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Archive for May 2013

Review: Persona 3 (PS2)

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p3_boxWhile it has celebrated decades of success in Japan, the Shin Megami Tensei series didn’t even come to America until Persona on the original Playstation. It wasn’t rebranded with the classic Shin Megami Tensei prefix until the release and mainstream love for Persona 3 and I can see why. If you read back to my Persona 1 & 2 review you will see that while I dug the direction it was going, I had major issues with both games that made the 50+ hour slogs through the campaigns less than enjoyable. All of these issues are addressed in Persona 3 without letting go of the core that got gamers interested in the first place. If you are a fan of JRPGs or have never played an epic dungeon-crawling quest, you should seriously consider giving Persona 3 a play because its modern setting, streamlined battle system, and socially integrated plotline will keep you playing for tens (if not hundreds) of hours.

The basic setup in Persona 3 is that you are a male (you have a female option as well in P3: FES and P3 Portable) second year high school student (think Junior in US terms) in Japan that has just transferred to a new school. As a student to a private academy, there are some differences to the public system: the only day off is Sunday, you wear a uniform, and students live in unisex dorms. Due to overcrowding, your character moves into an available dorm that is temporarily coed. It turns out that all of this dorm’s students have one thing in common: they are able to summon beings from within them named “personas”. These personas are capable of both physical and magical powers and are an extension of the individual controlling them. You also learn that each night at midnight an alternative realm known as “the dark hour” takes over the world and certain beings are allowed to roam freely while the rest of us reside in coffin-like structures, removed from this realm. Naturally persona users are one of the beings that can roam as are evil beings known as “shadows” that take on different forms. The goal of the shadows is to end the world and the persona users are rallied to prevent this. Wouldn’t you know, the main tower/source of evil is none other than the school, which transforms into a tall castle called Tartarus at night. Quite the setup, isn’t it?

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Written by Fred Rojas

May 23, 2013 at 7:59 pm

Posted in PS2, PS3, PSP, Reviews

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Podcast: 9/9/99

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This week Fred and Trees set out to talk about console launches and instead dedicate an entire show to the Dreamcast launch.  There were a shocking amount of great games that assisted the launch of Sega’s most successful, albeit final, console.


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Written by Fred Rojas

May 22, 2013 at 11:00 am

Posted in Dreamcast, podcast

Podcast: Top Scores

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This week Fred flies solo again and he’s celebrating his favorite songs from video game soundtracks.  The entire history of games is reflected from 8-bit and 16-bit to the glory of CDs and red book audio.  Kick back with a good time wasting game and enjoy a journey through gaming’s musical past.


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Written by Fred Rojas

May 15, 2013 at 11:00 am

Posted in podcast

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Check This Out: Game Vault (Omaha, NE)

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At first glance Game Vault, located just outside the core downtown area of Omaha, looks like another clone of GameStop. Upon entering, you may still feel that way as most of the walls are lined with modern PS3, 360, and Wii titles along with a large flat screen television that is displaying an endless playlist of gameplay videos. It wasn’t until I began to browse the large glass cases and have a brief chat with owner Scott, who was the only employee in his store on this brisk Saturday morning, that I learned Omaha has quite a great local game store.

IMAG0567His featured glass case contained a few instantly recognizable gems of retro gaming, such as a boxed complete copy of Earthbound on the SNES (he also had a loose cart for the more budget-conscious), as well as other SNES classics like Super Metroid, Super Mario RPG, and Yoshi’s Island, all boxed and complete. Rarely have I entered a store that not only provided such care on these holy grails of gaming, a few of my friends have been searching for boxed complete copies of these games for years, but his prices were reasonable. It’s not just the SNES that he has to offer, I was stunned to find everything from a stack of Atari 2600 games to a batch of decent 3DO titles and even a Jaguar game or two. In fact, I don’t think it was possible to name a system this guy didn’t have at least a few games for (including PC games, new and old). He even had an import game section that had a mint copy of Dino Crisis on the PS1 from Japan, as if resting on the shelf just for me. Often times when you see stores like this, I remember one in particular in downtown Chicago and another in New York, that you expect heavily inflated prices. Not the case in Game Vault, Scott’s prices are fair, easily topping most of GameStop’s and eBay’s prices, and he doesn’t require a game club membership or anything to get the best price. All in all, Game Vault is one of the most diverse and well stocked used game stores around. I’m now saddened I don’t live in Omaha.

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Written by Fred Rojas

May 11, 2013 at 11:00 am

Interview: Super Icon

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Claire Hill-Whittall

Claire Hill-Whittall

Richard Hill-Whittall

Richard Hill-Whittall

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Super Icon is the independent developer responsible for the impressive retro flashback title Life of Pixel.  Aside from developing this and a few other titles on the Playstation Mobile platform, this husband and wife duo has big plans afoot, not the least being a new kickstarter project to bring Life of Pixel to a wider audience on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android (with additional content).   Recently Creative Director Richard Hill-Whittall and Claire Hill-Whittall in Business Development were kind enough to answer some questions that we at Gaming History 101 and you readers were wondering about this clear appreciation for early consoles and microcomputers.

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Written by Fred Rojas

May 10, 2013 at 11:00 am

Podcast: It’s Pronounced La-Ra

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This week Fred and Trees are talking about the Tomb Raider series and its busty protagonist Lara Croft that shadowed the video game as a pop culture icon in the late 1990s.  We discuss development, creation, and production of both Core and recent Crystal Dynamics’ vision for Lara and her many adventures.


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Written by Fred Rojas

May 8, 2013 at 11:00 am

Genre Study: Roguelikes and MetroidVania Games

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Lately many games that embrace former genres that had fallen to the wayside are making a comeback.  As a result lots of games press and developer media contacts like to coin phrases that are based on gameplay styles not many are familiar with.  When someone tells you that Tokyo Jungle is a “roguelike” or that Guacamelee is a “MetroidVania” title, it’s entirely possible you have no idea what that means.  After this article, you will no longer have that problem.

Roguelikes

Original Rogue on IBM compatible

Original Rogue on IBM compatible

You may or may not know that the roots of the roguelike come from a 1980 computer game called Rogue, which established the dungeon crawler.  This game was considered genre-changing when compared to the slower paced text adventures such as Zork and Dungeons & Dragons video game ports like Wizardry and Ultima.  Developers Michael Toy, Glenn Wichman, Ken Arnold, and Jon Lane site a hybrid between both types with influences from D&D as well as the text adventure Colossal Cave Adventure, which featured a detailed description of a cave system in Kentucky that was so precise it was used by a tourist to navigate parts of the actual caves it was based on.  The result was a game where an adventurer explored a multi-floored dungeon, collecting items and facing enemies, in search of a final artifact (in this case the “Amulet of Yendor”) to complete the game.  Each floor was more difficult than the last, you could not backtrack to a previous floor, and if you died you got a game over, simple as that.  Additionally the layout of the dungeon, items, and enemies were all randomly generated, which meant you would ideally never play the same game twice.  Despite the fact that you would have to start over, the experience of playing the game assisted you in handling enemies, utilizing items, and preparing for future encounters as such that you could eventually beat the game.  Needless to say the game had a tough barrier for entry and popularized itself mostly on Unix systems in colleges across the country, but the public found it too complex and difficult.

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Written by Fred Rojas

May 6, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Review: Revolution X

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revx_cabConsole: Arcade
Released: 1994
Developer: Midway / Rage Software (console)
Publisher: Midway / Acclaim (console)
Ports: Genesis, SNES, Playstation, Saturn, PC/DOS
Digital Release? No (probably due to license issues)

There are some games you can’t help but adore, even if they are completely without merit.  Revolution X is definitely one of those games.  When the title released to arcades in 1994, Aerosmith’s Get A Grip album was just around a year old and with solid hits like Living on the Edge and a slew of videos featuring Alicia Silverstone (who was discovered by the band and started her career in these initial videos).  What originally started as a Jurassic Park game much in the same vein as previous title Terminator 2, Revolution X had to be retooled when Sega outbid Midway for the rights to Universal’s film.  The result is a game with more off-the-wall and undeveloped ideas than a season of Lost that involves helping children around the world, saving the band, and stopping the New World Order and its leader Helga – a nazi-esque goth queen.

revx_1Revolution X has a hell of an intro, but as we often see in games like this it’s only a matter of time until it all falls apart.  Aerosmith is performing in some drab downtown Los Angeles club (Club X) and the New World Order shows up to kidnap the band.  You start off shooting the endless supply of henchmen with CDs as your grenades and large blood spatters as you take out enemies.  After all, this is the team that gave us Mortal Kombat.  Before even entering the club you will face literally hundreds of enemies, large security bosses with shields and bulletproof armor, and a massive tank.  Once inside you will blast away at (literally again) hundreds of NWO henchmen while destroying the intro lounge, complete with Kerri Hoskins (Sonya in MK3) as thonged dancers in cages, and eventually entire the massive main area where Aerosmith is jamming away to the song Eat the Rich.

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Written by Fred Rojas

May 4, 2013 at 11:00 am

Getting It Backwards

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ds_nesVideo game consoles are one of the most interesting electronics items on the market for several reasons. Probably the most prolific is the fact that there are frequent hardware upgrades, which we call generations, that move home consoles forward. Because each new console is basically a piece of hardware frozen in time, the need to innovate and improve on future games demands that they be constantly updated. This works counter to movies or music, which see improvements from new hardware but don’t require the upgrade to enjoy the medium. Imagine if you could play Super Mario Bros. on the Wii but with drastically upgraded visuals or Dead Space on the original Playstation with the juxtaposed setback, this is exactly what we see when we watch Ghostbusters on VHS versus DVD versus Blu Ray. As a result new consoles come out all the time, typically in 5-8 year intervals, and usher in a more interactive experience – it’s important to note that the greatest difference between games and other media is that they are active, not passive experiences – and with it comes a new format for software.

Enter the concern of the consumer. It can be frustrating for both gamers and parents of gamers alike to purchase a new console, especially when it renders an entire collection on an older console useless. As retro gamers I’m sure we see the value in it, but for the majority there’s a want to move forward and never look back. Well, that is until there are enough new games to get me to migrate over. This is another slow start that prevents all but early adopters to purchase new hardware, which can then result in fewer sales. With fewer sales comes more canceled projects on new hardware, which then results in fewer sales of the hardware and the cycle continues until a console is considered dead in the water. Just look at the Virtual Boy, Jaguar, and possibly even the WiiU about this problem; developers have enough to worry about, they can’t also deal with poor penetration rate due to a false start console. One excellent solution to help usher in that awkward period between consoles is the concept of backwards compatibility, or a new console that can play a previous generation’s games.

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Written by Fred Rojas

May 2, 2013 at 6:10 pm

Podcast: Found in Translation

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This week Fred flies solo to discuss the world of fan translations.  Many titles come out in foreign lands and never make the trip over the United States, often only available in the native language of Japanese: enter the fan translation.  We discuss the roots and makeup of a fan translation and then close with a long list of the most popular ones for each console.


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Written by Fred Rojas

May 1, 2013 at 7:44 pm

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