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Review – Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS1)

Konami – Playstation – 1 Player

Castlevania games are hard. Or at least they used to be. They tend to be kind of random, long and have clunky controls. At least on the NES. I have never really cared much for Castlevania games. The whole “goth” and “vampires” thing never really appealed to me either. Still, Symphony of the Night I one of those games you hear people talk about a lot. When people start saying a game is one of the best they have ever played, it generally is worth giving a little attention to.

I had first purchased SotN on this notion. This was still several years after it’s release and it would sit in my collection for several years after I acquired it. I still couldn’t quite bring myself to get over the fact that it was still a Castlevania game. Eventually of course, I came up on a need for something to play, so I decided to work my way through this game.

I’ll have to say I was initially disappointed by the main character. I suppose I still am a bit. I have always associated Castlevania as being Simon Belmont. Or at the very least SOMEONE named Belmont. Instead I find that I get to play as some flakey gothy vampire wannabe named Alucard. What’s with Japan’s obsession with anorexic pretty boys sporting flowing white hair anyway? On top of that, you don’t even get to wield the classic whip weapon. Still, there was something intriguing about the gameplay and environment.

Also the music was intriguing. The soundtrack for this game is absolutely wonderful. It matches the visuals extremely well to create the perfect atmosphere for the game. It also helps to keep things entertaining, which is good because there is a lot of backtracking and random exploring involved in this game. The castle is quite large without being overwhelming. The designs and areas are varied more than enough to keep you from getting lost without having to look at the map all the time. Not to mention that once you reach the second half of the game you realize just How brilliant the level designs are. It’s not every game that allows you to traverse every area upside down as if it were designed to be played that way.

The action is quick as well. There are RPG elements of upgrading weapons and levels to help prevent you from easily traversing areas you’re not supposed to be, though generally there are lots of puzzles and required items that do this quite well. In that respect the game does come off as a bit of “Find item A to enter area B, now find Item B to enter area C” aspect to it. Still, many of those old power-ups remain useful for most of the game.

I guess I should interject some sort of opinion here, this being a review and all. This game is a blast to play. It is certainly deserving of all the praise it receives. After I finished the game the first time through, I felt compelled to replay it again, several times. Fortunately there are some reasons to replay. As Alucard you have the option of several different endings, depending on which items you have in your inventory at the time an how you go about defeating some bosses.

There is also the ability to play as Richter Belmont. Hey look, we get to be a Belmont after all! Complete with whip power. Richter’s gameplay is also considerably different than Alucard’s, it’s more reminiscent of the play style of more classic Castlevania games, essentially you simply charge through and kill everything until you get to the end. Not plot or leveling or power ups required. NOTE: in the Saturn version you also get to play as Maria, I’ve not played this version of the game.

Anyway, this classic game is spot on awesome and comes highly recommended.

Review – Final Fantasy IX (PS1)

It’s amazing how something so good (FF8) can be followed by something so bad. Rumor has it, people complained about FF8 a lot. They complained because it was so different from the “classical aspects of the series” that Square decided to give the fans what they really wanted. In reality Square (hopefully purposely) created a bad remake of all of thier previous FF games all rolled into one. Pretty much every aspect of this game is based on some other game. Surprisingly it seems to draw the most from FF1.

The biggest setback in this game was the return to Munchkin Land. Even FF7’s munchkins looked more normal than these characters do, though I think it was mostly due to FF7 having pretty humanoid characters in battle. I kept expecting the Lolipop kids to pup up and tell me to “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”. They also all seemed ot have really weir mouths. The graphics were pretty nice though for other aspects. Like Black “I am Hell Incarnate” Waltz No 3, who should have been the star of the game.

Instead we get a comical adventure that takes us through a quick history of the FF series. We get to see Garland from FF1 again, The Black Mages return in a new flashier form. The Gurgu Volcano that once housed Kary, Feind of Fire returns complete with a rehash of the original 8-bit music. Too bad they didn’t bring back the good spell names like Ice3 and Lit2 or even “XXXX”. It’s always great eradicating your foes with a hardcore porn spell. The Characters themselves are so so. There’s Garnet, her Tinman, Steiner, the Scarecrow, Vivi, the cowardly “What – the – fuck – is – that – stupid – thing – and – why – does – it – have – its – tongue – sticking – out – like – that?” Quina, the half naked Moogle girl Eiko, the Lord of the Dance herself, Freya, and of course the main character Zid-“I don’t use a big sword like my predecessors”-ain.

Of these charachters the most likable ones are oddly the ones that seem to have less to do with the plot. Steiner’s constant baffonish heroics get old after the 1000th time you see the same joke repeated; The whole thing with Vivi seems like it just sort of vanishes halfway through the game; Freya, what the heck is she there for? Oh right, classic Vengace. Then of course Quina. I have no idea whay this thing is in this game but personally it’s worse then the infamouse Cait Sith of FF7. I mean What the hell is up with this creature. All it does is eat, it looks very androgenous, it says dumb things, it looks stupid, it sucks in combat, and generally it’s useless. I don’t know what they were thinking when the designers decided to make Quina a party character instead of someone 100 time more interesting and useful like say, Beatrix. Oh wait, if they added Beatrix it would be like having two Steiners except one is a girl. You definitely don’t want two similar characters to choose from, I mean it’s not like they haven’t been making everyone identical for the last 4 games give or take.

Not that you could really use two identical characters in this. Another major drawback is unbalanced gameplay. This gets escpecially bad near the end of the game.Not since Chrono Trigger have I played a game up to the very last save point and given up on it for a year and a half or more out of enraged hatred.Basically ech character has thier own specialty, which means in battle at any given time with the most effecient all aound party, you’ll have 2 useless characters.An Optimized party being one that you’ll never end up with 0 useful characters. I mean you COULD put Zidain, Steiner, Freya, and Aramant all in one party, but then you’d have a hell of a time against anything strong tophysical attacks and you’ll never be able to easily heal. Not that you’ll really use Magic much for healing. Even a good ways intot he game chances are you will still be constantly short on Ethers ot retore MP and with the incredible high cost of Summoning by your healers, you’ll need to save everything you’ve got for those boss battles. The Black Mage Vivi was the only character I managed to get halfway self sufficient since he could not only heal but restore MP using Drain and Osmose.

So with it’s unbalanced game play and rehash plot line, FF9 manages to crap itself up pretty badly. I think I may have started out liking this game quite a bit but by the end It was just too much work to bother with. Unfortunately it seems Square hasn’t learned with FFX, which started out fantastically excellent and is slowly turning into a trudging shitfest of long boring pointless random encounters.

Review – Final Fantasy VIII (PS1)

Playstation 1 – Squaresoft – 1 Player

Sometimes you play through a game, and for some reason you just know you’ve played a really good game. One good way to know that a game has got to be at least marginally good is if over the course of playing it your opinion of it completely changes. With little or no effort, you find a game you expected and did hate suddenly becomes something you enjoy playing. That is the case of Final Fantasy 8.

Before playing this game, as far as I could tell from what others were saying ti was crap. They got rid of long term things like MP. The chrachters look “realistic” insetad of like squatty SD people. The setting was very much modern and futuristic, even more so than FF7, and th eplot was supposed to be a sort of “Love Story”. In general, the whole thing changed a fair amount of long term aspects and it all seemed like a bad idea. I even went to the extend of making a running gag out of pretending the game didn’t exist on usenet.

So I finally just bought the game. I think my former employer had the game on it’s Buy One Get one sale at the time so I picked up FF8 and Coolboarders 3 (Crap). Even after playing for a good deal fo the game I really hated it. I hated the characters and constantly berated them through the game. Basically I had played all the FF games previous, and much of FF9 at the time, I figured it would be a good idea to get 8 out of the way. The characters were annoying at first, they would say and do idiotic things. Squall would blow everyone off and not care at all. They just generally seemed like a really dumb set of people. Somewhere along the plot that seemed to change. But then there had to be something to keep intrest up. That, is gameplay.

The gameplay is the strongest part of this game. For starters, the levels are pretty much unnessesary. They are still there, but the monsters level up with you. This means that if you want to run from every battle, you won’t end up getting slaughtered by the next boss you fight. In fact you can learn an ability that will disable random encounters all together. This does wonders to speed up the actual plot. I mean really, I can’t imagine anyone really plays an RPG for the chance to fight 1000s of enemies in a menu driven simulator. There are action games that are much better suited for killing baddies with more active control by the player. An RPG is something played for the story. There are still quite a few bosses to fight, but the end of th egame will be just as easy at level 7 as it is at level 100. You can still fight all those battles if you like though, I did, Squall is at level 100 (the max) and everyone else is in the mid 70s. Levels occur every 1000 exp.

So without levels, how are you supposed to become stronger? Well that is where the next gameplay aspect comes into play. You Junction magic to different stats. This requires a charcter to junction with a Guardian Force (GF, summon monster). Each GF allows a chrachter to junction a different stat, and each GF can learn new abilities as well (so you can junction to more stats, among other things). In battle and junctioned GF can be summoned at anytime assuming that GF still has HP remeaining. These usually do a lot fo big damage, however it’s better if you don’t rely on GFs a lot and rely more on Limits.

Limits, first created in FF7 return here again. if you’ve played FF9, they called this sort of effect a Trance and in FFX it’s called an Overdrive. Basically a Limit is a super powered specialty attack. Each charchter has thier own type of limit and the limits in FF8 are fairly interactive. Squall’s requires you to press the R trigger for real damage, Zell’s has the player inputting fighting game type moves, while Selphie uses the classic slot type attack seen in other FF games.The limits occur more often when HP is low, but unlike other FF games they don’t rely on the filling of a bar based on damage or anything. In fact the clincher is the spell Aura, which allows a charcter to Limit much more easily, even at full 9999 health. Generally it’s best to use Limits as a primary mode of attack witht he occasional summon thrown in. Due to junctioning Magic, you usually don’t want to use too much of it, but by the end of the game, basic spells like Thindaga and Firga aren’t used with the best junction combination, so cast all you want.

But what about the story, RPGs play for thier story not thier gameplay right? Of course. FF8 has a pretty decent story backing it. You control a group of teenagers raised by a military organization called SEED to be mercenaries. What starts out as a fairly routine mission ends up leading tot he destiney of SEED itself. Characters that start out annoying and childish grow over the story and become more mature and likeable. There is nice exposition during wonderful CG movies. The music in this game is top notch (Though I think I prefer FF7’s music really). I don’t really want to spoil the plot or anything too much. It is a sort of love story between the main charchetrs Squall and Rinoa. The others do take a backseat in chracterization to Squall and rinoa, but it is there.

So in otherwords, if you would like a great Console RPG, FF8 is a good choice. While it looses some of the “traditional RPG feel”, it makes up for it with some nice new innovations. If you like th enewer FFX you’ll surely like this game as they share a lot of similar aspects in terms of gameplay and story and look.

Review – Digimon World (PS1)

I think it is best to start out by saying that I like Digimon in general. I like it a lot really. Season 2 was stupid, but Season 1 and 3 are great. In the whole Pokemon vs Digimon thing I pick Digimon hands down. The monsters are much more bad ass, the story is ten times better than “Let’s train our monsters to kill eachother for prizes!”. Anyway, I really like Digimon. So hey, a Digimon Playstation game! Neat. And it’s an RPG. How can you lose?

Well apparently pretty fucking easily. Digimon World, is one of the worst game I have ever played. And I have played a LOT of games. Off the top of my head I’d say it’s the worst Playstation game I have played for sure. This is probably the only game of the many I own I regret buying, at full fucking price no less. I think I bought this game the day it came out for 40 dollars. What a rip off. I would have gotten more entertainment (both quality and time wise) out of burning fourty one dollar bills in my backyard. I think I played this game for like an hour before becoming completely pissed at it and never played it again.
Let’s start with the good I suppose. The graphics are nice. The people look really stupid, but the monsters all look pretty cool. The environments are pretty detailed as well. That’s it I think.
Now what we are all here for, the bad parts. Gameplay. This game has as much gameplay as a dead slug. No wait, that’s an overstatement, a dead slug would still have some fun parts, like pouring salt on it or splatting it on a wall or some shit. Anyway, don’t go into this game expecting a game like Pokémon only with Digimon characters. Its nothing like that. Pokémon the game is pretty fun. Maybe you are instead expecting some sort of RPG that follows the story of the show. Don’t go for that either. None of the show kids appears in this game. Why they didn’t just make an RPG based on ths how is beyond me.

What DO you get for your hard earned money? A really pretty looking Tomagotchi that isn’t portable unless you have one of those LCD deals and a battery pack of some sort for your Playstation. You will spend more time cleaning up your monster’s shit and feeding it than you will actually battling other monsters. I swear this thing is worse than having a real fucking pet. It is always hungry or tired or needing to shit. Well ok, raising a Tomagotchi isn’t that bad really. Here is the kicker. You get like 1 piece of food or per day for your monster. That will last it like 3 hours then it’ll be hungry again. Also unless you want your Monster to turn into something crappy when it evolves, you have to take it to one of the 2 toilets on the whole island. Did I mention you’ll never make it to these toilets in time and it’ll shit itself all over the place anyway.

But wait! That’s not all folks! Yes battles. Well its more like “Sit and watch two monsters wander aimlessly for an hour while you scream and pound the controller hoping something happens” than a battle. You don’t control the monster in the battle. The battles are really slow, the monsters will wander around and hit each other every few minutes.In the meantime you provide moral support by cheering the monster on. You can also train in a training ground to make your monster stronger. Which is a necessity if you want your monster to actually win any battles.

Let me describe the several games I played of this now for you. So you can get the big picture. In the begening I picked Augumon to start with. I don’t know what Gabumon is supposed to be but it looks kind of lame next to the Dinosaurlike Augumon, so I picked Augumon. Plus Augumon is supposed to turn into the big kick ass War Greymon. After loosing several battles. Or maybe it was winning. Anyway, battles give shitty stat increases, I found the training grounds. After lots of hard training generally I could finally win battles pretty easily and start working on the story. Actually I’m not sure what the story is exactly, something to do with bringing Digimon back to the Digimon village. Finally my Monster Digivolves. Ok, I went through like TWENTY Digimon in my time playing this game, each time, no matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried to raise it right, it would end up trning into the SHIT EATING SHIT MONSTER. This thing is weak as fucking hell and looks completely retarded. I think once I ended up with “Tentacle Rape Mon” and another time I had a Seadramon. The funny thing is, I once saw a post on a message board of somone who was TRYING to get the shitty shit monster. Aparently they had gotten all the other monsters and that was the last one they needed. HEY GUY LET ME PLAY YOUR GAME THAT THING IS THE ONLY ONE I CAN EVER GET.

Well there are slight advantages to having the shit monster. You don’t have to feed it. Just let it crap on the ground it will feed itself. That’s right, it eats it’s own fucking feces. Actually now I’m wondering why I hated this game. Not too many games let you own a monster that eats it’s own shit. Anyway, after getting the shit monster it would eventually die for no apparent reason then the leader of the village would bitch to be about taking better care next time ad he would give me a fresh monster to corrupt. I suppose there is a good chance my monsters kept dying due to thier diet of shit but I’d like to think otherwise. Anyway, After a good time of playing I got tired of trainign my monster up to a good level only to have it die or scat poisoning, plus I had only managed to do one quest, at least I think it was a quest, anyway, I finally got sick of this piece of shit game and decided to hate it forever. I think if I had my shit monster here it would probably really enjoy eating this one.

Review – Beast Wars: Transmetals (PS1)

1. In the Predacon opening video Megatron specifically refers to the name of
the Predacon ship as the Darkside.  Isn’t this only the second reference
suggesting this?  I guess that sort of makes it more official.

2. There are lots of little details from the show in there, which give it a
really nice touch.

3. This game could not possible fall into show continuance though as BA is
in he Transmetal 2 form and everyone else is in Transmetal form.

4. There are various extra things to do.  One is looking through a gallery
of all the Transmetal (and a few Transmetal 2) toys.  You can review and CG
movies you’ve passed through, you can review any CG stills you’ve seen, and
you can listen tot he voice and music soundtracks.

5. There are several shots during CG sequences that include non playable
characters like Depthcharge, TM2 Dinobot, Optimal Optimus and TM2 Cheetor.
Though playing as OPOp would be REALLY cool.

6. While Inferno is mentioned once, the game does nothing to explain where
Dinobot and Inferno have gotten off to.  Tigatron and Airrazor can sort of
be written off as being taken away by the Vok or something since the game
seems to take place sometime in Season 2.

7. The personalities of the characters leave much to be desired.  Optimus’
lines all basically amount to “Charge in and attack!  We have to defeat
them!”; Silverbolt is basically “Where’s Black Arachnia?”; Rampage is “I’m
evil and have godlike strength, I want to break things.”  It is a little
better from there, as those three seem like the worst of the lot.

Graphics (8/10)
  All the graphics are pretty good.  The in battle characters are somewhat
blocky, but it’s not very noticeable unless in a close up, and it’s probably
seems a lot worse than it is due to being used to seeing the nice smooth
Mainframe CG from he show.  The CG movies are great though.  They look like
scenes cut straight from the TV.  I’m not sure if Mainframe did any work on
them or not though, if not then I’m pretty impressed.  Also Transmetal
Rhinox an Waspinator make their CG debuts in this and they look pretty nice.
The battle fields seem somewhat flat and boring but that may be due to
hardware limitations.  I imagine the N64 version looks a bit better in the
actual gameplay area, but probably worse in the video department.

Sound (10/10)
  It’s very nice that they got the real voice actors to do the voices.  If
they aren’t the real ones that I am VERY impressed by the impersonations.
All of the 8 main fighters with the possible exception of Megs (it may be my
imagination but he sounds a little off), have their normal voices.  Others
like Rhinox and Black Arachnia don’t however.  They are sort of close but
they are definitely not correct.  I also listened to Ravage’s lines through
my computer and he doesn’t sound the same either.  Also there were some
other lines with a bunch of Autobot references that I found and could not
identify the speaker but they might have been Rhinox’s.  Also these guys
like to talk, but there is so much variety in the lines that it doesn’t get
old.  The sound effects are nice, but they are somewhat just general blaster
sounds for the most part.  The music actually sound a lot like something
that would be in a Mega Man game, which I feel is a great thing since the
Mega Man games have great music.  some people may be disappointed by the
lack of standard Beast Wars music and themes however, you’ll never hear the
Beast Wars theme, or Silverbolt’s cheesy trumpets, or any of that in this

Gameplay (8/10)
   I haven’t played any fighters in a long time, but this one does add some
nice refreshing twists tot he genre.  It does have some drawbacks though.
For starters, in story mode, the fighters are divided into teams.  Which
means you’ll never have a Maximal fight a Maximal, but also means there are
only four players you’ll go up against, which means you’ll be getting some
repeat fights.  I believe no matter what you’ll have to fight someone twice,
even when you choose the shortest route to the enemy base.  But on the plus
side, you can change fighter between rounds, and if you loose you’ll simply
loose the ability to pick that character, and can try again with one of the
remaining players.  Also the controls are different than most 3D fighters in
that up moves you up, and left moves left, etc, then there is a jump button
instead of pushing up on the controller.  The controls are a bit
disappointing however.  L2 and R2 are not used at all.  R1 is just the combo
attack of pushing C(circle) and T(Triangle) together.  X transforms,
S(Square) jumps, C and T are your attack buttons.  At long range C and T
will fire any long range weapons, up close they are used for hand to hand
combat.  also you can charge up for a stronger attack and earn super
attacks.  There are also various charging moves.  I haven’t figured out any
other moves yet really.
  Also some other modes include Vs Mode, where you fight 1 on 1 against CPU
or Human; and Survivor, where you play one round battles until you loose.
The difficulty settings range from easy (enemy mostly runs and hides and
occasionally attacks), normal (Standard fighting, fairly easy to win
though), and hard (Default setting and very difficult, I lost 2 of my four
Maxies on the first enemy, Enemy will fire his weapon constantly and whip
off special moves as soon as the come up and there is a clear shot, gets
very difficult when the enemy is weak and he gets special moves constantly.)

Overall (8.7/10)
  Definitely worth it if you have a PSX and are a fan of the Beast Wars
show.  The action is fast paced and fun, thought he plot is relatively dull
(Maximals: Let’s lead a charge against the Preds while they are on the run!
Preds: Let’s attack the Maximal Base).  If otherwise, I’d say it’s a pretty
good game for fans of the fighting Genre.  It has some unique qualities
about it, and has several modes of play.