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    Feb 23rd, 2007 at 15:14:30     -    Katamari Damacy (PS2)

    So I had actually played Minna Daisuki Katamari Damashii (We Love Katamari) before this. I'd played the Japanese version so I had a slightly hard time understanding it, but the non-textual cut-scenes made it pretty easy to understand what was going on. Playing the prequel to it made me realize that there were things to the first one that were actually BETTER than the sequel.

    It's even just the little things like having a unique Katamari for each level that matches the theme of that level. I.E. in the level where you must collect cows, the katamari you begin with is white with black spots, ala a cow. It's surprising they didn't have that feature in the sequel.

    I also feel like the level design is slightly better, especially in the smaller levels. There are a lot more ramps and almost kind of puzzles that the player needs to figure out how to do in order to proceed. I also think the cousins and the hidden items are placed more cleverly.

    However, the narration scenes are not nearly as well done. In fact, I've already seen the narration scenes in Katamari Damashii because as a bonus in the sequel, you get to watch all the scenes from the first one in a sequence. The sequel definitely is much more genius in this sense, because they effectively tell a story without the use of any dialogue.

    Overall the series is a charming one, even if the second Katamari is really unnecessary. I'd like to see the game on the Wii with all the potential that the wiimote has to improve the games controls.

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    Feb 23rd, 2007 at 14:12:16     -    Katamari Damacy (PS2)

    There's a certain charm to Katamari Damashii that simply doesn't exist in any other game I've played. It gets you excited with the feeling of power, but limits that feeling from going to absolute craze with subtle, enjoyable background music. The combination of consistently well designed visuals, a variety of quirky soundtracks, and an ingeniously intuitive control-scheme make this game one of the finest in game history.

    For one, there's a very consistent style to Katamari. All objects in the universe seem appropriate amongst eachother, even if, given the context of the real world, they absolutely would not (why the fuck are there gorillas on the beach?). The game has entirely obscure levels and while it's horribly funny, the game has us come to accept the weirdness of the game as completely natural.

    The sometimes absurd, but usually very beautiful and engaging soundtrack lends itself to the drive for this game. Have you ever tried playing Katamari without sound? It's really not enjoyable at all. The music keeps you rolling and that is half the game.

    Katamari Damashii has the best use of two joysticks that I've ever seen. It works perfectly for the game mechanics in KD and is really all the player needs to control their Katamari. I've noticed that I've managed to get a lot of "non-gamers" into this game based just on the simplicity of the control scheme. The lack of any real need to use buttons makes it almost immediately accessible to anyone.

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    Feb 9th, 2007 at 14:29:50     -    ブルードラゴン Blue Dragon (360)

    So I got a chance to get into the battle-system a bit more. It's interesting because at first the characters fight, but soon afterwards, they run into an encounter with Nene, who is presumably the grand master behind the Jisame, and end up being forced to swallow blue crystals which cause them to acquire avatars in the form of a cow, dragon, and horse. From then on, the characters fight using their avatars, who in turn have shadows.

    Reintroduce the job system in the form of shadows, that's interesting. The shadow system essentially gives the character a different set of skills depending on which shadow they use. For example, one of the characters Shuu, could use the "white" shadow. This will allow him to use a variety of white magic skills and will also affect his stats to bias it towards magic defense
    and away from attack power, etc. As he levels up that shadow skill, he will slowly permanently acquire some of the white magic skills into his pool of skills that he can equip when he's using a different shadow.

    One gripe I have with the shadow system is that it's not explained at all. Why there are different shadows and why new ones are acquired are, as of yet, simply things that happen. Unlike in Final Fantasy V, where the characters acquire the souls of ancient warriors, here, the shadows just exist. I hope this is explained later, because otherwise it's somewhat silly.

    I've been reading online and a lot of people highly criticize the "primitive" turn based battle system. What's said is that with game like Final Fantasy XII progressing towards a more real-time system, Blue Dragon looks in comparison very "old-school". Personally, I think this is completely a design choice and that Mistwalker had it completely in their hands to design a game that wasn't turn based. While one was certainly introduced later, it doesn't mean that it is necessarily a better system than the turn-based system, but rather an alternative. Both produce entirely different effects and some like one more than the other. It's hard to argue that either is the best.

    I will say though that the turn-based system in this game is particularly drab, and I still can't figure out why. It might be the music, or it could be the slow speed the attack animations go at. It'll take me more time before I really figure out why, but I can't say I'm always the most excited to enter a battle. Though simultaneously, the player's never forced to enter a battle because all
    enemies are present on the screen, and it's up to the player whether or not they want to engage them in a battle.

    This certainly brings up very unique game design elements in Blue Dragon. There are times where you can group several enemies together and have what's called a "Monster's Fight" which allows the player to, if having chosen the enemies grouped together right, let the monsters fight amongst themselves. I find this system particularly genius, and it allows players to manipulate their enemies on the world map.

    I still have a lot to see in this game and I really hope the story picks up because the game is horribly cliche right now and I can't help but think that it could remain that way for the rest of the game.

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    Feb 9th, 2007 at 14:03:48     -    ブルードラゴン Blue Dragon (360)

    A quick preface to Blue Dragon: the story's written by Hironobu Sakaguchi (坂口博信), the original creator of Final Fantasy and writer for the stories of Final Fantasy I - V. The music composer, Nobuo Uematsu (植松伸夫), is well known for making what's considered some of the best video game music to date, and has made the entire sound track for this game. Finally, the main art designer, Akira Toriyama 鳥山明, is world famous for his Dragon Ball Z series. All-in-all, what's considered the "Dream Team" have put their efforts into this game over the last 5 years. Whether they've succeeded, I've yet to find out.

    The game makes full use of next-gen capabilities. I played out the intro a bit and immediately I realized I couldn't tell the difference between the cinematics and the in-game graphics. This was because, normally one would notice a resolution change between the gameplay and the cinematic, but in the case of Blue Dragon (which also indicates why the game is 25GB large... 3DVDs), all cinematic scenes are done in 720p as well, making transitions between gameplay and cinematic seamless.

    This, in turn, helps the game's narration feel more natural. The use of high resolution textures in both gameplay and cinematics, and the wise use of motion and distance blurring makes every area good for story progression. While I've only got through a little bit of the game, the voice acting and the facial expressions (which are really clear with Toriyama's translated-to-3D artstyle) are extremely expressive and really convey each character's apprehension or, in the protagonist's case, desire to take down the Jisame (the evil spawn).

    I haven't gotten yet to the core battle-system mechanics yet, but I'll critique more of that when I get to a point where that's possible.

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    1ブルードラゴン Blue Dragon (360)Playing
    2東方花映塚 Phantasmagoria of Flower View (PC)Playing
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