New Start: Player One: Start 2014 Update

Hello and welcome to Player One: Start.  This is a blog about video games.  This isn’t a blog dedicated to gaming news, but to video games themselves.  What I mean by that is this blog will focus more on video games as source of entertainment.  While news about the latest tech and game announcements may very well influence games I write about, I want to keep games themselves at the forefront.  That being said, it is a brand new year and with 2013 long gone, there are some things I’d like to talk about in regards to last year.

I called 2013 the year of the JRPG.  I honestly thought this honor was actually 2012 a while back, since that is when I first got the idea.  However, after certain games I was really looking forward to got delayed into 2013, I decided to push it forward, and I’m glad I did.  There were a lot of JRPGs released in 2013, from Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch and Atelier Ayesha: Alchemist of Dusk, to Shin Megami Tensei IV and Pokemon X and Y.  There were more games than I was expected, and many were announced for localization in 2013.  I had no idea the year would be so jam-packed.  I’m upset that I was not able to cover more games, of which I brought several, and only really reported on two of them.

That is one thing I’d like to fix about 2013; I want to write in this blog more regularly.  This is my third blog on WordPress, and it is probably the one I write in least.  It’s not because I have less to say on video games versus animation and comic books, it’s just an issue of making time to write figuring out what to write about.  I want to make more of an effort to write in this and my other blogs with more frequency.

I have some ideas of the things I’d like to write about in this blog in particular.  One idea I had been taking a look at some underrated features in games and game consoles and accessories.  Some things in gaming usually get recognition if they have an impact on the game industry as a whole, but I wanted to write about things that are less discussed, but still significant in and of themselves.  I also wanted to write some game previews.  While I doubt I will be able to sufficiently review a game with the amount same of commitment as fully fleshed out gaming sites, I would like to discuss games I am playing and go into why like (or dislike) them.

I would like to thank everyone for their patronage over the last year and reassure you that I will try my harder to get more varied articles on this blog for 2014.  I’ll also try to get into some of the JRPG stuff I failed to cover last year.  Thank you all for your patience, have a happy and blessed new year, and I hope to see you soon!

Written by:

Andrew Mathieu

A Tale Worth (Re)Telling: A Personal Look at Tales of Symphonia

A look back at a game that help define the Gamecube for me.

A look back at a game that help define the Gamecube for me.

The “Tales” series is one of the classic JRPG franchises.  While it may not have as much noteriety as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, it is a series that, for the last fifteen years has held its on with it action oriented combat system, genre-defying multiplayer action, and memorable stories and characters across its many originally named games.  The game that started it all for me was Tales of Symphonia for the Nintendo Gamecube.

I got the Gamecube on a memorable Christmas morning; it was the special edition that had Super Mario Sunshine and a 54 block memory card packed in.  The Gamecube gave me some great gaming experiences that still hold a special place in my heart today.  One genre of game the Cube was a little lax on was the RPG, and when I first read about this game in GamePro, it got my attention.  I remember the review that had some great things to say about it.  I remember that Star Ocean: Til the End of Time for PS2 (which I didn’t have at the time but was still interested in) got a Fun Factor of 4.0 out of 5.0, while Tales got a 4.5 out of 5.0.  I remember reading those review several times and wanting to play both, even though I could only really have one, since that were both exclusive to their platform.

Another review I remember was from X-Play, and one part of that review always stuck out to me.  They showed footage during the review to show how long it took them to play through the game, and I believe it was about 79 hours!  Back then, I wasn’t able to get every single game my little heart desired, so to me, the longer the game, the better.  I finally took the plunge when the game was finally within my price range, and what awaited me was a grand RPG adventure.

While I can’t recall how I felt in my years of playing the game (I can’t even remember if I got to the second disc, but I’m pretty sure I did) I can tell you that I loved the game.  The real-time combat grew on me over time.  At first, I was expecting it to play like Kingdom Hearts, but the fighting was on a 2D plan and required way more strategy than I had expected.  It was a game that I would put down for months at a time, but would jump back in and enjoy the ride while it lasted.  Sadly, a few years ago, I traded the game in, unfinished, to get some money or trade-in credit, and my story, at the time, ended.

However, today I’m proud to say that I have got Tales of Symphonia back in my possession.  I walked into a retro game store that I frequent and was surprised to see it again after so many years.  I bought it a couple of hours later and after cleaning the case (something I used to do with my used game purchases) and flipping through the manual (something I rarely do with recent game purchase), I’m ready to have another adventure with this lost gem of a game.

Tales of Symphonia has been on my mind lately since it’s actually been in gaming news the last few months.  With Tales of Xillia finally coming the Western PS3s this fall, Namco Bandai has not led up on the Tales news.  There was a blurb that went up on several websites that a Tales series head said that Tales of Symphonia was actually the best-selling Tales game in the West, which absolutely amazes me.  Tales of Symphonia was exclusive to the Gamecube in the US, despite Japan getting a PS2 port.  Not only that, but there were a couple of Tales games made available to the PS2 after Symphonia’s release, perhaps in an attempt to capitalize on the successful Gamecube release.  I’m glad it was this game in particular to get so much attention!

However, the story doesn’t end there.  It was recently announced at a Tales event in the US that Tales of Symphonia, as well as its direct sequel Dawn of a New World, but be getting a HD Collection for PS3 title Tales of Symphonia Chronicles.  Even better, it was announced shortly after that the US and Europe would also be getting the game in early 2013, meaning we gamers across the globe won’t have to wait as long as we did for Tales of Xillia, (not to mention the still unannounced localization of Tales of Xillia 2!)

With Operation Rainfall recently announcing that they will we doing their for JRPG livestream on none of than Tales of Symphonia, I have felt more and more compelled to play this game again after so many years.  I will probably be getting the Chronicle HD collection, especially since I’ll finally be able to play the Wii console sequel, but I’m glad to have the Nintendo original again.  I’m glad I’ve been able to share this story with you.  Thank you for reading, and I’ll catch you later!

Written by Andrew Mathieu

There and back again.

There and back again.

JRPGs in 2013: Shin Megami Tensei IV

Shin Megami Tensei 4 is just one of the many titles making it's way to the West onto 3DS soon.

Shin Megami Tensei 4 is just one of the many titles making it’s way to the West onto 3DS soon.

By Andrew Mathieu

My first Shin Megami Tensei game was Persona 3 FES.  After watching X-Play’s review of the updated PS2 game several times, I took the plunge and loved the high school/demon-slaying gameplay.  After playing several other titles in the series including Nocturne, Digital Devil Saga Part 1, Persona 4, and most recently the 3DS remake of the Sega Saturn original Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers (all unfinished, by the way), I find myself waiting for the fourth official entry in the main series, Shin Megami Tensei IV.

I will admit that I have very little knowledge of this game, aside from a few trailers Atlus has released since it officially announced this game for localization, but it seems to still have the tried and true mechanics of games from the series’ past.  You run around in towns and dungeons, recruit demons to fight alongside you and your party members, and try to prevent a greater evil from engulfing the world in darkness.  Apparently you will be able to greater influence the story based on your characters dialogue choices and actions.  While only time will tell if these player choices will have effects as reaching as in games like Chrono Trigger or Mass Effect, it’s definitely a nice touch in giving the player a chance to personally influence the story.

This game is being touted as a premium title by publisher Atlus for the 3DS and as such will carry a price tag of $49.99.  Some may recall that Capcom and Konami have previous claimed to do this sort of pricing with Resident Evil: Revelations 3D and Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater, respectively.  However, both publishers opted out of the pricing for the more standard 3DS software price of $39.99.  SMT IV will come with a first run special edition that includes goodies like a special case, an art book, and a soundtrack CD; not to shabby for buying the game early.

SMT IV is shaping up to be a big title for Nintendo 3DS, and it even got special mention on a Nintendo Direct a couple months ago.  Hopefully the price tag doesn’t stop anyone interested in this series from giving it a try.  Considering it was only recently that the game came out in Japan, it’s nice that the Western release is just around the corner.  Between this and other titles set to light up the 3DS this summer, it’s shaping up to be one hell of a summer gaming season!

Links: YES!  Shin Megami Tensei IVconfirmed for North America  -Destructoid

SMT IV Announcement and Price -My Nintendo News

Official Game Website

JRPGs in 2013: Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk

RPGs (role-playing games) are among my favorite types of video games.  Thanks to original Playstation titles like Final Fantasy VII and IX, Wild Arms and Legend of Dragoon, these types of games seem to find their way onto every platform I own.  While Western role-players like Mass Effect, The Elder Scrolls and Fallout have dominated the current generation, I have always preferred Japanese RPGs.  It’s unfortunate that this generation of consoles hasn’t had the biggest or best JRPGs line-up the last half decade.

There have been several notable exceptions, of course; last year the Wii got two exclusive titles, Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story, that went over well with fans and critics alike. (Too bad I only have a PS3 :()  Not only that, but 2012 saw a small but sure resurgence of the niche genre across all platforms (even the aging DS and PSP, which have helped keep the genre alive and kicking).  Games like Atelier Meruru, Tales of Graces f, and Final Fantasy XIII-2 helped bring experiences to gamers who had all who were craving more JRPGs from the genre’s heydays on the PS2.

While last year was good,  I believe that 2013 will be the absolute best year for Japanese Role-Playing Games in a long time.  With multiple title debuts, series returns, and a few hidden gems, I’d like to provide a look at the games we can expect to be playing this year!   With so many titles to choose from, I will be doing this feature in multiple parts for the foreseeable future.  Let us:

START

 Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk (PS3)

The Atelier series returns, March 7, 2013.

The Atelier series returns, March 7, 2013.

The Atelier series has an impressive number of titles under its belt, including the Atelier Iris Trilogy on PS3, the Mana Khemia spin-off series on PS2 and PSP, and the Atelier: Apprentice of Arland Trilogy of games (Rorona, Totori, and Memuru) on PS3.  The newest game in the series, Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk, is set to debut this March.

This new game stars Ayesha, a young alchemist who, after the death of her grandfather and the loss of her younger sister, sells potions to make a living.  When she finds out that her sister may still be alive, she sets out to try find her, along with some friends and new allies she meets on her journey.

I have previously played Atelier Totori and really enjoyed it.  The alchemy system was simple and easy to get the hang of, the battles were challenging with strategic elements, and the look of the game had a nice, cel-shaded aesthetic.

According to a press release from publisher Tecmo Koei, Atelier Ayesha will apparently host updated battle mechanics, a diary feature, new alchemy techniques, and some other additions.  The game will also do away with the time limit mechanic from the previous series and will progress more like a traditional RPG.  The game will also have DLC characters, items, and levels like previous games.

I’ll be looking forward to this game when it comes out in just a couple of months.  Stay tuned to player one start for more previews of upcoming JRPGs for 2013!

SAVED

Andrew Mathieu

Rayman Legends adds a New Character

Rayman Origins” was one of the best platformers of 2011.  It featured amazing 2D artwork with more color in a single screen than most entire games nowadays, challenging platforming to test the might of any seasoned player, and 4 player co-op to make the game easier or more difficult depending on your friends.  Despite all this, the game was released at the full retail price of $60 and went up the same week as multiple blockbuster games, including another Ubisoft developed game, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations.  Despite lackluster sales and a quick 50% price cut, the game still sold well enough to warrant a sequel.  Rayman’s adventures will continue this Fall on the Nintendo Wii U.

Origin’s multiplayer was compared to the critically successful “New Super Mario Bros. Wii.”  Characters could help or hinder your progression, allies were left in bubbles after losing all their health, and even character selection was similar to the 2009 Wii title.  Players got to play as Rayman (Mario), Globax (Luigi), and two Teensies (two Toads).  This time, however, a new playable character joins the fun: Barbara!

Rayman Legends Gamescom Preview Revealing Barbara

Barbara was first shown off in a leaked trailer of Rayman Legends on Wii U, but in the above trailer we get to see here in action.  She wields a large battle axe, is adorned in viking armor, and seems to be missing her front tooth, and bares more than a striking resemblance to the Bodacious Fairies from Origins.  To my knowledge this is the first time a female hero has been playable in a Rayman game, and it’s nice to see Ubisoft add a little diversity to cast of playable characters.

Barbara

Barbara joins team Rayman in the upcoming Rayman Legends.

With gorgeous artwork, fast paced platforming, Wii U Gamepad functionality unlike anything seen so far, and now a brand new playable character, Rayman Legends is shaping up to be one the must-have killer apps for Nintendo’s newest consoles when it debuts later this year.

Player One: Start Title Screen

Hello, and welcome to Player One: Start.  This blog will be dedicated to a entertainment medium close to my heart, video games.  In a little over twenty years, I’ve enjoyed such great games as Super Mario Bros. 3, The Legend of Zelda Wind Waker, Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped, Final Fantasy VII, Yakuza 3, Pokemon Blue, Silver, Soulsilver, and White, and Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, to name a few.  I’ve owned a Game Boy Color, Playstation, Gamecube, Nintendo DS, Playstation 2, Playstation 3, and Nintendo 3DS.

I’ve been around the block a few times as a gamer, but I wouldn’t consider myself hardcore.  I’ve enjoyed hardcore games like Mass Effect and Bioshock, but some of my favorite titles over the last few years have flew under the radar.  I’ve enjoyed this generation of HD gaming, but I find the lack of original titles and genres somewhat off-putting.  Meanwhile, this generation is slowly but surely coming to a close, with many gamers welcoming it with open arms.  I’d rather see this generation continue as developers grow more accustomed to the current hardware, with upcoming titles like Ni No Kuni: The Wrath of the White Witch, Lollipop Chainsaw, Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, and Sleeping Dogs continue to show that the best games are not a new console away, but right around the corner.

Finally, my favorite type of games offer great single player experiences.  I have nothing against online multiplayer games, but having a solo gaming session has always been my preference.  Maybe that’s why I love RPGs so much, as they are full of content with dozens of hours of playtime.  Platformers have always been a great, challenging experience as well.  Shooters can provide a good pick up and play experience, and open world games can be fun to get lost inside.  Finally, action and adventure games offer a great variety of play types that can be both engrossing and fun.

Games have always been a great way to spend time and have fun, traveling to a wide range of locales from the comfort of my bedroom.  I hope to share some of those experiences, past and present, in the blog.  Enjoy!

By Andrew Mathieu

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 129 other followers