Hump Day Otaku News Report 08.27.03

Hey yo. I’m Lee. I write about games and stuff. Anyway, this week may be a quickie because I decided to slack off this weekend and I’m writing this early Tuesday morning. I’ve got a Persona review for you, as well as a super quick Castlevania: Symphony of the Night review and some tips. No anime this week, because like I said, I slacked off.

Not much to say about much else this week. Work is about the same, I’m over my illness, and I’ve just been playing game after game this weekend. I’ve got a vacation coming up in a couple of weeks, so hopefully I’ll have some chill out time there. Anyway, I can’t think of anything else to say, so let’s get it on!


Gaming News

Phantom Blowout (or Blow UP?)
Credit: GamesareFun and Penny Arcade
I spoke on this a little last week, but this time I’m gonna kick it up a notch. I’m gonna look at what some other people say and then give you what I think. I’m putting my journalistic integrity (*coughbullshitcough*) on the line here.

Anyway, last week, I went over the fact that the Phantom is basically just a hyped up computer. That much is clear. I mean, come on, it’s got freakin’ Windows XP in it. Anyway, it’s got people saying what’s the point? GAF didn’t seem to get it when they said that it was unclear what the storage medium was. Umm, 100GB hard drive, no disc drive, that means if your WinXP is hosed on your Phantom, that means sorry, you’re screwed. That’s the nice thing about having a game on CDs/DVDs; you don’t have a hard drive to lose. Also, it has been said that it’d be a bad idea to cater to broadband only. Well, if you want to download a 2-4 CD game on DIAL UP, you’re welcome to, but I for one know how long it takes to download a game of that size, and it takes a long ass time on broadband anyway.

Good old Tycho gets some news that I haven’t seen anywhere else. It could be all fake (the news I mean, in addition to the Phantom), but check it out HERE anyway. Basically, a guy writes in and says that he found the Infinium Labs office, and it’s a small room with a desk and telephone. He calls the place, and is able to get a call back like 22 days later and the person calling him gets all pissed when confronted with the fact that the place is a sham. That’s just summing it up. I’d read the whole thing to form an opinion. Anyway, some people claim to have seen a Phantom and know what it’s all about and stuff, but I won’t believe it until I see it.

The point is, regardless of whether or not this is fake, it comes down to one thing: will the Phantom sell? My guess is, ummm, no. Yea, some developers may be all for the idea of a secure transaction system that supposedly defeats piracy, but this is a CONSOLE they’re trying to sell here. And I’m sorry, $400 for a CONSOLE is retarded, especially since you can’t play DVDs on it. So again, Infinium Labs, if you are real and you’re serious about this thing, put me on the beta test and I’ll convince everyone else how good you are, if you are good. If you don’t, then I’ll keep reaming you, and saying stuff like “wow, this Phantom sucks just as bad as the movie with Billy Zane!” I don’t want to have to keep coming up with those every week, but I will.

Damn You SquareEnix and Your Mystery Titles!!!
Credit: GamesareFun
The guys at Japanese magazine V-Jump have announced that they will be announcing a brand new Square Enix title on September 20th. What’s up with these mystery titles?? They just get me all riled up! What rumors are going around this one? A new Star Ocean? Not likely, SO3 just came out not long ago, and wasn’t received so well because of the bugs. I think they’ll wait until the American release to see if they’ll make more. What else. Valkyrie Profile??? Excuse me, I need to change my undies..ok, that’s better. I would LOVE a Valkyrie sequel, and have been craving one for a while. This is more plausible since Tri Ace has had the opportunity to work on it after SO3 came out. The last one the suggested is? Vagrant Story!?!? Oh my God. Not again. I thought it took guys a while before they could do that again? Time for laundry. Errm, anyway, I personally LOVE Vagrant Story, and it’s still one of my favorite games EVER (along with Valkyrie, mind you) so I’d love to see a sequel to this one as well. But I’d say that the chances are higher that a Valkyrie sequel would happen first. Why? The timing is good for Tri Ace and I don’t know if the Square side still has the developers to make it. I guess ANY developers could make it, but would it be good? If it’s Tri Ace, probably. As everyone is aware, I’m losing my faith in Square, so who knows.

Disney Beats Square to the Punch
Credit: RPGFan
In a keynote address, a Disney exec has confirmed what everybody expected: Kingdom Hearts 2 is in production. What’s surprising here is that Square apparently wasn’t ready for the announcement, and the executive producer Tetsuya Nomura is keeping his yap shut until Tokyo Game Show. You could look at this news as both good and bad, because Disney is involved (bad) but there WILL be a sequel (good?). Why couldn’t they team with some cool anime company? THAT would be cool. Who knows though? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see which cameos they throw into this one. They’ll be hard pressed to top the coolness of throwing in Cloud and the TOTALLY badass Sephiroth fight, with One Winged Angel and all.

Can EA Ruin This Franchise More?
Credit: RPGFan
After Electronic Arts bought out Origin Studios, most people looked at it as the beginning of the end. Origin, makers of one of the greatest RPG series of all time, and one of my personal favorites (Ultima), as well as some of the greatest space flight titles (the Wing Commander series, and Privateer) has since gone on to create expansion after expansion for Ultima Online. Imagine my surprise when I saw that they were working on Ultima X! REJOICE! Wait, what the f*ck? MMORPG? Fuck that shit. I’m sorry, but they’re doing EXACTLY what Square did with FFXI; naming it so people will buy it. I love the Ultima world, and always have. But after Ultima VII Part 2, it has gone downhill drastically. Ultima 8 was too far off the beaten path. Ultima 9 was fraught with problems with speed (the best computer in the world STILL wasn’t good enough) and consistancy. And now this. What happened to becoming a god? I wanted that! And what about there becoming a new Avatar? This MMORPG shit is OVERDONE. I want a new Ultima that is SINGLEPLAYER. *sigh* Sometimes I think how great it is to be a gamer, and then I hear about this type of stuff and it pisses me off. I miss Garriott sooooo much!


New Game Releases
* Ship Date — 8/26/03
Soul Calibur II (PS2, XBox, GC), NFL Gameday 2004 (PS2), NCAA Gamebreaker 2004 (PS2), Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds (XBox), Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (PS2)

Ok, some of you may like the 989 Sports games this week, but I don’t. The only competition is between EA and Sega, as far as I’m concerned. And some of you may be all about Buffy, but I’m not. And I’m really not about the other option either, but hey, it’s the biggest release this month. With a different bonus character in each version, you’re pretty much screwed if you don’t get the GC version. Our resident Tekken fan Cory will probably go for the PS2 version, but if I were to buy one, I’d be allllll about Link. My bro may get it though, so I might play his. Oh, but there’s hope true believers! Disgaea is a cool looking game from none other than Atlus. I’m ALL about that!


Links to the Past

Thank God It’s Thursday News Report – Bryan Berg
Our own new “hitsman” is back with some quality stuff. He reveals a bug in Madden for the XBox, as well as talks about the Sony Network Adapter Bundle.

Retrograding – Alex Lucard
Alex gets emotional about SNK. I’ve always loved the Neo Geo and wished I could own one, and I would definitely buy a Dreamcast version of SNK vs. Capcom: Chaos, maybe even if it was only released in Japan! Also, check out his mailbag column. For the record, I’m not hardcore, but I do spend WAYYYYY too much time playing games, and I’m not afraid to admit it.

Gamer’s Hangover News Report – Cory Laflin
Week in and week out, Cory steps up to the plate. This week, he talks about one of the big things that has been stirring up all over 411mania the past couple of weeks, and he also shares something that many people wouldn’t want to touch. Cory, you are the type of Christian that I truly like to call a friend: the type that will be there when you need them, but don’t try to preach. Cory is a great, great man.

Eric S. is supposed to fill in for Bebito, but I don’t see his post up yet, but expect it anyway!

Cheat! – Alex Williams
Even if you don’t want to cheat, read it anyway. It’s a great, great read with a lot of fun.

The Angry Gamer – Liquidcross
LC is so right in this column. I love the GC controller, but playing a game like Tony Hawk is IMPOSSIBLE. How do people do it???

A Thumb to the Eye – Chuck Platt
Chuck names more good NES games than I could, and I honestly can’t think of that many games that I’d want to see remade, although I probably will kick myself in the ass later. Zelda perhaps? Metroid Zero Mission is coming, so that’s covered. All the original Dragon Quests perhaps.

The Gamers’ Conscience – Frederick Badlissi
I wish Fred would come around more often if he writes stuff like this. You never think about stuff like this, but when someone else talks about it, it makes perfect sense. Miyamoto is a big f*ckin’ druggie!!!

There are some reviews up, so check them out! I’m lazy! Sorry guys!


Otaku Old Skool Review
We have a full review, and then a quickie. You need to play these games.

Persona

Every few years, a game comes along that is very good, but few people hear about it. Maybe it’s because it was overshadowed by another game, or maybe it was just not released in a large number. Either way, Atlus has a tendency to produce (and localize, in some cases) top notch games that seem to be everything BUT mainstream. Just look at classics like Ogre Battle, Thousand Arms, Kartia, and Rhapsody. These are games that many of you may have not heard of, but needless to say, they are worth looking at. And Persona (and its sequel, Persona 2: Eternal Punishment) are no different. Overlooked by the masses (including myself, until a certain Alex Lucard pointed me to it), these games are very popular amongst hardcore RPG fantatics, and popular in Japan as well.

Story
The Persona series is somewhat of an offshoot of the ever popular Shin Megami Tensei series in Japan. With a setting of modern Japan, we see a group of school students playing a game called Persona, where they attempt to summon otherworldly beings called Persona to, umm, I don’t know. They never really say WHY they’d want to summon something potentially malevolent to their school, but you know how kids are. The group features probably every stereotype known to man. First off is Mark, the brotha (who for some reason wears a lame yellow hat and backpack) that carries around a battle axe and has mad graffitti skillz. Next is his arch-enemy, Nate, who is a stuck up, rich, nerdy guy. There’s also Brad, who appears to be a skater punk, and Yuki, who is the typical dependable, intelligent Asian. (Funny how in a Japanese school, most of the people ARE NOT Japanese! It’s almost like anime!) To finish it out, there’s Ellen, the pretty blonde snob type and Elana, the dumb blonde bimbo type. Oh, and how could I forget YOUR character, who is a red headed goth type lookin guy.

Anyway, during their little game, several of the students collapse and all have the same dream of a guy in a mask. Thinking little of it, they are told to go to the hospital by the school nurse. The trip will have another purpose, because the students’ friend Mary has been in the hospital for a while. When they get there, and visit Mary, she starts to have some problems, and goes into the ICU, and then all hell breaks loose. There is an earthquake, and suddenly, the hospital morphs into a completely different configuration, and you have to fight zombies and stuff in the halls. But you aren’t just regular students anymore. Now you have the help of the Personas, who did come to your aid and give your team strength and powers that they didn’t have before. Thus the adventure begins, and your group must find out why the town is overrun by demons and how to stop it.

Gameplay
This is where the game truly shines. First and foremost is the Persona system, which is actually very deep and complex. When you start battling, each character is equipped with one Persona. Over time, you can gain more, which I’ll get to in a bit. Each Persona has its own stats that augment your own, and they also have spells and skills that use SP (Skill Points) to utilize. As you use the spells more, then your Persona’s rank will increase, up to a level of 8. Your character also gains two types of experience: regular character points, which increase your levels, and Persona Points, which improve your P-Level, which determines how powerful of a Persona you can equip.

Random battles are fought in a unique amalgamation of strategy and traditional formats. You don’t actually move around a map or anything, but there is definite strategy elements present in battles. First of all, your characters (maximum of 5, good number) can be configured in a particular position, and if the enemy is too far away, you can’t attack them and they can’t attack you, unless it’s with magic. Everything has range, just like a strategy game. So if you’re too close, you can’t fire that bow. If you’re too far, your mop or rapier will not hit. If you’re too far, your machine gun won’t hit either. Yes, guns are in this game. Hell. Yea. And like any good strategy game, the experience you get is based on how much damage you do and how many enemies you kill. Also, healing spells give experience. TIP: For easy experience, give a character a Persona with a Cure All or Heal All spell. Likewise, if you have a mucho damage-kill all spell, use that for mad exp.

Movement is somewhat odd in all counts. When you’re in “safe” areas, you move around from a 3/4 Isometric view. This is somewhat unusual, because up is not up, it’s actually up and to the left. It plays like the old game for the NES called Solstice. Fortunately, these types of areas aren’t that frequent. More often, you will actually be going through a dungeon area, which is to say anyplace inside that isn’t a “safe” room. The navigation is all done from a first person 3D perspective, a la Phantasy Star. Don’t groan, it’s not as bad as you think. For one thing, the walls have textures and aren’t just…blah. Second, there is a nice minimap in the top right corner. And third and most important is the big map that will keep track of where you’ve been before, and also special places (save points, clinics, traps, etc). Great job here on what could have potentially been a deal breaker for me. Instead, it makes the exploration aspect a lot more fun. The other movement area is the “world map” which is actually a city map, where you navigate throughout streets to get to your destination. This is the least pleasing aspect of the game aesthetically, because you are basically a nondescript green figure that moves around the non-textured city. Occasionally, you can talk to people on the street. They show up as nondescript red figure. It feels like a real town though because you can only cross at crosswalks at intersections (no jaywalking for you!) and occasionally cars will drive by, so you have to wait to pass. But the realism ends there because you’re still a frickin cone or whatever moving around a bunch of blocks.

Battles have a unique aspect because in addition to fighting enemies, you can also speak with them and get various results. Each of your party members has 4 different things they can say, and depending on what you say, you can either make the enemy really angry or really happy. You can even scare them off. The best result is getting them interested in what you say so that they’ll give you something. What you really want is Spell Cards, which can be saved up and combined to form new Personas. But you can’t combine or equip Personas if your P-level isn’t high enough.

This is a really fun element in the game and makes any tedious part of the game (some really long dungeons, for example) more bearable, because not only do you level up, but so does your Persona. The strategy elements are very unique and fun, and everything is great about the gameplay.

Graphics
For one of the earlier PS1 games, this game has pretty good graphics. Of course, the 3D isn’t great, and the maps and dungeons aren’t great, but it’s still really good for the time. The enemies are all nicely designed, as are the characters

Sound
The music is splendid, of course, but not as good as the later Persona games, but then again, what would you expect? The footsteps when walking through corridors is pretty annoying, but despite that, everything else is good.

Fun Factor
The ability to collect cards and such is a lot of fun, but it’d be more fun if you could keep a list of which cards and Persona’s you’ve collected. Despite that, it is a blast to go to the Velvet Room and have Igor make you a new Persona. That guy is pretty scary though.

Story: 9
Gameplay: 9.5
Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 8
Fun Factor: 7

The 411: If you want something different, and haven’t played it yet, GET THIS GAME. It’s definitely different.

Overall: 8.5

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
If you haven’t played it, get it. The ultimate sidescrolling RPG title, and it basically created the genre. Graphics and Sound are splendid for a PS1 game. If you don’t have it, you need it. I said it’d be quick, right?

Castlevania: SOTN Tips
Here’s a bonus. Two ways to beat the main bosses, and some of the later bosses. First and foremost, the greatest weapon in the game: Crissaegram. It’s not the most powerful, but each button press swings three times, and you can press it a bunch of times and do a lot of damage fast. Get it from the Schmoo in the Reverse Library. The other trick involves the Alucard Shield and the Shield Rod. Press Square and Circle with those equipped to activate, then hold your shield out and watch the boss die in about 5 sec. No shitting you there.


New Anime Releases
* Release Date — 8/26/03
Haibane Renmei Vol. 1 w/ Box, Mahoromatic: Something More Beautiful Vol. 1, Those Who Hunt Elves 2 Vol. 1

These are the neccessities. One great new show, and two sequels. You want them, you need them, and I need money.


Sorry it got a bit rushed near the end, but it’s late and I’m tired. I’ll make it up to you, I promise. Seeya next week. This is the Bad Guy. Laters.