Now Playing – The Random Trophy Stuff Edition

I continue on my no longer so torrid tour of Mel B, but with the kids’ soccer I am only hitting one or two workouts a week.

While Mel B may not be the best Move implementation (there are a handful of exercises that will not register correctly with the camera + Move), Sports Champions seems to be really solid. After putting this one aside for a long time, I returned to it in order to get more Move satisfaction. Pretty decent game, enjoyable by the whole family; Trophies are a complete grind.

I finished up Sam and Max (episodes 4 and 5) this week. Mostly because they were sitting on my HDD waiting to be played, partially because I may let my PS+ subscription expire in a few months, sort of because the series is less stress and semi-entertaining. And I would be lying to you if I did not say the Trophies were an easy bonus. Sam and Max episodes 1 – 5 were free earlier this year for PS+ subscribers.

Pixiljunk Shooter – First one; highly addicting, fun shooter + puzzle combo. In this case I have to say that the Trophies add to the overall ‘experience’ – I could just blow through the game, but how would that be fun? I had to get some help for the ‘Coin Collector Trophy’ – for me it was much more luck than skill.

Not to digress too much, but I think Trophies are kind of like those collection JRPG games. You either are into them or you are not. When Trophies were first introduced, I could care less; however now I am card carrying Trophy whore. To me they add a little extra excitement, as in the case of Pixiljunk Shooter; these are actually fun to try to unlock. For other games, some of the Trophies are just meat grinders. These types I can pass on, and typically do.

Just got the Platinum Trophy for Madden 2011 this morning. Yes, I’m still playing the current (old) one. I have become a certified Trophy whore. I decided to ‘finish’ up the game before the new version is release on Tuesday. Technically Madden 2012 is already out for those that spent the extra cash on the EA Season Ticket crap; obviously I did not.

Speaking of those Trophies, the ‘Pick Up 6’ Trophy, which requires you to win a ‘Fight for the Fumble’ in the end zone was a major PITA. It was not going to happen for me during the course of normal games, and while I attempted some ‘cheats’ to make it easier, I just could not close off this final Trophy until I stumbled across this video. Using this technique it only took me two attempts to close off my third Platinum Trophy.

Looking Forward …
Georgia takes on Boise St. September 3 in the Georgia Dome, so I really need to jump back into NCAA Football 2012. It has been years since I was successful at getting some decent value for my money out of two football titles. With three kids plus work, I bet I am screwed.

I have several games on pre-order including the before mentioned Madden 12, F1 2011, FIFA 12, and the ICO Collection. September is awfully full.

I am also considering looking at WKC II, although I have no earthly idea why because I never got very far into WKC:I. I guess I got distracted doing the needful.

We will wrap up with Kung Fu Rider. I think this one will suck, although I hope to get a few hours of family fun out of it for my efforts.


White Knight Chronicles II

I gave up on White Knight Chronicles: International (WKC:I) a long time ago. To be honest, I forget why. Too many other games at the time? Got bored with the back story and the game mechanics? Something else? I really don’t remember …

Am I interested in the sequel? Sort of, but only because I am a semi-JRPG junkie. With that said, I can’t see purchasing White Knight Chronicles II (which interestingly enough includes WKC:I) until I actually finish WKC:I or at least make a concerted try to progress the story.

Trophy whores need not apply. If White Knight Chronicles II is anything like WKC:I, Trophies are few and far between and extremely time consuming.


White Knight Chronicles

I am surprised that selling ~275K copies of a game warrants a sequel; not complaining mind you, just thought it was interesting that White Knight Chronicles II is nearing a U.S. release.

The North American version will include a fully localized version of the Japanese game with additional on-disc quests that were originally released as downloadable quests in Japan in January 2011. In our North American version, players can start from White Knight Chronicles II without completing the original game — an important point, as the Japanese version requires players to clear White Knight Chronicles: International Edition in order to play the sequel.

It’s a good thing that gamers do not have to finish WKC:I in order to enjoy the sequel. I would be toast; never managed to complete the first title, but will probably look to waste a few dollars and hours on number two.


WKC 2 Includes Updated Original Plus Sequel

Sometimes I wonder why I read certain news with excitement. As is the case with this White Knights Chronicles 2 article that I found via N4G. The reality is that I really enjoyed playing WKC:I however I am nowhere near finishing it and I have not picked it up in weeks. Maybe this weekend …

As revealed earlier in the week, White Knight Chronicles 2 includes the original White Knight Chronicles in full. In an interview with 4gamer today, series director Toshiyuki Kusuda revealed that those without clear data from the original are going to be forced to play through the original’s story before starting up with the sequel.

If you do have a clear file, you’ll be presented with a choice of starting from the very beginning, complete with character creation, or continuing from the end of the first game. If you choose to start from the beginning, you’ll get to keep your items and such, but you’ll start back at level 1. This unfortunately also means that your character will be level 1 even when playing the online “live” mode. If you choose to start from the sequel’s starting point, your character will reset to below level 35.

Even if you did clear the original, you may want to replay it in the form that’s included with White Knight Chronicles 2. The game has been updated with the gameplay systems from the sequel. Kusuda feels that players of the original will be able to play it with a new feel thanks to the updates.

This story gives us several things to consider. First, having WKC 1 and 2 in the same package is a tremendous value. Second, those of us playing WKC:I basically paid $60 for the privilege of playing an unfinished game now instead of waiting for the sequel. Third, the developers have tried to make up for this and perceived gameplay flaws by allowing WKC 1 to be played again using improvements in WKC 2. Finally, I have not read that WKC 2 is confirmed for the U.S.

Let’s be honest, WKC is a nitche title with “cult classic” status. The mainstream press and most gamers could give a rat’s ass about WKC, so if you made it this far, there is a special place waiting for you one day in Gaming Nirvana.


WKC:I – Free Quests Aplenty!

Sony has announced that they are offering free WKC:I quests, plus those crazy kids are running a sweepstakes, which offers up some serious looking action figure.

Beginning this Thursday, March 11th, we’ll be offering up additional quests for free every week through the end of June! You read right, free. Just log into the PlayStation Network, start up your copy of White Knight Chronicles and you’ll see new quests pop up on the World Map. Each week we’ll be releasing a new permanent quest, as well as limited quests that will only be available for two weeks at a time.

I am nowhere near enough (currently GR2) to be able to enjoy any of these quests. Not sure if this is poking me in the eye, incentive for me to drop what I am doing and get on with the game, or a little of both. I really appreciate Sony’s support of WKC:I with the addition of free DLC quests.

WKC:I has not received critical acclaim, and it is sure to be lost in the shadow of several other soon to be major hits (cough … FFXIII, cough GOW:III … cough). WKC:I has fan favorite, cult classic written all over it. I hope Sony continues to support the game for a long time to come, because I know I will be lagging behind everyone else in terms of gameplay time and guild rankings.


White Knight Chronicles: International Update

As I have written on several occasions, when I actually have time to play, I am enjoying this JRPG, which features hybrid turn-based/pseudo real-time gameplay elements. It is certainly not for everyone, but I think it is a real gem.

Over the weekend I ordered the strategy guide, which is something I only rarely do for games that I really enjoy. I think the last guide I purchased was maybe FFX. Of course I will never be able to defend my position, much less convince non-JRPG fans that I only order guides to enhance my gaming experience.

I’ll comment on the guide later this week. My only initial comment is that I have already noticed some errors where the map/grid references are actually incorrect.

I other WKC news, according to PlayStationUniversity, Japan is getting some new DLC on Feb. 25. Hopefully new content works its way to the U.S. PSN servers.


A Long Race …

I have been posting and posting and posting, for a long time. Maybe too long; maybe not long enough. For better or worse, I have thrown up daily content for something akin to 7+ months, which is a pretty nice achievement, but I am going to have to end this run sooner or later. But not today.

I considered not posting today. It would have been a good day to end my streak because the 6 hour marathon called the 2010 Daytona 500 was rather draining. So it would have been easily excusable. The Daytona 500 had a great ending, so I figured I had to at least go down swinging. Congrats to Jamie McMurray.

Sunday Gaming
I got in some quality time with Out of the Park Baseball 10 (recently joined an online league), and of course continued my assault on the surprising good White Knight Chronicles: International.


Friday Night Gaming – WKC:I and Heavy Rain Demo Impressions

I started my Friday night gaming session thinking I was going to have a small dose of WKC:I followed by a quick game of Madden Ultimate Team, and maybe a fast-follower nightcap of Zen Pinball or HVB.

Because I pre-ordered Heavy Rain earlier in the day, I decided to download the demo. I figured I could get in some quality gaming action while the demo downloaded in the background. My experience with PSN downloads, unlike yours truly, is that you would not consider them speedy. Surprisingly I had the demo in under a couple of hours.

Thanks to being completely immersed in WKC:I and the Heavy Rain demo, Madden 10 and the others had to wait.

White Knight Chronicles: International
While I am not very far into the game’s story, I continue to enjoy it, exploring its depths. It is funny how much some of the reviews are docking the game for substandard graphics. I really wonder what everyone was expecting. I agree that the graphics are not the best ever, but the large, detail environments more make up for any shortfalls in the character models, animation, and other details that the pundits find lacking. I really think this view is ridiculous, but I think I am just going to back off of it for a while.

The slow-paced, turn-based combat system is another area where most reviewers have damned the game with piss poor review scores. Once again I have to ask what they were expecting. Zelda? Tekken? Give me a break.

I have not read the manual, and I have not looked at any guidebooks or online FAQs. I really have no idea if I taking my characters in the right direction with my skill, magic, and combat choices. The key for me is that I am having fun in the process; learning how to make new combat combinations is part of the experience. I think WKC:I will open up to a whole different level of RPG combat joy once I actually bother to read the manual, and master some of the skill and combo techniques. In other words, if I actually knew WTF I was doing, I bet I would be effective with WKC:I’s combat system, which begs the question. Who pissed in the reviewers’ Cheerios?

Last night I also attempted to do the online Georama thing for the first time. I did not spend much time in online other than poking around a little bit; it was getting late and the Heavy Rain demo was calling my name.

Getting online was not a simple process. After accepting an overbearing on-line agreement, that looks to be one that you have to accept each time you enter the online mode, I had to enter a new character name; for some reason my avatar’s name was unacceptable.

I am not sure what was wrong with Ming-Fu. Was this name already taken? Are special characters (i.e. a hyphen) not allowed? Does the game engine have some sort of filter that deemed my avatar’s name offensive and generally not acceptable? As my grandmother used to say – that was a hell of a note.

I attempted multiple combinations [Ming-Fu, MingFu, Fu-Ming, Meing-Fu, MeingFu, Fuu-Ming, etc] before finally giving up and going with jcalvert. The one and only; I’m so original. I am not sure what sort of consequences this will have on my offline silent partner avatar, Ming-Fu. Maybe he will have split personalities.

While WKC:I may not be for everyone, especially the pundits that are trashing the game, I implore JRPG fans to give it a spin because WKC:I is a very solid outing.

Heavy Rain – Demo. Spoiler Free Comments
If you are attempting to stay spoiler free, I will oblige to the best of my abilities, but be forewarned that based on the content of the game, it is almost impossible to not give away something.

There are enough reviews and critiques of the demo that I am debating on not going to go into a ton of details yet on the demo. Let’s stick with this approach for a few minutes and see where this takes us once we reach the end of my comments. I’ll stay away from the specifics of the story, at least as it unfolds in the demo; instead I’ll concentrate on Heavy Rain’s gameplay aspects.

It may be a sign of where I am in my gaming career, but I really have not read that much about Heavy Rain. I have seen it mentioned in print magazines, various sites, etc for a long time. Other than it being “the next great game” I did not have any expectations.

I started seeing more and more hype, complete with impressive review scores, which takes us right up to the point where I pre-ordered the game and downloaded the demo.

From the trailer it is obvious that this game is very dark, and will feature heavy content, especially for parents. In fact, I know enough details about some of the back-story that I may consider pulling the plug on my preorder. Call me sensitive to this sort of thing; you can read between the lines … you have been warned.

My first thoughts about the game: an immersive cinematic story-based experience. Dare I say an interactive Myst? I think I have seen this type of game before – being prompted for button presses and certain actions and controller movements is nothing revolutionary. In the case of Heavy Rain, these controls are integral to the game and overall experience. After one session with the demo, I am not sure if my initial thoughts are fair because Heavy Rain is about the experience. Immersive, deep, brooding; I think gamers will get lost in their gaming sessions, which is the point of a well designed game.

Think of Heavy Rain as an interactive R rated movie – violence that is appropriate to the story, very mature content that is pertinent to the overall journey. Of course Heavy Rain’s nudity is well documented, none of which is featured in the demo (at least I did not uncover any); however the demo does have some very suggestive sexual content. Once again, go elsewhere for spoilers.

I wrapped up the two chapters in the demo in about 30-40 minutes, so an obvious concern with the actual game will be replay factor. I have read that the game can be completed in 8-10 hours, but I am trying to stay away from spoilers so I am not sure if this includes a single play-through or if taking different actions and branches increases the overall length of the game.

Based on my 30 minutes with the demo, I believe that Heavy Rain will go down in history as a ground breaking, revolutionary gaming experience. Heavy Rain features high quality production values that broach topics that have never been covered in a video game. Heavy Rain will break taboos that will put it squarely in the arena of appropriate, tastefully done adult gaming content. Heavy Rain truly brings gaming into an adult arena; video games have grown up.

In spite of my trepidations about the main catalyst of the story, I am very much looking forward to the game, and am anxious to play the demo again. Of course I will have to wait until the kids go to bed due to the adult content.


WKC:I – Finally, A Reviewer Hits The Mark

I cannot remember how I stumbled upon this review last night; my dotage or the Ultra Amber tends to make me forgetful, but I digress. HookedGamers have put together a compelling White Knight Chronicles: International (WKC:I) review, awarding the game an 8.5/10. This is the first review I have seen that truly recognizes WKC:I for what it is and does not dissect the game for not being Final Fantasy or a Western style RPG.

For example, take WKC:I’s much beleaguered combat system. This reviewer actually gets it and is not afraid of taking the contrarian view.

The game is Final Fantasy-esque at heart, but strays from the negative aspects of that franchise. No longer will you be so rudely interrupted by a battle sequence, on a screen completely separate from that which you were just traveling. You will inherit the same turn-based rules, but the enemies are free-roaming and present on the map on which you travel, enabling you to fight and keep moving, not having to wait for the screen to change and a battle to begin. Once you realize that you are in a strict, turn-based system, but with a touch of freedom and convenience, you will begin to fall in love with the gameplay. It is everything that a turn-based RPG should and shouldn’t be, without straying too far from the family and becoming a complete real-time system, such as Dragon Age:Origins.

Beautifully said; gamers with short attention spans need not bother picking up WKC:I. Much like the majority of reviewers, they will be sorely disappointed. Now on to the all important visuals …

This is where the game becomes iffy, again. The environments are absolutely beautiful, as you would expect from just about any next-gen RPG, but the characters and animation leave a bit to be desired. This, however, is because of when the game was made. White Knight Chronicles is actually a port from Japan, where the original was released in late 2008. In order to truly appreciate the graphics for what they are, you have to take yourself back to that time. It is very well done, but by no means are the visuals in the upper-echelon of today’s newest releases. Given the time that the game was created, it is difficult to speak negatively of WKC’s visuals.

In other words, graphics whores will complain. WKC:I is not for connoisseurs of eye candy. I can understand that the majority of reviewers are critical of the game for its dated graphics, but as I have previously pointed out, it is disingenuous to say WKC:I features PS2 graphics. That is simply not the case.

I had to get this off my chest for a couple of reasons. First, I always enjoy a well written review. Second, I think WKC:I is being unfairly criticized. Is it possible that the majority of gamers do not really want freedom of choice? Be careful what we wish for because a day may come when the only RPG available is Final Fantasy and to me that would indeed be a sad state of affairs.


Daily Dose of WKC:I Bashing

The poor scores continue to roll in, but does the game really suck? Maybe I am blissfully ignorant since I have not spent 20+ hours in the single player game, experienced the typically cesspool of online gaming, and explored the joys and frustrations of Georama. Maybe that is why I do not get the 2.5/5 awarded by RPGamer.

The one area of the game where players can actually take full advantage of their avatar is in the game’s online questing mode … These online quests can be played with other players, but the whole process to do this is very disconnected. If players have friends at the ready to play, the process can be rather entertaining, very MMO-lite, as the team ventures around an area to complete a quest within a set amount of time. Players attempting to jump into others’ quests or those waiting for players to join them will find varying degrees of enjoyment. Sadly, out of the game’s fifty or so quests, most are just harder versions of the same quest, so the variety is quite limited. Online questing is a nice addition that I have trouble complaining about, considering it is not the sole focus of the game, but it is far from efficient.

I have no quarrel with the review – as is typical of RPGamer reviews, this one is well written and informative. The combat system is different; you spend a lot of time watching your combat charge meter to come full circle before you get to execute your attack. While it may not be your typical FF offering or Zelda based combat system, I don’t think it’s completely broken.

Maybe the game would rate higher if it included some nice boobies to entertain reviewers while waiting for their next opportunity to button mash. Maybe we can look forward to an innovative “watch T&A while you wait” combat system in WKC2.

I am probably not being fair, which is the reason I keep saying that I am really not very far along. If I had put in hours of watching and waiting, maybe I would also be sick of the combat system.

I’ll keep plugging along and providing a comment or two because this game will go in the discount bin, and most gamers will appreciate a contrarian view.


RPGing – One hour at a time …

My gaming time on weeknights is often pretty limited due to real life influences – work, family, you know the drill. I think I am a nut for trying to tackle White Knight Chronicles: International (WKC:I) in this manner. A week after the game was released I am sure there are plenty of folks finished with the game, or at least a good deal of the way completed, and of course they are making glorious online cities.

Not me. I am making my way through this one bit by precious bit. Last night I got in 45-60 minutes, but died right before the next save point, which probably cost me 20 minutes of in-game time. That is almost half an hour of my life that I will never get back. Oops!

I am enjoying WKC:I, but I have not really explored any of the deeper aspects of the combat (combos), skill system, guilds, or item enhancements. At some point I may actually read the manual to see what is what; doubt I will immediately jump into any forums looking for hits, cheats, guidebooks and the like. At least not year.

It has been a while since I have attempted to tackle an RPG, so when I ordered WKC:I I sort of ignored the fact that I have a couple of newer titles sitting on the shelf, FFXIII is looming, and that I never made a solid commitment to Oblivion. The good news is that I am having fun with WKC:I, and if I can continue to show steady progress playing the game a few hours a week, I may have a virtual RPG re-birth. In the past I never considered 30-60 minute RPGing sessions as a valid way to play these titles; times change.


WKC:I – Inside the Review Scores

I have been watching the first week of WKC:I review scores with interests. Universally the critics are panning the game; 63 metascore (11 critic reviews). Compare with an 8.5 user rating (84 user votes) and something is amiss.

Several things could be a play. First, the game could completely suck, but fanboys of JRPGs are defending the game. Second, most reviewers could care less about JRPGs; they are so “yesterday” which reflects in the attitude of some of the reviews with comments about PS2 graphics, outdated game mechanics, and a clumsy combat system. Finally, WKC:I has the distinction of not being FFXIII. If WKC:I was released six months ago, to some extent the first two points would still be valid, but the game would not have to overcome being released four weeks from FFXIII.

I have not played enough to form a real opinion other than the game does not seem terrible; it’s just too soon for me to tell. Because FFXIII looms, WKC:I will either hit the discount rack in a few weeks, and it has the potential to become a collectable, cult classic. Based on the early reviews, there is no way that this one will get a subsequent printing.

For me the real test will be to see if WKC:I can hold my attention long enough to continue to progress and comment on the game, or if it quickly falls by the wayside. I only have so much disposable free time, so a game has to be interesting, rewarding, and offer a steady progression on improvement (i.e. fair gameplay) for me to stick it out.


White Knight Chronicles International – Some Initial Comments

A lot of the reviews have slammed WKC:I as having PS2 graphics; I just don’t see it. Certainly WKC:I does not feature awe inspiring, revolutionary, drop dead gorgeous graphics, but graphics engine is a far cry from flat out sucking. Besides that, I do not think the detailed environments could be reproduced on the PS3.

With that said, some minor things bother me about the environment; you are sort of, kind of, on rails to a certain extent. See that creek and all the water? Invisible force fields keep you dry. Same as walking around a big hill; there is really no way to go up or fall off, you just have to go along a predetermined path or you are blocked by those nasty invisible force fields.

I am still trying to get use to the combat system. One thing I hate is that at times I cannot tell who or what is attacking me. I read that enemy combatants have an unfair range advantage. That may be true, and while I have not determined how much this can affect the gameplay, I hate not being able to easily see from which direction I am being attacked. This may just be inexperience with the game, but is worth watching as I progress with the game.

WKC:I is very much a JRPG – if you expect (or want) this, you will do fine, however if you are looking for an RPG with a more Western influence (say Oblivion), you are going to be sadly disappointed. Everything from the music – BTW, love the opening theme song – to the characters is JRPG. I just love randomly going into houses looking for chests to open. Not really, but it is part of the genera. At one point yesterday my wife was watching me play and ask something along these lines “What’s wrong with these people? They are all stuck up and will not bother to help you.” It was kind of funny, but such is life running around talking to everyone and looking under every little nook and cranny for some sort of prize.


Eclectic Night of Gaming – Featuring White Knight Chronicles International

Last night was a rather strange night for gaming. When I got hope I popped in White Knight Chronicles: International Edition, but I really did not have much time to spend with the game before supper. I created my avator – looks sort of like a freak Asian kung-fu fighter, so I named him Ming-Fu. That is actually the middle name on the papers of my Shih Tzu, but I digress.

I spent a few minutes watching the story unfold, exploring the city (I think it was called Balandor). This is a very JRPG type game – you know the drill; if you do not like JRPGs you need not try this one out. Early on I decided that I may as well use Leonard (starting character; looks like story will revolve around him) because Ming-Fu is irrelevant. He stands around, nodding his head, looking stupid, but I digress.

I stopped for supper, and jumped back into the game. After leaving the city I lost my third or fourth battle because I could not tell WTF was attacking me. I am sure that as I understand the battle system I can tell what is going on; I blamed it to distractions from my youngest son and turned off the game.

1942: Joint Strike
I jumped over to 1942: Joint Strike because sometimes I just need a rapid fire shooter. I only play this game occasionally; I chalk it up to my dotage – I just do not have the dexterity to dodge, duck, memorize patterns, all while pressing buttons. This is one PSN game I regret purchasing; not really worth $9.99. I never thought I would say this, but I would probably play more if the game included trophy support. Not that I am a trophy whore, but some incentive would be nice.

High Velocity Bowling (HVB)
For my night cap I pulled out HVB. It has been a while since I played this one, and interestingly enough, it is one of the few game I actually enjoy playing online. I played a few off-line games before calling it a night; really just practice to get re-acclimated before going trophy hunting today.  [OK, color me a trophy whore; I am just not very educated!]


Final Fantasy XIII – And A Whole Heaping Helping of Incoming Games

Speaking of not having enough time to play games, I just pre-ordered FFXIII from amazon, which has a nice $10 off a future video game purchase promotion.

Get a $10 Video Games Credit
Order Final Fantasy XIII and get $10 off a future video game purchase. The promotional code will be placed directly into your account within 2 business days after the product ships. Offer valid when shipped and sold by Promotion valid on all existing orders. Limit one per household. Amazon reserves the right to change or terminate this promotion at any time.

It is about to be a crazy-stupid time for videogames. Besides being loaded up on current games, an unbelievable amount of gaming goodness is headed my way over the next few weeks.

Upcoming – Preorder and “Watch List” Games:

  • White Knight Chronicles International (will arrive today)
  • MLB 10: The Show (March 2)
  • Heavy Rain (February 23) – Interesting title; will probably wait for a sale, price drop, or other buying incentive.
  • FFXIII (March 9)
  • God of War III (March 16) – I should really play God of War Collection before jumping on the GoW bandwagon.
  • 2010 FIFA World Cup (April 27) – Probably do not need this and FIFA 10.

Good grief! It looks like I am all set for gaming for a long time except for a new quality racer. Gran Turismo 5 Prologue just never did it for me. I guess F1: Championship Edition and Ferrari Challenge can hold me over until the next great racing title lands in my laps.