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The Soulsborne Diaries, Part 1: Starting Point

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Welcome to my new series, The Soulsborne Diaries.  This will be an ongoing documentation of a yearlong journey through various video games belonging to From Software’s, shall we say sub-genre, of games that currently encompasses Demon’s SoulsDark Souls I-III, and Bloodborne.  I’m going to come right out and say that this isn’t a guide by any means – I’ve not played most of these games – and this is also not a series of deep dives into the concepts, lore, or mechanics of these titles either.  If you want that may I suggest Bonfireside Chat, a fantastic series  by the main crew at Duckfeed.tv.  The purpose of these diaries is an opportunity for me to digest my experiences in an attempt to discover why people are so drawn to them and also if I’m compatible with that drive.  This series would be best suited for the uninitiated hoping to journey vicariously with me or the seasoned veterans to get a glimpse into my process, my challenges, and my (hopeful) achievements.  In this process I do hope to open up a dialogue or at least hear out comments, but I must stress that I am no expert and undoubtedly a series with this passion may draw individuals who despise what I say or my lack of knowledge on various topics.  If this is you, please let your voice be heard in the comments below or by writing an e-mail, but I do ask that you remain civil as the treatment and response you receive will be equally respectful.  That doesn’t mean we can’t disagree and that you can’t be exasperated in your response, by all means.

Introduction

I wouldn’t say I’m particularly new to Soulsborne titles.  I got on the Demon’s Souls bandwagon before the game even came to the US, nabbing a European “Black Phantom Edition” that included an art book, a soundtrack, and a strategy guide.  Admittedly my initial draw was the popularity it was garnering on the import site I frequented at the beginning of the PS3’s life – for those that didn’t live in a region-locked world, having the PS3 region free was huge for me.  When it arrived I have to admit that I was enthralled by the art book, which was filled with grotesque creatures and massive monsters all with a medieval theme.  It reminded me of the first time I flipped through the pages of the Dungeons & Dragons Monsterous Manual, wide-eyed at the horrors you could encounter in that world.  After looking over the book and making a spot on my shelf, I didn’t touch the game for several months, a trend I’m guilty of even today, but it was particularly bad at this time.  Later, when Atlus released the game here in America, a few of my friends started asking me about this game that was apparently huge in Japan and Europe.  I don’t know that it was initially successful, but the long range sales of Demon’s Souls can’t be denied and this was definitely a jumping point for From Software to do something greater, albeit without the help of Sony Japan, who funded this first game.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 1, 2018 at 5:04 pm

The Countdown Horror Obscura – Day 7: Catherine

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catherine_logo

Day 7: Catherine

So this is something a bit different, so far on The Countdown Horror Obscura I have covered fantasy horror, gory horror and terrible portable powered horror. Well today I’m going to cover a deep seated horror that concerns the average gamer. I speak of the horror of commitment in a relationship.

Catherine truly is a breath of fresh air in a game. You have a simple premise a man (Vincent) is in a long term relationship with his partner (Katherine) and is conflicted about taking the next big step. Basically all those things that make up an average gamers worst nightmare, such as settling down with the same partner, getting married, having kids. One big plot hole I always questioned in this game was if Vincent was in a relationship with Katherine for as long as he had been, then why on earth was he still not living with her? Instead he lives in an apartment and spends more time with his friends at sushi bars and creepy drinking establishments then actually spending time with Katherine. But this game is Japanese, so maybe its some cultural thing I’m missing. Anyway Vincent has a moment of weakness that all men go through in life where he gazes upon another woman, only Vincent being the dumb Neanderthal man that he is drinks one to many and ends up sleeping with the most blonde just over the limit blonde girl that decided to sit next to him. After this the game plops you in this most disastrous situation you as the player are then given control of how the story progresses. You can take the weight of the situation on your shoulders and try make good with your long term partner or you can just stick with your new love interest as well as make various neutral choices. This control is what most critics and gamers rate as the highlight of the game experience.

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Written by jamalais

October 29, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Podcast: Hee-Ho! Atlus Games

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atlus_post

These days Atlus is a household name, not only for the widely popular Persona series but also as a publisher of niche titles. What you may not know is that Atlus has been around making and releasing games since the NES/Famicom era and is responsible for plenty of titles you may have played. In this episode Jam and Fred discuss the history of Atlus, the games it has developed, and of course the lovely titles that we received thanks to its publishing division.


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Written by Fred Rojas

October 14, 2015 at 11:00 am

Ongoing Series: Rule of Rose Longplay

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Rule of Rose is one of the rarest and most sought after Playstation 2 games, fetching more than $100 online.  Since we aren’t even sure if the game is worth it, Fred dug out his copy to play through and check it out with the community.  You can catch these broadcasts live on twitch.tv/gh101 and get notices for steams by subscribing.  This post will cumulatively build to the full longplay.

Written by Fred Rojas

September 12, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Videos

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Soliel / Crusader of Centy Review

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soleil_boxCrusader_of_Centy_boxConsole: Sega Genesis (Mega Drive in Europe/Japan)
Also Known As: Soliel (the title used in this review based on the writer being from Europe), Shin Sōseiki Ragunasenti (Dawn of the Era: Ragnacenty) in Japan
Released: 1994
Developer: Nextech
Publisher: Sega/Atlus (NA only)
Digital Release? No
Price: $134.00 (used, cart only), $309.99 (CIB), Sealed price is $109.52, but that’s biased because the only known copy was a random eBay listing in 2012 (according to Price Charting)

In the twilight years of the Mega Drives life a surprising amount of gems came out for the system, and one of the biggest surprises for me was the 1994 release Soleil (Crusader ot Centy for North America).  Now I got very lucky finding this game when I was a lot younger. I was at a marketplace with my grandfather and I had saved up all my pocket money for four weeks to buy a game. Heading over to the only game stall in the entire market place I picked up the rather suspicious looking Soleil, a game I brought totally blind for eight British pounds and I was very impressed with what I found. Several years later, and revisiting the game, lets see how it holds up today.

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Written by jamalais

September 4, 2014 at 11:00 am

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?

p3_1

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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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Perspective: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 1 & 2 (PS1)

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persona_box Persona2_box innocentsin_box

I’ve only just begun Persona 3 with about five hours under my belt, but already I can tell I’m going to like this game. It’s a massive hybrid of so many genres woven together in a nice JRPG shell that sucks you in and gets you hooked, fast – just one more day, am I right? I’m glad to see that, too, because having just completed both Shin Megami Tensei Persona and Persona 2 (both Innocent Sin and Eternal Punishment) I was beginning to fear I was missing something. That’s because by all accounts the first two installments in the Persona series (Persona 2 was split into two games and up until recently Innocent Sin was never technically available in the US) are a dated, rough ride through all of the confines and setbacks of traditional JRPGs along with a steep difficulty and very complex battle system to boot. From the start, both games are a daunting task and none of the remakes update the gameplay at all. In the end I only made it through with step-by-step instructions in a strategy guide, lots of patience, and a little luck. This is not what I signed on for and given the current landscape of this genre it appears that for most gamers the PS1 outings of Persona are caught between two amorphous worlds (much like the characters themselves) when the genre was drastically changing. After somewhere between 150-250 total hours to complete (there is no game clock, I’m completely guessing), a total of five different games, and an incredible hunger to extract the draw of the early iterations of the series I must issue a strong suggestion to bypass Persona’s roots and start with the third title, you’ll be thankful you did.

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Video Playthrough: Rule of Rose (PS2)

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Console: Playstation 2
Released: September 12, 2006
Developer: Punchline
Publisher: Atlus (in US)
Value: $48.33 (used), $79.99 (new) (pricecharting.com
Price: $40-$60 (used) (eBay)
Digital Release? No

This article is purely gameplay videos.  It will be updated as the game is completed.  We also discussed and partially reviewed this game on our podcast, the specific episode can be found here.

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Written by Fred Rojas

November 12, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Podcast: Obscure Survival Horror Games

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This week Fred goes solo to discuss obscure survival horror games Overblood, Enemy Zero, ObsCure, and Rule of Rose.  He discuss many aspects about the games without spoiling most of the plot and help you consider whether you’d ever want to play them.  Fred also announces October’s contest winner, announces a new contest, and sets up the game club titles for the upcoming months.


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Written by Fred Rojas

November 1, 2012 at 2:11 pm

DoDonPachi Series (Cave)

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Welcome to import week on Shmuppreciation and what better way to begin than with the quintessential Cave shooter that started it all: the DoDonPachi series.  Those that have been following our “shmup of the day” may have noticed that last week I regarded Raiden as being a primitive version of the “danmaku” (bullet hell) shmup, well the DoDonPachi series would mark the actual beginning of this genre.  You’ll notice with this game that big explosions, massive enemies and large pink bullets are just par for the course in this addicting and animated shmup.  While the story is not any more diverse than any series we’ve discussed, this was probably the first shmup where I followed each iteration’s story.  Although tough as nails, the DoDonPachi series (and pretty much all shmups by Cave) is just so fun and makes you feel so powerful at times that your drive overwhelms the difficulty curve.  You keep failing but you don’t seem to care.

Worldwide Arcade Distribution

DonPachi is the first game in the series, although all sequels carry the DoDonPachi name and thus is the true main title for the series.  It was developed by Cave, the first title since the separation of developer Toaplan (the only game I’ve played by them was the somewhat similar NES shmup Tiger Heli) closed down and spawned 4 smaller dev studios. DonPachi ran first generation proprietary hardware that appears to be specifically designed for dynamic vertical arcade games.  It released in 1995 to a crowded arcade space and thanks to Atlus (a known publisher for localizing and releasing Japanese games in America) even made it to the United States.

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 12, 2012 at 11:38 am