Insert Generic Update Title Here

laughing girls at a video game blog
He actually believes he has readers.

Apologies for the lack of updates to my many readers (scoff) out there. As you can see, I’ve recently purchased my domain. The problem is that this has lead me to second guessing myself in regards to the quality on the site. If I’m going to do this then I’m going to this right, you know? I’ve decided to go through my old posts and give them a little work over. Meanwhile, I’ve tried to make the site more navigatable and look a tad nicer. I now make use of space below the posts for the site archive and affiliated sites too. As an extra touch, I’ve also added pages to catalogue all the reviews, previews, let’s reviews and whatever else I’ll need to catalogue. These pages are linked above the posts.

The E3 articles are nearly all done. Sorry for the delays on that one. It’s probably a bit too late to post them now, being that it’s a week later, but I’m going to do it anyway. On the side, I’m also working on my Asura’s Wrath review. I’ve also received Catherine and SSX through the mail, so expect a review and preview of each.

Lastly, I’m working on a podcast with a couple of friends. I’m unsure of the quality, so bare with us. We’re working on turning it into a high quality podcast worth listening to, so if you have any constructive feedback at all then please share. You can also email me at CrashScreen@GamingAdvance.com. You may also share suggestions of what reviews or previews you would like me to cover, or point me towards a let’s player you believe deserves some attention.

Oh, and there’s also going to be another couple of contributors to the site joining me in the coming weeks.

E3 Conference Roundup: EA

Well, well. Look at who we have here. Famous in the games industry for being the most corrupt publisher in the games industry, and that’s after Bobby Kotick, known as the ‘Devil of the Games Industry’, and his very own Activision! EA have done a lot of things to outright anger their consumers, and are usually at the centre of a lot of controversy in the industry. So, as you can guess, they’re very much hated through-out the globe. So, was their conference good, or is it just as hate-worthy?

Short answer is: no. It wasn’t that bad. The issue is that it wasn’t good either. EA deal with shooters, racing games and sports games. Essentially, they target the largest demographic of video games today. The ‘casual’ market. Their conference featured all the usual titles we’d expect from EA, as well as some typical nonsense in which they’d attempt to justify their premium service. Medal of Honour looked like they could have just left it with the prototype name: ‘First-Person Shooter #104′. And in all honesty, I actually forget what the rest of the conference contained. It was pretty forgettable; although Sim City and Burnout Paradise 2 – err, Need for Speed: Most Wanted – stood out to me. Don’t worry, though. I took notes so I should be able to get back on tra- …

EA E3 notes
Oh.
Well, that’s handy. But I guess it brings me to commenting about Need for Speed: Most Wanted anyway. I guarantee that game was called Burnout Paradise 2 during development, but EA had Criterion change the name to sell more copies. It looks like what a sequel to Paradise would be like. 

E3 Conference Roundup: Microsoft

Microsoft logo for E3 Conference review

Oh, boy. It’s Microsoft again. Did anyone watch them the last two years? Microsoft have long fallen from grace, focusing on ‘better with Kinect’ than any proper video games. Now, that’s not to say Kinect games aren’t to be played or aren’t fun. They are technically proper games too, so what do I mean? Well, I mean a poorly expressed difference between the cluster of shovelware and party games that make their way onto Kinect, and the standard fare that video gaming has been for generations now. There’s no problem with the new gimmicky video games that developers produce for the Kinect peripheral, but it’s fairly evident that Microsoft are focusing far less on their core audience in an attempt to bleed more money out of the industry as they follow Nintendo’s example.

In past years, fewer exclusives and brand new IPs have been getting announced at Microsoft’s conferences. At least, none that benefit their Xbox 360 system specifically. Microsoft’s conference has been the place for third party developers to show off their multi-platform titles to try and get some hype building up. Sure, we’ve gotten the 360 exclusive Halo 4 and Gears of War: Judgement this year, but therein lies my problem. Halo 4. Gears of War: Judgement. There’s nothing truly new about this. Again, I wish to remind my readers that I have no issue with sequels or remakes – I have recently enjoyed Final Fantasy XIII-2 and I’m loving both Metal Gear Solid and Devil May Cry’s HD collections (I even plan to pick up MGS HD again on the Vita!) – but what I do have a problem with is the sheer abundance of them in exchange of brand new IPs. Microsoft have yet to announce any brand new IPs for their core audience, and even the Kinect is starting to get less new IPs as well.

Whilst the lack of brand new franchises can be correlated to the fact that the consoles are nearing the end of their lifespan, just recently Sony announced their Last of Us title, a new party fighting game and – in their own conference – Beyond: Two Souls. This generation of consoles are nearing their end, but that doesn’t mean brand new IPs cannot squeeze whatever remaining life they can out of the systems while we wait for the next generation yet to be announced. The worst part is that this is just the start of what’s wrong with their conferences.

Who aren't E3's demographic but Microsoft believes they are for their Xbox 360's Kinect
An example of the “casual” audience that
Microsoft appear to be marketing towards.

While Microsoft completely lack brand new core gaming IPs, lack focus on exclusives and focus on multi-platform games that the other systems are also going to have, and focus entirely on a peripheral that gamers are generally and seemingly not that interested in; Microsoft also forgot about video games for what seemed like a significant portion of the conference. In actuality, probably about one third of the conference was on things such as SmartGlass and ESPN on Live. This just doesn’t seem all that relevant for the E3 demographic, at all.

And then there’s the Kinect. This year, we had more focus on games being better with Kinect (spoiler: they’re not) and had only two games for the device. One was practically Angry Birds HD, and the other is probably the only game to have never received an applause at E3. I needn’t comment more, but even the Kinect is suffering from lack of support.The Kinect!

The conference was a bit of a joke. With Windows 8 being pushed and internet explorer 8 is coming to 360! Yeah. But that’s not all. Usher came out to advertise their dancing game, and they didn’t pay the game any attention at all. The best they did was show it in the background while he danced, but he was utterly out of sync and tune with it.

As a conference about a video game console, it was a terrible conference. Microsoft did little for their consumer base. They showed off the things that didn’t really matter, and forgot that they also had to have games developed. Instead, they left it to the third party developers to show off their multiplatform games at the Xbox 360 conference. Microsoft need to ask themselves why they received a spot at E3. What are they doing there? They’re there to show off their video games console. Not media centre. I remember when I wanted a 360. Ever since I got a competent PC for gaming, however, Microsoft have done little to sell the 360 to me. This was the final nail in the coffin. Their 360 is finished. Now we just need to wait a year to find out about their new console, because they’ve certainly given up on this one.

E3 Roundup

Every year there’s the E3 convention. A place of gaming news, reveals, demos, and disappointments. I figured that it made sense to write a series of articles about the different conferences on my opinions and what they mean.

Now, I’m not a fan of internet memes or anything of the sort. I try to keep the internet out of my writing and blog. That being said, I put together a summary of my E3 experience in the form of a report card, as done by some internet imageboards. It seemed like a good way to start this off, so why not. Here are my opinions. Expect to see justifications through-out the week.

Summary of E3 opinions and review

Change of Pace

I was going to submit my E3 predictions, but ended up involved on a Podcast for it. I decided I’d upload it and submit it here. I join Input Lag, Chaos Overlord and JasonEatsCake as we discuss our predictions for the video game conference event: E3. My opinions on each conference will be up later on as well.

Pre-E3 News Round Up

As the last day before E3 and the weekend, today was pretty eventful for gaming news. Konami released their pre-E3 footage, and several other announcements were made. In particular, there were several reveals that were significant to me, and I would like to share them with all of you!

Besides the social networking news and their PES footage; Konami showed off some really neat footage of the Zone of the Enders HD Remake due to launch in the coming weeks. It was fairly cool. But what came next was  absolutely stellar. Konami supplied a brand new trailer to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and it was amazing.  The trailer featured all sorts of crazy, over-the-top action – it also unveiled new abilities. Raiden is able to climb objects such as buildings, and initiate stealth kills. It appears to me that stealth is actually fairly possible in this game, although as to the extent of the stealth, I am unsure. Oh, and do you remember that scene in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots when Raiden swings a Gekko (a slightly smaller Metal Gear) around? Yeah, that’s in the game too.

Frankly, I’m absolutely excited for this game. I was looking forward to it during the original reveal back in 2009, but that’s about all I could say for it. When they finally showed off the gameplay a year later, it looked like it used the same engine as MGS4. That engine worked well, but for this game it just appeared to be slightly clunky and slow. However, it was in that same trailer in 2010 that we saw Raiden slice everything and anything up with expert precision. Players could cut whatever they wanted, and those objects would even generate internal textures no matter where they player sliced it. That was really impressive back then, and it still is today.

Unfortunately, that game was never meant to be. Metal Gear Solid: Rising was quietly scrapped. That was, until Platinum Games (famous for Bayonetta) picked the title back up. What once appeared as slow and clunky now had action of intense speeds and incredible depth. I witnessed Raiden fighting one soldier, slicing one behind him the moment he tried to attack, and then parry a Gekko all in one smooth flowing sequence that was gameplay. The level of control over the combat blew me away. And then to top it off, he freaking blocked a Metal Gear Ray and threw it away. That was insane! I was sold, from that moment on.

This new trailer revealed to us some more depth in the combat. Players can toss enemies into the air and chain a combo up there, swap melee weapons and use guns, and even use parkour to sneak around enemies for silent kills. Environments can still be used to defeat enemies, including slicing up an enemy through a pillar. It looks incredible, and I want it now! Unfortunately, with this trailer comes the depressing news that the game has been delayed. Again. We can expect to see Metal Gear Rising in 2013.

Next up came Konami’s surprise. I’ll let you watch below.

Yeah, that’s right. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is a thing. It’s just a CGI trailer, so there isn’t too much that I can comment on at the moment. I’m expecting some pretty cool gameplay from what I see in the trailer though. Oh, and I forgot to mention that Alucard is confirmed to be in this game. That’s pretty sweet too. Another 2013 release.

That was all from Konami, but that wasn’t all the news that got announced. For me, one of the biggest announcements outside of Konami’s Pre-E3 conference was the fact that Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is getting a PC release now! Yay! Fall of Cybertron is the sequel to the 2010 title, Transformers: War for Cybertron, and it looks great! We can expect to see that game come the fall.

For Gears of War fans, they’ll be excited to hear that Gears of War: Judgement is also a confirmed title that we’ll probably see at Microsoft’s E3 conference. I don’t really care much for the franchise at this point. It probably should have ended at the third. All the same, this probably means something to someone out there. It would amuse me to find that it’s a Kinect spinoff, however. That seems to be all the rage these days. The title is being developed by Bulletstorm’s People Can Fly development studio.

EA have announced that they will be releasing Dead Space 3 (cool, I guess), and Need for Speed: Most Wanted (god dammit!). Recently, it was announced that Criterion were developing a new game. I was hoping this would be the next Burnout. Nope! It’s yet another Need for Speed game. Give the franchise a rest for a couple of years and work on some Burnout, Criterion! We can expect more details on these titles and many others at their E3 conference on Tuesday. I’m mostly just looking forward to more details on SimCity.

Expect some leaks in the next coming days too, as that’s fairly common when it comes to E3.

Review: Not So Final Fantasy XIII-2


Box art for Final Fantasy XIII-2 Review


Author: CrashScreen
Let’s get this out there now. Final Fantasy XIII was a pretty awful Final Fantasy game. I wrote a bloody essay on why it’s bad before. There’s just few good things to say about it. Sure, the graphics look nice and the soundtrack is great, but … that’s it. The game was extremely linear, had a pretty poor character progression mechanic, the battles were overly long and had interaction, there were no settlements and there was a lack of things to do.

Now, we’re not here to debate my opinion of Final Fantasy XIII. I’m not even here to justify it. Instead, we’ll leave that topic for another time and focus on it’s sequel. Released just a year after Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIII-2 was an apology from Square-Enix. The purpose was to fix everything that was wrong with the previous game. Square-Enix acknowledged their mistake. But does Final Fantasy XIII-2 make everything okay again? Or should it really be the Final Fantasy?

Publisher: Square-Enix
Developer: Square-Enix
Platforms: PlayStation 3(Reviewed), Xbox 360
Release Date: 3rd February 2012
Rating: 12+(PEGI)

An FMV sequence of Gran Pulse at the end of Final Fantasy XIII and at the start of Final Fantasy XIII-2 for my review.

To resolve the issue of linearity, Final Fantasy XIII-2 (FFXIII-2) is not set in a specific location or time. Instead, the characters use time travel to get from place to place, time to time. This is actually an important element of the plot. Spoilers for Final Fantasy XIII ahoy!

After defeating the corrupt Fal’Cie (alien overlords who power the satellite named Cocoon in which the humans live), Lightning’s sister, and Snow’s fiancée, Serah returns from being transformed into crystal, as does Sazh’s son Dajh. This is when XIII ends; however, in XIII-2 the events transpire differently as Lightning vanishes. The humans settle on the planet named Pulse, in which Cocoon hovers above. Snow leaves on a journey to find Lightning for Serah, which leaves Serah alone for three years.

In 3AF, the village of New Bodhum in which Serah lives is attacked by monsters as a result of a time paradox. Noel, a boy from a future where he is the last human alive, comes to her rescue claiming that he was sent by Lightning, and so the two travel through time on adventure to find Lightning in the land of Valhalla – where time does not exist.

What is initially a light hearted journey, exploring the unique world of Final Fantasy XIII, the tone of FFXIII-2 becomes significantly darker towards the end of the game. So much so that this has been a relatively controversial element of the game. With consideration towards the theme of the game, and the sheer fact that the protagonists are playing with time, I actually judge the tone to be appropriate. I believe that the fun, adventurous experience of the earlier half blends very well with the intense, darker tone during the game’s conclusion. What we’re left with is a game with an intriguing plot that compels the player to persist with the main plot to uncover what happens to the cast; furthermore, the tone during the conclusion has left a massive impact on many players. Whilst many feel discontent with the conclusion, I can safely say that they will not be forgetting it any time soon. The ending is very shocking, and yet foreshadowing occurs through-out.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 Historia Crux
The Historia Crux, which is used to get from location to location.

Tone is captured fairly well in this title. A particular moment of sheer brilliance is when the player get’s to see the world in which Noel hails from. The graphics style appears different as a nice yet melancholic track is integrated with the empty and desolate world. And then you have the city of Academia, which portrays a believable and fascinating futuristic city, both in it’s darkest hour and in it’s glory. Similarly, the level designs through-out the game are well thought out and implemented. The only real disappointment is that – while there are many due to the different time zones – ultimately there exists only nine different maps. The maps themselves are a mix of slightly linear and expansive layouts. The whole nature of the game, hopping freely between different times no matter what occurs, is far less restricting than the previous game. Players can explore. There are hidden items and monsters to find. There quests dotted around the multiple maps and times. Certainly, the player can’t really complain about linearity in this title. No, instead the player could possibly complain about the quests.

Quests can be repetitive, usually amounting to fetch quests or hunting a mini-boss. This isn’t too much of an issue thanks to being able to do them at any time, but it did at one point or another become tedious. If the player leaves the quests until after they beat the game, or focuses on all available quests before continuing the story, I can see this becoming quite a boring task.

As for the characters, Serah and Noel have far more personality than the previous cast. Both protagonists have multiple layers; although Noel makes for a more interesting character. In general, the cast is far more likeable than before. Unfortunately, it feels like some of the previous protagonists have digressed in their character development from the previous outing – as shallow as the developments were. Similarly, much as there are holes in some of the previous characters, there also exists a number of plot holes in the game. I suspect this is a result of early planning of DLC. Perhaps as a result of the short one year development cycle? Or maybe they’re holding out for explanations in succeeding titles? Regardless of the case, these plot holes would have been relatively major if it weren’t for plot holes being a natural by-product of a time travel storyline. Sure enough, Square-Enix could have taken more care as to not fall into this trap.

Speaking of character development, the character progression mechanic is a far better attempt than FFXIII. The player purchases character upgrades in a network of nodes which appears similar to their weapon type. Each node of this “constellation” can be attributed to one of the six classes in the game. Every time a node is activated for a class, that class levels up and the character may obtain a new ability should they be at a specific level. They will also increase their strength, magic and/or health. Should the node be a large one, a bonus is also applied based on the class (for example, Commando gives a Strength bonus). This actually adds a nice level of control and customisation to character progression, as well as allowing the player to exert a bit of strategy into what they focus their points on. Players may also capture and raise monsters for battle in a similar fashion.

Much like any of the other numbered Final Fantasy titles, FFXIII-2 is menu driven in it’s combat. Players chain together different abilities based upon their currently selected class in an effort to “stagger” the enemy. When an enemy is staggered, they are left pretty defenceless and take a ton of extra damage. Whilst there are many different tactics that could be employed with the Paradigm Shift mechanic – in which players can fluently swap between each class which has a specific function in battle (Medic to heal, Synergist to enhance the player character attributes) – the combat focuses heavily on staggering enemies. This is an inherited issue from FFXIII. Fortunately, Square-Enix let up a bit on the focus. The result of this is that enemies no longer have ridiculous levels of health. Instead, enemies are far more balanced and are genuinely sometimes a challenge, which is more than I can say for the vast majority of thoughtless battles I participated in FFXIII.

A battle in Final Fantasy XIII-2 as the party fight a Ghast and try to stagger them.
The party – a monster included – fight a mini-boss as they build up his
stagger gauge.

Previously, I had an issue with the battle system being so overly simplified that there was little need to use anything more than auto-battle. In fact, in some battles when haste was used, it was actually often required. Of course, you could get away without using it, but that only costs you time – and time is important in this particular battle system. FFXIII-2 seems to somewhat resolve this by refining the classes more than the previous title. In all honesty, it feels like I’m selecting my ability when I shift classes, rather than when I’m actually in the class, but that works far better in this game. I’ve noticed some classes actually removed some abilities. In particular, I’ve noticed haste is no longer an ability the two protagonists can use.

I found myself using Paradigm Shift far more frequently than I did in Final Fantasy XIII, so it’s fairly evident there’s more challenge. It also means that the battles were that little bit more interactive. To ensure user interactivity, though, Square-Enix through in Quick-Time Event segments during battle. They’re unnecessary, but they can be fun to watch. Nevertheless, as a player I couldn’t help but feel that they were shallow game elements in a check list that were thrown into the game just to say, “yes, the game is more interactive now” – much like the quests themselves. There doesn’t appear to be any more thought than that reason for the QTEs, as they have little impact on the gameplay.

Much like FFXIII, the game is absolutely gorgeous. The scenery is amazing, and the FMV sequences are breathtaking. Likewise, the soundtrack complements the visuals incredibly well, although I have a few nitpicks with specific song choices here and there. Furthermore, voice acting is handled and directed very well with the title.

Personally, I found the game addictive and incredibly fun. It’s simplicity makes for an enjoyable adventure, and the plot is intriguing. Many would consider Final Fantasy XIII-2 to be a relatively “casual” game. In fact, I reckon this is one of the most prominent complaints that Final Fantasy XIII had. However, while I agree that the game isn’t very “hardcore”, I stand firm that this is a good thing. It’s nice to have a breathe of fresh air, and it’s also nice to relax.

Video games are entertainment. They’re meant to be fun first and fore-most, and Final Fantasy XIII-2 delivered. Unfortunately, the plot holes ruin what could have been an excellent story. The battles, while fun and engaging in their simplicity, strip away so much user choice that you’re simply left with “will I attack, will I build up stagger, or will I heal?” Quests are repetitive and, if not tackled correctly by the player, can be quite boring. There are times in the game where I even recall that the game had a one year development cycle, in which the impact becomes apparent.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is far from a perfect game. But, for what it’s worth, I found myself surprisingly hooked to the game. It has potential to be more, but amounts to nothing more than a game designed by a check list to resolve the previous game’s problems. Would I look forward to Final Fantasy XIII-3? I certainly would, if they announce it. This title restored my faith in Square-Enix’ Final Fantasy franchise, which FFXIII recently destroyed. Furthermore, nowadays, the game can be found at a heavily discounted price. If you’ve been a fan of any of the older games, or you’re looking for something casual to grind through, I do suggest that you give Final Fantasy XIII-2 a chance. You might, possibly, be surprised.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 scores a 7/10. It was completed on the highest difficulty (normal) and the author achieved 100% completion in the game. The title was played in its vanilla version, therefore it did not contain any of the downloadable content available on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live.

This review is entirely subjective and should not be considered fact. This review is the author’s opinion and nothing more. Feel free to discuss the review in the comments below, but try to keep it civil. You are also entitled to an opinion that differs from the author, and don’t forget it!