Devoting Their Conference to Games: E3 and How Microsoft Decided They Wanted to Play

e3logoIt seems so long ago that I was attentively staring at my Twitch stream, praying that it wouldn’t go offline so I could see all of the tasty tidbits this year’s E3 had to offer. While I didn’t leave this year feeling like I had gotten a full plate, the main five developers—Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, Sony, and Nintendo, for those new to the scene—definitely served their audience a hefty appetizer. Here’s what I would go back for seconds of and what I’d scrape down the sink.

Continue reading

The Good, The Bad, and Then There’s Sony: An E3 Summary

Just as soon as it started, E3 has come to an end, leaving us with fantastical highs and long side-glances of apprehension. But what was good and what was bad? Certainly I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ll give my opinion on the games that I think should be watched with much interest.

Unfortunately, my fears about Microsoft and the Xbox One were not alleviated, but neither were they exacerbated. It seemed like there was a general sense of hopelessness about the whole conference, and really, not too much stuck out to me. At least nothing that made me want to buy the damned Xbox One. Though the controversies I brought up last time weren’t exactly mentioned, they were more than content to make some new ones. During a play demo of the upcoming re-vamp of Mortal Kombat, one of the female developers, who was losing the match (playing a fighting game on a touch pad against someone using an arcade stick isn’t exactly a fair playing field), was told to “just let it happen” because “it [would] be over soon”. Something I absolutely do not watch game expos for is rapey side-comments about women losing games. It was gross, and it was clear that the developer wasn’t having any fun—which, when people already don’t like your system, is not the best way to go. All around, Microsoft came off as extremely unsupportive of their female playerbase. No one is amused.

However, Microsoft did have a couple good games at their showing. The ones I’m most excited for are Sunset Overdrive, a Borderlands-esque shooter which takes place in Titanfalla futuristic setting that almost reminds me of Jet Set Radio, and Titanfall. People are already getting excited over Titanfall for two reasons: it’s developed by a sect of people that left the Call of Duty camp (people who were the good part of that camp, some would argue) so it’s clear they already know their way around the genre—and it stars a non-sexualized female in a position of power. Unfortunately, from the gameplay it doesn’t seem as though she will be a playable character, but I’m happy that she’s there, at least. In such a male-dominated genre, baby steps are definitely the safe method to integration, but we’ll see if it’s more than just a novelty in the coming years.

Continue reading

E3 Has Me Shivering With Antici……Pation

Those winds are blowing again, my friends. The winds of a new generation carrying with them the remnants of fanboy and fangirl tears alike as brave gamers prepare their wallets for the blow that they’ll inevitably receive. Tomorrow, once more the e3logodoors of E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, will metaphorically open to the public and we’ll see what these big name developers have been hiding up their sleeves.

Already this year things are a little bit different, and drama already arisen. First off, and most notable in my eyes, is that Nintendo isn’t going to be holding a conference in earnest. Certainly, they’re still going to have a presence with a Nintendo Direct panel—a more general panel encompassing more than just the new system—going on Tuesday and a panel dealing with the newest Pokémon games, X and Y, happening later on in the same day. However, I don’t know if it speaks more about Nintendo itself or its competitors that they don’t feel as though it would be worth it to hold a panel as normal.

If you’ve had your toes in the water of the gaming world at all in the past few weeks, you probably already know the other drama. Word’s out: no one is really overly impressed with the Xbox One. Especially with its lack of backwards compatibility, need to be hooked up to the internet more often than any gaming system, save for PC, should, and the seeming vendetta against used games and sharing games in general. The viral advertising against Microsoft concerning this, legitimate or not, hasn’t helped matters much either. Of course, words are cheap and for many, waiting until the One was shown at E3 would be Microsoft’s defining moment. However, it’s rumored that due to the widespread unfavorable opinion on the console (as well as an assumed inability to dispute said opinion) Microsoft has canceled their post-show media roundtable. As much as I’m side-eying the company right now, I sincerely hope that this isn’t true. Not only would this look poorly on the company and the system, it would also be confirming my worries that this system is not something worth investing in. And with titles like Banjo Kazooie: Grunty Land and Mirror’s Edge 2 tempting my spending, I’d really like there to be something redeeming about the One.

To the surprise of no one, I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for any news about Dragon Age III: Inquisition and The Last of Us, but more than that, I’ll be looking especially hard for how this new era of games is going to present their characters. Of course, there’s still going to be our Halo’s and other series that have long since overstayed their welcome, but with the current release of Remember Me—an action adventure game staring a (hopefully) un-sexualized female character—and even the past release of the new Tomb Raider, I maintain the hope that females will overcome their tropes and companies will create more and more diverse characters that do more than just look pretty. (Although other aspects of the industry are continuously still trying to ignore that half the gaming audience is, indeed, female, which is a little disheartening.) With games such as Bayonetta 2 being listed—despite there being no confirmation if the title will actually make it to the E3 showroom—I think this is a good sign for progress on that front. It’s impossible to know for sure, however.

For Once Can We Have Nice Things?

For Once Can We Have Nice Things?

If you’re interested in looking at the state of the union, so to speak, you can watch the IGN stream here or the YouTube stream here. E3 starts tomorrow, Monday the tenth, at 9AM PST (Noon EST), so to make sure you hit the video streams you want, make sure to check out the schedule. I’ll be liveblogging on my tumblr (tagged “E3pocalypse ’13), so feel free to drop me a message telling me your opinion, or simply leave me a comment here.

Legend of Legaia

Oh, how I love all the older games. Unfortunately, the graphics give my boyfriend a headache, thus I must stick to single-player RPGs. And to be honest, I kind of prefer it that way. I don’t get along well when there are other players. But pursuing through my collection the other day, I came across one game that I hadn’t played in forever: Legend of Legaia.

I have such fond memories of this game. I remember my older brother tricking my nine-year-old self into paying for half of it, with the hope that I wouldn’t like it so he could keep it for himself. The love we family members have for each other.

I also remember him being bored with it and getting annoyed that I actually really liked the game, despite what he initially hoped. Unfortunately for him, because it was half mine, I refused to let him sell it after he decided he didn’t want it anymore. And that’s why it’s been collecting dust underneath my bed for the past fourteen years. I guess he should have known that his nature-hating sister would love a game about saving trees so long as magic was involved. And so long as I could beat the shit out of monsters. Those tree-murdering bastards!

Anyway, Legend of Legaia first came out for the PlayStation in 1998, and it had okay ratings, but it was by no means a big hit. And most people I mention it to have never heard of it. In 2001, Prokion released the sequel, Legaia: Duel Saga. From what I can tell—as I’ve never played the sequel, nor do I really plan to—it has nothing to do with the first game. It also had okay reviews, but any connection it has to its predecessor seems to end at simply being based in the same world. From what I’ve gathered, the whole world/tree-saving fiasco impacts nothing in Duel Saga’s plot.

So Legend of Legaia takes place in a world called Legaia. The game begins by giving a brief introduction and history lesson on the world.

God created the heavens, the earth, and the seas. After creating all things in the universe, god created humans to rule over this world. Yet while possessing the wisdom of god, humans were physically weaker than the wild beasts, and impulsive in spirit. Many times did the humans come close to dying out forever. Concerned about the humans’ future, god gave them a mighty force with which to aid them.

It was the Seru.

Since the dawn of human memory, known as history, humans lived together with creatures known as the Seru. The Seru lived together with the humans, always obeying them, and making the humans many times stronger than before.

When not worn by a human, a Seru looks much like a stone figure. However…

Upon touching a human, a Seru changes form and gives that human secret abilities. With a Seru, a human can lift objects heavier than itself and even fly in the air at will.

However, that era came to an end.

Appearing from out of nowhere, the Mist covered the land, bringing to an end symbiosis between humans and Seru.

After the thick Mist came, the Seru, who were once obeyed humans, rebelled against them.

The Seru began attacking humans at will. Seru that attached themselves to humans controlled their minds and turned them into evil beasts.

As if forsaken by god, human civilization collapsed. It was the twilight of humanity.

Those who escaped the Mist inhabited desolate areas and protected each other. Now, their faint hope is their only source of inspiration.

Yeah, all of that could probably have been explained during the gameplay, and not shoved on us all at one. It also takes about two or three minutes for the game to even scroll all that along the screen. It’s pretty dull. I much rather prefer this opening sequence:

It’s after this that we’re introduced to our main character, Vahn. Vahn, who takes after characters like Link and doesn’t talk or have any sort of personality outside what you want him to have, lives in a tiny ocean town called Rim Elm, with high walls that keep the Mist at bay. I guess it’s a good thing the Mist apparently can’t travel over water, or they’d be screwed.

Oh, wait. It can.

Plot hole?

So we start off by going through Vahn’s daily routine—but wait, the hunters are back, and the one, the father of Vahn’s love interest who has no relevance outside the first ten minutes of gameplay, has been injured. He dies, everyone mourns, and life with the Mist is truly awful. Then, later that night, there’s ominous banging on the wall. Some giant Seru-like monster breaks it down, which allows the Mist and a bunch of other Seru and monsters to enter Rim Elm.

However, the Mist cannot seem to penetrate the town center where a giant dying tree sits. And though this tree seems capable of holding back the Mist, despite dying, none of the other dying trees can. Plot hole?

When Vahn touches the tree, he encounters Meta, who is a Ra-Seru, not to be confused with plain Seru. A Ra-Seru is a Seru that is immune to the Mist, and even though earlier we had hunters who could travel through the Mist, apparently that’s only possible if a person has a Ra-Seru attached to their arm. That might be another plot hole. Or maybe it’s just really hard to not get possessed by an evil Seru without a Ra-Seru. I’m not sure, because the game seems to flip on its stance here.

Anyway, the tree in the square is called a Genesis Tree, and with Meta’s power, Vahn is able to restore it to full health. The tree does some magic, and it pushes the Mist and the evil Seru away from Rim Elm. From there, Vahn is obligated to go out into the world and revive as many Genesis Trees as possible to save Legaia from the Mist.

Oh, and remember when our history lesson said this:

Upon touching a human, a Seru changes form and gives that human secret abilities. With a Seru, a human can lift objects heavier than itself and even fly in the air at will.

Don’t expect the ability to fly in this game. Or to lift heavy objects. The oh-so-secret abilities of having a Ra-Seru, secret in that everyone knows about them, is to save trees and absorb the magic from Seru controlled by the Mist. It’s also a nice free pass for not having to pay for letting rooms at certain inns. Meta at one point tells Vahn to kill as many Seru as possible to gain magic spells. So… in order to gain power, Vahn should murder all the creatures being controlled against their will to stop evil…?

Well, I personally don’t care. I just want the magic. You end up with a total of three characters that all have Ra-Seru, and they can all absorb magic. One thing I like about this game is that there isn’t some ridiculously large amount of Seru types, so it’s within reason to get all the characters every spell. What’s a bitch is leveling up all the spells for the different characters. They each have nine levels, which may not seem like a lot, but that requires using each spell about sixty some times for each character. And for an obsessive-compulsive person like me who has to level everything up to max, it takes a while. It doesn’t help that each spell takes about as long as the summons from Final Fantasy to be cast.

Our second main character is a girl named Noa. Her personality ranges between quirky and fun to Oh-God-Please-Make-Her-Shut-Up-Before-I-Shoot-Her-In-The-Face. Okay, she’s not that bad, and she has admittedly a lot more personality than Vahn, though that’s not hard. Furthermore, her relationship with her Ra-Seru, Terra, is much more in depth than Vahn’s with Meta. Noa’s backstory—she’s a princess. Opps! Spoilers!—is that she was abandoned as a baby near the Genesis Tree Terra resided in when the Mist first came. But at the time, she was too small for Terra to bond with. Thus Terra took over the body of a wolf and scurried Noah off into a cave protected from the mist, where she raised Noa as her daughter and trained her how to fight. Upon Noa’s meeting with Vahn, Terra uses the power of a Genesis Tree to transfer from the wolf to Noah.

Noa’s fun in a way that I don’t often see—or when I do see it, it’s not done well. Because of being raised by Terra away from any kind of human interaction, she doesn’t understand a lot of trivial things, like the fact that men grow mustaches. Like seriously, they have whiskers coming out their noses. Weird.

Gala, our other character, was raised in a monastery, where it’s taboo to have a Ra-Seru. On top of that, he also hates the Seru and Ra-Seru, though he reluctantly agrees to being bonded with Ozma, which gets him excommunicated. It takes him quite a while to come to terms with having a Ra-Seru and not thinking of Ozma as little more than a leech on his life. And though being a big tough, burly man, he is one of the kinder and gentler characters in the game. His childhood rival, Songi, also ends up with a Ra-Seru, but Songi’s is evil, and he then becomes one of the main antagonists throughout the rest of the game. One internet site I came across gave a character description for him that read something along the lines of this:

He will haunt you for the entire game.

I’m not going to lie though, this game is kind of hard. Unless you’re like me, and you have to spend time leveling up all your Seru magic the moment you get it and are thus about ten levels higher than you should be at any given time, some of the boss fights in this can be a real bitch. Bosses like Xain, a big minotaur-like creature, have been known to be so tough that players have given up.

On top of that, for someone who wants to get all the different magic for each character, you’re going to find that bit of a challenge too. Yeah, it’s not impossible, and it doesn’t take forever, but it is time consuming. Some Seru are easier to absorb than others. For instance, Vahn’s Ra-Seru, Meta, is fire based, so fire Seru are pretty easy to get. However, Ozma, Gala’s Ra-Seru, is lightning based, so water Seru can take a bit of time. Furthermore, Ozma takes longer to level up water Seru than it would lightning Seru.

That aside, the battle system is pretty good, and it has the original Japanese voice actors shouting things during fights. Though, unless you speak Japanese, what they say won’t make any sense outside grunts with syllables. Each character can either do magic, chose between four different physical moves, or something called Spirit each turn. Because this is a martial arts game, a player can pick how the characters fight and discover different combos. Some combos only take three moves, while others take eight or more, and they can be combined. The aforementioned Spirit move increases the combo bar, allowing the characters to do more moves. So it is a lot of fun.

Here’s someone fighting Xain:

Unfortunately, the graphics are lacking compared to today’s standards, but for a 1998 game, they were pretty good. They remind me a lot of Final Fantasy VII, actually. Both games did come out around the same time.

For the most part, yeah, the story can be a little cheesy, but it’s not like it beats its audience over the head with some self-righteous moral of saving plants like Avatar does. It’s just a pretty fun game with an interesting concept. Of course, the beginning history lesson doesn’t really do much. I mean, God had some vested interest in humanity, and then I guess He stopped caring after the Mist made everything go to hell, because He’s never really mentioned again.

I’d definitely check this game out if you happen to have a PlayStation or a PS2 lying about. You’d still need a PS1 memory card. Most of my files are around somewhere between thirty to fifty hours long, so there is a fair amount of story and gameplay. Legend of Legaia kind of got swept under the rug of other games, and despite that fact that I see it referenced a lot, it’s still not that popular, which is a shame, because despite some of the faults I mentioned, they’re all forgivable. If any of you’ve played it, tell me what you think.