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    Oct 20th, 2009 at 00:12:56     -    Mega Man 9 (Wii)

    GAMEPLAY

    Thanks goodness for checkpoints. After another 90 minutes, I discovered that as long as you do so before losing all of your lives, you can reach checkpoints. Though not very obvious as say in a game like Donkey Kong Country, where there's a nice little barrel for you to break. But, assuming this applies to all levels, about halfway through the level and right before the boss, there is an invisible checkpoint, so that if you die, which in my case happened often, you will start off from your checkpoint as long as you don't get a "game over."

    To ease the tension, my roommate and I decided to switch off during the level. If one of us died, the other picked up the controller to continue, giving each of us a nice, if brief break from the tension. It's easy to get nervous playing this game particularly when you only have one life... and honestly the thought of having to start a level over is enough to make you sweat when you've finally gotten to the boss. After finally reaching galaxy man, I died... (and he only had 2 units of health left!). The hard part about this boss, which according to many should be the easiest in the game, is that it is incredibly difficult to avoid attacks. In fact, I feel like that's exactly what it is that makes this game so challenging. You can only jump so high and move so fast, and when facing Galaxy Man, that range just isn't enough. This also has to do with the design of the game, and the fact that every time you take a hit, your Mega Man is pushed a short distance backwards as a result of the impact, which temporarily keeps you from jumping, running, and shooting, but we'll get to more of this element in the design portion.

    Galaxy Man's power is able to suck Mega Man in a small hole (which I should mention is instant death)... and unless you are able to time your movements right and get just far enough away from him so that you have room to turn and get in a few shots. Even though this is easy to figure out, the problem is trying to avoid running in to him after you successfully shoot him, as he runs into rather quickly and you are unable to jump over him. Usually games like this one rely heavily on patterns and while it's easy to get a grasp on his general movements, it doesn't really matter when you're unable to avoid it. Somehow my roommate made it by getting in just enough hits before dying, and yes, BEAT Galaxy Man! So now Mega Man has the ability to shoot holes that suck enemies in, which is likely to be pretty helpful in other levels.

    Again, it's hard to give a lot of detail on gameplay when I've only managed to get past one level (with the help of a friend!). But hopefully in another 90 minutes we'll be closer to getting through another level... or maybe halfway through?

    DESIGN

    So what makes this different from other platformers? From other Well, like other platformers, jumping, of course, is a prominent factor, but NOT the core game mechanic, as in games like Super Mario Brothers. Instead like most Mega Man games, shooting with your M. Buster, and eventually other things (depending on what suit you gain from which boss) is the main mode of attack and the key to progressing through the game. The other thing that makes this game interesting and a bit more difficult to figure out, is that the player is actually able to control the order of levels. In other words, there is no set first, second, third level. A menu pops up with Mega Man in the center, surrounded by 8 bosses, and it's up to the player to decide which one to tackle first. Seems unimportant, but depending on what level your attempting, sometimes having another suit (from a boss you've defeated) can open up a whole new way to approach the level. For instance, in levels where enemies follow you (in gradually increasing numbers), Galaxy Man's black hole is rather handy. But, there is a catch. Because you only have a limited supply, it is important to keep in mind that once you run out, in can be hard to get more ammo because it is truly random what happens after you defeat an enemy: sometimes a small amount of health or ammo, sometimes a much larger amount, sometimes a life, but often nothing at all (particularly when you're in desperate need of it).

    The other challenging element of this game is the fact that your are temporarily stunned every time you are hit (as well as pushed backwards)... often resulting in either falling off the level (or in a pit of spikes), or into another enemy. Yes it's frustrating. Although I often laugh about it, I'd be lying if I said I never felt a little impatient and annoyed. But, as I said before, the desire to overcome these challenges overtakes those feelings.

    There are few cut scenes so far but nothing two intrusive or long. Depending on whether or not you love a good embedded narrative, you may or may not be happy about this. Although I do love narrative (I am an English major!), if you just simply want to move on to the next challenge, it is very easy to fast forward the text.

    Most side scrolling platformers don't have emergent narrative or interactive elements. There's no multiplayer, although I think you can compare scores with other players as well as receive awards, trophies (milestone markers, basically) for achieving a certain feat in the game (there is a time trial mode I can't even begin to think about trying!). This game really doesn't need it though, and as far as sidescrolling platformers go, strategy is particularly central to this game. What order you play the levels, what suits you use, when you use them-- these choices are up to you, the player. As far as interactivity goes, that's pretty complex and interactive for a 2D sidescroller/platformer. This game doesn't need flashy graphics, in fact, anything more complex would take away from the fact that it isn't necessary for a game like this one. Enjoy it. Be frustrated. Be excited by challenge. And be in awe of the people who designed this game... because with simple graphics, patterns, and choices, they were able to make one of the most challenging classic type games ever.

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    Oct 19th, 2009 at 22:54:06     -    Mega Man 9 (Wii)

    SUMMARY

    Mega Man 9, also known as Rockman: The Revival of Ambition!! in Japan, is a continuation of Mega Man's fight against the evil Dr. Wiley... and his team of robots... which is basically all you need to know when playing (if you make it far enough, you might actually get into the story!). Obtain new suits/abilities by beating robot bosses at the end of each level and gain upgrades to get through this incredibly challenging game!



    GAMEPLAY

    Although seemingly simple in design and execution, this sidescrolling platformer is just screaming for well-seasoned players to underestimate it's extremely tricky levels. As someone who had only played Mega Man X games, which present challenges and are fairly challenging and fun, was quite shocked at the difference between the two. This log will be a bit different because unfortunately, my progression in the game, DESPITE a good 90 minutes, has been minimal at best. Although frustration is unavoidable when playing a game you just can't seem to win, it's kind of exciting to find a game this freakishly challenging! My problem is that because I had played newer Mega Man games as well as earlier platformers like Super Mario Bros 1,2, and 3, I assumed that I could at least get about halfway through it. Boy was I wrong... and I mean REALLY wrong.

    In terms of characters and story, it's hard to get involved when you are unable to finish a single level (hopefully by the next log I'll have at least beaten Galaxy Man!). But, given an attempt on any level, the concept of your character is interesting. You start out with 2 suits, your M.Buster (which is pretty standard, and has infinite ammo) and so far, you cannot charge your beam as in Mega Man X but basically shoot infinite single shots (which look like small circles). Your other suit involves your robo dog, which appears next to you as a jumping aid, allowing you to access hard to reach places. However, just as any suit other than the M.Buster, you have a limit as to how many times you can use it (unless you get extra ammo from an enemy, which is not really not that often). Of course dying often in such a game interrupts the flow, but as I said before, it's the challenge of the game, rather than the story, that gets you addicted. Even after failing countless times, I want to keep trying, because each time I usually get just a LITTLE bit further. It's hard to explain. Usually a game like this would be a huge turn off, and for many players it very well may be. But anyone thirsty for something that's so difficult you'll either be laughing (like me) at how freaking crazy it is or, you'll be what I imagine my brother's reaction would be: throwing your controller, screaming, whatever. Either way, no matter what the reaction, both of us continue to play (although I'll admit he's been able to get MUCH farther than me). But for me personally it isn't just being stubborn; the design and the strategy integrated into this seemingly simple gameplay, is fascinating. What suit should you use during a particular part of a particular level? Should you play it slow and sneak across the stage bit by bit (which is an extremely useful method for avoiding these annoying flying cranes that pick you up and drag you into spikes), or should you make a run for it? Unfortunately, you usually can't sit still to figure this out unless you pause your game, as enemies often respawn rather quickly (and always reappear if you backtrack).

    Unfortunately, it is also rather difficult to describe these challenges, particularly because whenever I do, people seem to dismiss it as something they could do easily because let's face it, most people think platformers are easy... because well... jumping over blocks and shooting beams at enemies sounds wonderfully simple!
    Trust me, you try jumping, shooting, and avoiding 4-5 enemies coming at you from different directions at a decent speed, and you'll see what I mean.

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    Sep 28th, 2009 at 23:58:01     -    Eternal Sonata (360)

    ****FOR THE RECORD, I'M PLAYING THE PS3 VERSION OF THIS GAME**** (I forgot to mention this at the top last time since apparently game logs doesn't want to let me put this under PS3).


    GAMEPLAY

    Another aspect of battle I didn't mention last time is the guard factor. I have actually leveled up my party quite a bit and once I reach party level 5, not only can I guard an enemy's attacks when prompted on screen with a little shield emblem and text that says "CHANCE" but if I get a attack like symbol with "CHANCE instead, I can hit X in order to counter attack for about 1-2 sec (if even that... it is INCREDIBLY short). The problem with this? I forget a lot that I CAN counter attack... mostly because I feel like I am rarely ever prompted to do so. Yes, you can ONLY counter attack when prompted. If you only get the shield/chance, the most you can do is guard.

    Guarding is key to boss battles. Although you cannot completely block an attack, guarding can make the difference between an 8000 HP loss and say 900 HP or less (depends on the boss/attack). Also, if you're really quick and get used to being able to counter attack (I feel like I'll get to that point after I've played a little more), you can completely cut off an enemy's attack after one strike. Say you're prompted to counter as soon as they hit. If you time it right, your attack gauge reappears as the enemy is falls on it's back, ENDING it's turn early. So you basically save yourself from losing even MORE HP if you are able to counter.

    Again, you cannot counter early on in the game because it is a change that only occurs after your party level has reached a certain point-- thus another example of how your strategy in battle changes as the game progresses. I realize this next comment probably goes under design, but I'm going to say it anyway. This party level aspect of the game is probably the greatest thing Eternal Sonata has going for it. Final Fantasy has done some similar things, like having players fight boss battles in which your team is unable to use magic or physical attacks or items (FF12 is a good recent example). It's good to throw some curve balls at us once in awhile you know... shake things up a bit. But in Eternal Sonata, your party level doesn't only affect your boss battles, but every regular old monster battle in between. Although I knew a girl who practically hurled her controller after reaching party level 6 (in which 3 of your button controls: X, O and TRIANGLE) switch every time you do something called a Harmony chain). Honestly, the prospect of this challenge is really exciting to me! Plus, if players REALLY wish to avoid this party level, it's possible. But they would have to give up a pretty awesome extra dungeon. I say, bring it on!

    DESIGN

    Although, as I said before, I am incredibly fond of the battle system, Eternal Sonata is not without flaws. Having a history lesson is nice (and these little lessons can be skipped), but basically each chapter of the game has a good 10 minute narration of certain important events in Chopin's life that has happened that affected/attributed to his works (each chapter seems to involve the title/music from a particular piece). What should be interesting tidbits are presented in the most boring and lazy fashion. All we get are lengthy text descriptions with slightly altered scenic images of places all over the world (basically it looks like someone used photoshop to add a paint like effect to photos). Why not have the characters interact with each other during the lesson, or better yet, how about letting US play/learn by interacting with the story.... I mean, at least most cut scenes are interesting, visually pleasing, fair voice acting (at least in the Japanese version. I take Japanese so I'm partial to the original voices). But these text dialogues are so long and drawn out... we don't really get to do anything but read a bit (and I do love to read...) but how about incorporating it into the gameplay? It's a bit of a waste really.

    Another problem would be the score pieces. Throughout the game, you can find score pieces. And as my roommate and I sadly discovered, they do not all add up to one amazing piece (which we both thought would have been cool). Instead, you meet people all over the world who want to have sessions (they play one tune and you must find one to match it). Now, if you are not musically inclined... and by that I mean have no idea how to read music, this would be an incredibly tedious process. In fact, I know this because I CAN read music, and I still find it a bit tedious. Sometimes you only get one chance to pick the right song, and other times when you simply go through your list as many times as you please, you probably don't have the right piece yet (as apparently there is a second playthrough/GAME+ option). Half the time, if you do get the right piece (which if you do you'll receive some sort of ranking ranging from B-A... I can't really figure S out... because sometime you get crap from an S ranking). It's really rather strange.You mostly get EZI items.... which are basically crap that really bring down your stats or only add the effect of +1 to ONE of your stats. This brings me to the next problem: EZI items.

    Now if you own the XBOX 360 version, the ONLY reason you would collect these times (which are usually accessories... but occasionally weapons/armor) is to get a trophy/achievement thing on your main system menu (they are called trophies on PS3). Because this is NOT an original PS3 game, I can't get any trophies. Even if I could, these items are the most worthless crap. One of them is a wooden sword that literally has FAKE written in parenthesis next to it). It's a bit much and quite frankly... a waste of good gameplay time, it seems to me. I just don't understand it. I mean, it's a big letdown to get a wooden sword when you finally play the right score piece... (although I will say CERTAIN sessions do ACTUALLY give you GOOD, DECENT items). But I digress.

    Now on to the GOOD things about the design. As I mentioned before, the battle system is FANTASTIC. But what makes my version of this game EVEN BETTER than the XBOX 360 is the extra dungeons/playable characters. Forget the extra costumes (don't really serve any role... although one of them is rather funny). The extra characters have some of the BEST stats in the game and what I'm really thrilled about is that they aren't playable for the whole game. After all, it would be a bit to easy, right? And there has to be some challenge to make it interesting. They are only available a bit in chapter 4 or 5 (I can't really remember when exactly... I read it somewhere) and for the entirety of chapter 7 (the final chapter). Both opportunities to play them include extra dungeons (although unfortunately apparently chapter 7's only available on the second playthrough). Anyways there is ANOTHER dungeon available in both versions that they'll be pretty helpful for, and fun to level up. Which brings me to another good thing about this game: when players leave your party, they don't level up while you're gone. So yes, you have to work to get them good again when they return... but since there aren't TOO many characters like that (maybe about 4 out 12?) and it is really spread out (so they aren't all out/back in at the same time), it's time consuming, but in a good way. It's a good challenge to keep them alive long enough so they level up faster (because of course, if they're dead when the battle ends, they recieve no EXP).

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    Sep 28th, 2009 at 23:06:47     -    Eternal Sonata (360)

    SUMMARY

    Eternal Sonata, a role-playing game, is the fictional tale that takes place in a the dreamworld of composer/pianist Fredric Chopin as he lies on his deathbed. Like most RPGs, narrative plays a huge role, so the objective isn't entirely clear in the first hour or so. However, after some time you discover that in this particular world, the count of Fugue (a kingdom) is taxing his people on everything except a mineral power (said to cure any illness). Long story short, the mineral powder has terrible side effects and Count Waltz's plan is to exploit the people after the side effects (able to use magic, monster-like appearance and strength) to create his own personal army. The questions that still remain include... why is Chopin having this dream, how is he connected to our main characters (one of whom obviously has an important destiny in saving their kingdom as well as this entire fictional world?)


    GAMEPLAY
    This game has many unique factors that (at least in my case) I have never encountered before. One: magic in this not measured by magic points (MP). Instead, very few players can use magic, and such a talent means the person will die soon (hence why most people who use the mineral powder develop magical powers. Prolonged usage eventually results in death). As I mentioned before, Chopin, who is on his death bed, has healing magic, because he has a terminal illness (TB to be precise). Another central character (the one whom I mentioned who clearly has a "special destiny" though I'm not far enough to know what exactly that entails) Polka, is a 14 year old girl who has had some sort of terminal illness all of her life, and like Chopin, can use healing magic. Ok, so how does this work in battle?

    Here's the really unique part about this game: not only are there player levels, but PARTY levels, which is an entirely new concept to me. We start out at level one where special attacks (like healing magic) can only be used once. However as your party levels up, you get more freedom as well as restrictions. For example, party level 1 means you have infinite tactical time (meaning that as long as you don't move, the battle will not progress). Also, attack time only progresses when you are moving. So you COULD just stop halfway and stand forever and ever and your enemy couldn't attack you until you decide to either attack (if you have long range weapon, like a bow) or move. Your party level increases based on events in the game. Apparently the final level can't be reached unless you do a certain side quest.

    To give an example of how different gameplay becomes, I'll quickly describe the final party level as I understand it. By the time your party reaches level six, there is ZERO tactical time, meaning it would be wise to pay attention to your attack order and preemptively hold down whatever button (either X or the control stick, depending on whether or not you need to run to reach your opponent) in order to make the most of your limited action gauge (which is now 4 seconds instead of the lengthy 6 seconds you receive in level one). There are many more differences, but for the sake of time and the tediousness of listing said differences, I'll refrain for now. Basically, the more upgrades you get with your party levels, the more restrictions as well. In other words, it forces you to change your strategy in battle as what you can and cannot do evolves from very little to more diverse rules, (exciting, but challenging).

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