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    Feb 8th, 2008 at 20:17:10     -    Legend of Mana (PS)

    (gamelog 3, part 2, for CMPS 80K)

    GAMEPLAY

    In my second session of Legend of Mana, I focused primarily on becoming more familiar with the game's battle system. Though I played through a couple of battles during my first session, being afforded the ability to further extend my party this time meant that I was able to take on more enemies and thus better understand the mechanics involved. I was pleased to find that the ability to customize extends also to the battle system. Essentially, the player had the ability to assign any available action to almost any of the buttons on the Playstation controller. This feature came in particularly useful as I began to encounter different enemies, since I was able to assign the most useful offensive and defensive moves available according to my situation. Winning battles with these moves also gains the player a new ability from time to time, and these new abilities will differ depending on the moves already equipped.
    The battle system in Legend of Mana is also real-time and action-based as opposed to turn-based, which I always find to be an interesting feature in an RPG. The system is very successfully integrated into the gameplay, and the shift between battle and field mode is very subtle, meaning that the player does not have to reorient his or herself a great deal when an enemy is encountered. Battle style also differs according to the player's self-designated class, since each class has a different method of attack.

    Other elements, such as interactions with NPCs, are also fun to participate in. The characters inhabiting an area have a surprisingly large number of things to say, and quite often asked for my input as a player, presenting me with a variety of responses to choose from which would, in turn, affect the outcome of the interaction significantly.

    DESIGN

    The most obviously innovative element in the way that Legen of Mana is designed is, as I have said before, the level of customization offered to the player. Although the game does seem to follow some sort of linear progression plot-wise, quests and events can almost always be completed out of sequence. The ability to decide who to recruit as a party member, which quests to complete, where to place certain areas on the world map (and so forth) all contribute to the extremely loose and free tone of gameplay, and permit prospective players with an unprecedented amount of control over how the game will advance.

    While I did not find the design of the playable character to be particularly memorable, the distinctive design of the gameworld and its NPCs is extremely successful in its contribution to Legend of Mana's overarching tone. This is even further enhanced by the dialog: the game has a very cute and whimsical feel to it that managed to overcome my better nature and win me over almost instantaneously. Although the dialog is, to be frank, rather silly, I found it to be surprisingly appealing when it was presented to me in the context of the bright and cheerful gameworld. In particular, I found characters such as the Sprouts (sentient, walking plants which happily exclaim “I have no soul!”) and the main character's pet cactus, to which you can relate your many adventures, to be particularly irresistible.

    Perhaps the one element of the game that was frustrating for me, however, was that the lack of an overall narrative (at least at this point) makes the game feel just a bit purposeless. While the overall goal of the game appears to be to replenish the land's magical energy or Mana, the lack of any evident conflict in the beginning is a little underwhelming in spite of the freedom it permits.

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    Feb 8th, 2008 at 19:27:38     -    Legend of Mana (PS)

    (gamelog 3, part 1, for CMPS 80K)

    SUMMARY

    Legend of Mana is an action RPG published by Squaresoft for the Sony Playstation in 1999. Unlike other role-playing games, the Mana series is distinctly different in that it allows the player a large level of customization. The objective is to progress through various quests in a loosely defined order that the player determines his or herself, which in turn expand the number of available routes the player can take.

    GAMEPLAY

    As I had not heard much about Legend of Mana before, I didn't quite know what to expect when I began playing. For that reason, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the game deviates from the standard RPG model in that it allows a large amount of customization, and hence in many ways is much more emergent than any other game of its genre. Since the game is by now nearly a decade old, it was produced with a great deal less aesthetic quality than modern games. Nevertheless, Legend of Mana makes use of the capabilities available to it, using cel-shaded sprites on a two-dimensional plane.
    As the game begins, a vague historical background of the world is related to the player, and he or she can choose the gender and class of the main hero. S/he may then continue customizing the game by choosing the location of the protagonist's home village. Once this is done, the protagonist will be left to his or her own devices, with no established direction in which to head. The lack of conventional narrative was something that I found to be particularly refreshing, since it leads the player to the immediate realization that the game itself is rather open-ended.

    After navigating around my character's home village, I was able to exit to the world map and choose the location of the second area: a substantially larger town. Engaging in conversation and other interactions with NPCs provided me with opportunities to progress further, both narratively and spatially. For example, by responding in a particular way to one particular character, I was able to recruit him temporarily into my party and enter a new area, whereupon I assisted him in a quest to find his missing friend. The completion of each quest permits access to a new area, which the player may place on any square of the map adjoining an existing location. However, since such quests are entirely optional and can be placed in many different locations, there are a large number of paths to potentially be taken. For me, this element sets the game apart.

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    Jan 26th, 2008 at 02:12:13     -    Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)

    (gamelog 2, part 2, for CMPS 80K)

    GAMEPLAY

    After my second round playing Shadow of the Colossus, my appreciation continues to grow. Having fought and defeated many different Colossi by now, I am beginning to gain a better sense of how to do so. However, as my technique becomes more advanced, so do the Colossi I am pitted against. Each Colossus requires that the player adopt a new strategy or problem-solving method. Several are made easier when the player is comfortable riding Agro, and a few actually require the player to make use of the extra speed that is only attainable while the character is on horseback.

    Often, the game will grow rather frustrating. In one instance, for example, the Colossus I was required to defeat was hidden at the bottom of an underground lake deep inside a cave, the entrance to which was extremely well hidden. Once a Colossus has been found, defeating it is often just as much of a challenge. On occasions where I got stuck, the on-screen hints were a valuable source of information, and since they are relatively vague I still felt as if I was accomplishing something with every problem I solved correctly.

    DESIGN

    As I mentioned before in my last entry, the designs of each of the bosses – these giant and menacing Colossi – is distinctly unique, and serves the dual purpose of creating diversity in both characters and gameplay, since each Colossus' physical attributes play a crucial role in its defeat. This further advances the differences in battle-strategy in even the simplest elements, since a Colossus who moves around quickly and is difficult to latch onto will require that the player employ a completely different method of attack in order to vanquish it.
    However, the strategy dimension that is added to the gameplay is partially and illusion: a Colossus may be defeated using a path that is directly and actively chosen by the player, but the fights are directed in such a way that the strategy itself is more or less the same. For example, the player may be required to lure the Colossus into a certain area first, an event which can only be achieved if the player triggers it via the appropriate action. How the action itself is executed, however, is a direct resultant of the player's level of skill and control.

    As a broader variety of tactics are honed, so are other elements of the game. As the player is required to go farther and farther afoot in his or her mission of search-and-destroy, the broad expanse of this diverse yet eerily-empty terrain is opened up.

    Best accomplished, perhaps, is the sense of loneliness and isolation which the game's environment evokes. Coupled with a creeping sense of foreboding that is established with the advance of the plot, Shadow of the Colossus delivers a unique and complex tone that is achieved through subtle shifts rather than dramatic dialog. With the event of every Colossus slain, Wander is besieged by a visible, tangible darkness which renders him unconscious, and continues to plague him each and every time he awakens.

    What is most interesting about the design, however, is that there is no evident reward structure. Instead, the player is simply encouraged to move on to defeating the next foe. As the avid explorer will realize, though, it is possible to receive a sort of power-up for Wander's grab ability by returning to the spot where each Colossus was defeated and eating the tails of small lizards that now reside there.

    Overall, I found Shadow of the Colossus to be a very well thought-out and designed game which is incredibly innovative and original, and is only further enhanced by truly breathtaking graphics.

    This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Jan 26th, 2008 at 02:12:55.

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    Jan 26th, 2008 at 01:10:26     -    Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)

    (gamelog 2, part 1, for CMPS 80K)

    SUMMARY

    Shadow of The Colossus is an action-adventure game with a high emphasis on puzzle-solving. Published by Sony in 2005, the game centers on a male hero named Wander. Along with his horse, Agro, Wander must traverse a vast and secluded world in order to restore the life of a young girl. The goal of the game is for the player to take control of Wander and hunt down and destroy sixteen giant Colossi and return his deceased friend to life.

    GAMEPLAY

    Having seen a few brief glimpses of Shadow of the Colossus beforehand, I was excited to try the game firsthand. Well aware of the its reputation as a quickly-established classic, I was happy to discover that Colossus does not disappoint; the game's impressive design, unique and challenging battle system, expansive setting and stunning graphics are sure to win over virtually any players of all skill levels almost instantaneously.

    Most notably, the game is set in an expanse of blank terrain, untouched by civilization save for the mysterious temple-like building to which Wander first arrives in the opening cinematic. The land's sole inhabitant (aside from the odd Colossus or two) is the equally-mysterious Dormin; a godlike and slightly eerie bodiless voice who promises to grant Wander's wish to restore the life of his young friend in exchange for the destruction of the sixteen Colossi.

    Although a large number of background details pertaining the world and characters are left unexplained during the opening cutscenes, the player quickly learns via helpful on-screen instructions how to take control of the protagonist. Although some of the necessary abilities are a little difficult to pick up (such as directing the beams of light reflected from Wander's sword towards the resting place of each Colossus) the game allows the player to hone these skills by roaming freely around the world.
    While utilizing these skills becomes second nature with practice, the brief instructions given on-screen when the player encounters a new obstacle are relatively easy to miss. Doing so has the potential to create unnecessary challenges, as the abilities are not entirely evident. For example, the player has the ability to switch between weapons – a sword or a bow and arrow – at will via the buttons on the directional pad. The configuration makes up in convenience what it lacks in obvious placement, however, as all the buttons that the player needs to control Wander effectively are extremely accessible.

    Most impressive, perhaps, are the Colossi themselves. Each Colossus is unique, and the technique used to defeat it depends on both its build and location. Generally, Wander must endeavor to climb up the Colossus' massive body and locate its glowing vital points. Stabbing the vital points with a sword will wound the Colossus, eventually killing it. Where the game succeeds in this element is its ability to provide a variety of puzzles based on this theme; each Colossus is difficult to defeat because it is different from the last.

    In my experience thus far, the gameplay has proven to be extremely engaging. Whether riding Wander's horse, Agro around a seemingly-infinite terrain, or using a combination of logic and real-time action to defeat the first two Colossi, I have found this game to be immensely fun.
    However, I think what is most enjoyable about this game is the fact that it requires a different sort of skill-level than that demanded by most action-based games, an element that most definitely sets the title apart from its predecessors.

    This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Jan 26th, 2008 at 01:16:27.

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    1Legend of Mana (PS)Playing
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