August 20, 2009
But then Knights in the Nightmare came along, and with it, brought some changes to the long-standing formula.
What's it's done is take the existing formula, and blends it with elements of shooters like Geometry Wars. The result is a tactical RPG that – despite a few shortcomings – successfully blends the two genres into something truly special.
The story of Knights in the Nightmare follows the revived soul of the departed Lion Heart King, now known simply as, the Wisp, as he tries to reclaim his kingdom (as well as his body), from the forces of the underworld who now occupy his castle (they're also responsible for his death). Helping him with this, is a mysterious armored maiden named Maria (whose also the one who re-awakened the king's soul), and the souls of fallen knights. The story is good, providing much mystery and intrigue, but it can be hard to follow at times because of that very reason. Well, that and the way the story is told, that is. See, the game tells a lot of the story through flashbacks that happen at the end of every stage (or "scenes" as the game calls them). These are shown in a rather disordered sequence, as the events are not shown in the order in which they happened. This coupled with the already somewhat confusing events of the present, made it the story a little more perplexing, as it only made it harder to understand what was going on. It was around the half-way point of the game when I began to figure out what was going on. Because of that, I felt the storytelling could have been handled better.
As previously stated, the gameplay is basically a blend of the tactical RPG and shooter genres. And this quickly becomes apparent while playing. Particularly the RPG elements. As, for the most part, the game is your standard tactical RPG. You take units, each with their own cIass, into battle and order them to attack enemies spread throughout the field with various weapons to attain victory. It sounds simple, but there are a few…complications, that mix it up a little. Firstly, your units can't move. Or rather, not all of 'em can move, as there are a couple that are capable of some movement. But the most of 'em can't, the most they can do is look in different directions. Which are also the only directions they can attack in. So placement is very important, as if you place the wrong units in the wrong area, you can't attack any enemies.
Secondly, normal attacks cannot hurt, let alone kill, enemies. All that does is cause them to drop crystals that refill your magic point meter upon grabbing them. So how do you hurt and/or kill enemies? Simple: with special attacks. These attacks are initiated by giving a unit a weapon (more on those later) they can use. Upon dong so, they begin to charge the attack, and once it's done you can unleash it upon your foes to deal out damage.
And lastly, you have to dodge bullets. Yeah, you read that right. Though they don't look like bullets… But anyway, these bullets are a big hazard, as if the Wisp (that's you, in case you forgot) is hit by 'em, the remaining time in the turn (again, more on that later) is decreased. Take too many hits, and the turn ends, as well as defeat should enough turns pass. This element is similar to games like Geometry Wars, or Gradius, as it requires you to be very quick, yet careful with how you move through the stream of bullets in order to keep the turn going.
Now then…with all that out of the way, time to move on to the things I mentioned earlier.
There a few types of weapons at your disposal, with each type being exclusive to a specific class. For example, axes can only be used by Warriors, bows by Archers, rods by wizards, etc. Each weapon also has it's own skills (or special attacks, depending on what you want to call them) that can only be used during a particular phase. So say you have a weapon that's skill can only be used during the Law phase (or Chaos phase, whatever you prefer), but the enemy you want to attack is outside of the weapons range for that particular phase. What do you do? Simple, just replace either the weapon with another, or place a different unit down instead. And to further add to the strategic nature of the game, you can only take four weapons into battle with you. Which coupled with the fact that each enemy, and weapon has an elemental affinity, makes things even more strategic. As using the enemies weaknesses to your advantage allows you to achieve victory much faster with relative ease.
As previously mentioned, turns are present in Knights in the Nightmare, butut not the way you'd expect them to be. Rather than having both sides take turns attacking each other, the game opts for a real-time battle system, which allows for both sides to take action throughout the duration of the turn. When time runs out – whether it be from taking hits, or using it to execute special attacks (charging them takes time, after all) – the turns over. The purpose of these turns, is to act as a time limit of sorts. As one of the conditions for victory is to finish the battle within a certain number of turns. (The other requires you to make a line in the enemy matrix, which is done buy simply defeating enemies.) And while this may sound like it give a sense of urgency to the battles, it doesn't. At least not to the typical enemy encounters, anyway. As they very easy to get through. The turns don't really add any difficulty to these fights, despite the potential to do so.
The boss fights on the other hand, do deliver on that. As these fights – unlike the aforesaid ones – are aggravatingly difficult. How so? Simple: They have a huge amount of hit points, and you have a small amount of turns to defeat them in. And combine that with the fact that the bullets they fire are much harder to avoid, and you've got yourself one immensely difficulty boss fight that shows just how uneven the difficulty is. As you've got the super easy enemy encounters, and then you have the super hard boss encounters. There's no consistency. It's just one extreme after another.
One other thing worth mentioning is the Transoul feature, which allows you to take a units soul and fuse it with another, thus giving you a more powerful unit. But at a cost; the unit you sacrifice cannot return. Ever. But despite that, there will be times when you must Transoul units to keep them alive. Why? Because otherwise their vitality will eventually reach zero, and when that happens, the unit dies. This forces you to think carefully about which units you sacrifice for the sake of your other units. Because if you don't, you'll probably be left with either no units, or a bunch of weak units.
This may sound like a lot to remember (and it is), but it doesn't take too long to get the hang of it. Unless, of course, you're like me and finally get the hang of it around the half-way point (which isn't too bad I'd say, considering how many things there are to remember). But I (sort of) doubt that would happen to you.
Visually, the game looks great. The character models all look good, and have plenty of details. The beautiful environments have a lush feel to them. And the attacks all look very fierce and powerful. Sound wise, the game on par with its visuals. The music is very well done and fits the action and setting nicely. The battle cries are rather repetitious, but you'll probably be too engaged in the heat of battle to even take notice of this small issue.
With all the genre blend type games we see these days, Knights in the Nightmare is definitely one of the better ones. It's unique blend of the tactical RPG, and shooter genres make for a very fun, and frantic strategy game like no other. It's difficulty may be uneven, and its story a little confusing, but if you can put up with those shortcomings, then Knights in the Nightmare is well worth a look.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
August 19, 2009
...We get another rumor just as we close the book on another one.
Following yesterday's long awaited announcement of the PlaySation 3 Slim, which is set to be released in early September worldwide at $300 (Yay! Price cut!), another rumor regarding said system has surfaced via an FCC filing.
The filing in question mentions a 250GB model of their newly announced system, which shares similarities in its product code (CECH-2001B) to the one of the forthcoming system (CECH-2000A). Leading many to believe that it indeed exists.
And that belief is only further instilled by the one responsible for the filing: Sand Dollar Enterprise. Whom, according to GameSpot, is "a Foster City, California outfit that shares an address with Sony Computer Entertainment America." In addition, the contact given in the filing was SCEA senior vice president of legal, Riley Russell. So there's no mistake; it's definitely a Sony filing.
Personally, I'm torn on this. On one hand, the immense hard drive would be nice to have, especially for one such as myself, who buys many downloadable titles. But on the other, I'd rather not pay extra (because, knowing Sony, they'll do that) for more space. And the fact that they're still going with the multiple hardware configurations, is driving me nuts. Can't they just stick with one model, like the Wii has?
Still, more space is never a bad thing. And if they pack in a game or two (i.e. ones I'm interested in), then I'll probably go for it. Well...as long as they don't end up releasing it a year or so from now, anyway.
August 13, 2009
I have followed this philosophy ever since I began to review videogames, as reviewing a game without finishing it is like reviewing a movie after watching only half of it -- a horrible move that would not only hurt the quality of your criticism, but your credibility as a critic, too.
But recently I've begun to wonder if it truly necessary to finish a game before writing the review -- even if you had gotten to the very end, only to find out you simply cannot finish it. What do you do in that situation? Do you keep trying in the hopes that you'll achieve victory? Start over, and hope that doing something differently will affect the outcome? Or just write the review based on what you know about the game?
Those are questions I've been asking myself for the past couple days, as I've been placed into that situation.
The game is Knights in the Nightmare. A DS title from Atlus. I have been working my way through it for the past couple weeks with little trouble. But a couple days ago, when I had arrived at the game's final boss, I hit a roadblock: I can't beat it. It is simply beyond my ability.
I have tried multiple times to beat it, but no how close I come to achieving victory, I'm met with defeat at the last second. Leaving me to make a difficult decision: Do I keep trying? Or give up and review it anyway? I've been considering going with the latter option, as I feel I know enough about the game to review it. But, at the same time, I feel shouldn't. As doing so without finishing it, just seems wrong. Which leaves me constantly debating which option I should go with.
As on one hand, I already have all the info needed to write a review, so I can easily write a review like always. And it's not like the ending would have a huge affect on my opinion of the game, right? So why shouldn't I start writing it if I feel I can?
Because that ending sequence could have a big affect on my opinion, but I won't know for sure if I don't finish it. Therefore, writing a review now wouldn't be a good idea, as I still haven't played through all the content yet.
That's basically how it's been going in my head as I debate what the best option is. And while both sides raise good points, I can't simply decide upon one and feel I've made the right decision. As I would love to write a review for the game (simply because I love writing), but I don't think I should without finishing it first.
So basically it's a lose-lose situation. As neither choice is very desirable.
I don't know... Maybe I should just go with the easier option and forget about reviewing it altogether.
August 12, 2009
Introducing the latest peripheral from the crazy minds at Nintendo...the inflatable Horseback Riding Saddle!
*Cue cricket noise*
...Yeah, I figured that's the reaction I'd get.
So yesterday this patent for a new peripheral from Nintendo surfaced. Siliconera was the first to find it, and from what I've seen in the patent, it looks (there are concept sketches in the patent) and sounds...odd.
So how does it work? Well it has a small pocket for the Wii remote to be put, which allows it to pick up on the users movement through the Wii remotes accelerometers. Thus giving the user the feel that they're riding an animal. To further convey that feeling, the nunchuck is used to convey the feeling of holding the reins.
And according to the GameSpot article, the device also can incorporate force feedback (also known as, vibration) via "haptic feedback transmitters, which would vibrate in response to occurrences within the game."
So how could this be used? Put simply, a multitude of ways. The most obvious one being the horseback elements of the Zelda series. Using this while riding on horseback in-game, could result in the player becoming more immersed in the game.
Though considering the devices versatility, it could also be used for something like Mario Kart (credit for the idea goes to Siliconera). I don't know how that would work, though, but it's intriguing idea nonetheless.
I'm not quite sure what to think of it yet. The concept, and how it can be used are definitely intriguing, but I'm not sure if this is something I'd want to, you know, use. I'd much rather sit on my couch instead of some small inflatable gaming peripheral while playing videogames. Why? Because I imagine it'd much more comfortable to sit on a couch instead of the aforementioned device.
Though there is one question that remains: Will this actually see the light of day? There have been many patented items over the years, and most of them never come to fruition. Will this suffer the same fate? Or will we actually see it used for something? Only time will tell...
August 7, 2009
In a earnings call on Wednesday, he stated the following: "... You know if it was left to me, I would raise the prices even further."
My reaction to this was something along the lines of, "further?! Are you nuts?!". ...Okay, that's not true. My actual reaction was more like, "further, eh? I doubt that would go well."
Why, you ask? Well if you consider the already high prices of games, and the fact that not everyone has the money to go and buy 'em at full price, this could only result in more people resorting to the used game market for game purchases. Which would only hurt them, as they don't make money off used game sales. Which any smart person (not that Bobby Kotick isn't smart) should notice.
So what should they do? Simple. Keep the prices where their at. Or better yet, lower 'em. Though the latter doesn't seem very likely. As they -- like every other developer/publisher out there -- are gonna try to make as much they can off their games, especially when you consider how much they spend making the game. And the best way to do that? Sell 'em for $60.
But thankfully, this probably won't be happening for the foreseeable future. Why? Well, if payed attention to what he said, you'd notice he said "if it was left to me," (emphasis added) which implies that he has no control over such things.
Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean it won't ever happen. As if Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot is right about the cost of development during the next console cycle, then a price hike is almost certain. As that's what happened at the start this generation, so what's stopping it from happening again?
Still, I doubt increasing prices would go down well consumers. We already spend a lot as it is on games, anymore and I bet we'll start seeing sales drop. As for some (such as myself) who can't buy games very often because of how expensive they are, it would become nigh impossible for them to buy games at full price.
Which is precisely why I think that prices of games should -- if anything -- be lowered. As that would allow more people to buy game at full price, which leads to higher sales. But unless we can somehow stop the price of development from climbing, that probably won't happen.