Ten Minute Trials is a new weekly column, appearing every Sunday, in which I take four games I’ve never played and spend ten minutes with each one. Even a lengthy RPG should do something interesting within that time — if a videogame squanders its precious first impression, then I can’t trust the developers to deliver a satisfying product. With literally thousands of games at my disposal, I have to set some standard to determine which games deserve my time. Ten minutes is that standard.
Before the game began, I was pleasantly surprised by the emotional vocal song that accompanies the “mode select” screen. Fate’s got a really nice front-end, replete with a scrolling menu, that feels like a true professional release.
After selecting “Arcade” mode and choosing my character (Saber), I sat through a two-minute pictorial introduction. I was a bit worried that the game was going to wedge story scenes between every fight, but that thankfully didn’t happen. Fate/Unlimited Codes features an intuitive free-form fighting system that allows combos to begin with either a weak or strong attack. It was nice to fight battles in which a strong hit doesn’t always push the opponent so far away that the combo ends simply by virtue of distance. A strong opener appears to deal more damage, but in many situations (especially against quick foes in a neutral status), I had to open with a weak hit just to find a lapse in my opponent’s guard.
Fate/Unlimited Codes appears to at least be competent in the fundamentals. As far as special features, there’s a grail at the top of the screen, which fills up as the battle continues. I imagine this allows either combatant to pull off some sort of special move (kind of like Phantom Breaker), but ten minutes wasn’t enough to decipher the grail’s meaning. My ten minutes expired just as I was about to fight the mid-boss, Berserker. I know he’s a mid-boss because there was a special dialogue scene before the battle.
I was tempted to keep playing, but I resisted the urge . . . tonight. This one goes to the A-list.
Before the title screen even appears, Ikusagami treated me to a cool widescreen anime scene. It was pretty badass, with nice music and vibrant colors. It looked sweet on my HDTV, which was impressive; a lot of PS2 cutscenes look low-res or heavily artifacted nowadays.
So, I pressed START . . . and a five-minute widescreen CG movie commenced. Unfortunately, this was less impressive than the anime sequence that Ikusagami had already shown me. Next up was a Warriors-style mission briefing. The interesting part is that on the “equip a weapon” screen, there were 99 boxes. 98 of them were empty, of course, but that’s an impressively broad assortment of weaponry to unlock.
Finally, I was dropped into combat, guiding a sword-wielding wolfman through a dilapidated Japanese village. Ikusagami uses an odd visual style; I didn’t spend much time analyzing it (yet), but the appearance of the textures reminded me of scanlines. I’m guessing this looked better on CRT than on HDTV. More impressively, the game contained TONS of demonic enemies, even in these early scenes — not the 65,535 simultaneous characters that the back of the box boasts, but I figure Genki saved the best for later. As Tak Fujii would say, “wooooow”.
I killed an awful lot of monsters, but I haven’t figured out how to get hurt yet. The game is intriguing but clearly dated; I’ll put it on the B-list.
Rygar was obviously the conceptual prototype for God of War. It’s got a bold presentation, gorgeous landscapes, and even a hero with a chain strapped to his arm.
The opening scenes may not be quite as exciting as Kratos’s stormy first appearance, but they’re certainly serviceable. In ten minutes, I was able to watch the intro, fight a few worms (familiar to fans of NES Rygar), do a bit of exploring, and save my game. The environments still look fancy even today, the music is sweeping, and I think this one will be a lot of fun. I especially liked the ability to destroy rubble and other objects; I hope Tecmo does something cool with that concept.
I also noticed that there’s a gallery with concept character art, and it’s amusing to see that one of the alternate imaginings of Rygar became the Wii port’s version of the hero.
I’ll add this one to the B-list. It’s not immediately gripping, but I see promise.
After ten minutes, I’m still watching the opening cinema scene, and I don’t even know who the main characters are. It’s too early to say whether the storyline is good or bad, but there’s a big problem with this movie: it’s old CG. It’s the kind of lazy CG that only puts two or three people on the screen at once. It’s the kind of misguided CG that tries to impress with fluid but overly-deliberate and exaggerated motion, inadvertently making all the “actors” look freakin’ creepy.
This should have been anime — maybe then it would still be worth watching after all these years.
Xenosaga lands squarely on the shit-list. If a videogame’s first ten minutes don’t show me what genre the game belongs to, then it’s obvious the developers don’t have a clue how videogames are supposed to work.