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Well I can't say I'm totally shocked. You'll bonk anything.

By Joshie on June 17th, 2009 under RPG, Wii, WiiWare,

Me and Final Fantasy IV go way, way back. And by that I mean I hate the guys guts. It's not a personal thing, we just really don't get along. Final Fantasy IV has possibly one of the most depressing plot lines of the entire series, involving characters who commit suicide for comically poor reasons every five minutes only to be miraculously alive by the final showdown, crushing any deep emotional resonance these selfless acts were supposed to give you. Despite the games general craptacular tale I somehow finished it, an action that leads me to believe there must have been something inherently enjoyable about the game that I have long since forgotten.

Final Fantasy IV: The After YearsJump forward to the release of "The After Years", a direct sequel to the first SNES outing in the series, now available on WiiWare. For those worried about the horrific voice acting in the DS remake there is nothing to fear, as the game was ported directly from Japanese cellphones and has the 2D graphics to prove it. Unfortunately while the locations and sprites are directly ripped from the SNES game, blown up on a thirty-two inch display they look remarkably blurred and dated, lacking the definition or sharpness I would have preferred from a game released in 2009. It's also disappointing to see that Square stuck so stringently to the code they had written for cellphones. It would have been nice to see them use some of the power the Wii has behind it, much like Nintendo did with Zelda: Four Swords when they added Wind Waker 3D effects and shading on top of Link to the Past 2D graphics. I almost feel the game should have been released on DSiWare just so they could have an excuse for charging for what effectively could have been sold as a Virtual Console game for a third of the price.

One of the more interesting things about IV-2 is how it's distributed. The game is available initially on WiiWare for 800 points, and for your hard earned cash you get the prologue and first chapter. After that you can purchase future chapters for 300 points a pop, each centering around a different character in the story. The final chapter (another 800 points) then takes all the character progression and leveling you did in the previous segments and brings everything together to conclude the tale. The total cost of the game will be about £25, expensive for a WiiWare title but still worth it if you enjoy your retro RPGs. The first chapter took me just over five hours to complete and is a good way to try the game without committing to the full price if you decide it isn't doing anything for you.

Having completed the first chocolate orange slice I'm incredibly conflicted with how I feel about the game. The story of VI-2 is unquestionable a joke. It relies entirely on your memorialisation of the characters and locations (there are no recaps or reminders here folks) and is practically a rehash of the original in a different order. It even has some of the same boss battles in the same locations, making you wonder if the person who wrote the script was even trying. The game is also incredibly disjointed as it jumps around from character to character, making it very difficult to follow and understand what exactly is going on.

Final Fantasy IV: The After YearsThis thrown together experience also extends to the battles. While the developers have added some really nice touches to the original system, including moon phases that affect your fighting style by making physical attacks weak and magic strong when there is a full moon for example, it is completely broken by having the linear plot provide you with characters that work terribly together. The balancing in IV-2 is equally terrible, with characters leveling up every other battle and random encounters able to demolish your team before you've thrown a hit.

I could continue to go on about my laundry list of problems with IV-2, but I won't. About three hours into the experience I was ready to give up just after one of my characters had fallen of the side of the cliff and I was left with one party member to climb down and save him. During my climb I entered a random battle against two foes who should have been easily defeatable with just a couple of strikes. Unfortunately the game allowed the enemy to go first, making me watch as they took my character from full health to zero in a matter of seconds. This kind of experience where the game is relying on pure luck than an actual skill or ability had me wanting to throw the controller across the room, but instead I simply turned the game off and took a break.

The next day I played through to the completion of the first chapter and after watching the credit roll I realised I'd actually enjoyed it. FFIV-2 is still decent a retro RPG despite all its failings, and while the plot should be largely ignored, the game can still be remarkably fun, for reasons I'm still not quite sure.

I will almost certainly feel dirty paying for more, but I know I'm going to. I suppose my enjoyment could have something to do with the fact that my characters have yet to jump from the side of an airship to their deaths just because the local supermarket is doing a two for one deal.


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Duffman gives the people what they want!

By Joshie on June 6th, 2009 under X360, PS3, Wii, PSP,

As the week comes to a close we shut the door on Electronic Three 2009 (or E3 as the kids like to call it). The last year and a recession (you mean the “economic downturn” right?) has certainly taken its toll on the industry, and while we returned to all the glamour, glitz and big breasted booth babes, the sour undertone of the show is a feeling that gamers didn’t vote with their wallets to support new IPs like Mirrors Edge and Dead Space. Instead this year’s announcements and reveals were a conga line of less risky sequels that tread well-known grounds.

I say this because I know we are all part of the problem. I thought the two Metal Gear games, two Halo games and three Mario games looked great and will almost certainly buy them all. That’s not to say I don’t wish for more innovation in gaming, but as long as sequels are well produced and provide something new, I’m more than happy to hand over my (cough) hard earned cash.

In my opinion Sony had their best E3 conferences in years, showing of some hard hitters like God of War 3, Uncharted 2, White Knight Chronicles, Heavy Rain and The Last Guardian. I was equally impressed by their large lineup of PSP titles such as Dissidia, echochrono, PixelJunk Monsters, Peace Walker, MotorStorm and Fat Princess, which along with the announcement that they would finally sort their shit out and release decent PSone games for download (Final Fantasy VII and Metal Gear Solid included!) has me hyped for PSP for the first time in years. While I’m certainly not going to buy their atrociously priced “PSP Go” for $250 (you can buy an Xbox for less than that), it did make me buy a larger memory stick from Amazon (those things are pretty cheap now ya know?) to enjoy the new digital era.

Project NatalWhat has me less excited is everyone’s desire to jump on the motion control bandwagon, driving with no hands as they barrel down the street. Microsoft’s “Project Natal” may have blown away some, but except for “Mr Fables’” Milo which is almost certainly a pedophiles wet dream, most of what they showed was a lot of shiny marketing talk with no true real world application. You all laughed when Nintendo announced the WiiWheel a few years ago? Why does anyone think holding your hands and pretending to drive with an invisible wheel is going to be an improvement? Equally, everyone is going to find controlling the dashboard in classic Minority Report fashion entertaining for five seconds before they realize the controller is just far easier. I would even consider Sony’s disastrous tech demo presentation involving coloured wands and N64 animations a better proof of concept than Microsoft’s, as at least they showed us some real application for the control input which looked much closer to what people wanted the Wii to be when it was first announced.

The issue with both these projects however is with neither the concept nor the implementation; it’s convincing people to buy an add on that doesn’t come with the system. Microsoft will no doubt be pissing off everyone who brought a Vision camera in good faith, while Sony will have to sell people both an overpriced EyeToy and a Wiimote knockoff.

Fortunately its more than possible to ignore these announcements and dribble open mouthed at the spiffy graphics in Modern Warfare II, Crackdown II, Halo 3: ODST and Alan Wake. Yes, I’m the problem. But if the future is having to make small talk with my Xbox during the loading screens, then I’m more than happy to stay it.

I’m sure the irony of announcing a camera where YOU ARE THE CONTROLLER, and demoing a “virtual” skateboarding game was not lost on Tony Hawk who revealed his rather less-virtual skateboard controller just moments earlier either.

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