Month: May 2012

Tales Of, Star Ocean & Muramasa Combo Videos

I know that it’s terribly uncool of me, but I have to admit to absolutely adoring watching various JRPG combo videos on YouTube. Mostly of Namco Bandai’s Tales Of series, just because the gameplay in those lends itself so perfectly to massive, awesome-looking chain combos finished off with flashy cut-in attacks – as Mento said in his review of Tales of Vesperia, they do not skimp on the spectacle. The Star Ocean series is another one that I enjoy, which makes sense as its battle system is reminiscent of Tales (given that part of the Star Ocean team worked on Tales of Phantasia before founding tri-Ace, this is not surprising). But truly, on days where I’m feeling very lazy – too lazy to go play the games myself, even – I like to take “YouTube journeys” through all the awesome combo videos that get produced. Today is one of those lazy days, and I figured I’d share some of my favorites with you guys as well – that way I can at least pretend that I’m being productive by watching all these movies!

 


[Tales of Vesperia] BATTLE COLLECTION ~RAINBOW~ by ssrai
Since I already mentioned Tales of Vesperia, let’s start off with my favorite Vesperia video. It’s by ssrai, who will turn up many times on this list – and you’ll understand why, I’m sure. Lots of fatal strike and cancelling abuse, but it sure does looks awesome. I think my favorite part is Rita’s totally rude interruption of Estelle’s Mystic Arte, and the cute edit with Estelle’s joke arte directly after =3

 


[HD720p] Star Ocean 4: Combo Demo by whiteblue3
This sure is a pretty game, isn’t it? The PS3 version of Star Ocean: The Last Hope is one of the games that I was really missing when my PS3 was in weird breakup purgatory, and it’s next on my list of games to finish up after Tales of Graces f. Seeing this video, you can understand why, right? I prefer to main Faize and Meracle, but Meracle – the blue-haired catgirl – is by far the superior combo machine.

 


[Tales of Destiny] – Ultimaniax ” BLACK “ by ssrai
I couldn’t resist posting this one – another ssrai creation – mostly because Mento seems endlessly amused by my reluctant Leon Magnus (of Tales of Destiny fame) obsession. You see, I really was NOT a fan of Leon at all, until I made the “mistake” of playing as him in the first Radiant Mythology game. The RM games give him the arte set and fighting style of the Tales of Destiny: Director’s Cut remake, and holy hell did that remake turn Leon into one of the best Tales characters ever, gameplay-wise at least. I’ve eventually come to sort of love his ridiculous tsundere personality and pink cape, but his number one attraction for me is that amazing fighting style, and this video puts it on perfect display – also with some spoilers for both Destiny and its sequel, Destiny 2, so do be warned!

 


[ToGƒ] Tales of Graces ƒ [Combo Movie] – To Protect by asndarknessdragon
I actually used this particular video to convince a number of people to buy Tales of Graces f, and maybe it will end up convincing you, too – who knows? The player does an excellent job of chaining together Assault and Burst arte trees, Accelerate Modes, and badass finishing Blast Calibers for an awesome summary of how each character plays. Then we get a little weirder, with what you may initially think are hacks – but the ability to basically create an entire party of one character is actually a real function of the game! So yeah, Graces f is basically a combo addict’s dream, this video isn’t an exaggeration at all. Awesome, right?

 


[TALES OF THE ABYSS] – Ultimaniax – (special combo edition) by ssrai
Another one from ssrai. This was the PS2 version of Tales of the Abyss, which recently received an upgraded port to the Nintendo 3DS. I seriously think that Namco Bandai should just hire this guy to produce these videos as trailers for their Tales games, because this video really just comes off as such a perfect advertisement – you get to see the different playable characters and the ways they can each combo, as well as little teaser bits of the story. Well done.

 


Muramasa: The Demon Blade – Seven Samurai Combo Vid by luc1dox
The video is a little weird in sound quality because the guy was playing on an emulator, but it’s still pretty incredible – especially since he didn’t take the cheap route of just constantly spamming Momohime’s artes to get the hit count up. A nice look at the combat in Muramasa: The Demon Blade, and one of the few combo videos of this game that I really liked (many of them just consist of the aforementioned spamming of the same few artes, which isn’t that interesting to watch, let’s be real).

That’s all for today, though maybe another time I’ll do another post like this – less Tales-focused, perhaps, but no promises… it’s an obsession, I can’t help it!

Eden Eternal: A Basic Guide On Racial Crafting

In my last post about Eden Eternal, I covered all of the cash shop goodies and the various ways for you to throw money at the game. Today, I’m going to start talking about how to manage in the EE world without spending any real-life money at all! I’m planning on going a bit more in-depth about this, so expect multiple posts as I figure things out.

As I’d mentioned awhile ago, I rolled a new character on the new Diamond server in order to get a feel for both how the lower levels had changed since I’d first played (since my first character did her level 1-30 grind back when the game was brand spanking new to English servers – there was only one race to choose from, only like 1-2 guilds had actually built up enough fame to have towns, and huge amounts of the game hadn’t been implemented fully yet) as well as to try out one of the shiny new (to me, at least) races – but also to have a character that I could run COMPLETELY without the “taint” of any cash shop spending (yup, my other char benefited from a random AP rebate that I got, so she’s already spoiled), so that I could more honestly experience how the game plays if you choose to truly embrace the whole “free to play” aspect of Eden Eternal.

So many people selling delicious AP items... so many delicious AP items that I can't yet afford D=

My adorable fuschia-haired Halfkin has been on her grind over the past week, trying to get her to level 30 – since that’s when the whole world really opens up. Prior to 30, you don’t have access to the auction house, mail, or racial crafting – just to name a few – so as you can imagine, it’s hard to get any real feel for the economy and how to make money long-term when you pretty much have to rely on the horrible prices NPC shops give you for your loot.

My char is at level 34 now, and is taking a break from killing monsters with the power of rock (she’s a Bard, with the long-term goal of specializing in the Blade Dancer class) to get started on the racial crafting aspect of the game. So right now, let’s look at that in a bit more detail!

FIRST STEP: GATHERING MATERIALS
I can already tell you that gathering materials is pretty tedious – you basically have to buy the necessary items (once you hit 30, you can purchase a pickaxe, gardening gloves, or crystal ball from vendors in Aven – each item is 2g, and you’ll be able to recoup that and more after selling the produced items, so it’s worth it), lead your character to the correct spot (mine, garden, or energy pool in any guild town, respectively), right click the gathering item, and then… probably minimize the game and go do something else! You can’t move or really activate any other functions without interrupting your material farming, so unless you’ve got a really chatty guild or friend online to distract you, you’ll probably need to find something else to do here. On the bright side, this means that all of you MMO addicts will have a window of time where you absolutely have to back away from the game and go do something else – it’s like a forced break, unless you have some strange ability to NOT be bored out of your mind by staring at the same “gathering” animation for an hour or more!

Battle Dog, you are not being a very good team player. Can't you see that the pickaxe is bigger than my Halfkin? Offer to help her already!

SECOND STEP: LEARNING RECIPES
I’m just showing screenshots of the Halfkin crafting system, but the general idea is that there are various levels of crafting (for example, Halfkins make trophy enchants, so there are level 30 trophy enchants, level 35 ones, level 40, etc and so on), but you can only have one active recipe per level at any given time. The recipe that you unlock is random as well, so if you didn’t learn the one that you wanted, you have to “forget” it and then feed materials back into your crafting interface to learn another random recipe. It might be easier just to see it in action, so here we go…

First, you sacrifice certain crafting materials to create your race's basic crafting material. For the Halfkins, this means some sort of thread.
Once you fill up the thread's meter, you are given the opportunity to learn a new recipe.
A recipe will appear, and you can see the benefits of the produced item as well as the crafting materials necessary for its creation.

See? Not particularly challenging at all. And as long as you’re willing to put in the effort of gathering the materials, it’s not a terrible way to pad your in-game bank account…

FINAL STEP: PRODUCTION & SELLING YOUR CRAFTED ITEMS
On Diamond server, where prices tend to be lower because it’s a new server without any oldbies with massive savings to inflate prices, I was able to sell each Level 30 Trophy Enchant for between 8-10 gold each, and Level 35 enchants for 12-15 gold. I’ve noticed that the higher level enchants jump in price SIGNIFICANTLY.

On the Diamond server, we've got a Level 6 Trophy Enchant going for 140g - a nice payday for the creator!

So there you have it. An incredibly basic how-to on the racial crafting system. While I focused on the Halfkin skill, all the other races follow the same basic premise – gather, learn, produce, sell. If you have the time to dedicate to gathering, racial crafting can definitely be a decent way to make an income without spending real-life money. I’ll begin investigating some of the other ways to generate gold in EE and report back on that later, so until then…

See you later~

Venetica and ERPGs

So hey, I haven’t written much lately. My bad. I’ve been super busy (at least in terms of internet blogging about games, which isn’t perhaps busy by any traditional sense of the word) writing about cutting down my Steam backlog in a daily series of blogs on Giant Bomb throughout this month. But whatever, that’s like half the internet away. Today I’m here to talk about the Deck13 Interactive-developed, dtp entertainment-produced German ERPG Venetica.

In a nutshell, Venetica follows the adventures of Scarlett – the estranged daughter of the Grim Reaper (or at least the democratically elected spectre of death; they do things a little different in this world it seems) – as she avenges the death of her beloved Benedict and saves the world from the machinations of a tricky antagonist that has defied the laws of God and nature to become immortal. This all takes place in a fictional version of Venice, if you’re wondering where that title comes from.

The actual gameplay is runs along the similar vein of other prolific German RPGs like Gothic or Risen (the sequel to which has recently come out) with third-person real-time combat and the usual XP-funded character development that requires you find skill trainers to procure new abilities rather than picking them off a menu after hitting a new level. The combat starts off rather button-mashy, but you soon get a tutorial on maximizing your damage output with careful timing as well as evasion, blocking and using your uniquely macabre powers to your advantage. Nothing ground-breaking, but it’s an adequately enjoyable system to carry you through the game.

Poker? I hardly know 'er.

The game is broken up into a traditional “hunt down the henchman boss of the week” format, with each new chapter opening up a new region of the city (and primary setting) of Venice. With each new area, there’s a smattering of new side-quests, explorable regions that often have some connection to same and a higher calibre of treasure. There’s not a huge emphasis on equipment in this game, with each new set of armor (which, cleverly, requires some altering before it’ll fit our svelte and distinctly unmasculine heroine) incrementally doled out or well-hidden beyond the leather set you find towards the start of the game that will more or less suffice for the remainder. Weapons are a bit more varied, giving you a choice between your default scythe “Moonblade” – necessary for some of the more supernatural foes you’ll face – and player-preference mainstays like the quick swords, the safe spears and the slow and powerful hammers and axes. Spells can be useful against crowds, with mana recharging slowly or instantaneously with items.

In Venetica, death is but a door and time is but a window, as losing all your health will drop you into a Soul Reaver-esque ghost world which, besides costing a considerable portion of a tertiary status bar (“Twilight Energy”), isn’t going to inconvenience you too much. This, of course, directly ties into Scarlett’s uncommon heritage and the concept with which this game attempts to set itself apart from its contemporaries. Scarlett’s other twilight powers don’t lend themselves quite as frequently to combat (unless you really want to keep replenishing mana constantly), but do feature heavily in solving the puzzles behind many story and side-quests, such as eventually being able to talk to the dead and dissolve magical barriers.

A neat little inclusion I wanted to point out, worth as much as the customary “game complete” achievement, is another achievement that asks you to beat the game without using any curative items. The game is extremely easy if you’re popping potions constantly, since it’s not like the game’s “death is a slap on the wrist” and “save anywhere” policies make it a Herculean task to begin with, so I’d actually recommend you follow this unusual requisite if you want a little more enjoyment out of the game. It’s a good example of an achievement actually improving a playthrough, rather than being the sort of inconsequential/incidental bonuses given at various checkpoints in the story or the grind-fests that usually inundate any given game’s achievement list.

I’ve mentioned “ERPGs” a few times, which is something I’m tentatively introducing as a separate subgenre from the Japanese and Western RPGs. ERPGs (the E is for European) frequently take a classic PC RPG model and try and build on it without diminishing the level of strategy or depth that the North American RPGs are frequently scaling back to broach a wider audience. This isn’t to add my voice to the unfairly reductive criticisms of “shallow” BioWare RPGs like Dragon Age 2 or the Mass Effects, but rather to simply observe that their model of the classic RPG is evolving to be more widely approachable thereby leaving an enterprising and burgeoning game development community to pick up the slack. Thus, what we have now is the once cottage industry of European developers creating deliberately old-fashioned CRPG experiences for PC and consoles becoming more widespread and visible.

German RPGs aren't lacking for oddball characters.

The grand-daddy of this format is probably Piranha Bytes’ Gothic games, which have been around since the 90s and show no signs of slowing down, even if the most recent entry (2010’s Arcania: Gothic IV) didn’t exactly set the world alight with dragonfire. A better example would be the highly acclaimed Witcher games, from Polish studio CDProjektRED (who also owns GOG.com – the best source for the CRPG classics of yesteryear). There’s the Divine Divinity series from Belgians Larian Studios, Two Worlds from Polish Reality Pump Studios and the Sacred series of Diablo-clones from German team Ascaron.

If there’s anything to link these games beyond geography and their predilection for a well-aged style of RPG, it’s that they are generally less well-funded than American studios. It sounds dismissive, but this actually gives them space to experiment with the format some. They don’t have the fervent, expectant fanbase of, say, Blizzard or BioWare to contend with, so the games they produce – while varying in quality – tend to be breezy, fun, “let’s see what works” ventures that the developers can then learn from and use to create vastly improved sequels; sequels which might feasibly challenge the Blizzards, BioWares and Bethesdas of the RPG market.

And this is pretty much where I stand with Venetica. It has some janky design decisions, which can only be expected from a fledgling studio, but there’s also a lot of heart and soul, some goofy Teutonic humor you’re unlikely to experience elsewhere and a 30-hour+ RPG experience that didn’t feel like a slog or a waste of time. I’m damning it with faint praise, perhaps, but Venetica’s not bad at all.

It's not terrible-looking either.

To Strafe, Perchance To Doom

A plasma blast from the past, Doom is an evergreen FPS from once-giants Id Software. It’s about some guy on Mars who shoots all the bad guys. It’s perhaps not a game that requires much of an introduction, though that is not to say that there isn’t a lot going on here.
Like any child of the 90s, Doom was a huge deal among those who only occasionally had access to their parents’ Windows 3.1 PC. It was crazy, it was intense and it was super-violent. This was around the same time I was discovering the VHS copies my parents had of RoboCop and Terminator as well, so it all coalesces into a bloody mist of wonderful, premature grown-up entertainment that I could only occasionally (and surreptitiously) have access to.

Pfft, four imps and a shotgun zombie? Puh-leeze.

I have to say, though, that most of my time spent in the UAC laboratories on the twin moons of Mars were on the SNES version, in many ways perhaps the hardest of the iterations. For one, you could barely see shit, due to the considerably lower visual fidelity that Mode 7 and Nintendo’s other graphical wizardry could provide in lieu of cutting edge PC technology. For another, the SNES Doom did not let you make intervening saves during missions, which meant I never had the courage nor patience to play on anything harder than “Hurt Me Plenty” (Doom’s colorful analogue for medium difficulty). It also doesn’t have cheats, at least not any I was cognizant of. No IDKFA or IDCLIP to rely on for difficult situations. It was more than nerve-wracking, let’s just say.

Oh, that's not good...

Now that I finally have the XBLA copy, deciding I had very little else to spend 400 points on, I’ve been rocking Ultra-Violence (the game’s Hard mode) and having a blast. The game’s changes are ever so subtle on this mode: The mechanics behind the game won’t change, so you don’t take more damage, get less bullets per ammo pick-up or have any other unjustifiable impediments. Instead, there’s just more monsters. Way more monsters. Tougher monsters, too. The game then becomes more focused on skill than exploration, though the latter is still important if you want to have something more than a few pistol clips to kick the next roomful of demonic butts. It’s a classic example of a difficulty mode making a considerable gameplay difference, beyond simply “you will die more and get frustrated a lot”. It’s really the difference between “Alien” and “Aliens”: Some of the atmosphere of dread and trepidation is gone with having so many of the monsters in your face with every new door you open and corner you turn – but it’s no less tense, especially when your ammo conservation skills are failing you.

Needless to say, it’s gotten me a lot closer to figuring out why Doom was such a hit back in the day. Buy some points below and get Doom II as well! It’s the same, but with even more antagonistic map design and a demon that resurrects other demons!