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    Jan 31st, 2007 at 19:35:04     -    Soul Calibur III (PS2)

    Having played a little more of the story mode, and then experimenting with character creation and Chronicle of the Sword (the strategy/fighting hybrid), I’ve noticed a few things.

    An important element in fighting games is something that I call “flow”. By flow, I mean how smooth the character’s movements are, both when interacting with other characters and when going from one attack to another. Fighting games with a good flow tend to be more enjoyable to watch and play. All of the Soul Calibur games have felt smooth and polished, although I personally find Soul Calibur II to be the best in the series in this regard. Flow is a difficult concept to explain and is even harder to quantify, but it is paramount to the success of a fighting game.

    I didn’t get a chance to play very far in Chronicle of the Sword, but what I did play gave me the impression that this is a good idea that simply needs to be refined. The characters can only move along certain paths, which at first seems limiting but actually keeps the gameplay focuses, as there are enough routes to allow some choices. The biggest problem with the mode is lacks strategic depth. Yes, at the core it’s a fighting game, but I have yet to see a situation where it actually matters which character fights who. On a side note, allowing multiplayer in this mode would be a nice addition in future installations of the series.

    The character creation mode is a very nice touch, and will hopefully be a model for other games in the genre (I know Mortal Kombat made a subpar attempt at it in the most recent installation). Options for a game are always good things. As far as I’m concerned, the more options a player has, the better (provided the interface is easy to use). I’m impressed with the options available to the player, but it feels a little…short. Granted, I have yet to unlock most of the stuff, so maybe that’s why I can’t implement all the ideas in my head. Nonetheless, more items to choose from would be a considerable improvement.

    Naturally, since nothing like the character creation or Chronicle of the Sword has been attempted before, the first game is far from perfect. However, the potential is there, both for later games in the Soul Calibur series and for fighting games in general.

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    Jan 31st, 2007 at 18:05:34     -    Soul Calibur III (PS2)

    Having played and really enjoyed Soul Calibur and Soul Calibur II, I was curious to see how the third entry in the series fared.

    Playing Soul Calibur III has caused me to notice something about the fighting game genre as a whole. It seems that fighting games are going to great lengths to be more than just a fighting game. Soul Calibur III really demonstrates this trend in the genre. In addition to a regular sparring mode and story mode, there is a hybrid strategy/fighting game mode (in which the player controls several characters on a tactical level, and then resolves conflict as would a typical fighting game), a character creator, and large amounts of unlockable content (such as accessories for the character creator, and concept artwork). Even the story mode has branches and little minigame challenges to add dimension to an otherwise typical mode.

    Some people might complain about the genre straying from its roots with these new additions, but I think it opens up new possibilities for the genre, both from a design and a playing perspective.

    So far I’ve only played the story mode. My next log will dive into some of the other features of the game.

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    Jan 19th, 2007 at 01:14:41     -    Katamari Damacy (PS2)

    Now that I’ve gotten a second chance to play Katamari Damacy, and have already talked about the basic mechanics of the game, I’d like to dive into more of the minutia, including issues that I have with the game. I know my last entry made it seem that Katamari Damacy is my favorite game of all time. While it certainly is an excellent game that I enjoy playing, it is not without its faults.

    My first complaint is with the camera. Most of the time it works just fine. However, if your katamari is near a wall and you turn so that the wall would be behind you, the camera gets obstructed by the wall. What this means is that for a few seconds you’re fumbling around until you can get far enough away from the wall that the camera works again. Considering that most of your missions are timed, and that collision results in losing items from your katamari, this can turn into a very frustrating experience.

    While we’re talking about frustration, I might as well talk about going up steps. In theory your katamari can go up steps provided that they aren’t too steep. I say in theory because quite often when I try to go up steps, it treats it like a wall collision and stuff flies off my katamari. Perhaps there’s some secret stair-climbing technique that I’m not aware of, but until I discover said technique I’m going to continue to be annoyed by that.

    I complimented the style of the game along with the gameplay in my last entry, but I also have some issues with the style of the game. In particular, there are a couple of things about the items themselves that bother me. I feel like I’m rolling through LEGOLAND than the real world. It’s not the look that bothers me; it’s the fact that every item you pick up feels like it’s made out of hard plastic, regardless of the item. Items made of paper and clothing especially annoy me, since they stay rigid and cause your katamari to become lopsided. I could understand a stick or a pen causing that, but paper and clothing should crumple and fold once it’s been rolled up. However, that would make the game more complicated to create, so I can understand why it was kept the way it is now.

    My final complaint I’m not even sure is applicable since I haven’t played through the game in its entirety. The complaint is the absent of a sandbox mode. So far all the stages that I’ve been played have been limited by a goal or a time limit. I want a mode where I can play at my own pace, from the very smallest size to the very largest size. I just think that it would be fun to see just how big you can get if you’re allowed all the time you need.

    Now that I’ve listed some criticisms, I would like to say something that I do like about the game. It’s not a big deal, but I want this to end on a happy note, since I do like this game very much. It involves the King of All Cosmos, as most good things about this game do. When he speaks, words of a faux importance are shown in a different color. This is clearly a friendly nod to role playing and adventure games, most notably the 3D Zelda games, which do a similar thing. Again, not a big deal, but I think it makes a good icing on the cake.

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    Jan 18th, 2007 at 22:58:22     -    Katamari Damacy (PS2)

    Although I own the sequel, We Love Katamari, this was my first time playing the original Katamari Damacy. Although there is an overlapping story, and there were some minor changes made to the sequel, from a gameplay view the games are almost interchangeable.

    The are two aspects of Katamari Damacy that makes it a great game: Its original gameplay and its quirky personality. Let’s talk about the gameplay first. The concept is almost painfully simple. If you’ve ever rolled up a snowball, you’ve unwittingly played Katamari Damacy. You’re given a ball (the katamari), which you use to roll up anything that’s smaller than it. As you roll stuff up, you’re katamari becomes bigger, which allows you to roll up larger items (which makes the katamari larger still). It’s simple, it’s easy to learn, but most importantly, it’s fun. There’s a sense of accomplishment that is felt as your katamari gets bigger and bigger. It’s particularly satisfying when you’re finally able to roll up an item that’s been an obstacle for the first few minutes.

    Now let’s talk about the game’s personality. It has a very Japanese feel to it. By this I mean that I could not imagine an American game studio making a game like this. As it result, the game has a quirky feel to it that, in my opinion, adds flavor to the game.

    Of particular note when talking about the personality of the game is the King of all Cosmos. He is arguably the funniest Supreme Being I have ever encountered in a video game. We are introduced to him as we watch him destroy the cosmos while blind drunk. Once he sobers up, he sends his son, the Prince (your character) to clean up his mess. Combine that with oblivious, happy-go-lucky attitude, his incessant use of the Royal We, and his constant put-downs towards the Prince, and you have some hilarious moments. It always pains me when people skip through all of his lines, as I find them to be quite enjoyable.

    If this game just had the innovative gameplay, it would still be a good game. It’s how it blends its quirkiness with innovative gameplay to make this game a modern classic.

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