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'Devil Survivor 2' is one of these grid-based RPGs. I think the most common touchstone here is 'Final Fantasy Tactics,' though there are dozens of other examples that lamer (cooler) people than me could list. Basically, you move your party of dudes around on a grid and fight enemies.

So there's this boss fight that pops up once you've dug a little way into the game. There's a street lined with ruined buildings - the game is set in a currently-apocalyptic Japan - with a big weird-looking monster thing at the bottom. That's the target; you need to use your four party members to kill it.

The boss sits on the bottom and your party enters near the top. It takes maybe four turns of simply walking straight down the street to reach the boss. At the very top of the map - just above your party - there are a handful of enemies. Included in their ranks is one of the obnoxious paralysis-inducing monsters that is only weak to fire; you're best off setting one of your dudes up specifically to deal with it.

Published in Tekk
Thursday, 26 April 2012 12:08

Needs Food Badly

Classic dungeon-romping gets an overhaul

The light slowly seeped into my cell, my eyes adjusting to its intrusion upon my unconsciousness. With the light came the intricate details of my surroundings: stone walls, stone ceilings, torch, barred door.

Well, fancy that. I was prison. In prison, with no knowledge of my previous crimes, and with a minotaur, an insectoid, and a lizardman, no less. After making our introductions (minotaurs are surprisingly pleasant, contrary to popular belief), we set about inspecting our new home. We gave every side of the cell a long look, running our fingers over the cracks, hoping for a secret passageway or a draft. As the minutes turned to hours, we became more desperate, to the point of even throwing ourselves against weak-looking section of the walls. Poor Riff broke part of his exoskeleton against a such unyielding segment, certain that the mortar was weaker in that section. Just as we were beginning to lose hope, a glint of lettering caught my eye right next to the door. I squinted against the heat from the torch nearby to read the charcoal-written message.

'Choose your fate: perish in this cell or pick up the torch,' declared the scrawled lettering. I raised an eyebrow. We weren't given much of a choice, if you ask me. The others read the warning with keen interest. We glanced at each other, then to the torch.

Published in Tekk

'Xenoblade Chronicles' is the kind of thing that can make you wonder what the hell you're doing with your life. 'Am I really literally systematically checking fetch quests off of this list right now?' you might ask yourself. 'Xenoblade Chronicles,' played at a state of near-unemployment at age 24 with an electric bass guitar plugged into a switched-off amp in the corner of the room, is the kind of game that maybe gets you to realize that you don't have to do this anymore, which is about as much praise as I can give anything that doesn't taste like gourmet root beer.

Not being a jerk: Man, these skies really are blue. That's nice. And man, these characters really do sound crazy and British. That's alright, too! Entering one of these overworld areas is maybe an actual fantastic feeling. It's crazy how far you can see and how you can just walk through all of it. I don't want to just write the same sentence over and over, but, man, the scope of this game is really something.

Being a jerk: Unfortunately, there's this arrow, which literally grins straight at you through the screen, and literally drools, and literally yells at you through your Wii Remote to go kill three more goblins and get three more goblin hearts to get one more pair of shoes that increases your defense by one but lowers your speed by one so that you'll have a pair for every member of your party, and it literally gets bigger, pixel by pixel, if you stray from the path that whatever sidequest you select is leading you along, until eventually it gets big enough to cover up your avatar, and then big enough to fill up your whole screen, and then you have to turn your Wii off if you want to see around it. Luckily, once you reach this point, the whole thing might not even be a metaphor anymore, and you can play 'Dark Souls' instead.

Published in Tekk
Wednesday, 18 April 2012 12:25

Louvre goes visual with Nintendo 3DS guide

PARIS - The Louvre Museum is used to dealing with antiquities: Nearly all of its thousands of works of art date to 1848 or earlier. Now, it wants to create a relic of its own the old museum audio guide.

The famed Paris museum, whose origins date to the 18th century, is pressing on toward modernity and going visual with new electronic guides in a deal with Japan's Nintendo. The guide provides 3DS game consoles that offer touch-screen, visual-and-audio guidance for visitors who teem the museum's labyrinthine halls by the millions each year.

Billed as an unprecedented innovation at a museum, the game consoles launched this week offer 700 recordings on famed works like the Venus de Milo, Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Mona Lisa only a tiny sliver of the 35,000-odd works displayed in the museum.

The electronic guides, both navigational and informative, offer virtual glimpses of the artistic touches that are tough for the naked eye to see, like tiny details on towering tableaux on the museum's wood-paneled walls. They'll use much of the same information in the Louvre's now-shelved audio guides.

Published in Buzz
Friday, 13 April 2012 13:50

'Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City'

'Operation Raccoon City' allows you to form squads from the main menu. This means you can pull all your friends together in a group before you start a game. It's pretty standard practice. Even if you don't play games like these, you only have to think about them for about four seconds before you come up with the idea yourself.

So, anecdote: My friend Jim and I squadded up to get some sweet sweet headshots (yeah bro) together, only to find that once Jim started up a game, I got kicked out because the game was already full. Despite that fact that Jim and I were clearly squadmates (the game's nomenclature), he was still put into a game that only had one open slot. We tried it again - I started the 'squad' this time - and it happened again; Jim was left alone, screaming for me to come back (he's a screamer).

That's fine. It's not like things like this don't get patched! I hear 'Mass Effect 3's' whole ending glitches out, or something; it's hard to be mad at a few matchmaking bugs in 'RE: ORC' when other 'gamers' like me have problems like that to deal with. Our third try - 'the charm' - got us in a game together, anyway.

Published in Tekk
Wednesday, 11 April 2012 23:41

Primed for Destiny

2012's best game is from 2002 

When I was but a lad of still-scared-of-the-toilet-age, my neighbors had a yard sale, and included in their treasure trove of old crap was their compilation of NES games. Being the age when you don't see with your eyes but with your hands, I immediately ran from game to game with eyes scanning for anything that might captivate my teeny hyperactive brain. With a gasp and a grin, I latched onto a colorful cartridge featuring (what I thought was) a dude in a spacesuit shooting at tiny spiky thingies. To a youngster like me, unjaded by years upon years of critiquing games, this was all I needed to know that this 'Metroid' game was going to be awesome.

However, as cruel fate would have it, my dear sister, being the extremely caring and unbelievably obnoxious older sibling that she was, told my mother that it had scary things like a 'Mother Brain' and 'monsters' and quite possibly 'caves.' My mother pursed her lips and shook her head, crushing my tiny dreams of being that awesome dude on the cover of that 'Metroid' game. So with a heavy heart, I bought 'Cobra Command' for a buck and trudged home with a heavy heart and a helicopter game.

Published in Tekk
Thursday, 05 April 2012 15:06

A Link To The Past

The beast called Nostalgia

Nostalgia is a terribly funny thing, a cruel, warped mistress that can build our memories to god-like expectations. For instance, I write this while listening to an old recording of my old band, and hearing my 18-year-old voice crack and passionately hit high notes that I had no business reaching for. But as I listen to it, I remember the feeling of being onstage, belting out words that came from my heart, the weight of a microphone in my hand and a feeling of being exactly where I belong.

Games run this same gamut with me. I'll hop over to Good Old Games or find some Top 100 NES/SNES games, browse through the list, and upon seeing my childhood favorites, my eyes grow distant and my heart wistful. It's like all of my friends have come together for a high-school reunion.

'Oh, Lords of the Realm II! Do you remember the good times we had sending those peasants to fill in the moat under a hail of arrows? And how you could send correspondence with the AI opponents, like sending fart jokes under the banner of a compliment? Sheesh, that was endless fun! How are you making out these days? Oh, Sierra went under? That's too bad, man. Your third game sucked? Aw, man, I am so sorry. Hey, I'd love to stay and chat, but I see Space Quest and King's Quest over there, and I wanted to catch up with them. Take it easy, Lords of the Realm II!'

Published in Tekk
Wednesday, 21 March 2012 17:20

'Play Journey': Meet stranger: cry?'

'Journey' is easy to be a jerk about. It's practically got the word 'art' sticky-noted onto its forehead. Maybe it looks better then a painting, if you don't look at paintings. Like all 'art games,' it does not focus on either substantial game mechanics or on a story; it's about an aesthetic (like all 'art games,' a pretty somber one) and it's about getting the 'player' to 'feel' 'something.' You can tell the developers actually used those words in interviews. It's that kind of game.

I'm not going to be a jerk, though, because 'Journey' is worth talking about, mostly for its really fascinating co-op ideas. Maybe you could argue for some value in it as a simple aural and visual piece, if you're that kind of guy, but without this multiplayer I don't see what more you'd get from playing it on a PS3 than from watching somebody else play it on YouTube.

Your journey is spent wandering through a desert and a cave, headed for some snow-capped mountain in the distance. Each area is a gentle bubble, wide open and populated by a handful of simple, ambiguous objects. There are no 'puzzles' per se, just a couple of structures, ideas or characters floating around for you to play with until you see how to move on - how to continue the journey. A really wonderful Cracker Jack cluster of ideas appears near the end, attaining that mythic balance between aural, visual and mechanical feedback to hit what feel, maybe, like a couple pretty genuine emotional notes.

Published in Tekk
Wednesday, 21 March 2012 17:17

Questionable Motives

The emotions beneath gameplay

What do we actually want out of a game?

Seriously, have we ever just asked ourselves the question, then sat down and thought about it? Have we just had our nose too deep in our favorite stories for so long that we've never really given thought to why the crap we actually enjoy them? Far too often, we just accept the game as is. We know we like a certain style of game, we form camps around every type of game, from role-playing games to first-person shooters, to horror and strategy games. We embrace the intricacies and obtuseness that comes with them, generally unapologetically. But at the same time, we never ask why things in these genres are the way they are. We've blindly wandered into these games thousands of times without so much as a thought to why we relate so well to certain aspects of them. For the first time in my life, I'm going to ask these questions that I never got around to asking.

Published in Tekk
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