Saturday, 26 May 2012
Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Persona 3 Portable is the latest offering from ATLUS USA, and even though it is not required material for those who have already experienced the PS2 titles, fans who cannot get enough of the mystery-solving, persona-summoning students of Gekkoukan High School will be glad to know that this version provides even more social links and character events to experience.
The Dark Hour
On an eerie and unsettling night, the protagonist of the game makes his way to a dormitory after transferring to a new school. Following a series of strange incidents, our hero soon discovers that he has the ability to summon mythical creatures known as Persona.
With this new-found power, it becomes up to him and his friends to defeat the terrible shadows that are causing chaos and panic, restoring the world, for better or worse, to its former self. The plot itself is not anything to write home about, but the endearing cast is what makes Persona 3 so amazing to play until its final conclusion.
Persona 3 Portable introduces a new female protagonist, and with her a new set of social links that fans of the original games will certainly appreciate. Since both central characters are mute, it is up to the player to make decisions and directly interact with the game’s world, making it a truly immersive experience.
The main story often feels shallow, but that is only because a lot of emphasis is put on the various sub-plots found throughout the game. In this regard, the game takes a lot of inspiration from dating sims, and even though there are shadows to defeat, conspiracies to reveal and worlds to save, in the end it is all about you, the player, getting to know the various characters that populate the city of Iwotodai. In my humble opinion, I believe that this is what makes the game so rich and fun to play, and the reason why the series has become so popular.
Persona 3 Portable is split into two portions: dating sim and RPG. The dating sim part takes place in the city of Iwotadai. Here you interact with all sorts of characters and form relationships with them; however, you do need to spend a lot of time with them if you want to get to know them better. Also, certain social skills have to be eveloped in order to advance a relationship and discover the pains and joys of these troubled characters. There are three stats that can be improved over the course of the game, which in term allow you to form certain social links inaccessible otherwise. This is a dating sim after all, so it is only natural for the girl or boy of your dream to have certain expectations from you. Developing these stats is done through numerous activities, such as paying attention and giving the correct answer in class, singing your heart out in a karaoke club or simply enjoying a cup of coffee at your local café. As a high school student you are given even more things to do, so it should not come as a surprise if you find yourself attending one of the many school clubs, or maybe even participating in a student council meeting.
Then again, you can just skip all of these things and simply spend some quality time with your friends.
The world is truly your oyster.
New to P3P is the option to choose a girl at the beginning at the game. The girl route adds new social links, while making the older ones easier to obtain. In the PS2 version of the game, it takes quite a while before you are able to hang out with the SEES members. Not anymore in P3P, as I found it much easier to spend time with the main characters, even though I had not maximized my stats.
Also new to P3P are part-time jobs, an element taken from Persona 4, which not only give you money but also grow your stats.
I really like that the game takes place in a modern setting, which I think contributes to the overall enjoyment. Everything is made much more interesting since you can perform activities similar to those in your day-to-day life.
There are plenty of games out there that allow you to ride ostrich-like birds while fighting dragons and whatnot, but it is truly rare for a JRPG to take place in a world that does not feel all that different from our own.
Of course, the fantasy elements do make an appearance in the RPG part, which has you exploring the mysterious place called Tartarus. Tartarus is not just some ordinary place at which you can marvel, but a series of maze-like dungeons that tasks you with fighting monsters, collecting loot and leveling up. Since Tartarus is a never-ending tower, the basic idea is to explore randomly generated floors in search of staircases that lead to even more randomly generated floors.
The seemingly arbitrary nature of each floor transforms the game into a venerable dungeon crawler, and with barely a change in the design and colour palette, it can become quite monotonous at times exploring one inconspicuous floor after the other. Fortunately, this is just one half of the game, and you always have the option to leave, thanks to the various teleportation devices scattered throughout the tower. Upon interacting with on, you are given the option to either return to the growing floor, or teleport to any of the floors that you have previously visited. This is a good idea if you want to find loot or to grind, in hopes of leveling up enough to defeat the next boss.
While ascending Tartarus, you also have to consider your main characters getting fatigued.
Well, at least that is how it works in the PS2 games. While exploring the P3P version of Tartarus, I never once felt the need to stop and return to the dorm. Your characters do become tired, but overall I found that they were more resilient when pushed to the limit. I am not surprised, though, considering that this the their third time exploring Tartarus.
Personae play a big role in combat, giving you both offensive and defensive skills to exterminate the shadows that populate Tartarus. Each Persona has its own strengths and weaknesses, but so do your opponents, making the chess-like battles a tactical affair and not just a series of mindless scuffles. The protagonist is the only one in your party who can capture and summon multiple Personae, giving the game a gotta catch 'em all compulsion found in a certain popular series.
Personae can be fused together in the Velvet Room in order to create all new powered up variations.
This is where the various social links come into play, as newly created Persona receive experience bonuses based on their rank. The Velvet Room is also the place where you can accept quest that yield money, item and certain bonuses upon completion.
New to P3P are skill cards. These are used to either teach your Persona a skill that it would not learn on its own, or to perform powerful fusion skills during combat. This means that the fusion skills of older Persona 3 have been essentially replaced with skill cards, which can be obtained by trading items found in Tartarus. It is nice that you can perform fusion skills without the need of having certain Personae in your party, but it is also a hindrance since these cards are hard to come by.
The interface is one aspect of the game that has received the most improvements. Unlike Persona 3 and Persona 3 FES, P3P gives you full command of your party, from checking their status and equipping them at any time to directly controlling each member on the battlefield. You can even check Persona skills whenever you so desire by simply pressing the ‘square’ button on the PSP. These are key elements that should have been introduced much sooner. Nevertheless, I am glad that the game is finally in line with standard RPGs.
The game also plays much faster than previous versions. This is attributed not only to a streamlined interface, but also to a no-frills visual presentation.
Tatsumi Port Island
And this is where the game falls short, as the presentation is simply lacking. The unimpressive visuals could be attributed to the PSP’s aging hardware, but I have seen and played plenty of gorgeous games on the system, and I am sure that ATLUS JP could have afforded us with a much better looking game. As such, the portable version of the Persona 3 game takes on a visual novel style of presentation for the dating sim portion while maintaining, although at a much lower quality, the 3rd dimension for the dungeon exploration part. I really like 2D games and I certainly like visual novels, but P3P has the disadvantage of being released many years after P3 FES and the difference is quite jarring. Animated scenes that add personality to the characters in P3 FES are reduced to mere sentences in P3P. The worst part is that you no longer directly control your avatar since you are basically confined within the boundaries of 2D backgrounds. All of your actions are delegated to a cursor, turning the game into a veritable point&click adventure, minus the puzzles. This is something that works quite well, but I feel as though this is a step down, especially since P3P is an enhanced port, and not its own independent game.
I suppose I was expecting too much, but it is hard not to considering just how stunning Person 3 remains to be even after all of these years.
The character portraits have been kept intact, and even though there is not anything new to see, they do infuse enough personality into each character to make them believable.
Overall, I was quite disappointed with the look of the game, but that should not be enough to distract you from enjoying a well-made game.
Burn My Dread
Taking once more the helm of producer is Shoji Meguro, a prodigiously talented musician whose songs have made the recent Persona titles extremely popular. His upbeat modern compositions have become a J-pop sensation, giving way to numerous concerts and album releases. Of course, none of this would have been possible without such artists as Kenichi Tsuchiya, Yumi Kawamura, Lotus Juice, Shuhei Kita and many more.
Together they have created some of the best songs to which I have ever had the pleasure of listening.
They have also managed to break conventions and expectations with their music. The initial release of Persona 3 made people rethink what types of songs should be in a JRPG. By that point, everyone had become accustomed to the symphonic scores found in just about every JRPG on the market, so this game came as a real shock with its pop tunes and flashy presentation.
Then again, the Persona spin-offs - which in term derive from the Shin Megami Tensei series - have always been fundamentally different from any other game, with their dark fantasy stories set in modern times.
Unfortunately, P3P reuses most of the songs found in previous versions of the game.
Fortunately, the girl’s route does feature new songs, and even though there are only a handful of them, they are just as impressive as anything else that Shoji Meguro has composed.
Infused with rap, jazz and even the blues, the tracks themselves range from exhilarating to upbeat to soft and even tender at certain points. They are simply delightful and a very nice addition to the overall Persona music score.
In the beginning of the article I mentioned that at first glance the game appeared to be nothing more than a way to make even more money off incredulous fans. Well, having spent considerable time with P3P, I can say that this latest entry in the Persona 3 brand is something that fans should pick up, even though it does not drastically change the formula and is devoid of any significant innovations.
Gamers just looking for something new to play on their PSP, however, are better off skipping this version entirely. After all, there is a much better version out there in the form of Persona 3 FES.
Dating sims are very popular and quite plentiful in Japan, but the same cannot be said about the rest of the world. When Persona 3 was first released, it opened up a new genre in the West that fans have been appreciating ever since then. Regrettably, this has not made the genre very popular, although the recent Persona games have been nothing short of a success story.
Yes, it is the RPG aspect that has propelled the genre, but with enough confidence and effort, it should not be too hard to promote a game solely on its dating sim merits.
Until that happens, we are left with a competent PSP port and a reminder that the dating sim genre is still looking to break out in the West.
Story and Presentation: 9
While not as impressive as the original Persona 3, this is still a very good product for fans of the series or just anyone interested in something different on their favourite portable console. It is just too bad that the ‘Answer’ part was not included.
The visual novel style of presentation works, but it is a far cry when compared to the older versions.
Shoji Meguro is a genius and his songs are truly amazing. Unfortunately, we have heard most of these songs before.
With dozens upon dozens of game time, P3P is an enormous game made even better thanks to a plethora of much needed improvements.
Total: 8.375 (this is an average score)
Monday, 21 May 2012
Sunday, 20 May 2012
Internet radio is a great way to discover new songs from all over the world. I will sometimes listen to whatever catches my ear, but most of the time I am searching for songs that do not appear on charts and billboards.
I downloaded TuneIn on a whim and I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially after I found some really great stations dedicated to anime and video game songs. I liked it so much that I even bought the Pro version (might also have something to do with the special price it had at the time). I say grab it as you will not regret it.
The slide pads are gone in favour of more traditional thumb sticks. There are a few mystery buttons added in the form of those unaesthetic white squares seen below the d-pad and next to the power button.
Also, the Wii U logo has been plastered on the table in the lower left corner next to the speaker.
It remains to be seen if the Wii U becomes a success or not.
Saturday, 19 May 2012
A couple of days ago, I was watching a movie called American Pie Book of Love, a straight-to-DVD spin-off of the American Pie series. My exceptions were quite low, but I figured that a little mindless fun would do me good. Imagine my surprise when I discovered this awesome song. It is really good and I cannot stop playing it. If you find yourself in a melancholic mood, then you will definitely enjoy this.
Time trial requires you to go as fast as humanly possibly before the clock runs out. Obstacles are still present in this mode and it can get quite challenging. Fortunately, the controls are spot-on. I do have to say that Jet Car Stuns has the best accelerometer controls ever. Turning and twisting has never been easier and all of the acrobatics in the game can be performed with pinpoint precision.
The Lite version offers just enough levels to whet your appetite, but you will soon want more so you can keep up the fun. I find myself playing this game on a daily basis. It is that good.
Friday, 18 May 2012
Swords&Soldiers is side-scrolling real-time strategy that puts you in the control of the Aztecs, the Mayans and the Chinese. The general idea is to constantly train units and watch them attack anything that gets in their way, which is usually a soldier or a defensive building from the opposite nation. New units and abilities can be researched to make the slaughter easier. Besides gold, which is obtained by sending workers into mines, mana must also be taken into consideration as it is used to summon abilities which range for healing your own troops to obliterating opponents with thunderbolts. Swords&Soldiers is a simple yet well-balanced game. The gameplay is very easy to learn and with just enough depth and content to keep you involved and satisfied for a long time. If you have a disposition for strategies and cartoon violence, then look no further than Swords&Soldiers.
If you love point&click adventure games with pixel-art graphics, amazing songs and moody atmospheres than you will be in for a treat. Wadjet Eye Games, known for titles such as Blackwell Legacy, To The Moon, have announced their latest adventure game called Resonance.
'When a brilliant particle physicist dies unexpectedly, the race is on to secure his terrible new technology before it falls into the wrong hands. The lives of four playable characters become entangled as they fight against the clock to find the dead scientist's secret vault.
The suspicions they harbor, the memories they guard, the connections they share - all will converge as these four ordinary people work together to prevent a potentially cataclysmic disaster.'
The game will be released this June on the 19th for the PC in both retail and digital form.
You can find out more from the official site.
Wednesday, 16 May 2012
AdFree Android playstore download
When I bought my first android based phone, I was really excited by the potential it offered. Hundreds upon hundreds of apps had been been placed at my fingertips just waiting to be explored. Unfortunately, I was quickly reminded that there is nothing free in this world as ads started invading my phone with no end in sight.
Some apps I purchased, but others simply did not warrant the asking price. A prompt solution came in the form of AdFree. This app basically blocks all incoming ads by nullifying requests to known host names in the system hosts file. It all sounds more complicated than it really is and even with the clunky 90s inspired interface, setting up the app is as easy as 1, 2, 3. The one requirement is the that you need to have you android phone rooted. For more info on how to root a phone, check this link.
All in all, I found AdFree to be just what i needed. Sure, the user interface is something that you would find on a 486 computer and the need to root might turn some people away, but I strongly recommend that you at least give this app a try. It is free after all.