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    Feb 9th, 2008 at 03:25:48     -    Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn (Wii)

    For a game where losing even a single unit means Game Over, your units die way too frigging fast. Especially in levels where even in a defensive position, three units are exposed to enemy attack- Sothe and Nolan are fine. Sothe dodges everything and Nolan has enough HP that he can't be oneshotted, and can thus be healed every round. But who to put in the third slot? Edward? Tried that. Enemy walks up to him. Smacks him for 17 damage when he has 20 HP. Second enemy walks up behind first enemy. He has a Javelin, range two. Loldeath. Leonardo? He has better defense than Edward, but he has a bow. Which means no counterattacking. Which means bad guys walk up to him and he becomes utterly useless. Micaiah? She has magic. Range one or two. She can counterattack. She has magic. Meaning she's a mage. Mages die.

    End result: Game Over. It's frustrating to all hell and I'm just about ready to say "screw it." I really, really want to know what's going to happen in the story- especially after playing Path of Radiance- but if I die five times on every single level, it's not worth it. I don't care how good their story is, I'm not going to like it if I have to spend an hour repeatedly dying between every piece of it.

    On a completely different side note, I found Ilyana, a thunder mage, also from the previous game. Didn't use her much either. (*cough*Soren*cough*) And I found Aimee, who was the weapons merchant from the previous game. Wasn't expecting to run into her. I suspect that by the time the game is finished, I'll have pretty much everyone from Path of Radiance again. And there were like forty of them. Fire Emblem gives you a lot of units to work with. But not in the beginning, and it won't matter if every time a unit dies it's Game Over. In the last game it was only Game Over if Ike, the main character, died. Now it's everyone. Great.

    I should stop complaining, as you've probably already gotten the point. I'm still annoyed at it, though.

    The level design of Fire Emblem is actually surprisingly diverse, considering how little it actually has to work with. Each level is just a combination of tilesets, after all. But with several possible goals (getting a certain character to the end, getting all character to the end, defeating the boss, or defeating everyone), and sometimes a time limit, and some tiles where you can step and some tiles where you can't, it manages to remain interesting. But just as much time is spent off the battlefield- Fire Emblem cutscenes are long. Always have been. If you play it, prepare for a lot of reading. But that's the style that Fire Emblem chooses for its games and I personally enjoy that style. It allows for a detailed story and intricate character relationships- which are furthered by Fire Emblem's support system, which, at least among the games I have played, is unique.

    The ability to have your units talk to each other (either on or off that battlefield, depending on which game you're playing- haven't found out for this one yet, I've hardly done anything), and for them to actually have reasonable conversations and then get stat benefits for doing so is a very interesting idea, and as a roleplayer, I approve of it. Relationships are good. Plus it provides a wonderful way to get to know all the characters- or at the very least, your favorites (Lethe). Have I mentioned that Lethe is awesome? Yes? Oh. Well, I'm doing it again.

    The difficulty could use some fixing, though. I'm playing on 'Normal' (and the only modes available the first time through are 'Easy' and 'Normal'), and I'm having forementioned dying problem. Your units are far too death-prone in the beginning and they get oneshotted far too often. It's very frustrating.

    Sigh. And on that note, I'm going to bed. Ciao.

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    Feb 9th, 2008 at 02:06:03     -    Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn (Wii)

    Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn takes place three years after the end of Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance for the GameCube. It assumes you won and that Daein has been defeated. In a rather interesting twist, the Begnion Empire, your ally in Path of Radiance, is now the enemy, as their occupation of Daein is by no means benevolent. You start out controlling the members of the Dawn Brigade, a group of Daein rebels who are trying to do what they can to make life better for the commoners of Daein and more of a hassle for Begnion. One of these members is Sothe, who was a very minor character in Path of Radiance (I never used him, ever- Volke is cooler). The other main member is Micaiah, who has the ability to heal allies with a touch by taking their wounds herself. She also knows how to speak the ancient language of the heron tribe. I am intrigued. The other three members are Edward, a Myrmidion (a swordmaster with cool critical things), Nolan, a fighter, and Leonardo, an archer.

    Radiant Dawn is a typical example of the Fire Emblem series. A turn-based strategy game in which you control a set of units, each with different abilities and weapons, and you can move them on the map and fight enemies. Each time you attack an enemy, you get to attack, and they they get to counterattack. (If your character is fast enough, you might get a second attack. Too slow, and they enemy gets two).

    The major thing that separates Fire Emblem from a lot of other games of its genre is that each character has a name, a personality, a piece in the plot, a death quote... as such, you become attached to all of them. For most true Fire Emblem fans, losing even a single unit is unacceptable and requires a restarting of the level. Unfortunately in this particular one, at the beginning you only have five characters- and they're all essential members of the Dawn Brigade. Losing a single one means Game Over. This is incredibly annoying when only two of them (Nolan and Sothe) are tough enough to survive more than two or three hits. And then your newest ally, Laura, can't even survive one. And if you accidentally leave her within range of an enemy, they will ALWAYS go for her. I've lost three times already and I'm only on the third mission.

    It doesn't help that the mission is completely impossible unless you figure out that your units can block one of the ledge accessways to where you start and still be considered two spaces away from the bad guys- and thus out of range. This, I might add, is not mentioned anywhere- you just have to figure out before you die enough times to be completely frustrated. Which brings up the next point- a complete lack of a tutorial. The game jumps straight into missions. No explanation of controls (although there's a helpful button function bar at the bottom), no practice fights, nada. Just boom, bandits. Go kill. Instead, everything you would usually learn in a tutorial is in the unusually thick instruction booklet- which I'm pretty sure no one except me reads. While this does allow you to theoretically get straight into the game, I do not think it is an improvement- you're likely to have to resort to the manual instead, or just die because of the aforementioned quirky terrain rules that aren't explained anywhere.

    Apart from this, it's still a Fire Emblem title. The story is sure to be epic (what I've seen shows the usual good writing of the series), the music is good, the opening cutscene is stupendously awesome, and it has lots of voice acting. Yay voice acting.

    Now give me Lethe, she's my favorite character. Excuse me while I go beat enough of the game to get her to join me.

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    Jan 26th, 2008 at 02:47:24     -    Final Fantasy XII (PS2)

    Alright, story things have happened. Yay. We're now off to get a Dawn Shard. I'm not sure what a Dawn Shard is, but apparently it can prove Princess Ashe is Princess Ashe. Technically Princess Ashe is supposed to be cooped up with the Marquis, nice and safe, but in another totally NOT cliched move, she decides to go wandering off on her own. Actually, she decides to try to steal Balthier's ship. So we end up tagging along. Well, technically we kidnapped her. That's the official story, anyway.

    And now I'm in a rather annoying area that has a save and restoration point at the very beginning, and then far too many battles afterward. People keep getting KOed. And then I run out of Pheonix Downs. And then they get Silenced, so they can't cast Cure. And I run out of Silence fixer-uppers and it NEVER WEARS OFF! Argh! So I have to go all the way back to the beginning! And all the enemies respawn! So I have to do it all over! Gah!

    Sigh. I feel like I'm probably going to be doing a whole lot of this. Consider it training, since I don't think I'm as a high a level as I'm supposed to be. Judging by the fact that the guest I got is four levels higher and utterly pwns everything. Sigh.

    My peoples die far too easily. I suppose that's to be expected in a game where death isn't even close to permanent, what with Pheonix Downs and full-restore save points, but it's still annoying. Especially when Pheonix Downs are expensive and the save points are far away.

    So I'm kind of frustrated at this point. But I'll keep playing. I'm sure I'll beat it eventually.

    I like the new and innovative design things in FFXII. The License and Gambit system are new and original and interesting, and fiddling with them and deciding what to get and what to tell my party to do is a new mechanic that I've never done before. It makes for interesting new choices and new strategies, which makes me think and helps keep the game interesting, which I approve of.

    Unfortunately, there are limits to the Gambit system (especially since I have to buy all the Gambit targets before I can use them, and I have yet to find the 'Foe with lowest HP' target, which annoys me), and sometimes the AI has a bad habit of randomly switching targets, or attacking one foe until he's almost dead and then ignoring him completely, which is when I have to step in and say, 'No, you stupid moron, kill the almost dead guy before attacking the full HP one!' Also, you can't control the actions of the guest character at all, and sometimes he'll go and do something stupid and get himself killed.

    On the whole, though, I like the design. It turns what might have just been 'another Final Fantasy game' into something that's new that hasn't been done before.

    Also included in design, I suppose, is the narrative feel of the game, a classic of the FF series. It probably isn't a good thing for everyone, but I like it. The cutscenes help tell the story very well, even if you can't control what happens in them. It's a classic example of railroading, but I don't really mind, if it helps the game tell an actual story. Some other people might, but then, they shouldn't play FF games.

    Alright, I think that's it for this GameLog. Time for me to go to bed.

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    Jan 25th, 2008 at 22:21:42     -    Final Fantasy XII (PS2)

    FFXII is a fantasy adventure-RPG set in a fantasy world whose name I have forgotten, but mostly in the country of Dalmasca, which has been conquered by the Empire (because that isn't cliched at all). You play first as Vaan, a young thief from Dalmasca's capital, an orphan with dreams of being a sky pirate. Soon you are joined by five other party members (which is probably the maximum, judging by the amount of space in the menu and save screen). There's Balthier and Fran, who are actual sky pirates with rather large prices on their heads, Penelo, Vaan's childhood friend, Basch, a supposed traitor, and Ashe, the unrecognized princess of Dalmasca. None of which is cliched. AT ALL. It's only the 12th Final Fantasy, so clearly they must have made up all-new ideas, right?

    Anyway, your little group is off to save the world. Or at least your part of it. There's a whole lot of political intrigue and backstabbing and all that lovely stuff, most of which I don't fully understand. And I really don't have that much idea of where the game will go, which is pretty typical of a game this massive. But I'll certainly stick around for the ride.

    Though the plot may be cliched, Final Fantasy excels, as always, in its storytelling. It had loads of beautiful cutscenes that seem to pop up every five minutes, and voice acting. Yay voice acting. In the game itself, during those times that you are in control, all you really have to do is run around and fight things, but loads of games have gotten away with that. There are occasionally other things to do (like one section where you have to run around spreading rumors to get the attention of the people in charge), but for the most part what you're doing is battling the wide array of monsters the world throws at you. Not to mention Imperial Guards, bounty hunters, and Sand People. Unless Star Wars trademarked that, in which case they're called something else.

    But the fighting is certainly new and interesting. Unlike the traditional Final Fantasy style of turn-based battles, FFXII does its battles in real time. It's still feels turn-based, because all you do is select an action, wait for the bar to fill up (how fast it does so depends on the speed of the character), and then the character will do whatever it is you told them to do. But really, you don't have to tell the characters anything at all. You can use Gambits. Instead of resorting to AI, you can give each character a list of commands paired with conditions for when to do them. Once you get enough Gambit slots, your characters can perform very intricate strategies without you ever having to tell them to do anything.

    Another new thing is Licenses and License Points. You get LP (License Points) whenever you kill monsters, and you use them to unlock everything. Armor proficiencies, weapon proficiencies, item proficiences, magic, techniques, new Gambit slots, HP bonuses, MP bonuses, extra damage, new abilities, everything. Each character has a sort of map of abilities, and they start with a few, and you can buy any ability that's next to an unlocked ability. And when you buy it, the ones next to it unlock. Thus, every single character is completely customizeable and all of them can do pretty much everything.

    With an intricate, interesting story, and the previously mentioned cutscenes, playing a Final Fantasy game makes you feel like you're in a book. Which is just what they're going for. It rather limits what the player actually gets to do, but if you like games that tell great stories, Final Fantasy is the best one out there. So sit back and watch.

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