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    Feb 9th, 2008 at 14:36:26     -    R Type Final (PS2)

    entry 2

    Upon further play of R-type Final, I've been able to unlock quite a few ships and found a few alternate routes (stages). While some of the alternate routes are re-hashes/modifications of the original stage, some of the stages seem to have completely random themes only possibly related to the R-type storyline iyou have a very active imagination. But then again, no storyline has been explicitly been told in the game (as far as I know/can remember), so nothing cabe ruled out, I suppose; looking on the back of the instruction manual, it turns out the game is rated E for everyone because it's only "Fantasy Violence"... which might explain some of the random oddities, such as the "Mr. Heli" R-type space ship. Aside from the few random oddities, I got relatively little satisfaction from the game overall apart from beating the story mode (albeit in the easiest difficulty). To summarize, my experience was that the game caused too much frustration through much of the game in comparison to the satisfaction of completing game objectives, thus leaving me wanting more (unsatisfied with the game).

    The game may have been more fun and engaging if it had a co-op support, allowing players to play with the friends, adding a social element into the mix to help keep players interested. However, since players return to the last previous check point when they die, this would have to set back either both players or keep the deceased player out of the game until the other player dies and both respawn together. On this front, R-type Final loses out on the possibility of co-op functionality such as that in Gradius V. Without any other people to engage with, the game lacked sufficient motivation to make me want to legitimately play through the rest of the game.


    Since I've played long enough to understand the mechanics of the game, for the purpose of "study," I've let the game fly through stages w/ the invulnerability cheat on so I can safely ignore the game and occupy myself with other activities while the game burns time with different ships so that I can unlock new ships and see if the boasted number of ships if R-Type Final isn't just advertising fodder. While the ships that I unlocked in my initial play through introduced new weapon types and wave cannons (special laser attack), they did not introduce any new bits (pods that follow the player ship and provide some support function).

    Additionally, ships unlocked after the first set of ships turned out to be re-hashes of those prior to them, with mostly just minor changes to them. However, after cheating my way through many hours of flight time, I was finally able to unlock some new ships with new bits, and new weaponry, proving that there is at least some function for the 99+ unlockable ships. However, given the amount of time required to unlock the few ships that I was able to unlock, and that a normal player would not use the invulnerability cheat, most players would either give up the game (as I would) either after finding the game too hard or beating it once; only a hardcore shmup gamer would be able to put the hours in to legitimately unlock every ship and reap the rewards, rendering the use of the large mass of unlockable ships relatively useless except for 1 horrifying fact: the tougher difficulty levels seem to require much more powerful weapon arsenals--those carried by the late unlocked ships, turning the wheel of hardcore shmup gamers around once again, putting us back in square one again. While R-type Final does have an easy mode, most of the game content will never be accessible to casual gamers who don't have the dedication to get access to the best ships and experience the coolest flashing colors the game has to offer.

    To me, this game content structure (discussed above) is the greatest pitfall of R-type Final. Without a good content and reward/punishment structure, players will be discouraged from playing and lose interest in the game--the end of a game. However, R-type Final did have a number of innovative elements that make can be learned from. The 3D graphics are used well in a number of background transitions to create the illusion of moving the active game space around re-orienting it in within the game world, zooming in, zooming out, moving into objects or areas, etc. While the underlying structure of the 2D shooter interface does not change, the 3D engine's effective implementation allows the designers to create levels with shifting perspectives to better remove the effect of one-direction linear movement in the game through the illusion of 3D movement.

    Integrated well with the 3D graphical illusion was the level design, which utilized the 3D space to bring enemies in from different angled planes onto the player's plane of reference for combat, or by shifting the player's plane itself in several cases. The level design also implemented classic shmup spacial control and predefined enemy movement patterns with emergent attack AI script to automate enemy attacks to try and restrict the player's movement and require good tactics to and skillful movement to navigate to tight spaces and fields covered with enemies and bullets. R-type Final added the presumed usage of the Force for either lasers or remote shooting into the mix, specifically creating instances where the Force has to be docked to the read of the ship, or had to be undocked and shooting at something in an area inaccessible by the player, thus requiring the player to make good use of the Force and it's functions.

    While the Force pod concept, stylized weapons and level design are well done, the implementation through the poor content structure leaves the player unable to experience much of the game content, leaving many players desiring more from the game, knowing that there is more content in game, but not seeing it as worth spending the time to acquire. Without a well balanced reward system to keep the player interested in continuing the play the game, there's little point to a mass of unlockable content that the player will never unlock.

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    Feb 9th, 2008 at 11:56:00     -    R Type Final (PS2)

    game log entry #1


    R-type Final is a 2D space shooter, or "shmup", in which the player controls a space ship flying horizontally (to the right) across a moving land(or space)-scape, shooting at the enemies that fly at you from all directions while evading their onslaught of attacks. There are 3 modes of gameplay: story mode, score attack, and AI versus.

    In Story mode, the player's objective is to make their way through each stage all the way to the final boss and defeat it to complete the story mode stage sequence. In score attack, the player can replay any stage previously beaten in story mode with the objective of playing through again and again to achieve a new high score without having to play through the entire story again. In the game modes listed above, the game play mechanics are identical; the play controls a space ship on a 2D plane aligned to and within the visible screen area while the game forces the player through the level (stage) while throwing enemies and attacks at the player in a pre-determined pattern based on the level design--the standard of most shmups.

    However, in AI versus mode, the game play mechanic takes a drastic turn away from the general shmup standard, making the player give their ship(s) an AI script (specifically, a list of combat action priorities) that governs the ship's actions in an 1 vs. 1 emergent ship combat simulation, challenging the player to come up with an effective customized ship and AI script to defeat the computer controlled opponents.

    While I did find the game play of R-Type Final to be fun and challenging for a while, I found it quickly lost it's initial luster by attempting to make up for it's lack of game world content with 5 difficulty levels and an absurd number of unlockables. While most shmup's don't have (or need, for that matter) much of a storyline to be a functional shmup, there were only 7-some stages (initially) to play through. Instead, I found myself playing through the same levels over and over again until I figured out which ships and weapon power-ups worked best where and how to get through tricky spots and defeat bosses.

    While that was fine, I disliked how afterwards, I ended up needlessly dying over and over again thanks to the most minor handling mistakes (ex: flying a perfect run through a section and then grazing the edge of a platform before the next respawn point), throwing me back to start all over again once I was out of restart credits. Lame.

    While I have no quarrel with this as a fundamental part of what makes shmups challenging, I found that a lot of my crashes had to do with the graphical design of the player ship. Part of the power-up system in R-type Final is "the Force"--a pod which can be docked to either the front or back of the ship to take advantage of the weapon power-ups and shoot lasers, or float around freely and shoot bullets remotely. While the force pod is invulnerable and can be used to absorb weak enemies and bullets, it's large size leads to confusion (when the force pod is docked) when trying to determine which part of the player clump is the actual ship and which part is the force pod. Next to careless errors and dark brown artillery shots on almost black sky that I couldn't see, this was probably the most frustrating part of the game.

    Among other frustrations, the transition cut scenes at the beginning of each stage and before certain boss fights couldn't be skipped no matter how many buttons I tried mashing. While fairly short and containing brief text somehow relevant to the storyline to clue in the player on the game's background, the cut scenes became redundant, notably after having seen them quite a few times from having to restart story mode quite a few times. Of course, it may as well be my own fault for getting sick of the cut scenes by playing so many times. After finally beating the story mode once, though, I figured out that after all of the trouble I went through to get to the end, I had unlocked only 20+ ships out of a total of 99 listed in the Gallery menu. This left me wondering how long it would take for some one to actually go through the trouble of unlocking everything available, and thinking that there was relatively little replay value left unless you found the challenge exciting/stimulating in some weird way and wanting to beat the game on every difficulty level... something I surely don't want to bother doing after finally beating it on "Baby," the easiest mode.

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    Jan 26th, 2008 at 02:10:17     -    Katamari Damacy (PS2)

    Gamelog entry 2


    After playing for a while longer, I've found the game remarkably easy to progress through (the storyline) with the exception of the mission of rolling the katamari to rebuild the moon. Since the mission requires your to roll your katamari all the way from 1 meters to a whopping 300 meters - roughly 10 times the biggest katamari size requirement I'd previously encountered. Even with 25 minutes on the clock, I found myself struggling to get the katamari big enough to effectively roll over islands the first few tries. Regardless, I had a lot of fun with it, since there's this bizzare joy in being able to level a city in a few seconds with a giant ball.

    I think one of the other main reasons I found Katamari Damacy to be so fun was that the world was fairly open to exploration, limited only by the size of your katamari, and that you could never die in a mission by hit/being hit by objects larger than the katamari (only get objects in your katamari get knocked out), thus there are negative consequenses to rolling around randomly and having fun. You can still fail the mission, but there's no penalty for failing and you can try again; additionally, each attempt you make makes you more familiar with the map and controls, making it easier to beat the mission, since the game is dependent on player skill, which is very easy to attain once you grasp the control scheme. As to this, I did find it a bit tricky at first, but I had it down within about 2 missions, so I think the simplicity of the game is part of what makes it so easily enjoyable.

    However, while the gameplay is fun and the theme of the game was definitely original and funny, I found the storyline a rather weak. As far as I can tell, the protagonist (the tiny prince) never says anything--even in text--but rather, is constantly ragged on by the King of the cosmos as you go from mission to mission unless you happen to do really well on a particular mission in the mission result screen; even so, he'll revert to his condescending tone again when you undertake your next mission however, making it seem kind of pointless. As such, there's essentially only 1 character that ever "talks," giving the storyline no character development. Literally too, since the protagonist prince is still a microscopic few cm when rolling a continental-size katamari (although I don't think he's still drawn at that point).


    Straight up, the entire concept of the game is downright innovative. Beyond the concept, I think the simplicity of the control scheme is very innovative as it allows the player to enjoy themselves much more since they don't have to worry about hectic button mashing combos or perfect timing to make a long jump or what-not. The use of just the two thumb sticks to control the katamari means that the player never has to move their thumbs off of the sticks, and gives the player control of the camera implicitly while requiring more skill in controlling the katamari. Since the main game mechanic essentially consists only of rolling the katamari around, this could have been achieved with only 1 thumbstick... but that would have made the game too easy. The use of two sticks requires more skill, and provides a reminder that the Katamari isn't rolling by itself--the sticks control the tiny prince rolling the katamari.

    While the control scheme is innovative and quite easy to learn, I continue to have problems using the charge roll, which requires the player to rapidly move both sticks up and down in the opposing directions. Somehow, I can get it to initiate the rapid spin, but then the katamari stops spinning instead of charging forward. I think this could have been implemented differently making it a bit easier to use. Other than this fault, I think the control scheme was brilliant.

    After playing for a while, I noticed how well the game scales the player view of the world so that the katamari always appears to be the same size, and the world gets smaller, clipping out objects too small to see and not bother to take into account. There seemed to be several noticeable phases, starting with very small (push-pins, coins, etc.), then moving up to small fruits as being the smallest objects, then people and large appliances/devices (vending machines, etc.), and then finally buildings and structures being the smallest objects visible and taken into account (as far as I've progressed, anyhow). The game seemlessly phases out small objects from the gameworld as the katamari reaches certain sizes, altering the objects in the gameworld and available regions to move in while using the same world map without making any distinct graphical changes aside from clipping objects no longer taken into account.

    This structure gives the game strong sense of emergence within each mission. The game does have an overlaying mask as a game of progression with the storyline and the player's progression from mission to mission as he/she clears missions and unlocks new missions, however, within each mission, the game mechanics affect how the player chooses to grow their Katamari. Simultaneously, however, the size of the katamari does restrict where the katamari can go, which is controlled by the level design, a quality of games of progression. Thus, while there is no single category for Katamari Damacy like many other games, Katamari Damacy has a unique combination of level design with game world rules that open up and limit movement, as it is possible to both grow and shrink the katamari by picking up and losing objects.

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    Jan 26th, 2008 at 01:15:13     -    Katamari Damacy (PS2)

    Gamelog entry 1


    In Katamari Damacy, the player controls a tiny prince that rolls a "katamari" (translated 'lump/cluster (of objects)' in Japanese) around the game world, a ball that picks up smaller objects as it rolls over them, adding them to the rolling jumble. The katamari grows as it picks up more objects, becoming capable of picking up larger and larger objects, going all the way from a picking up coins and candy to rolling up entire islands and more. The specific objectives in each mission vary, but generally require the player to keep rolling over stuff and grow their katamari. The overall objective for the player is to complete each mission to restore a star or constellation in the sky, thus restoring all of the stars in the sky that the Lord of the Galaxy 'accidentally' shattered.


    From the very start of the game, Katamari Damacy made me crack up and fall off my chair laughing. It even sounded like someone's cracking up in part of the short intro soundtrack. On top of that, the opening intro sequence was so random and bizzare, that it made me wonder if the game designers were high when they came up with the idea: cows in space. ducks singing the chorus, a volcano erupting a rainbow, dancing pandas, giant mushrooms, an elephant spraying a rainbow... did I say rainbows? The bright, colorful palette gives the world an overly happy, comic feel to it, which--when combined with the bizzare character design--makes the world of Katamari Damacy absurdly more comical. The prince that rolls the katamari, controlled by the player, is only about a few cm tall, bright green with purple pants, has a head the shape of a medicinal pill on it's side with a square pale yellow face with a red antenna coming out of the top of his head... must I say more? The character design makes me think of pikmin on crack. And then the people are very square... even more so than legos.

    To add to the uniqueness of Katamari Damacy, the music is an interesting combination of voice-instrumentals, retro beats, and comical dialogue and lyrics in Japanese related to the theme of the game. Most of the soundtrack seems to be done in an intentionally comical way, satirizing the game, adding another degree of depth to the bizzare comic background of the game. The sound effects, are also rather comical; although the medium doesn't allow for the same level satire as the soundtrack, the sound effects as you hit people range from over-dramatized screams to a joyful "Woohoo!" depending on the type of person you pick up.

    However bizzare and crazy the background may seem, I actually enjoyed playing the game very much. I was continually amazed at the innovativeness of the game and the sheer awesomeness of discovering that I could roll over essentially anything if the katamari was big enough. For that reason, I found it very addictive, as I kept discovering new, bigger objects to roll into the katamari. At first I thought it would be rather boring as the game started with you rolling over push-pins, candy, and erasers, but found that once in the open world area, the designers didn't hesitate to add in more and more bizzare/crazy/random objects to roll over as the katamari got bigger, to shortly find myself addicted despite the very simple gameplay (I shall refrain from saying more in an effort not to spoil the fun for those who haven't played).

    This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Jan 26th, 2008 at 01:19:43.

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