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Warhammer 40000 Space Marine Demo: These Boots Were Made for Facestomping August 25, 2011

Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Commentary, Video Games.
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Wow. It’s been what, almost a year since I last got off my ass and updated this thing? Damn. Sounds about right, I suppose. Blogging, as it turns out, is hard work. Particularly when one is trying to blog one’s way through a game.  Actually, that’s not entirely true. It would be more accurate to say that not blogging is disturbingly easy. This usually (for me, at least) manifests itself as a complete apathy toward taking notes as I play. It’s something I generally need to do—especially in longer play sessions—but it’s just so much easier to just not worry about it and play the game.

And that, ultimately, is what happened here. Not only did I totally slack on actually playing stuff, I didn’t take any notes or gather any thoughts on the things that I did play. The not doing any backlog-related stuff I can live with. I have other projects that won out for attention, so them’s the breaks. The lack of note-taking and writing about what I actually got around to playing is a bit harder to excuse. It pretty much boils down to “gee, if I don’t stop to write I can play more!” And that, in a nutshell, is more or less what happened.

I’m not going to post a big-ass update about everything I’ve been up to over the last ten months or so, but, as the post title already gave away, I am going to wax poetic about THQ’s Warhammer 40000 Space Marine demo. I played through both missions earlier this week and I can safely say the demo is awesome. There is an overpowering visceral thrill revolving around wading into a horde of Orks and delivering sweet, swift justice with a chainsword or a power axe. Admittedly the end result is not entirely accurate to the tabletop game, but meh. I can accept the trade when it involves STOMPING FACES in power armor. And there’s a jump pack. Which is also far too much fun.

The demo gives the player access to four ranged weapons (bolt pistol, bolter, sniper rifle, grenade launcher) and two melee weapons (chainsword and power axe). The full game will have even more weapons in addition to other Chapter skins. Gameplay is a straight up action shooter. There is no cover mechanic like in Gears of War—instead we’re back to the oldschool “stand behind stuff if you don’t want to get shot” method of not getting hit. Even better is killing everything that’s trying to kill you, which you can do either by shooting it in the face or by hacking it apart with a very fluid melee system.

While you’re shooting and stabbing and slashing things, you may want to mix in a few stun attacks. These stun enemies, allowing you to perform an execution. Executions are graphic and satisfying killing moves (and there are multiple animations), and restore a portion of your health for each one. You also have access to a fury mode. A gauge fills up as you mete out destruction, and once it fills you can press a key to fire off a mode wherein you regenerate lost health at a highly accelerated rate and do a whole lot more damage—at least, with melee attacks. In fury mode normal enemies die in one hit. I found no health packs or any such thing in the demo, and it appears that executions and fury mode are the only ways to regain health. Except when the game sometimes give health back between encounters. It should also be noted that you can still take damage in both execution animations and fury mode, and die as a result. So you can’t just go forth and mindlessly execute and fury everything in sight.

The jump pack, for which there is a short level in the demo, is just as much fun as everything else. It’s use is simple—press the space bar to trigger it, aim with your mouse, and click mouse 2 to do a very satisfying and brutal ground smash. This can be used to both gain extra horizontal distance from a jump and send packs of enemies flying. And you don’t have to gain a whole lot of air before you slam down, either; a simple hop will do. Hopping from one group of enemies to another seems to be a viable tactic, and any enemies that aren’t killed outright will be briefly stunned and set up for an execution. The jump pack level took away everything by my bolters and melee weapon; I don’t know if this will be par for the course, but it wasn’t much of an issue.

Graphically, Space Marine is quit pretty. It looks suitably dystopian for the crapsack universe of Warhammer 40000, though distant vistas don’t always have a whole lot of detail. Animations are fluid and really impart a sense of violence and power. And the sound—both voice acting and sound effects—get the job done. I don’t actually recall anything about the music, though that could be because I was too enthralled with the action to care, or because it’s entirely forgettable. I’m not honestly sure which.

Really, everyone who likes shooters owes it to themselves to check out this demo. It’s up on Steam, so there’s no excuse for not trying it. Additionally, I recorded playthroughs of the two demo levels with a running commentary. You can find them at my youtube channel:

http://www.youtube.com/user/EmeraldSuzaku.

I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do with this blog moving forward. I’m toying with the idea of recording some Let’s Plays in the future, and I think a blog as a counterpoint to the videos. Additionally, I still like writing about my experiences with various backlog-related things, and not all of that would work as well in a video—either because the content is just not suitable, or because I don’t have the means to record it.

That said, if I do decide to continue with the blogging, I may or may not continue on this blog. I am undecided if it would be better to relaunch on this blog or start fresh on an entirely new one. The fact that I’m not exactly swimming in followers would certainly make it a simple affair to pick up and move. And speaking of moving, I’m actually doing that myself over the course of the next few weeks, so whatever I end up doing won’t be happening until mid-September at the earliest. Though, it would be cool to have things sorted out by this thing’s two-year anniversary. We’ll see. There’s time.

 

Fallout – Part II: Now We’re Gonna Party Like It’s 2161 October 29, 2010

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I restarted with a new character—Samson Webb. His SPECIAL pool looks like 4-7-6-4-7-8-4. I picked the One Hander and Skilled bonuses, and tagged Small Guns, Energy Weapons, and Repair. I have no idea why I didn’t grab Speech. That was retarded. I may restart yet again to fix that….

This time I went straight to Shady Sands, and didn’t run into any random encounters. Chatted up Katrina and Seth again. Didn’t catch the thing about the raiders to the southeast, and the broken elevator in Vault 15 before. Good to know. Also got VATS working. Which is awesome.

I nabbed a Survival manual from a bookcase in the house just west of the town entrance. I knows wilderness survival! Woohoo! I also ran into Razlo and his wife, who appear to offer healing. But only during the daytime. They just want to rest on their feet at night. Weirdos.

Seeing as how Shady Sands has its own irrigation, maybe I should just pack everyone up and move them here instead of trekking across all creation looking for a water chip. Sure, the brahmin apparently stink, but meh. I’m sure the Vaulters aren’t exactly spring-fresh either. Especially without fresh water.

I had a conversation with Ian, and he filled me in more about the rad scorpions and the bandit groups that periodically raid the place. He was also kind enough to provide directions to the Hub and Junktown. Though, he wasn’t nice enough to join me without me having to cough up $100. I knew I should have taken speech.

Aradesh’s cook gave me some tasty eats, so I decided to help the bossman with his rad scorpion problem. I’m thinking the food was probably laced with something, since I didn’t even ask for a reward. Razlo wants some of their venom, though, so I might be able to get something useful out of him. I’d really like to pick up Ian if I’m going to be tangling with rad scorpions, but the stingy bastard wants cash I don’t have. Schmuck. That’s right up there with the outhouse I can’t use.

I ended up going after the rad scorpions alone. And promptly about crapped my jumpsuit when one wandered out from the cover of a wall to have at me. Turns out they can double attack, and it hurts. Poison doesn’t help, either. Luckily a few well-placed shots to its brain took care of it well enough for me to grab its tail and run. Sadly, it managed to make me blow a stimpack, and also poison me before I could take it down. Radscorpions: the gift that keeps on giving. Sidenote: missing multiple times on an 87% hit chance is silly.

I beat feet the hell out of the caves and went back to see Razlo. I gave him the tail, and he formulated an antidote. He wouldn’t cure my poison when asked, so he probably wanted me to use the thing he made. Which I didn’t want to do. He was also overcharging (in my opinon) for healing, so I spent a bit resting up to full health and wellness.

And that’s where we left it. There will be no mention of the time I accidentally bartered my spare knife away for free….

Fallout — Part I: The Vault-Dweller With No Name October 28, 2010

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Since I don’t have New Vegas, and the chances of me getting it in the next month are fairly slim, I decided to go back to the beginning. Not all the way back, since I also don’t have Wasteland, but back to the beginning of the Fallout series. Steam has a pack of Fallouts 1, 2, and Tactics for $19.99. Can’t go wrong with that!

After I snagged the pack, I quickly downloaded the first two games while I finished up Costume Quest. At under 600 MB each it went pretty quickly. Then I tried to run them, and the nightmare began. It turns out that Fallout 1 and 2 do not play well with Windows 7. This particular dislike was realized in a whole mess of rainbow-colored pixels everywhere—even in the FMVs. Tweaking the file compatibility settings didn’t do anything useful, so I was forced to turn to that ephemeral oracle in the sky, Doctor Google.

I ran across several “fixes” for this issue—anything from hacking the ddraw.ini file to running the game in the Windows XP virtual machine to launching the game with the desktop resolution window open. The ddraw.ini hacking actually did fix the rainbow corruption, but caused another issue: oozing artifacts all over the FMVs. So that was out. A bit more searching took me to No Mutants Allowed, which has a whole host of patches and fixes, official and otherwise. I snagged the unofficial 1.2 and 1.3 patches for Fallout 1, and the hi-res packs for Fallout 1 and Fallout 2.

The hi-res packs are awesome. Among other things, they implement a new submenu in the options screen that lets you set your resolution, and switch between 8-bit and 16-bit color mode. Toggling over to 16-bit fixed all the graphical issues I’d seen. I also played with resolutions. 1920×1080 (the same as my monitor) zoomed everything way out. While it was cool seeing more or less the entire map without having to really scroll, everything was a bit too small for my tastes. I dropped it back to 1280×720 and hit a nice medium of viewable map area and sprite size. I set Fallout 2 up the same way, with the same awesome results.

Once I finally got the game running to my satisfaction, I created a character. I am a man with no name. Not the awesome one played by Clint Eastwood, but the one generated by a retarded player who forgot to set a character name. I decided that I wanted to go with a gunslinger type of character, so I pumped points into Agility, Intelligence, and one or two other things that I forgot to write down. I tagged Small Guns, Energy Weapons, and Repair, and I nabbed the Small Frame and One Hander options. I’m still undecided as to whether or not I want to dump Small Frame for Bloody Mess. I might go remake the character, give him a proper name, and change that. It’s not like I got terribly far in the game, as will soon become apparent.

With my nameless character created, I began the game. I’m greeted by a large face with a large mouth telling me that the Vault needs a water control chip to ensure its survival. And somehow I am the only one who can retrieve it. I suspect the old dude is just jealous because he actually has a name. He is not a unique butterfly like me. Whatever the reason, he kicks me out of the vault into a cave where I’m surrounded by rats and bones. Bastard.

The first thing I did was crank the difficulty up for both game and battle. I haven’t played a Fallout game on anything higher than the normal difficulty before, so this should be interesting. I realize Fallout 1 can be a rather brutal game even on normal difficulty, but I’m on an adventure! Lower difficulties are for losers, and people with names, it seems.

Since this is an RPG, and I’m surrounded by rats, I did what any self-respecting adventurer would do. I slaughtered them all. I have decided that in this world, there is no PETA. Consequently, the shift in difficulty was immediately noticeable. The rats died much harder than they did on normal difficulty, and the bit a tad harder as well. I was using a knife the whole time (hey, I’m not about to waste precious ammo on rodents! Especially if they’re not even unusually-sized!), but I’m starting to wonder just how long my ammo will hold out once I start running into things I need to shoot. I did snag another knife and some other ammo off the skeleton by the vault entrance, though. I doubt he’ll be getting much use out of it.

After the Great Rat Hunt was complete, I made for the cave entrance and the world map. Yay, daylight! Now it’s time to hoof it to Vault 15. It can’t be that far, right? I did get into an encounter with a pair of mole rats along the way. They didn’t hurt terribly much—usually hitting for just 1-2 points of damage an attack—but they apparently have quite a few hit points. Apparently with unusual size comes unusual health pools. I kited them with my pistol for a bit, which kept one of them off me for a few rounds. Once they both caught up, I made judicious use of weapon swapping to shoot and stab them every round. Once the first one went down I noticed that the damage the pistol was doing wasn’t that much more than my knife, and I could stab more than I could shoot anyway (3AP as opposed to 5), so I stuck with knifing the bugger. He went the way of his buddy and life was grand. I do miss VATS. I thought I recalled it existing in F1, but I can’t get it to trigger. I’ll be trying that out more tonight.

My irradiated critter sacrifice complete, I continued my journey to Vault 15. I accidentally passed a town before I could stop the autotravel, but I ended up running into a group of fellow travelers who were going that way, and I just hitched a ride with them. It cost a day, but they were such nice chaps that I couldn’t refuse. A day later we arrived at Shady Sands.

I was immediately told to holster my weapons, so I did. I mean, with a name like Shady Sands, what sorts of trouble could I possibly run into? It sounds like a perfectly blissful retirement community. I chatted with the guards at the gate, who were quite welcoming. They keep pointing me in the direction of the village leader, which means I should probably go poke him. Katrina mentioned that Vault 15 was attacked. This may not bode terribly well for my quest. Oh, and I have the option of visiting the radscorpion caves. I am totally not doing that right now. I don’t like normal scorpions as it is; irradiated ones give me the willies. Not that I’m likely going to really have a choice. It is a quest, after all. And I am nothing if not a sucker for quests.

I talked to a few peasants wandering around, who basically told me to get lost. Crotchety old bags. Apparently this is not nearly as nice of a retirement community as I thought. Note to self: ship old dude from Vault 13 here when I get back. I’m sure he’ll fit right in. I wonder if they have Jell-O Fridays?

And that’s as far as I got. The technical issues ate up most of my evening, so I didn’t get a lot of time to play. I did try to pop into the Steam overlay to take the notes for this, but the overlay didn’t work. I’m not sure if the issue is with the game, or with Steam. I’ll have to do more checking. I did find the help screen, however (F1). That was totally accidental, though not unappreciated.

I’m sure the next entry will be chock full of old people, violence, irradiated wildlife, and me screaming like a girl. Not necessarily in that order.

Costume Quest – Part II: ROBOT PUMPKIN VAMPIRE FORCE, GO! October 28, 2010

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As I suspected, I finished up Costume Quest rather quickly last night. It took me 6 hours or a little less all told. The only thing of note after the Ferris wheel, other than the last hiding kid and vampire costume piece, was the corn maze. And that wasn’t difficult at all.  After a couple of costume shifts to get the “use every battle ability” trophy, I settled on the final grouping of Robot, Pumpkin, and Vampire. All three have some rather powerful hit-all attacks, and the Vampire also has healing. I gave that costume to Lucy along with the 2-Ply TP so that it was at the end of my battle order.

This combination of costumes was incredibly devastating against both normal encounters and Dorsilla. The normal enemy encounters couldn’t last three turns—once the hit-all attacks came out it was game over for them. It also made the Dorsilla battle fairly simple for much the same reason; she periodically summons two image/clones of herself to fight alongside her, and the big attacks are nice for getting rid of them quickly. And TP knocks her out of her charge up. I don’t have any idea what she was charging up, as I never let her get it off, but it was probably nasty.

Big Bones, on the other hand, could probably have used a different setup. I definitely could have used some of the HP regen stamps instead of the attack stamps I had equipped. And, while the heal-all of the vampire was nice, the Unicorn’s full-heal plus resurrect would also have been nice. Or I could have used the “resurrect self in one round with full health” stamp on someone. Not that it ultimately matters, as I did beat him the first time, but I only had one character conscious, and with 13 HP, at that. Admittedly, I did miss a couple of QTE defenses, though.

In all, Costume Quest was an amusing game. It was very Halloween-y. Sadly, I have done all there is to do, and the game has not given me a driving need to play through it again. It wasn’t a bad $14.99 spent, but I still would have been more comfortable with $9.99.

The next post will be about Fallout (the original), and be much more bloggy. I promise.

Costume Quest – Part I: We’re in Your Houses Stealing Your Candy October 27, 2010

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I broke down and picked up Costume Quest off of PSN last night. I figured I’d give Double Fine another chance, and I’d heard some decent things about it. I balked a bit at the price point ($14.99), but I went ahead and ponied up anyway. I’m still having a hard time with that decision.

Costume Quest is a whimsical little romp of an RPG. It’s Halloween and monsters are stealing all the candy. You play as one of a pair of siblings (the other gets kidnapped) on quest to get lots of candy, stop the monsters, get lots of candy, save your other half, and get lots of candy. It’s possible that candy should frontload that summary. Basically, what this all means is that you wander around the areas completing quests and getting new costumes on your quest to do the above. And get lots of candy.

The game has several ways of upgrading your characters. First, you collect costumes. Each costume can be equipped to a character, can increase the character’s attack and/or defense, and grants the character that costume’s signature ability—anything from healing to dropping large rocks from the sky on unsuspecting enemies. Some costumes also have an ability that can be used on the map, like the robot’s boost, which makes you move faster and lets you traverse ramps. To get a new costume you either have to find the pattern and three materials, or be given it outright. Most of the time you’ll be constructing

Then you have battle stamps. These are generally bought with candy or won from boss fights. Each character can have one stamp, and these grant things such as increased attack power, the ability to counterattack, area-of-effect attacks, and stun abilities. There are numerous stamps in the game, though I have found some to be of dubious usefulness.

Finally, your characters gain experience points through winning battles and completing quests. Characters do not level up individually. Instead, there is one XP bar, and when it fills, everyone levels up. So all of your characters will always be at the same level, and you don’t have to worry about trying to balance growth. This also means that winning a battle is all that matters—you don’t have to worry about how many characters are conscious at the end.

Costume Quest will have you spend a lot of time trick-or-treating door to door. Each area has a number of houses, and you have to hit all of them to progress to the next place. Each house will have either a person, who will give you candy, or a monster, which you’ll have to fight. The first area is the largest (so far), and the most tedious. The other areas are more compact and have a few less houses, making for a less annoying and meandering experience. I was getting rather annoyed with the game until I got past the first neighborhood and things started flowing better, in fact.

In addition to trick-or-treating, there are also sidequests you can do. Each area appears to have a hide-and-seek quest (find all the kids, get reward) and some trading car quests (get certain card, trade to kid for different, rare card). And that’s pretty much about it. There are other subquests unique to each area, but they tend to be part of the main story progression and so don’t really count as “sidequests” per se.

Oh and you cannot save the game outside of the auto-save. Which sucks. Hard.

But enough about that. What am I doing in the game right now? I’m plowing through nosty grubbins with my ninja, robot, and unicorn costumes. I like to think of them as NINJA ROBOT UNICORN TEAM! GO! Though, with as much healing as I’m not needing, I’m tempted to fire up NINJA ROBOT SPACEMAN TEAM! GO! Just for the spaceman’s special ability. Meteor dropping is always fun. Just ask Sephiroth. Or Char.

I ditched the Knight suit as soon as I snagged the Statue of Liberty costume. Which I put Everett in for the irony factor. He later became my unicorn for a while. Also solely for the amusement value. I’ve found the robot to be amazing and awesome, and something I still have in my party. Though I did discover that the DOT from Missile Barrage kicks a monster out of stun in time to let it attack, which is mildly annoying.

Two things I have found with combat. First, always have some support/healing. You never know when something messy is going to happen. And second, stun attacks are awesome. Slap the T.P. stamp on whoever is last in line (preferably the support character) and you can keep one or two enemies locked down for an entire fight. It makes things almost pathetically easy. But, hey, I have a TP-tossing Unicorn. So there.

I’m not having a problem with the “press button to bring pain” aspect of the battle system. The reaction windows are enormous, particularly compared to, oh, say, Legend of Dragoon. And, frankly, I’d be bored to tears if the battle system wasn’t at least a little interactive.

The game is humorous, and I do sometimes find myself chuckling at the goings on. I particularly loved the part with the French fry costume in Fall Valley. And that sizzling grease sound…YUM! Which reminds me. I still need to use that thing in battle for the special attack achievement trophy.

At the moment I’ve cleared up through the ferris wheel. I really should take notes as I play so as to make these posts a bit more interesting. The game is a fun time though, as I said, I’m not completely sold on the price point. I’ll have to see how it goes tonight. I’m not sure how much I have left, but I can’t imagine it’s very much. I expect that I’ll probably finish tonight and have a conclusion to post tomorrow.

Tsukihime – Part II: We’ve Got Your Psychotic Dysfunction Right Here! October 25, 2010

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So. Tsukihime is done. Completely. All the endings, and all those pesky CGs. Everything. And I’m tired. It was fun and amusing, and the characters kept getting more and more interesting as I went down more of their paths, but I’m rather glad it’s over. There are just so many scenes rehashing the same things over and over again, with just one or two small things that are different, and thus are not technically previously viewed. So the game doesn’t skip them. Even the same scenes in multiple paths get this treatment. Ick.

While it was fun unraveling all the mysteries, I have to say. The main character, Shiki, is pretty much an asshole. Everyone else at least had some interesting reasons for being crazy in the head, but Shiki is just a jerkass. But, hey, I guess when you have the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception, rape is love or something. And always remember, the only thing that matters is what you want. Never anyone else. Unless you don’t want to pilot the Eva. In which case, suck it up and do it anyway. And then bang the girl whether she wants you to or not. So, yeah. I pretty much liked all the characters except for Shiki. Even Yumizuka, which is a little hard for me to swallow.

As far as the story goes, it was pretty spiffy how the last couple of characters really wrapped everything up. They even filled in some stuff from the main story, even though they didn’t deal with any of those characters. Pretty cool. It was a very solid way to do multiple characters. In retrospect, I probably really shouldn’t have played through the whole thing like I did. It likely would have been better to space out playthroughs between other games, but meh. After Akiha I thought I would be able to knock out the rest of the game fairly quickly, which was totally not the case. Even though the last two paths technically had less scenes than the rest of the characters, they ended up being some really long scenes.

The only hang up I had was that after I had finished everything, I was still four CG images short of a full gallery. A couple of them were really quick to get, but I ended up stuck on one I was missing from Arcueid’s gallery (page 1, image 6). It turns out that it’s automatic on Arc’s path if one has near max affection at one point. Which I didn’t either when I went through it originally or when I went back poking all the options to try and get the last image. The weird thing about the CGs is that some of a character’s CGs show up in another character’s path, and it varies as to which character’s gallery they are placed in. Sometimes they end up with the character who’s path unlocked them, and sometimes they end up with the character depicted in the CG. Which is what made finding the stragglers interesting. At least it’s easy to tell if it’s an h-scene CG or not by where it is in the list.

Overall, Tsukihime was a good experience. I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to try out the visual novel genre. The story and characters were engaging, even if Shiki got on my nerves. As one delves deeper, it becomes more and more apparent that everyone is really messed up in their own special way before eventually wrapping it all up at the end. Which was really cool. Any game that can still give me wow moments after that much play time and story iteration (and revelation!) is pretty special in my book.

I had originally planned to move onto the stuff on the PLUS+ Disc and Kagetsu Tohya when I finished Tsukihime, but for now I need a crazy departure from visual novels in general. Even Atelier Annie is not looking very appetizing at the moment. I’m sure something will tickle my fancy at some point this week. Right now I’m trying very hard to not buy Fallout: New Vegas. And I’m pretty sure I’m failing miserably.

Tsukihime – Part I: Blood, Boobs, and Vampires October 22, 2010

Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Blog-along, Commentary, Video Games.
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As I mentioned in the last post, I’ve been spending a large chunk of time with Tsukihime lately. Partly because I’m enjoying the break from conventional games, and partly because it’s easy to play through while watching football. Oh, and it also has a decent story.

The plot is fairly straightforward—at least, initially. You take the role of the main character, Tohno Shiki, who is returning home for the first time in 8 years after being fostered by another family. The head of the Tohno family has died and named Shiki’s sister, Akiha, the successor. It is she who invited Shiki home. At the same time, there have been a series of nighttime attacks around town, and the media is talking about a “vampire killer.” Which is a mystery you’ll unravel as the game progresses. There are other secrets—every major character is hiding something, it seems—and those become clear as you progress through the different paths.

When I talk to people about Tsukihime, I usually get one of three responses:

  1. “Isn’t that a porn game?”
  2. “Didn’t that spawn Melty Blood or something?”
  3. “Tsuki-what? The hell is that?”

The answers to the first two are “sort of” and “yes” respectively. Tsukihime is an eroge (erotic game), but unlike most hentai games that is not the focus. In fact, the time spent with the hentai scenes is but a (very) small fraction of overall play time. With one exception on two of the routes, you only run into them in an interlude towards the end of the game.

Tsukihime tells a story on two different levels. First, and the most obvious, is the overall plot of the game. The first time you play through the game, you have no choice but to go through this. But just playing the game once will not answer all the questions the game raises—that’s where the character stories come in. As you play through the game, you are not only unraveling the larger plot, but you are also getting to better know the game’s main cast. The choices you make affect your affection level with the female cast, and dictate which path you take through game.

There are five main characters, each with their own path. These paths are further divided into the Near Side and Far Side routes. The Near Side route consists of Arcueid’s and Ciel’s stories, and must be completed once before the other three paths—those belonging to Akiha, Hisui, and Kohaku—become available. The Near Side route follows the game’s main plot, though each individual path provides different information on the characters, and grants a bit of a different perspective as to what’s going on. The Far Side route keeps things closer to home, and focuses on the Tohno family itself and the three girls at the mansion.

The writing is decent enough, even if it has nothing on actual novels, and the game definitely keeps an edge of suspense throughout. Much of this is dulled by the time you’re on your third playthrough, but even once you know what’s going on there is still an air of drama to the story, as there is seemingly always another mystery to unravel. And it is these mysteries that keep me coming back, even after I’ve seen the same bit of story from three other angles already. Until you’ve finished all the routes, there are still things to uncover.

Naturally, Tsukihime is designed to be played multiple times. To aid this, there is an option to auto-skip scenes that you have previously viewed. While this is an excellent option when you have to run through part of a path multiple times to get to a different branch, the game can be somewhat annoying as to what it views as the same scene. If you have a scene that takes place after a path split, but is in both paths, viewing one does not let you auto skip the other—even when the scene plays out the same way. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but this happens quite a bit over the course of the game. Luckily, there is also a fast forward key, as well as a key that displays an entire page of text at once.

When it comes to actually taking different branches, you do have the option of loading up a previous save and simply making a different choice. The game allows you to save anywhere, and has 20 save slots, so this is a viable option. And once you’ve cleared a scene, or gotten a particular ending, it stays recorded even if you reload to a previous point. So you don’t necessarily have to replay the entire game just for a minor branch.

This is good because there are a lot of branches within paths. Four of the five characters have two endings. Kohaku only has one. Which of a character’s endings you receive depends on the final choice you make on their route, so you can just reload that save after seeing one ending to see and get credit for the other as well. Arcueid requires you to have cleared the game once to get the choice to her “Good” ending, so if you’re doing her first, you’ll have to reload a couple choices back after getting her “True” ending. The rest of the characters do not have that requirement.

Thus far I’ve cleared Arcueid’s, Ciel’s, and Akiha’s paths. I’m currently working on Hisui’s. I did Arcueid first, and her True Ending appears to be the canon ending to the game—especially looking at Melty Blood. Her character development is probably the most natural in the game that I’ve seen so far, perhaps tied only by Ciel. But that’s probably only because Akiha’s felt a bit forced. I’ll have to see what happens with Hisui and Kohaku.

I will say that I have been quite happy with the way that the mysteries surrounding the characters have been set up and resolved, though—especially across paths. Ciel, for example, shows up in a bunch of paths. Like, all of them, as near as I can tell. I was introduced to her in Arcueid’s path, and there were some questions generated about her that were never answered. Then I pop on over to her path, and get the answers. And then I play through Akiha’s path and get a few more answers about Ciel. Which was pretty cool. It’s nice to continue learning about certain characters outside their own paths.

The one thing I did have an issue with was an inconsistency in character art for a particular (non-Ciel) character that shows up across multiple paths. The Near Side art is drawn one way, but the Far Side art gives the character a totally different look. It’s a bit awkward. There are also some odd continuity questions as to why certain things do or do not happen on certain paths, but those are relatively minor, and don’t really get too much in the way of getting into a character path.

All in all, Tsukihime is a decent game with a pretty good story. If you find yourself wanting to try out the visual novel genre, want to see what the heck is up with those crazy Melty Blood characters, or are just looking for a change of pace, check it out. Mirror Moon has translated the entire thing, and done a bang-up job on it. I highly recommend their excellent patch. Not only did they fully translate the game, but they also have an option to disable the erotic scenes, if those aren’t your thing. The game certainly stands on its own without them, so they’re entirely optional.

Now, back to affectionizing some maids….

The Return of the Lazy Backlogging Bum October 22, 2010

Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Anime, Blog-along, Video Games.
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So. Here we are. I am officially a lazy bum. What happened these last months, you ask? A couple of things. For one, I got distracted by a couple of non-backlog-related projects. And then when I did start playing again, I ended up spending all my time playing and not typing up blog posts. Bad, evil, naughty me.

But I’m back! For what it’s worth.

Let’s see…progress….

Dragon Age Origins is done. I started up a Nightmare game with a female human noble rogue, but am still in Ostagar on that. Haven’t touched the game in a while. I did play through the Return to Ostagar DLC on my mage, but I haven’t picked up the Awakenings DLC yet. I should probably do that at some point before DAO2 comes out.

I still have a few trophies to nab on Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, but that game is just about all done. I think I’m just down to a couple of challenge missions and finishing up the boost collection.

I think I’ve touched Demon’s Souls once since my last blog entry on it. It’s at the point where I pretty much need to start over, I think. Or at least replay some parts with my current character to get back into the swing of things. I did watch a speed run of it, though, and was rather amused.

Star Ocean: First Departure has likewise been on the back burner. Mostly because I got bored being so bloody powerful. I’ll probably restart it and refrain from being awesome at Art next time around.

I haven’t touched Metal Gear Solid or Valkyria Chronicles in forever, and I don’t even remember where I am in them anymore.

Okay, enough about how much I suck. I did manage to actually beat some games and finish some anime these last months, even though I didn’t mention it on here. The list of games I’ve taken care of in 2010 is currently thus (as best as I can recall):

SNES
Dragon Quest I
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest

PS2
Ar Tonelico : Melody of Elemia
Final Fantasy X International

PS3
Assassins Creed II (+ first DLC)

Bayonetta
Final Fantasy XIII
God of War (God of War Collection)
God of War II (God of War Collection)
God of War III
Heavy Rain
Resistance: Fall of Man
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

PC
Dragon Age: Origins (+DLC)

Mass Effect (+DLC)

Mass Effect 2 (+some DLC, but not Shadow Broker)
Plants vs. Zombies

Tsukihime
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War

PSP
God of War: Chains of Olympus

I think that’s fairly accurate. I’m still going through Tsukihime to finish off all the character routes, and I started up Atelier Annie. Oh, and Final Fantasy XI and XIV. Not that I’ve done much with either in recent weeks. And I started up Xenosaga again in an attempt to get through all three games.

As far as anime goes, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood and Gundam OO were my most memorable watches, and I very much enjoyed both. Black Lagoon was so-so. I’m slowly working through Golion, at like an episode per month. That is quite a slow series.

And I think that puts us back on track. The next update will likely be on Tsukihime later this afternoon. Like, as soon as I type it up. Which I’ll start doing after I post this. I also have a backlog-related project in the wings that I might start on next week. If that happens, I’ll be posting more details then.

For those (few) interested, my current video game backlog looks like this:

http://www.backloggery.com/suzaku

Sadly, it’s actually a tad bigger than that, though the sense of scale is about the same. I haven’t updated it as quickly as I’ve been pulling games from Steam sales >_>

Until next time (which I hope will be matter of minutes or hours, rather than months)!

Of Princesses and Dragons February 9, 2010

Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Commentary, Video Games.
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Yeah, it’s been a while. Sorry about that.

At any rate, I recently bought a Super Famicom and a bunch of games for it. I thought it fitting that I christen my new system with the first Dragon Quest game. I fired up the Dragon Quest I + II cart and realized that I hadn’t thought of a name for my hero yet. Looking around my eyes settled on my beer bottle. Inspiration struck and Ansel, descendant of the legendary hero Loto began his journey to glory.

I chatted with the king, looted the chests, and set out exploring the castle. There really wasn’t much to do, but I made sure to find the old guy who restores MP. He’ll come in handy later when I learn Hoimi. I bought some equipment at the town of Radatoom and proceeded to slay each and every slime I ran across for several levels. I made some money, bought some more equipment, moved up to Drackies and Ghosts, leveled up more, bought more equipment, then hit the cave with Loto’s grave. I had forgotten that there were no enemies there. Oh, well. It was less levels that I had to get later.

This being Dragon Quest, that was pretty much the entire game. I did manage to get through the entire thing without dying, which was cool. Exploring the world was fun, even having done it all before. There was a bit more exposition from the NPCs this time around, too. I’m not sure if that was new to the SFC version, or if there was just a ton lost in translation in the versions we got in English. Either way, the world felt more alive than in any of the other versions.

Three things struck me after I finished the game. First, the original DQ is in no way difficult by today’s standards. Yes, there’s grinding to be done, but as long as you have the best equipment at any given time, you don’t really have to worry too much. This is helped by thing number 2: all of the spells are useful. I used every spell in the game, and can safely say that, with the possible exception of Begira, I would not want to be without any of them. Sure, it’s a small spell list, but it’s a really useful one.

Third, and most interestingly, there are only three bosses in the entire game, and one of them is optional. You have the Dragon guarding the princess, which does show up as a normal enemy later on but gives boss-level XP and gold upon defeating it. Then there’s the Golem, but he’s actually entirely optional as you never actually have to go to Merkido for anything. And there’s the Dragonlord. Yes, there is that required battle with a Demon Knight if you want to get Loto’s Armor, but it’s a regular enemy with normal stats and normal rewards, so it doesn’t count. The game is really more about exploring the world than going from boss to boss. You go through the tunnel to get to the other side, not to defeat some big nasty. It’s an interesting concept, and not something that you really see too often anymore. I would wager that Dragon Quest has less bosses than any other game even remotely resembling an RPG.

I’ve had a general like for the Dragon Quest series for quite a while now, but going back through Dragon Quest I has kindled an appreciation for the games that I had previously not had. It’s short and sweet, but the ride is really, really fun.

Dragon Age: Origins – Part III: Keep on Rockin’ November 20, 2009

Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Blog-along, Video Games.
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Warning: Spoilers ahead.

I didn’t do too much more in Dragon Age over the last couple of evenings. I ended up getting sidetracked by some miniature painting videos. I did, however, knock out both DLC areas.

I started with Warden’s Keep, since that one so conveniently began in camp. After making my way through the mountains to Soldier’s Peak, I was greeted with lots and lots of demonic stuffs. Which I promptly made all fall down. The dungeon itself was fairly short and linear. I killed the several waves of stuff outside, then proceeded inside to mop up. There were a couple of NPCs to chat with inside the keep. The first, Sophia, wanted nothing more to go out into the world and in exchange would close the rift that kept pumping evil nasty things into the keep. The only problem with this plan was that Sophia herself was inhabited by one of the aforementioned demonic presences. So I splatted her. It turns out she had some nifty armor, which Alistair is now wearing.

Moving on, I found a jar of some blood-like substance on a table in a random room, and was offered the chance to drink it. Since it wasn’t technically being offered by strangers (there were none around), I did and was awarded two new abilities, both involving cutting myself. Now it’s like I’m a ghetto blood mage! Though, the ability to cut myself and get mana back alone is worthwhile, with the other ability allowing me to cut myself and hurt that enemy over there. So fairly nifty all around.

I ran across Avernus a few rooms on. It turns out he was the other person responsible for unleashing the bad juju into the keep. We had a pleasant conversation, sealed the portals, and I let him live. I also told him to keep pursuing his research, which rather peeved Wynne. Not that I noticed any appreciable drop in affection from her for that. He said he’d send for me when he made more discoveries, but I have no idea if that will actually happen or not.

Completing Soldier’s Peak unlocked a couple of fairly pointless shops, and the very much not pointless storage box. I really wish that the box would appear in camp, but I suppose I can keep coming back to the Peak periodically if I really have to.

Next up was the Stone Prisoner DLC. This was also rather short. I arrived in the village and had to kill a bunch of darkspawn. I found Shale doing his best imitation of a scarecrow, tried to wake him up, and failed miserably. You just can’t trust merchants these days, can you?

I found the one house that had a glowing door when I held the Tab key and went inside. There were, of course, more things to kill inside. What would a quest be without a constant stream of enemies, anyway? I fought my way to the basement (cellar?) where there were actually survivors. I chatted with the man whose house it was, and it turned out his daughter ran off. Of course she did. So I had to follow in her wake. I got to the end where she was entranced by a demonic cat. It reminded me of my college days, actually. Anyway, I wasn’t taking any of the demon’s crap, so it infested the girl and forced me to kill it. Well, damn. There was nothing to be done about it but go back to the guy in the cellar and tell him his daughter was dead. He gave me the correct phrase to awaken the golem in the center of town, which I did.

Shale was an interesting creature. Apparently the control rod didn’t work anymore. Amusing. But he agreed to come with me in any case. He’s currently sitting in camp unused. Which is probably a shame, but I’ve come this far with my groupies, so I may as well finish it off.

After finishing the DLC I decided to head to Orzammar. I didn’t get terribly far in, but I did get a girl permission to study with the Circle of Mages, caught a few Nugs, and told a guy that he couldn’t start a Chantry in Orzammar. I picked up a couple more quests, but haven’t started on them yet. When next I play I’ll probably see if I can gain entry to the two contenders’ houses in the Diamond district, then see what there is to be seen in Dust Town.

And in closing, an interesting note about Arcane Warriors. If there’s a piece of armor that gives bonus stamina and stamina generation, when an Arcane Warrior wears it replace the word “stamina” with “mana.” Cool, huh? When you find armor that gives +25 or +50 stamina…watch out! On a random note, my mage is wearing Superior Dragonbone Plate, Alistair is wearing the armor Sophia dropped, and the Juggernaut set is sitting in the storage chest at Soldier’s Peak.