As we mentioned in the last piece, N+ is the name for both this 360 Live Arcade version of which I presently speak, and also an upcoming DS/PSP version. N is the original, flash game. The game is a classic 2D platformer in which your only controls are move and jump and your only goal is to complete the level in which you find yourself. The use of modern physics, however, gives the game a new feel: this is jumping of a whole different sort. Furthermore the sort of hijinks that happen if your ninja finds himself on the wrong end of his robot antagonists’ machinations – your flying limbs setting off chain reactions of bombs exploding, your legs collapsing if you fall too far – are so entertaining as to make you laugh when you die, offsetting the frustration you can feel when a game is this hard. But of course difficulty also makes you feel good when you clear a level, so the game generates a psychological win-win, whether you clear a level or die trying. So the fun of the game’s in jumps, deaths, in figuring out the puzzles that some levels represent and ultimately besting them.
The console adaptation is pure class, keeping the pixelated minimalism of the original, but optimizing it for the console. When you start a new level, you see the entire level displayed for you, waiting for you to press ‘a’ to start. When you do, the display zooms in closer to your ninja. It works perfectly, as without some kind of trick, the graphics would just be too small.
The controls are perfect. I almost always prefer analog, console control to computer key presses, and in general I prefer playing on my couch to sitting at my desk if only for carpal tunnel avoidance, so I may be biased. But I found it much quicker to get the hang of moving the ninja on N+ than with N. This doesn’t make it easy. No question, N+ is much, much easier in its learning curve than the flash original. But around episode 14 things get hard. There are a couple rough ones and then you hit 14-4 (which Mare and Reigan have jokingly apologized for on their blog). I may have tried this one 100 times. That I kept trying speaks to both the excellence of this game and the blight that is obsessive-compulsive disorder, but let’s skip that last one for now.
One thing that helped me on 14-4 was the replays. You can watch a replay of any level you do, but more importantly you can quickly see the leaderboards for any level, see the maniacs at the top of the ranks, and then watch their replays. And these are things of beauty, little ninjas clearing levels with motions so effortless they are like ballet haikus. And then you try it yourself, and you blow up.
The rest of the game’s features are like an added-value wishlist. There is a co-op mode, in which you can play dedicated co-op levels or the regular single-player campaign. There are online survival and speed vs. modes. There’s a level editor that has features I wish Halo 3’s forge had (I’m sure it’s a lot easier to implement a 2D level editor, but still).
Online competitive didn’t work so well for me the one time I tried, with the system repeatedly failing to find a match and waiting 15 seconds between attempts. Eventually I got in a race, but it was 7 maps long and then seemed to loop around and do all the same maps again. Two of the players in the race were far above everyone else’s skill level, so I lost interest around the third map and just wanted out. YMMV. On the other hand, local co-op is the tits. The dedicated co-op levels get too hard too quick and so aren’t that useful if you’re trying to introduce friends to the game, but the first few levels of the single player are easy enough to be great fun for everyone, even spectators. Again, great explosions.
I could have summed this shit up by saying that for the past two days, I’ve been imagining little ninjas scaling all the everyday objects I see around me. it’s one of those, that gets into your head and just rocks out. For 800 Microsoft Bones, you should let it into your head, too.
The RPG edition. Toku, Nadine and D discuss Lost Odyssey; Sakaguchi and friends as the Woody Allen of role playing games; the different genres of RPG; Revenant Wings, Gladius, Fallout, Mass Effect and more. Enjoy!
Well, I’ve been out of Toronto for many a day and also without any of my worldy gaming possessions. So I’ve not touched the sexy, shiny four-disc adventure as of yet. It’s also a strict hardcore rpg. I fear those kinds of games.
Yet I want to play this one!
So, I borrowed it from my friend who works night shift and I just got back from waiting on a somewhat well-lit street corner of Toronto in the early am to pick it up. In freezing cold weather. See how much I’m giving to this game already? It not only owes me a back rub, but I better get some sweet addictive gameplay for my troubles.
I’m worried that I’m not smart enough to play the game. Or that I don’t have the gaming chops to pull it off. But I am going to try, hot damn, I am going to try.
So, after I sleep for a bit I’m going to start my day with a heaping bowl of rpg goodness.
I’m really going to try and hammer my way through this one. Blue Dragon was asking way too much of me…but I think I can handle this one.
Check this site out. It lets you create your own comics. So far I’ve only tried the character creator, but it’s extremely easy to use. I had Burpin’ Moses there in a couple minutes. Look out, Eyeless Max and other people saddled with the now-useless ability to draw! And congrats to Ba and pals for building a pretty incredible site and getting nominated for a SXSW Web Award.
UPDATE: OK, so it’s one of those in-beta, need-invite things. If you’re interested in taking a look, send me a message and your email via the contact form.
My new fave blog has a good writeup of last week’s GDC announcement from Microsoft, the xna Developer’s Club, which Redmond was positioning as ‘YouTube for games’. (Sure, if YouTube cost $100 and a computer science degree to join.) A little update on WiiWare, too. Neither is exactly revolutionary, but it’s a step in the right direction – opening the consoles up to indie developers just a little bit more.
Third, kind of on the topic, what do you guys think of the Terminator series? It’s on my mind as I watched a couple episodes today. I don’t think it’s Lost caliber let alone The Wire caliber, but I’m enjoying what they’re doing nonetheless. Hell, they namechecked the singularity! (also I just found that there was? is? an ARG going on based on it)
Fourth: there is a gaping hole in my giant robot knowledge base and its name is: Gundam. Let’s say I want to experience some of the magic. Where would I start?
Now we all know I dislike turned-based RPGs, and most other types of RPGs for that matter. I’m a run around kill-kill type person, which doesn’t always (but quite often…) lend itself to radically emotional and compelling musical scores. RPGs, however, tend to strike at the heart of your soul as you unleash magic and attacks in a maelstrom of visually stunning battles and cutscenes. Sometimes the music is so powerful it can actually make you play better. I don’t know if that’s happened to you, but it has to me. The reverse is also true, sometimes music can make you hate a game (Prince of Persia: Warrior Within I’m not just looking, I’m glaring at you).
Being able to create a type of music that not only enhances gameplay, but is craved for on its own is a great feat. Nobuo Uematsu has done this repeatedly. It wasn’t until my obsession with the Lost Odyssey trailer that I decided to dig a bit deeper into the history of the man. Because it is one thing to simply know which composer you are listening to and completely another to understand how they came to be an as individual. Gives the whole listening process a new dynamic, don’t you think?
Uematsu was born in 1959 in Kochi, Japan. He was not raised with musical training and only began to play the piano when he was twelve. Yet he still had no “formal” training and was self-taught. His biggest role model and inspiration at the time was Elton John. I find that so interesting because you wouldn’t think the most famous video game music producer of all time would cite Elton John, best known for rock and roll pop music, to be his main influence. Looking at Elton John’s music though you can see why it would be intriguing to a young, aspiring musician. Elton John was a piano prodigy at the age of four and could pick up any melody by ear and play it back perfectly. That kind of skill is enviable, but the fact that he went on to sell over 250 million albums and over 100 million singles is beyond wow.
Uematsu sought to emulate his hero, but he did not go to university for music and after graduating he composed jingles for tv commercials. Now in a bio this is normally where the info stops and you skip to his joining the Square Enix company in 1986, where he would go on to write the soundtrack for Final Fantasy, but let’s pause for a minute and discuss jingles. I find it fascinating that with no “formal” training he would look to short-form music for a career. A jingle has to be quick, must capture some sort of action or emotion, and the best jingles stick in your head forever. There are some jingles for commercials from the 50’s that I’ve never even seen and I know them. That’s actually creepy.
Uematsu honed his skills with jingles, giving him the ability to create short, but effective melodies. When he was finally recruited in 1986 he was able to take this skill and expand upon it. If you think about it, game music back then was a short collection of jingles. There simply wasn’t that much space to go around for music. So all the wee-bit games had certain themes that would repeat. Like super powerful gaming jingles! Many of which are still remembered as the best of all time, even with super symphonic ballads of today battling for new partitions of excellence in our minds.
It is of interest to note how limits often give us insight into powerful creation. Limit the resources and a creative mind can still produce. Oftentimes, the quality of production is better than that a lesser mind who has an abundance of resources to work with. One soulful ballad on a piano can overshadow a dozen raging violins with its tender and haunting singularness. Now, give a creative mind a piano, horns, violins and whatever else they can dream up and the results can be staggering.
On to the history making: Final Fantasy!
Here’s a nice refresher:
(Sometimes I almost hear The Neverending Story theme in there…where Atreyu meets the Child Like Empress…I know that’s weird…)
This theme in its many incarnations transports players back to that first time they took a journey into a world unlike any other before. A world which, according to the history of the name, was supposed to be a one and only for creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, who planned on retiring after the project. However, Final Fantasy was so popular it spawned an incredible number (28) of sequels and handheld spinoffs. Sakaguchi did not “retire” until 2001. Uematsu composed the music for the rest of the series including the handheld versions.
His complete list of game soundtracks (this does include his non-game related work, of which there is an abundance) goes something like this:
Genesis (1985) Cruise Chaser Blassty (1986) Alpha (1986) Suisho no Dragon (1986) King’s Knight special (1986) King’s Knight (1986) ALIENS (1987) Tobidase Daisakusen (1987) 3D World Runner (1987) Jumpin’ Jack (1987) Apple Town Monogatari (1987) Cleopatra no Mahou (1987) Freeway Star (1987) Square’s Tom Sawyer (1987) Rad Racer (1987) Final Fantasy (1987)
*Nakayama Miho no Tokitoki High School Hanjuku Eiyuu (NES) Final Fantasy II (1988) — Rescored for the WonderSwan Color and PlayStation versions (2000, 2002) Final Fantasy Legend (1989) Final Fantasy III (1990) Final Fantasy Legend II (1991) Final Fantasy IV (1991) Final Fantasy V (1992) Romancing SaGa 2 (1993) — With Kenji Ito Final Fantasy VI (1994) Chrono Trigger (1995) — With Yasunori Mitsuda and Noriko Matsueda DynamiTracer [1995) Front Mission: Gun Hazard (1996) — With Yasunori Mitsuda, Masashi Hamauzu, and Junya Nakano Final Fantasy VII (1997) Final Fantasy VIII (1999) Final Fantasy IX (2000) Final Fantasy X (2001) — With Masashi Hamauzu and Junya Nakano Ace Combat 4: Shattered Skies (2001) Hanjuku Eiyuu Tai 3D (2002) Final Fantasy XI (2002) — With Naoshi Mizuta and Kumi Tanioka Hanjuku Eiyuu 4 (2005) — With Kenichiro Fukui, Hirosato Noda, Tsuyoshi Sekito, Naoshi Mizuta, Kenichi Mikoshiba, Ai Yamashita, and Kenji Ito Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (2005) Final Fantasy XII (2006) — With Hitoshi Sakimoto Blue Dragon (2006) Lost Odyssey (2006) Cry On (2006) Super Smash Brothers Brawl (2007)
Sheet music for most of his music can be found here if you’re interested and musically inclined.
Uematsu won various awards for his music including 1999’s 14th Annual Japan Gold Disc Music AwardsSong of the Year for Western Music. This was a great feat for Uematsu and the first such win for music from a video game. Eastern audiences have always sought out game music moreso than Western, but having a song from a video game compete with the rest of the music industry, well, that’s kinda like when South Park’s “Blame Canada” was nominated for an Oscar. A crossing of established boundries is always a milestone worth remembering as exceptional.
In 2003 Uematsu formed The Black Mages, a musical group dedicated to transforming his previous music into new forms, mainly progressive metal styled rock. The idea for the band came in 2000 when Uematsu was treated to a special arrangement of his previous compositions by Square Enix employees Kenichiro Fukui and Tsuyoshi Sekito. The two had worked together on an expriemental musical project for the soundtrack of All Star Pro-Wrestling and changed some of Uematsu’s music to reflect a harder rock sound. Uematsu was delighted, his only concern being that fans of his music would not be able to enjoy hearing such arrangements.
Three years later The Black Mages released their first album of re-arranged battle themes from the Final Fantasy series entitled The Black Mages. This was followed in 2004 with The Black Mages II: The Skies Above, which featured a variety of song types and special guest vocalists. A third album, The Black Mages III: Darkness and Starlight, is expected to be released this year.
Uematsu not only promotes enthusiasm for his own work, but encourages creativity in others. Not many composers could stand by and watch others take their work to another level. He did the latter gleefully, and then took it even further by forming a band to promote this new style of his own music.
The Black Mages are hugely popular in Japan, as is Uematsu himself. When Lost Odyssey was announced Uematsu’s name was announced right along with it. For a RPG to make it, really make it, on the Xbox 360 they pulled out all the stops and wanted only the best of the best for that title. Uematsu is the best, forging ahead back in the 80’s before others had barely scratched the surface of gaming’s musical emotional depth. Nowadays, we have an abundance of amazing game soundtracks and composers who are specifically dedicated to the expansion of that musical arena. But you can’t move forward without looking back, even if it’s only to make sure you’re not going in circles.
Nobuo Uematsu is a great man, a kind man, and a happy man. His genuine love for his work and the world of gaming is a blessing to any one who hear his work while playing. I like that. I like knowing that the people who make what I love are just as enraptured as I am. That they are moved every day by the unstoppable will to create something I, and others, will enjoy. It’s a wonderful thing.
I look forward to seeing more attention to game music being paid in North America. With D pointing out recently that Ye Olden Hollywood wants a bigger in on the industry maybe we’re not too far off from a game theme song going up for an Oscar? I mean with such rapidly converging mediums and cultures we can’t rule it out completely, can we?
I played Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom recently. I use the full name out of a loathing of acronyms (MIB, FFVII – FFXIII, and others… who talks like that, really?) Part of the game involves killing monsters in order to gain various abilities. This is far from the first game I’ve played that employs similar traits. Something occurred to me; why am I doing this? I mean… why do I need to kill in order to learn abilities? What are they doing with the severed heads of my enemies? Making soup?
So why was there not a comic last week? several reasons…
a) I was on the Master Cleanse…
For those who don’t know, it means only consuming a mixture of water, maple syrup, lemon juice and cayenne for ten days. It’s meant to clean your system out of toxins so you can start a healthy diet. For the duration of the cleanse I didn’t want to make a comic… all I wanted to do was BAKE… alot…
b) I was in Ottawa at my Mom’s house…
she claims that the password to her network is “Gandalf” but spelled like “Gandolf”… she lies, it isn’t… and evidently no one on her street has unguarded wireless networks.
My final thought…
I’ve never played ANY of the Final Fantasy game… and now I really want to.
Yes, I’m worried about conventions. Good ol’ sci-fi fantasy geekery conventions. There’s too much damned melding and mashing together of every kind of fandom under one roof! A comic book convention can be linked with tv and film sure, but the tv and film linkage should be kept to a minimum. Table-top gaming, video gaming, and comics can all be together, but not with tv and film and anime, that’s too much! You are overloading me and I’m super ADD most of time on a good day!
I understand that people want to get bang for their buck, but when I go to conventions I don’t even see any Trekkers/Trekkies anymore and it makes me so sad! Forget looking through the dealers tables, there’s so much stuff you can barely find what you’re really looking for. It’s work to go to these big conventions. Work and tiring navigation through tightly woven rows of genre. There’s too many of them! It’s too much!
I know this opinion is not shared by all and many people like more, more, more. I just think that conventions can be about a few things and not about everything and still be successful. I dunno, there’s a difference between being a fan who is “open to everything” and accepting of “all genres” and being a person who willingly lets their geeky passions be mingled and mixed to the point of absolute dilution whilst handing over fistfuls of cash just to get into the the damned mega-expo-dome-of-doom for a single day of exposure.
Just because we are geeks doesn’t mean we have to be farmed by all the big companies. It used to be about getting together with like-minded people to talk about the hidden geekiness within. Now it’s about lining up for hours to get into a building where you can pay huge amounts of money to buy things to make your geeky world complete, sit in huge auditoriums listening to the latest hollywood tidbit (which is usually some starlet or star going on about how they didn’t read the comic but they love the fans and the history and this kind of story needs to be told again in today’s context), and let your tender mind be assaulted by flashing screens, blaring speakers, and free samples of the latest energy drink.
They see the videogame business as an opportunity for significant growth, especially compared to their more mature, traditional businesses such as television and movies. Box office revenue inched 4.0% higher last year, in large part because of ticket price increases, while home-video sales declined 3.2%, according to Adams Media Research. In contrast, videogames are the fastest growing sector of entertainment, with sales in the U.S. rising 34% last year to $8.64 billion, according to NPD Group Inc.
Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway and the wheelchair that walks up stairs, has been developing a prosthetic arm and the results so far are spectacular (or as Ramanan puts it, this is some crazy terminator shit). The arm is called “the Luke arm” and is inspired by Luke Skywalker’s bionic arm, which proves that truism about scifi, that it predicts the future not because it has magical powers, but because it inspires nerds who go on to invent crazy things that they saw in scifi.
I had read many things about this game before going in, many complaints. The loading times were out of control, some people said. Others mention the slow pace of battle, especially the opening animations. I think the loading times may be different on different 360s, but they were manageable on mine – about 5 seconds when entering a new area. They generally seemed milder than Mass Effect. And the opening battle animations were nothing you haven’t seen in Final Fantasy.
Come to think of it, “nothing you haven’t seen in Final Fantasy” could be this game’s tagline. Of course, it’s from FF series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi’s new studio Mistwalker, so we can expect some similarities. But in pretty much every respect, this is classic JRPG, in boths strengths and weakness, with no significant innovations or deviations from the formula established many years ago. You’ll ‘explore’ linear areas, looking for boxes of loot while encountering random monsters, which you will dispatch in a turn-based manner. You will level up your characters, learn new spells, build certain items, buy things from merchants, etc. You will see many a well-made cutscene. You will press ‘a’ to advance to the next line. There will be stoic, slightly effeminate protagonists, imaginative level and character design, and nary an orc or elf in sight. So your attitude towards Lost Odyssey will be determined by your attitude toward JRPGs in general. If you are sick of the conventions, you should skip this one. If you celebrate them and are happy to have some Japanese games on the 360 finally, you will want to check it out. If you’ve never played one, you’ll probably love it, as you won’t notice all the cliches.
These games live and die by their stories. My first JRPG was Final Fantasy VII, and it was a revelation. The setting, the characters, the music, the emotional power… It was a world unlike any I had seen, in videos or film, and I enjoyed it greatly (despite doing nothing but press a button to continue for the first three hours or so). When it comes to Lost Odyssey here, I’m not pretending to have played the entire game, so I’m not exactly qualified to pass judgment on the story, but what I’ve seen so far is generally favourable. I definitely want to continue playing to see what happens, and the idea of the “magic-industrial revolution” is an interesting one… I get the idea the magic-industrial power comes at a great cost, not sure why…
Besides some of the specificities of skill learning and item creation, here are a couple of the new things the game tries. First is the ‘aim ring’. Your melee-attacking characters can equip a ring with different characteristics (extra damage, fire damage, may inflict poison, etc.). Then, when your character attacks, a ring will appear around your target, and another will rapidly zoom down from the edges of the frame to superimpose itself over the other. The goal is to hold down the R trigger and release it when the two rings line up. If you do it right, you get a substantial damage bonus. If you mess up, it’s just regular damage. Obviously it’s a simple technique for adding a bit of twitch gaming to the turn-based combat, and I thought it worked. It would be good if it worked for spellcasters too, though.
The second innovation is a thing called “a thousand years of dreams”. You see, your main character Kaim is a thousand-year-old immortal. A side effect of immortality seems to be amnesia, as Kaim only remembers anything when some part of the game triggers the aforementioned dreams. They are abstract, text-based affairs – basically little stories rendered in conservatively animated text supported by abstract imagery, sound design and music. But they are quite well-written, and I enjoyed them.
On to the learning curve issues. [Spoilers a-comin’, but I dare say you want to hear this, as it won’t reaveal anything plot-oriented, and may help you replay a certain section interminably.]
The third boss in the game (if you count the machine in the opening scene as a boss) is a real bitch. His name is the Bogimoray, and he appears along with five ‘magic insects’. The magic insects have a weak physical attack, a substantial but rarely-used magic attack, and the ability to charge. The bogimoray, an enormous magical sandworm, can only ‘absorb’ the magic generated by the charging magic insects until his magic gauge is full, at which point he unleashes para-flare, an area attack that will deal a couple hundred points of damage and paralyze everyone.
Oh, and if you kill the magic insects, they reappear two turns later.
Oh and also – once you kill the worm, he immediately reappears and you get to fight him again. He’s the same, except he charges faster and he starts with a full magic gauge, so you better believe there’ll be a paralyzin’.
Here’s what’s wrong with all of this. First off, mastering this fight requires some deep knowledge of the game’s strategic intricacies, which the game itself does a poor job of telling you about. For example, immortals learn skills differently from regular dudes. The game explains this, mentioning how you can ‘skill link’ and learn skills from the regular dudes, who simply unlock new skills with experience. But it mentions only in passing the art of learning skills from objects. You can equip an object on your immortals, and after earning enough skill in combat, they learn the skill that the object imparted when equipped. For example, in this case what you need is the yellow band, which prevents paralysis. A regular mortal dude can equip it and reap the benefits, but he can never learn the skill. Your immortals, however, can unlock antiparalysis and then put it in a skill slot, meaning they can now resist paralysis without having the yellow band on.
You can see how that would take more than a sentence to explain, yeah?
So if you find the yellow band without knowing all these details, you are likely to equip it on one of your guys and think you’re set. Once the Bogimoray para-flares your ass though, only one party member will resist paralysis and will have to spend two turns curing his two teammates. By that point, you can be sure Bogimotherfucker will have charged up fully and will paralyze you suckers again.
Anyway, another problem with this Bogimoray affair is that it requires grinding. You find your first yellow band quite close to the actual encounter area, so in order to impart its powers to your two immortals, you have to initiate at least 10 random encounters – more than you would get en route to the encounter. So you have to roam about grinding to have a solid chance of beating this clown. Grinding, for me at least, is one of the JRPG conventions I could definitely live without.
Finally, it’s waaaaay too repetitive. Even if you beat the worm on the first go – which would already require repetitive grinding – you’re playing him twice. If you have to try him out multiple times, well you can do the math. I agree with IGN AU, it can take three hours to get by the Bog man.
You know what would have worked? Let’s just fight the thing once. Why twice? Was it not hard enough once? Give it more hit points, then. I fail to see how exposing players to something this challenging this early in the game is a good thing.
I nearly gave up, but ultimately decided I wanted to hear more of this story, so I decided to do some googling and learn how to beat this jerk. I’ve written up my formula for success™ in this article over here…
But back to the game. As a definite Final Fantasy fan, I’m enjoying it despite its near-tragic flaw with the bogimoray. One may hope for a few more innovations, or dropping a few of the more annoying conventions of the genre (grinding, random monsters), but you also have to appreciate it for what it is.
The bogimoray is a big ol’ magic worm who appears accompanied by five little magic insects. The boggerino can only attack you when he has a full magic gauge, which he can only fill when the magic insects in front of him ‘charge magic’ in that round. So in theory, if you can kill off all the magic bugs, he’s as useless as tits on a bogimoray. But of course, the bugs respawn – two rounds after you kill them, they’ll come popping back.
When he does attack, it’s a real shitstorm called ‘para-flare’ that will deal a ton of damage and paralyze everyone in your party – unless we take some precautions, that is.
The other thing is that once you kill him once, he’s baaaaack! But with a full, throbbing magic gauge, so you better believe he’ll be para-flaring your sorry ass right quick. And the second bogimoray charges up from his bugs much quicker, too.
Before you start
You need to do some prep work, homes. Most importantly, you need the yellow band. In the Sea of Baus, it’s in the area past the shipwreck, on the left hand side. Before you start on this thing, you need to equip the yellow band on each of your two immortals, then fight random monsters until each one learns the skill ‘anti-paralysis’ (20 SP each time). (Did you know they can learn skills from equipment? I sure as hell didn’t.) Anyway, once you’ve done your grinding and they’ve each learned that skill, equip it in each of their skill slots, then pass the yellow band to Jansen. Now all of your dudes are immune to paralysis.
You are going to want two bio or fire rings. One of each, or two of either kind. You also need the spell ‘aqua’ in your repertoire. If you don’t already have these ingredients, you’re going to want to sneak into the basement of the Grand Staff base and procure them from the dodgy gentlemen therein.
You know that area whose two guards won’t let you in? Talk to both guards, and then they’ll start walking around, letting you slip in there. You need to move the crates from either side so you can get to the ladder – start on the far side and pull the crate back, then talk with the guards again, then slip in the near side and push the other crate away, clearing yourself a path to the ladder. Once you’re in, you can purchase the spell ‘aqua’. You can also buy the ingredients you need to make fire rings: magma fragments (or something like that), three per ring. You could also use a couple pieces of equipment – the Knight’s Guard, which recharges GC whilst you defend, and the other one that recharges HP when you defend. There’s also a sword that’s better than the ones you have, probably. I bought it for Seth. Cause I like her.
It’s preferable to have your characters at level 17 or above, but probably not necessary.
The First Bogimoray
The general strategy here is to keep the magic insect population under control while having magic user Jansen attack the Bogimoray proper. To do so effectively, you will exploit each creature’s elemental weaknesses: fire attacks on the magic bugs, and water for Cap’n Bogster.
The insects have a magic attack called ‘force’ that crops up quite rarely, but does a great deal of damage (200HP or so). All the more reason to keep their numbers thin, but you don’t have to sweat it too much. If one of your guys is hurting, just keep to the strategy outlined here, but take a round for Jansen to heal your wounded party member.
On your first round, have Kaim and Seth target the first magic insect. With fire or bio rings, and if you get a perfect hit with the aim ring, and if you’re at level 17, you can take one out with one hit from either Kaim or Seth. If you don’t get perfect, don’t sweat it.
Have Jansen hit a different magic insect with flare. That will take it out in one shot. So you’ll take out two or three of the magic insects in the first round, preventing the Bogimoray from charging up too much.
On the second round, have Kaim and Seth continue to target the insects, but have Jansen hit the Bogimoray with aqua.
if you clear all the insects in that round or subsequent rounds, have Kaim and Seth attack the Bogimoray, too. If you really want to get all perfectionist, you can switch to an aqua ring in mid-battle by pressing ‘b’ at the action menu. Another good idea is to use any aqua bombs you have on hand.
The insects will respawn, so just have your melee masters clear ‘em out and if you need to, have Jansen flare them as well. In the off chance that the Bogimoray’s magic gauge gets nearly full, set all your characters to defend. But you can get through the first battle without that happening.
Hooray! He’s dead! Not so fast.
The Second Bogimoray
This dude starts with a full MP meter, so since he’ll be para-flaring right away no matter what, set all characters to defend.
Second round, have all characters clear out insects.
After that, do like before: K & S rock the insects and Jansen either attacks the worm with water, or zephyrs to heal everyone if they’re hurting. The worm will charge up faster, but you can do this without suffering another para-flare.
And that’s that! Once it’s over, use the little blue healing thing, as there’s no save point before you fight
The Small Army
Yeah, since double worms was too easy, huh? Thanks, Lost Odyssey.
But these guys aren’t too bad. Have Kaim and Seth cast shield on themselves. As for Jansen, one word: prism. This battle will probably last as long as it takes for Jansen to cast prism twice (four rounds). Kaim and Seth could more or less pick their ass cracks while this happened, but the best thing for them to do is stay on the defensive, defending where necessary to keep your GC up so that Jansen doesn’t get killed before he pops the spells off. If you feel like attacking, take out a couple front-line soldiers to reduce the enemy’s GC before attacking the pesky white magic guy.
The series started originally on the PS2 back in 2001. At the time I owned a first gen Xbox, and I was kinda a one system man. What can I say? I was loyal back then (aka cheap). DMC (as its commonly abbreviated) was one of the few games on the PS that actually had me considering switching sides. But thankfully, this year Capcom made that decision for me and released the fourth DMC for both Playstation 3 and the 360.
Despite new moves and weapons, Dante is not the center of attention this time around. The game’s lead character is another Devil-armed upstart named Nero. Nero is on a quest to find Dante, but he also uncovers many secrets about the other characters he thought were his allies.
People looking for strong connections to the previous DMCs may be disappointed here. It seems that opening the title to the 360 has encouraged Capcom to take things in a different direction.
It goes without saying that any title that makes a jump for previous systems to current gen is gonna look like a game from the gods, and DMC is no exception. The visuals are clean and the animation is pretty smooth – but all this stuff is to be expected. Where DMC 4 really takes it up a notch is in the fighting system. Starting off with Nero you get a pretty sweet set of offensive weapons: a gasoline powered sword called the Red Queen, a chargeable six shooter called the Blue Rose, and your trusty Devil arm. All the weapons are upgradeable and can be used to create a variety of combos that would make any fighting game fan green with envy.
If it’s possible to get tired of Nero’s abilities, you can switch characters to become DMC mainstay Dante. Dante still has his trusty sword Rebellion and his two sidearms Ebony & Ivory. This time around he also returns with a sawed off shotgun called Coyote-A, and over the course of his part of the game you gain a variety of new weapons that give the word ‘combo’ a new definition.
Devil May Cry 4 has four levels of difficulty and some power–ups that can’t be achieved even after the second play though (thanks to a sneaky raise in prices every time you buy something). So DMC definitely stakes it claim on replayability, which is good because after taking control of Dante the game seems like a rush to the finish. That’s one of my few problems with this game. It’s the gaming equivalent to a giant slide – climbing up the ladder as Nero only to slide back down quickly as Dante. I wished they had given you more time and different levels to play Dante. He has a lot more variety in his fighting style, but the time you spend with him seems inadequate.
My only other problem with this game is the music. Even classic role-playing games manage to switch up the battle music once in a while, but that is a rarity where DMC 4 is concerned. The game has a variety of enemies, but because of the constant repetition of the music it makes the battles themselves seem repetitive. I just hate it when little things can actually pull down the effectiveness of other aspects in a game.
As a whole, DMC 4 is a great addition not only to the series but also to the action genre. Team Ninja may still hold the title for action games with Ninja Gaiden, but it’s nice to see that an upstart named Nero has brought Devil May Cry 4 closer to challenging Gaiden’s supremacy.
If you were lucky enough to ever play Lode Runner, N and N+ will hit you with a warm rush of nostalgia. And then you’ll die, and your ninja body will splatter all over the place in entertaining ways. Like some old-school platformers, N is fearsomely hard; unlike those old-school games, the modern physics (more on that in the interview below) make your movements challenging yet thrlling, and your frequent deaths mightily entertaining.
N+ features new levels and a tweaked look for the console, but without losing the pixelated style of the original. It includes a level editor, too.
Here’s the trailer, although it looks like the footage is from the DS version.
We spoke to creators Mare Sheppard and Reigan Burns about the real-life inspiration for the game, the advantages of small teams, what it’s like being indie developers in Canada, and their next project.
AR: Let’s just start off with who you are and what is Metanet software.
Mare Sheppard: Metanet software is an indie company based in Toronto. It’s just the two of us. We divide it down the middle, we basically both do everything – programming, art, sound, whatever it takes. We have one game on PC and Mac, called N, and tonight we’re at the launch party for N+ which is going on Xbox Live Arcade.
Reigan Burns: February 20th!
MS: We might be biased but we think it’s amazing.
Angry Robot: Let’s talk about the inspiration for N and N+.
MR: Well, it all sort of started when we realized that one of our friends was actually a ninja. It was such a surprise to us that we knew it would be just as much a surprise to everyone else…
RB: We didn’t know he went out and..
MR: We had no idea what he did, so as we found out, we knew we had to tell this story. That was sort of the inspiration for N, was to get out to the world what the plight of the modern day ninja is really like, what it’s all about.
RB: People think ninjas are just feudal Japan, but the 21st century ninja has to content with robots when they go to collect the gold. It makes it so much harder, it’s changed their lives. It’s had a big impact. The tragic effects of modernization on the ninja. And so it’s sort of a public service thing – we wanted to get the word out.
AR: They’re out of work, they need to find jobs?
RB: Well, their average lifespan is about 15 seconds so…
MR: It’s a tough life.
RB: It’s a dying, dying breed.
AR: We know all about that, we’re so robot-centric here..
MR: Exactly. You have the other perspective.
AR: When Daragh first saw [N] he said, “that’s like Lode Runner and Pac Man in a wonderful mixture.”
AR: The whole concept of being indie game designers… how much is reinventing old forms from gaming history and how much is your own, “okay this is totally new”?
MR: Well, with N…
RB: It’s mostly old.
MR: We’re clearly inspired by Pac Man, Lode Runner, Jumpman, and all of those games, but we felt that… we were playing around with modern physics, modern collision, and we just felt that a mashup of them would make the game we really wanted to play. We felt it would make a great game, but no had made it yet.
RB: We took modern, late 90s collision detection like in the original Halo, and applied it to games that were made before that sort of technology existed. So it was pretty easy. I mean, we didn’t do shit, really. We just took an existing game, and sort of put some new technology in it, and it ended up being crazy fun.
It was supposed to be a stealth game. That’s how we planned it, with sneaking around and stuff. But once we had it working, we were like “oh it’s way too much fun to just run like hell and jump and go crazy.” So we kind of just went with that. Which I think is the strength of small teams. Like if you have a big team, you can’t just change direction in the middle of a project.
MR: Because it’s so hard to get everyone else on track… it’s virtually impossible.
RB: With two people it takes like a minute, like “okay, let’s not do that and let’s do this other thing.”
MR: Yeah, let’s try this.
RB: Way better.
AR: Is Canada a good place to be an indie game developer?
RB: For sure we would have never been able to do this if we hadn’t lived in Canada. It’s mostly support from the OMDC [Ontario Media Development Corporation], which gives you travel grants that give you 50% of the costs to attend industry functions. For instance, N was in the IGF [Independent Games Festival] for 2005, and we couldn’t really afford to fly to San Fransisco and stay there for a week. So the OMDC put up half of the cost, which made it possible for us to go there, and then we won the audience award, and that’s how Microsoft heard about it.
MR: That was amazing.
RB: So in that sense, it only would have happened because of that, but then from there, the only way we could afford to do N+, including this launch party, was that we got a loan from Telefilm – that’s a federal instead of provincial government thing – they’re basically film producers, but they do video games as well.
MR: It’s the fact we have access to all of this stuff, including tax credits, and of course the Canada, Ontario and Toronto Council for the Arts grants. All of this opportunity is amazing for small developers.
RB: We’d be broke if we didn’t live in Canada.
MR: Two years ago.
RB: Because you can’t really make a $200,000 game without getting a loan. And no bank is going to give you a loan if you’re just two people who say you make video games.
MR: Well, you can always go through a publisher as well…
RB: But then they own the IP.
MR: And you lose a chunk of the royalties, so it’s not really the best deal if you want to be making any money at all so you can move on to your next project. You’ve got to be able to get funding from another source. So that’s why Canada’s amazing.
RB: Go Canada!
AR: Nice. It’s wonderful to know that. OK so finally, what’s your next project?
MR: Well, we’re working on Robotology. As soon as all this N+ stuff wraps up, which should be probably after we get back from the GDC, which should be next week. That’s gonna be another 2D, side-scrolling physics-based platformer, just like N, but with a grappling hook. The world is much more dynamic, all the animation is physics-driven, so you’ll also be able to interact more with the enemies… it will be much more interesting and subversive.
RB: Yeah, N was based on Lode Runner, and Robotology is sort of based on XXXXXX, which was a Super Nintendo and PlayStation game, and it’s just a platformer with a grappling hook. The whole idea is that you take the physics-based movement of N, and instead of just applying it to the player, making it two ways, so that everything responds to everything else. You can land on people and crush them. Like in Mario you jump on people to kill them, but in this you’ll actually be CRUSHING them, you know shoving them, pulling their legs and they slip. We don’t know, maybe the banana peel is gonna be an object..
AR: Great. Thank you!
BTW, don’t forget to read Metanet’s blog, it’s definitely an entertaining read.
Vectrexoscope is the latest edition and had me glued to my screen for more than a few minutes if you get my meaning. I thought it simply long distance Pong from a straight-on angle, but once I started hitting that block the whole arena started swinging around depending on the angle of the hit. Very interesting.
This lil’bastard “Samba“http://www.retrosabotage.com/spacein/samba.html seemed a simple take on Space Invaders. Just one bad guy to hit so after chasing him for a bit I fired a perfect shot but then BAM, bastard like echoed away! It was creepy because the feeling you have of playing a classic game is then ripped away and it’s almost as if you are playing against some sort of higher AI form in 8-bit clothing. Creepy, but effective.
True Self is PacMan from the Ghost’s perspective. You chug along kicking blue ass and then suddenly everything fades away as a single ghost interacts with, well, Mr. Miyagi.
The Master proceeds to enlighten Inky’s mind with the fact that he is a ghost so…ghosts can move through walls! And therein lies the new twist to an old fav!
“Overpowered“http://www.retrosabotage.com/pong/overpowered.html is totally a Pong that speaks to my aggressive nature! You can charge the block before shooting it which slams into the other side and damages the, uh, line. A few hits later and the line explodes into pixel death! Wonderful! The tricky thing is you can’t move your paddle while charging a shot so you have to be careful with your placement shots. Lots of fun though!
It’s nice to see that gamers are adding to their own history with quirks that were impossible back in the early days of gaming. It’s a different than say, oh Hollywood wanting to redo Escape from New York (thank god that’s not happening anymore) which is just a shitty remake that hurts the original by showing off all new effects while at the same time disrespecting the old style.
What Retro Sabotage has achieved is a nice balance between new techniques and the classic feel and look. You feel like you’re playing an old game until something flutters in your vision and suddenly you are playing a whole new side to something you thought you knew.
To double-dip in the ‘NPD group sales reports’ dip bowl: January sales reports are in, and the PS3 has outsold the 360, PSP and the DS for the month. And with 269,000 units to the Wii’s 274,000, damned near beat out the Wii, too, which would have taken a dump in everyone’s “casual games are the future” theories.
OK let me never again mention dump-taking and dip bowls in the same paragraph.
Why did this happen? Well, there’s that thing called Blu-Ray. Also, supplies of both other consoles may have been constrained. And I do think the 360’s hardware problems are catching up with it – more than once, people asking me for console-buying advice have voiced concern that the 360 would fall apart on them.
Game Software (in units sold)
1) Halo 3 (360, Microsoft) – 4.82 million
2) Wii Play with Wii Remote (Wii, Nintendo) – 4.12 million
3) Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (360, Activision) – 3.04 million
4) Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (PS2, Activision) – 2.72 million
5) Super Mario Galaxy (Wii, Nintendo) – 2.52 million
6) Pokémon Diamond (DS, Nintendo) – 2.48 million
7) Madden NFL 08 (PS2, Electronic Arts) – 1.9 million
8) Guitar Hero II (PS2, Activision) – 1.89 million
9) Assassin’s Creed (360, Ubisoft) – 1.87 million
10) Mario Party 8 (Wii, Nintendo) – 1.82 million
The New York Times analyzes the numbers and concludes that it’s evidence of a sea change from hardcore to casual, given the success of the Wii and Guitar Hero, the lack of PS3 titles and top-reviewed games Bioshock and The Orange Box. What do you think?