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 lard pirates dawt cawm  §  RPG Dual-Review: Radiant Historia and Tactics Ogre / by Spoony Spoonicus
 the waggoner  §  articles and general riff-raff exceeding your expectations of worthlessness.
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 ~Spoony Spoonicus on 10:21pm 10/07/11 (12:11pm 03/12/11) in 1h18m26s  §  2712 eyeballs
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There's been a rush of good RPGs this last month, as well as a few crappy ones nobody cares about (hi Hyperdimension Neptunia). Let's look at three of the good ones and one not-so-good one in depth.

Radiant Historia - A rare miss from Atlus. The game makes use of a "time travel" system that allows your character to rewind to previous key decisions and make a new choice in hopes of changing the future and steering events away from disaster for him - and ultimately the world. You'd think this would lead to a pretty interesting mechanic where you can see all the various potential futures from your lone decision, but not really - the only one that has a dictating choice is one you're given very early on, when you're given a choice of what unit to ally with. The rest of your choices will usually just lead you to a dead-end and a "bad" ending instead of any real divergence (often without even a still image to punctuate it - it literally just prints a paragraph of text and then rewinds time again for you). I like the idea of having to hop back and forth between the two differing timelines to learn skills, save characters or clear paths that will become important on the opposite timeline, but the problem with this just leads to having to sit through a lot of the same cutscenes and fight the same enemies again and again just to make your way past one key event. It's also not very compellingly presented, usually spelling out exactly what you need to do and leaving no mystery or puzzle-solving element to it. "Oh no, the fort is under attack by invisible bombers! You need the help of Character X who you met on the other path to stop them! Time to rewind!"

Another disappointing aspect comes in the presentation, which has little to no distinctness in its style. While everything is technically competent, none of it really stands out. The sprites are standard 2D-sprites-in-3D environments (with all of them looking like something you'd find on a free sprites resource), and the music and sound design fails to leave a lasting impression. I played for six hours and I can't recall a single song outside of the "battle won" jingle.

In short, Radiant Historia is a game with a lot of missed potential. It brings a unique idea in, but doesn't do a lot with it, it lacks any memorable characters, and it has almost no distinction in its aesthetic style - all things Atlus has done with flying colors in many of their recent games. Maybe this was just rushed out to get one last game in on the DS before the 3DS arrives; I don't know. But I can't recommend it over any of their other DS titles. Go for Etrian Odyssey, Devil Survivor or Strange Journey instead, they're all far more memorable and enjoyable experiences.


Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together

I never had much experience with Ogre Battle until recently, mostly due to the games being very rare (released in limited quantities) and prohibitively expensive as a result. But thanks to the advent of the Virtual Console and this rerelease, I can see that I was missing out on some pretty damn good stuff.

Tactics Ogre will feel familiar to anyone who played Final Fantasy Tactics, and this is no coincidence - much of the team that worked on that game first worked on Tactics Ogre, and numerous gameplay elements from TO made their way into that game. Others didn't, such as the branching plotlines, character loyalty system (characters may disobey commands or even leave entirely if they don't like your leader's actions) and having radical consequences for your character's choices (choosing to be "lawful", for example, can result in you being ordered to slaughter unarmed civilians under the guise of your enemies to rally others to your cause, while being "chaotic" causes you to be framed and hunted down for said action).

The PSP version of the game also introduces a few gameplay refinements, as well as a few features thrown in for convenience. First is the "Chariot" system, which allows battles to be rewound up to 50 turns - so if you make a mistake that causes the whole battle to go south, you can rewind a few turns and try again (a very useful feature in a game where battles can last upwards of half an hour apiece). Along the same lines, the "World" system allows the player to revisit key plot scenes and make new decisions to take the story down a different path, allowing them to see the various ways the story can unfold without having to begin a new game from scratch. It's also worth noting that the "chariot" system seems to have a safeguard built in to prevent "cheating" - if you miss an attack, you can't simply rewind a turn and try again until you get it - you'll continually miss or have your attack blocked unless you rewind several turns and take a completely new course of action.

In short, Tactics Ogre is a bigger, broader and more complex Final Fantasy Tactics, has a dark and convoluted storyline laden with excellent writing throughout, and features some of the best and most challenging tactical gameplay you're ever likely to find. I'd say more, but I think it's really a game you have to experience for yourself to fully appreciate. If you're at all a fan of strategy RPGs, just go out and pick this one up - once you're over the learning curve, you're in for a hell of a good time.

 rawks  §  rad comments, dogg.
 ~Spoony Spoonicus  §  at 11:05am 03/14/11
In a quite amazing tiwst from the last decade or so, Atlus' first offering of 2011 is mediocre while Square Enix's is awesome. Hey, never let it be said I don't give credit where it's due.
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