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    Jan 31st, 2007 at 17:31:48     -    Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)

    I've played another good hour or so of Shadow of the Colossus. I'm quickly moving from Colossus to Colossus. Each enemy gets tougher than the previous one, which is to be expected. The first Colossus was quite easy, but the third one I just beat was much more difficult than the previous one.
    One great thing about Colossus is despite the fact that the world is barren, the landscape narrative helps distinguish where you are. There are 12 Colossi and so far, all of them have inhabited very different areas in the world. The first Colossi was enclosed in a rocky enclave, the second in a barren field and the third atop a huge rock, circular altar in the middle of the lake. The journey to reach the third Colossi in itself was complicated and adventurous; you have to swim to the middle of the lake, and then climb atop a rock pillar that is fallen and slowly ascend to the top of the altar. Once you arrive up there, an armored Colossi awaits you.
    All of the Colossi have been impressive looking, but this one especially so due to its heavy armor. At first glance, the player may have no idea how to attack this Colossi; there are no obvious weak points or areas to climb up it. However, a voice directs you to pull out your sword and shine it on the beast to find its weak points. After doing this, I found its weak points, but still no way to reach them. Again, a voice spoke to me and mentioned that the beast had very coarse and brittle armor. It dawned on me that the Colossi may break its own armor if it smashes onto the metallic circle in the middle of the circular altar! So I lured the Colossi over to me, and sure enough, he smashed his giant weapon into the ground but missed me and the impact was so massive that it broke his armor and I was able to climb atop of his weapon that lay on the ground for a moment. After that, the gameplay mechanics became similar to the previous Colossi: climb up and attack the weak points until you fell the Colossi.
    What is so neat about each Colossi is that ultimately they are all killed the same way, but the challenge lies in mounting them. Each Colossi has a different technique to finally get atop of them.
    I really love this game so far. It's my first time playing it and I had only heard a little bit about it in the past. The game's atmosphere and landscape make the player feel so alone, but it feels like this is intentional. I like the feeling of solitude. I like that my only companion in this game is my horse, Agro. The game feels very powerful in this respect, and unfortunately, this is an all-too-uncommon feeling for a video game.

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    Jan 31st, 2007 at 17:21:38     -    Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)

    Shadow of the Colossus is unlike any game I've ever played before. If ever there has been a game worthy of the title of "epic" before, it is this one.
    Colossus is deceivingly simple. You turn on the game, watch the opening cutscene and suddenly you're in a temple with only a few clues to what you will be dealing with in the game: a horse, a magical sword that focuses light in the direction you're supposed to be going, and a dead woman atop an alter.
    Colossus is a seamless world. It is incredibly innovative because this is not done very often, probably due to hardware limitations. Yet Colossus has no load zones at all.
    In my first 30 minutes playing the game, I found my way to the first Colossus. It was quite easy to get there: I just hopped on my horse Agro and put my sword high in the air. I moved the sword around until I found the light's focus point, and I followed that until I arrived at an area that allowed me to do some fancy platforming maneuvers, including jumping from my horse and grabbing on to the wall and climbing up. After I did all of these intuitive actions, I arrived at the first Colossus.
    The first Colossus is a colossal beast that walks around and tries to stomp on you. Immediately you recognize that his legs are quite hairy -- perfect for climbing on! -- and you jump onto his legs and climb on up leg. When you reach his upper calf muscle, you unsheath your sword and stab him in his leg. Then you proceed on up the Colossus. This type of gameplay, at least to me, is completely new and unparalleled. The music score compliments the action of the game and the tensions run high, creating a highly immersive and enjoyable experience.
    When you finally reach the top of the beast, you pull out your sword and jab him in his skull repeatedly until you fell him. He falls and then you are taken back to the temple where it is explained that you must repeat this all over again with the next of the remaining 11 Colossi.
    More on that as I play the game some more.

    This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Jan 31st, 2007 at 17:22:24.

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    Jan 19th, 2007 at 18:33:55     -    Final Fantasy XII (PS2)

    I've played another hour or so of FFXII. I've just gotten out of the castle confines and I've been sent on a mission to hunt down some tomato creature. I like this feature of hunting enemies because it's a good way for you to learn the areas of the game and the battle system, as well as earn some experience and money. I like the design of getting the player out there and doing something. What I don't like are the long tutorials of the game explaining to me (in great detail) the inner-most functions of the combat system and abilities, etc. I would rather the game let you find out on your own how you are supposed to accomplish things.

    The thing that I think works the best for the game, and also the worst, is that it is so gigantic (which I love) but at the same time, confusing to navigate around the city. This could be easily fixed by rendering the world seamlessly (like in Shadow of the Colossus or Jak and Daxter) or having the map be able to pop up instantly when you push the Select button. Unfortunately, neither of these are the case and I find myself wandering around for far too long when I really just want to get into a battle that is necessary to further the storyline.

    I also feel the storyline is a bit over the top, but I guess this is a staple of the genre and series. Overall I am not enjoying the game too much but there are definitely good things about it.

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    Jan 19th, 2007 at 18:29:18     -    Final Fantasy XII (PS2)

    I borrowed FFXII from the library and popped it into my roommate's PS2. It took seemingly an hour to just finally get control of the character. This was acceptable, as the intro was pretty neat and technically impressive. At the same time, I thought that this game emits this extremely intense aura of excess, kind of like the 80's. Regardless, once I finally got control of the character, I was able to move around with little hindrance. Here are the things that I found that I liked about the game so far:

    The controls are easy enough. Very simple.

    The combat system is very MMORPG'ish, meaning that you just pick a command and move around and it does the attacking for you. It's real-time which is neat, although I admit this game does not really feel like a "Final Fantasy" game to me yet. But at the same time, it's good that it branches off from its previous incarnations.

    The real-time cutscenes are very impressive in terms of their ability to convey emotion and storyline. SquareEnix has made a reputation for engrossing storylines and video game engines, and I suppose this game is no exception; everything feels top-notch when it comes to storyline execution. It tells its story through cutscenes that you cannot control (however, a nice addition is that you can skip any real-time cutscene by pausing and selecting "O", which is really quite helpful if you're eager to get the game progressing sooner) and occasionally these cutscenes are pre-rendered. However, I find myself enjoying the non-pre-rendered cutscenes more because everything else just feels so polished and not at all indicative of the PS2 hardware. Call me a realist but I have a hard time watching a movie half of the time and a video game the other half (which is what the Final Fantasy series is known for at the Final Fantasy VII mark and onward).

    The things I don't like:
    The battle system is new and fresh from its counterparts but at the same time, not very engaging to me. I suppose it has to do with the lack of options at this point. But this is not to the game's detriment (yet) because I am so early on in the game. I assume later on I will gain more abilities and attacks, etc.

    The game is massive and sometimes I feel it's a bit hard to move around effectively. The map in the game can be accessed at any time but there is a significant lag so I tend to wander around because I hate having to wait 3 seconds for the map to appear (and while you're waiting for the map to appear, you are rendered incapable of moving or doing anything.)

    Overall, though, this game feels like it is an incredibly enormous game. It's kind of intimidating actually. But that is not necessarily a bad thing; it really depends on what kind of a gamer you are. Personally I just want the meat and bones of the game; that is, I want to follow its linear path to the end. Maybe along the way I'll get an ultimate weapon or two, but there are just simply not enough hours in the day to be a completionist. More on the game later.

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