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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Soulless Assassins and Lazy Driving

Anyone in the UK will know that we’ve had some, uh, rather freakish weather today. Yesterday it was cold and wet, and today my little town in Yorkshire is completely covered in show. I didn’t brave going to uni, and my seminar was cancelled anyway. I’m not going to lie, it was a bit of a relief as I’ve been ill since last Thursday, and I’m trying my damnedest to get rid of it.

So, what did I get up to on my snow day? Well, I had an article to submit for uni, and I made a start on something for the student magazine, but aside from that I actually made time for some gaming.

I said I would get back to you with my further feelings on Assassins Creed 3, and I feel as though I can now. I probably had a decent 5 hour session on it today, and I didn’t really do any of the story. Here’s how I feel about it; it’s just boring. Not the entire game, just the main plot. I don’t care about the main plot at all. I do however care very much about the people living on my homestead. That is what I have been doing all day, missions for them, as well as sending out my assassins to liberate various locations. So I’ve been characterising and money hoarding for about 5 hours today.

I think the main issue for me, aside from the dull plot, is that Connor is completely devoid of a personality. Everytime he opens his mouth it’s like his soul has been sucked from his body, and he’s been replaced.by.a.robot. It’s so mechanic, and I just get nothing from him. In fact, I would go as far to say that I dread any dialogue with him because it’s painfully bad.

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Maybe he just needs a personality injection

‘But that’s only the dialogue! What about the gameplay?!’ I hear you cry. Well, again, if I ignore the main plot then the game play is fantastic. Running through snow is akin to wading through treacle, and my running momentum varies with the seasons. I still find the battles painfully difficult, but they’re much easier now I’ve got a huge crew of assassins to help me. That’s another thing though; I can only use them in the cities. What about when I’m being chased by a small army on the frontier? I’m stuffed. I’ve got to dive off a cliff and hope for the best.

I’m a side quest whore though, so the side quests have really got me hooked. I can’t be bothered with the almanac pages, they just annoy me, but feathers and peg leg trinkets are certainly becoming an addiction. i’m even quite enjoying the naval parts. I can’t help but feel that was to prepare us for AC4. The colossal amount of money you have to spend to upgrade your ship had better be worth it, or that’s going to be another thing to add to my list of irritations with this game.

This is going to sound weird, but if I ignore the main plot completely, then Assassin’s Creed 3 is a brilliant game. If only the main character weren’t so soulless, and if only his enemies weren’t so, well, dull.

Aside from my AC3 binge though, I’ve been playing GT5 on the PS3 today, at the request of the boyfriend. He’s coming to stay on Wednesday, and has asked me to get a load of in-game money for him. This was originally quite a difficult task, I’m not gonna lie, but then I discovered the seasonal events, and thank God some of them are B-Spec. I can’t do A-Spec, I’m rubbish at it, so B-Spec is my only option if I’m gonna get anywhere.

More money = more shiny cars!

More money = more shiny cars!

I started out with just over 600,000, and I’m now creeping up to 2,000,000. The best part? All I’ve got to do is tell the driver to speed up occasionally. I can go to the loo, make myself a cup of tea. Hell, I could even play another game on my Xbox while I wait for the race to finish and I’d still get a load of money at the end.

I’m not sure what my next update will be about. I’m waiting desperately for a new Kairosoft game. Myself and the boyfriend discussed getting Ni No Kuni when he’s here so we can play it together. That would be pretty cool, but it’s too expensive really, and it will only distract me from my revision and essays when he’s gone. We’ll see.

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Words do not describe how badly I want this in my life

What are you playing over Easter?

Whatever Happened to Plug and Play?

It’s been a while since I turned on my Xbox, and that’s not because I haven’t wanted to, but because I haven’t had the time. You’re probably sick of me saying that, but it’s true. I have spent 5 hours today playing with budgets and time sheets in Microsoft Excel. Yes, I’m using spreadsheets in a Journalism course, I’m confused too.

Anyway, after blurring my eyes and seeing wavy lines that weren’t there, I decided that five hours in one piece of software was just about enough for one day, and thought I would fire up my Xbox for the first time in, well, what feels like months. I still haven’t played anything new, and the On Demand sale has been and gone. It had some very good deals, but I either had all the games or I didn’t want them. Fallout 3 was the best deal in my opinion, and I was tempted by Civ 5, but I think those games are best played on a PC or laptop.

But I’m rambling. The point of this post is to ponder this; what happened to plug and play? I turned my Xbox on, and it needed an update. I looked at the special deals they’ve got this weekend, clicked on one of them and was told I needed to do an update. So it does the update, and what happens next? I’m suddenly in IE on my Xbox, looking at very small text that I need to zoom in on. I’m not going to get into my objections to having browsers on consoles, but really? You give me a button on the dashboard for a deal, and you send me to IE? Bad move Microsoft, bad move.

So I spot something about free Gold Key for Borderlands 2 on the deals. Sounds interesting, I open that up and get sent to IE. Frustration rises again as I zoom in to access the code they’re dishing out. Make note of the code, get up to get the game, and shove it in knowing that there will at least be a small update. Small update over and done with, I get into the game, and now it’s want me to do a 258.15MB update for online play. I turned on my Xbox 30 minutes ago. I don’t think I’ll be playing Borderlands 2 for at least another 10 minutes.

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I want to go shooty bang bang, not wait for an update!

This is the issue I have always had with the PS3, but it seems to have transferred to the Xbox at the moment. Whether that’s because I don’t turn it on very often at the moment I don’t know, but I can’t seem to just turn on a console and play a game. I’m constantly waiting for an update before I can do anything, and by the time the update is finished I’ve normally gone off the idea. I really hope that the new generation doesn’t have all this constant updating, but I think all my hoping will be in vain.

Don’t get me wrong though, I love the fact that modern technology allows us to receive game improving updates instantly to our consoles, I just wish I could opt out sometimes. That’s the main issue for me, it’s the whole if you don’t update, then you can’t play the game. It’s all a bit of a ploy to fill up our HDDs as quickly as possible to we have to get a new one, or is that me being a bit too cynical? I just wish I could put a game in, find my saved file and carry on from where I left off, and all in less than 5 minutes. I’m still a big fan of my PS2, and I’ll always love the Ps1 because they were just to quick and easy to use. Sure, you couldn’t get content delivered straight to your console via internet connection like you can now, but they were just great little consoles.

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Will the next Xbox have these constant updates?

I’m a huge technology geek, clearly otherwise I wouldn’t write this blog in the first place, but I do find it a bit much at the moment. The technology had advanced much further than we had previously imagined, but the hardware (and my internet connection) can’t quite keep up. The ironic thing is, if I had done this before 6PM it would have zipped along. That’s an entirely different blog post about ISPs and their inability to catch up with the demand.

In other news, I think my parents are sending up Assassins Creed 3 for me this weekend, so I’ll get a quick (and free) glimpse into something new for the first time in a while. And as of me finishing this blog post, the Borderlands 2 update still hasn’t finished.

What do you think? Do you think we should be able to plug and play? Or are constant updates our bright future?