Playing With My Weiner

Gaming at the mercy of miniature daschunds.

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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Review: Fallout 3 November 11, 2008

fallout3

There is a Fallout fever in my house.  The Weiner Daddy is playing on 360, I’m playing on the PC using both keyboard and mouse and the Microsoft game controller.  We’ve been playing since the game was released on October 28th, and neither of us is anywhere near completing it.  I will also note that neither of us have encountered any of the nasty bugs reported by Kotaku, but these are known issues, so your mileage could vary.

 

Theme:

Welcome to post-apocalyptia, children!  The theme and setting are the same no matter which version you choose. Fallout is set in an alternate history universe full of retro-futuristic kitsch and post-bombing hell. Imagine the American 1950s, only with 22nd century laser and gene-mapping technology.  By the time you are on the scene, the bomb has long since dropped.  It’s 200 years later, you are ready to crawl out of your sealed Vault and see what’s what in the ruins of Washington, DC.  The Capitol Wasteland comprises a HUGE area, and the sidequests alone can take you hours upon hours.  Unlike Bethesda’s Oblivion, however, you can and will want to get back on track with the main quest eventually.

Welcome to the world of yesterday's tomorrow!

Welcome to the world of yesterday

 

Art:

Think bleak.  As befits the setting, the Fallout 3 world is full of brown, grey, and yellow.  Unlike the repetitive trash-strewn levels of Hellgate: London, the environment of Fallout 3 is huge and fairly varied. When does Bethesda reuse something in the game, they are doing it on purpose.  Think all those tract-home shells look alike? That’s the point.  All of that suburban sameness makes it much more powerful the first time you see the ruins of the Washington Monument or the Capitol Building.

 

The character models are straight out of Oblivion, albeit with different clothes. The facial mapping and details are improved from Bethesda’s RPG, but the idea is the same, with the PC having the edge over the 360 in detail.  Enemies vary, from mutated critters to raider gangs to super mutants.  The critters are pretty much all the same, but the raiders and mutants are varied.  If you look closely you can see the attention to detail, as most of the humanoids’ armor is actually pieced together bits of the trash strewn across the Capitol Wasteland.

 

Gameplay:

It is here that the PC and 360 versions diverge.  Fallout 3 is not a shooter and it is not a full-on action RPG, but is something of a chimera of the two.  After fighting with the mouse and keyboard for over 20 hours, it is clear to me that Fallout 3 was designed for a controller.  Even the lowest mouse sensitivity option will swing your view way wide of the enemy in front of you.  Lockpicking is nearly impossible to do without failing a few times, due to the twitchy nature of the PC controls.  My experience was vastly improved when I used a gamepad on my PC.

 

Combat is its own strange bird.  On the shooter side you have the option to take a first-person view and use your weapons as you see fit. On the ARPG side you have the V.A.T.S. system; action points-based pause-and-play combat.  Contrary to popular belief, you can’t really play Fallout 3 entirely as a shooter or entirely in V.A.T.S.  Most of the time you’ll use V.A.T.S., then try and duck and cover while your AP recharges to use it again.  Why?  Because the FPS perspective doesn’t work that well.  The target reticule is small and inaccurate, and there is no lock-on.  This is true in both the PC and 360 versions.  

 

Use V.A.T.S. to shoot the junk off his trunk.

Use V.A.T.S. to shoot the junk off his trunk.

Searching for and picking up items must almost always be done in first person view.  The “target boxes” for small items, such as stimpaks, is ridiculously tiny, and unless you’re nose-to-nose with them, you may not be able to highlight them to grab them.  This is a little better on the 360 version, but here again the PC version suffers from poor mouse control.

 

Overall:

Don’t let the PC control issues dissuade you.  Fallout 3 is a fantastic game.  It is engaging, fun, and deep.  You will care about your character.  You will care about some NPCs and want to kill others. You will make irrevocable choices early on that will truly affect your game path and the game world. Evil is as viable a choice as good, and your experience will differ greatly depending on which path you take.  You can get through the main quest in about 10 hours, yes, but if you do, you’re missing the point.  I didn’t miss it at all, and I’m wondering how I’m going to balance playing more Fallout 3 with the release of Wrath of the Lich King on Thursday.

 

For being an excellent and engaging game with real consequences and deep story branches, I am giving Fallout 3 five weiners out of five.

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Review: Mother 3 translation October 20, 2008

Filed under: 5 weiners,Games,Reviews — Gwyddia @ 4:06 pm
Tags: , , ,

Excellent, excellent, excellent. This will be a short review because there is little more I can say without being repetitve or giving spoilers.

 

Simply put, the folks at Starmen.Net have put together an excellent translation of this game that captures all of the humor and joy of the original. The game looks and sounds just they way you remember it if you’ve played before. If you haven’t, you’re in for a treat. Bright sprites and warm, well-composed music are the order of the day. The story holds up a few years later, and you’ll want to make LBP sackboys out of your Mother 3 family.

 

The only snag potential players may have is the technical aspect. You need to have a Japanese copy of the ROM to use the translation patch, and you need a ROM player to play it on. It is only legal to download the ROM if you ever actually owned the game. (Though the translators are working on a fully legal patched hard copy that you can order from them.) Some of the more popular ROM players, such as VisualBoy Advance, have known problems with save states. Mac users, for example, have to jump through hoops to get the game to save.

 

That all being said, if you can get the game to play and save, you should do so. This could be considered the “mother” of all RPGs (pun fully intended).

 

For being an excellent translation of a game I’ve waited for years to play, I’m giving the Mother 3 fan translation 5 Weiners out of 5.

 

 

Review: Rock Band 2 September 16, 2008

Rock Band is back (as if it ever left). The new disc offers about 100 new songs, including Bob Dylan’s first foray into videogames and Harmonix in-house band Speck’s dork ode “Conventional Lover”. For folks who have been rocking out since last year, its more like a huge song pack than a sequel, and that’s just fine.

 

It’s getting better all the time.  The visuals are a bit shinier, the band members a bit more customizable, and the interface a little more streamlined. For example, you can switch between instruments with the same character without having to do a restart. For folks who want to just rock out and have fun, there is a “no fail” option.  For those who complain that the nerf bat was used too liberally in Rock Band 2, there are now options to speed up tracks or take out the visual lines entirely.

 

The updated instruments are the real coup here. The new drumset is a sea change from the day of release set I’ve been rocking since last year. It is solid where the original was flimsy, generally quiet where the original was loud, and provides a better, more satisfying play experience. I’ve been excited about these skins since we tried them at PAX, and I am glad to have them home.

 

The new hotness.

The new hotness.

The guitar is likewise excellent. Gone is the “mushy” strum bar of Rock Band 1. Here to stay is a great feel and wireless rock. An improved accelerometer picks up Overdrive cues nearly without fail. This is a great plastic instrument.

 

Faux woody

Faux woody

The microphone is much the same as the original. It does the job, and picks up as well as it should. Harmonix still hasn’t implemented phoneme recognition, though, so you can recite the Declaration of Independence and still get 100% on the Beastie Boys’ “So Whatcha Want”.

 

All in all, though, Rock Band 2 is a lot of fun. And, because the Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero World Tour instruments are now interoperable with their respective games, you can pick and choose whose sets you like best and enjoy the loads of content on the discs and beyond.

 

Now if you will excuse me, Gwyddia, The Stig, and the rest of Pathological Monsters! are playing for our airplane in a few minutes.

 

 

 

For listening to their fans and cleaning up what needed to be cleaned up, plus providing a ton of excellent songs to enjoy (500 by Christmas, they say), I am giving Rock Band 2 five weiners out of five.