The Aftermath of E3 2012

E3 2012 wasn’t the greatest show in its history, but it certainly wasn’t the worst. This year in gaming is the perfect example of the time where next-gen consoles are guaranteed, but the time to reveal them has not yet come. It is years like this where we get to see developers make games that take full advantage of the hardware of current consoles.

I’m the kind of person who tunes in for the games. New consoles are great, but it’s hard to look at a pricey $500+ box that may not launch with compelling games that are worth the sticker shock. Because of that, I’ve highlighted a handful of titles that I feel are going to make the second half of 2012 and into 2013 great. Now that the dust has settled and the near future of video games has been shown to us, here are my picks for games that struck a cord with me. Along with a few words, enjoy the videosfrom IGN, Gametrailers, and Youtube I’ve attached.

Tomb Raider

I honestly never played Tomb Raider. Back in the PS1 days I didn’t get into Lara Croft’s adventures probably on account of being too young. Over the years, she was also the victim of shoddy sequels that demoted her from a well regarded video game character to the biggest joke in the industry. This reboot to the franchise looks really promising, as it gives Lara a new origin story and shows how she became the femme fatale that many people fondly remember her as. It’s a great feeling to see a game character age as technology improves. Lara has evolved from a rigid, wirey-framed girl with a big polygonal chest to a realistically proportioned young woman. Watching Lara make use of both the limited tools she has with environmental hazards to take out the bad guys makes her out to be a very resourceful heroine. The preliminary footage of this new Tomb Raider is very promising, and if all goes well, I’ll be waiting in line to pick this up when it drops on March 5, 2013.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted

Need for Speed is constantly fighting against the likes of other racing franchises like Forza and Gran Turismo, but between the three, I’ve been enjoying Need for Speed the most. When Criterion started reimagining Need for Speed starting with 2010’s NFS Hot Pursuit, they succeeded in making a racer that didn’t have to be super-realistic, but still was very fun. However, the original Need for Speed: Most Wanted from 2005 is still my most beloved Need for Speed title. I can still remember climbing up the Blacklist 15, starting with a junky Fiat Punto and eventually blazing through the highway in a Porsche Carrera GT. Seeing it remade will satisfy the racer in me. With the Autolog, Most Wanted will monitor almost everything the player does, such as recording a new best time in a race. To fuel competition, this information can be broadcasted to other friends. Although it will be out on October 30, 2012, I’m willing to bet that the price for it will definitely drop just in time for Black Friday.

The Last of Us

After finally seeing some real gameplay footage, The Last of Us definitely has me interested. Naughty Dog has taken a bold step to create a harrowing experience where the combat isn’t just about taking cover and shooting a couple of times and moving to the next objective. Sometimes, you gotta get dirty. Combat appears to be more desperate, putting players at the edge of their seats. It was a nice touch to see that your enemies react to the sound of the player’s gun running out of bullets. Hopefully these struggles aren’t completely scripted, and the player can fail if they aren’t actually pressing a button. If the game is full of moments like the end of the demo, then I’m sold. This game is the perfect example of showcasing an exclusive game that Playstation owners can show off to their buddies who are missing out. The dreary atmosphere reminds me of The Road, but hopefully after playing this I won’t feel as depressed once it’s over. We’ll see more of the post-apocalyptic world in The Last of Us when it is released sometime in 2013.

PlayStation Plus

Although it isn’t exactly a game, the indirect value that PlayStation Plus offers continues to sweeten the pot for PSN subscribers. Many digital downloads for games are offered at discounted prices, and more often than not, for free. As of Sony’s press conference, inFamous 2, LittleBigPlanet 2 and MotorStorm: Apocalypse are free to download and own for Plus members. More free games are going to be offered every month as well. Barring any discounts, a full year subscription to PlayStation Plus is cheaper than a year of Xbox Live Gold. For those of us multiplatform gamers out there who have Xbox Live but haven’t gotten PlayStation Plus, we might really be thinking that our PS3’s aren’t being put to their fullest potential.

Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation

While I don’t have a Playstation Vita yet, Assassins Creed III: Liberation looks to be one of those titles that will help put more copies of Sony’s handheld into the laps of more people just like me. Admittedly, the change of setting to the New World has renewed my interest, and most importantly, this game stars a female African-French assassin. I dare you to think of how many games in the last ten years that have done this. Details are pretty scarce at this point, but by its October 30, 2012 release date which also coincides with Assassin’s Creed III, we’ll know much more.

Watch Dogs

One of the disappointments of this year’s E3 was that almost everything that was shown was either leaked prematurely, or we’ve known about it for months. When you actually reveal a new game at your press conference like Ubisoft did, you create real E3 moments. Posed as a high tech Frankenstein of features from both Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell, Watch Dogs thrusts players in the near future, where every piece of information about us exists as data. In the hands of the capable, this data can be exploited. The gameplay video explains it all. I would love to carry around a smartphone like that. When people are wondering if this is a current gen title, or something for the next batch of consoles you know you’ve made an impact. Couple that with an open world third person shooter and you just might have the highest acclaimed game in the show. Watch Dogs will be out in 2013.

Star Wars 1313

In my opinion, I have yet to see a Star Wars game on the same level as Jedi Outcast. Contemporary Star Wars games have tried to deliver on so many fronts that when taken as a whole, they simply failed to reach their mark. Star Wars is a legendary IP and presents a universe where thousands of stories have been told beyond the movies in the form of games, novels and television shows. It appears that Jedi, Sith, and other aspects of the Force in general are absent. The player is a Bounty Hunter, and well, shoots stuff. This premise might fall into the mold of “just another third person shooter,” but I’m really hoping that it doesn’t. Although the cover based shooter style is tried and true, 1313 could spice things up by taking advantage of the various tools that bounty hunters like Boba Fett had. Jetpacks, flamethrowers, grappling hooks anyone? This “mature” take on the Star Wars universe got many fans watching with great interest. Also, this game looks absolutely amazing. Details are also slim, but more information is likely to be on the horizon.

Agni’s Philosophy

The idea of next-generation consoles permeated the air of this year’s E3 like the subtle aroma of breakfast in the morning – we all know it’s coming, but can’t really do anything until it emerges on the table. Everyone whispered and speculated, but Sony and Microsoft had nothing to talk about. Square-Enix had a rather dismal offering in its RPG department – Final Fantasy Versus XIII was absent for yet another year, and as much as I like Kingdom Hearts, its handheld outings have not done much to move the story forward at all. Enter Agni’s Philosophy, Square-Enix’s tech demo showcasing the graphical potential a next gen game engine could be able to produce. While this is just an exercise in eye candy and graphical muscle, let’s play the what-if game for a minute. What if Agni’s Philosophy could be a starting point for a new style of Final Fantasy, where dragons and other creatures are really monstrous? Not everything is as elegant and pretty, yet the world is a perfect mix of gritty environments married in with locations where magic and technology go hand in hand? If this is a taste of what Square-Enix is capable of, faithful fans will be frothing at the mouth to play their new stuff. That is, after get around to finishing the numerous projects that have been announced but have yet to materialize.

There’s tons of games and new technology to get excited for, and there are a number of other titles, peripherals and software not mentioned in this article, this is just a taste of what’s to come. I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with a controller once these great titles finally release.

 

Video Credits – Gametrailers.com, IGN.com, Youtube, and all of the developers and publishers who showed of their great titles at this year’s E3.

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Review: Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy

Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy Review

A noteworthy movement of the PSP’s swan song.

Publisher: Square-Enix

PSP

Release Date: March 22, 2011

Players: 1-2

Rating: Teen

The PSP’s days are numbered. While a lot of handheld gamers are flocking to the recently released 3DS, people are quick to write off the PSP as yesteryears craze, thinking it has nothing left to offer. Although triple A PSP titles have been few and far in between, when they do show up, the competition can’t help but blush. Judging by the hundreds of hours I’ve put into the first Dissidia Final Fantasy, it’s clear that this game will always be known as one main reason that I own a PSP. When it comes to sequels to fighting games, the best solution to improving on a great formula is to simply add more of everything, and Dissidia 012 does just that.

The main storyline of Dissidia 012 is actually a prequel to the first game. Two gods, Cosmos and Chaos, are perpetually at war with one another. Dissidia 012’s name comes from the twelfth cycle in this war. To settle their eternal conflict, they summon various warriors to fight in a battle that seems to last forever. The premise is simple enough, but still succeeds at being more convoluted than the games it pays homage to. The disjointed narratives in each characters story offer a small piece in this puzzle of a plot, and the differing perspectives certainly keep things fresh. However, with the amount of fights between each plot point, it was a chore to bother keeping up with the story, other than the fact that there were good guys and bad. The true appeal to this game is seeing a representative from each Final Fantasy on the PSP screen. The huge roster doesn’t lend itself to much development, other than background information any Final Fantasy fan would already know about.

Square Enix has always known the importance of great visuals, and they definitely delivered in terms of eye candy. Every character and battlefield are faithfully recreated from their respective game and brought to life again here. Seeing characters from older Final Fantasies who used to be confined to crummy pixels and low quality sprites fully come alive on the PSP’s screen is also a treat. Watching the particle effects from every strike is stunning, as characters fly through the large creative arenas while engaged in combat.

Although this title sports the name Final Fantasy, Dissidia 012’s game play blends its familiar RPG elements in with a fighting system unique to any game out there. Characters have hit points which govern how much life they have, and bravery points. Bravery attacks are strikes that add to your own bravery and subtract from your opponent’s. HP attacks use the bravery you’ve built up to actually hurt your opponent. Are you the kind of player that builds up a large amount of bravery to knock out your enemy in one clean blow, or do you prefer to break them down piece by piece with a bunch of HP attacks throughout the match? With this concept, coming up with intricate strategies to take out your opponents ensure that fighting never gets boring, as the vast majority of your time will be spent playing will be in the battlefield anyway. Assists are an interesting addition to the battle system with Dissidia 012, and they’re similar to Marvel vs. Capcom’s assists. By dealing damage you build up a meter that allows you to call them out, either to bail you out from a beating or to set up a combo of your own. It would have been nice to see teams of characters fighting at once, but having guests momentarily jump in to pepper a few strikes before disappearing was nice.

While the core game play of Dissidia 012 is the same as its predecessor, this game really shines in the additions Square-Enix has made to the existing system. To break up the monotony of wandering a grid between battles, there is an actual world map to traverse. It’s nice to have the feeling that you’re actually exploring an expansive world to reach a new locale, rather than wondering how one scene takes place aboard the cart of a rushing train, and the next one occurs on the moon. Another noteworthy addition is the party system, where you can form teams of five of your favorite characters during the adventure. If you’re in the middle of a long dungeon and you get tired of playing as one character or if they die in battle, you can swap in another one on the fly. For those looking for even more juice to squeeze from this fruit of a game, there’s even an option to alter the rules of the game itself, or to create quests where they control every possible variable. Once you’re done, you can share your unique quests over the internet. The levels of customization are essentially endless. Unfortunately, enjoying a lot of this content (like dressing your characters up in alternate costumes, playing different battle themes, etc) is only available outside of story mode, which will be where the bulk of your time is spent.

It should be no surprise that you’ll definitely get your money’s worth with Dissidia 012. The main storyline runs at about 20 hours, and upon completion, you unlock the entire story mode from the first game, with updates to reflect the changes Dissidia 012 brings. With over 30 characters to build up to level 100 and various forms of customization like more costumes, new attacks and items to collect, hundreds of hours will go by in a flash. While the PSP may be on its last legs before being replaced by its successor, you can sit by comfortably waiting for the next wave with Dissidia 012.

Rating: 4/5

And the Winner Is…

Japanese Role Playing Games have been a cornerstone of the realm of video games for years. When we’re tired of shooting, platforming or sports games, there’s nothing like an adventure that features memorable characters, a well written narrative that appeals to the fantasy fan in all of us. Most gamers have been fans of RPGs in general due to the many entries of the Final Fantasy series, as it’s consistently been one of the biggest gaming franchises of each console generation. Although one would think the winning formula that Final Fantasy always has to offer would be just that, a lot of unrest has been circulating over the past few years. The majority of JRPGs follow a number of the same troupes; which include effeminate male characters, cliché storylines to name a few, along with other points that often cross with anime, manga or Japanese culture in general. Many people have begun to call out why this has been happening, and have even shined the spotlight on Final Fantasy.

2010 was a year of turbulence in the Role Playing Game realm, because many household names suddenly found themselves having to fight to stay relevant and viable. Of the games that I reviewed this year, I feel that Final Fantasy XIII was the one who took up this challenge and responded to the growing concerns that ridiculed its waning popularity.

There are several vexing features that are unique to Final Fantasy XIII, which largely served to disgruntle many players who were used to many traditional concepts in the long running series. These changes, while unexpected, were the essence of moving the series forward in its own way.

Here’s what some of you elitists missed out on

Let’s talk about the biggest complaint people seem to have with Final Fantasy XIII: “It takes twenty hours for the game to get fun.” “Half of the game is an interactive tutorial.” “It’s too linear.” Every time I hear these comments, I can’t help but cringe. Yes, the game doesn’t “open up” until the group is fully assembled, and that doesn’t occur until the end of Chapter 9. (There are a total of 13 Chapters, of varying lengths.) In light of that, it would be pretty ridiculous to think that the player is being “held against their will” and forced to not get any enjoyment from the game for such a long time. While the player is “restricted” in that sense for this portion of the game, let’s look at why this seems to be complained about.

First, character growth is capped for each chapter, to discourage power leveling. Fortunately for those who didn’t notice, this maintains the challenge for the player. Secondly, each chapter introduces a new concept during combat for the player to grasp and master. This game features a new rendition of the Active Time Battle system that many of us are used to, and without learning the nuances of it, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. For example, during a boss fight in Chapter 3, players are faced with learning the importance of effective Paradigm Shifting. Near the end of the battle, the boss unleashes a desperation attack that will put each party member in critical health, and it soon follows up with another attack that kills everyone off. The player can only get through this boss fight once they understand that they have to shift to a Paradigm that focuses on healing to survive the rest of the encounter. If they are successful, the party switches to “healing mode,” and weathers the oncoming attacks with ease. Soon after the party is healthy again, they can finish off their adversary with little trouble. A quick decision like that was mandatory for this boss fight, and must be second nature for the player in order to make it through the more difficult fights later in the game. Each chapter during this linear section of the game has lessons that the player needs to understand fully in order to survive, because when the game finally affords more freedom to the party, any encounter can result in a game over if the player wasn’t prudent enough to understand the mechanics of the game while the training wheels were still on.

“So we’re all here to save the world; not just me, right?”

As I mentioned before, the party is split up for the first nine chapters of the game. One of the key reasons behind this is that the player is treated to one-on-one character interactions that really help to delve into each characters personality with as little interference from the rest of the cast. Ironically, most of this development occurs during the early part of the game that many players glossed over. Here’s a clip demonstrating the growing camaraderie between Lightning and Hope during some of the cut scenes throughout Chapter 5.

Video Credit: TheShatteredElement, Square Enix and Final Fantasy XIII.

Bonding like this isn’t possible in a group setting; and this is especially true in real life as well. Since the team was divided, it allowed more energy to be put into each character at each turn of the plot. In turn, players could better understand their personalities and make connections to them. For once, each party member had a direct stake in the mission at hand, and there wasn’t a character that was “just along for the ride,” or lacked any pertinent dialogue. When the team finally was formed, this cohesion continued to the end.

Multiple discs still work

Although we always thought the concept of console loyalty would still be upheld by Final Fantasy (despite it’s past on Nintendo’s systems), this too unraveled. Although this game was originally planned to only be on Playstation 3, an Xbox 360 port was also announced. Whenever a game has a port coming along for another system, development often has to be scaled back so the finished product can run nearly identically for each console it’s released on. The differences in graphics were notably small, but definitely blown out of proportion by elitists. A funny complaint involved the minor difference that the Xbox 360 version had multiple discs, while the Blu-Ray only needed one. The bottom line here is that the entire Xbox player base that may have never experienced a Final Fantasy game before now had its chance. This is just another idea of the changing landscape in the video game industry – There’s not much reason not to limit your audience, especially if the game in question is Final Fantasy. Playstation fans shouldn’t be whining, as they’re receiving the same olive branch with the soon to be released Playstation 3 port of Mass Effect 2.

It’s pointless to compare Final Fantasy XIII with the other big titles in the series, like Final Fantasy VII or Final Fantasy X. Each of those games had their own changes and additions that helped make them notable games that fans could easily identify with. Although their changes were much more subtle, they weren’t met with as much resistance as Final Fantasy XIII is facing. No two entries are the same, because there’s always a new story to be told, and new ideas and ways to help move the game forward.

Moving forward, like it or not

If you examine anything well known- be it a famous band, television or video game series, there will always be people who have problems when the franchise is taken in a new direction. Whether it’s because a long standing tradition has been broken, or new ideas have taken prominence over the old, it’s impossible to disagree with the fact that change is going on. It’s painfully clear that nothing is really safe in video games. In this landscape, a game that wasn’t afraid to leap into the unknown and to try something new, like Final Fantasy XIII has this year, is without a doubt deserving my choice for Game of the Year 2010.

Reader’s Choice Awards 2010

When I think of ‘Game of the Year’, I ask myself: “If I had to pick one title that would be representative of an entire year of gaming, what would that be?” What qualifications does this game in question have to meet? Is this a game that everyone knows about, or does it have a small yet dedicated following? Can it just be a personal favorite?

I think it would only be fair if I were to choose games that I have accrued a substantial amount of knowledge on – in other words, only the games that were released and I reviewed in 2010 could apply here. With that said, I’ll run through each candidate with a small excerpt from my reviews and my personal thoughts on them:

Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep

“If anything, it’s hard to realize that this is still a portable game. Sometimes, I had to notice everything that was happening was indeed going on in the palm of my hands, rather than on a television. Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep is an excellent Action RPG that will definitely keep you at the edge of your seat from start to finish.”

I’d venture to say that the Nintendo DS is the more popular of the two portable systems. However, games like Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep are shining examples of the sheer advantages of higher technology the PSP wields over its rival. Without a doubt, this is a fully fledged Kingdom Hearts game on a portable system you can take on the go, which is really excellent. While the majority of the main quest was a tad redundant due to the fact that you tour the very same worlds three times, it was done through three different perspectives. I loved each of the heroes, and was genuinely sad to see their fates at the game’s climax. However, like every Kingdom Hearts game, the ending always sheds some light on the future game, where each of their fates will be rectified.

White Knight Chronicles

“White Knight Chronicles doesn’t bring anything extraordinary to the table. It’s a solid RPG for sure, and going online with your Avatar will be the reason to why you would still be playing after the story mode is finished. Aside from Geonet’s thoughtful interface and the exciting, but shortchanged combo system, it tries to be a MMO from the mid 2000’s. I’d like to think we’ve evolved from slow combat and lifeless quests. By haphazardly relying on the innovations of games in the past, White Knight Chronicles ultimately fails to set itself apart from the pack.”

Despite the few good things White Knight Chronicles has accomplished, it took a hefty beating for recycling a lot of conventions that helped define the JRPG. This ranged from very linear characters, inanimate quests that weren’t very involving, and an archaic battle system. While doing this, it couldn’t help but seeming like a combination of a lot of overused mechanics strung together. This Frankenstein of a game simply didn’t cut it.

Final Fantasy XIII

“Final Fantasy XIII will divide many fans. For those who rely on tradition, there will be some shock to get over. Once that has subsided, what remains is definitely an excellent adventure. It made a bold move to take a chance and change a lot of the elements players have held dear. In the pursuit of innovation, the result is a great game, and it deserves to stand proud in the canon of RPG’s.”

Despite being a household name in terms of RPG’s, Final Fantasy XIII is easily the most polarizing title in the long running series. Never before have I seen so many fans divided over the merits and complaints of this game. Regardless of your personal thoughts, it was a risk to change so many traditional concepts that Final Fantasy is known for. However in light of that, JRPG’s have been getting denounced for doing the same thing over and over again. If anyone were to shake up the pot, I’d like to think that Final Fantasy would have the most favorable results, right?

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit

“Need for Speed Hot Pursuit is deceptively simple. Because the focus is completely on what you experience behind the wheel, there are no distractions to take away from driving. While we never will be able to realize our fantasy of speeding down a highway going 140 miles an hour evading the law, or enforcing it ourselves, this is an excellent break from reality; a great racing game that never fails to disappoint.”

I had a blast with Need for Speed Hot Pursuit. Racing games like this are just what you need sometimes: Frantic aggressive action that never lets up until the race is over. While a lot of people may have gone straight to Gran Turismo 5 since it released in the same month, I’m one of the few that believe there’s other really good choices for those who want to get their racing fix. Fun fact: The last Need for Speed game that ever won an E3 award was the original Hot Pursuit, which came out in 1998. Even though twelve years have passed, a successful formula like this always will come out in first place.

Phantasy Star Portable 2

“By now, if you’ve heard of the Phantasy Star series, you either hate what it’s become, or have been sticking around, hoping that it will come around to achieve its former glory as one of the most prolific Action RPG series of this decade. (Phantasy Star) Portable 2 drives remarkably closer to that nostalgia that originally drew us in. This is definitely a game to get your hands on.”

Whenever I talk about anything related to Phantasy Star anymore, I feel as if I have to play Devil’s Advocate. In our ever growing history of video games, wherever I turn, it seems that the pages where this game would be mentioned are suspiciously left blank, or smudged over! The main thing that I like about this game is that at its most basic components, it is a port of the same game that came out in 2006. However, because of the numerous additions the game has had in the form of an expansion and a boatload of added content like tweaks to the mechanics, many new missions and equipment to hunt for, there was always stuff to keep players busy. This game is the pinnacle of all of that content, shrink-wrapped and ready to take in your pocket.

Now that each choice is pooled here together, it’s time to choose! Unfortunately, this year is the ‘Battle of the RPG’s plus a racing game,’ so I want to apologize for a lack of variety in genres. Next year will be better in that aspect! What game do you guys think should gain the honor of Hit Points’ Game of the Year 2010? Vote for your favorite game! Stay tuned, I’ll reveal my choice by the end of the year.

 

When I think of ‘Game of the Year’, I ask myself: “If I had to pick one title that would be representative of an entire year of gaming, what would that be?” What qualifications does this game in question have to meet? Is this a game that everyone knows about, or does it have a small yet dedicated following? Can it just be a personal favorite?

I think it would only be fair if I were to choose games that I have accrued a substantial amount of knowledge on – in other words, only the games that were released and I reviewed in 2010 could apply here. With that said, I’ll run through each candidate with a small excerpt from my reviews, and my personal thoughts on them:

Final Fantasy XIII

“Final Fantasy XIII will divide many fans. For those who rely on tradition, there will be some shock to get over. Once that has subsided, what remains is definitely an excellent adventure. It made a bold move to take a chance and change a lot of the elements players have held dear. In the pursuit of innovation, the result is a great game, and it deserves to stand proud in the canon of RPG’s.”

Despite being a household name in terms of RPG’s, Final Fantasy XIII is easily the most polarizing title in the long running series. Never before have I seen so many fans divided over the merits and complaints of this game. Regardless of your personal thoughts, it was a risk to change so many traditional concepts that Final Fantasy is known for. However in light of that, JRPG’s have been getting denounced for doing the same thing over and over again. If anyone were to shake up the pot, I’d like to think that Final Fantasy would have the most favorable results, right?

Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep

“If anything, it’s hard to realize that this is still a portable game. Sometimes, I had to notice everything that was happening was indeed going on in the palm of my hands, rather than on a television. Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep is an excellent Action RPG that will definitely keep you at the edge of your seat from start to finish.”

I’d venture to say that the Nintendo DS is the more popular of the two portable systems. However, games like Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep are shining examples of the sheer advantages of higher technology the PSP wields over its rival. Without a doubt, this is a fully fledged Kingdom Hearts game on a portable system you can take on the go, which is really excellent. While the majority of the main quest was a tad redundant due to the fact that you tour the very same worlds three times, it was done through three different perspectives. I loved each of the heroes, and was genuinely sad to see their fates at the game’s climax. However, like every Kingdom Hearts game, the ending always sheds some light on the future game, where each of their fates will be rectified.

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit

“Need for Speed Hot Pursuit is deceptively simple. Because the focus is completely on what you experience behind the wheel, there are no distractions to take away from driving. While we never will be able to realize our fantasy of speeding down a highway going 140 miles an hour evading the law, or enforcing it ourselves, this is an excellent break from reality; a great racing game that never fails to disappoint.”

I had a blast with Need for Speed Hot Pursuit. Racing games like this are just what you need sometimes: Frantic aggressive action that never lets up until the race is over. While a lot of people may have gone straight to Gran Turismo 5 since it released in the same month, I’m one of the few that believe there’s other really good choices for those who want to get their racing fix. Fun fact: The last Need for Speed game that ever won an E3 award was the original Hot Pursuit, which came out in 1998. Even though twelve years have passed, a successful formula like this always will come out in first place.

Phantasy Star Portable 2

“By now, if you’ve heard of the Phantasy Star series, you either hate what it’s become, or have been sticking around, hoping that it will come around to achieve its former glory as one of the most prolific Action RPG series of this decade. (Phantasy Star) Portable 2 drives remarkably closer to that nostalgia that originally drew us in. This is definitely a game to get your hands on.”

Whenever I talk about anything related to Phantasy Star anymore, I feel as if I have to play Devil’s Advocate. In our ever growing history of video games, wherever I turn, it seems that the pages where this game would be mentioned are suspiciously left blank, or smudged over! The main thing that I like about this game is that at its most basic components, it is a port of the same game that came out in 2006. However, because of the numerous additions the game has had in the form of an expansion and a boatload of added content like tweaks to the mechanics, many new missions and equipment to hunt for, there was always stuff to keep players busy. This game is the pinnacle of all of that content, shrink-wrapped and ready to take in your pocket.

White Knight Chronicles

“White Knight Chronicles doesn’t bring anything extraordinary to the table. It’s a solid RPG for sure, and going online with your Avatar will be the reason to why you would still be playing after the story mode is finished. Aside from Geonet’s thoughtful interface and the exciting, but shortchanged combo system, it tries to be a MMO from the mid 2000’s. I’d like to think we’ve evolved from slow combat and lifeless quests. By haphazardly relying on the innovations of games in the past, White Knight Chronicles ultimately fails to set itself apart from the pack.”

Despite the few good things White Knight Chronicles has accomplished, it took a hefty beating for recycling a lot of conventions that helped define the JRPG. This ranged from very linear characters, inanimate quests that weren’t very involving, and an archaic battle system. While doing this, it couldn’t help but seeming like a combination of a lot of overused mechanics strung together. This Frankenstein of a game simply didn’t cut it.

Now that each choice is pooled here together, it’s time to choose! Unfortunately, this year is the ‘Battle of the RPG’s plus a racing game,’ so I want to apologize for a lack of variety in genres. Next year will be better in that aspect! What game do you guys think should gain the honor of Hit Points’ Game of the Year 2010? Stay tuned, I’ll reveal my choice by the end of the year.

Repackaged, But Nothing New

It’s hard to imagine certain franchises will stick to their guns and remain exclusive to one console. This year has seen Final Fantasy’s highly publicized fall from grace, when Xbox 360 got its own version (a slightly underpowered one, at that) of Final Fantasy 13, which was released alongside its native PS3 counterpart. The ever raging console debate is just losing its momentum – the heavy-hitting big name titles that fanboys tout as the reasons to purchase a console are becoming moot, since it seems that both sides eventually get access to these previously exclusive games.

I unfortunately had missed out on the Mass Effect craze. Both games have gone right over my head, but I always wanted to check them out. Although I own every console, other circumstances always stopped me from taking the plunge. Even so, this series is pretty special. It’s clear that the story is modeled after the best sci-fi trilogy ever made, and it would be foolish to step into the second game without having played the first. This past year I’ve been trying to move my focus from my Xbox 360 to my PS3, and the unwarranted consequence to that was that I was going to miss out on Mass Effect

Until it was announced that Mass Effect 2 would be released on PS3.

Naturally, the Playstation camp is pretty ecstatic. This port of the main game also contains all of the downloadable content that was released for the PC and 360 versions of the game, all on the disk. Of course, this is all well and good, but a quick glance at the price turns me off completely. The core game is still largely the same experience, yet the mere 6 hours of bonus content (as it’s advertized on the box) boosts it to full price. Compare the $60 you’d spend for this against the astronomically low price for the PC and 360 versions, which are hovering around $15 now.

In the midst of having the privilege of playing this game, PS3 owners will be missing out on an important factor that this release will be lacking. One of the main factors of playing each Mass Effect game is that the choices you make in the previous game reflect in the next. For example, your main character’s class and reputation, whether certain characters are alive or dead, or the livelihood of an entire race, to name a few, are variables that can affect your experience. The rights to Mass Effect 1 are owned by Microsoft, so the chances of it appearing on PS3 are slim to none, but I hope this glaring problem is addressed somehow.

I suppose in the end, this was a good move for Bioware. When all is said and done, a new audience gets to play another excellent RPG. Past decisions or not, Mass Effect 2 is still a great game, but I’d be more inclined to play it if it wasn’t so expensive, just for being on a different system.

Ventus, Complete!

I’m a little bit surprised that I cleared Ven’s storyline in four days. More or less, he romps through the same worlds as Terra, and now I’m seeing the point of the three-pronged approach to this game. It’s nice to notice when more than one hero is in the same world, and how their actions are seen from another person’s perspective; again, its encouraged to clear each story to get the full picture.

Gameplay wise, I would say Ven’s game was easier than Terra’s – that is to say, he plays the most like Sora, making him the easiest to get back into playing a Kingdom Hearts game. They’re both nimble, quick, and of course – they can fly. I went through Neverland as Terra just waiting for Peter Pan and Tinkerbell to sprinkle him with magic dust so he can take flight. It never happened, so I guess adults really can’t fly, oh well.

I liked Ven as a character. He’s the most cheerful of the three heroes, and his personality and interactions with others made each scene memorable. Terra’s brooding nature seemed to drive a wall between the bubbly Disney characters, but I’m just being nitpicky. Ven connected with people like Stich, Mikey, Donald and Goofy. The first thing that drew me to him was his obvious resemblance to Roxas, from Kingdom Hearts II. Why does he look just like him? Is this some kind of ploy to get all fans to collectively say “wtf, who is that?” Well, if I were to answer that, then what’s the point in all of you planning to play it? I’ll just say that it’s an interesting plot twist. Regardless, the overarching plot is sometimes difficult to follow, and when you have a new character that looks like someone we’ve already met five years ago, it’s a lot more complicated than just passing them off as something like an older twin…

To build off of my previous note about Final Fantasy’s presence in this game- I’m sad to report that no other characters have been found. Still, a young iteration of Zack is so far the sole representative for Final Fantasy, which is kind of odd. One of the main draws to Kingdom Hearts is seeing a universe that combines the elements of two really big properties: Disney (Duh) and Final Fantasy. Having only a side character (at best) weakens that very easy way to market this game to those fans who swoon at the chance to see someone like Cloud or Squall/Leon again. I still hope that this isn’t the case, but time is running out. Perhaps a bunch of characters are just hiding in Aqua’s story!

I suppose in defense of this decision, having a deficiency of Final Fantasy characters allows the game and the players to focus on the central protagonists. As a prequel, their actions are very important, and this game serves to answer a lot of those questions that still haven’t been answered, or have been speculated on for years. It’s all up to the individual player, but I’m sure a lot of Final Fantasy fans would be dissapointed there isn’t much for them.

If I learned the basics of Birth By Sleep with Terra, then I’ve gotten proficient with Ven. Chances are, what I’ve learned with him will make Aqua’s story a breeze-  but we’ll see.

Well, I’m off to start Aqua’s storyline. Happy Gaming!

Terra, Complete!

The picture basically explains it all. But, if you want to somehow dodge any harmless picture that could be construed as a spoiler, I’ve just finished Terra’s portion of Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep. Overall his game wasn’t too difficult, but the final level for his storyline gave me a run for my money. Even though I was on standard mode, I was getting way too many game over’s for my own good. I’ll leave his last boss anonymous, but relatively speaking, he was pretty damn tough (hard like Sephiroth) compared to the rest of the boss battles in the game, at least for Terra. Kingdom Hearts does an excellent job with each boss battle, I was never disappointed.

As far as Terra goes, he only grazed the surface each Disney world he visited. In the short time he interacted with each character most of us have grown up with, the eventual boss battle signifying the end of his portion of the world occurred sooner than I had expected, and after that, he would be off towards the next destination, and at times, very abruptly. With Snow White, he meets her and protects her from a horde of Unversed. Like the frail girl she is, she runs at the sight of danger into the forest (Yeah, the same forest where the trees come to life and grab at her). Terra turns around and sees the boss behind him and defeats it easily. “What does this all mean? Maybe I will find my answers elsewhere…” Snow White’s world is complete. I can understand this approach to the narrative, as it makes me want to play through the next character to see what happens next in each world after the previous hero leaves. Later on, I find out Ventus shows up with the Seven Dwarves to take Snow White to the cottage.

Hopefully this is just Terra’s problem, but Final Fantasy characters have been nearly non-existent – I’ve only seen a very young Zack from Final Fantasy VII, for about ten minutes. So far, all of the other (popular) characters have yet to make an appearance. I hope that gets rectified soon.

That’s all for now! I would have been more diligent in completing everything there is to do, but since I’m reviewing this, I had to fly through as fast as I could. I’m working through Ven’s story now, so stay tuned!