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Review – Grand Theft Auto III (PS2)

So who hasn’t played Grand Theft Auto III?  Ok, probably a lot of people.  It was a game that really redefined the idea of what a game could be back when it was first released ten years ago in 2001.  I like to brag that I came up with the idea first personally, though it’s probably a real stretch.  A bit of some history.

I played quite a bit of the first Grand Theft Auto with it’s more open ended top down game play.  The older games were less story driven than the later 3D titles, you generally just had to collect a certain amount of money before proceeding to the next city.  There were a lot of similar elements, the cities were named Liberty City, Vice City, and San Andreas, names which were later reused in the subsequent PS2 titles and based loosely on the real life cities of New Your, Miami, and Los Angeles.  You would drive around getting missions from phone booths, steal cars, shoot random pedestrians.  It even had the radio stations which were pretty decent though pretty much unknown music.

I also for a short while in 1999 played a decent amount of the title Midtown Madness.  This is a title that never seemed to get a lot of attention though it’s notable for being the first real sandboxy style racing game.  In addition tot he standard tracks, there was a free roam mode which let you explore the relatively large city of Chicago.  Ok, mostly it was just “The Loop” area and Interstate 90 was altered to create an outside barrier to the city.  You could still pick out where the game took place by looking at a map of Chicago.  It was pretty neat.

One thing I remember most about playing Midtown Madness was that it reminded me a bit of GTA’s free drive experience only more three dimensional.  I always thought it would be pretty awesome if you could actually get out of the car in Midtown Madness and run around the city.  They could even have missions where you were like a cop or a hitman.  Maybe you could have an apartment where you keep your junk and possibly even an online aspect.  It would be totally awesome.

Then Grand Theft Auto III happened 2 years later.

And so I bought a Playstation 2.  Three titles drove this purchase, Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy X, and Grand Theft Auto III.  Here’s a bonus fun fact, I bought my PS3 in December/January near the end of 2001, I had those three games alone for it until roughly a year later when I added three more titles, Metal Gear Solid 2, Final Fantasy X-2, and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

I have played a LOT of GTA3.  Probably more than any other game I have ever owned.  I once figured up based on how many in game days I had on my save file and how many save attempts I had made and how long an in game hour took to calculate I had played around 300 hours of the game, and this was back in like 2001 or 2002 soon after the game had been released.  I’ve explored every nook and cranny of Liberty City countless times.  At one point I could locate every one of the 100 packages without a guide.  I’ve completed the game to 100% completion without being arrested or killed or failing a mission (the game keeps track) and without once doing a “save and reload because I had “messed up”.

It really is an amazing game.  It gets a lot of flack for the violence and crime aspect but even that is only as bad as a person makes it.  Yeah, you can go around shooting pedestrians and hookers and make it a complete gore fest.  Or you can play the story and get an interesting mobster plot.  Yeah, there is some violence but not any more than your average R rated action film.  Hell the whole series is really just a series of movie parodies strung cleverly into a crazy plot.  The problem only comes up when you get players who can’t manage to get anywhere in the story that just run around randomly shooting things.  The first game is even pretty tame, especially next to Vice City which takes it’s Scarface homage pretty seriously.

From a gameplay standpoint it was pretty revolutionary.  For years, games were about doing what was required, the way it was required.  Sure, you had your warp zones and some games like Castlevania or Metroid would let you roam a bit but never before was there a game so encouraging of doing… whatever.  It wasn’t just the freedom to wander around the city that made it work either.  The city itself was a massive living creature.  You could just stand on the sidewalk and thugs or businessmen or old ladies would just wander around.  Cars drive around, sports cars, taxis, cops, delivery vans.  People would get in the taxis they would argue with each other, they’d talk to you as you walked by, it was like being in a real city.  The whole game just reeked of atmosphere and you didn’t have to interact with it to trigger activity.

This was coupled with exceptional cinematic fully voiced cut scenes to drive the plot.  Sure, many of the plot points were lifted from movies like The Godfather but it worked so well as a whole.  There was mystery and betrayal and vengeance and even subtle nods within the plot to earlier events.  This wasn’t just random events happening.  Characters interacted with each other, they referenced other events, it was cohesive.  Even things that you don’t even really realize like the Asian Guy with you at the start of the game in the jail car.  The Columbians kidnap him and thus you end up free and the game starts, but later, you effectively end up taking out the Columbians in your quest for Vengeance.

These minor points just help the whole things feel so much more cohesive.  It creates a great universe that works with itself, which is part of the whole reason the game works so well.

There was also the openness of the missions themselves.  Sure, many more or less required one path to completion but many of them were very open to the player’s preference.  Say you’ve been asked to kill some mob guy.  If you’re the gung ho type you can charge in and assault his guard and the character with pistols and machine guns blazing.  Want the more subtle route, just find yourself a sniper rifle and pick him off from a distance.  Maybe you’re the kamikaze type and want to just plow through his posse in a speedy sports car and hope none of them are carrying shotguns or rocket.  You were very often just given a general objective and a map marker and the gaps are something the player gets to fill in.  Even if you were terrible the game also didn’t really have any lives.  There was no real penalty to dying, you would just wake up at the hospital or police station minus guns and some money.  No lives, no continues, just a simple “Try harder, PS, also you’ll have to find a pistol”

So here we are, it’s been ten whole years since GTA3.  A game that spawned many sequels and spin offs, Vice City, San Andreas, Liberty City Stories, Vice City Stories, GTA4, Chinatown Wars, The lost and the Damned, The Ballade of Gay Tony, hell I’m probably forgetting some.  Then there are knockoff series with the same gangster sandbox concept, Saint’s Row, True Crime, Mafia, Just Cause, Simpsons Hit & Run, The Getaway, there are a lot of them.  It’s a game that inspired many and crated a whole genre of gaming.  Not many games can claim this title.  It also holds up pretty well to time, even with it’s sequels, playing through it again can lead to new methods and a whole new experience.

Review – Final Fantasy X (PS2, PS3, PS4, PC)

PS2 – 1 Player

Don’t ask me why it says “X” instead of “10” up there. I guess its just to keep with the idea that all FF games can be abreviated with three letters. Maybe people are just too lazy to put the 0 on the end. Actually it’s probably because everyone knows any name with an “X” on the end is automatically cool. Think about it, we have Malcom X, Jason X, Samurai X, Xyxex, the list goes on. This is one game though that is slick even without the tag-on “Cool X”.

Before we get started with detail, I present some minor trivia. To save HTML coding time I pulled out my FF8 review and just changed all the text and image links. On a semi-related note, if there is a game FFX is more like it’s FF8. Both are the only two FF games so far to use realistic character designs all the way through. Both have a massive “cheat” through the use of limit breaks. Both don’t really have levels. FF8 does, but it’s the Junction system that makes the difference in the end. Until FFX came along, FF8 was the best in the series. Also they both have the same characters!

Ok, ok, stick with me here. Look at Rinoa and Yuna, side by side, same person right? How about Tidus and Squall? Hey hey, you can’t fool us by dying youtr hair blonde boy! Rikku could easily pass for Quist’s younger sister. Wakka and Zell? Hey didn’t we try the hair dye trick once allready? If Lulu isn’t Edea munis the mask and backback thing, I don’t know who is. What about Kimari then. Well uh, I suppose he’s sort of the love child of Red XIII and Yuffie, I mean FF7 isn’t too far off from FF8 right?

Now if FF8 was unbalanced by how strong you can get, FFX has flipped off the scale and is rolling away by now. It starts out a bit difficult at times, but once you fill the Sphere Board with everyone, well, even with your Weakest characters every battle is a simple matter of mashing the Fight Command. Also for the first time you can break the 9999 barrier on HP, and Damage. Not that you’ll need to to finish the game. In fact the end is allready probably the easiest end boss in any FF game to date. For one, the true end boss only has one form. The final battle afterwards is so easy you could beat it with your weakest character with none of the sphere board complete, given enough time. Honestly it’s a feature I could do without, though by that point I could kill everything in one hit anyway. I don’t think any of the final fights caused any damage before I kicked the shit out of them at 99999 a hit. Consider that isn’t just 99999 a round, that is 99999 from three people with Auto-Haste and a speed stat around 200. So for every one attack the enemy dishes out that’s like 10 or so hits of 99999 each. Or more.

Now there is some challenge here. You see there is this Battle Arena. That is where the REAL bosses are. Basically it’s chock full of hidden enemies with several million HP each. The problem here is that most of these bosses can be finished off with the same strategy of casting auto life then attacking. For the most part they all have some sort of gimmick weakspot to thier strategy. Honestly the hardest one, Nemesis, broke down to about an hour of attacking and wasn’t hard at all. I may be wrong on the names but Neslug and Thu’Bin were considerably more of a challenge than Nemesis was. I mean to kill Neslug you had to be able to deal over a million HP in one attack in order to kill is otherwise it would pull into it’s shell and regenerate completely (3 Mil HP total).

I mentioned this game doesn’t have Levels. That’s one of it’s big “new features”. Thing is, it DOES have levels. it just doesn’t keep track of them. After each battle you gain AP that go towards Sphere Board points. For each Sphere Point you can move one space on the Sphere Board to gain stats. These are all just fancy names for levels. In the end it breaks down to a lot of busy work for the same +2 Str and +3 Dex you would have gotten anyway for making it to level 5 (etc). The idea here is that you’ll be able to customize your characters. Anyone can learn Black Magic, you just need ot get to that point on the board. If you complete it, you’ll have a powerhouse specialty fighter that is faster than greased lightning and can cast all sorts of White and Black magic. The problem is that there are locks all over the board. Chances are you won’t be able to deviate from a characters preset path till about halfway through the game. Also after two plays through, I’ve found you won’t complete a characters initial path till around the end of the game. At this point you’ll be needing around 20,000 AP to gain an S-Level. Don’t worry though, there are multiple tricks to gain AP quickly and the enemies in the final dungeon are fairly easy for around 3-4 S-Levels per battle on even the strongest characters.

But where would a Final Fnatasy game be without mini-games. I can’t say I’ve ever been too fond of mini-games myself. They always come off as useless filler. It’s like the characters suddenly decide to take a day off from saving the world so they can play some sort of lame Chocobo/Moogle themed race/guessing game/shooter/whatever. Also the prizes are usually pretty useless. Not in FFX. Oh no, if you want to outfit all of the fully powered (read:useful) versions of the ultimate weapons you’ll have to complete every mini game in this baby. Not only that but in order to get materials for customizing perfect armor easily, you’ll have to complete the battle arena. But wait! There’s more! You see, FFX has the hardest, most excrutiating mini games in ANY game EVER. LEt’s start easy. The Cactaur Hot and Cold game is not that hard. Be sure to save between each cactaur and you’ll be able to catch them all without being caught pretty easily. But how about say, dodging 200 lightning bolts. Another one that in the end wasn’t that hard. You just NEED Enc-None and decent reflexes. It takes about 20 minutes to do this if you find a spot with consistant lighting strikes on the map. Now on to the worst couple. Butterfly Racing. Run along a tree and catch blue butterflies. Sounds easy right? You have a time limit though, and there are red butterflies that initiate combat. Not to mention that in this 3D world it’s pretty much impossible to tell where the butterflies actually are and if you hit even one red butterfly or deviate from the EXACT path you’ll come up .1 seconds short of winning (every time). After say, 20 or 30 runs you should have the path memorized enough to make it throught this thing.

Now for the final big offender before we get into the one fun mini-game. Chocobo Racing. Anyone who has played this game knows that Chocobo Racing is impossible. The chocobos steer like drunk blind cripples, the birds appear right on top of you all the time and unless you hit the exact pixel of the Balllon you won’t pick it up. Did I mention you have to complete this game with a time of 0 seconds? It takes about 36 seconds to run the race, if no birds hit you and you just run it. Each bird subtracts 6 seconds (3 at the end, 3 in actual run time) and each baloon adds 3 seconds (at the end). so you have to pick up at least 12 baloons without getting hit plus 2 for each bird you hit. Sound complicated? You bet! Difficult? Absolutely. This game requires no skill. You’ll play for 500 runs and get times varying from 2 seconds to 2 minutes. Eventually you’ll finally manage to get lucky and all the birds will be gone and the baloons will all be right in front of you and you’ll get the perfect time of 0 seconds. Thing is at this point this victory will feel empty and hollow as it came from no amount of skill on your part.

Now we are getting a bit long here, but there is one more point to touch on. Blitzball is the main mini-game of this game. FF8 had Triple Triad, FF9 had Tetra Master, FFX has Blitzball. Basically it’s underwater soccor (that’s Underwater Football for you Brits) and while it starts out a bit difficult, once you dump the entire original team and recruit a few good players you’ll be dominating the sport. The only problem with this game is that you have to win somewhere between 50 and 1 billion matches for all of Wakka’ Limits and Ultimate Weapon pieces to come up. I’m pretty sure the numbers are random so you could be playing a LOT of Blitz. As fun as it is for a while, it gets REALLY old after about 200 games.

Basically te point here is, that you should own three games for PS2. Metal Gear Solid 2, Grand Theft Auto 3, and Final Fantasy 10. Everything else is just garbage filler. Then for 2003, be sure to pick up Metal Gear Solid 2.2, Grant Theft Auto 3.2, and Final Fantasy 10.2 (Kingdom Hearts or I suppose Final Fantasy 10 International). man I see a trend here. Here’s hoping 2004 briungs MGS3, GTA4, and FF12. What, you say I missed FF11? No, Square just decided to skip making a good game for that one.

Review – Frequency (PS2)

Frequency Sote Banner

PS2 – 1-2 Players
Gameplay – 7/10

Graphics – 7/10

Sound – 9/10

Replay – 6/10

Overall – 7.3/10

Frequency is generally a hard game to describe. There isn’t really anything that is much like it. The closest thing I can think of is “DDR without the down arrow”, but, there is so much more on in
addition to that so the description doesn’t really fit very well. For one, the tracks are a lot longer. Then there’s a little ship thing that you’ll actually have to control your on top of following the

Well, maybe I should start out simple and then get ease you into the more complicated parts of the description. Imagine that you have a line, and that line represents a song. Now, turn that line into an 8-sided extruded tunnel. Your ship travels down this tunnel. There are no branches or forks but the tunnel does twist around a lot to some nice trippy visual effects. Essentially it is still the straight line. Now
take that tunnel and divide it up into several shorter segments. Each song is divided into segments; each segment is roughly 8 measures long.

Ok, now, back up one step to the 8 sided corridor. Each side of the corridor is lined with patterns of nodes that follow the sound of certain parts of the music. Each side represents a different layer of
the sound. For example, pretty much every track has a basic starting side representing the lowest drum or bass line. Pretty much every song has a vocal track. The techno based tracks may have a couple more bass sides or some synth sides. The more rock like tracks have more guitar sides, the hip hop type tracks tend to have several vocal sides.

The trick here is that the music for that side doesn’t play continually until you unlock that side. When the track starts out you’ll have a basic drum line. As you unlock the guitars and vocals, they will join in. It’s really cool to hear the songs sort of unfold as you complete more sides.  It’s sort of like getting a custom made remix each time you play through the track.

To complete a side you have to follow patterns of nodes. You must complete two consecutive measures of nodes on a side to unlock it. Then the side will play on its own for the rest of that segment. See each segment has its own set of sides. Though some of the sides repeat throughout the song in more than one segment, it’s probably not possible to collect all 6 sides of a segment in one pass.

But wait; I said there are 8 sides in our tunnel yet only 6 sides to capture. You see, after you’ve unlocked 5 of the 6 sides you’ll unlock freestyle sides of that segment which can be used to collect bonus points. There are two type of freestyle sides, Axe and Scratch. Some tracks have two of one type but most have one of each. The scratch creates a record scratching effect as you move the analogue stick as well as placing different sound samples into the music as you press the buttons. The Axe track adds digital
sort of “crystal” sound effects to the music as you move the analogue stick and hold one of the buttons.

As mentioned before, you also collect nodes along each measure  This is the part that is comparable to DDR. You move along and hit the nodes as they pass under your target, the nodes have left right and middle and work similar to DDR’s left, right, and up arrows and correspond to the Square, Circle, and Triangle buttons respectively. The X button is used to activate power-ups you collect. There are two power-ups. Auto-Capture will complete a side for you, and multiplier will increase your score. You can also use the L and R buttons to capture nodes but honestly this could have been better designed to alow you to turn between the sides of the tunnel.  Instead, you move between the sides using the left and right control pad buttons. Also, unlike DDR, you are penalized for hitting an incorrect or non-existent node and must start over on your 2 measures in a row sequence.

Sound thoroughly confusing enough?  It’s not really as bad as it sounds if you’re at all familiar with Rhythm style gameplay, especially DDR.

The object of the game is to make it through all of the segments to the end of the song. The number of segments varies with the length and complexity of the song. Harder difficulty songs tend to be longer. As you travel along the song your life bar is depleted as you miss picking up nodes. It is increased when you complete a side. You pick up power-ups by completing a measure with power-up nodes. In addition to the main game, there is also a freestyle mode where you create a song of your own using samples from the in game music. You can even play the homemade tracks in the regular game mode.  This mode is sadly fairly limited in what it really lets you do.  You aren’t really so much making music as telling the game when you want the pre made music to play.

The game comes with 25 songs, some by popular known artists such as No Doubt or Fear Factory, others by less well-known artists such as Funkstar De Luxe or Symbion Project. Pretty much all of the music is good though. In Easy mode, only the first 15 songs are available, in Normal there are 20 songs and Expert lets you play all 25 songs.  The songs are divided into 5 song stages and you must complete the first 4 songs of an earlier stage to unlock the next higher stage. Each stage has 4 songs initially playable and a 5th song that is unlocked by getting a combined high score of a certain amount on that
stage. To complete a difficulty you complete all of the songs on that difficulty.

This is fairly frustrating for anyone who is unable to complete the harder difficulty levels.  It also means a fairly limited song selection for those same people.  Twenty songs isn’t much when you consider DDR tends towards 70-80 or so tracks.  All that keeps a rhythm game going is variety of music and needlessly limiting what music choices this was isn’t a good idea if you want to keep the player interested.  The remix mode isn’t a very fun addition to help keep up interest either. 

The difficulty doesn’t help either.

The game starts out fairly simple but becomes excessively difficult in the later stages of the game.  The highest difficulty is certainly more difficult to complete than the highest difficulty on say, DDR.  I can pass most Heavy DDR songs with a controller, I can’t pass a single one in Frequency.  The overall difficulty is compounded because of the extra interaction required by changing sides.  Also the tunnel moves around at weird curves and whatnot which can be slightly disorienting, Additionally the node patterns tend to become extremely complex and the game is pretty unforgiving in regards to mistakes.  This can lead to a lot of frustration and a pretty unsatisfactory game experience.

All in all, Frequency is a pretty fun game as far as rhythm games go.  There is also a sequel called Amplitude that is supposed to be even better but in my opinion it drops a lot of what makes this game
interesting in favor of making things a bit easier.    Unfortunately maybe easier is what this game needs. Though the visuals are interesting, the music is good and the game play is unique without being lame, it’s a bit repetitious and limited in what can really be done.  The steep difficulty later in the game hurts as well.

Review – Metal Gear Solid 2 (PS2)

Metal Gear Solid 2

Konami – PS2 – 1 Player

I’ll just start by being courteous. There may be evil story spoilers in this article, though at the same times things that seem like evil story spoilers may just be exaggerations or even just made up to confuse you. With that said, It seems a recent trend in video games anymore is to simply rehash some old classic. 90% of games today are remakes or sequels to sequels. Sometimes a game comes along and tries something new and fresh though. A game with such neat innovative features the moment you play it you realize that one day this will be the stuff 2nr rate cash in remakes are made of. Then there are games like MGS2. Which go to great lengths to create “Perfectly Re-orchestrated” rehashes of their predecessors and make sure to point out in the plot itself that the game is nothing more then a cheap knockoff of it’s own brand name.

Actually there is a pretty nice point behind the game, “Anyone can be Solid Snake given the right circumstances”. It’s such an appropriate quote given the great lengths that Konami seems to have gone to in concealing the fact that you don’t really play as Solid Snake. Isn’t Konami really clever?

I mean how many people have really watched Escape From New York much less know the meaning of the word ‘Iroquois’. Anyway, other than all the blatant plot rip offs from it’s predecessor this is a really fun game. Its a bit short though I’d say. I mean I’ve played FFX for probably 120 hours counting both my save games (100 of those in one) and GTA3, Last I checked on my main save file, It was at about 120, but that was probably 80 or so hours ago. MGS2 just doesn’t have quite the same staying power I guess. Probably a good thing though, after a while I was really wondering when it would end.

Putting Seagulls to sleep is only fun for just so long you know.

The plot isn’t the only thing that makes this game similar to MGS1. For the most part if plays the same in game play. There are a few nice changes. The most subtle but possibly the hardest to get used to is that this game takes place mostly during the day. MGS1 was so dark it sometimes seems strange to be able to see for so far off to the horizon. The most useful change is the addition of first person aiming. Making shots to various parts of the body or even at certain things in the environment is a sinch with this new aiming system. Then there is the hang over the edge grip move. Which is pretty much just as useless as it sounds. Half the time the guards will see you hanging there and shoot you anyway, except instead of being in a position that allows you to act you are hanging there like a goon waiting for the bullets to hit your body.

But enough about gameplay. The gameplay is just repetetive boring filler for the even more boring hour long cut scenes. The meat of this game’s entertainment value is in the underlying comedy. I honestly think there is some huge massive parody going on here about video games. I can’t be sure though.

Anyway, first we have the lovely posters strewn pretty much everywhere in the game. You can’t stuff a dead body in a locker without finding a poster of some half naked Japanese chick hanging nearby. Or if you prefer you can always join the Russian Soldiers and look up internet porn.

Also the designers seemed to have decided Meryl was a little to butch and a bit old so they replaced her with a 12 year old girl who has no business being anywhere near this setting of this game.

Although, I’ll give her this, she is a hell of a lot more fun to fuck with than Meryl ever was. Or you can call snake pretty much anytime for lots of hilariously hokey information about the horrible twisted pasts of the villains. Let’s not forget the hours of fun you can spend listening to the CODEC near the end of the game. You people know what I’m talking about. Ohhh yeah, that’s some good stuff there. If all else fails you can see how many crazy or immature laughs you can get by fucking with the dog tags.

Oh right, Dog Tags. The game’s replay element. I suppose I’ll close with that point. Instead of just finishing the game repeatedly for bonuses like stealth and infinite ammo as per MGS1. You get to spend even MORE time holding up guards for Dog Tags. Now let me explain this a bit as before I played the game I had no idea what this entailed exactly. Basically, you walk up behind a guy enter FPS mode, and aim your gun at him. Then he stops and holds up his arms in terror. Then you circle around and jab your gun to his head (or crotch) and the guy will drop his dog tags for you to take. This is a really neat idea actually, and it’s a lot of fun…. the first several hundred times you do it.

By the time you start working on getting anything useful like Stealth, you’ll be so sick of hold ups you’ll want to toss the game in the trash and never play it again. The worst part is missing say, one guard in a certain dificulty and having to completely replay that mission to get ONE TAG. But for now I’m out of screen shots, so I’ll just say, this is indeed a pretty decent game, it was certainly hyped out the ass, so it should be at least worth a rental to even the most die hard MGS hater.

Review – Disgaea Hour of Darkness (PS2)

PS2 – Atlus – 1 Player

Lately I haven’t been the type to buy games until they’ve been marked down at least twice. However for some insane reason I picked this game up very soon after it came out based on one person’s recommendation. Sounds like a mix for disappointment personally but in the end it was a good idea.

For the most part I really hate these grid based Tactical RPGs. Final Fantasy Tactics was frustratingly boring/difficult/lame after like 4 battles. This game is ten times the game FFT was. The battles are much quicker for one thing, especially if you’re replaying old matches for experience. Also you can move all your characters on one turn, something I really hated in FFT. Though I must admit after a few days of regular playing it gets a little old. I find eventually become a bit tired of this game and become distracted by other games or other things going on.

However, the game is easy to come back to, and the charm picks back up almost immediately. This game is a very good “filler game”. That is to say, it’s something good to pick up and play for a week or so when you have nothing else to play.

Anyway, how about some information on the game itself. You are Laharl, son of the late Lord of the Underworld, your mission is to defeat everyone else and become the new Overlord. It’s about time someone made a game where you play as the “villain”, or at least the less than heroic character. As you battle through various locations eliminating other contenders for the throne. You’ll gain several of the characters you encounter to your party to assist you in combat.

You’ll need more than just the story characters though if you want to make quick work of things. Any of the characters in your party can recruit followers from a large list of characters. New classes and upgrades of classes become available as your existing characters gain experience. One minor complaint, It would have been nice if the class upgrades would have gotten new sprite (graphics) instead of just recolors, but I suppose that would have made things a little too confusing.

You can also recruit any monster you’ve battled before, but the cost of doing so is generally excessive for as weak as they are. If you want monsters, the real way to do it is to capture them. If you’ve weekend a monster in battle you can pick it up and toss it into your home base panel. If the monster is weak enough and the party members in the panel are strong enough, you’ll capture the monster.

It doesn’t take an eternity to gain levels either. I once made a new level 1 character and had her kill a very strong (weakened) monster and she gained 19 levels in one fight. She was ready to battle along side my stronger characters in no time. Which is really nice since otherwise I’d have had an essentially useless character that late in the game. Also this is the only RPG I can think of where levels go into the hundreds and thousands.

Speaking of levels, you can level up a lot of things. All your characters have regular experience levels of course. Each character can also level up their special abilities, magic spells, and weapon skills for each weapon type. These levels are dependent on how much you use the skill or weapon. Weapons and items themselves can be leveled up as well. You enter the Item World and fight through maps repeatedly. Each map cleared is a level up for the item/weapon. Along your trip through the item world you collect Residents. The Residents are special monsters that give bonus status effects to weapons and items. Once you’ve collected a Resident you can also move it to another more useful or more powerful item.

There is also the Underworld Senate. You can bring bills to the Senate for things like “Better items for Sale” or “Stronger Monsters”. The probability that they will pass depends on your favor with the senators. By bribing the senators with items you can gain more favor. Also if you’re strong enough you can challenge the senators that vote against you to a battle. You can also take tests to increase your level in the senate.

Back to the core of the game, battles. Like I mentioned, they are fairly quick and generally easy. They do get more difficult in the later worlds, but there are some easy tricks you can use to gain levels quickly. One of the main gimmicks in battle are the colored Geo Panels. Random squares on the map will be colored one of several colors. There are also colored Geo Stones lying around the maps (Note: Not every map has Geo Panels). The stones add affects to the colored panels. For example, a stone may have the effect “Recover 20%” and it’s sitting on a red panel. This will cause every red panel to recover 20% of the HP of any character on that space. The Geo panels also affect monsters, so some strategy has to be used sometimes. There are a ton of different effects from “Enemy Boost” to “Warp” to “Invincibility”. Also you can initiate massive chain reactions by destroying Geo Stones on the Geo Panels. These chain reactions are often the only way to gain bonuses on some maps.

Also, in battle characters will often initiate combination attacks with nearby characters. If done correctly it’s possible to do many more hits of damage than you would have done with single attacks. Also you can toss monsters or heroes around to help cover more ground. Monsters can be combined into stronger monsters for more experience as well.

The plot is generally bizzare. I imagine it may possibly turn some people off, however its excessive strangeness almost makes it come off as more of a parody than anything. The silly episode previews, advertising titles like “Super Dimensional Gal Etna” are amusing. Overall the story is prety solid as well. Flone’s constant moaning about Love gets old after a short time though. You spend the first half of the game trying to become Overlord, then the later half concerned with actually being Overlord, and other plots. This game also features a new game plus feature, which is something you’ll probably need if you want to unlock everything.

Overall this is a great fun RPG. I havn’t really found too many RPGs outside of Final Fantasy that were that great. This one is definitely a winner.