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    Mar 4th, 2008 at 19:36:40     -    Eternal Sonata (360)

    Game Session 2:

    Game Play:
    During my second session of playing Eternal Sonata I spent the entire time running around in the sewers and fighting. The fights got a little repetitive because I must have been involved in 30 fights and they were all with cute rats with glowing lights on their tails. It was cute the first few times but eventually I got a little bored. I know it is early in the game so my characters haven’t had a chance to learn any new skills yet, but I got a little of tired of using the same two skills over and over. I probably need to give the game a little more time and grow my characters a bit more and then I will get some new abilities (this is an RPG after all).

    The music was good and the visuals of the game are amazing. Despite being cartoon like the world still looks very three dimensional and there is a lot of shadowing and blending to make the colorful world very appealing. There are also a lot of details like water reflecting light on the wall and little lizards scampering around to give the game a very rich environment. The world is very nice, but the actual game play has yet to impress me too much.


    As far as innovation goes this game doesn’t do very much. It is immediately recognizable to anyone who has ever played and RPG before. There are item shops, weapon shops, houses with people who provide pointless dialogue but provide atmosphere, pretty much everything you’ve seen in other RPG games. The fighting style is slightly different but is still reminiscent of Final Fantasy XII. One difference is that for each player’s turn they have an action gauge and when the gauge runs out the player‘s turn is over. If a player holds still and does nothing the gauge won’t drop, allowing the player time to think and strategize. When they take an action like an attack, moving or using an item it depletes their gauge. The player must decide how far they have to move to get within range of an attack or whether they want to stand away from the enemy and use magic (depending on each character’s abilities). I like that the gauge won’t move if you hold still because it allowed my to think without pressure which provides the more strategic play of turn based RPG’s. You can play very slow paced or very fast paced depending on your preference as a player. From the cut scenes that I have experienced so far the plot features an embedded narrative that is very linear. It is not the most exciting kind of narrative but again it holds true to the traditional RPG format. This game is enjoyable for its faithfulness to the traditional RPG that many people enjoy and brining a new visual and musical fullness that takes advantage of the strength of the 360’s graphic ability.
    The game world is pretty predictable. I ran through the woods to get to a village, I ran around a city and I went into the sewers. All of these are classic locations but re-envisioned with the new visual style.

    The motivations for the players are a bit lacking for my taste. So far I’ve had to get home before dark and deliver some bread. My first boss fight was against a big rat who wanted the bread. OK….I haven’t really learned yet what my main goal in the game is besides running around with various characters that I assume are going to meet up eventually and create a party. So far this game seems like it is a really slow starter and it seems like it needs more than two hours to start getting into the real meat of the game which is a bit slow for may taste. I think that the creative aspects like the visuals and the music are fantastic and that the battle system is simple but nothing new. Overall this game is adorable, and very nice and enjoyable to play, but I wouldn’t say that it is anything extraordinary or groundbreaking.

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    Mar 4th, 2008 at 18:40:26     -    Eternal Sonata (360)

    Game Session 1:

    Eternal Sonata is an RPG that takes place in a peaceful but mysterious land that I believe may end up being a dream world created by Frederic Chopin. Chopin is a famous musical composer that came to be known as a child prodigy on the piano. In Eternal Sonata his story has been adapted to create a world out of the mind of a child who has suffering from failing health his entire life. So far the story has consisted of playable characters that are children but who have hard lives from being homeless in one case and rejected from society for using magic in another. With each character you travel through the world to complete tasks and fight monsters along the way.

    Game Play:
    The first thing that I noticed about the game was the intense color scheme and artistic style. The graphics of the world are very stylized and rounded looking to create a very beautiful and cartoon like environment. The characters all drawn in anime style which adds to the sweet and cute tone of the game. The color palate is extremely vibrant and bright which makes the whole visual aspect of the game adorable. Even the sewers and sewer rats were cute and colorful. I could tell from the look of it that this would be a game that is very sentimental and sweet. Normally I enjoy scary and action oriented games so I wasn’t sure if this game would really engage me, but small hints at a more complex plot really drew me in and made me want to find out more. Despite being incredibly cute, cut scenes that show small portions of the character’s everyday lives reveal that life for them isn’t as sweet as it looks. The main character Polka has the ability to use magic but the ability means that she will die young and she is outcast from society because they fear that her abilities will hurt them. After playing as Polka for awhile the game switched to a new character named Allegretto who lives on the streets but does his best to support his little brother and other homeless children. The game seems really interesting even early on because it plays with the themes of childhood innocence, death and perseverance with characters that try hard to do good despite their own hardships.

    Another main aspect of the game is its focus on music. The game focuses on Chopin, a famous composer and all the characters and town names are musical terms. Though I must say that the town names “Ritardando” amuses me even though it is a musical term. The musical score for this game is amazing obviously. So far this game seems like a basic RPG with item shops, lots of menus and world battles but Eternal Sonata took a hint from FFXII and made the monsters walk around the world so you can avoid them if you choose. The fighting is turn based, but being able to block enemy attacks by taping a button at the right time keeps the battles interesting even when it’s not the character’s turn so you don’t have to sit and watch your character take a beating.

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    Feb 20th, 2008 at 21:43:30     -    Katamari Damacy (PS2)

    Session 2:
    After playing the first few levels which are amazingly fun I started coming across the constellation levels that change up the basic level format. In the constellation levels you have to collect as many crabs within a certain time for Cancer or swans for Cygnus etc. The addition of levels kept the game fresh and entertaining. I thought that I would get bored with just rolling things up in every level but it hasn’t happened yet. The further you get in the game the bigger your final Katamari ends up being and it’s really gratifying when you finally get to chase down and absorb people, then houses, then skyscrapers! The controls are very easy to learn but you get real satisfaction when you master abilities like flipping over the katamari to change directions and the super charge that lets sprint across the game world. After only a couple hours of playing I feel like a katamari guru and I beat all my friends in two player mode.

    Two player mode is not very different from the regular game play with the exception of getting largest first and rolling up your friend. Besides attacking your friend there isn’t really anything too special about two player, but single player mode is engaging enough that I don’t feel any real disappointment as I can still compete with my friends by reaching a certain diameter quickest or by getting the biggest diameter within a set amount of time.

    Game Design:
    One of the most innovative things about Katamari Damacy is obviously the core mechanic of rolling up items. The game is actually more complex then it appears at first as the layout of items throughout the levels are carefully placed by the game designers. The player must create a strategy that constantly takes into account the largest size item that you can pick up to maximize growth without smashing into items and losing katamari mass. The controls are also fairly innovative as you must coordinate the left and right analog sticks to move the katamari with efficiency.

    Some of the factors that make this a good game are the visual and audio effects. The visual style is very stylized and quirky and the music is extremely upbeat and catchy which encourages the fun and silly spirit of the game. By adding a timer for each level and target diameters the game creates challenges for the player that are achievable but also difficult so the player gets that sense of gratification and personal skill when they complete a level. As the levels progress you are allowed to replay levels to beat your own personal records and try out playing in a time test where you try to get to a certain size as fast as you can or the regular attempt to get as large as possible in a fixed amount of time. The player is constantly able to try and best their own records or their friends while the humor of the levels keeps them entertained.

    There is also a menu where you can examine every item that you have picked up as you play and shows empty slots for items that you have not yet collected. This menu also gives items a rareness value which adds the challenge of collecting all the items in the game and trying to find the most rare ones that are hidden in the levels. Along this line there are also ‘Royal Presents’, secret items hidden in each level that the player can find for a bonus. Another kind of level is the constellations which add new goals and objectives. Some of the constellations require obtaining as many of a certain kind of item as possible while others require getting as large as possible before picking up a certain theme item, ex: picking up the biggest bear possible for Ursa Major. You want the biggest bear possible which means getting really big before you pick up anything with a bear on it. This gets really hard when you are very large and it gets difficult to avoid tiny objects with bears on them that you really don’t want after so much strategic rolling. The incorporation of multiple goals while playing through the levels keeps gameplay engaging and encourages replaying the levels.

    My criticisms of the game are that sometimes you can get stuck behind or underneath items and it is almost impossible to get out without breaking off half of the items you’ve collected. Also, it is unclear sometimes why you can pick up some items when ones that are smaller can’t be picked up. The parameters for what can and can’t be absorbed seem a little off to me. Another issue that I have is that the camera would frequently go behind walls leaving me blind which was especially frustrating when time was running out and I only had a few more centimeters to grow. My last frustration is that when you achieve a certain size the perspective changes to show you the world now that you are bigger. I love this aspect and think it makes the game better, but whenever you reach one of these perspective adjustment phases the game pops up a loading screen and the King of the Cosmos blabs something random at you. This really interrupted the flow of gameplay for me though I understand that it may have been necessary for the game to have a loading screen at that point.

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    Feb 20th, 2008 at 20:49:38     -    Katamari Damacy (PS2)

    Session One:
    In Katamari Damacy the player roles a ball (a katamari) around various maps and picks up items that are slightly smaller than it in order to increase the ball’s size and pick up larger and larger items. The game could most likely be classified as a puzzle game because the main objective of each level is to carefully choose your route and the size of items you pick up in order to maximize how quickly your katamari grows. The avatar you control is a tiny character called The Prince, who does the actual rolling of the katamari even though he is nearly invisible as the katamari reaches larger proportions.
    In theory the game has a plot where the King of the Cosmos destroyed all the stars in the sky and now his son, the Prince must roll up katamari’s to create new stars and constellations. There are a few cut scenes telling the story of a family with a father who is an astronaut, but the story is marginal. It has no direct effect on the levels and only adds humor to the already zany atmosphere of the game.

    I really enjoyed this game. The core mechanic of the game where you roll up items is fun enough on its own but the environment of the game adds the strange and silly aspect that makes it extremely fun. The graphics are very abstracted and cube like which makes everyday items funny looking and bright colors make it very cute even when you are rolling over small children and cats. One of the main factors that made this game fun for me was the addition of Japanese items and culture. The music is all Japanese Pop which is very upbeat and happy. When you pick up items they are listed in the bottom left hand corner and part of the fun is seeing all the mundane and wacky things you can pick up from socks to a samurai sword to an alien. The random and the everyday are all mixed together and kept me laughing the whole time.
    The only real character in the game is the King Of The Cosmos who is lovable in a very annoying kind of way. He is extremely bossy and says things that are non sequiter all the time but it is enjoyable because it is just part of the strangeness of the game. He frequently pops up when you are in a level to comment on your progress or an item that you just picked up and no matter how good of a job you think you did he always thinks that he could have done a better job. The humor of his comments gets old pretty fast but I guess that a part of his character is to be annoying.
    The game did get frustrating at times when the controls would not do what I wanted them to and I would get stuck or my katamari would fly off in an unwanted direction and have large pieces fly off. The minor annoyances from the controls did not hinder me from enjoying the game too much. After a while of playing my friends started watching and pointing at things to pick up that looked funny and yelling ‘look out’ whenever an animal would come after me. Katamari is really fun and exciting and my friends all wanted to give it a try after only watching for a few minutes.

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    Entries written to date: 11
      Game Status / Read GameLog
    1BioShock (360)Finished playing
    2Eternal Sonata (360)Playing
    3Katamari Damacy (PS2)Finished playing
    4Mass Effect (360)Playing
    5Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)Finished playing


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