Updates, and a Rant

Hey readers! With summer and my new job in full swing, my days are booked solid more than I had expected. These slow, hot days are definitely tolerable with my job and my summer classes, but my game time has been severely impacted. I haven’t purchased any new games since Super Street Fighter IV, and for me, it’s only fun to play with friends. To make matters worse, the 50 inch TV that my Xbox 360 and Wii are connected to is out of commission for a few weeks, so I’m limited to my PS3 and PSP. Since it’s difficult to secure some uninterrupted time with the TV when my mother and father always contest over it, I’ve kept things a lot simpler by carrying along my PSP to play for short amounts of time in-between activities and such.

Recently, I went on with finally getting acquainted with the Star Ocean series. I’m about 25 hours into Second Evolution (the PSP remake of The Second Story for you old timers out there) and I have to say, a JRPG like this is an acquired taste. The proper frame of mind required to enjoy a Star Ocean title requires  some understanding of who made it. Anyone who knows Tri-Ace (the team behind Valkyrie Profile, Resonance of Fate, Infinite Undiscovery, to name a few) is aware that their games don’t have the greatest “mass-appeal” like many other recent RPG’s that have been receiving numerous accolades. In short, they’re quirky. They’re off the beaten path and unabashedly make it obvious that the player isn’t going to get the average run of the mill JRPG experience. I’ve completely missed out on each Star Ocean that came to America , which is pretty surprising given that I consider myself an RPG aficionado. I’ve played through the Valkyrie Profile series and loved every minute of it, so I had some idea of what I would be getting into. In a world of Final Fantasy, Mass Effect and Persona, games like Star Ocean go underappreciated; Lots of people like to trash the fact that Star Ocean lacks a compelling story, and to some extent, they are correct. It IS a JRPG. Many aspects of the storylines and characters are borrowed from other JRPG’s, Anime and Manga. There aren’t going to have mind blowing plot twists, or characters with depth on the level of a Western RPG. Although largely unoriginal, I believe Star Ocean can be put into the “comfort food” category just like how the Dragon Quest series is. Fans know what they’re in for with a Tri-Ace title, while many other gamers just gawk about what it doesn’t have or what it’s not doing right, how it fails to stack up against the competition.

It confuses me, really. RPG’s nowadays get stumped for having an incomprehensible story due to “long winded, pompous cutscenes.” Final Fantasy XIII’s storyline isn’t as bad as a lot of people are putting it down to be, seriously. I for one enjoyed what FF XIII had to offer. On the other hand, something like Star Ocean 4 gets panned for regurgitating the same story elements over and over again, when the obvious focus is the battle system. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I think all the unrest in the RPG community lies more in the fact that a lot of us just don’t know what exactly we want, rather than our games having bad narratives.

The high point of Star Ocean is the battle system. It’s fast paced and intense, yet still easy for a newcomer to pick up on. My only gripe thus far is that most enemies can be taken out by just mashing the attack button, with a few special attacks thrown in to make it flashy. At a glance, it may not be super complex, battles are still very satisfying. I used to watch Youtube videos of SO3’s end-game boss fights a few years back and just could never understand how enemies could take so much damage and keep fighting on. It seemed as if they had millions and millions of Hit Points. With every party member and boss unleashing their most powerful moves dealing damage in the tens of thousands back and forth to each other, I just sat in awe.  I couldn’t comprehend how exactly how it worked, and never did for years to come until I actually played it. Emerging victorious from a particularly tough boss fight is rewarding in its own right, and since Second Evolution is on a handheld, having exciting gameplay in the palm of my hand is definitely a bonus.

I like the change of pace that Star Ocean offers, and since I’ve been playing it often like I played Dissidia Final Fantasy before it, I’m well invested in this franchise and I haven’t even finished it yet, and will hopefully pick up the newer game on PS3 sometime soon.

Although I’ve found some solace in playing Star Ocean, My white board full of story ideas to write about has been getting bigger, with at least a one new idea popping up in my head randomly each day. However, when it comes to sitting down to putting my fingers to the keyboard, I always seem to stop abruptly. I get distracted, suddenly move to do something else, and never come back to home base, so to speak. I’ve been dealing with a really bad case of writers block and I’m having some trouble busting it. I know work has taken up a lot of the time I would usually put towards writing and all, but how much of this is really just fatigue? If this is just the summer state of mind, I could live with that, since I know what the problem is. Even so, not blogging as much as I used to feels like there’s a void that isn’t going to be filling with more gaming. Writing comes first, and as of late, it’s not even taking a back seat. It got left on the curb. How do you guys deal with Writers Block? Do you have any suggestions? Let me know!

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