First Impressions – Torchlight

I like how the cat looks better.

I’ll admit it:  I’ve never played a Diablo-style game before.  They’ve never really appealed to me… they just looked kind of boring.  Of course, I get to test that impression with Torchlight, since so many have recommended it to me to play on Steam.

Unfortunately, thus far it’s done nothing to change my thoughts on the genre.

I decided to play as a Berserker:  Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew they would be the easiest to play as, since I could just run up and hit enemies until they died.  It probably was a mistake, because all I do is run up and hit enemies until they die.  It’s boring!  I get a few cool skills, but nothing really upstanding.  If I were one of the other classes, I’m sure there would be more strategy involved in fighting enemy mobs, but that doesn’t quite exist with the Berserker.  Sure, I could equip a ranged weapon and do that, but then what’s the point of playing that class?

Neat looking!

Quests are pretty insubstantial–find a quest item, kill a miniboss, and get fame.  The story doesn’t seem all that interesting, either.  I’ve gotten to the point where you can enter other mini-dungeons and get cool loot, but it’s still the same action, just in a different place.

Torchlight isn’t really all that bad, just boring.  I’ve heard it’s far better with more people, but that’s something that Torchlight II does, so I have to wait until then.  For now, I’ll just enjoy my vanilla Torchlight.

First Impressions – Klonoa

Oh no!  Don't talk about me and say bad things!

Going into this game, I didn’t know what to expect.  I absolutely loved Klonoa 2, and while this game is on the Wii, it’s a port of the original.  I wasn’t sure if I’d be taking a step forward or back with the series, so I tried to keep my excitement low for the game… for fear of my own hype and comparisons to the second game might ruin the experience for me.

Well, I couldn’t stop the comparisons, but overall Klonoa is stands well as a platformer.  It still has the nice 2.5D stages, set in an unusual world that’s a bit different from the norm of platformers.  Klonoa himself has all of the same powers from the sequel, so I was able to jump in quickly without any problems.

A couple things stick out to me that I don’t really like–for one, all cutscenes and story-telling takes place inside the levels (or Visions) themselves.  While this happened a fair bit in Klonoa 2 as well, everything flowed a lot better, and not being able to skip the text ahead of its crawling pace makes matters worse.  While it ends up not being a game-breaker, I just wish I could speed the talking up a bit and get back to the fun gameplay.

This game's graphics are busy, yet pretty.

Also, the invincibility period after getting hit seems a bit too short.  I can get hit by enemies twice a bit too easily.  This also isn’t a huge problem, as the game is a bit on the easy side (since the Wii version allows 10 hits before dying), but it can be a bit annoying.

But hey, it’s a good amount of fun thus far.  The levels are shorter than in Klonoa 2, which I find a good thing; that way, if I miss something I don’t have to go through a huge and long effort to find anything.  I’m excited to keep playing through and discovering what happens next… even if Hewpoe talks too much!

First Impressions – Castlevania: Lord of Shadow

I felt that the 3D Castlevanias were treated a little unfairly.  They may not be perfect, but they are trying to deviate from the tried and true 2D formulas, and it’s as though the fanbase wrongfully lashes at every little failure… but you know what?  Maybe they’re right.

Lord of Shadow (it took me way too long to not put an ‘s’ at the end of Lord or Shadow) sets to impress at first:  You’re introduced to battle mechanics at a nice pace, and quickly learn to kick butt.  Combined with the lovely graphics, it seems the game is going to be a fun ride.  However, after getting through Chapter I, my opinions quickly changed.  Instead of expanding, combat becomes more convoluted, requiring you to be able a few too many things at once.  Unlocking new combos can be exciting, but the times that you’ll be able to execute them (or remember to) dwindles as you find the few good ways to actually deal with the hoards of same-looking enemies.

Exploration is a pain; the camera tries to hide hidden paths, which isn’t the problem, but if the camera doesn’t cooperate AFTER you’ve found the spot, that is a problem.  Sometimes, if you go one path, you’ll realize too late that you can’t go back, making it that you potentially miss a secret and have to replay the level to get it.  Levels typically aren’t long, but the ones that you’ll be most likely to miss something on can be confusing, leading to frustration.

I thought the bosses are cool, at first; but running into the Ice Titan at the end of Chapter I dampened my mood a bit.  Having to play a Shadow of the Colossus battle was not something I was expecting, and it was far from fun.  However, despite that hiccup, the bosses are probably the best part about the game.  They require you to change it up and use different combos, so it’s almost a refreshing change of pace when you bump into one.

I really hope this game gets better.  I’m in Chapter II right now, and the level when you go inside the tree is very annoying (spiders hit HARD), and there’s a lot of game left to go.  There’s potential for the game to branch out a bit and become better, but I do worry that it’ll stick to its current, boring old tricks.

First Impressions – Shining Force

I decided to start Shining Force: The Legacy of Great Intention, the Genesis’s flagship SRPG, as part of my Summer Gaming Challenge.  I tried playing it in the past, but only got to the end of Chapter I before getting distracted, which really is unfortunate.  This is a solid game, though being the first of a new IP really seems to show through at points.

Battles play well enough, similar to most SRPGs:  You move characters around on a grid in a turn based fashion, beating up foes and gaining levels.  One thing I immediately noticed that was different, and made me have to rethink strategies, is that combatants don’t actually exchange blows; they simply attack.  So, if Max went up and hit a Goblin, that’d be it… no counter attack, and the same happens when the enemy’s turn comes up.  It’s really not even a big change, but when you’re mainly used to Fire Emblem, the change can really make you think differently about approaching certain scenarios.

Also, some things seem a little unbalanced.  Magic seems incredibly overpowered on both sides of the field, allowing my mage to decimate everyone, but at the same time an enemy mage almost completely cuts down my multiple of meatiest troops in a single hit.  It seems that the physical classes will never catch up to that level of destruction.  Some enemy AI seems off, too; I can’t fathom some of the reasons enemies will go and attack other units instead of getting an easy kill, while at other times I’m surprised at how well the AI worked into destroying the full-health main character and forcing me to restart the battle.  Good thing there’s no permadeath!

I find other small grievances, but I can’t blame the game; little things like having to access the menu and select things like ‘talk’ and ‘search’ are archaic mechanics found in a lot of RPGs during this time. The inventory system is also a pain, if only for the reason that if Max is full, I can’t loot chests, making it annoying to always micromanage who has what items.  Why couldn’t it move to the next person in line?

I’m excited to be able to promote units (like in Fire Emblem, you can promote as soon as level 10, but it’s always best to wait until you reach the cap at 20 and have 10 extra levels to grow into),  it’s neat that stat levels up are somewhat randomized (Ken even got an empty level!), and just playing the game is pretty fun.  Despite my complaints, I’m having some fun with this title, and I’m expecting it to get even better once I have some more cool party members.

First Impressions – Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy

Ugh, I hate trying to spell Final Fantasy’s spin-off names nowadays.  Dissidia?  Theatrhythm?  After all this time, I STILL don’t think I have them right!  Seriously, Square, could you lay off on the crazy made up names?

Bah, enough random ranting, this new 3DS game is pretty fun.  I was worried a bit at first as the game took me through the tutorials and party set-up; it all makes the game seem more complicated than it is, and while party setups can mean a lot if you’re going for items, you really can get by the normal playthrough with whoever you want.  That’s good, because I kept switching about all my party members for the fun of it.

The game has three modes.  Series is when you go through each game’s selected tracks, and each game has three; without going into the game’s lingo, they are a battle song, a field song, and an event song.  The Series is nice… I guess, but the relatively low difficulty leaves me a wanted a little more.  There’s a Challenge mode, which lets you replay any Series (or DLC) song alone and on a higher difficulty.  This adds the challenge that the Series mode is lacking.

The real star of the show is the Chaos Temple mode.  In it, you get two random songs (one field and one battle) strung together, and you have to play through the two.  While simple, the Dark Notes, as they’re called, come in various difficulties, giving songs a new beat to go to them.  In addition, you can run into songs that aren’t Series songs; and the Dark Notes are the only way to play them, too!  Finally, you can send and receive Notes via StreetPass… not only is it nice to see a third party utilizing the feature, it’s a fun way to find new Notes and tracks!

So, my thoughts?  It’s a good deal of fun, though I do worry about the length a little. Chaos Temple is just a ton of fun, though… it’s so exciting to see what you might get from it!  I’m also not very found of how annoying it seems to unlock the extra characters… but I’m sure more of it and the party system in general will make sense when I delve deeper.

First Impressions – Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure

Rhapsody… in a word, is odd.  Playing this remake for the DS certainly is a treat; I’m glad I was able to pick it up instead of going through the hassle of tracking down the PS1 version.  From what I can tell from research, there isn’t anything extra added (though apparently the Japanese version has extra scenes related to the third game in the series… I can see why those were removed from the US version), though the battle system has been changed from a SRPG-lite type gameplay to a more standard turn-based battle system.

None of this is explaining why it is odd, however… first off, the subtitle ‘A Musical Adventure’ is not just a string of nice words; this is actually a musical.  For the bit I played, the main character actually stopped and sung a full-length song.  It was pretty, though I’m a little sad it’s Japanese vocals only, and if it wears on the nerves you can always skip the scenes.

The second odd thing about this game comes from the characters.  Cornet is a girl that can talk to puppets, has a magical horn (??), and wishes to be whisked away by her Prince Charming.  Which almost happens, but then he gets turned to stone and Cornet has to save him.  It’s certainly a whimsical fairy-tale setting, but I find it a little out of sorts that the girl is saving the prince, and not the other way around.  Well, I suppose that’s Nippon Ichi for you, always changing stuff up.

So, for my first few hours of gameplay, I am enjoying it, though I worry that the battles might become a bit boring.  The humor and light-hearted nature of the story is likely to carry me through the short game, despite the battles.

Oh, I forgot about the sound effects.  My lord, are they annoying.