Friday, March 25, 2011

What I've Been Up To

For those of you wondering what I've been doing for the past few days since writing about Soul Blazer, I have an update for you. 

I've placed a pre-order on Dynasty Warriors 7 (despite the fact that I should wait for Empires, but that's neither here nor there, really), finished Soul Blazer, started on The Guardian Legend (again, long story) and have been trading custom soundtrack playlists with the denizens of the Dynasty Warriors 7 forum on Gamespot (which is actually mirrored from GameFAQs *shudders*).

So, here's the skinny:

Yes, a seventh Dynasty Warriors game is in the pipeline.  It's due out next Tuesday (March 29th) along with:

-WWE All Stars for the 360, PS3, Wii and PSP
-Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars for the 3DS
-The 3rd Birthday for the PSP
-Super Street Fighter IV 3D for the 3DS
-Need For Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed for the PC, 360 and PS3
-Darkspore for the PC
-Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2012: The Masters for the 360, PS3 and Wii
-NASCAR 2011: The Game for the 360 and PS3
-Magicka: Vietnam for LSD, PCP and Shrooms.  Seriously, though, it's for the PC.
-Mass Effect 2: Arrival for the PC, 360 and PS3
-Realm of the Titans for PC
-Moon Diver for the PS3
-Face Rider for the 3DS

Back to Dynasty Warriors 7.  Dynasty Warriors is a series by Koei that started way back on the original SONY Playstation (which I refer to as the PSX because that was one of the early designations.  It is not to be confused with the overpriced PS2 media centre of the same name) as a fighting game spin-off of their Romance of the Three Kingdoms strategy series, which I've outlined in an earlier post. 

A little background on Romance of the Three Kingdoms is required here.  Basically, in the late 2nd century, China's imperial power was flattened by corruption in internal strife.  This led to a civil war that resulted in the nation/empire be split into three, each portion ruled by a different family (or dynasty).  These three families were Wei, Wu and Shu.  Eventually, China would be reunified by one of the retainers of Wei - after their throne is usurped, and this family would form the Jin Imperial dynasty.  That's pretty much the meat and potatoes.

The games focused on the civil war itself, and ignored what happened after the Three Kingdoms.

In each game, you select a general and start fighting in virtual 2nd century battles with magic, siege engines and horses.  Oh, and the occasional war elephant (although they kinda sucked).  As the games progressed, more generals became available.  There were over 50 at the time of Dynasty Warriors 5, and each represented a different faction.

The second game in the series was a beat-'em-up for the PS2, and it pretty much picked up from there.After the 3rd game, and expansion called Extreme Legends was created, which added new characters and a new level structure.  A version of this expansion exists in some form or another for all preceding Dynasty Warriors games since.  Another expansion, Empires, was created after the fourth game in the title.  Empires adds strategy elements and removes the game's story, and focuses more on conquering all of China however you want to using the characters of the series.  There are also two spinoffs of this series (one more of a mutation), Warriors Orochi which combines the worlds of Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors and Dynasty Warriors Strike Force, which is an action-RPG that focuses heavily on collecting materials to make new weapons and items.

Strike Force is not the only game in the series to incorporate character development; 4 and 5 included ranking up and collecting items to boost your attack, defense, health and special attack guage stats.  6 took a more RPG approach, and included a level system (in 6 Empires, the level cap was 50).  You could also equip a certain number of booster items which could do everything from raising stats to healing you after a certain number of KO's or even boost a specific stat after x number of KOs.

Each new version has added and removed features in some way or another.  Every version adds new character.  The combat system is fairly simple, relying on matching up light and heavy attacks, and really didn't change much until Dynasty Warriors 6, where it was over-simplified to the point where it became extremely boring. 

As things stand right now, the most current title in the series is Dynasty Warriors Strikeforce, at least until next Tuesday.  It was generally poorly received.  This is not undeserved, because while it brought some neat ideas to the table, it also had a crapload of problems. 

Strikeforce introduced unprecedented officer customization (for the series) by allowing you to take a second weapon of any type (in every other game, an officer had their main weapon and that was it), added different kinds of special abilities as well as being able to perform rush attacks and air combos, and even each weapon type had special moves and features associated with them.  The cherry on top was that it supported 4-player online co-op.

However, it was the first major console release to not include offline co-op (an insult to the fanbase), the base combat system was the same monotonous piece of crap from Dynasty Warriors 6 and the framerate went bonkers whenever it felt like it.  Where the older Dynasty Warriors titles had massive levels, Strikeforce incorporated levels that were chopped up and scaled down.  Mounted combat was gone.  It was like for every goof thing, there was something bad, and much of it outweighed the package as a whole.

That said, 7 is looking more and more welcome.  The combat system has been rolled back to pre-Dynasty Warriors 6, you are allowed to use multiple weapons, you can use siege engines instead of just destroying them, and the story has been expanded to incorporate the rise of the Jin dynasty.  Character upgrading will also be available, and has been rolled back to pre-Dynasty Warriors 6 as well, with a few enhancements which includes skill point allocation.  The roster has also been increased to 60 characters, and both online and offline co-op are available.

So, I'm pretty stoked.  If you want to know more, check out the Dynasty Warriors 7 link at Koei's website.  You can check out the screenshots, read about the game and listen to some of the songs on the game's soundtrack.

Now then, I've also recently finished Soul Blazer.  It's about 12 or so hours long, and it's not bad for an early 1990's action-RPG.  It's no Brainlord or Secret of Mana, but it was quite enjoyable nonetheless.  I had fun with it.

Next up - at least until my review poll closes (choices are on the right-hand side after my links, labels and such) - I'm working on The Guardian Legend for the umpteenth time.  The reason I say this is because the game's save system is rediculous, but the game itself is awesome.  It's kind of like The Legend of Zelda, but with guns.  And boss fights occur in a Shmup (Shoot-'Em-Up) sequence.  It's also got some of the best NES music since Megaman 2, and that is saying something.  I strongly recommend that you try an emulation of this at the least.  For it's time, the production values are through the roof.

And finally, I'm in the process of updating my custom soundtracks for my 360 games (which I rarely use).  I have one for Koei's Warriors series, one for for Fallout (which I've used twice), one for fantasy-themed games (no, I do not use this one for Oblivion; Jeremy Soule is this era's Johan Sebastian Bach), one for Mercenaries 2 (which I do use when I play), one for fighting games and the last one is for racing games.

I stream these off of my computer because, frankly, I have 70 gigs of music on my computer.  And playlists are great.  I'm currently in the process of modifying them (starting with the Warriors soundtrack), and I will probably delete a few (like Fallout).  Racing and Mercenaries will be staying though.

The reason I make these is because I'm not a fan of licensed music and I sometimes have...more appropriate music for the material.  For instance, I actually put the Fantasy soundtrack together for the excellent and underappreciated Sacred 2 (which Blizzard can learn A LOT from for Diablo III).  The Mercenaries soundtrack exists because while I love Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, the soundtrack doesn't really have a lot of punch.  And it's kind of interesting that all of the achievements are named after songs.  Seemed more like a hint than a reference to me.

I created my fighting game soundtrack because I wanted ot lay it to something heavy.  When I first played Kakuto Chojin, the first thing that really stood out was the soundtrack (and not the Q'uran passagest that got the game banned to appease some religious fundamentalists).  Instead of mostly pulsing techno or rock, it was actually composed of several different genres, such as industrial metal, trance and hard rock.  It's actually, so far, the best fighting game soundtrack I've ever heard.  The gameplay's not quite up to par, but I'll leave the enjoyment factor up to youse guys.

My racing soundtrack is simply the music that I would like to drive to.  This includes genres ranging from hard rock and blues, different metal subgenres, trance and electronica, you name it.  I'm not a huge fan of most of the licensed crap I hear in Need For Speed or even Forza 2 (although you only hear music in the dashboard unless you're playing a custom soundtrack).  I could probably see myself using this as a template for GTA 4 if I chose to buy it.  But I'd have to make sure to add Breaking The Law by Judas Priest, because for whatever reason, Rockstar thinks it doesn't belong.  It was a single, and it's better than You've Got Another Thing Coming by leaps and bounds in the fun department.  And it fits.

What can I say, I like to micromanage my gaming experience.

Okay, it's 2:41 AM and I'm rambling.  Have fun, and check out my poll (I bet you thought i was gonna plug DW7 again...fooled you) - there's only 5 days left on it, and I will  have that review done by the end of April, whatever you vote for.

I swear.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Newest Acquisition

As some of you have seen, I kind of have a soft spot for retro gaming.  A bit of a SNES addiction, if you will.

So, this time (and it was another bargoon), I acquired a game called Soul Blazer for $6.  Apparently, it's more rare than I thought.  The Japanese name for it is Soul Blader.

So, what's Soul Blazer?  Soul Blazer is an action RPG by Enix that was released in 1992.  It was developed by their internal studio Quintet (not sure if they still exist), and is part of an unofficial series which includes Illusion of Gaia/Time and Terranigma (an extremely rare SNES game).  All three are action RPG's (Illusion of Gaia less so) played from a top-down perspective.  It is also rumoured that Act Raiser (yay!) and Act Raiser 2 (boo!) are part of this series.


In Soul Blazer, you play a warrior who's sent from the heavens by the command of The Master to rescue the people of the world from the soul-sucking clutches of the villainous Deathtoll (awesome name).  You will do this with numerous swords and spells, as well as various quest items.  You'll acqure these either by releasing souls or finding the items "out in the wild".


At the moment, I'm about half of the way through the game, and I do intend to finish it.  I'm enjoying it very much, but I doubt the game has much in the way of replay value.  At least it'll be about 15 hours long or more.  To be honest, the gameplay is very simple, but the graphics are very good, considering how old the game is (it's almost 20 years old), and the soundtrack is actually pretty good.

I hope to have it finished by Friday, and then after that it will be whichever game youse guys voted for me to review, and then The Guardian Legend by Broderbund after that.  And if I'm feeling generous, maybe another poll.

We'll see.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

An Industry On Hold For a Cause

As many know (or for those that have been living under a rock), Japan was hit by a massive earthquake at the end of last week.  When I say massive, I mean 9.0 on the Richter Scale; so massive is actually a shortsell.

This earthquake has cost an estimate 200 billion dollars in damage so far, and the earthquake was so large that, despite the best engineering possible, four reactors at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant have been damaged.  Regardless of the merits/dangers of atomic power, this is quite serious.

This has caused serious power issues.  There were shortages on Monday so far that I know of, so assume that there will be more throughout the week.

However, a silicon knight (not a Silicon Knights employee) in neutrally charged armour has come forth:  the Japanese games industry.  In an effort to speed up the restoration of the country, they have stepped up offering money and support.  They have slowed or outright stopped development schedules to help.  I don't know if we would see something this beautiful on our side of the ocean...I mean, do you think Activision or EA would step up, despite their livelihood might be at stake?  That's an open-ended question, by the way.  Not an accusation.

To be honest, I find this inspiring.  This is very selfless, and I don't know if we've ever seen anything like this over here.  While I do realise that video games are actually a big part of Japanese popular culture, this really is an unprecedented event.  To be honest, I'm trying to figure out how I can help from thousands of miles away.  And I'm not one for charity.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Snowblind's New Hack 'n' Slasher

Snowblind Studios is working on a new Action RPG, and like the others they've made, this one is a licensed property, and it's one that I think just about everyone knows about:  Lord of the Rings.

So far, it looks like EA's tai- I mean influence (actually, that's not fair; EA has released some great titles along with the rehashed sports games) is nowhere to be found.

The game is Lord of the Rings: War in the North, and it takes place alongside the War of the Ring.  You control one of three characters at a given time - a ranger, a dwarf and an elf (sounds a little familiar).  Who aren't Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas.  Go figure. 

Despite my snarkiness, Snowblind has done a fantastic job with all of the hack 'n' slashers they've made; Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance and Champions of Norrath are the pudding that contains the proof. 


Furthermore, Snowblind is using the lore of the novels and films - as well as working with the Tolkien estate  - to actually get it right.  The combat is looking to be much more brutal and visceral than even BGDA (although gore doesn't make a great game; e.g. Soldier of Fortune Payback) and their mission seems to be immersing you in the battles more than anything else.  Co-op with up to three players has been promised, but it hasn't been verified if this both offline and online or one or the other.

Keep an eye out for this one, folks.  It could be an awesome one.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Dread Pirate Guy's Revelation

One of the bloggers that I follow, I guy named...uh, Guy, has posted about Wendy's getting in on the 30th anniversary of Pac-Man:  They're selling Pac-Man toys with the kiddy meals.  Now, Guy lives in the States, and they usually have different kiddy meal offerings there than here in Canada. 

So, for your pleasure, I went to the Canadian Wendy's site to see if they're running the offer here, too.  Guess what?  They is.  If you click on the button titled "Toys", you will see the Pac-Man offerings.

You don't have to buy a kiddy meal to get the toy; you can just buy the toy.  So, good luck and happy hunting!!!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Blog News

Originally, this was a post about my amateur reviews being posted to the Reviews page.  To be honest, I'm not sure if that's newsworthy.  However, what might be is that I'm ready to write another review, but I'd like to give you, my readers, the opportunity to pick it. 

You can find the poll on the right-hand side, just below my Followers, and I've listed a few titles across different platforms for you to pick from.

The deadline is March 31st at 11:59 PM.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Yesterday, I bought another XBox game (not Morrowind Game of the Year), and I decided to browse the actual value at Video Game Price Charts.  We paid $3 for it, and it came with a manual and the packaging was in half-decent shape. was only worth $1.88 (Yesterday).  I was expecting this as XBox games are generally worthless, even the rare ones that are actually in demand.  The game, by the way, was Return of the King.  I wanted to get something Kristin might actually play with me and she likes the Lord of the Rings movies.  And Two Towers and Return of the King are competent games (Return moreso).  We're still looking for Towers at a reasonable price (below $10).

What shocked the hell out of me was that a lot of games that were rare but NOT in demand were worth over $30 (Morrowind is not one of these).  However, it was forgivable that some were niche titles - like bass fishing.  What shocked me even more is that Morrowind Game of the Year Edition is worth $30.  I realise that gamers are fickle.  I also know that Morrowind Game of the Year Ed. was discontinued shortly after release.  But I also know that it was re-released as a Platinum Hit.  The point is, on every gameselling auction, it's BASE value is what it went for new.  And it's not all that rare.  You could buy it for PC for less, complete; you only need a PIII 1GHz with 512 MB RAM and a 64 MB video card to run it (that's a little bit above base requirements, but I wouldn't suggest anything less).  Of course, you can buy a used XBox for $25, so why not?  Anyone with only a 360 and half a brain won't play it after the first attempt, the load times are twice as long (it takes two minutes to load a save game on the original XBox...think about that).  Buuuuuuut...that was the reason why I finally caved on buying a 360, was that Bethesda made an emulator for Morrowind.  So maybe the value has merit after all?

Coming back to this point, though...I'm starting to notice a lot of titles that are rare but out of demand have increasingly higher values.  Syndicate for SNES (extremely rare, next to no demand even among collectors unless they've played it) is one such example.  It's worth more than Final Fantasy 3 and only slightly less than Chrono Trigger.  Syndicate for the Genesis, also rare, is worth $5.18.  Now, as a gamer who has played every version of Syndicate except the Jaguar and 3DO, I can say that the SNES version is superior.  both console versions pale in comparison to the PC version (well, on a gameplay level; the SNES version had better graphics and much improved music), but between the SNES and Genesis, I can say the SNES version was better.

Nostalgia's kind of scary like that (especially the XBox were almost every title was mass-produced), how it affects values in ways that are...well, just plain rediculous.  I'm not even going to touch art, but I will mention one thing.  The most worthless clutter on the planet.  We call articles of this type "Antiques".  They're a reminder of a simpler time when we were supposedly happier and even more cultured.  Many of these things are items that will allegedly never be reproduced (at least by the original manufacturer, hint-hint).  Many collect them based on a pretentious attitude that old is good (or better).  And then they show them off to prove how cultured they are becoming and how it makes them a better person. 

Starting to sound familiar, eh?  Maybe we should all reassess our collections and determine what they're really worth to us.  Would I ever sell Morrowind?  Heh, no.  After 5 game stores and 4 months of waiting for it to actually come to one?  Not a chance.  You couldn't take it from my cold dead hands.

Does having Morrowind make a me a better person?  No.  But beating it 5 times...probably didn't either.  It was fun, though.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Newest Acquisition

Yesterday, I found myself in a situation of total providence.  Well, providence at any rate.  I found a rather obscure game, Uncharted Waters II: New Horizons by Koei for the SNES.  I picked it up loose (no box and/or no manual) for $10, which is half what it's worth.  Not sure if I'm going to resell it yet.  I find the game quite intriguing.

Here are some pics including the box art:

The game is also available for the Sega Genesis/Megadrive, although I hacven't looked up the value and I don't know how rare it is.

So, what's the premise?  Uncharted Waters II is an historical fiction piece centred around the rise of Mercantilism, the death of Feudalism and the birth of Colonialism.  It's a cobination of a role-playing game and resource-based trading game.  Mix in piracy and mercenaries and you have yourself one heck of a game.  I played it for maybe about half an hour and for every second I played, I watched the learning curve just get steeper.  That isn't to say the game sucks.  The last game I played with a steep learning curve was Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders for the XBox, which is a fantastic game.  It just takes about three or four hours to learn how to play it.  But the game is also 40 or so hours long, so I'd say that that's very fair.

When you start the game, you pick a character who is a representative of one of six colonial empires - Spain, Portugal, Holland, Italy, England and Turkey (Ottoman - people, not furniture).  From there, you go through a bit of a tutorial where you get and equip some items and put together the crew for a ship.  As I played, I noticed that the game has a full day and night cycle, which is something I don't remember seeing in any SNES titles that I had played.  It has a calendar to go along with it.  This is necessary for measuring how long your resources will last you.  You also get a taste of the game's combat system, which is a turn-based card system.  You have two turns, an offense turn and a defense turn.  In each, you'll pick a card that represents an attack or defense type in hopes tht it will counter your opponent's.  The only combat that I've seen is essentially a one-on-one duel. 

From there, I checked out all of the different buildings at port, bought some goods to sell and then cast off.  When I landed, it was in Hamburg, Germany - and they had even more tutorials for me.  I then picked a mercenary mission, sold some goods, bought some supplies and cast off again for the port of Bristol to deliver a letter for the sume of 700 pieces of gold.  I completed the mission and then turned the power the off and put the game away.  The next time I pop it in, I'll see if the save battery is still working.

From what I've gathered, I haven't even scratched the surface of this game.  I haven't seen any minigames nor have I seen much story unravel.  I haven't done any piracy either, so this game is getting more and more interesting.

The company that developed the game is Koei, creators of the strategy series The Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Nobunaga's Ambition.  They are now Koei-Tecmo, after buying the Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive developer.  Recent games in their stable include Dynasty Warriors Online for PC, Samurai Warriors 3 for the Wii, Nobunaga's Ambition for mobile devices and Fist of the Northstar: Ken's Rage for Playstation 3 and XBox 360.  Their website is if you'd like to see what they're up to now.