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    Sep 8th, 2009 at 21:06:11     -    Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)

    Shadow of the Colossus is an adventure game involving a young man named Wander, his horse Agro, and the sixteen colossi that they must defeat. Wander must cleverly defeat all sixteen of the colossi in order for a god to agree to revive a young girl whose relationship to Wander is not fully explained.

    The game begins without much exposition and leads straight into Wander's task of killing the colossi for the sake of the young girl he seeks to revive. Control moves to the player as small bits of tutorial info are presented in order to find the first colossus. The use of the light reflecting off the sword is an interesting way of finding the colossus and allows the player to find all of the colossi without breaking realism by giving Wander a radar, something too advanced for the time period. It is noteworthy that the horse Agro is helping Wander to reach his goals and is even useful during the fights. A great bond is built between the two and through the fluidity of the horse's movements it is obvious that the creators of the game spent a lot of time designing him and his movements.

    Fighting the colossus was obviously the focal point of the game and is a very climactic experience. The first colossus is not supposed to be very difficult and requires the basic controls of how to climb and it also teaches how to stab. I will honestly admit that I had difficulty with this colossus. I was fine with the climbing and jumping, but I had not yet mastered it enough to trek to the top of the beast and stab it. However, when I eventually completed the task it felt very satisfying. The strange, black magic that seemed to escape the corpse of the monster entering Wander was somewhat strange and unexplained. I'm assuming that it will be explained later. I do worry that the story is not going to be completely explained given how none of the characters have spoken other than the god. The plotline seems like it could be very interesting, I just hope it is done justice in the remainder of my play time.

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    Aug 23rd, 2009 at 23:12:15     -    Final Fantasy XII (PS2)

    Final Fantasy XII focuses very heavily on the battle system that is toted on being unique and innovative. This concentration on the battle system undermines the game’s rich story and only serves to dishevel the pacing of the game without adding anything truly spectacular to it. Though I originally felt that the game had a deep battle system there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. The pacing of the game suffers from the long periods of battles. RPG’s have always had expansive dungeons, which Final Fantasy XII has plenty of. However, this game features three to four dungeons before continuing with the storyline. This bothered me from the start, but it does not resolve itself over the course of the game and instead gets worse. If the game is not played all in one sitting the plot is easily forgotten before arriving at the destination of the characters after all of the dungeons.
    The story is cinematic and is told very subtly and majestically, but falls short overall because the gameplay hinders it as opposed to aiding it. The dialogue is written to not be too overdone despite the different style of speech used by the people of the time period. A trap that occurs when writing dialogue is a character having to explain something to the player that is common knowledge for all of the characters within the realm of the game. This deters from the immersion into the game, but Final Fantasy XII avoids this by making sure an unenlightened youth asks a question the player might be thinking before having someone explain in detail. Certain things are not explained at all and are left to be assumed upon such as the relationship between the characters Fran and Balthier as well as the tension between Archadia and Rozarria. The growth of the characters is also told through the cinematography of the game instead of playing explicitly stated. Ashe’s greed and Vaan’s maturation are better shown than told through scenes that show Ashe being focused on the nethecite’s power and refusing to destroy it and Vaan is seen taking more of a leadership position as time passes in the story.
    The innovation in Final Fantasy XII lies in its battle system. Many RPGs are disliked because of the turn-based system that accompanies them. This game attempts to dispel some of the hate by adding a different type of system along with freedom of movement and seamless initiation of battle. However, the system utilized in the game is not that much different from anything in the past Final Fantasy games since it still involves taking turns to input commands through a complex menu system. Traditional RPG gamers would feel at home with this setup, but it seems that by attempting to break the mold of RPGs that SquareEnix wanted a different audience. The change is welcomed, but the system is not as innovative or unique to the genre as the game would make it seem.
    Though I felt that there were an excessive number of dungeons/levels within the game a majority of them feature a twist that makes them unique or interesting. Vaan sneaking into the Dalmascan Palace was interesting because instead of fighting your way through the player is expected to sneak by calling the guards into different positions and walking through their posts like a maze. In another level the characters desire the lights to be on because the undead will rise out of the ground otherwise. This would not be a problem, but some monsters are drinking the electricity and dimming the lights causing the player to have to kill the monsters before they do too much damage. These are merely two examples of how the level design is unique enough to fight back monotony.
    Games that feature themes of war are generally depressing and have a serious tone. Final Fantasy XII follows this pattern to an extent and uses music to achieve the desired effect. The musical score for the game includes many different pieces that fit very smoothly into the gameplay. Many of the songs are subtle and do not draw attention to themselves making the experience cinematic and emotionally compelling. The capital, Rabanastre, features very happy and festive music that symbolizes the blissful ignorance that the city has fallen under due to the rule of Vayne. Vayne made sure to begin a festival upon his arrival and has left the city in a state of prosperity while he secretly plans to use the country of Dalmasca as the battlefield for his usage of nethecite to crush his opposing nations. Archades, the capital of the Empire, opposes the state of Rabanastre in two different ways. Old Archades is a ruined part of town stricken by poverty and has some of the most depressing music in the game, which displays how distraught faced by its citizens. Archades, like Rabanastre, does feature happy and festive music, but it does not represent ignorance. Instead, the citizens truly feel prosperous due to the expansion of their country and massive expanse of their city shows how the massive wealth of the Empire.

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