Tag Archives: Nintendo

All-time Top 5 JRPGs (wot I’ve played…)

Yeah a bit of a cheat this one, as I’ve only properly played 5 Japanese Role Playing Games (JRPGs) so that’ll be why your favourite isn’t in the list… I have tried to play plenty, but never got more than 2 hours into anything other than these 5.

I have really enjoyed the ones I have played (well the top 3 anyway) so I wouldn’t rule out playing more in the future. Anyway, on with the countdown!

Number 5 – Final Fantasy VII (PSX)

headerMy first JRPG, and apparently, the first one many of my friends played too. This game was a major event back in a high school, and for a while it seemed everyone was playing FFVII. I was quite enjoying it, albeit a departure from my usual choice of game. I do remember that trying to navigate the world map while also dealing with random encounters tested my patience, but the whole thing collapsed when my memory card corrupted around 20 hours in. I appreciate in the grand scheme of things, 20 hours isn’t very long, but that was pretty huge for me at the time, and certainly more than I’d be happy to play over.

I pretty much swore off the genre after this, and it would be quite a few years before I was to try them again.

Number 4 – Bravely Default (3DS)

BravelyDefault-810x449I gave this a go when struggling to find something other than Animal Crossing or Mario Kart to play on my 3DS. Discussions about it described a game with a similar feel to Final Fantasy VII which made me think perhaps I’d enjoy it. I was aware of the “outrage” at the changes made for the Western release from the anti video game censorship crowd, but they all seemed like changes for the better to me, so figured I’d give it a go.

I mostly enjoyed the game for maybe 18 hours. The story was nonsense and even with the localisation there was a a sufficient creepy ‘ick’ factor that never quite went away. (I think it was hard to distance from the fact that these characters were originally written to be 15 years old). However, the gameplay mechanics were fun, and I liked the ‘job’ system in building my party. It all got a bit grindy and dull though, and I just lost the will to come back to it.

Number 3 – Lost Odyssey (Xbox 360)

landscape-1481743951-lost-odysseyA game I played mostly by chance, got a bargain on release without knowing anything about it and fired it up just to see what it was. I was blown away by the graphics, it was easily the best looking game I’d seen so far on a console, and at first was just playing to admire the aesthetics. I got sucked in though, and it became the first JRPG I ever saw through to completion. The story was ridiculous, which I suspect may be an essential criteria for a JRPG, and the costume designs left me questioning the usefulness of such armor in a swordfight.

I really liked the combat though, and the timing based boost you could give to your attacks was surprisingly satisfying. I sometimes think I might replay this, but then I laugh at the thought of me replaying anything, never mind a 40+ hour epic, and the impulse goes away.

Number 2 – Panzer Dragoon Saga (Sega Saturn)

Panzer-Dragoon-SagaOnly played through this for the first time last month, and I am amazed how well it has held up. I was a big fan of Panzer Dragoon and Panzer Dragoon Zwei first time round on the Saturn, and this is doubtless the main reason I took to Saga the way I did. The art style was consistent with the previous games, and immediately felt like a comfortable return to that world.

The shift to turn-based combat was a concern before I started, I didn’t know how the previous rail-shooter style would translate. I need not have worried, the combat is superb, with the two basic attacks being lifted straight out of the other games to feel instantly familiar. The need to constantly keep re-positioning around the enemies and the bonus to attack speed granted for attacking as you move ensures that the combat remains engaging.

IMG_20170326_192804_565

I found the controls in general to be very well done, particularly in the parts where you’re navigating the world on your dragon. When revisiting early 3D games you often have to make allowances for the controls and/or camera, but I can honestly say I had no issues with either.

While the story here is no exception to my understanding of the JRPG norm, I did find myself happily reading all the subtitles and enjoying the many cut-scenes. This extra flavour for the world is a big part of why I’ve gone back to playing the original games, and why I’m optimistic that I might even beat them this time round.

Number 1 – Eternal Sonata (Xbox 360)

Eternal-Sonata-810x456Or, the one time I liked cel-shaded graphics.

I know about as much about JRPGs on the whole as I do Classical Music. The only composer I really like is Chopin, so the premise of this game immediately had me intrigued. The game is set inside a dream Frédéric Chopin has while he dies of Tuberculosis. Yeah. We’re well set up for another nonsense story, but this one did really hook me.

Until Eternal Sonata, I always found cel-shading to be a bit of a novelty. It’s such a perfect fit for making the whole game feel like an elaborate cartoon. It’s joyful, twee and yet manages to be interestingly educational at the same time, as along with the story cut-scenes it also has video history lessons relating to Chopin’s life. (From reading some commentary these weren’t to everyone’s taste, but I loved it)

The music in the game is obviously Chopin influenced, and accordingly spectacular. There are very few game soundtracks I listen to outside of playing the games, but the 4 disc album produced for this is still a staple on my iPod.

I remain annoyed the PS3 release afterwards had extra content, as I didn’t want to start over from the beginning after I completed it on the 360. I think I’d happily replay it now though if it was given a refresh for the modern consoles.

I’ve heard plenty of critique about Eternal Sonata, more than one person declare it “the worst JRPG I ever played”. I take some amusement from this, as it seems likely that as a generalisation, I can still say I don’t like JRPGs, and perhaps I like the ones I do because they are outliers within the genre.

What next?

I remain open to suggestions from anyone who can suggest games I might like based on what I’ve written above. I’ll be honest though and say there is next to no chance of me playing anything 16-bit or earlier.

I am thinking of playing Skies of Arcadia Legends, it always sort of appealed to me on Dreamcast, and now I’ve got the GameCube version which I’ve heard is generally an improvement.

Top 5 Light Gun Games – (Playable on a HDTV…)

A favourite genre of mine growing up, my love for light gun games started with the SMS port of Operation Wolf. A genre most at home in the arcade, the home ports ran right through the various consoles over the years, peaking in the 32bit era, then almost dying out when we all (well not all but you know what I mean) started ditching those giant CRT screens for nice new flat ones.

For me the greatest thing to come out of the whole ‘motion control’ run started by the Wii, was those developers using the Wii pointers and Playstation Move controllers to bring back the Light Gun shooter. The Playstation 3 also had a couple of other gun peripherals, but the decent games are either PSMove compatible or exclusive. This list is simply my top 5 of the games to be played on these systems, then I’ll round it out with a summary of the others I know of for the gen. I think a follow up post might cover my favourites from the CRT days.

So in reverse order:

5) Dead Storm Pirates (PS3)
The least deep (haha) of the games in this list, it’s a no frills port of the arcade game, but it is still great fun to play with a friend. I believe you can get it on its own from the PSN store, but it is also included on the disc with the PS Move version of Time Crisis Razing Storm (more on that at the end) which is now picked up very cheaply.

4) Resident Evil Chronicles HD Collection (PS3)
A double pack containing HD updates of Umbrella Chronicles and Darkside Chronicles from the Wii. Probably not worth getting again if you did complete them on the Wii, but if you’re coming at it fresh, then this is the version to go for. These are actually my favourite Resident Evil games, I always preferred the story to the game play of the main series, and my favourite memories of the early games is still watching other people play rather than playing myself. Be warned though, these are pretty tough!

3) Dead Space Extraction (PS3)
Ported from the Wii version, everything seems pretty much the same, but the graphics have had the usual polish. I understand it’s a prequel to the main Dead Space trilogy, but I still haven’t got round to playing those…

2) Ghost Squad (Wii)
Most of the Wii gun games made it to PS3, where Sony’s console received superior versions. However Ghost Squad was never ported, and is now the sole reason I still keep a Wii hooked up. It’s a port of the SEGA arcade game, and for me as close as they’ve got to recapturing the magic of Virtua Cop. A whole host of unlockables has me regularly going back to this, and it’s always a joy to play with a friend.

1) House of the Dead Overkill (Wii & PS3)
This is superb and quite possibly my favourite Light Gun game of all time. The soundtrack is amazing, some really funky tunes. The writing is often genuinely amusing too, although the dialogue is definitely not for children. The PS3 version has an extra level, supports 3D TV’s and also hilariously anaglyph 3D, shipping with a couple of pairs of the old red & blue 3D glasses. I originally played it through on the Wii, but switched to PS3 when that came out. It’s definitely better played on PS3, but both versions are solid.

Also worth mentioning is the excellent Typing of the Dead Overkill which came out on Steam. This is a typing game using all the levels from the House of the Dead Overkill, in the same way that the original Typing of the Dead on Dreamcast was based on House of the Dead 2.

I never got round to picking up gun attachments for my Wii, and happily play Wii games with just the naked wiimotes, on PS3 however I can recommend the official pistol grip attachments shown in the photo, they do make a difference.

Other mentions:
The Shoot (PS3) – Feels a bit like a tech demo, but it’s mildly entertaining. Worth grabbing for the £1 or £2 it can be found for now.

House of the Dead 2 & 3 (Wii) and House of the Dead 3 & 4 (PS3) – Really good ports of the arcade games, annoyingly HotD 2 never got ported to PS3, but it’s nice to be able to play it on Wii and not worry about finding room for a CRT to hook up a dreamcast…

Time Crisis Razing Storm & Time Crisis 4 (PS3) – Razing Storm is dreadful. However, Time Crisis 4 is a nice arcade game, and this disc also containing Dead Storm Pirates makes it pretty good value just for the two other games.

Link Crossbow Trainer (Wii) – Originally bundled with the bizarre official lightgun attachment for the Wii, this is a surprisingly fun short game. It’s good to play but I’d put that plastic attachment in the bin straight away. Pistol grips are the only way to go if you do want a gun style holder.

Gunblade NY & LA Machineguns (Wii) – I still haven’t played this, they weren’t great arcade games, so I haven’t bothered picking up this double pack of the ports, but may still grab them at some point.

Mad Dog McCree Gunslinger Pack (Wii) – This is a triple pack of the ‘classic’ FMV games, the first two games are also available on the PS3. They’re very hard to recommend as they really haven’t aged well. The Nostalgia is strong though, and I loved the first game with the gun back on the CDi…

You may have noticed that I haven’t included Child of Eden in the list, despite it being in the photo. While still a “Rail Shooter”, it’s not quite the same, having more in common with Rez and the Panzer Dragoon games. Perhaps a blog for another day.

“Real Gamers are Platform Agnostic”

As much as I hate the idea of “hobby gatekeeping” the title above is something I have been known to band about (see “I’m with the Sega Boy“). Of course the statement is mostly how I justify buying more games and consoles than I could ever actually play, rather than a declaration about “gamers”, whatever the hell they are…

A general rule for games consoles has always been the requirement of that “killer app” to sell the machine.  What I find interesting, is when they go beyond the obvious.  Everyone knows Sonic and Mario sold consoles, but it’s always refreshing to hear of other games that made people jump in.  Since the Dreamcast, the last machine I bought to play SEGA exclusives, there have been some key titles that stood out and made me buy each machine.  I largely skipped the PS2, but I think I’ve owned most other systems since the DC.

GameCube 
Main game here was Luigi’s Mansion, which I did really enjoy.  My console purchase was also helped by stumbling across a dirt cheap 2nd hand one only a month after launch…

Xbox
Admittedly I bought this for Halo, as it became apparent that as much as I prefer keyb & mouse for fps, I was going to have to get used to a controller.  The other factor though was the ease of modding, so I spent more time with emulators on my Xbox, and using xbconnect to play Rainbow 6 and Links golf online with friends, bypassing Xbox live…

Nintendo DS
Mario Kart and Animal Crossing were the big factors here, no surprises. Probably still my favourite versions of both franchises.

Wii
Yes, I bought this at launch to play Wii Sports, just like everyone else, I’m not a monster.  Later the purchase was justified with the addition of Mario Kart and Animal Crossing, apart from that I mostly played GameCube games on it.

Xbox 360
The promise of Space Giraffe from Jeff Minter put this on my radar, and I was happily waiting for the release to buy it.  However I played Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved and Assault Heroes on a friends machine, and I was convinced to jump in before SG came out.  SG was still day one though, rank 27 on the hardcore leaderboard is about the best I think I’ve ever done on any game…

PS3
As with the 360, my main reason for buying this wasn’t out yet when I bought the console.  I was sold on PS3 when I heard about the upcoming Wipeout HD, I was content waiting for that, until the same friend showed me Super Stardust HD and Everyday Shooter.  There should also be an honourable mention here for SingStar, was definitely a factor!

3DS
Techinically I didn’t buy this, as it was generously donated by a friend who was upgrading to an XL.  However my reasons for wanting it were the usual Mario Kart and Animal Crossing combo…

PS Vita
This was another launch purchase for me, only my second one ever. Wipeout 2048 and Super Stardust both being ready at launch were enough to convince me, and I never regretted the purchase.  Later FuturLab’s Velocity games and Jeff Minter’s TxK (which arrived replacing Tempest 2000 as my favourite game of all time) would secure the Vita’s place as my favourite handheld system.

PS4
I resisted this for a while, mostly because I was still mourning the demise of Wipeout, RESOGUN was a huge draw though.  I played it at a friends knowing that I’d eventually own one.  It wasn’t long after RESOGUN turned up on the Vita and I was playing that constantly that I was in GAME handing over my cash for a PS4.  PSPlus was a big draw too, having been subscribed to that prior to the PS4 launching, meant I’d already got a decent library of games for it by the time I picked one up.

Xbox One
My most recent purchase, only in the last few months.  Rare Replay was the key title here, without which I might have skipped it entirely.  While RR was the catalyst, Halo Master Chief collection and Forza exclusives sold it.  On the whole I still think the PS4 is the better choice if you’re only going to have one current system, but both Halo and Forza are “best in class” for me, and completely warrant owning an Xbox One as well.

I should also give a nod to my gaming PC, it is decent enough that I can still play latest releases, although I’m no longer getting away with setting all the graphics to max at 1080p… (4k is still some way in my future) The low cost of games on PC is a factor in my maintaining one, so I often pick up cross-platform titles on Steam.  The biggest draw in terms of exclusives for me though is Blizzard.  Even discounting the thousands of hours I originally spent on WoW, a significant amount of my gaming time is spent on StarCraft 2, Heroes of the Storm and Diablo 3 (yeah I know it has a console release, but I still prefer playing it on pc, click click click).  Having a persistent games library for PC is also a nice touch, compared to effectively starting from scratch each new console generation.  It’s pretty horrific for the backlog though…

So far as notable absences go, I think I just missed out the Wii U.  I have been largely uninspired by this, Mario Kart should have been enough, but I really don’t like that controller and the Animal Crossing titles have been disappointing.  I maintain that I would buy a budget Wii U that had a classic controller instead of the touchscreen one, ala the later Wii’s that dropped backwards compatibility, and just came with Mario Kart.

And with that, I manage not to go a whole year without updating the blog. I’m off to play Forza.

I’m with the SEGA boy…

I’m sure Zelda, Mario, Pokemon and the rest are all great if you like that kind of thing, but on the whole, they’re not for me.  Many of my friends are aware of my stance on Nintendo, and it is mostly tongue-in-cheek.  In an era of micro-transations, voice commands, draconian DRM policies and ‘essential’ second screens, I find myself wishing for a simpler time.  When the only console rivalry that mattered was which was cooler, a blue super-fast hedgehog or an oddly obese plumber with a pornstar tache.  (It’s the hedgehog.)

At least with SEGA vs Nintendo it always felt like it was about the games.  I know this is all perception, but I find it much harder to care about SONY vs Microsoft as it feels more like Stereos and Televisions vs Windows and Office, all a bit abstract.  My console gaming route growing up was Master System, Mega Drive, Saturn, PSX, Dreamcast.  After the Dreamcast I was old enough to just waste my money buying all the consoles.  (Real gamers are platform agnostic of course…)  For each generation where it was a choice, I felt I completely made the right one, and that list contains 4 of my top 5 consoles of all time.  The PSX is obviously the odd one out, and if it wasn’t for NAMCO, I would never have owned one.

I’m not entirely anti-Nintendo either, Mario Kart and Animal Crossing are amongst my favourite games series.  I am likely to cave and buy a Wii U once Mario Kart 8 drops, although I’d really appreciate them releasing one without the heinous gamepad at a price that reflects the fact that I only really want to play one game…

A significant amount of my preference is simply down to the sorts of games available.  I prefer arcade style console games.  Shmups are pretty much my fave genre, followed by beat ’em ups and arcadey racers.  There are games in pretty much every genre that I do like, but not to this extent.  While I am aware that all  the big Nintendo games I dismiss out of hand are technically very good, and I understand their appeal, they just don’t grab me, no matter how many times I try to play Zelda.  Oh this doesn’t apply to the Smash Bros. games, they simply are dross. Floaty physics nonsense. 😉

Given the above, it’s easy to see how my favourite N64 games are an unusual selection.  My current collection is below, loosely ranked top-to-bottom in order of preference, and I own almost all of the games I actually want for the system.  Even of these I don’t really like Goldeneye or F-Zero, and I haven’t played France 98 although I’m assured it’s good for a football game.  (I’m suspicious, it doesn’t even look like sensible soccer…)

N64

N64

At least it is obviously about the games.  Team SEGA because I wanted to play Sonic and awesome arcade titles like Golden Axe, Fantasy Zone, Streets of Rage etc.  The Saturn and Dreamcast libraries of shmups and beat ’em ups ensure that they’re still my most played systems today.

I suppose the XBOX vs PS debate has some games related rivalry too.  Which generic FPS would I prefer to play?  Actually I’ll stick to my PC thanks, and play them properly…

Now I’m just off to pick up a Mega Drive, to sit next to my Saturn and Dreamcast.

 

Console modding for beginners…

Slight delay getting this up, but I blame Super Bowl weekend for that.

Last week saw a couple of arrivals I’d been waiting for, my first USA N64 games, and a replacement Dreamcast shell very generously donated by Danny (@dog_retro from twitter). Friday night I sat down after dinner, got the tools out and carried out a couple of (mostly) straightforward mods.

Firstly, swapping the Dreamcast over:

New ShellThe replacement shell Danny sent to me, even including the modem and a bonus game. 😀

I watched a couple of youtube videos of Dreamcasts being taken apart to aid the process, but if anything they managed to make it look much harder than it actually was!

Comparison image Side-by-side with my battle-damaged system.  Looked much worse in life, and had a lot of scratching etc.

WP_20140131_011 All done - looking great Sorted.

Whole thing took about half an hour, really easy, and very pleased with the results.

Secondly, modding my Japanese N64 to play USA carts:

This is fairly straight-forward following the guide here.  I did have a slight misadventure where I misread the instructions and didn’t pay enough attention to the pictures.

Jap/USA Cart compare Japanese fit

Left shows the physical differences between the two carts, in order to get USA games working on a Japanese system, (and vice-versa) you just have to get them to fit in!  As shown on the right, the consoles have blocks that align with the cut out bits in the bottom corners of the cart.

On my first reading of the instructions, I believed the intention was to just cut out those two blocks.  This would work, but they are very solid, and would require a stronger tool.  I did attempt this first anyway, as you can see:

 This is where it fits in the console The 'region protection'  No way this was going to go badlyOops

I then realised (after stopping the bleeding) that in fact the guide just suggests removing a whole chunk of the plastic.  Like so:

Simples Replacment

Easy with my hacksaw!  Also very satisfying for the little die-hard SEGA fan in me to take a hacksaw to a Nintendo console.  I then reassembled and tested it with my USA copy of Wipeout 64.  Much rejoicing and a successful Friday evening.

It fits! (That's what she said) Sorry about the aspect ratio... 

Now on with the gaming!

 

The continuing saga of my Nintendo 64

Since my previous post where I ordered myself a Japanese N64, things haven’t quite gone to plan.  The original intention was to mod the console for RGB output.  I had been reading the directions here and growing in confidence that performing this mod was well within my ability.  The required components can all be found very cheaply on eBay.  Being a Japanese console it is also a simple matter to cut the casing so it will also play American games, following the instructions here.

The console arrived quickly enough, and came with Japanese copies of Wave Race and Pilot Wings.  I hooked it all up for testing, and was pleased to discover that people were not exaggerating the speed difference between NTSC and PAL.  The fact that all the Japanese text meant I had no idea what was going on, only emphasised the need to play American games.  The next step I ordered myself a gamebit 4.5mm to open the machine, and a Japanese copy of Mario Kart 64 so I had something to play.  This was mostly in case there was a delay to the modding, and because I was sure I could follow Mario Kart even if it wasn’t in English…

Fortunately, I held off ordering the components of the RGB mod until after the gamebit had arrived and I opened the machine.  When I got the tool I sat down to have a look inside and discovered signs that the console had been opened before.  Pushing forward with a growing sense of unease, I found the board contained the dreaded MAV-NUS video chip.  I had successfully purchased a console that couldn’t be modded for RGB output, making the whole exercise pretty pointless.

I was disappointed, and put the whole thing aside for a few days.  On reflection, I decided that I’d resume the hunt for a decent Nintendo 64 picture in a few months giving my finances a chance to recover.  In the meantime I would get hold of an S-Video lead to make the best of a bad situation.  This is now in place, and the quality is much improved over the RF cable, and quite playable.  Just like my childhood though, the Sega Saturn picture makes the N64 look silly.  I’m hoping I can pick up a pre-modded RGB N64 at Play Blackpool.

I’ve ordered myself a few American games anyway, to start the collection and make the most of the machine.  When they arrive I will be butchering the case as mentioned above.  Amongst the games I ordered is an NTSC copy of Robotron 64, so I can go ahead with my original plan of blogging about that.

Such an effort.  Anyway…

My Setup

This is my current setup, I added the Daytona and Raiden prints this week, to cheer myself up about the whole chain of events.  The 360 and PS3 are connected via HDMI, the Wii is component, Dreamcast via VGA and then the Saturn and N64 go into a SCART switch box.  I change my mind pretty often, but my current intention is to replace the 360 with an Atari Jaguar and to swap out the Wii for a Wii U once Mario Kart 8 appears.  I’m resisting the Xbone and PS4 at present as my PC is more than good enough for current/next gen gaming, and Steam means I save a fortune on games that way too.  The PS3 justifies itself as a Bluray/Singstar/Lightgun Shooter device.