Organized Rambling is a monthly column that details all the games I’ve played in a given month, even if they’re old. Generally, I’ll talk about whatever comes to mind while dropping some fun factoids that you won’t normally find in reviews… because this isn’t a review, it’s Organized Rambling.
Fuck April. The thing I hate most about this time of year is now that it’s starting to warm up, it’s a perfect opportunity for me to get one last illness in before Spring… and it hit me hard, knocking me out for about a week and a half. That being said, I didn’t get a whole lot of gaming done in April, at least not nearly as much as I’d have liked. So, in an attempt to
pathetically pad the length of this article appease all one or two of my adoring fans, I’ll explain the rules of how a game gets added to Organized Rambling!
1. Any game that I’ve not played before is eligible.
2. For a game that has multiple versions over a period of time, releases that offer a significant change are considered new. (see: Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD)
3. Emulation-based software is not considered new (see: Virtual Console games, etc), unless I’m playing a game that I’ve not played before.
4. Unless a game is particularly interesting, I’ll refrain from mentioning it until I’ve played enough that I’d be comfortable writing a review about it (usually to completion, if applicable).
5. All games mentioned in Organized Rambling will be eligible for end-of-year awards that I call the Espies. You can find 2011′s Espi awards here.
6. Game demos are not eligible for Espi awards, but may be mentioned in an Organized Rambling article if there’s enough to talk about.
And that’s pretty much it. I hope that clarifies things to the two or three people who have asked me about what does and does not make it into an Organized Rambling article. It’s nice to know that someone cares!
Oh yeah, and I actually did play a game or two this month, including…
Deep in some corner of the internet, a message board was all abuzz! A Genesis homebrew community decided to do what homebrew communities are wont to do: create a cute little RPG about members of the community and release it for the Sega CD. This was in 2004, nearly a decade after the Sega CD’s demise, but once again: it’s what homebrew communities do. As the project progressed, nearly all of the original message board inhabitants had parted ways, and the game itself evolved from a Sega CD game to a Genesis title, its story and setting changing into that of a full-fledged fantasy RPG. Finally, with the game’s eventual completion in 2010, it was released on a massive (for Genesis) 64 megabit cartridge, with a unique feature: a burnable music CD that can be placed in a Sega CD to give the game higher-quality music. It also had amazingly pretty packaging; one glance would make you deny that the game you’re holding was the work of amateurs who made a game simply because they love the Genesis that much. It’s got a thick, black, clamshell case just like the original Genesis titles did before SEGA got cheap and switched to flimsy cardboard boxes. The cover art insert has gold lettering and designs on it that looks totally awesome (pictures really don’t do it justice) and that design philosophy carries over to the full-color instruction manual. Despite its strange shape for a Genesis manual, it has sections in various languages, perhaps alluding to the worldwide nature of the game’s development team (and, I suppose, the fact that the game supports multiple languages). There’s also a poster inside (with more of that cool gold lettering) and some stickers that seem to have been used for some contest from long ago.
The game itself also belies its amateur nature. The graphics are big, bold, and beautiful. The anime sequences aren’t particularly well drawn, but considering cutscenes were typically relegated to the CD offerings during that era, it’s impressive that they managed to squeeze them into a cartridge. The music is pretty enjoyable in most cases, particularly the battle theme. The CD versions are even better. Unfortunately, there are just as many strange quirks to remind you that you’re playing an amateur title, as opposed to a professional release. For one, inventory management is a pain. Rather than including separate equipment, status, and inventory sections, it’s all been condensed into a single menu that makes finding particular items painful. Likewise, the game is horribly imbalanced. A single level-up offers huge boons for your characters, and is generally all you need to utterly smash everything in your path. Find yourself getting overwhelmed in a new area? Grind one level and watch as those formerly frightening foes hit your party for single-digit damage! Is a boss beating the stuffing out of you? He won’t after killing a couple more monsters!
I realize older RPGs often required you to grind levels for a while in order to win, but Pier Solar places so much emphasis on each individual level that battles swing from unwinnable on the one side, to “tactics be damned” on the other side; it’s possible to just faceplant the attack command and win. Yet somehow, it barely matters. Despite all of that, Pier Solar accomplishes what it set out to do: it became the biggest Genesis RPG, even if it cheated by coming out 15 years late. It may never be as classic as something like Phantasy Star 2, but it’s definitely a great addition to anyone’s collection, provided you’re willing to pay the astronomical prices some people are asking for it.
It revolutionizes the JRPG!
The greatest game since Chrono Trigger!
Nearly flawless in every way!
I’ve heard many such quotes about Xenoblade, and every single one has me shaking my head, or doing that Captain Picard facepalm thing that’s so popular on the internet these days. I’m not going to deny that Xenoblade is a great game — perhaps one of the best games to grace the Wii — but it’s hardly the revolution in gaming that so many of its fans claim it is. A lot of its gameplay mechanics were lifted straight from one of Square Enix’s more recent failures (among many), Final Fantasy XIV. In fact, without having prior knowledge of either game, upon hearing only of how the game plays, I wonder if anyone would even be able to tell the difference between the two.
it plays like a two-year old, underdeveloped MMORPG that released to critical disdain! Revolutionary! Like I said though, Xenoblade is by no means a bad game, and it is indeed much more solid than Final Fantasy XIV, but none of that is because of the gameplay mechanics. It’s because Xenoblade’s tale is set in a world that’s interesting, huge, and most importantly, has a story to convey to people who choose to explore every last nook and cranny. Final Fantasy XIVs takes place in yet another medieval-ish fantasy world, while Xenoblade takes place on the dead bodies of two massive titans that killed each other and ended up overgrown with wildlife (in the case of one of the titans, anyway). It’s filled with lots of pretentious philosophical talk, while Final Fantasy XIV is filled with antiquated English, similar to the Alexander O. Smith translations in games like Vagrant Story.
Somewhere around the internet, I heard that Monolith Soft was saying that Xenoblade’s world is roughly the size of Japan, or for the geographically inept Americans reading this, about the size of California. I’ve never really understood how it’s possible to measure a virtual space such as that. Is it the size of Japan from the perspective and scale of Shulk and the rest of the crew? Or is it the size of Japan in our perspective? I’m assuming the former, since Xenoblade’s world may be big, but it’s not THAT big. I remember earlier confusion about Bethesda stating that one of their earlier Elder Scrolls games (I think it was Daggerfall) was as big as Great Britain. Speaking of Elder Scrolls, that new MMORPG Bethesda announced looks absolutely dreadful. As cool as an online Elder Scrolls sounds in theory, it just can’t work in execution. You can’t give players the sort of open world freedom they have in a game like Skyrim and expect it to translate well to an online universe. Every NPC on the server would be dead within a week if that were the case, and respawning NPCs are too far removed from Elder Scrolls’ own lore surrounding the permanence of death (ghosts and other such apparitions notwithstanding) for it to be believable for anyone invested in the world of Nirn. So instead, the Elder Scrolls Online Bethesda announced looks like a World of Warcraft clone with a slightly Elder Scrolls feel to it. When I first heard about an online Elder Scrolls, I was pretty intrigued. I lost that sense of intrigue after seeing the first screenshot.
You know what is impressive though? How Monolith Soft managed to pack as much content and such a huge world on a single DVD, while still including multiple language options for the voice acting. Now that’s a revolution I can agree with.
Speaking of revolutionary games, holy shit.
Kid Icarus Uprising is one of those games that can only come along once a generation or so. I doubt there was ever any question that it was going to be a good game — it’s a Nintendo-developed title that doesn’t pander to casual gameplay, after all — but I think what was most surprising about Uprising was just how good the game actually was. It’d been about two decades since we last saw Pit in any role other than a fighting game character, so Nintendo could have taken the game in pretty much any direction, slapped the Kid Icarus name on it, and watched as it sold like nostalgia-flavored hotcakes. Instead, Masahiro Sakurai and his team deserve crazy levels of back-patting for creating a game that panders to those of us wearing rose-tinted glasses (by retaining the same classic feel as the original NES title) while updating the gameplay for the third dimension. It’s revolutionary to the series — what few games are in it — in the same way that Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time were to their respective series.
The original Kid Icarus was a genre-busting game. It spent most of its time being a platformer in which you continuously climb upwards… but suddenly, upon reaching the 4th stage of the first world, the game’s more akin to a sidescrolling dungeon crawler with elements of the NES Zelda games. After beating the first boss, a two-headed dog called Twinbellows (though its actual name should have been Orthrus), you’re taken to a series of sidescrolling stages, before climbing once again, and then suddenly, the game switches gears completely and becomes a shmup.
In many respects, Kid Icarus Uprising follows suit. Each stage opens with a shooting section that reminds me of Panzer Dragoon more than anything. In this part, Uprising’s 3D is used to great effect, as you traverse narrow corridors with unfathomable depth and weave through plumes of fire that feel like they’re jumping toward the screen. Pit is surprisingly agile in the air, with the ability to glide and dodge his way through attacks with ease, before counterattacking with powerful charged blasts from his weapon. After finishing that part of the stage, you’re taken to the ground where you fight mostly the same enemies, but with slightly different tactics since you’re now fighting them on land.
One of my favorite things about Uprising is how self-aware it is. It knows that there hasn’t been a Kid Icarus game in 20 years. That’s why the very first line of dialogue is Pit announcing, “Sorry to keep you waiting!” as a door opens up, flooding the screen with light as he leaps out and catches the wind, his wings aglow with power as the music from the original Kid Icarus’ first stage kicks in, albeit remixed and sounding incredibly awesome. Retro themes abound in Uprising — dying in battle takes you to a black screen that says I’M FINISHED along the top, just like in the original game. A scene early in the game, in which Pit mocks his foes with a rather generic “you’re goin’ down!” is enhanced by Palutena’s mockery of Pit, making fun of him for how he used to say I’M FINISHED all the time. A dejected Pit responds, “I… still say that. A lot.” It’s but one of countless humorous moments, many of which utterly shatter the fourth wall.
My favorite moment in the game comes when you think you’ve beaten it. The heroes gloat about their success, and the credits begin playing (with the retro-style original Kid Icarus font, of course), when suddenly a giant, clawed hand rips a massive hole in the credits screen, revealing the true villain beneath. It’s at this point in the game that you find out you’re less than halfway through Uprising, and that realization is awesome.