Hi folks! It’s been a while. There’s been some craziness in my life in the last few months: in the beginning of the year, I managed to find an amazing job as an editor! I feel unbelievably lucky to be doing something I enjoy and getting paid for it. I’m trying to get myself moved to a new city for said job in the near future, too, so there’s been plenty to do in that regard. Between that and my G.A.M.E.S. blog writing, my personal blog wound up falling by the wayside. Anyhoo, I don’t like it when I neglect the blog for so long, and I had some breathing room today, so I thought I should pop in to say I’m still here. I want to post more often now that things are settling down, though when the move starts, all bets are off.
You know you read the post title in Nanako’s voice.
Of course, you didn’t click through to read about why I’ve been gone. You wanted to hear that music I mentioned in the title, right? I’ve been playing the heck out of Persona 4 Golden every chance I can get, and I’m loving it so much. One major reason I like it is that I get to hear lots of Shoji Meguro’s awesome music.
When I fall in love with a game’s soundtrack, I tend to poke around YouTube to see if I can stream it. As I was looking for P4 music, I discovered that someone uploaded 8-bit remixes of several tracks from the game. Some of them, like this version of “Reach Out to the Truth” are pretty darned good. If you liked the 8-bit version of “I’ll Face Myself” that plays during the Void Quest boss fight (I don’t know for sure, but that version of the song might only be in P4G.), you’ll love this.
You can find the whole playlist here. I have no idea whether these are official mixes or not, but I’d love to track down the actual album if it exists. If it’s not an official remix album, I’d still like to find the original artist who did this arrangement, so either way, if you can shed any light on this, do leave a comment.
P.S. No spoilery comments on anything past the Secret Laboratory dungeon! I never played the original P4 on the PS2, so I’m going through this game for the first time.
I always get warm fuzzies when people do awesomely geeky things with hardware. Some brilliant people from Waterloo labs put an RFID tag inside a Koopa shell plushie, put a tag reader on a go-kart, and then rigged up the kart to react to the shell–thus creating Mario Kart in real life. This is, of course, a gross simplification of their system. If you want to learn more, check out their page on the project. Meanwhile, here’s a video showing the karts in action. They even had item boxes, and someone ran a traffic light like Lakitu.
In case you didn’t know, I have this constant, massive backlog of games that I need to play at pretty much all times. It’s a bit sad, but I’m making up for lots of lost time, so I often wind up putting off newer games so I can get through things from years past.
I did finish several new titles in 2012, but I also managed to clear out a significant chunk of my backlog. Here are some of the best games I played last year that I really should have gotten around to much sooner. Feel free to express your disbelief at how woefully behind I was.
Persona 3 Portable
I love JRPGs, but somehow, I didn’t get around to playing a Persona game until last year. Now that I’ve beaten Persona 3 Portable, I could seriously kick myself for not doing it sooner. I loved this one so much that I started a New Game+ the same night I finished it. P3P is definitely one of my favorite games ever at this point. I must like being sad or something.
If you have a PSP, it’s totally worth it to get P3P and play as the female main character. You can have social links with every party member, so you learn more about them. Also, Elizabeth’s brother, Theo, is awesome.
The World Ends With You
I figured I would like TWEWY when I started it, but I had no idea that I would fall so completely in love with it. This game has a great story, awesome character designs, a rockin’ soundtrack, and a fun, fast-paced battle system. Sure, fighting enemies on two screens and balancing your DS to use the stylus can take some getting used to, but it’s totally worth the hand cramps.
Psst. Squeenix! Can you stop it with the money-grubbing iOS games and just make a 3DS sequel to this? It’ll be like printing money, I promise.
9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors
999 was the first visual novel other than Hakuoki that I’d ever played, and now I’m hooked on the genre. It’s not a pure visual novel, but that’s fine: 999 has fun puzzles, and I love a good brain teaser. See my in-depth thoughts on the game here.
A word to anyone thinking of picking up the sequel, Virtue’s Last Reward: play 999 first, or some seriously awesome plot twists will go right over your head.
Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland
I suppose this wasn’t my first Atelier game; if you want to get technical, I did play Mana Khemia. I just never finished that one. Once I started Atelier Rorona, I got sucked into the story and couldn’t put it down. My only complaint is that I didn’t really like how much of an idiot Rorona could be sometimes. However, she and the rest of the characters were endearing, the alchemy system was entertaining, and there was a good variety of places to explore. Now I just have to play Totori and Meruru before Ayesha comes out in March…(Heh. Not happening. Maybe I can shoot for before the end of the year.)
Hmm. Looking at my list, I guess I really do play a lot of Japanese games. In any case, if you’re behind like me and haven’t played these yet, I’d highly recommend all of them.
What sorts of games are in your backlog? How easy is it for you to check things off of your list of games to play someday?
Update: You can find The GAMES Blog’s livestream at www.twitch.tv/thegamesblog! Come chat with us and help us stay sane as we play games for 24 hours to benefit CMN in our belated Extra Life marathon.
Extra Life is a 24-hour video game marathon to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network, and this weekend, The G.A.M.E.S. Blog is planning to participate. We’ll have a livestream setup and from the morning of Saturday, November 10, to the morning of Sunday, November 11, several members of the staff will be playing video games non-stop.
Our original plan was to host the marathon last month, but we had some hiccups along the way, and it got pushed back to now. If you’re interested in helping out, you can check out our team page and pledge money to one of the writers who are listed.
I’ll be helping run the chat when people stop by, so if you want to come and say hello, check this post on Saturday and stay tuned to my social media channels for a link to our livestream. The link will show up on The GAMES Blog’s Facebook page as well.
I bought my first two Pokemon games at a garage sale when I was in about sixth grade. I remember seeing someone selling off their Yellow and Silver cartridges for five bucks, including the strategy guide to Yellow. I knew about the cards, but I’d never played the games. So, I forked over some of my hard-earned allowance and proceeded to play the heck out of both.
Even though I enjoyed my Pokemon so much so long ago, the last couple of times a new game came out, I was on the fence about it. I worried that I would be bored with the series’ core gameplay and that no amount of shiny new additions would satisfy me. I gave in to Black/White version and wound up enjoying it, so when Black/White 2 came out, I just threw my hands in the air, bought the darned thing, and started playing…only to find myself utterly unable to stop. Sure, that grandma who was buying it for her grandson at the same time I was picking up a copy for myself looked at me a little funny, but I really don’t care. I still love Pokemon.
Seriously, how come none of the Pokemon profs have a full Pokedex yet? Whatever. I’m happy to help.
What is it about these games that can still keep me captivated for hours on end? I can’t chalk it all up to a compulsive desire to fill out my Pokedex; honestly, since I skipped Diamond/Pearl and the Gold/Silver remake, I haven’t ever been able to do that in the first place.
I guess part of it might be the story. Though the plots of Pokemon games are generally mediocre at best, I do usually want to know how the bad guys get done in at the end and watch the Team Whatever Grunts flail about when they lose to a kid. Maybe it’s the thrill of catching legendary creatures. It could also be the fun of starting a journey with cute little Pokemon and watching them grow with my character to become the very best like no one ever was.
Perhaps it’s just the catchy music?
I think for me, a large part of it really is nostalgia. I was pleased to find that B/W 2 had so many of the previous generations’ Pokemon available from the beginning of the game. Seriously, you have no idea how happy I was when I caught a Growlithe over by the second gym. Also, the fact that so much has stayed the same for so long probably helped me appreciate the new Pokemon, different music, new characters, etc., even more because I didn’t need to learn how to play. I could just think, “Holy crap, what the heck is this new Pokemon? It looks awesome!” and get on with catching it.
Of course, the upgrades are definitely nice. B/W was my first DS Pokemon game, so I loved seeing the improved box access and being able to trade online. Seriously, the GTS is wonderful. It has a few glaring usability issues that I’ll probably write about sometime, but since this is the first time I’ve ever had a chance in hell of filling up my Pokedex, I think I’ll still be playing B/W 2 off and on for a while once I’ve had a break from it.
Since I have a 3DS, I was also able to pick up Dream Radar, and I think that will also help keep me playing. You can use it several times a day to catch Pokemon, find useful items (Surely I’m not the only one that uses it to farm evolution stones…), and look like a crazy person while using the 3DS’ AR functionality to shoot fluffy clouds. Then, you can transfer your spoils to your B/W 2 cartridge, and voila! New stuff to play with in-game. Did you know that you can even plug in previous generation cartridges and catch those games’ mascots? I borrowed SoulSilver and Platinum from a friend to do that. Pretty nifty, right? I’m not-so-secretly hoping Dream Radar is actually a tech demo for how you’ll catch Pokemon in a full-blown 3DS entry in the series…but let’s save my hopes for the first 3DS generation for a future posting.
Yep. This is totally an accurate depiction of Dream Radar.
There are tons of social things you can do in Pokemon these days, too. I recently discovered the Pokemon Global Link website, and I’m hooked on it. Maybe I feel a bit childish playing those minigames to catch Pokemon, but I love that you can meet other trainers from the Dream World in your B/W 2 game. Join Avenue is a pretty gimmicky little time waster: you can run a shopping district populate it with trainers you meet online, through trades, or in person over IR. But hey, I actually have a lot of fun seeing them show up, so I figure I’ll try to put some effort into it.
Do you play Pokemon? If so, what’s your favorite thing about it? What would you like to see improved about the series in the future? Feel free to share your thoughts, Pokemon conspiracy theories, and random funny images in the comments.
If you’re looking for something inspiring to remind you that video games can be good for the world, take a look at this. There’s a class at the University of Michigan that has students develop games for use in therapy for autistic kids. Their goal is to provide these kids with simple games that will engage them and get them to do something active.
It’s such a great idea to have students working on projects that can actually be used in the real world to benefit others rather than having them just do abstract exercises that might teach them the concepts they need to know but have no context. It sounds like the kids these engineering students are making these games for are having fun, too.
Do you find this inspiring? I know I did. If you want more information apart from the YouTube video, check out the whole story here.
We went on a little road trip this past weekend, and I finally got a chance to play 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors during the ride. I must say, I was expecting it to be good, but I wasn’t expecting to like it quite as much as I do. I seriously played the game until my DS was about to die; I just couldn’t put it down. You could compare it to a good book: once you start, you just want to keep reading to find out how it ends. Now, I’m eagerly anticipating the sequel that comes out later this month.
In 999, you play as Junpei, a college student who wakes up on a sinking ship with no idea how he got there. It turns out that there are eight other people on board with similar stories, and they must work together to solve puzzles and escape death over the course of nine hours. There are nine numbered doors, and if they find the one with a “9″ on it, they can make their way to freedom.
The story does a brilliant job of keeping you in suspense, often teasing you with small details that add up to a bigger picture. If you want all of the information, though, you’re going to have to play through six different endings. Only one path that will lead you to the true ending, so you will have to pick your doors wisely. Of course, you could always do what I did, which is follow a helpful, spoiler-free guide to get to the endings you want to see.
The game’s intriguing, entrancing, and mind-bending story would be nothing without its colorful cast of characters, though. Each and every character has a distinct personality, and as you learn more about them, they become anything but flat. They don’t necessarily grow too much as people (Come on, they only have nine hours!), but they do develop relationships with each other and they definitely make you care about what happens to them.
The artwork in 999 is good as well. The characters are well designed, and the mysterious ship is very detailed. The only annoying thing is that sometimes the environments were so detailed it was easy to get lost in a couple of places or miss something that needed investigating, but I suppose that just contributes to the sense of immersion.
Speaking of immersion, the soundtrack does a great job of pulling you into the game without being overbearing. There is actually a lot of silence in 999, so when you do hear music, it really adds to the atmosphere and helps you tap into the sense of urgency that the characters are feeling.
Luckily, you never actually have to rush your way through any of the puzzles, even if the music makes you feel like your life depends on your next button press. Some of the rooms are pretty big and some of the puzzles can be frustrating, but since there isn’t actually a timer ticking down for you as the player, you can take all the time you need to figure things out. Thankfully, the puzzles usually are only annoying when you’ve somehow managed to miss exploring a part of the room you are trapped in. So, if you hit a stumbling block, just take some time to poke around some more with the stylus. Odds are, you’ll find just the item you need around a corner you didn’t realize you could investigate. Otherwise, the actual completion of the puzzles really isn’t that difficult.
Once you’ve beaten the game for the first time, you can go back and restart it with the memories of your previous playthrough. You’ll need to do this to get the true ending. It’s also really nice because after your first pass, you can skip all of the text you’ve seen before. If I have one complaint, it’s the fact that you can’t increase the text speed unless you are flying through story stuff you’ve read already. At least you can save at any time; this way, if you need to shut off the game, you aren’t stuck waiting until the end of a long text sequence.
One other thing worth mentioning is 999‘s mature rating. It definitely earns it with lots of swearing, tense situations, very detailed descriptions of some rather gory corpses, etc. This probably isn’t a DS game you’ll want your kid playing if you don’t want them picking up curse words and seeing huge blood splatters. If I’m honest, 999 really is a bit of a twisted game, though it does have a touching ending and a brilliant story.
The Good: Great story with great pacing + suspense, well-rounded characters, nice art, good music
The Bad: No speed increase option for text
Bottom Line?: Keep in mind the rating, but if you like a good story with well-done suspense and great characters (basically, if you aren’t out of your mind), go play 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors as soon as you can get your hands on it. Still not convinced? Here’s a trailer.