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    Feb 8th, 2008 at 20:00:40     -    Knights of the Old Republic (XBX)

    GAMEPLAY:
    After another 2 hours of gameplay, I feel as though I actually am starting to understand the game now. The plot, although cliche, has well written dialog definately gives you a look at Star Wars from a non Jedi perspective. They acted like stuck-up know it alls who have the "best" solution for everything... and quite frankly, it annoyed me. Even though the Jedi powers help you... it just wasn't worth the preaching I got for doing slightly shady things, as my character tended to do.
    After last time, I was worried about the fighting system in the game. It seemed to me that it was far to simple, where you hit a button and could walk away for a few seconds as you slaughter whatever was in front of you. The Force powers in the game did not help to fix this. Although they are more interactive, they didn't flow as well as they should have. You almost needed to pause to use them effectively, which took away from the cinematic style of fighting that was keeping me entertain.
    Although I don't expect KotoR to play as an action game, after all of the hype I had heard, I would have thought that there would be a more interesting and engaging battle system. While it does have a good plot, interesting characters, and a fun light/dark side meter that gauges your actions, the game is a fun experience, but one that had been to hyped for me. I find it hard to say "boy, that was an amazing game" when it seems so poorly put together in comparison to other Bioware games. I almost feel as if they just said "It's a Star Wars game, we don't have to work that hard", and that is disappointing.

    DESIGN:
    The level design in KotoR is fairly standard with the exception of two things: terminals and droids. In most buildings, there is a security system that you can "spike" (hack) into using a computer use skill and put security to your advantage. You can blow up power circuits to kill guards, turn off automated defense systems, and sometimes even hack the security droids to fire at everything they see (including one another.) The droids were also an interesting addition by allowing you to repair damage droids that lie around the world, usually in abandoned areas that are filled with enemies. Repairing them gives allows you to unlock special containers with items, with was a nice change from the usual, boring chest.
    However, the battle system was lacking. The "magic" of the game, the Force, was not able to be used in a fluid way. You could only have one aggressive force power and one passive on your hot bar at any one time. It made switching in the middle of a fight hard. The other thing that bothered me was a lack of any real physical abilities. There are a couple, by which I mean 2 one for range and one for melee, and that is really pathetic. I love RPG story lines as much as anyone, but a good story line doesn't excuse you from create an interesting battle system. It looked amazing, but looks don't count for much when the play is repetitive and boring.

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    Feb 8th, 2008 at 17:50:00     -    Knights of the Old Republic (XBX)

    SUMMARY: In KotoR, you and your party use a combination of melee, ranged, and force attacks to defeat the Sith. The leveling up style, similar to D&D, gives you great flexibility over what your characters can do.

    GAMEPLAY:
    As I opened up the character creation menu, I knew that this game was developed by Bioware. Their RPGs have a distinct feel to character creation and leveling up in general. However, while I have loved every game from Bioware that I have played, it was disappointing to see very little innovation in how their games play. In fact, it seemed like they didn't put much effort into this game. There were only 3 options for classes, and very little character personalization, but I ignored it and decided to just try out the game.

    Within a few seconds I was thrown into combat with my stealthy character. I decided to see if melee was actually viable without being a lightsaber wielding jedi. And, to my surprise, I found it was. I would sneak up behind the enemy, and start hacking away. After the first few fights, I decided that I would try out the long range attacks, but found that they just weren't as fun.

    Most of my enjoyment from both was taken from watching the fight animations... which I found disappointing. After clicking attack there was no real control of the battle besides making sure to use medpacs when needed. After playing games like Baldur's Gate, which give access to classes that can cast magic, it was boring to just sit there and watch them fight. The only upside was that it looked very cool... hopefully, when I start getting Jedi characters that battle system will be more interactive.

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    Jan 25th, 2008 at 20:39:43     -    Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (SNES)

    GAMEPLAY:
    As I continued playing the Super Mario RPG, I kept in mind the question that had been concerning me since I started: would the game be able to pull off a good story that brought new, deep characters into the story? I found out soon that it did. In the next two hours of game play, the characters Mallow and Geno were introduced into the story. Now, at this point you might be thinking "Well they don't sound familiar" - and that is right. This is the first (and to my knowledge, only) game that featured these two characters. Fortunately, they are characters that fit perfectly into the Mario setting and story. For example, Geno is a puppet that is given life through the power of the stars that live in the world, while Mallow is a "cloud" (he actually is humanoid, but i guess he was bron from the clouds) that thought he was a frog until Mario's influence brought the truth to light.
    Needless to say, I was thrilled to find that the game showed a sense of character development and plot; although I am not far enough in the story to say what will happen, a "cloud" coming to terms with his existence and a puppet trying to find a place in the world are excellent starting points for a deep character.
    But even with a good story, I needed to see if the gameplay got repetitive or boring. I dove back into the battle system determined to make my characters powerful enough to avoid being killed in 2 hits (which did unfortunately happen a couple times; seems that whole armor thing keeps people alive better. Whoops.) The different abilities that have shown up in multiple Mario games (such as fireballs and jumps) proved to be a fun way to give Mario his special moves, while the backstory of Geno and Mallow allowed Square to put the typical magic moves in the game without breaking the feel of the world. They did a good job creating a battle system that did not destroy the feel of the overlaying world.

    DESIGN:
    While I was leveling up a few times, I realized something that I did not mention in my previous log: the level up features. When you gain a level in this game, you also get to choose one of 3 powerups: a physical boost, magical boost, or health boost. I realized immediately what you could do with this: focus your characters to tank, hit people good, or blow things up with magic. It was a nice little touch that lets you feel as though you control how your characters will evolve. Needless to say, most people will probably keep Mario as physical damage and give Geno and Mallow the magic upgrades (I know I did), but it still is a game mechanic that doesn't force you into a single role with each character.
    The level design fit the previous versions of Mario perfectly: even though it is a RPG, Legend of the Seven Stars does show its platformer roots. The levels are 3D, where Mario needs to jump or use platforms to reach new areas on the map. Although not essential to the game, its a way for players dipping into the RPG genre through the Mario name to feel more at easy. Another way they did that was to get rid of the typical random battle system. You can see the gombas you need to fight wandering the map, and can avoid them if you wish. It makes the game resemble its platform ancestors, and keeps the game feeling like a distinct Mario game. It even rewarded you for playing it like a platformer: treasure chests weren't laying on the ground, they were in the box floating high above you or on a area of the map that you need to time a jump right to get to.
    From what I've seen of the game so far, it reworked traditional RPG elements into the background it came from to make a game that truly represents Mario well. Personally, I think that if it had strayed further from its roots Legend of the Seven Stars would not be as famous and popular as it is, nor would it be on the classics list for this class.

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    Jan 24th, 2008 at 03:11:57     -    Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (SNES)

    SUMMARY: In Super Mario RPG, the player takes control of Mario in a way different than any other game. The battle system and reliance on healing and spellcasting abilities makes the player think more carefully about the characters than in a normal, platforming Mario experience.

    GAMEPLAY:
    Within minutes of picking up Super Mario RPG, I was appalled by the fact that I had not played it before. As a fan of RPG games such as Final Fantasy, seeing the Mario series recreated in the genre by the masters I respected instantly captivated me.
    The first battle surprised me by flawlessly combining the typical RPG battle system with the feel of the Mario franchise. Any player who loves Mario would not be turned away from a different style of game: while the gameplay itself was changed, the game was still able to contain the Mario "feel". The unexplainable jump attack of Mario was in the game, available through the use of flower points (fp) instead of the traditional mana. Through these special skills, the player can still control Mario as in other parts of the series: jumping on top enemies, having to find their through a platform-style map, and generally enjoying the same simplistic pleasure than the games have become famous for.
    However, the battle system is by no means "dumbed down" from any other RPG. The characters still rely on weapons, armor, and accessories to improve their stats and health so they can deal and take more damage. The fun of this game is tied between the battle system and the Mario style; while the depth of the gameplay does not turn away wary RPG veterans, it also brings in the people not used to this format by keeping the style and tone of the series intact.
    As of right now, the games seems to be very satisfying, but I haven't advanced far enough in the plot to be sure that the style of the game was successfully brought into the dialog and story of the game. It will be interesting to see how characters such as Mario, Bowser, and Princess Toadstool (I had forgotten the change in name...) develop over an epic tale told through the medium of a RPG.

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    1Chrono Trigger (SNES)Playing
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