Journey

The moment Journey came out, it was an instant success, with fans and critics alike singing praises for thatgamecompany’s new creation. Like with their previous hit, Flower, the main qualities pointed out in reviews were the unique art style, the sheer beauty of the scenery, and the minimalistic storytelling. Despite the short length (reviews mentioned 2 hours), people around the world loved it, fans drew pretty art based on the game’s world and characters, and word of mouth contributed greatly to its success. And now, it’s my turn to share my thoughts of one of the 2012 gaming phenomenons with you.

Journey Cover

Game: Journey
Developer: thatgamecompany
Platform: PlayStation Network
Original release: 2012
Territories: All

I got my hands on this game thanks to my girlfriend’s sister who gave her a PSN voucher as a birthday present, with the explicit instruction to buy Journey. The $15 price the game launched, and is still sitting at, didn’t seem justified to me, considering its length. I was going to wait for it to drop to at least $10, but, thanks to the aforementioned circumstances, I was apparently going to play it in the year it actually released. 🙂

In the beginning, I thought that people had praised this game for a good reason. The visuals, while not going into much detail, were really beautiful, much like in Flower. I spent a minute or two to admire the scenery before even starting the game. And this stayed consistent throughout the game – every new environment was as pretty as the previous. The atmospheric music and sound effects also impressed me… And the protagonist, with his strange clothes, long scarf, and Final Fantasy black mage-like face, seemed mysterious and cool. But we gamers know that all these things complement a game, they are the side-dish to the meat…

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Portal 2

The first Portal was one of the finest achievements of gaming in the last 5 years. Introducing the noble concept of portals and being a puzzle game that takes place in first-person perspective, it took the gaming world by storm. The humour was also top-notch, the story told in a unique way. Its relatively short length was a small problem compared to everything it gave to the player. It was universally loved.

It was clear that Valve couldn’t just let such a successful game remain without a sequel. The obvious (financial) reason aside, there was just so much potential and so much more to be done with the concept. There was much more to be explored in Aperture Science’s laboratories. And, four years later, Valve delivered. Portal 2. We were positive it would be a blast again.

Portal 2 Boxart

Game: Portal 2
Developer: Valve
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release: 2011
Territories: All

Portal 2 manages to successfully reuse everything that made the original great and add more. The feeling of nobility may not be there anymore, the puzzles may feel easier because “we think in portals” now, but the entertainment, the feeling of satisfaction as you solve a puzzle and move onto the next one, is well worth it. The new puzzle elements – the bridges, funnels and gels, help the game maintain the feeling of freshness and not feel too much like “more of the same.”

Once again, like in the Wonder Boy review, the in-game screenshots are my own. 🙂

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Wonder Boy

As someone born in the 80s and having grown up with this kind of games, I love retro games. I owned an Atari 2600 Jr., later a bootleg NES, then a SEGA Mega Drive II. Additionally, I spent a lot of my time and pocket money at the arcades… These early experiences contributed greatly to shaping me up as the gamer I am today.

As I enjoy playing classics I’d never had the chance to back in the day, some of my reviews here will be of such games. Back in the day, games were simpler, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Such were the times. In result, these reviews may also be on the short side, but that’s cool as long as the message gets across. And, if anyone decides to give such an older title a shot after reading a review of mine, then I will be happy.

The first title getting this treatment is a game I had only seen in the arcades when I was little. It’s SEGA’s original Wonder Boy, the first installment in a very fascinating series (whose never-released-outside-Japan-before entry Monster World IV is coming soon on PSN and Wii’s Virtual Console) that was a cult favourite at the arcades and on consoles alike. I am reviewing the SEGA Master System port of the original arcade game, which is actually quite faithful to it (unlike many other console ports of arcade games of the period).

This is also the first review where I am providing my own in-game screenshots. 🙂

Wonder Boy

Game: Wonder Boy
Developer: Westone
Platforms: Arcade; SG-1000, SEGA Master System, Game Gear, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC; Mobile; Wii Virtual Console
Releases: 1986 (arcade, SG-1000); 1987 (other 8-bit systems); 2004 (mobile); 2008 (Wii VC)
Territories: All

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Video Game Music of the Week – 07-13.05.2012

For those like me working a desk job, and certainly for many others, music is a great part of our daily lives, making working, commuting or driving much more enjoyable. And video game fans love game music. I am no exception, as probably half of my Winamp collection consists of game tunes. They give me fuel to make it through the difficulties of everyday life. 🙂

I am starting a simple weekly series on this site – “Video Game Music of the Week.” Every week, I’ll post a video game theme which I really like and which is available on YouTube. I will try to maintain a certain level of diversity, which should not be too hard, considering how much good game music there is out there.

Game music covers many genres, with the most famous composers’ popularity overshadowing that of many game designers. And some game music pieces have achieved decent fame, but it’s usually been attached to the game they appeared in – a good song in a popular game would be far better known than an amazing song in a niche game. Most gamers know the Mario theme or “One-Winged Angel,” but not that many know “Heat Wave” from Bionic Commando. But that is hardly something to fret about – aren’t songs usually carried by the artists, too? It’s up to us to find good video game music even in not-so-well-known games.

This weekly feature’s goal is not to necessarily outline great music from less popular games while excluding the popular ones, but many of the entries will certainly be from games most gamers have not played. So please check back every week – you never know when a great theme could even prompt you to find and play its game! 🙂

Here is the first Video Game Music of the Week for 07-13.05.2012. It’s a theme by Yuki Kajiura, who is better known for her anime work (such as Noir, .hack//SIGN, Madlax, etc.), but she also did a truly magnificent job with the Xenosaga III OST, adding so much to an already incredible game. I hope you enjoy it!

Composer: Yuki Kajiura
Game: Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra
Song: Acute Neurosis Treatment Facility – Under Attack

Top 50 Games Every Gamer Should Know About (Part 2)

And, without further ado, here is the second part of the list. I hope you enjoy it at least as much as the first!

Top 50 games every gamer should know about

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Top 50 Games Every Gamer Should Know About

Plenty of games shape our life as gamers, and we all have our favourites – some mainstream, some more niche. But there are some games that every self-respecting gamer should know about. You don’t have to like them. You don’t have to even think they’re good. But, as a gamer, you should know about them.

Top 50 games every gamer should know about

See the list

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker

One cannot avoid the feeling of sadness when a great story ends. In addition to the awe at the conclusion, one feels the bittersweet disappointment that now all the secrets have been unveiled and all the dots – connected. That is how I felt when I finished Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots – the final chapter of my favourite game series. Everything came together nicely, there was nothing more to be added… But Peace Walker proved that wrong.

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker

Game: Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
Developer: Kojima Productions
Platforms: PlayStation Portable; PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (as part of Metal Gear Solid HD Collection)
Releases: 2010 (PSP), 2011 (PS3/Xbox 360), 2012 (PS3/Xbox 360 – Europe)
Territories: All

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is the latest installment in the ground-breaking tactical espionage action series by Hideo Kojima. Built for the PSP, it is superior in every way to its handheld predecessor, Portable Ops, and Kojima himself and his trusty team were the ones working on its development from beginning to end (as opposed to the overseer role Kojima had with Portable Ops). Furthermore, with the game coming to consoles as part of the HD collection (and that was the version I played, too), it proved to be ambitious and well-made enough that one barely sees differences from the full-blown console Metal Gear Solid titles.

Fans of the series will certainly love this one, and even people completely new to it will be pleased. Peace Walker keeps the core gameplay we’ve come to know and love, and also takes some interesting new approaches that help the game feel fresh and exciting even to Metal Gear veterans. And it’s another chapter of the story of Big Boss – one of the most badass, awe-inspiring game characters to have ever existed.

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Shin Megami Tensei: Persona

The best time to write a review for a game is after you’ve recently finished it, while it’s still fresh in your mind. I’ll usually stick to that rule on this site. My second review is of the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona PSP remake.

Persona PSP

Game: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona
Developer: Atlus
Platform: PlayStation Portable
Release: 2009 (PSP remake)
Original release: 1996 (PlayStation)
Territories: All

I decided to get into the Persona series after I read unimaginable amounts of praise for the third and fourth installments on just about every game forum I’ve visited. And since I like being able to play through a series and observe its development in every next installment, I started at the first game, if by playing its PSP remake as opposed to the original PlayStation version.

Persona (or Revelations: Persona, as the original PS1 game’s name was) is a traditional JRPG by Atlus with turn-based combat. The game’s age certainly shows, with some of the mechanics being outdated, but there are also some very interesting ideas I had not seen before. The story is focused on psychology, if only on a fairly juvenile level, as the main characters are high school kids, still searching for their purpose in life.

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Xenogears

The time has come for my first review. For such a special occasion, I have chosen one of my favourite games of all time, Xenogears. Before I start, it should be known that my rating scale is in the 0-10 range, with 5 being average. I also do not give high scores very easily – for instance, only about 25 games I’ve played have earned a score of 9 or more in my eyes.

Xenogears

Game: Xenogears
Developer: SquareSoft
Platforms: PlayStation; PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita (PSOne Classics)
Original release: 1998
Territories: Japan, North America

Xenogears is a science-fiction RPG by SquareSoft for PlayStation. The main writer and mastermind behind the game is Tetsuya Takahashi, who later also became known for the Xenosaga series and, more recently, Xenoblade Chronicles. The game is considerably long, even for an RPG, taking 60-80 hours to beat. It is a considerable investment of time.

Xenogears is also a complex game. But, even if you are not a big fan of games that make you think, do not let that scare you away. Playing an RPG, one expects a considerable focus on the story. In Xenogears, that is also correct, of course, but things are taken one, no, many steps further.

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Phantasy Star Online 2 to be free-to-play!

Phantasy Star Online 2

SEGA has announced that the sequel to one of the finest online RPGs and a pioneer of the genre, Phantasy Star Online, will be free-to-download and free-to-play. The game model will be based on microtransactions with items and other benefits costing money. However, it will not be required to buy anything in order to progress and there will not be a level cap or any other restrictions for non-paying customers.

PSO2 had already been announced for PC and PlayStation Vita, and now we know that a third version is being developed – one for Android and iOS devices. This version will share character data with the main PC/Vita versions, but will be more simplistic and will not offer cross-platform play.

The PC version is scheduled for a summer 2012 release in Japan, the smart phone version follows in the winter, and the Vita version is to be released in early 2013. The PC version’s second alpha test for the game was recently completed and reached a scale of 50,000 users. A closed beta for the PC version will start in April, with a scale set to 100,000 players.

Source: http://www.gamespot.com/news/phantasy-star-online-2-will-be-free-to-play-6368061

I am really happy with this news. Since I would not be able to put in more than 10-20 hours of play a month, I was never going to get the game if it had monthly fees. Now it is a definite for me. If it has even half of PSO’s magic, I will enjoy it greatly. I have a total of about 200 hours logged into Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst for the PC (138 on my currently existing character), and I still play it occasionally on Schthack’s server.