Sunday, January 3, 2016

Gaming Recap 2015: JRPGs Killed the Video Stars

To avoid to have my laptop falling victim of this summer's heat and burn to ashes, I decided to make one single Gaming Recap for all 2015. Without further ado...

Dark Souls II The Dark Soul franchise has the (in)famous reputation of being one of the must ruthless and difficult ones of this age of gaming, and that's why I felt appropriate to resort to one of the oldest cheats of all times. What would it be, you ask ? It's simple: playing the game with somebody who already finished it a couple of times and had a better chance to surpass the most difficult parts of it. Now, some might be curious to know if such unconventional choice ruined my playthrough and the answer is not even a single bit. On the contrary, both me and my (younger) friend brought our share of expertise to it: while he was more familiar and prepared to the horrors that lied ahead, I had some more years of experience as a gamer in general to bring to the table.
The whole process was so fun (yes, you read well: fun) that I agreed to buy the three expansions (that my friend never played as well) and beat them all together as well. If there is something that DSII told me is that being in good company can turn even the most frustrating deed into a pleasant one.

Warriors Orochi 3 DLC Stages Packs With the 11 DLC Stages Packs, KoeiTecmo gave another good example of "Downloadable Content done right". With a reasonable price, these packs altogether brought to my copy of the original Warriors Orochi 3 (and the Ultimate version as well, the day I'll decide to buy it) enough content to bring me back mashing the square button for hours. These additions do also very well in terms of story (provided you even bother acknowledging its existence, of course): not one of these optional stages explains some pivotal parts of it, and yet they deliver some interesting insights to the backstories of the many characters that were barely seen in the original iteration of the game. Of course, there's also a considerable amount of "joke" stages, created only for the purpose of making the player more familiar with said neglected characters and the massive roster in general.

Breath of Fire II I have to admit it: I had average expectations about this game, and even then BoFII managed to be mostly a disappointment. If you like the idea of roaming the world to prove the innocence of one your party members to the law, this game's plot is going to be a blast for you - because that is what you will be doing for a consistent part of the whole storyline. Sure, new members will join you in your quest for truth and freedom, but you'll have to wait until the later parts of the game to know their backstories - and when you will finally know them enough to care about them, the story itself will much probably end soon. BoFII is relatively short, and yet it manages to pull in all the things that made me hate to love this genre, ranging from story quests that have no logical correlation one with the other to being forced to have X member in your party at every turn.
The only true positive thing that I can say about playing this title is that it marks my long-awaited retirement from this genre, at least for a long, long time... so now you know what this recap sub-title it's all about.

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag When this iteration of the Assassin's Creed franchise came out all you could read about it were good things - and there is no wonder why. Black Flag brings the age of pirates to the AC continuity, and it does it so well that I honestly recommend this game as a stand-alone experience in the case you (like me) don't even care that much about the franchise as a whole. Black Flag is, to put it simply, one of the best examples of immersive open-world games combined with a great story that will keep you hooked until the very end. There are indeed some issues with the gameplay (sometimes you character will do the most insane acrobatic deeds but will simply refuse to jump to that wall just in front of you), but the overall experience is so engaging that you won't regret even a second of (almost) yelling at the screen.

Stranglehold A quite obscure, lost gem of the first age of the PS3, Stranglehold brought John Woo's cinematic style to my console in such a successful way that I started asking myself "Why didn't they made a sequel ?" even before I was done with it. Yes, this game is very short indeed, but if you like third-person shooters where you can shoot dozens of thugs as you jump over tables in slow-motion while things explode around you, this is the game you would have already beat several times if you only knew it even existed. Look up some videos and prepare to spend about 20 bucks (and about five to ten hours) if you'll find it at your local store: you can thank me later.

I am currently (presumably) about halfway through Farcry 3. At the moment, I'm enjoying it very much, but that will be another story for another year. With that said, until next time.

NOTE: I wish to let know to the reader that I usually set a game's difficulty at Easy whenever I got the chance. If you find a certain game more difficult, unfair or unbalanced than I did, that might be a good reason.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Geeky Recap 2014: Road To Disappointment

WARNING:  The following post contains a very high amount of negativity. In the article the author will complain about popular TV shows, overly highly praised classic old-school console games and many other stuff that you probably consider some of the things that made your life worth living for. If you plan to complain about the things the author complains about you're obviously allowed to do so, but just be aware that doing so will give the author the chance to complain about the things you complain that the author complained about. So, before doing we suggest to ask yourself the most obvious question: is it really worth it ? Oh, it's also worth mentioning that this article will also contain *MASSIVE SPOILERS*, so please proceed with caution... or don't proceed at all. 

For me, 2014 was a year filled with great expectations about many things in different media. Unfortunately, most of these expectations had been crushed, and it's with a bitter taste in my mouth that I have to write down this article. But whether if I like it or not, it's time to get to business.


Adventure Quest Worlds: The 13 Lords of Chaos Saga finale Now, let me put me this down fair and square: the release itself was truly amazing. The revelations of the Hero's true nature and origins, followed by a multiple stage battle against Drakath that went on for a couple of weekly releases gave me some moments of pure exaltation. The problem is that the conclusion of the 13 Lords of Chaos Saga simply leads to the beginning of a whole new saga, Ancient Evils. While this new story arc looks very interesting, it's quite disappointing that after so much time and effort spent to confront the hordes of chaos, we happen to know to that the Hero (the player) and his arch-rival Drakath were simply outsmarted by the true big bad of the series, the Queen of Monsters. And the new release doesn't actually change the narrative's direction, as both the Hero and a new NPC (Syrrus the Astromancer) has been deceived by another bad guy named Karok the Worldbreaker. That leads me to a question that I'm not sure I want to be answered: how much dumb the good guys have to be to keep the story going ?

Shining Force: Resurrection of The Dark Dragon There is an episode of  Happy Days (a popular TV Show that really made a good portion of my childhood) where Fonzie tries some very dangerous trials with his motorbike because he wants to prove himself, because he feels that they just "have to be done" even if the risks are way higher than the things he will obtain by doing them. That is the philosophy that I followed in the last couple of years while struggling with my "must-play old-school JRPG games" backlog - I don't play them because I like them but because I feel that I just have to do it.
Now, many people on Gamefaqs reviewed Shining Force: Resurrection of The Dark Dragon as a game so easy that it's not even funny to play. For a veteran gamer of tactics RPGs, someone who eats Tactics Ogre for breakfast and could complete every single iteration of Fire Emblem blindfolded, that could easily be true. But for someone like myself, who struggled to beat even the original and relatively easy Final Fantasy Tactics on PSX, this game is a brutal experience, a potentially good title flawed by many horrible game design choices that make it simply unfair and unforgiving. I am very near to complete it ("only" three stages left), but it's very though to gather the willpower to get in front of the TV screen and play it again, so much that I have no shame to admit that I had to put the game on hiatus for a bit because of the stress it puts on me... and Shining Force 2 lies in wait.


Avatar: The Legend of Korra Book 4 In my previous post on this very blog, I spent positive words about Book 3: Change and how the series kept being interesting and entertaining even after the spectacular, mind-blowing events of Book 2. Now, even if I didn't find the challenge against Zaheer and his powerful followers as much as engrossing as the previous chapter, the story arc still felt consistent and well executed. Unfortunately, I don't feel I can say the same about Book 4: Balance. Now, don't get me wrong on this one: this chapter has nothing to envy to the previous ones in terms of sheer quality. The animation is fluid, the voice acting is impressive and the score is outstanding as usual. Notwithstanding that, there is something about this story arc as a whole, something that I cannot describe with words that makes it feel rushed and... uninspired. If there is something that I owe to the final chapter the Avatar-verse (at least when it comes down to the contribution of its original creators), is that it did not left me wanting for more.

Video Game High School Browsing through the internet I found this show and I got immediately hooked with it. VGHS tells the story of Brian D, who accidentally beats the strongest FPS players in the world, and gets into the prestigious Video Game High School. As much as juvenile the story can be, this web series looks gorgeous, with a directing worthy of a triple A TV show. The story, however, tends to indulge a bit too much on the romance side, with the relationship of Brian and his Team Leader, Jenny  Matrix, dragging on and on for all the three seasons of the show.
What really got me into the series to be honest, was Brian's nemesis, the above mentioned FPS champion simply known as "The Law". The Law has all the things a villain needs: he's arrogant, vicious and crazy. You're gonna hate him, and you'll just love to do so. At some point, The Law is given his own sub-plot, which in my opinion is way more involving than the main story... and than the final episode comes. I was there, waiting for The Law to finally redeem himself by joining the heroes in their final challenge and lay waste on the enemy side, but unfortunately (for me), none of this happens. The contribution of The Law in the final battle it's even counter-productive for his comrades, and the lack of any expected... no, mandatory badassness from his side makes the return of this entertaining arch-rival one of the most disappointing comebacks I've ever experienced in any media ever existed.

That's it for the Disappointment Section. Since sometimes some good stuff have to pop-up here and there, I think it's fair to spend a bit of lines also to talk about...

The Good Stuff

Lyrania 2.0 This game is a prime example of PBBG (Persistent Browser-Based Game). On the surface, it's a text-based RPG grind-fest, where all the player has to do is kill one mob after another until the current quest is completed and start over again. On a more detailed look, however, this game offers many things that you can find in MMORPGs: skills, trading, guilds, bosses, dungeons, housing etc. To make a long story short, Lyrania 2.0 takes a very simple game mechanic and develops it as much as possible, inducing me to get back to play it day by day in order to level up my equipment, buy a new jewelry slot and eventually reach the next milestone.

Dragon Tavern This Web RPG is being neglected by its developers, Rowdy Baron Games, and that's quite a shame because it has all the good things of games of this genre and almost none of the flaws they generally have. The player sure has a limited amount of Action Points per day, but this nuisance can be circumvented by making additional characters in the same account at zero cost. Each location (and sub-location) is brought with a description of its history and features, adding a good amount of flavor in a text-based game that just revolves around the same basics of grinding, looting and leveling up your character.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Geek Recap: Q2 2014

After skipping the recap for the previous quarter of year, here I am again to chronicle my geeky activities from April to June 2014.


Artix Games In my previous post I noted how the quest for the Blinding Light of Destiny in Adventure Quest Worlds could be tedious and time consuming. Well, what I recently discovered it's that the farming of Undead Essences was actually only the tip of the iceberg. It will take really an absurd amount of time, patience and dedication to complete it, but that's not what really bothers me (considering that I will put it on hiatus and get back to it once in a while). My real issue with it is that defeating all the monster required to finally forge the weapon will certainly get me to the game's level cap much, much before I complete it. The problem is that once I'll get there, I won't be invested in playing the game anymore, and for that reason I will assemble the Blinding Blade of Destiny (which is actually a requirement to forge the ultimate weapon) and wait until the level cap will be raised to resume the farming... assuming that it will even happen, obviously.
The classic Adventure Quest, on the other hand, made me a little upset when I had a very hard time defeating some bosses in the latest releases, until I remembered that the answer to that was simply to equip the freaking basic armor to have higher defense stats and win the fight. Putting that aside, it's still a great game and the only other little issue I have with it is that there are at least three different story arcs going on and it's not really  that easy to follow of all them, considering that two of them (the Truphma and the Transmorphers saga) are quite complex on their own.

Tanoth Online A very simple browser game based on the same concept of Bitefight, Tanoth Online is something I care about only because it demands very little time and effort to be enjoyed. The progression is slow but constant, there is no overarching plot or ultra-complex quest to pick up with. You can literally play it everyday, stop for a year and then go back to it and start right where you left. It might sound stupid for "true" gamers, but it's a winner for those who want something easy and simple that won't take you away months of your life.

Shining In The Darkness This name has been in the back of my mind since I started playing video games many years ago, being the beginning of the Shining games series. Now that I'm approximately at one third of the game itself, I'm thankful to whatever higher being (the God of Gamers ?) that I didn't have the chance to play it back then. Shining In The Darkness combines the disorienting mechanism of a first-person dungeon crawler like Eye of the Beholder and the random encounter system of the old Final Fantasy games. Translated in a just slightly more comprehensible language, it means you have to expect turn-based battles to pop up at every step you make... and I can guarantee you that in some case, this occurrence is literal. Thankfully, today is possible to play that game in your emulator (or, just as I'm doing thanks to a Google Plus post by Cody and Jon from Unqualified Gamers, right in your browser) with features like the instant save and gif maps right from Gamefaqs (on this matter, I wish to thank Paul Keating for the great work he did there). Now, if you think that this game it's a piece of cake with these helps, this is not really the case. Even with this "arrangements", Shining In The Darkness will still be a though, unnerving and time-consuming game. If anything, I will keep up playing it (and hopefully beat it) even just to marvel at how cool is to be and old-time retro-game player in this modern age, not to mention the "documentation" purpose of such feat.


Jojo Bizarre Adventures: Stardust Crusaders When Jojo Bizarre Adventures first two story arc anime transpositions finished airing some months ago, I made a "Last Impression" article on Japanator (that you can check right here), and there is very little I can do here other than reiterate the very same concepts. My biggest praise on the transposition of Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency was about how David Productions was committed to reproduce as faithfully as possible the original manga on the screen, and the only minor (and completely irrelevant) observation I could do was that the character design was just slightly different from the original. Well, this time around  even such minor remark would be totally out place: Stardust Crusaders visual style, design, and basically everything is absolutely identical to the manga. I like to think that such precision was impossible without a genuine love for this classic shonen from the anime staff, and it's safe to say that nobody could pull off such an astounding representation as David Productions, to which all true Jojo-fans of the world owe some debt of gratitude.

Avatar: The Legend of Korra Book 3 After the resolution of Book 2 (which I won't spoil here), it was difficult for me to believe that the authors could bring something to the table that could keep the viewers interested in the story, and that's where a show like Avatar sets its difference from your average Dragon Ball Z arc, where the only way to keep the story going is to replace the previous big bad with a new, more powerful big bad. Sheer power it's not the point in a show like Avatar: there are many ways to villainous characters to pose a threat to the world. And i can't avoid to mention the very two characters whose return made me rejoice (SPOILERS AHEAD). Call me nuts, but Desna and (especially) his sister Eska are the true characters who steal the show to me. Just a couple of lines with another certain "old acquaintance" of Avatar fans make the first three episodes worth watching... as if they weren't awesome already one their own.

What's next: Shine On, Crazy Backlog

The whole point of playing Shining In The Darkness is to complete the so-called "Shining Trilogy", which means that the games that will follow will be Shining Force 1 and 2.
Needless to say, I will keep up with Tanoth Online, Adventure Quest and Adventure Quest Worlds as long as I'll have an Internet connection and a bit of time to spare.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

AQW Rants: The Essence of Farming

All good things must come to an end, they say. Fortunately, this also happens to bad things (and games), too. I was dangerously near to a well-deserved quit rage, but after watching a couple of videos and tweaking my clearly under-leveled party, I managed to defeat the final boss in Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2 (watch my previous blog entry if you're curious to know what I think about the whole game). After a rather unfortunate tentative to play the classic dungeon crawler Shining In The Darkness I had to abandon that because of... technical issues.

And that leads to the topic of this journal rant: the magnificent, seemingly unending and incredibly entertaining  (*sarcasm*) quest for the Blinding Light of Destiny in Adventure Quest Worlds. Now, this particular quest involves gathering a massive amount (we're talking about thousands) of specific drops known as Undead Essences and Undead Energies in order to forge a super-cool weapon that gives the name to the quest itself. The craziest thing it's that I'm not actually interested in the weapon itself (which I'll keep anyway, of course) but the achievement and satisfaction that will hopefully come when I'll finish all that insane farming.

                                              "Spirit Orbs x5" ? Better luck next time....

The quest will take entire days of slaughtering the very same undead enemies in the very same area (that's was farming in every MMORPG means, after all). I'm pretty sure that I won't complete the whole thing in the near future, but at least I'll use this few weeks to give it a good run. My true objective will be trying to collect all those drops and getting to the level cap (which is currently 60) as late as possible. Why, you ask ? Because the idea of not having a level progression as you defeat your enemies anymore is very detrimental to me in enjoying a game like this. For this reason, I will avoid using those X2 Experience Boosts bonuses that those nice guys from Artix Entertainment keep throwing at me every now and then.

After all, one must put some of those Youtube "Epic Music" Playlists at use... right ? ;)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Gaming Recap: Q4 2013

Here I am with another episode of my recaps, this time around focusing only of my gaming experience in the last three months. Without further ado, here I go.

Trinity: Souls of Zill O'll
Can an ending ruin a game with an engaging gameplay, and a couple of clever ideas ? After playing this game from Tecmo Koei, my answer can only be "Yes, it can". Trinity it's a very brilliant mix of beat'em up a la Devil May Cry and a dungeon crawler. The gameplay is consistent and funny at the same time, and while the RPG aspect isn't exactly mind-blowing, it manages to get the player keep searching for another chest to open or completing another side-quest to obtain a new, shiny item.
Unfortunately, I happened to casually (not joking here, really) learn about the ending as I was halfway through, and my expectations and excitement went down in a single, devastating blow. I don't want to spoil anything to the player, but I feel the necessity to give a warning: this game's ending manages to deny the player its well-deserved glory and satisfaction in a most unexpected way. The final resolution wouldn't have been so bad if we were talking about a half an hour long horror indie game, but after 30 or more hours of monster bashing, exploration and level grinding, it really looks like a joke where nobody is supposed to laugh. I guess that for many others who played it all and went through it like I did, the conclusion was tragic and emotional in some measure. To me, it was a complete disappointment.

Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 1&2
What can be worse than a big disappointment ? A consecutive, even bigger disappointment. I had great expectations from these games, as they are considered a "must play" for PS2 in the JRPG department. I admit that the fault is partially mine: I had no idea about what I was getting into. And let me assure you, I can't help but consider DDS nothing but a glorious mess, a beautiful disaster that every casual (and even not so casual, in my humble opinion) player should stay away as far as possible.
DDS is not just a very difficult game, it's frustration in its purest form - and it's really a shame. Because these games (which is actually one game "conveniently" divided in two parts) have great characters, a compelling story-line and an outstanding cell-shading presentation. Unfortunately, they both take together all the things I learned to hate about JRPGs and mix them together to form a deadly cocktail that sapped my will to play them bit by bit.  
As I write, I am stuck inside the final dungeon grinding to get the level and the skill needed to beat the final bosses. The only reason that kept me play the second one so far (I quit the first one halfway through, and I don't regret that every single bit) it's a mix of "gamer's pride" (which I had to swallow in a good measure, considering that I have been using a walkthrough almost step by step for the sake of my mental sanity) and pure, unadulterated masochism.

Artix games
Fortunately, Adventure Quest and Adventure Quest Worlds never disappoint. Both of these games required a decent amount of time and patience, but they've been always worth it. December was a bit lacking with events in both games (you know, game developers get some holidays too), but this gave me the chance to try out some new free to play browser games, which I'm going to list in the section below.

Other F2P games
Out of curiosity (and to take a break from the horrors of DDS) I've tried several games to select a few to get back later. Hero Town, Blade of Eternity, Tynon, Doomforge, and Outwar are games that I went into but decided to drop (some for an indefinite time, some others forever). Those who caught my interest are Tanoth Online, Moonstone RPG and Glory of Gods - all games which just require a daily login and don't need an excessive commitment to be enjoyed.

What could be next
Shining in the Darkness
Way of the Samurai

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Geek Rants: A Summer Re-cap

Summer 2013 came to an end, and since the purpose of this blog is basically to have a personal diary everyone can read (but nobody does), it's a good time for a nice, useless recap of the " geek activities" and achievements made so far.


Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 I really had a blast with this game... well, quite so. Unlocking all the characters (well, almost), a decent number of stages and MS Licenses had been quite fun. I must admit that the story-line didn't compelled me very much to go on, and I still have to get the "true" ending. With Warriors Orochi 3 always looming in the back, DW:G3 provided a good diversion, but not much more than that.

Scarlet Blade The embodiment of eye-candy and fanservice in one single MMORPG, this game also was just a temporary experience. It was also good for testing my PC performance with a current generation MMORPG. Unfortunately, the servers constantly disconnecting me and the need to input all the log-in info again every time has been a significant deterrent. Maybe I'll get back to it one day - or maybe I'll just uninstall it when I'll find a more interesting client-based MMORPG to play.

Warriors Orochi 3 When it comes down to button-mashing, nothing beats the ultimate crossover game from Tecmo Koei. The nicest part of this summer playthrough, it's that I finally got the Trophy for gathering 100 crystals - which means that I'll be finally able to spam those Triple Musou Attacks at my heart's content instead of waiting to have as much generals as possible on the screen.

Adventure Quest My favorite on-line game of all time has been my primary source of gaming entertainment. There hasn't been many events going on that interested me, but those few have been quite satisfying. Moreover, I had time to do some serious grinding (as I wrote in the previous posts) to finally get Atreides above level 100. Now that summer is over, I'll  go back to the game only when interesting events will appear.


Jojo: Bizarre Adventures I enjoyed this anime so much, that I couldn't help to write down a review about it. JJBA is one of my favorite manga, and both Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency truly deserved such an awesome adaptation.

Detroit Metal City I read about this anime last summer on Japanator, and since then I've been curious to watch it. Finally, I decided myself to do that and I didn't regret it any bit. DMC it's funny, vulgar and uncompromising - something I would recommend to anyone who doesn't mind watching something... different.

Attack On Titan When a certain anime, movie or video-game is literally everywhere, you eventually give it a try out of curiosity, right ? I absolutely wanted to see why everyone was talking about AoT, and I got the answer after watching the first episode. Attack On Titan is a cruel, desperate tale of survival. If you can "handle" its crudeness and tone, you will experience one of the deepest, engaging anime of all time.


Twitter Last Summer has been very intense for me on the Twitterverse: it was something relatively new for me. This time around I have been a little less active, but I managed to meet new interesting people and RPers anyway.

Google+ No matter what people say, Google+ has been a pleasant surprise for me. It gave me the chance to spread my nonsense in a different social forum, and helped me to get new people to interact with. I purposely decided to focus on the Otaku community because it's very active and welcoming.

Memes Discovering and how it was easy to make a meme has been a revelation for me: for a couple of days, it's been like a drug. Eventually I exhausted all the ideas I could came up with, so I think that now humanity is safe from my "peculiar sense of humor" for a bit.

Fanfic Eventually, I fell too to the lure of writing a fanfic of my own. The result is "Pink To The Future", a story which features K-On characters in a crazy, alternate future. You might think it's funny, but it's not.

What will come next...

Adventure Quest/Adventure Quest Worlds (PC)
Trinity: Souls of Zill O'll (PS3)
Digital Devil Saga (PS2)
Shining In The Darkness 

Serial Experiment Lain
Welcome to the N.H.K.
Fairy Tail (possibly)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Gaming Rants: Adventure Quest

Fighting back the heat

Ah, summer !! The perfect time for relaxing on a beach as you enjoy the weather and survive the heat, going to swim now and then. That's how most people (quite possibly the wisest ones) love to spend this time of the year, but to me the warm days of summer always meant a very different thing: massive grinding.
These days are simply too hot to start over a new game and enjoy it properly, and this time around I honestly want to get my Adventure Quest character to the highest levels (100+) before summer ends.

In one of my previous AQ rantings I stated that I would never use the untrainer to remove my END points and spend them in other stats - but I never said anything about untraining my DEX, right ? In fact, I did untrain all my 50 points and spent them in LUC, which resulted in a very good move. This idea came after I read many suggestions and conversations between players in Ubear's AQ site chat. 

Since I'm just a regular Adventurer I won't be able to get Plasma Dragons or other better monsters for my grinding needs, so my attention is all for Drakonnan's strongest general: Broilspoil.

  Broilspoil "The Brollinator" is probably going to experience the worst summer of his entire career.

In my humble opinion, the "friendly" red dragon general will be the quickest way to achieve the AQ goals I've set for this summer. So, until a new event unfolds (in all honesty, I have no intention to participate in the Knight Training quests), Atreides will be busy in the Hall of Memories (that's how I justify the Broilspoil grinding in my mindfap storyline), defeating such powerful foe over and over as he gets stronger for the challenges ahead.