lunedì 27 aprile 2009

Games that Deserve Sequels 4: Final fantasy Tactics

[my eternal frustration, and yet another square title]

I've been bitching about this subject for years, to the annoyance of my close friends. In fact its probably the reason behind this blog. Final fantasy tactics is a srpg for the psx that is nothing like its successors ffta and ffta2 for the gba and ds respectively fyi.
the original fft told a dark story of class struggle, the ties of family, honor, and deceptiveness of religious belief. Final fatasy tactics advanced noticeably started off with a snowball fight outside of an elementary school, see the difference?
let me say that final fantasy tactics was not perfect, but the team that made ogre battle made fft as good as strategy rpgs would ever get before Nippon Ichi Software came around. FFT also notably invented the squaresoft universe of Ivalice, where Vagrant Story, ffta, ffxii, and ffta2 also took place (although whether or not a continuity exists is a matter of heated nerd debates).
They did refurbish fft for the psp, which i never played. They added the main character from ffta2 (which debuted months afterward) and balthier from ffxii. I was satisfied with cloud (ff7 also came out after the original fft, maybe they thought of this as some kind of trend). To the variety of class selection they added Onion Knight and Dark knight (the dark knight was available in the original only as a gameshark exploit).
These are the main issues i have with Final fantasy tactics' further iterations:
-Child geared themes (which made the battles seem less than epic, hard to be avoided on the ds)
-the addition of extra races, the numou, bangaa, and other nonsense. i don't have a problem with the races specifically, but the fact that they created a supremely shit-tastic job system that was uselessly convoluted and created jobs that were insignificantly different from one of a different race's job library made the process of creating a diverse and effective army an annoying one.
-the loss of 3d environments, no movable camera
-cant ride(except for moogle chocobo knights)/raise chocobos, or have monster party members
-wtf happened to the chemist?
-the law system is iffy, it makes the battles interesting sometimes, sometimes just irritating, many times has no effect on how i play, and other times just pisses me off because it doesn't effect the enemy for some reason.

These are mostly problems with the first ffta, the second one actually had some features that i liked:
-great music (the DS has amazing sound quality)
-no more random battles (also a feature of ffta)
-A constant and extremely large collection of side quests
-the auction system
-material collection/item creation (surprisingly addictive)
-saving during battles

for me, a good sequel would have to consider these decent additions by ffta/2, a more substantial and satisfying job system, and a return to the dark medieval atmosphere of the original, with murder, kidnapping, and zodiac demons in tow. Maybe the ivalice alliance could take this chance to solidify the ivalice universe's story (like why it turned into a never-ending story type book for some kid to find, or how all of these lizard people popped up)

feels great to get that out.

martedì 21 aprile 2009


While doing my secret finals studying technique of downloading a gba emulator along with the full library of pokemon titles, I came to an interesting realization; Why hasn't a pokemon MMO ever been conceived. I just find it odd, i mean the pokemon universe almost preassumed the massively multplaying genre, its a bunch of different characters each with their own unique team of up to 6 spherically imprisoned monsters, each team exhibiting different strategies to fulfill that goal of catchin'em all. It's kinda like .hack with all the npc's except it doesn't actually tell the story through a fake online server narrative.
To be honest I haven't reallly followed the titles past red and blue, i played sapphire a little, and was definitely intrigued with the day/night, seed planting, double teaming, dogshow type stuff that it came up with. It's very easy to imagine most of the npc's being replaced with other players. I'd play it, and i'd say the same goes with much of my 20 something peers.

sabato 18 aprile 2009

My Problem with Bethesda's Oblivion model

By oblivion model, i mean the style of sandbox gameplay and the graphics/physics engine that powered Oblivion and then Fallout3. These are two games that i played tirelessly, up to the point where i questioned the value of the time of my life lost to the game (not many games accomplish this level of profound thought). I don't have to say they were great, they have enough awards and reviews that explain that, but I'll still bitch about it.

I basically have 2 problems with the current model of this game creation, which as far as i know will be fixed upon the inevitable sequel to oblivion. These problems contribute to difficulty of immersion, and maybe more importantly for games like oblivion and Fallout3, the inability to destroy that glass wall of false reality by stepping beyond what you expect out of the game after hours spent trolling its landscape. I'm not taking into account what is actually possible in the software, but my demands are not too outlandish.

Problem no. 1, clone character models:
Simple, everybody has the same body and thats really annoying. There are basically 4 character models in Fallout3, Man, Woman, Boy, and Girl. All with different faces, hair, clothes and skin tone, but still, how about some fat people, or really thin people, or reaally muscley people, mutated people, maimed people, idk, variety would make characters more memorable when they should be and clinch that final level or reality needed for these games.

Problem no.2, Enemy scale:
There are crazy insect, goblin, orc, mutated bear, scary clawed things, that really speak to the imagination, but there are no 'real' flying monsters. The flying monsters just hover, its more like their on stilts than flying. What if an enemy that flew (and all the flying enemies sucked, bloatfly? imp?) actually flew around, changing their altitude, running away, or even got knocked down to the ground and forced to crawl about? I mean they had swimming enemies that i think accomplish this, sort of. This would make the already stellar in game physics seem that much more believable. There also weren't many enemies that scared you with their pure size (save the super mutant giant guys, and the queen ants). I mean, no dragons in oblivion? no dragons?

venerdì 17 aprile 2009

Related: Creative Uncut

This website is fantastic.

This guy collects Video game design artwork and keeps a large and ever growing database of his findings. I've been following the site for a few years, the layout has changed a few times (i was a bigger fan of its previous layout), but the updates have only been coming more frequently. Now its updated on a nearly daily basis. He even has an open door policy with sharing his collection (he doesn't even put hideous watermarks on them). What a nice guy.

Games that Deserve Sequels 3: The Bouncer

[another title where squaresoft attempted and failed at success outside of traditional rpg's]

there exists games that are so good that they spawn an amazing franchise that creates multitudes of sequels, each recreating their respective genres and changing the pace of the industry (mario, metal gear, zelda, resdient evil, etc). There are other games that are just good enough (or hold some niche) that they spawn rather soulless or uncreative sequels that don't do much but end up taking space in the discount bin 5 years later (tenchu, armored core, dynasty warriors, etc. [mind you that these are series that are very enjoyable to play, have large fan-bases, and may have great visuals and design, but each iteration doesn't change much]).

The bouncer is neither of these, it didn't generate enough profit or praise-worthy reviews to warrant a sequel, but it did attempt to improve upon its chosen genre, but thats where my complaints begin. Sequels are a chance to take a good game, and deepen it to create a great game. Bouncer had many features packed in, including memorable and descriptive character design in the spiky haired anime fashion by Tetsuya Nomura, slick visuals for the fairly infantile ps2[of course expected of square, but unlike square at the time it didn't have to rely soley on fmv's but it utilized in-game footage], great (if slightly cheesy) voice acting, and branching story paths that were somewhat compelling (i was a big fan of the loading screen flashback dialogue). It's downfall were shitty controls (which have been making or breaking games since the genesis of gaming [pun]), a very short (but replayable) single player, awkwardly music-less parts of the game, extra modes that were just not fun, and a swinging pendulum of difficulty that ranged from boring to gameover marathon.

Lets not forget though, this was a BRAWLER (aka beat'em up), a genre that never ever gets a solid, profitable game, at least not since the days of streets of rage (which spawned 2 sequels). Notice the trend of these revered titles?; Final fight, the arcade version of alien vs. predator, Teenage mutant ninja turtles (the arcade game and turtles through time), Die hard arcade (a personal fave), the X-men (legendary for 6 person multiplay). All Arcade titles, aka living in a generation that no longer exists because it wasn't makin' cake, despite the fond quarter-filled memories. I would say that these games died to give rise to another genre that doesn't evolve much; slash'em ups, like dynasty warriors, which replace the sense of accomplishment gained by a successful series of strikes on some thugs on a linear path with killing hordes of enemies in a few swings of a spear/other pointy object in a large arena like setting (i did like drakengard, just wish it was more engaging).
The Bouncer also had fun rpg elements which made you feel noticeably more powerful as your characters progressed, gaining more moves and building up stats (although your cpu teammates often stole your kills, wasting precious experience).
However, imagine if square had taken another stab at it, expanded the bouncer universe, got tighter controls, made more references to final fantasy (Like the cactuar on the back of the leather jacket, and the dogstreet logo featuring angelo from ff8 [imagine unlocking tifa as a playable character or lining some virtual hq with plush versions of tonberrie or moombas], square has the most fanboys of any developer, this would actually be a marketable move), give it a long single player campaign, utilize the amazing musical talent in the squareenix arsenal, mix up mini games between fighting levels that were more fun than walking around looking for a button on a train, had evenly designed difficulty/pacing, and idk include a demo for metal gear solid 2 (worked for ZOE). They would be embarking on the impossible, making a next gen brawler that manages to have a fanbase.

[sorry for all the parentheses]

giovedì 16 aprile 2009

Games that Deserve Sequels 2, Electric Bugaloo: Tenchu

a series that chaps my nuts, it's (as far as i know) the only ninja/stealth-action title that has had success in america, its really the only popular stealth title next to Metal gear that exists in the west, and thats a large shadow to live in, and also one that is slowly disappearing (considering mgs4 was purportedly the last in the series), so profit exists for a GOOD sequel. Maybe since it has no other competition except for the rather insurmountable metal gear, is the reason why it has come to suck so much ass.
It has SO much potential, but the series has managed to get worse with every iteration, now its just hokey, and following the trend of making games into shitty hollywood movies. It lost its vision, but unlike a blind shinobi that trades its vision for lightning fast fists, it just sucks. To be honest, this is one series where i wish they would just steal some key elements from other games (notably metal gear and assassins creed), add ninjas, INTELLIGENT AI, clever level design, and solid controls, and i don't see how you could fail. One thing they should focus on is combat mechanics, one big gripe i had with the games was that the stealth kills got old after seeing them over a million times [scratch that, seeing impossible amounts of blood spew out of an unsuspecting guards gaping noggin never really gets old]. Whenever they didn't work out it was nearly impossible to kill a guard in a satisfying way, and facing multiple guards the only option was to run away basically, not very ninja like either. Maybe the inclusion of multiple characters, and even something as simple/hokey but repeatedly fun; alternate costumes/weapons, maybe even a focus on horror. It might not be just me, but what if the horror that was raped and left to die by resident evil could be picked up by a ninja game, at least the elements of survival, suspense and fear for the mortality of yourself and your friendly characters (I guess the original onimusha had that...another series that turned into a steaming pile of action nonsense). Multiple endings, branching story path, could regain the honor lost amongst ninjas.
Hell, even poking some fun at the 80's early 90's ninja culture boom with some clever use of graphics and music could really work. They also have to get rid of the shitty/useless items, i swear i've played through whole games and only used like 3 or 4 out of the like 30 items they give you, then again metal gear solid 2/3/4 is also guilty of this, but at least those items have fun built into them.
Maybe a new series is in order, maybe taking the story from path of the assassin, an old amazing ninja manga. In the manga, the main character had a cat that told him the time by the size of its iris', maybe this could be a clever graphic of showing time left to complete a mission or you could even use the cat as a tool (mk.II style).
The more i think about elements from resident evil in a ninja game, the more i like it, like the status screen, what if going away and hiding wasn't just so you could wait around and not do shit until the completely unqualified guards just dismissed your reoccuring presence, and you could check a status screen, map, status of tools and found objects/puzzle pieces, scope out how many guards are in the area, set up traps, etc. I also think that timing should be more important, like time sensitive missions, maybe if the world was constant (sunlight, weather) it would force you to work to those advantages, maybe thats too much to think about, yea probably is.
A clever close combat system, utilizing context sensitive grapples and counters (stealing from cqc) but also incorporating unique close combat weapon techniques, could lead to players developing their own preferred method of stealth action, which could make interesting multiplayer modes. I also think that removing some of the Superhuman elements from the game could actually make it more fun. Like assassins creed, the freerunning takes ridiculous amounts of strength, speed, agility, what have you, but its believable and makes you feel much more bad ass than just jumping 20 feet in the air 'cuz your a ninja. some excercised realism could really work. Careful acrobatics could become really important, like diving into a particular window, escaping a burning building, jumping over a guard, maybe even landing silently should be a carefully controlled operation.
The idea of performing individual, relatively small moves, with precision (like landing silently, drawing a blade, throwing a shuriken), could be an important and fun aspect. Maybe training courses could break up the serious tension of the game, some mini games that let you show off your ninjaness, like mgs vr training or Kengo, except with crazy acrobatics included. Cool disguises should also be apart of many levels, and other ninja clans, imagine having to take out other ninjas, with guards about, except you can't let the guards discover you, that's challenging. Co-op play could be amazing (distractions, leg-ups, reavealing guards on your map, etc.)
Maybe the assassin's creed team will make the second sequel take place in fuedal japan (the first sequel is taking place in italy, and possibly the rest of europe) and i won't have to think about this anymore.