Nov 252009

In my opinion, I would say no. I don’t believe we need an entirely different console configuration at this time. But, if current generation console features could be improved upon, I think that would be a move in the right direction. We are at a place, technologically, where the graphics capabilities in video games have the same effect in entertainment that movies do. We can tell a story and we can tell it well. We can, perhaps, tell a story even better than movies can because video games, by nature, are much more immersive than a movie can be.

With the advent of new technology also comes an awkward period for developers at the very beginning of a platform’s release. Developers are forced to learn, most of the time, an entirely new SDK (Software Development Kit) tailored specifically for the new hardware and the new technology used by the hardware. Aside from the obvious negative aspects that exist for developers, what does this mean for the consumer? This means that for the first few months or even a year or more after a console’s release there is going to be a dry period for game releases. There are going to be very few games released and the quality of each title will more than likely be under par. These are the costs of acceptance of emerging technologies. But, at this point and time are the costs of a new platform worth the benefits? That is the question that must be addressed. It is inevitable that new technology will be developed. I only wonder if we’re ready for it now.

It would seem that most console developers tend to adhere pretty rigidly to the release of some new console over a specified interval:

Nintendo Releases over 6 year intervals (approx.):

Sony Releases over 5 year intervals (approx.):

  • [1995] – PSX
  • [2000] – PS2
  • [2006] – PS3

Given current trends Microsoft is due for another console release. So far, Microsoft has consistently released a console every four years (Xbox in 2001, Xbox 360 in 2005). Now approaching the end of the 2009 year, one can only wonder what Microsoft has in store for us. I can only assume it to be their current R&D focus; Project Natal.

Project Natal might serve as a new and innovative platform (really no more than a peripheral for the current gen platform) capable of pushing both participation and immersion in video games to a previously inconceivable level. Will everyone jump on the band wagon and wait in line to get it on release day? From what we’ve seen so far, the platform seems to be targeted toward the casual gamer, or the “family” gamer. But with the introduction of this new input format or others like it, will the old input format, the controller, be supported still? Or will it instead become obsolete? What will become of competitive gaming if controllers that we’ve been accustomed to using for decades are phased out? These kinds of questions are important to a less represented demographic; the hardcore or competitive gamer.

Regardless of any of my previously mentioned opinions I actually believe that improvement of the Xbox 360 through development of Project Natal is a good move for Microsoft. As described previously Microsoft will avoid the overhead of a completely new platform while directing their current console iteration to a much larger demographic; the casual gamer.

Project Natal is also good for consumers for a couple of reasons. The new console “dry spot” will be avoided since the core hardware hasn’t changed much. While the influx of Project Natal titles might be limited at first, there will still be constant releases of Xbox 360 core titles (titles not utilizing Project Natal technology). The cost of new hardware will be reduced considerably as well since the price of a peripheral will always be less costly than an entirely new console.

Well, despite all of my opinions expressed here, I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see what happens next. I’ll probably end up purchasing Natal eventually, but I’m in no hurry to get it on release day.

Thanks for reading!

Oct 112009

Legend of Legaia (PSX) Cover

Legend of Legaia

4.5 / 5
Playstation (PSX)
Release Dates:
October 29, 1998 [JP], March 17, 1999 [NA], November 15, 2000 [EU]
Sony Computer Entertainment
RPG (Role Playing Game)
60 hours

I originally played this game way back in the day.  It must of been some time around 8th or 9th grade.  I borrowed it from a good friend of mine, and probably kept it a bit longer than I should have.  This game, at the time, was just that good.  And having recently coming back to this game to finally finish it after 10+ years I have to say that the core game play aspects of this title have aged pretty well.

Though the graphics haven’t aged well in comparison to modern games, the battle system is beyond compare.  When I originally enjoyed this title the battle system was unique and possessed certain mechanics that I had never experienced in any other game up till that point (I must qualify this statement by mentioning that I’ve been playing games very heavily since the age of 4).

I suppose that this game could fall within the category of a “JRPG,” since it was obviously made in Japan.  But, in my opinion, the game goes far beyond the traditional cookie cutter JRPG.  For example, the male protagonist actually portrays himself as a man and doesn’t visually resemble a pre-pubescent boy or teenage girl.  Aside from that, the three main characters in the story represent three very distinct personalities that round out the story pretty well.  Instead of focusing on a single main character and feeling as if the others were merely support characters, I was instead able to identify with each of the main characters and feel for them and their cause in three distinct ways.

Story and characters aside, the truly unique feature of this particular title is the battle system.  On the surface Legend of Legaia operates like your traditional turn-based strategy game.  There is an attack sequence for both sides where each turn an item can be used, an attack can be made, or a spell which consumes MP (magic points) can be cast.  The difference with this game is the attack sequence.  In most turn-based RPGs a simple melee attack is made and damage is dealt based on the particular attributes of the player and the equipment the player may be wearing.  In this game simple is thrown out the door in favor of a combo based attack system where sequences of high, low, right and left punches and kicks can be made making the game’s “simple” attack system all the more dynamic.  As you progress through the game you can learn various special combos that allow you to deal more damage.  I must add, that there is nothing more fulfilling than learning a new combo at random and adding another type of attack to your repertoire.

In addition to the various combo attacks you can learn, you can also pick up various magic spells based on the properties of different creatures you come across in combat.  It isn’t a given that attacking a particular creature will automatically grant you that creature’s power.  You might find yourself staying in the same area indefinitely just trying to get that last creature’s power.  As with learning a new combo, its always fulfilling to gain a new spell.

Now for the negatives.  I really wanted to give this title a perfect score of 5 out of 5.  While I loved the unique mechanic of the battle system, I eventually tired of it toward the end of the game.  I never really found much use for most of the magic that you acquire throughout the game, with the exception of all healing magic (the healing magic is a real life saver… All jokes aside).  In fact, the majority of the time the simple combo melee was the way to go since no negative status effects that your magic might deal applied to any of the bosses in the game.  All negative status was negated in any boss fight, rendering most spells useless.  I also found that although there are a variety of many different combos that you can learn in the game, the majority of the time you’re going to pick the combo with the largest string of hits that deals the most damage.  And most of the time you’ll be using the same combo over, and over, and over again because it deals the most damage, making most encounters more repetitive than entertaining.

It should be noted that there is a lot more time to be spent in this game if you so desire.  After 60 hours of game play my highest character was level 42 (you can max out at level 99!) and that was good enough to beat the final boss.  There was much that went unexplored in my play-through such as mini games involving battle challenges, arcade games and fishing; as well as acquiring other creature spells and items that don’t appear within the main story line of the game.

I probably wouldn’t play this game again because there are so many other games that I have in my collection that need to be beat.  But I would recommend this game to any lover of RPGs.  It is worth a play through and is a gem, in my opinion, among a sea of mostly mediocre games.

Thanks for reading.  Come back often.