It is not the destination that is important, only the journey there. This saying describes The Last of Us perfectly. After all is said and done and you’re all like “WTF”, you sit back and remember the journey. For that is the construct of life. Check out the score after you click the clicker. (more…)
Persona 4 arena takes place two years after Persona 4. Yu and his friends are going to get back together for old time’s sake since they haven’t seen each other since the true ending of Persona 4 . Weirdly enough the night before Yu comes back into town the Midnight Channel (the conflict of Persona 4) returns. This time instead of showing the people within the town dying, it shows Yu and his friends. They are fighting each other in this Grand Prix brawl tournament. The day after the Midnight Channel incident the group meets up at their old time hang out and decides to go into the Midnight Channel to uncover what Grand Prix is about. Does reaching out for the truth after two years still feel same or is the truth not worth it anymore?
It’s no secret that Square Enix’s first high definition entry in the Final Fantasy series, Final Fantasy XIII, was polarizing. It introduced an amazing new battle system that felt like a revolution for Japanese role playing games. This feature was widely praised by critics and gamers alike. However Square changed many others things in the formula, with the primary sticking point being making the game an incredibly more linear experience, all in favor of presenting a better overall story. The final result of this shift led to many fans crying foul over a game where you could (almost) just push forward and mash X to get through the first twenty hours or so.
Two years later we have Final Fantasy XIII-2, a continuation of the events and characters of XIII. Along with being a sequel, XIII-2 also hopes to redeem Final Fantasy to gamers who were burned by the linearity of XIII. It represents a time- hopping journey filled with towns, side quests and NPCs; basically everything that gamers complained was missing from the original. However in all this change to the formula was Final Fantasy XIII-2 able to still hold onto the interesting setting, fun characters and great combat that made XIII bearable even with all the linear gameplay? Or is something lost in this sequel?
Final Fantasy XIII-2 starts out in a mysterious world as you witness an epic battle between XIII’s main protagonist Lightning and Caius Ballad, a man of immense power. Both characters are commanding great forces that clash on the battlefield but naturally everything ends in a confrontation between the two. It is in this battle that we are introduced to brand new character Noel Kriess, who literally falls from the sky and is saved by Lightning. She immediately recognizes that Noel is a time traveler and sends him on his way to find Serah, her younger sister who you might remember for being trapped in crystal for most of XIII.
Back in the familiar world of Gran Pulse, we find Serah living in a small seaside village, except that something is off and Serah knows it. She keeps dreaming of the day that Cocoon was saved at the end of Final Fantasy XIII where Lightning was there and blessed her marriage to Snow. However everyone remembers the events in such a way that Lightning was never there, almost as if she was removed from history. When the mysterious Noel appears talking about Lightning and time travel, Serah leaves with him on a journey to rescue her sister and restore the correct timeline.
The story in Final Fantasy XIII-2 deals with Serah and Noel jumping around through time and correcting paradoxes. These rifts in time are causing all sorts of things to go awry including monsters attacking, people disappearing and more. The story is pretty nonsensical at times and the conflict between the protagonists and Caius doesn’t develop as well as it should. There are moments where Noel and Serah question whether they are doing more harm than good in all their time changing but the idea is never explored enough. The story at often times is unfocused and everything feels like Noel and Serah succeed through pure chance rather than actually working towards their goal.
Neither Noel nor Serah are very compelling characters and sadly they are the only main characters in the game. There are occasional cameos from other Final Fantasy XIII characters but they don’t last very long and never join your party. As such the game is some kind of creepy relationship between this young time traveling man and a married girl (she’s with Snow, remember) who seems to not care at all about her husband. In fact Serah seems to be more interested in finding her lost sister than her missing husband, which just always feels off. Add Noel into the mix and you have no idea what kind of mindset she is in. I guess they are just platonic friends but it comes off as really weird.
The linearity of the original game was a sour point and Square Enix took those complaints to heart when crafting Final Fantasy XIII-2. There is certainly a set path that gets you from beginning to end but along the way there are several alternate timelines and extra locations that you can visit. Even better is the improvement to the actual level design. Many times in the original you literally were just walking down a corridor and such is definitely not the case. Areas are complex with different routes and many tucked away areas to find hidden goodies. It’s simply better to go through areas like these although there are some areas that go too far in the opposite direction and literally feel like mazes.
One thing that didn’t need to change in this new entry was the great combat system and it is still pretty great here. The Paradigm Shift concept still remains a brilliant way to revitalize the oftentimes stale turn-based combat system of JRPGs. However even the great combat suffers from a slight change. I already mentioned that there are only two main characters and this limitation greatly affects the feeling of combat. In Final Fantasy XIII you had six characters which matched the six Paradigms available. Each character was essentially great at one Paradigm, good at another two and okay with the last three. With only two characters they both have to be good at basically everything but it also makes them feel interchangeable. Sure Noel has higher attack power and Serah has higher magic but they just aren’t different enough.
With the limitation of only two party members Square needed to do something with the third slot and this is accomplished by adding monsters to the party. Almost every monster in the game can be “captured” and then used as the third member of your party. Each monster has one Paradigm role such as Commando or Ravager and you can select three monsters at a time to use as your third spot. It’s a fun concept at first but it eventually becomes pretty clear that the monsters are poor substitutes for an actual third character. The way that monsters advance is also bad. They don’t grow by gaining experience like Noel and Serah; instead they level up by being fed components that are dropped randomly after battles. I think it would have been much better to have the monsters advance along the same path as the main characters instead of making it a completely separate system.
The worst part about Final Fantasy XIII-2 is the overall content of the game. The main story took me just under twenty hours to beat. Take a second to let that sink in: twenty hours to beat a Final Fantasy game. The story feels like it never gets a chance to get going. Right before the ending section Noel and Serah have a long conversation that I imagine is supposed to feel like they have been on this epic journey and tons of stuff is at stake but the game never earns that moment, instead coming off incredibly flat and almost laughable. You also may have likely heard a lot of gamers are upset over the ending but I in fact found nothing wrong with it. The ending wraps up the main story very well and then simply hints at more to come, similar to how Back to the Future “ended” and then Doc Brown came back to say “It’s your kids Marty. Something has got to be done about your kids!”
After your twenty hours to complete the main story, Final Fantasy XIII-2 lets you back into the world to complete any other side content you want, and there is a lot to do. There are 160 time fragments to collect through defeating monsters and finishing quests and getting them all will certainly take a long time. However the pure chaos of how this game is laid out will leave you with no idea where to begin. There are about a dozen areas and several alternate time periods of those areas with each one being home to a variety of fragments to collect. After completing the game I sat down to begin looking for the fragments and found myself completely disinterested. To accomplish anything you would need some kind of FAQ, which is a poor way to handle any type of content. This is a complete 180 from the post-game content in Final Fantasy XIII, which featured tons of interesting stuff to explore.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a game that was obviously crafted with the complaints of the original in mind. They went far away from the linearity of XIII but instead of finding a nice balance they end up in a game that is oftentimes confusing and unfocused. The story definitely suffers from this change. On top of the move away from linearity XIII-2 also lost a bit of what made the combat so fun. Granted it is still great and some of the best turn-based combat you will ever play but it’s not as good as it was in XIII. With the clear hint at more coming to the series it’s possible a Final Fantasy XIII-3 could find a nice middle ground between XIII and XIII-2 and be amazing. In the meantime Final Fantasy XIII-2 sits as an interesting entry in the series but definitely not a highlight.
Final Fantasy XIII: The original game in this two-part series is by far the better title. The story is much better, the characters more interesting and the combat better utilized. XIII-2 does show signs of improvement over XIII but it comes at the expense of other areas being not as good. Perhaps the worst offender is the post-game content, which I found to be the best part of XIII. In XIII-2 it might be that good but it is presented in such a disorganized way that it’s hard to get into.
Lost Odyssey: Here is where Final Fantasy XIII-2 really falls flat. I consider Lost Odyssey to be the pinnacle of JRPGs for this generation and it literally offers the perfect mix between XIII and XIII-2. The story is great, the characters are interesting and the combat is fun and filled with strategy. It also manages to tell a mostly linear story while maintaining the RPG elements loved by so many such as towns, side quests and a wide open world with huge bosses to fight and secrets to uncover.
Flower and Flow are two perfect examples of what makes the PlayStation Network unique in the online game space. Both are far more experiences than anything else and each has their own unique aesthetic. In the console space, thereâs nothing else like them. So when thatgamecompany, the developer of both Flow and Flower, announced their new game, Journey, many players were interested to see what they would deliver.
Journey is, like thatgamecompanyâs previous titles, far more an experience than anything else. It can be easily finished in a single sitting and, for many, thereâs little replayability. Like Flower and Flow, however, Journey is one of the games that define why the PlayStation Network is unique. Itâs a beautiful, stunning and truly magnificent experience that you simply must play for yourself.
Hit the jump and watch the hieroglyphics on your scarf dissolve.
Twisted Metal is the longest running Sony-exclusive franchise and during its seventeen year run, the franchise has had its ups and downs. The seriesâ last entry was Twisted Metal: Head-On in 2005 and the last console original entry was Twisted Metal Black in 2001. It almost goes without saying, but fans have been waiting a long time for a new iteration of the series for a long time. The new PS3 iteration, simply titled Twisted Metal, is a reboot of the franchise and hopes to welcome newcomers, as well as seasoned veterans, to Calypsoâs twisted contest.
At one point, the car combat game was one of the pillars of gaming. That, however, was a long time ago and gaming has evolved. In a world of fast paced first-person shooters and vast, sprawling RPGs, can Twisted Metal stand the test of time?
Tap the R1 and L1 buttons to do a jump and read the review.
Let’s face it: you’ve never heard of Zack Zero before. This small downloadable title is the first game from Crocodile Entertainment and is guaranteed to fly under many people’s radar. Let me be the first to tell you that to overlook this game certainly wouldn’t be a tragedy but you would be missing a fun little title that goes back to a more classic style of gaming.
Zack Zero feels like a blast from the past of video games. It’s a side-scrolling platformer-action hybrid that focuses on using different powers to both defeat enemies, solve puzzles and navigate the environment. It’s not going to be a world changer but if you’re a fan of the way games used to be then Zack Zero could be right up you alley.
Help Zack Zero defeat his evil nemesis Zulrog by hitting the jump.