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.
About halfway through June, I began a legendary journey. It was a long and difficult quest to play through five meaty RPGs, featuring powerful heroes and heroines. You may even say my legendary journey was a Legend of Heroes.
So, with that being said, this month’s entry will probably feel a bit half-assed, even in comparison to how half-assed my articles usually feel. Perhaps we could even call them quarter-assed. Luckily for you guys, I have plenty of Korean videos
to use as filler to help keep you guys occupied since this month’s edition is likely to be pretty short.
Diablo III is one of those games that’s a little difficult to talk about. On the one hand, when it works, it’s a perfectly serviceable dungeoncrawling loot-a-thon that you’d come to expect from the guys that basically invented the loot-a-thon. On the other, it barely ever works. I don’t really have a problem with games that require an online connection in order to play, even if you want to play alone, so I’m definitely not complaining about that. If Blizzard wanted to turn Diablo III into a Diablo MMORPG, then that’s their perogative. However, most of my friends that I’ve tried to play the game with are constantly being dropped, and cries of “GET BETTER INTERNET LOL” are pretty meaningless when they have the best internet that’s available in their region. Furthermore, as I was playing, the game’s much-touted auction house (another MMO staple) was down roughly 50% of the time, for some reason or another. Even when it was up, several sections of the auction house were unavailable, including the place to buy lots of nice stat-enhancing gems that you can slot into weapons and armor.
But even when it works, something feels… “off,” about Diablo III. For one, Blizzard gutted the fantastic skilltree system used in Diablo II for a much simpler one. Instead, you simply unlock abilities as you level up, as well as runes that may modify those abilities somewhat. Each ability can only have one rune equipped, and you can only have six abilities equipped at any given time, meaning that your character’s going to have to constantly switch up abilities in order to remain versatile, which is a banal pain in the ass before long, especially since you’re punished for changing up your abilities by having their cooldown timers set at their maximum levels whenever you do so.
Even worse, however, comes from their Real Money Auction House. In theory, it sounds like a pretty win-win situation. People can buy the stuff they want to buy using cash (for those who are so bad at games that they feel the need to do so), and in return, Blizzard takes a cut. It’s all done through Blizzard’s system, so there’s no need to go to any of those shady sites that were all over the internet in Diablo II’s reign. (I bet some of them still exist, actually.) However, by officially endorsing real money trading through the game, they’re undermining game balance and difficulty in the name of the mighty dollar. Considering Blizzard is owned by Activision now, it doesn’t really come as much of a surprise that Blizzard would do such a thing. In fact, it seems pretty suspicious that every one of Blizzard’s games (since being part of Activision-Blizzard) has had schemes that seem particularly similar to intrusive DRM designed to look like it’s providing beneficial services when it’s essentially alienating people that just want to play and have a good time. Why, it makes me so angry, I think I need to watch cute Korean girls dance and sing in order to calm down.
Thanks to a nice deal that XSEED Games struck with Falcom a couple years back, we’ve been seeing a pretty big influx of Ys lately. On the PSP, we got the excellent Ys I+II Chronicles, Ys: The Oath in Felghana, and Ys Seven. Through Steam, we were treated to a PC release of Oath in Felghana. Now, we’ve got Ys Origin on Steam, which marks the first time the game has been available in the US. Since I never got around to importing it when it came out in Japan, I made damn sure to grab it this time around, although a pretty box with lots of Falcom-esque goodies would have been much preferred.
Ys Origin was a great palette cleanser after the viciously underwhelming Diablo III. It’s got most of my favorite things: Fast-paced action, sweet music, and cute anime girls. Of course, it’s a Falcom game, so all three of those things are pretty much a given… and it’s there that problems begin to surface, actually.
As the name implies, Ys Origin is meant to be an origin story, taking place 700 years or so before Adol’s adventure. An Ys game where you don’t play as Adol is like having a Zelda game where you don’t play as Link.
Luckily, Ys Origin didn’t turn out like the ill-fated CDi games. It’s a pretty decent adventure, but it feels low-budget compared to the “real” Ys games. The environs are restricted to a single tower to be explored. It’s the exact same tower from the original Ys, although the interior is vastly different. Falcom explains this by saying the tower is filled with evil power that makes it constantly shift and change its shape. That’s silly reasoning, I guess, but it probably saves on hiring an interior decorator. Those vile demons are smart shoppers!
That being said, Ys Origin does benefit somewhat in ditching Adol as the main character. While you can play as Yunica, a cute girl with a big axe who plays nearly identically to Adol, you can also choose to play as Hugo Fact, a powerful mage and ancestor of Dark Fact from the original Ys. Hugo is radically different from Adol and Yunica, using blasts from his wand and two little options called the “Eyes of Fact” that work just like the options in a shmup. By charging up his boost meter, Hugo turns those two eyes into four, lending him tons more firepower. It’s important because Falcom’s very next Ys release was Ys Seven, a game that introduced a party system, allowing you to choose two friends to follow Adol around, who could be switched on the fly. With characters like that spoiled princess chick and Misheru, the blind mage, long-ranged characters were introduced into Adol’s world as well… but the concept got its practice run in this cheap budget entry in the Ys series.
Most gamers (at least the good ones) already know what Terranigma is. After all, the trilogy that Quintet released on SNES is nearly legendary for its poignant, powerful stories regarding creation, life, and death. Unfortunately, I never had a PAL SNES, so my only way to play Terranigma in my native tongue was via an emulator. And emulators are gross. I prefer to play the game the way it was originally intended to be played, on a TV screen with a Super Famicom controller in hand, its diminutive cord keeping me practically mouth-to-mouth with protagonist Ark.
My favorite things about these Quintet games is how much pointless detail they put into their characters, even the non-important ones. In SoulBlazer, early in the game you rescue an old man and his pet goat. Speaking to the old man reveals that recently, his wife died, and although he misses her, he noticed a goat hanging around that he decided to keep as a pet. Speaking to the goat (your character is a messenger from God, so he can speak to all living creatures, even plants and animals) has the goat stating that she doesn’t know if she believes in reincarnation, but she feels happy being near her husband. It may not sound like a huge deal, but as a little kid playing SoulBlazer for the first time, it completely blew my mind. Most games I had played at the time had all the depth of “Go save the princess,” but SoulBlazer dared to be different, and it stuck with me for a long time.
So, it was particularly saddening when I had heard there was a third game in the series, consisting of SoulBlazer, Illusion of Gaia, and Terranigma, and I had never gotten a chance to play the latter because it was only released in Japan and Europe. But, after playing it on an emulator, and not being satisfied for years, I finally just imported the Japanese version (called Tenchi Souzo) so I could play it the way
God Quintet intended.
As in SoulBlazer, Quintet seems to have a thing for talking goats. During one scene early in the game, you’re climbing a huge, frozen mountain, where you inadvertently cause a massive avalanche. When you come to, you find two goats — a he-goat and a she-goat — trapped in a cave with you. The he-goat (the she-goat’s husband) passed away in the avalanche, but she’s determined to get out. You find a spot in the cave wall where it seems breakable, and so she rams into the cave wall with her powerful goat-skull. It eventually collapses, only to reveal another wall that only Ark would be able to scale. She tells you to go on without her, and she’ll find another way out.
Eventually, you scale the mountain, and finish your duty there by fighting the boss. Time passes on and Ark spends three years in a coma, but when he wakes up, he’s in a village at the foot of the mountain. At no point in the game are you ever told to return to this particular mountain, but you’re able to. If you return to the cave, you’ll see something pretty shocking.
The two goats lie side-by side, unmoving, and unbreathing. The she-goat never made it out like she promised, and ended up lying next to her husband and accepting her fate. It’s a poignant moment like that which made me fall in love with Tenchi Souzo, as there was so much more meaning in those few unspoken moments than in so-called classic deaths, such as Aeris from Final Fantasy VII.
Now I’m all depressed. There’s only one cure for that!