Playing With My Weiner

Gaming at the mercy of miniature daschunds.

New Kingdom Hearts Game Delayed December 22, 2008

Filed under: Games,Square Enix — Gwyddia @ 12:05 pm
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The Weiner is crying. Squeenix has confirmed that the Japanese version of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 has been delayed until an unspecified “Spring 2009” release. Add at least 6 months to that for a North American release and you’re probably looking at holiday 2009 for more Disney/Squeenix fun.

 

Review: Chrono Trigger DS November 29, 2008

 

Can we come in?

Can we come in?

In the Year of Our Ceiling Cat Nineteen and Ninety-Five, Square released a little game called Chrono Trigger.  The story is simple – young adventurers save the world – but with a twist – by porting through time.  Due to its epic nature, branching storyline, and multiple endings, Chrono Trigger is widely considered to be one of the best RPGs of all time.

 

 

Wikipedia rightly describes the Chrono Trigger developers as the “dream team” – Hironobu Sakaguchi, Kazuhiko Aoki, Kazuhiko Aoki, and composer Nobuo Uematsu. Yuuji Horii and artist Akira Toriyama.  Masato Kato wrote most of the plot and composer Yasunori Mitsuda scored the game with Uematsu finishing it when Mitsuda became ill.

 

Art:

The art is classic Horii and Toryiama – anime figures, large foreheads, and bright colors.  The DS version includes the well-received anime cutscenes from the 2001 North American PlayStation release, now without load times!  Unlike the recent Final Fantasy remakes, however, the art hasn’t been given a total 3-D makeover. Instead, the sprites have been polished up a bit and given more fluid animation, but the original distinctive art style is there.

 

Gameplay:

Lots of screen real estate across two screens.

Lots of screen real estate across two screens.

Like the original, Chrono Trigger DS uses an Active Time battle system, meaning that each character may only act when their timer is up.  Different characters have different physical and magical attacks, including advanced physical attacks called “techs”.  What Chrono Trigger added to the RPG genre was the concept of cooperative techs – combining up to three characters’ techs to create double or triple attacks. Notably, there is no apparent slowdown when using even the flashiest of techs. 

 

The DS version has two play modes – “DS Mode” and “Classic Mode”.  DS mode allows you to use both the touchscreen buttons for controls, and Classic mode is a play setup identical to the original SNES version. There are other features exclusive to each mode, such as a DS Mode option to toggle between ‘Walk’ and ‘Run’.

 

The DS version adds some new dungeons, including the Dimensional Vortex and Lost Sanctum.  The first of these is only available when player’s complete the game, and leads to a new, fourteenth different ending.  The second is another endgame dungeon for folks who love to grind their way up as high as they can.

 

Finally, the DS version offers an unneccessary arena system.  Apparently believing that all JRPGs must have a Monster Hunter element to them, Squeenix makes this feature available the first time you save the game.  When you enter the arena, you get the option of controlling a small malleable creature known as a Smidge.  You can send your Smidge to any of the seven periods of time to train them, and then you can battle other trainers, er, players, via DS wireless.

 

Overall:

Useless arena aside, this is a very faithful translation of a beloved original.  Like Dragon Quest IV, the source material still holds up over a decade later, and the DS developers respected that fact.  As a result, like Dragon Quest, Chrono Trigger on DS is an excellent game with everything you remember and nothing substantially screwed up by modernization.  

 

For being an amazing RPG now available in pocket-size, Chrono Trigger DS gets 5 Weiners out of 5.

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Chrono Trigger Going To Have New Content After All November 10, 2008

Filed under: Games,Rumors,Square Enix — Gwyddia @ 8:38 pm
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It seems like Square is starting to understand that even their remake-happy fans aren’t going to buy a straight port of a decade-old game.

Siliconera is reporting that Chrono Trigger DS will have yet another ending, this one a DS exclusive. There will also be at least one new dungeon and a monster arena. This goes against previous information that Square wasn’t adding value to their upcoming $39.99 title.

Chrono Trigger DS will be released in the US on November 22.

 

Squeenix Plans To Mess With Your Brain. Literally. October 7, 2008

Filed under: Games,Industry,Other Folks,Rumors,Square Enix — Gwyddia @ 4:49 pm
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Brain Games...are not...over!

Brain Games...are not...over!

 

 

 

Gamasutra is reporting that Square Enix will be announcing a brainwave-controlled game at the Tokyo Game Show this week.  The game will license technology from NeuroSky called the Mindset. As per NeuroSky’s website:

The brain is comprised of many, many neurons. When transmitting information, small electric pulses are made. Over the last century of neuroscience discovery,the broad and specific regional readings of these pulses have been found to represent different categories of emotion and mental states. By reading these waves, known as EEG’s, the brain’s activity can be utilized by computers and other devices – a BCI (Brain-Computer Interface).

 

The NeuroSky Mindset also wants Sarah Connor and will be coming to you in some sort of entertainment format via Japan.  Stay tuned.  Or don’t, while you still have free will.

 

Review: Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen September 22, 2008

Filed under: 4 weiners,DS,Games,Reviews,Square Enix — Gwyddia @ 7:46 am
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I was fairly excited about this release.  I tore the box open this week, ready and willing to relive hours upon hours of my wasted youth.  I squeed with delight as the Dragon Quest theme began playing in all its tinny regal splendor.  And then the game began.

 

Let me say, first and foremost, that I did enjoy playing Dragon Quest IV.  Arte Piazza, the art directors from Dragon Quest VII, took the lead on this remake, and it shows. The refresh on the art is welcome, but not intrusive or overdone.  Akira Toriyama’s monster design is still charming and bright, including the bosses. The sound is a near-perfect translation of the original and still rings true after fifteen years.  The problem is that most of the mechanics are also still the same after fifteen years, and they don’t quite stand the test of time.

 

JRPGs are known for slow-paced combat, and DQ is the grandaddy of them all.  Twelve year-old me had no problem with this, probably because I didn’t know anything else.  DQIV is turn-based, and forces you to go through several menus to choose exactly what everyone wants to do, every time. Unlike the recent re-release of Final Fantasy IV, there is no Auto-Attack option.  This means is that early fights can take forever as you whittle down slime after slime.

OMG, 176 damage!

OMG, 176 damage!

 

Inventory is suboptimal.  When I didn’t know that only being able to hold eight items per person (plus one overflow bag) was an arbitrary difficulty modifier, it didn’t bother me. Today, trying to stock up on Medicinal Herbs that don’t stack and cannot be used except by the player who is holding them is nearly unforgiveable. This is particularly true in the early stages, when those herbs are your lifeline, and its a long way back to the save point.

 

Ah, yes, saving. Another “fun” DQ innovation. In DQ, you save by “confessing” at a church. That’s it. No save points in dungeons, no way to port out and port back in, nothing. This means that if you trudged all the way out to some Light forsaken tower and spent two hours grinding through it just to die on the final boss, you are out of luck. Do it all again. This time with feeling. And mana regeneration? Forget it, until you can obtain items that will do restore your juice. So make those spells last. They’re the only ones you’ve got.

Slime after slime.

Slime after slime.

 

Finally, level grinding. I’m a 4-year WoW player, so level grinding is nothing new to me. That being said, years of playing WoW and Final Fantasy games have conditioned me to expect that if I play through a game normally, entering dungeons and facing bosses in sequence as I meet them, I stand at least a fair chance of prevailing. Not so in DQ. Most of the time, if you try to take on a challenge as soon as you encounter it, you’re going to die. End of story. Expect to wander around aimlessly looking for fights for at least an extra level, better two, beyond the level you are when you first encounter The Next Big Thing. Oh well, at least you make lots of gold, right? Wrong. Forget being able to get the latest and greatest gear available from each new town, at least at first. DQ is stingy with the money, and dungeons drops are rare. Be prepared to wander.

 

I knew all of this going into the game, though. I knew that there were things that were going to bug the heck out of me because I’ve come to expect more from my RPGs since 1992. That’s why I still enjoyed DQIV so much.

 

The storyline is still fairly epic, even by today’s standards. The characters have life, and feeling, and the localization teams have done their best to make each Chapter feel like it takes place in a completely different part of the game world. Even if this does lead to some horribly funny Japanese-to-Russianesque-to-Rusjapenglish in Chapter 2, it gives you the feeling that you are a large world with varied ethnicities and real danger.

 

My favorite Chapter is still 3, the tale of Mara and Nara, the dancer and the fortuneteller.  As a kid, these ladies inspired me even more than warrior princess Alena.  That part hasn’t changed a bit.  Fighting with clubs and daggers is de rigeur, but using fans, claws and cards as weapons is a blast.  Grinding through the merchant quest still sucks, though.

 

The city of Townsville.

The city of Townsville.

I also have to give credit where credit is due.  What little new stuff there is here really works. The DS two-screen approach offers a lot of screen real estate for this game.  This is invaluable in dungeons because it lets you get a better sense of where you are going, and cuts down on the random lost roaming of the original.  The towns look lovely, almost on par with Dragon Quest VII. There is an online Chance Encounter mode that allows you to expand your own town through Nintendo WiFi play.  If you have other nostalgia-starved friends who pick this title up, you’ll enjoy sharing your own little piece of Heaven with them.

 

All in all, I think Arte Piazza did a good job updating this classic for the modern era. I hope this brings a new generation of proto-geeks to DQ, and to the appreciation of substance over style (I’m looking at you, Final Fantasy X-2). I’m looking forward to the ports of Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride and Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Reverie, the second and third titles in the so-called “Zenithia trilogy”. Most Americans (including me) have never had the chance to play DQV and VI. DQV was released in Japan in July, so hopefully the U.S. release isn’t far behind. Maybe they’ll even evolve out some of the rough parts this time.

 

For being an epic RPG that, despite its many flaws, is still playable and enjoyable fifteen years after its original release, I am giving Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen 4 weiners out of 5.

 

Preview: Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen September 12, 2008

Filed under: Previews,Square Enix — Gwyddia @ 7:15 am
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There aren’t enough colons in that title.


I love role-playing games.  The first RPG I ever played was Dragon Warrior – the American version of Enix’s (no Square merger yet) Dragon Quest. From the moment I saw my first blue slime, I was hooked. My folks couldn’t afford to get me Dragon Quests II and III, but on Christmas morning 1992, I opened my shiny new Dragon Warrior IV.

Mr. Brando welcomes you to the game.

Mr. Brando welcomes you to the game.

Best Christmas Ever.

My Christmas Morning.

This game was amazing! It came with a detailed strategy guide full of art and pictures of how my magical weapons and armor really looked. It featured chapters, 5 of them, each with different characters! Some of these characters, sisters Mara and Nara, were girls, and they weren’t in another castle, they were right in front of me! (My mother nearly had a cow when she saw me “fan fighting” the dog one day with a cheap Chinese paper fan.)

 

Even then I knew the game wasn’t perfect. There were level grinds, particularly in the chapter where you play as the merchant (7 swords and 7 suits of armor to be farmed via random encounters, ugh!), but it was all worth it when I took control of my first ever airship.

I SWORE this was what I looked like.

I SWORE this was what I looked like.

So yeah, I’m excited about Dragon Quest IV’s DS re-release.

 

SquareEnix has given DQIV the Final Fantasy treatment. They’ve updated the graphics to 3D while keeping most of the goofy charm.

The king slime approacheth!

The king slime approacheth!

The storyline is the same, but Squeenix has reverted to the original character names from the Japanese version. There are no touchscreen controls, but the shoulder buttons will adjust your camera angle if you wish and the Y button will bring up a “hand drawn” map in towns, ala DQ VII.

 

The starting town.

The starting town.

All in all, if you loved the original, or just loved JRPGs, you need to have this one. If you hate turn-based, sprite-y games, keep on moving, nothing to see here.

 

Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen, will be released on September 16, 2008. The price is USD$39.99