Rising Star Games Haul

I see a lot of beauty bloggers writing about their clothing and make up hauls. While, as a woman, I do still have these hauls, the ones I am most proud of are my gaming hauls. See, while most women are always on the lookout for the biggest and best deals on their favourite make up or clothing brand, I’m currently on the lookout for the biggest PSN sales. And this week, that was the Rising Star 10th anniversary sale.

I love Rising Star. I love their games because they’re just so damn addictive. Their sale on PSN was just too good to miss, so here’s what I bought, and what I make of each one so far:

Harvest Moon Innocent Life  (£2.40, PSP/PS Vita)

This is actually the one I wasn’t convinced about, but the one I’ve been enjoying the most so far. I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of a futuristic Harvest Moon, and it’s not exactly as futuristic as the synopsis would lead you to believe. I won’t spoil anything, but it maintains a focus on farming, along with various other bits and bobs to do. My favourite thing is definitely that it appears there is little need to bond with the residents. There’s no giving gifts to your object of affection, when that time could be spent harvesting crops and tending to your livestock. While I am enjoying it though, it really does just leave you to it, which is both good and bad. I’ve had to check online several times to see what I’m exactly meant to be doing for any form of progression. I’ve killed a good 8 hours on it so far though, and is quite nice to play before I start work in the evenings.

futureharvestmoon_00

Futuristic farming never looked so…traditional?

Harvest Moon Hero of Leaf Valley (£3.60, PSP/PS Vita)

I was actually a little disappointed with this one. I’ve always had a bit of an issue with the console attempts at Harvest Moon as they just never translated well from a handheld, and this feels like a console game on a handheld. The movement of the character is very slow, and the focus has been taken away from farming, and is more focused around building relationships with the residents, which is something I’ve never been keen on. For me, a Harvest Moon is about farming. It’s about making enough money to get more upgrades, more equipment, and getting enough materials to build an extension on your house. This just feels like a poor attempt if I’m honest. I will give it another chance though. Just as soon as I’ve stopped being addicted to Innocent Life…

gfs_125978_2_21

A lacklustre modern attempt at a classic

Virtue’s Last Reward (£8.25, PSP/PS Vita)

I have to be honest, I haven’t played Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, and I really should, but I might just brush up on the story online unless I can grab a cheap copy in town. It’s something I always looked at and thought ‘I’ll buy that one day’ and never got round to it. I’ve not had the opportunity to play Virtue’s Last Reward yet, but I’m excited to get stuck into it. Apparently it’s more like a visual novel, where you make choices that affect the gameplay, and some of those choices sound like they might have some dire consequences for some characters. Sounds like my kinda game.

Virtues-Last-Reward-Cast

A dark visual novel

Rune Factory Oceans (£7.20, PS3)

I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this. The critics slated it, calling it boring. However, the general gaming public seemed to love it, so I thought I would give it a go. The voice acting is a little bit grating so far, but I can get used to that. Cutesy animation is never going to have stellar voice acting to go with it in my opinion. Anyway, from the looks of it, it’s going to take a while for me to sink my teeth into this one as I’ve only just acquainted myself with all the residents, so no farming or adventuring has really happened so far. I’m looking forward to getting home from work in the evenings though and having a nice relaxing session on this little beauty.

Rune-Factory-rune-factory-tides-of-destiny-33337779-1023-441

Cutesy farming, with a side of action

Half Minute Hero (£3.00, PSP/PS Vita)

I’ve always been a bit intrigued by the concept of this game. To be honest, I knew very little about the game, but at £3.00, I couldn’t say no. I’ve had a bit of a dabble, and it’s actually a really good idea. It’s a nice little game that I can jump into for a short period of time due to the time constraints on the game, but a nice little challenge.

Half-Minute-Hero

Pixelated, chibi fun

In summary, I got all these great games for a really good price, and if you like the sound of any of them, you have until 12am GMT 18-09-2014 to get your hands on them. The full sale can be found here.

My Most Wanted List

My Amazon wish list is bursting with all the games I want to play when I finish uni. Here’s a handful of them.

Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster

This one is a no brainer really. I would rather it didn’t have X-2 in there, but I can’t complain really. I might like it the second time around…but probably not .The HD version of FFX looks amazing, and I’ve been listening to the HD OST as well to get myself in the mood. I can’t wait to spend hours on end playing Blitzball, and grinding to beat the Dark Aeons.

FFX_X-2_HD_1920x1200

Persona 4 Golden

Persona 4 is a game I never really got on board with. There was something about it which was just constantly frustrating. However, I’m willing to give it another chance on the PS Vita, now that I own one. Persona 3 FES was amazing, and a definite step up from the original, so I’m hoping for the same from Persona 4 Golden.

original

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

I’m a massive FFXIII and Lightning hater. I can’t stand them, and I can’t stand her. However, it’s Final Fantasy, and I’m not one to overlook a title just because I don’t like the character. I’ve played the first two, so I’ll play the final one, even if just to have an opinion. It looks terrible, so I’m going to wait for this one to come down in price a little bit.

Lightning-Returns-Final-Fantasy-XIII1

Diablo III

The demo for this game amazed me. I’m a big fan of epic dungeon crawlers if they’re done right, and boy did Diablo III get it right. An astounding time waster, I can’t wait to get my hands on this and waste some time slaughtering things with magic and swords. Bring it on.

Diablo3-Xbox360PS3

Bravely Default

I’ve wanted this from the second I played the demo. I haven’t bought it yet because I know it will completely consume my soul, and my time, which I can’t afford to do just yet. I love the job system in this game, and it really makes me think of classic JRPGs with different costumes and abilities to learn.

bravely_default_characters1

Pokemon X/Y

I’m a big Pokemon fan at heart. I don’t explicitly post about it all the time, but I adore the mechanics of it, and I love nothing more than running around in a new town and harvesting some new Pokemon. This latest instalment looks even bigger and better than the last one.

pokemon_xy_legendaries_wallpaper

The Last of Us

I played a bit of this at a friend’s house when it first came out. It looked good, but perhaps a little bit frustrating, so I’m waiting for it to go down in price a little bit before I go out and get it. In all honestly, I just want to shoot some things. Some mutant things.

TheLastofUsPoster

Tales of Symphonia Chronicles

I can’t believe this actually came out. I loved the original Tales of Symphonia game so much, it was absolutely incredible. It had some of the best battle mechanics, and some brilliant characters. It was exactly what a real JRPG should be like. How could I turn down the HD version with extra bits and pieces?

A_Symphonia-1

Okay, so maybe it was more than a handful. However, there are so many more I haven’t even had the chance to list here. My bank account weeps.

What games do you want the most at the moment?

 

Changing Teams

Well, it’s been a long time again, and that’s been for a multitude of reasons. First of all, I informed you all in my last post that I was going on a week-long work placement with a certain official console magazine, and I can reveal now that I went to work with the wonderful people at the Official Playstation Magazine. It was a great week, full of lots of research, writing and general journalism goodness. I actually got a feature published on the website which can be read here, so please go and give it a read.

There may also be several articles I assisted with, and news articles being published in the next issue, so if you’re a PlayStation fan, pop down to the shops on the 27th and pick up a copy. I won’t know until it comes out, so it will be one big surprise.

Then I had a nice long week with the man who I hadn’t seen in two months, so unfortunately blogging was the last thing on my mind. I didn’t even really do any gaming that week if I’m honest, and the lack of new games, and my ever decreasing funds aren’t helping.

I downloaded Puzzle Quest because it was on offer on XBLA and that’s keeping me going, but it’s an old game, and will only occupy me for so long. As always, I crave a JRPG, but they just don’t appear to be out there. I might have to raid the Classics library on the PSN.

puzzle_quest3

Simple and fun, an instant winner

Anyway, I have been thinking about the new generation of consoles, and which one I”m going to be getting, but also thinking about what’s on offer from the current generation. I’m sure that many Xbox 360 owners feel my frustration at the mostly un-inspirational Games For Gold. I’m downloading them all because they’re free, so don’t get me wrong, I’m taking advantage of it, but this months first release leaves a lot to be desired and I just feel a bit let down by the whole ‘offer’.

I’m intrigued by card games, but I can’t confess to be very good at them. Baten Kaitos is one of my favourite JRPGs, and that featured a bizarre battle system utilising cards, and I enjoyed that. I appreciate anime such as YuGiOh for its use of cards, but I really can’t get my head around Magic The Gathering. Personally, I think card games belong on tables, not on consoles. The tutorial completely baffled me, and because it was so long-winded I basically just pummelled the A button just to get through it. I managed to beat about 4 opponents and then I got stuck because there was so much to remember, and so much tactics involved that I simply gave up.

review4

Too many stats make this a confusing experience

The thing is, when I look at PlayStation Plus, and all the free games they get, it makes me wonder ‘What am I paying my Gold subscription for?’. I don’t do online gaming. When I do, I’m just racing around a track with the man in my life, and that’s once in a blue moon. It seems pointless to me now to even have a gold subscription, I don’t appear to be getting much out of it, aside from some games I’ve already played, or are so old that you’d have to give them away anyway.

I am seriously considering taking on a PlayStation Plus account in the future, not only for the free games, but also for the decent discounts. Sony just appear to be so much more clued in to what people actually want. Sure, if you cancel your PS+ subscription, then you can’t play the free games you downloaded, but that’s just an incentive for me to keep a subscription going. I have no reason (unless someone can give me one) to keep my Gold subscription on the Xbox 360, so it may be time for a change of allegiances.

playstation-plus1

What are your thoughts? Are you thinking of changing teams, or are you sticking with your first choice?

Ni No Kuni Wrath of the White Witch PS3 Review

Traditional Japanese role-playing games are becoming harder and harder to find. They have become increasingly more westernised, lacking all the beauty and frustration that many fans have grown to love. There’s a new PS3 exclusive that’s come back fighting though, and it’s a real beauty.

Ni No Kuni follows the story of a young boy named Oliver, who lives in the quiet town of Motorville. All seems rosy in Oliver’s life, until one day his mother passes away and his whole world appears to fall down around him, and he ends up blaming himself. Seeking comfort, he turns to Drippy, the small cuddly toy his mother made him years before, and as his tears roll onto Drippy, he magically springs to life.

Oliver and Drippy soon embark on an epic journey into a magical land in an attempt to save his mother, and the lives of many others in the mysterious land that Drippy comes from.

Ni-No-Kuni-LogoOne of the best things about Ni No Kuni is arguably its core goal; save the people of the magical world from being brokenhearted by the evil Shadar. It’s a bizarre concept, but it certainly keeps the player engaged. See, people in this world are having parts of their hearts stolen. Some have lost their positive outlook on life, and others have lost their generosity, among other things. How can you help them? Simple; go find someone with an abundance of what that person needs, scoop a little off the top, and give it back to them. It’s extremely basic, but clever in its execution, and can have some rather touching consequences as you get further invested in the plot.

When it comes down to mending the broken hearts of major characters, you must first find their soul mates in the human world. This normally involves looking for someone in Oliver’s hometown with similar facial features, or similar personality traits. The game tends to hold your hand throughout these parts, telling you exactly who you need to find most of the time, but this doesn’t really take away any of the challenge it has to offer in other areas.

It’s not all about digging out bits of people’s hearts however. Ni No Kuni has a lot of very traditional gameplay mechanics that you would expect from a JRPG. First of all, it follows a real-time battle system, but instead of using Oliver and his other human comrades to fight (although you can), you instead use monsters that you capture along the way. These monsters are called familiars and fight in your place, levelling up the same way you do and acquiring new skills and magic spells as time goes by. They are limited to their time on the battle field by their stamina gauge, but swiftly recover so you’re not stuck running around without protection for too long. You can also take three of these little critters into battle with you, so you’re free to balance your party with a healer, a magic user and a physical attacker.

This method of capturing and training monsters for your own gain is similar to concept to Pokemon and even Dragon Warrior Monsters. The problem is with the familiars, you tend to get your starter ones, and not really bother with any others. It takes a very long time to level up towards the end of the game, and it sometimes feels like a bit of a chore to get your newly captured familiars up to the same level as your original ones. Even grinding in the locations where you’re guaranteed to get some serious experience, it can still take a very long time, and it sometimes feels a little bit too much like hard work.

Ni no Kuni Wizard Edition 5

Battles can be simple button bashing at times, but they’re still good fun

If you’re sick and tired of grinding through your levels though, there are some handy little side quests to distract you every once in a while. One of the best things about Ni No Kuni are all the different errands and bounty hunts you can accept. If it wasn’t for these extra quests, then Ni No Kuni may be a much shorter game than it is. The bounty hunts sometimes require you to do a little bit of level grinding depending on where you’re at in the game, and the errands will occasionally see you flitting between locations on a mission to collect many different items. Naturally, some of these errands seem like much more of a chore than others, but the rewards are always worth it. Ni Ni Kuni adopts an interesting system using a stamp card. For every errand you complete, as well as bounties, you receive stamps in your card. With each card you fill with stamps, you can purchase new  abilities. These range from anything between the ability to jump on the world map, to gaining more money at the end of each battle. It’s an excellent incentive to do as many errands as possible.

There is no doubting that No No Kuni is an absolutely stunning game, and that is all down to the skill of the animation studio. It’s not just a brand new Level 5 JRPG, it’s a Studio Ghibli JRPG, and any fans of this Japanese animation studio will know exactly how beautiful they like to make their characters and environments. Level 5 have always had beautiful graphics in their games, but Studio Ghibli have really upped the ante, bringing their own unique art style into this world to really give it a boost of life.

NiNoKuni1

Ni No Kuni is bursting with life and colour thanks to Studio Ghibli

The soundtrack to Ni No Kuni could easily allow it to be mistaken for a Dragon Quest game. The background tracks are absolutely beautiful, and feel very similar to a Koichi Sugiyama soundtrack. There are no loud, abrasive tracks to be heard here, just calming and soothing songs to guide you through the game, only picking up the pace when it comes down to battles. The voice acting is also top-notch, even the English dub isn’t too bad. The game allows the player to choose between a Japanese voice track or an English one, so for the dub haters out there don’t fear, you’re more than catered for.

Ni No Kuni is a beautiful game, albeit a little bit too childlike at times, but the ending is simply too abrupt. For a game that lasts nearly 50 hours, such an abrupt ending is almost inexcusable. There may be more things to do once the game has ended, but it simply isn’t enough. Ni No Kuni has all the regular trappings of a traditional JRPG, but it really needs some DLC to satisfy the more hardcore fans of the genre.

Tales of Graces f Ponderings

I started writing a review for this game about two days ago, but unfortunately it just wasn’t happening. Then I decided that a pondering was probably the best way to go, a more informal, and personal review style. That, and I probably don’t have time to write the review I really want to.

tales-of-graces-f-logo

So at around 12:30 on Friday morning, I completed Tales of Graces f. It took me 35 hours, with a lot of anti-climaxes and a few rage quits towards the end but my God it was absolutely amazing. Anyone who reads my blog regularly will know that I love Japan and their RPGs, and they will also know that I have been very disappointed in the JRPG market for quite some time (I’m looking at you Squeenix).

From the moment I started playing, I knew I was going to love it. I’ve loved the Tales series ever since I knew about their existence. The battle system had me sold with its fast pace (as much as I adore turn based combat and random encounters), and relative demand of skill. I was a bit confused initially when I had seen the characters on the game box, and they looked much older than who I was playing as. The time jump soon came though, and it worked quite well. Characters had been established, a sappy story had been put into place and some weird stuff had already occurred.

tales-of-graces-f_2010_08-07-10_20

Weird girl with purple hair? Why not!

I suppose the story of Tales of Graces f isn’t really all that unique or imaginiative, but for some reason I was sucked into it. A mysterious girl appears, lacking any memory of her previous existence and generally being all, well, mysterious. Throw in some Japanese sap about friendship, a few evil monsters who want to destory the world and you have yourself a JRPG. The story isn’t what sold me though.

The titles became quite an addictive thing to keep track of. With every new title came a new arte to learn, more HP to gain and various other perks. Some titles came with alternative costumes, and that really appealed to my (very) inner fashionista. I never really got down to mastering many of them, but I can see in my New Game+ that I will become somewhat of a title collector. I really want to get them all, and even though I have no love at all for PS Trophies, I wouldn’t mind grabbing a few of the title based ones.

On the subject of titles, the artes that I gradually learnt as the game went on got increasingly more impressive. I like a JRPG that improves as times goes on. Some JRPGs just peak too soon, but that certainly wasn’t the case here. In the beginning I was faced with some rather pathetic looking artes, but as I neared the end of it, I was mesmerised to the point of forgetting which character I was using as ice spikes came flying across the screen, and the ground lifted from underneath me.

I only had to grind once or twice, which I’m not gonna lie, was nice. But I’ve always loved a good grind in games, so it didn’t really bother me. I think that’s probably when my love of the title system came into effect. Trying to increase my health and get new artes to defeat a boss became a kind of continued obsession. I hunted down the best new titles that had been bestowed upon me, seeking their new skills and increased HP so that I could really kick some monsters into the ground.

1761d3909ede682322ce93292c170168

I love JRPG grinding

I also absolutely adored the little side quests, and the request system got me kind of hooked towards the end of the game when I eventually gained the ability to be able to travel instantly to wherever I wanted. Travelling to each town from start to finish and completing their requests, then going back again once I had obtained some new thing for other requests became a long addiction. Dualizing different recipes and items also became another addiction. I’ve always loved games where you can cook things and create new items, so this was onto a total win from the start. Boosting the powers of my weapons, and the defence of my armour was something I wanted to do more and more.

Even the little skits that could sometimes be annoying in other Tales games added something nice and comical to the story. I actually wanted to listen to them all arguing with each other over petty things, because for once it actually added value to what I was doing. The skits even initiated other cut scenes occasionally. On the subject of cut scenes, I would liked to have seen more anime cut scenes, but the ones that were there were simply beautiful. I don’t want my game to look real, I want it to look pretty in anime form.

All in all my time with Tales of Graces f was a magical one. It was so nice to sit down and genuinely enjoy a JRPG for the first time in, well, years. I’m not ashamed to admit that I nearly cried at the end of the game, mostly because I had such a great time with it that I didn’t want it to leave. I really hope that the next Tales game does this one justice.