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by Ethos

Biggest Letdown 2010 – Ethos

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Final Fantasy XIII

How can I follow up Riddles’ hilarious post with the same pick? While I think he’s completely wrong about the battle system, he’s bang-on with everything else.

I was extremely excited for Final Fantasy XIII. I thought the world looked beautiful, I loved the idea of a badass female lead, and because I’m a really big fan of Final Fantasy XII I couldn’t imagine the game could be bad.

Boy was I wrong. The game is almost less of a game than Heavy Rain. And that’s saying something. In fact, before the credits roll, the title is less of a game. No decisions matter. The leveling up system is pointless, the upgrading system is worse, and progressing forward is quite literally a tunnel. We’re not joking when we make the comparison.

The fact that Final Fantasy XIII becomes a fun game after the final boss, and as such the back-end leveling and upgrading systems start to make a difference and actually become great systems really makes little difference.

The point is that this was supposed to be a worthy entry into the esteemed series, a HD JRPG that I could really dive into. FFXII had my hopes high, and XIII tore them to pieces. Granted, it took me a while, I was in denial for a bit. But a 60 hour price to get to a good game is too much.

If you had asked me a year ago if I’d ever sell Final Fantasy XIII, I’d say “hell no”. But I sold it and I have no regrets. Vs XIII will have to do a lot to regain any sort of trust in the series.

Runner up: Epic Mickey

When last year’s runner up in this category earned a “N/A” from me, it’s a little depressing that I was deciding between 3 titles for this year’s second biggest letdown.

Still, life must go on and while Guardian Signs was a step backwards from Shadow of Almia, and Heavy Rain turned out to not be a game, the fact is that my hype was never huge for those titles. Epic Mickey had me pretty excited. I wasn’t expecting the controls and camera to be top-notch, but I also wasn’t expecting them to practically ruin the experience. The game could have been truly excellent. Unfortunately, the technical flops squashed this possibility.

Seriously, this could have been a true Game of the Year contender. Instead, it’s a decent game. There’s nothing wrong with the content, but the sad fact is that if you can’t properly play or view an excellent game, it is no longer an excellent game.

It’s truly a shame, but it’s the truth. This was definitely a year for loving more games and different games than I expected, and for being let down by hype and previous standbys.

Except Super Mario Galaxy 2. That was a standby and exceeded my hype.

Biggest Letdown 2010 – Riddles

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Final Fantasy XIII

Like this is a fucking surprise. I realize that, in spite of my utter and complete hatred for the game, I’ve never had the opportunity to simply ramble about it. The majority of the shit I’ve written for the game, I wrote during its first week of release – when I was desperately clinging to the feeble notion that the game was, somehow, good.

I knew the game was crap thirty minutes after booting it up.

And now, I’m going to fucking tear the shit out of it.

Final Fantasy XIII is that girlfriend who you spend copious amounts of money on for Valentine’s Day, only to have her ditch you five days later.

Final Fantasy XIII is that stepdad who seems cool, and takes you out to bars with him, except you end up just watching him get super-drunk and cheat on your mom.

Final Fantasy XIII is that dog your parents’ bought you as a kid, only to be taken away a few weeks later because your crotchety neighbors kept complaining, and your parents’ decided that their social status in the neighborhood was more important than your vulnerable, eight-year-old emotions.

Final Fantasy XIII is that drug dealer who tells you he’ll be good the day before your big party, only to have him cop out and get arrested at the last possible second.

Final Fantasy XIII is a liar and a cheat. Final Fantasy XIII is the textbook slut who slipped past your carefully-built defenses. Final Fantasy XIII is a dirty dirty whore.

But seriously, though, Final Fantasy XIII was more than just a letdown, it was a calculated slap in the dick to gamers of all kinds. In place of a rich, immersive gameworld we were given a series of linear tunnels littered with battles. In place of an in-depth, strategic combat system we were given a stripped-down, automated jumble of nonsubstantial flash. Instead of memorable characters and storylines, Final Fantasy XIII’s narrative unfolded with all the grace and prose of a second-tier anime program.

Suffice to say, I hate the game a lot. Sure, I may not have ever even reached Gran Pulse, but I doubt it would magically change my opinion. Given the number of rich, epic RPGs that have been released this generation (Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Fallout and Lost Odyssey to name a few) it’s painful – and comical – to see Final Fantasy, the former king, descend into such a pit of shallow, style-obsessed mediocrity.

Runner Up: Alan Wake

I wish I could have loved Alan Wake as much as many people did. But, while I enjoyed the game a fair bit, as my review indicates, I just couldn’t help feeling disappointed. I certainly didn’t have the same elated expectations that I had for XIII, but I still was looking for just a little more than the game ended up delivering: gameplay that was fun, but ultimately repetitive and far too easy, and a storyline that was far too unfocused and loosely written to truly be effective (or scary). Don’t get me wrong, it was good; but it should have been much better.

Best Visual Experience 2010 – Ethos

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Final Fantasy XIII

Yes, we all know the game sucks.

I’m just more of a man than Riddles so I can give a deserving award to a game that doesn’t deserve any other positive award this week.

Final Fantasy XIII is beautiful. It has bustling cities filled with well-designed trains, robot dragonflies, pockets of mysterious green light, unbelievably tall buildings, yet beautiful beaches and lakes. It has rocky terrain that opens up into a small grassy haven looking over a vast ocean. It has Pulse that is filled to the brim with wild, untamed life: Massive stemmed flower giants, beautiful cavern waterways, animals chasing and eating each other, beasts the size of dinosaurs, sprawling fields with pockets of tiny paradises.

It’s almost more impressive how the game managed to drain all this beauty of any personality within the game, but from a pure visual standpoint, the graphics and art direction are top-notch. (Did I do a better job of describing art direction this time, Glenn?)

But forget the world, let’s move onto the annoying, one-dimensional, gimmicky characters. From that description, obviously I don’t care for their personalities, but FFXIII includes some of my favourite character design of the series. Snow and Hope I could do without, and Vanille is just Rikku or Selphie with a different skin, but Lightning, Sazh, and Fang are three designs that deserved fantastic personalities.

Despite the vapid story they would tell, I shouldn’t have to explain the majesty of Final Fantasy’s CGI cutscenes. The direction and detail are mind-boggling. Complete visual treats. The opening minutes of the game made me say “holy fuck” out loud. Of course, I didn’t know that the game would be so disappointing, but my response was based purely on the spectacle.

Oh, and Lightning’s cape NEVER clipping on her sword hilt as she ran? That’s a visual achievement I’ve never seen before.

Runner up: Darksiders

It was very difficult to choose between Darksiders and Super Mario Galaxy 2 for this one. Ultimately my HD-whore side won out.

Darksiders may not have the technical excellence of Uncharted 2, but it makes up for it in great use of colour, scale, and design. Darksiders takes the over-the-top nature of God of War, but inserts it into a colourful Zelda-like world and makes it all fit. Therefore, sticking a knife into a bleeding eyeball to open a door to solve the next boomerang puzzle just seems to work. War’s horse just has an epic feel, the bosses are grand and well-designed, and the world breathes personality and variety.

God of War III may have moments that are the best visually I have ever seen, but it is hardly consistent in this way. After the opening 45 minutes, nothing compares. Some moments in the game actually seem sub-par for this generation. Darksiders is visually consistent and always surprises and excites.

Sunday Soapbox: Great Expectations

Monday, November 29th, 2010

So after a 6 year build-up, Gran Turismo 5 finally exploded out of Polyphony Digital’s loins into the face of the public. Some gobbled it all up while others felt it tasted a little bitter or stale. Either way it created a small mess that has all but subsided for now.

But moving away from the ejaculate imagery, game hype is an interesting topic. The quotes I pulled from that IGN review were not the exception, they were the rule. Many people could truly not understand how a game that was in development for 6 years could possibly not be perfect. 8.5 from IGN (a very good score, mind you) and an 8.8 industry average was somehow cause for revolution and an endless volcano of anger.

This might be the extreme, but even in more reasonable people a more subtle version of this rationale exists. Take the Riddlethos community, using Final Fantasy XIII as a prime example. The first proper HD Final Fantasy game, a four year wait, and a very lackluster end result. This was difficult to swallow initially. Even the largest detractors of the game now were forgiving and optimistic in first few days of its existence.

Of course, that’s not a perfect example as it did take a while to realize that the game truly was nothing but a tunnel for the vast majority of its length.

But this is not a Final Fantasy soapbox. The point is that expectations and hopes that a game will be fantastic creates very interesting emotions in the player when the product is either not very good or not widely critically acclaimed. A player almost feels emotionally violated; like her pride is directly linked to the quality of the title or the perceived quality.

I think about games that I was excited for that didn’t let me down: Shadow of the Colossus, Majora’s Mask, Final Fantasy XII, Mass Effect 2. I think about games that did let me down: Twilight Princess, Final Fantasy XIII, Wind Waker, Brutal Legend. It makes me wonder if I should shift the way I get excited for future titles: The Last Guardian, Skyward Sword, Kingdom Hearts III, even Versus XIII.

Like some Soapboxes, I don’t have a grand sweeping point. I’m just curious in the way you all handle hype. While my hype has sometimes not allowed me to fully appreciate a game until later, and I’ve been guilty of being forgiving to games I wanted desperately to like, I ultimately enjoy the fact that I get excited for games. It reminds me that I love this industry and that no other indulgence gets me excited like an impending anticipated title. I guess all I can hope for is to be better prepared for a potential disappointment.

Hey! Look! Listen! #61 – Man, I’m Tired of Being Homeless

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

I really am. I mean, “homeless” isn’t entirely accurate – I’ve been living in a nice two-bedroom apartment with Dillon and his fiance for the last five weeks or so – but it’s only meant to be temporary, and the majority of my stuff is in a storage unit. It’s a place to live, but it isn’t my place, y’know?

And of course, when I finally got around to applying for residency to the apartment I picked out, I was denied because I didn’t pass the fucking credit check. Why? Not because I have bad credit; but because I have no credit. Why do I have no credit? Because I’ve avoided credit cards and car payments my entire life, and paid for everything with money out of my own pocket. So I’m essentially being penalized for being financially responsible, and that infuriates me to no end.

But, in a stroke of moderate luck I’ve found another place, in which my lack of credit shouldn’t be an issue. So, if all goes well, I’ll be in a place of my own in two to three weeks.

But enough about my boring personal life. Welcome once again to Hey! Look! Listen! I’m your host Oliver “Riddles” Motok, and it’s time to see what’s going on in my RSS feed.

Final Fantasy XIII Coming to Xbox 360 in Japan… What?

After letting it kick around as a rumor for less than a day, Square Enix came forward and confirmed that their shitty 13th entry in the Final Fantasy series will be coming to the Xbox 360 in Japan, as part of their budget-priced “Ultimate Hits” line. If you recall, while the game was released on both PS3 and 360 in the states, it remained a PS3 exclusive in Japan.

I assumed that this was largely because nobody in Japan owns an Xbox 360. And, as far as I know, that’s still the case. So, to be frank, this makes little sense to me. But then again, nothing about Final Fantasy XIII makes sense to me.  The game is, and remains, a giant digital clusterfuck.

The four existing Japanese 360 fanbots will be able to experience said clusterfuck on December 16. (VG247)

Check Out Dragon Age II’s Female Protagonist


Cute, right? Like Ethos, I always go Female when allowed to choose, because I’d rather look at something cute. And also, nobody else does it. And also, I fantasize about being a woman and it allows me to partially realize said fantasies.

That last part isn’t actually true, I just thought it would be funny to say. Or… is it?

Anyway. While I’m glad she’s hot and stuff, this immediately raised the question in my mind: will you be allowed to customize character appearance in Dragon Age II? If you recall, while Mass Effect always had the stock male model used in all the trailers and promotional stuff, they never bothered showing a female – makes sense, seeing that most people are going to create something totally unique anyway. So the fact that they’ve provided this specific female model makes me wonder. And google as I may, I can’t find any solid confirmation that appearance customization is a feature in Dragon Age II.

Maybe I’m missing something. Dunno. I have no idea *why* BioWare would remove the feature, seeing that it’s become sort of a staple for them. And my guess is that they haven’t. I’m just, y’know. Raising the question.

Check Out These Mass Effect 2 Stats

Now this is cool. And insane, in some cases:

28 times? 28 motherfucking times? Are you kidding me? I want to meet these people, and see how much of a life they don’t have.

Anyway, this image was part of an IGN interview with Mass Effect’s Executive Producer, Casey Hudson. In the interview, Hudson explained why they gather these stats, and how they’re used – or not used – to aid the development of future titles. Here’s an excerpt:

Ultimately it doesn’t always give you the answers, but it sometimes raises questions or gets you to ask the right questions…More people played the soldier class than all of the other classes combined. If you know that, then you can start thinking about future games. Is that good? Is that a problem? Should we look at the other classes and start thinking about ways to make them selected as often as soldier? As part of asking these questions, we can design games in the future a lot better.

The full article is rather interesting, and not absurdly long. I recommend you check it out here.

A PC With a Built-In Xbox 360 Now Exists

And it’s awesome. And… expensive. As fuck.

A company called Origin PC has built a high-powered gaming computer that not only has specs mad enough to play anything at max settings, but it has a freaking 360 Slim inside of it. The whole thing, with the same ports and connections. You can even play it while the PC is performing other tasks.

As for specs, the entry-level configuration includes:

-An overclocked 4.0GHz Intel Core i7 930 processor,

-A liquid cooled Rampage III Extreme motherboard

-Dual NVIDIA GTX 480 GPUs,

-6GBs of memory

-Dual 50GB SSD drives

-A 2TB hard drive

-A Creative Fatal1ty sound card

-A built-in Blu-ray burner

All that can be yours for a mere $7669. And if that’s not expensive enough for you, try the configuration used by CPU Magazine:

-Dual Intel Xeon X5680 processors overclocked to 4.3GHz

-An EVGA SR2 motherboard

-Liquid cooling

-Quad SLI EVGA GTX 480 GPUs

-12GBs of memory

-Four 50GB SSD drives

-Two 2TB hard drives

-A built-in Blu-ray burner

-A built-in 8 channel HD audio sound card

All that can be yours for a mere… $16.999. Interested? You can order “The Big O” (that’s seriously what it’s called) now at Origin’s website.

To say “do want” is a bit redundant at this point, but I guess I’ll say it anyway.

QUICKIE: There’s a Dissidia Sequel Coming

Well, this isn’t terribly surprising. According to the latest issue of Shonen Jump, a sequel named Dissidia Duodecim: Final Fantasy will be released next year. Confirmed to be in the new lineup are Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII and Kain from Final Fantasy IV.

“Dissidia Duodecim”? Really? That’s Nomura for you. Anyway, nothing else is known about the game at the moment, but I’m pretty sure we’ll hear more when TGS rolls around. (VG247)

And that, as they say, is that. It’s time to get some Taco Bell and then head to bed. Tomorrow’s my one day off, and hopefully I’ll be able to spend it playing Dissidia. If so, expect impressions.

‘Till then!

~Riddles

Hey! Look! Longview! #56

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Well, subtle is definitely not my middle name. But, truth be told, we’ve never been much for subtlety here at Riddlethos.com. We generally prefer blunt and obvious stupidity. Just part of our unique charm, I suppose.

Or… whatever you’d call it. Maybe “charm” isn’t the right word.

But already, I digress. Welcome to the fifty-sixth edition of Hey! Look! Listen! As per usual, I am your host Oliver “Riddles” Motok, and I wish I had the money to buy Green Day Rock Band. I also wish I had the money to go to the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival this weekend. But alas, I have neither of  those things, which constitutes an epic musical fail. Oh well. Maybe I’ll start a cover band.

But, for now, I suppose I’ll settle for sharing some goings-on in the world of videogames. It’s a distinctly pre-E3 climate right now (obviously) which always produces a sort of energized lull that’s difficult to define. So instead of trying to define it, I think I’ll just write some stories.

Know Your Enemy: Proof that Final Fantasy XIII is Composed of Pure Evil

Apparently it wasn’t enough for Final Fantasy XIII to merely suck; now it destroys PS3s.

Or, at least, that’s what a group of people in San Fransisco are claiming. When they attempted to save their game for the first time, their consoles supposedly froze and died forever. They went to Sony first, who told them it was Square Enix’s fault. They went to Square Enix, who told them it was Sony’s fault. Point being, neither company was kind enough to fix the bricked consoles, so now they’re being sued in a class-action lawsuit. For $5 million.

Well. Thank god Final Fantasy XIII didn’t do that to me, at least. Talk about insult to injury. If you’re interested, the full PDF of the suit is available here. (IGN)

Welcome to Paradise: Red Dead Revolver Ships 5 Million, GTA IV Sells 17

Take-Two discussed their second quarter financials today, and happened to let slip the fact that Rockstar’s latest blockbuster, Red Dead Revolver, had already shipped 5 million copies. Now, granted, that’s shipped, not sold – but still, it’s big. It’s a big number.

Y’know what’s even bigger? 17 million. And, according to Take-Two, that’s how many copies that Grand Theft Auto IV has sold since its release back in April 2008. That is a lot. A lot lot. Holy freaking hell.

And… that’s about it. I just felt like throwing some numbers around. Moving on!  (IGN)

Jackass: Tomonobu Itagaki to Announce New Game at E3

You probably know who Tomonobu Itagaki is. If not, he’s the Ninja Gaiden guy. Not the old side-scrollers, but the bloody 3D re-imaginings. And I know you’ve heard of Ninja Gaiden before, because the first game was released no less than three times. Hell, even Ninja Gaiden 2 was released twice.

Oh, yeah, and he’s also responsible for the Dead or Alive games. The fighers and the slutty volleyball spinoffs.

Anyway. The thing about Mr. Itagaki is that he’s sort of a douche. He’s very much full of himself, which is made painfully obvious in pretty much every interview that he’s ever done. And, while being full of yourself is bad enough, what makes it even more obnoxious in my eyes is the fact that the guy really hasn’t done anything that amazing. Ninja Gaiden is, more or less, a hack-’n-slash actioner that uses gratuitous sex and violence as its primary selling point. Revolutionary, eh? Now, to be fair, it’s a very solidly built hack-’n-slash actioner, but it’s still nothing to write home about, and never has been. Admittedly, I haven’t played Dead or Alive – but from the looks of it, and given the general opinions on it, I’d wager you could say the same thing.

Itagaki happily made games for Tecmo for a long time. But, a few years back  - late 2008, if I recall – Tecmo and Mr. Itagaki ran afoul of eachother. My memory’s a bit hazy, and I’m too lazy to look up the specifics; but if I recall, Mr. Itagaki and quite a few other employees filed suit against Tecmo demanding unpaid wages and bonuses. They won. Itagaki left Tecmo, and he’s been relatively quiet since then – although, he’s always assured us that he was at work on a new game.

And now that I’ve written a 300-word mini-bio on this jackass, I might as well tell you the actual news part: he’ll be showing off his new game at E3 2010. Yep. He announced it in a blog post over at the website for his studio, Valhalla Games. Read it here, and be amazed at how douchy he makes himself sound in just a few short, matter-of-factual paragraphs. (Gaming Today)

Nice Guys Finish Last: Yakuza 4 Coming to North America

Well. Much less torturous waiting this time around. Apparently Yakuza 3 sold pretty well in the west when Sega finally brought it over. Well enough, at least, for them to give Yakuza 4 the same treatment.

Yakuza 4 was released in Japan back on March 18, 2010; it’ll be on American shores in the springtime of 2011. Good news, eh? Eh?

Frankly, I don’t really care that much. The only experience I have with the Yakuza series is when I played the demo for Yakuza 3 at Ethos’ place. But, be that as it may, he and I share one fantastic memory of the franchise, and it can be described in a single word: Karaoke. (Kotaku)

Waiting: New Enslaved: Odyssey to the West Trailer is Incredibly Awesome

I really, really want this game. I never even played Heavenly Sword, and I fucking can’t wait for Enslaved. This new E3 trailer seals the deal. Watch it, and be impressed.

Now, c’mon. Tell me you weren’t impressed. At least a little.

Well golly, it looks like I’m drawing close to that non-existent 1000-word limit!

Seriously, there’s no limit, I just have to stop at some point. So. Might as well be now?

And just so everyone knows, I’ve totally had my Green Day music library on shuffle the entire time while writing this. So, ideally, you’ll be listening to Green Day whilst reading. But I’m going to guess that none of you are, and frankly, that’s a shame. Because they’re awesome.

Hey! Look! Listen! #54

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Oh, hey! It’s this column!

I know I only missed a week, but it feels… longer. But, then again, last week felt like it lasted for 327 years, so that might be why. In any case, I’m back, and sincerely happy to be here. I have seen the world outside, and it’s a far less pleasant place than Riddlethos.

Generally speaking.

I actually *don’t* have Alan Wake at this exact moment, but that’s only because I rushed home to begin work on this very article. Still grabbing it tonight, and I’ll have impressions up by tomorrow evening at the latest. Or, if I’m feeling crazy enough, tonight. (Don’t count on that one, though. Just throwing it out there. To torture you.)

Final Fantasy XIII Sells 5.5 Million, Square Enix Has Record Year

I didn’t realize until now, but during its 2009-2010 fiscal year, Square Enix released a numbered Dragon Quest, a numbered Final Fantasy, and two Kingdom Hearts games. The result? Money, and lots of it.

In an earnings report today, Square Enix announced that their games division had seen a 128.4 % increase in sales over the previous year, to 109,949 million yen. Operating income went up 254% over the previous year to 23,814 million yen. All considered, it’s the best fiscal year they’ve had since the Square and Enix merger in 2003.

Impressive, eh? You can thank Final Fantasy XIII, sad as that is to say. It’s sold a combined 5.55 million units since its release in Japan last year. Perhaps even more absurd, though, is the four million strong that Dragon Quest IX pushed – seeing that it was only released in Japan.

So, despite the apparent loss of their ability to make good RPGs, Square Enix isn’t going anywhere. And that’s all I’m really taking away from this. (IGN)

Square Enix “Looking Into” Releasing Vs. XIII on 360

Totally called this. Not that it’s much of a “call” these days. Publishers tend to release games on multiple platforms. It makes sense, and it’s not as difficult to do as it (apparently) once was.

During an investor meeting, in which financial matters (such as those in the story above) were being discussed, Square Enix’s president Yoichi Wada had this to say concerning Final Fantasy Vs. XIII’s multiplatform-ness:

“We’ll be looking into it internally until right before the formal announcement.”

Looking into it. Alrighty then. You know what I’d like to see, now that I think about it? A breakdown of how many copies that Final Fantasy XIII sold on the 360. I have a feeling that, if I could see one, I might be able to predict their decision. (VG247)

Aggregate Ranking Roundup: Alan Wake, Prince of Persia, Red Dead Redemption

As you’ve likely gathered, it’s Alan Wake Week here at Riddlethos. But, Alan wasn’t the only contender for the “honor” – a certain Prince and an assortment of outlaws from the Old West made fine arguments in their favor. Now that the week is here, how exactly are the three games faring in the critical realm?

Sitting comfortably on the first place position is Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption. It’s currently holding down a 95.79% aggregate score on GameRankings. (It’s worth noting, I suppose, that the PS3 version only has a 93.36%). Impressive. Most impressive. Only based on twelve reviews at this point, but still. Maybe we should have made this Red Dead Week. Oh well.

Coming in at number two is our very own Alan Wake, with an aggregate score of 84.40% And that’s based on 40 reviews. Solid. Quite solid. I’m excited to judge for myself.

And, at number three, everyone’s favorite Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands with a 76.00%. That’s only based on five reviews, yes, but… disappointing? The reviews are actually largely positive. But, frankly, when I play Prince of Persia, I’m expecting a masterpiece. Then again, after 2008’s rather underwhelming reboot, maybe I… shouldn’t. Ah well. I’ll buy it and play for myself eventually; frankly, I’m hoping it drops in price as quickly as the last game did.

Aw, C’mon: Mass Effect 2’s Mining Streamlined

I didn’t do a whole lot of mining in Mass Effect 2, which I know did me no favors. (You gotta do it if you want to get higher-level weapon upgrades.) However, the reason I didn’t do much mining in Mass Effect 2 is because it was slow. Very. Very. Slow. It was actually kinda fun in an odd way, but god damn… was it ever slow.

Anyway. I think you catch my drift. The reason I’m writing this story is because BioWare released a patch for the 360 version of Mass Effect 2 (PC patch coming soon, supposedly) that addresses this exact issue. And according to Gaming Today’s Phil Owen, “The scanner now moves very quickly, and the scanner itself is much larger… talk about streamlining.”

Well fuck. That would have been nice four months ago, BioWare. Then, maybe then, I could have acquired that awesome [insert high level something or other here] that I always fucking wanted. (Gaming Today)

Oh, For Fuck’s Sake: Nintendo Attempting to Make New Zelda “Easier to Play”

I haven’t been reminded of this fact terribly often lately, but it remains: I hate, hate, hate, hate Nintendo. So much. So much. So. Much. It started with childish gimmicks like motion controls. Then it was instructional DVDs teaching us how to play games. And now? Well, now they’re taking my once-favorite franchise of all time and… doing god-knows-what. Whatever it is, it can’t be good.

Shigeru Miyamoto, the man who created Zelda, was recently speaking with a German gaming site Gaming Media about the illustrious, unreleased Zelda title for the Wii. (1UP transcribes). During said interview, he claimed that Nintendo was “creating a new way to play the game.” Excitement? No. Definitely not excitement. Why? Here’s why:

“We are trying to make Zelda, which has become very complicated, easier to play.”

Complicated? Complicated?! Complicated?!

Pardon me while my mind explodes.

Ahh, that’s better.

Okay, maybe I’m thinking of the wrong Zelda here. You know, the fucking bread-and-butter of action-adventure games? Crawl dungeons, fight baddies solve puzzles? Again: bread-and-butter. BREAD AND FUCKING BUTTER.

BREAD AND BUTTER IS NOT COMPLICATED.

Oh man. I just… have no words. Link… what are they doing to you over there?

It’s just… I have these awful mental images of everyone’s favorite Hero of Time being chronically sodomized by grinning, aging Japanese businessmen. For a while, I imagined Miyamoto merely sitting on the sidelines and watching; perhaps with a sort of subdued distaste. But now? Well, now’s he’s part of the action. And I just can’t handle that.

…and now that I have concluded the most disgusting tangent ever written on Riddlethos.com, I will take my leave. Goodnight, everyone. Enjoy the mental imagery.

Sunday Soapbox: Why Nocturne is Better Than Final Fantasy XIII

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

It’s safe to say that most of us have tried Final Fantasy XIII, and found it lacking. Maybe you appreciate the game for what it is, but wish it was more. Maybe you only found pleasure in the game’s battle system, which is widely hailed as its strongest aspect. Or perhaps, like me, you hated pretty much everything about the game.

During the fifteen hours or so that I spent hating Final Fantasy XIII, I often found myself simply wondering why I was hating it so much. Was it just because the game itself was bad? Or, was it possible that I was just losing my taste for JRPGs in general? I considered the latter a distinct possibility, because in the last year I really haven’t played that many RPGs – so maybe, possibly, they just weren’t my thing anymore.

Well, twelve hours into Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, I’ve discovered that’s not the case. I’m enjoying the hell out of it, and because of that I’ve come to the definitive conclusion that Final Fantasy XIII is just a bad game. So, why am I enjoying Nocturne so much when Final Fantasy XIII made me cringe? Allow me to explain.

I Feel Like a Part of Nocturne’s World

I might as well begin by attacking Final Fantasy XIII’s weakest aspect. As pretty as it might look, Final Fantasy XIII never manages to connect you to the world you’re in. In fact, Final Fantasy XIII seems to go out of its way to ensure that you can never feel a tangible connection with its world. You’re never allowed to interact with your surroundings in any way; and, in fact, the only real player input to be found is within Final Fantasy XIII’s battle system. You can’t talk to NPCs. You can’t explore towns. Hell, for the majority of the game, you can’t even decide how to evolve the Crystarium. Final Fantasy XIII, for all intents and purposes, is on rails.

Hail the advent of the rail-turn-based-fighting game.

Now, let’s consider Nocturne. When I’m in a new place, I can go talk to NPCs to gather info and insight about the area I’m in, who lives there, who runs it, and how it works. When I’m exploring the world, I’m actually exploring – I’m not walking a straight line. In short, I’m allowed to piece together my own understanding of the world, rather than being force-fed through crappy cutscenes. My connection the world and events at large advance at my own pace, not at the pace of some dsylexic Japanese man who thinks he’s writing something epic.

Nocturne Actually Has an Atmosphere

Because Final Fantasy XIII force-feeds you the specifics of its world and events, the game is never allowed to develop a palpable atmosphere. You see, atmosphere doesn’t have anything to do with writing or storytelling – it’s essentially how the game feels while you’re playing it. And, as I’ve already said, the only time you’re ever playing Final Fantasy XIII is when you’re in combat.

Nocturne doesn’t have that problem. In fact, Nocturne has one of the richest, most unique atmospheres I’ve ever experienced in a JRPG. The lack of human party members, combined with the post-apocalyptic setting, evokes an atmosphere that’s comparable to games like Metroid Prime, Shadow of the Colossus, and (to cite another RPG) Vagrant Story. To sum up, while Final Fantasy XIII is simply a task, Nocturne is an experience.

Nocturne Has Less of a Story, Yet More

Nocturne takes a fairly minimalist approach to story exposition. In spite of that, the events taking place are far more engaging than Final Fantasy XIII’s nonsensical mess of a plotline. Why? Oh, well, it’s pretty simple. Atlus has good writers. See Persona 3 and 4 for additional proof of that. Square Enix, on the other hand, does not. Or, if they do, they didn’t let them anywhere near Final Fantasy XIII’s script.

Nocturne’s Battle System is Better

There was a time that I said good things about Final Fantasy XIII’s battle system. And, to be fair, it’s certainly not a bad system – it’s just not great by any means. Call it streamlined, call it “fast and furious,” call it a great example of Macro vs Micro-management, but in my opinion, it’s just dumbed down. Paradigms are simply a heavily generalized form of XII’s gambits, and there’s absolutely no reason why I shouldn’t be able to issue manual commands to my party members.

Nocturne, like all of the Shin Megami Tensei games, has one of the deepest, most strategic battle systems I’ve seen in an RPG. Recruiting a variety of demons to fight on your side is not only a ton of fun in and of itself, but it also lends itself to deliciously complex combat strategies – aside from titles such as Final Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem, I’ve never played an RPG that places so much emphasis on building and preening a strong party. Just one demonic member can make all the difference, and the combinations are practically endless. In Final Fantasy XIII, “strategy” is letting the right dog off the chain at the right time. In Nocturne, you’re the one building the team, strengthening the team, and guiding the team – and that’s how it should be.

Nocturne Has Dante In It

Yep, that’s right. Dante, from Devil May Cry. The ultimate demon-hunting badass. Atlus struck a deal with Capcom to get him in their game. This is something the Square Enix clearly failed at, and it cost them.

I know that not everyone’s going to agree with me here. But, all you sensible people will, I’m sure. Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne is a better game than Final Fantasy XIII in every conceivable way.

Except for those graphics. Those graphics were sweeeeet.

Scatter Storming. Issue #026

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Finally I’m back! After Riddles took over with that horrible 25th issue, we had those technical issues, and there was just never a good time to post a late issue, so it’s been forever! But I’m glad to be back with my good ol’ weekly round of verbal diarrhea. Let’s get to it!

I’m both hating FFXIII so much more and liking it more -
Seriously, the more I think about the tunnel I had to get through to get to Pulse, the more I can’t believe that I played through it. I mean, I really am a big fan of the battle system, but even the Crystarium system didn’t mean anything until Pulse. I’ve played about 12 hours in the post-game now, and it’s easily the most fun I’ve had with the game. Still, it’s nothing truly spectacular because it’s really just marks and really pretty scenery with cool Terra-esque flowers. Back to the shitty story though, I think it just got worse as it progressed. There were no supplementary characters worth note, and the main cast stunk, and things made less and less sense as you got along. Oh well, I’m so anxious to complete all the marks, I’ll probably end up Platinum-ing the game.

Broke Update -
Still broke. Stupid Revenue Canada. They said 4 weeks! 6 MAX! And I sent stuff in early, so it’s supposed to be fast. It’s been about 8 weeks now, and I’m still scraping by. No fun. I want to buy games. I want to buy a PSP. I want to buy Monty Python stuff off of Amazon. Also, the Lord of the Rings (gimped) trilogy is on Blu-Ray. I want to buy that too, even though I know I’m a sucker for it. GAH! I like money and I want more of it again. Still, playing the piano is nice.

I have an XBox? -
I kinda forgot until I thought I was going to play Splinter Cell. As a guy who was chuckling at the PS3 just over a year ago, it’s interesting to see that it’s quickly become my system of choice. Now it’s going to get back at me by crashing when I try to play Gears 3 or Mass Effect 3 or potentially Alan Wake.

HOCKEY PLAYOFFS! -
Fuck yeah! Only one of my three teams made it, and they’re going to be wiped out first round, but who gives a fuck?! HD HOCKEY PLAYOFFS! I always wanna follow it, and never had a TV, or stuff came up, but CBC is covering 4 of the 8 match-ups for round one, and I’m going to soak that up. But first: Modern Family.

Piano music? -
Long-time loyal reader SiliconNooB once suggested on Facebook that Lusipurr and I should somehow record some of our video game piano stylings for the listening pleasure of our fans. I don’t know about Lusipurr, but I could definitely do something from my end if there were any interest. Lemme know!

Broke Update -
STILL FUCKING BROKE!

That’s it. I gotta make the cover now (I think it’s going to be of Snapped Celery, my latest character), and then Modern Family and then the playoffs. Ice cream will be involved too.

The Final Fantasy Awards: Best Art Direction – Riddles

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

FFVIIboxartRiddles’ Pick: Final Fantasy VII

Ahhh, Final Fantasy VII. How I love you.  I might shower more praise on this game than it deserves, but regardless of my fanboyism, I feel perfectly justified in awarding it Best Art Direction.

One word I’d use to describe Final Fantasy VII’s art style is “gritty.” And that’s gritty in a good way. To this day, Midgar remains one of the greatest virtual cities ever created for any videogame, of any genre, of any generation. The city oozes of a beautifully oppressive, industrial atmosphere that simply hasn’t been matched. Lots of games combine magic with technology. Final Fantasy VII wasn’t even the first game to do it, really; but Final Fantasy VII is still the greatest showcase of this particular match-up. Final Fantasy XIII took aim at it, yes; but in the end, it failed to provide the same palpable atmosphere that literally drips from Final Fantasy VII’s environments.

Midgar is certainly the paragon example, but it’s not the lone star. Final Fantasy VII is packed with more memorable locales than any other game in the series. What’s fantastic about it, though, is that they all manage to be incredibly distinct, yet they all feel like a crucial part of the world as a whole. From the aptly-named Kalm, to the delightfully organic Cosmo Canyon, to the eerily gorgeous paths of The Forgotten City, Final Fantasy VII is an atmospheric rollercoaster ride unlike any other.

And let’s give some credit to Nomura’s character designs. Final Fantasy VII was the first game to feature his patented character designs, and in my opinion, it’s still his best work. Maybe it’s just because the characters themselves are so iconic; but then again, without his artistic vision, they probably wouldn’t be.

The game may look like complete shit on a technical level, but the powerful artistic vision behind Final Fantasy VII still manages to cut through the pixels, even to this day. And that, my friends, is an accomplishment.

Runner Up: Final Fantasy XIII

Maybe it’s just because I dig the technology/magic schtick so much. Maybe it’s because I feel like supporting Ethos in his (perfectly justified) decision to give the Art Direction award to XIII. Or, maybe it’s just because Final Fantasy XIII features some of the most inspired art direction of this generation. If any one department wasn’t slacking during XIII’s development, it was the artists. See Ethos’ award post for my thoughts.

Dishonorable Mention: Final Fantasy III

I’d almost give this to Final Fantasy X-2, since hardly any of the artwork in that game is original. But then I realized that I literally can’t clearly recall a single town, dungeon, or environment from Final Fantasy III. And that’s probably because the art direction, like everything else about the game, was pretty mundane. Also, I just hate Final Fantasy III.