i.e. the company that localized the game in the first place) saw my post and told me “Hey, give me your address, I’ve got an extra copy.” Then free of charge, he shipped me a copy of Lunar for the PS1 and even threw in a Lunar:EB collectible pin. Extremely nice of him and completely unexpected. So I’ve been replaying Lunar & its sequel off and on and it finally dawned on me just why I like this series so much – the Lunar games are simultaneously funny & sincere. Whereas most comedy games go for outright parody, Lunar treats its story and character challenges very seriously…and then throws in fun, quirky characters and silly jokes here and there. This gives the games a very unique feel to them that you rarely see duplicated elsewhere. In many ways, they’re the Prydain Chronicles of video games.
With all the new Vita games coming out this month & next, I was in the mood to play the Vita so I decided to play some more Gravity Rush (love the game but I got distracted by other games so I never finished it). I really think the people who complained that there wasn’t enough to do were completely missing the point. More than most games, Gravity Rush is about immersion. I played through Episodes 12 through 17 last night and when I was done, I felt like I had gone on an actual adventure and not just played a video game. The gorgeous art style, the amazing soundtrack, the excellent controls, the unique gravity-based combat – these all combined to draw me into the world and created an immersive experience the likes of which I’ve rarely experienced.
And finally, the new RPG I’ve spent the most time in the past month (other than Torchlight) – Radiant Historia. There’s a lot I could say about this game, but I’d like to focus on one thing – the changing party. For those unfamiliar with the game, there are two primary timelines that you go back and forth between. Typically you’ll run into a dead-end in one timeline and then have to go to the other time-line to find a solution to it. What’s really neat about this whole setup besides the story implications is how it frequently results in you having access to different playable characters. In most RPGs, you gain party members and they stay in your party but I think there’s a lot of interesting things that could be done in RPGs where your party frequently changes as the story progresses. In fact, I think this is one of the reasons that Final Fantasy IV remains such a popular RPG even today.
And that’s it for today’s random game analyzing! As you can see, I rarely stick to just playing one game at a time.