Thursday, July 14, 2011

773 Hours

Here's an article from Giant Bomb about someone 1000 times more dedicated than I am.

Well.  More like five times, to be honest. Partially because the security on my wireless at home is not WEP, the only thing a DS game can handle - but even then, it'd be closer to twice as dedicated at the outside.

Update on Dragon Warrior coming soon - I've been playing Witcher 2 and Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D in the interregnum, but I'll be going back soon.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Not-Me: Retronauts's Retronauts podcast will be doing a Dragon Quest episode. Alas, their call-in time falls when I'll be out, but I'm looking forward to listening to it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dragon Warrior, part the first

There are so many copies of Dragon Warrior for the NES out there that there's a reasonable chance you're familiar with the basic story: DracoLord has kidnapped Lady Lora, and the player character, a descendent of the great hero Loto, must go to save her.

And those of you who are familiar with the NES game are now thinking, "Wait, those aren't the names." First thing I noticed too, and I started with Dragon Warrior III on the NES. As mentioned in the introductory post, the game was re-localized for Game Boy, tossing out the delightfully evocative NES translation with a more direct translation which retained the original Japanese names. "Thee" and "thou" were out (not necessarily a bad thing), as were Dragonlord, Gwaelin, and Erdrick among others. Apparently this was a request taken from Enix's forums; if true, it is another sign the internet signals the end of civilization. Square Enix has since gone back on this, and Dragon Quest IX refers back to the original NES localization. Or perhaps it was Nintendo? They published both Dragon Warrior on NES and Dragon Quest IX, after all... and it seems like Nintendo always does an impecable job localizing, favouring the intention of the text rather than the words in the text.

The game isn't a very long one, but I haven't gotten too far in it yet, having not yet fought a boss. After the King gave me my quest, I went to the town and bought a stick and a leather shield to defend myself, and then set upon grinding money to upgrade my gear before setting out in earnest. Along my grind I entered a cave, expecting to fight more enemies - it was empty except for Loto's tomb, which exhorted me as his descendent to find the three artifacts he used to save the world. When I made it to the next town, Garinham, I was finally informed I should head to the tomb. In Garinham I buy the copper sword and leather armor and set out for the next town, going east.

There's little preventing you from exploring the world beyond how tought the monsters get; monster difficulty is basically indicated by the number of bridges you cross. On the Game Boy, at least, this seems to be more of an approximation. All the grinding I've done means I go through the town of Kol, and the south to another island containing the next town, Rimuldar, before I am killed for the first time.

Death does not mean Game Over in Dragon Quest, it means resurrection with half your gold. This fairly light penalty (particular in 3 and later games, with the advent of banks where your gold, while not accessible, is safe) has undoubtably contributed to its popularity among Japanese people from all ages and all walks of life. Still, it's enough that I grind my way to 800 gold and buy the iron shield in Gorinham before returning to the island. There are only three shields, which makes the iron shield the second best shield in the game despite the fact that I have yet to fight a boss.

On my way back to the island, I take a detour and find an old man guarding a chest containing the rain staff. He'll give that to me if I bring him the Silver Harp, proving my worth as a hero and descendent of Loto. He doesn't say where I can find it, but I do know Gorin, who founded Gorinham, was a bard, so I can guess. Alas, it is presumably in the big locked building in Gorinham, so I'll need keys. And keys can be bought in Rimuldar. Once there, I buy a full complement of keys. A key can be used once, but you can carry up to six at a time, and there are locked doors all over the place. I unlock every door everywhere I've been (except Gorinham, where I need to go), eager to take what's been locked away. A guard tells me a real hero wouldn't steal from the chests he's guarding; I take what's in them and there are no apparent consequences. Another guard says that because I made it past a barrier - floor panels which do a lot of damage when you walk on them - I'm probably ready to go to Gorinham. It makes me glad I waited and unlocked all those doors, although I didn't gain a level doing it so I was already good enough. I grind my way to 1500 gold (with a slight detour when a Wolf Lord kills me - it shouldn't have happened, but I was playing sloppy) and buy a Steel Sword, and prepare to return to Gorinham.

Despite my slight distaste for the new translation, I'm still enjoying myself. The few clues given as to what you need to do next are sufficient, and finding the clues shows off the game dialogue's charm. Next time I'll speak a little about the player character's stats and the battle system, along with whatever the heck I end up doing.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Dragon Quest Marathon

So: The Dragon (Quest|Warrior) Marathon. Unlike Nick's Final Fantasy Marathon, these are mostly games I've never completed so it will be fairly straightforward: beat the game, move onto the next one.

The Dragon Quest series has always had three main contributors: designer Yuji Horii, character designer Akira Toriyama (known mostly for Dragon Ball), and composer Koichi Sugiyama. The first game is Horii's attempt to bring cRPGS like Wizardry to the masses. He achieved his goal in Japan, although it was less well received here as Dragon Warrior in North America, selling less than Nintendo expected and eventually getting given away with subscriptions to Nintendo Power; however, that didn't stop the next three games in the series from being localized and brought over the Pacific.

Those aren't the versions I'll be playing. I don't have an NES and they're not on the Wii's Virtual Console. They were also re-released for the Super Famicom in Japan - also not the versions I'll be playing, for the same reasons as the Nintendo version and the additional detriment of my inability to read Japanese. The ones I have are:
Dragon Warrior I&II, for Game Boy/Game Boy Color - a compilation and re-localization of the first two games, based on the Super Famicom versions.
Dragon Warrior III, for Game Boy Color - again re-localized and based on the Super Famicom version.
Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen, for Nintendo DS - also re-localized, but this time based on a PlayStation version of the game.
Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride, for Nintendo DS - the first of the games to originally come out for Super Famicom, this one is based on a PlayStation 2 version. The Nintendo DS port is the first English version of the game.
Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation, for Nintendo DS - also the first English version of this Dragon Quest game.
Dragon Warrior VII, for Sony PlayStation - the first of the games to not be a re-make! Also, technically my brother's and not mine.
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King, for PlayStation 2 - the game which signified Square Enix finally claiming the Dragon Quest trademark in North America.
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies, for Nintendo DS - probably the best game I played in 2010, and certainly my favourite.

Other games may be added along the way: a few spin-offs are also available in English, and there's one non-Dragon Quest game I'm considering including. I've already started playing Dragon Warrior, so the next post will cover the beginning of that game.

Friday, May 20, 2011

New Plan

So obviously I didn't keep up with PlayStation posts. I've got a Twisted Metal post that is half-written and also terrible because I can't give either a good personal anecdote or proper game analysis for it - Heck, when I went to play it I ended up switching to Twisted Metal 2. A half-written Wipeout post is going to be retooled and will eventually see the light of day - talking about Wipeout the game isn't working for me either, but I still have some things I'd like to write about it.

In the meantime: I'll be copying my friend Nick's Final Fantasy marathon, but doing Dragon Quest/Warrior, because I like those games a lot, but haven't completed very many of them. There will be a setup post for that with more details before I begin it; currently I'm waiting on the package bringing me the first game.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Street Fighter Alpha

by Capcom for PlayStation

In 1991, Capcom revolutionized arcade gaming with the introduction of Street Fighter II. It took the setup of the first Street Fighter, of two characters facing each other in a martial arts contest, and took it up to 11. The characters were now large, colourful, and distinct, with crazy moves and satisfyingly fluid controls. Capcom then took this formula and tweaked it for the next few years, selling each new iteration at full price.

As much as the thought of all those different versions annoys me now, I was thrilled by all the new Street Fighter II games back when I was in junior high. Imagine how thrilled I was when Capcom announced an all-new Street Fighter, with a visual style based on Capcom's gorgeous X-Men and Darkstalkers! That it was Street Fighter Zero and not Street Fighter III dampened my enthusiasm for a time, but any disappointment was gone by the time the game hit North America as Street Fighter Alpha. After a bus trip to Toys R Us, I made it the first game I would buy for my PlayStation.

Street Fighter Alpha is a fantastic looking game. Capcom would use the anime-styled character sprites originating here in different fighting games for the next decade, with their final bows coming in 2004's Capcom Fighting Jam and 2006's Street Fighter Alpha 3 MAX. The backgrounds are attractive, although their pre-rendered style was jettisoned for further games in the series. The strangest aspect of the visual style is the subtle placement of the letter 'Z' throughout the game - something that makes sense for a game named Zero, but not one named Alpha. The PlayStation version is hurt by tons of loading screens which interrupt both the flow of the game and the attractive screen transitions from the arcade. Another disappointment comes from the lack of characters to play as - at ten, Alpha contains the fewest available characters since the original Street Fighter II. The three hidden characters just barely manage to edge Street Fighter II out for total cast members.

It plays the way you expect a Street Fighter game to play - something that's not always easy to pull off, as evidenced by the Street Fighter movie game and the Street Fighter II DOS port. There's a nagging feeling that the gameplay is a little bit too much vanilla Street Fighter - one certainly reinforced by the number of systems the Alpha series spawns in its subsequent games. The game is even replaced in the Street Fighter fiction by its sequel, indicating Capcom may never have been have been completely happy with Street Fighter Alpha. Sadly, I've never been good enough at Street Fighter to detail Alpha's strengths and shortcomings as a fighter beyond my vague misgivings that ultimately weren't strong enough keep me from enjoying myself a great deal.

Ultimately Street Fighter Alpha was a very conservative choice as a purchase, and I was much better served by the next couple of games - both of which were chosen by my brother. And a better fighting game would have been Tekken 2 (although I'm not sure I have ever played it). But I like to think I've learned my lesson: take some damn chances sometimes! It'll be okay.

Despite that, it should come as no surprise that the first game I intend to buy for the Nintendo 3DS is Super Street Fighter IV. Hey, at least this time it's likely the ultimate version of the game, not the one that replaces it a year later. That one, Street Fighter IV, I bought for the XBox 360. And also the PC.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


by Mindscape for PlayStation

I got a PlayStation on my fifteenth birthday. It was the first time I bought a video game system with my own money; it was the first time I had bought anything that expensive. After giving $300 (plus tax) to the Sony Store, we set out to Blockbuster to have something to play on the system. The game I had my heart set on: Namco's Cyber Sled, a game I had played in the arcade and loved.

In 1996, Blockbuster had enough money to have two cases on the shelf: the original game box, and the Blockbuster box behind it containing the actual game. Unfortunately for fifteen-year-old-me, Blockbuster had put the wrong game behind the Cyber Sled box. Instead of Cyber Sled, it was Mindscape's CyberSpeed. It was disappointing, but my brother and I made do.

It was fine. CyberSpeed is a futuristic racing game where you drive a pod hanging from a cable; a video game version of a hanging roller coaster. If you don't manoeuvre your pod during a turn, centrifugal force swings it to the outside. (And to those of you who are complaining that centrifugal force doesn't exit: you know what I mean so drop it.) To minimize the distance you have to travel, you want to be on the inside of a turn. You fire weapons at the other pods, which is common for futuristic racers, and whoever crosses the finish line first wins, which is common for races. Its hanging-from-a-cable gimmick remains unique to this day, probably because it only serves to make racing less interesting by restricting control to a single wraparound dimension in an unintuitive way. The graphics were colourful and fast and fantastic, although perhaps only because it was my first PlayStation game.

CyberSpeed's gameplay, which someone hacked onto PSP. Alas, no video grabs of CyberSpeed on PlayStation (or even Windows!) seem to exist.

That weekend CyberSpeed was the only full game we had, so we played the Hell out of it. It went back to Blockbuster at the end of the weekend, and I haven't give it more than a moment's thought about it until I wrote this. I'm probably the only one who has, given that it doesn't even have its own Wikipedia entry.

Last week I bought a PlayStation 3 for $250, plus tax. To the best of my recollection, I never played Cyber Sled on my PlayStation.

New Project: PlayStation

So I saw this post on the wonderful video game site, overseen by games journalist Jeremy Parrish, requesting people who played the original PlayStation, were good writers, and could hit a deadline. I immediately thought to myself "that sounds interesting!"

I then thought to myself, "I'm only one of those things. It would be irresponsible to actually offer to write at this point. But maybe I could do the others!"

Good thing I have my own blog to find out. Posts start soon.