Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Texture Pop: Episode 13: Spoopy

As the Halloween episode, we considered it very important that we don't talk at all about Halloween and act like the holiday doesn't exist.

Instead, we decided to do our usual antics.

0:00:00 Introductions
We never did discover Chris's joke. It was probably about ethics in game journalism.
As a podcast about gaming should, we begin by talking about Mountain Dew and Doritos (and Soulless Geoff Keighley). Literally 10 minutes were spent on this topic.
Call of Duty also comes up in this conversation.

0:10:05 Garrett saw Gone Girl.
It was super good. I don't know movies very well. Also, we make fun of Tyler Perry.

0:12:10 Garrett apparently went to his sister's school.
We're not sure if it was, in fact, his sister's school, but there is a high likelihood.

0:14:45 Garrett plays more League of Legends.
Which I'm sure none of you are surprised by.

0:16:50 Garrett talks Game Design Class.
And I don't have more to say about it.

0:18:45 Garrett is getting into Magic: The Gathering.
Which leads into a conversation about TCGs and video games. When you think about it, it is amazing how much money is being made off of what is essential small pieces of cardboard.
Even if I wanted to get back into Yu-Gi-Oh, I fear that the game has evolved so much that I wouldn't be able to keep up. Like Chris, I would pretty much only go for a digital/virtual card game nowadays. It is the only way to keep my costs down.
Man, I spent way too much of my parent's money on Yu-Gi-Oh in retrospect.

0:25:00 Garrett discusses his 360 exploits.
And brings out Sam's PC elitism by mentioning that he plays better on a controller than a KB&M. It's adorable.
I love that you can't see the visual joke on our audio-only podcast.

0:31:15 Viewer Questions
And the fact that Sam is no longer the only one to have access to the e-mail is confusing him.

"Have you guys heard about the controversy over the indie game, Hatred?"
Yes, I have. It looks so pointless. I just don't get it, and have nothing further to say on it beyond what was said on the podcast. Having said, this game came out at a terrible time, when the industry's reputation has been shot by recent events. We need to rebuild our credibility, not shatter it further.

"Have any of you guys played the old Ninja Gaiden games?"
I have, but I am really bad at them. The only game I played in the franchise is Ninja Gaiden Sigma. I died... a lot.
Chris is in a much better position to talk about them than I would be.

0:45:20 I played Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne.
After all of the SMT games that I have played in the past few months, it is of no surprise that the other guys are getting confused by all of them.
An impressions piece on Nocturne will be released in the next few days. Expect an impressions piece on it in the next few days. My explanations on the cast we're great, so I hope that piece will better clarify my thoughts.
Yeah. Interesting, if niche, game.
The article on Persona 3/4 that Sam is referring to is this one that I wrote.

1:01:00 I played Shin Megami Tensei IV.
The big thing I am noticing in SMT IV is that ATLUS has finally been clued in to the fact that literally no one liked how fusion was strongly linked to needed to deal with the random number gods.
Which is a good thing. It saves the player a lot of time and patience.
Having said that, this is still an SMT game. Do not expect the game to give a shit about your pansy ass.
That comment on Persona being SMT-lite really isn't a joke. The original intention behind the Persona franchise was to make a more beginner-friendly SMT game. It did not succeed.
Technical difficulties were experienced.

1:11:50: Chris has been playing Hyrule Warriors.
And, very briefly, goes into a rant about how Dynasty Warriors gets a bad rap. I tend to agree with him on that, personally. Yeah, the Warriors games are stupid fun, but stupid fun is fun nonetheless. I even find myself enjoying them when I play them, as rare as those occasions are.
I sincerely wonder if Ganondorf being the bad guy is a spoiler. It is a lot like Mario and Bowser, where it would be more surprising to not have him as the villain. At the same time, some people might be upset at finding that out.
Aside from that, I have not much more to add to the conversation in the cast.

1:30:10 Sam was selling furniture.
Which gives me a pun opportunity.

1:32:10 Sam plays Adventure Express (by Adult Swim Games)
And it's freemium. Interestingly enough, it reminds me of Marvel Puzzle Quest.

1:33:50 Sam tried a game called Out There.
Not much to say.

1:35:50 Sam played a game called Device Six.
Again, not much more to add beyond what was said.
The trailer Sam was referring to is here.

1:42:50 Sam picked up Shadow of Mordor.
One of the rare times where you'll hear negative critiques of the game.

1:47:30 Sam talks with my game design buddies about indie games.
I honestly did not know my friend Javy was designing his own games. One of the ones Sam was talking about is this one. The site Sam says Javy referring him to was this one.

Javy himself is a pretty cool dude, that I talk games with all the time. You can follow him on Twitter. When Bioshock: Infinite was released, I did a Spoiler-Cast with Javy and our mutual friend Marc Price after we had all finished it. You can find that here.

1:53:00 Wrapping up.
My Impressions of Project X Zone are here.
And Sam's website is here.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Impressions #17: Project X Zone

It was a long time coming, but I purchased a Nintendo 3DS a few months back. All the factors, from its game catalog and price point to my current spending money came together at one time. Of course, one does not buy a console without first purchasing a game or two for it: Project X Zone was one of them. After playing it on and off for a few months now, I have beaten the game. The sheer amount of time it took to complete PXZ is indicative of my decidedly low opinion of the game. This week, I plan to tell you exactly why I feel that way.

Released in January of 2013 in the US, Project X Zone was developed by Monolith Software and Banpresto, published mainly by Namco Bandai. The central premise of the game is pretty simple: Bring all of the most notable characters from various big name Namco Bandai, Capcom, and Sega franchises together for one of the largest crossovers ever seen on a video game console. Given that I have heard of and/or enjoyed most of these franchises at some point in time, I would theoretically be the person with the best chance to like this game. However, the game has so many little flaws that they collectively bring the entire experience down in my honest opinion.

The story is a huge example of this. Similar to Namco X Capcom, the story revolves around two original characters made exclusively for the game: Kogoro Tenzai and Mii Koryuji. Hoping across various dimensions, timezones, and even into cyberspace, they encounter various other characters who, for whatever reason the game provides, join their party and assist them on their adventure to retrieve a stolen relic called the Portalstone. Honestly, it is extremely clear that the plot, for better or worse, only exists to justify why characters like Ryu and Ken from Street Fighter are fighting along the likes of Resident Evil's Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, Frank West from Dead Rising and Hsien-Ko from Darkstalkers, Kite and Blackrose from .hack, among many, many others. Without the fan appeal inherent to the cast, the story would not be able to stand on its own.
This is mostly because it really is only present for roughly the first and last quarters of the game. The middle portion mostly has the cast faffing about in various stages pulled from some of the games that the characters are from. Nothing of note happens during this section aside from the introduction of new cameos to add to the player roster. Even when the story is happening, it is extremely predictable and most of the plot points are either unsurprising or could be seen from a mile away. Fans of the JRPGs that are drawn upon would probably be able to piece most of the story together shortly after the start of the last quarter of the game. Like I said, it only serves to bring the characters together, and simply does not stand on its own without them.
Having said that, there are many nods, references, and in-jokes that fans of the many franchises present will appreciate. Characters from more “grounded” (for lack of a better word) franchises like Resident Evil and Dead Rising will frequently make fun of the more absurd outfits that characters from RPGs like Toma and Cyrille from Shining Force EXA wear. Differences in magical, martial, and technology powers from the various dimensions are acknowledged and understood by the plot. For example, in Valkyria Chronicles, the Valkyria powers exhibited by characters in the story are awesome. When compared to the kind of powers exhibited by KOS-MOS and T-elos of Xenosaga, or Kite and Blackrose from .hack, they come off as much less impressive, and characters make note of this.
At the same time, the fact that over 70 characters from roughly 30 different franchises has its own results on the story. This results in a phenomenon that I like to refer to as “Crossover Syndrome.” That is, when too many characters are in a scene at the same time, they all need to make an impression upon the player. Since they each only get one or two lines at the most, writers have to reduce those personalities to only the most notable traits out of what might have been a very nuanced, multifaceted personality from the original game. The ultimate result of this is that what were fleshed-out characters have become mere caricatures of what they used to be. With a cast this large, such edits are necessary. However, that does not make it any less disappointing to fans of those characters. I cannot think of a way around it, but it is something that needs acknowledgment.

As for the gameplay itself, the game is divided into a series of roughly 45 chapters. Each chapter takes place on a 2D grid, similar to what one might find in Final Fantasy Tactics. The player's party is divided into different units, which start in pre-determined spaces on the grid. There are two different types of units. The first are “Pair” units, which are comprised of two characters, usually (but not always) from the same franchise. These units are the main force players use. Effectively one unit, these partners move about the 2D plane and engage the enemy units together. What is unique about Project X Zone is that when a player unit attacks an enemy unit, they enter a 2D plane to do battle. The player can then use up to five different attacks and chain them together into a combo. As they land blows, they build up XP (Cross Points), which can be expended to use support skills on themselves or other party members. Alternatively, XP can be spent performing special attacks which inflict massive amounts of damage on the enemy. XP is shared among all player units, so there is a added element of resource management.
In addition to these Pair units, there are also “Solo” units. Rather than stand on their own, these single-character units are equipped to a Pair unit. When a Pair unit engages in a battle alongside a Solo unit, they can call upon that unit to provide addition attacks. Further, if another Pair unit if close by to that Pair unit, they can provide a Support attack. Both the Solo and Support attacks can be used even while the base Pair unit is launching their combo. When this occurs, the enemy is frozen in position during the “Cross Combo,” which provides additional XP as a bonus and can often make it easier to land attacks.

While this all sounds good on paper, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. There are several reasons why this is the case. For one, these battles are extremely long. As I mentioned earlier, there are about 45 chapters, each comprised on a single battle scene. My playtime, not including the many times I performed a soft reset and reloaded a save after a bout of bad luck, totaled over 52 hours. Since many of the early missions can be completed in about 30 minutes, this means that most of the missions towards the end will take players an hour or two to finish up. For me, this was the game I played on my commutes both to school and work, which are both 20 minutes away from my house. On a typical day, I would spend 40 minutes playing this game. Missions frequently took a day or two for me to finish.
And on its own, that might be acceptable, but the game is greatly streamlined. There are no towns, no shops. When a player finishes a match, they are shown an “Interlude” screen. At this screen, players are shown which Pair and Solo characters are available for the next mission. They can change up which Solo character is on each Pair unit, save their game, and manage equipment. Due to the lack of commerce, equipment can only be obtained by beating boss characters and opening treasure chests on the battlefield. Since this means that players will basically just go for the highest numbers, the system can by-and-large be safely ignored. Aside from this screen, players are funneled from mission to mission, without much of a chance for a breather.
Again, this would not be a problem. However, this is further compounded by the issue in that missions lack much in the way of variety or pacing. Missions tend to have a set structure in PXZ. There will be a cutscene at first which sets up the scene. Typically, players will start with an initial board layout and objective, usually “Defeat [Boss]” or “Defeat All Enemies.” Once either several turns pass or that objective is completed, a “plot twist” will occur. At this point, another enemy will appear on screen, bringing their own units into the mix. The objective for the mission may also change, but typically it remains as “Defeat All Enemies.” Once the “true” mission is complete, then the closing cutscene leads into the Interlude screen, followed by the next mission. The first few “plot twists” might catch players off guard, but it will quickly turn into another routine upon the many routines PXZ repeatedly puts the player through. Because of this loop, very few missions aside from the last two stand out to me. Even when the initial objective was unique, it always ended in “Defeat Every Enemy”, so I would mostly just play on auto-pilot.

Project X Zone is a game that only die-hard fans of the various source materials should think about purchasing. Even then, there is not much of a guarantee that said fan will walk away satisfied. I know people who love and hate this game in equal measure. Personally, I found the many otherwise small flaws of PXZ overwhelmingly detracted from my experience in aggregate. Others might have a higher tolerance, or would be more able to lose themselves in the spectacle. Overall, I would warn potential players to watch footage of the game to be a good impression of how it works before investing in it.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Texture Pop: Episode 12: Project Hate Zone

Sam was busy for this recording, so he had to miss out. At the same time, Garrett had some things to do, so he was a little late to the record. This left Chris and I to start the podcast by ourselves. If it sounds a little quieter than usual, that's why.

Also, the reason this podcast is as short as it is is because we were trying to cut out podcast down to a more manageable length. As a result, each of us only had a time limit of roughly 20 minutes for our respective segments. I really like this, as both a participant and viewer (after all, I have to watch the episodes myself to write the annotations), because it forces us to talk about our big topics first, streamlining the whole production. At the same time, there is more than enough room for our usual shenanigans.

0:00:00 Introduction
In which I teach Chris about geography.

0:03:25 I wanted to discuss GamerGate, because I felt like we had to.
Commenting on this story.

Honestly, I haven't much more to add to this whole thing. It's getting extremely ridiculous, and destroying the image the industry has spent years cultivating. I really don't know how it's gained this ability to persist as long as it has. We'll probably all be better off when it's finally over.
That said, I do regret my choice of the words "tag and bag" though. That wasn't the kind of image I meant to convey. I think the jerk deserves to be punished for terrorist threats, but that was an unnecessary hyperbole on my part.

As for discussions regarding ethics and games journalism, it is a very complicated issue. The thing that people do not seem to understand is that when the industry is so small, everyone knows each other. While this does leads credence to some arguments regarding game journalists and insiders getting too buddy-buddy with each other. At the same time, when those relationships go too far, it is extremely obvious. Fluff pieces read like fluff pieces. Anyone with a critical eye can detect them.

0:15:55 Chris has a bone to pick with Ubisoft.
Commenting on this story.

I think the problem with that story isn't that Ubisoft was running Unity at 900p, 30 FPS. The issue was that they used such a bullshit excuse for it. I think Chris would have been much less angry if Ubisoft just said "We can barely pull off 900p at 30 FPS, we can't do 60 FPS". It's not the technicality, it's the blatant disregard for the obvious truth of the matter.

0:21:35 We discuss Civil War in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Commenting on this story.

The Civil War will be coming to the Marvel movies. Whether or not you liked that plot line, it is hard to deny that it sold well. I personally loved it (even if I only learned about it via talks with friends and wikis), but Chris did not.

I think that kind of highlights an interesting discussion that could be had about how different types of audiences respond to the same stimuli in different ways. Chris, from what I gather about our conversations regarding Superman and the Marvel Civil War, really enjoys when comics are black and white, with easily distinguishable good and bad guys. I, on the other hand, love moral ambiguity in my fiction. I love scenes that show how somebody might think they are the hero, but fails to realize that the consequences for their actions make them out as villains to others. I love stories where everyone means well, but their actions result in a shitstorm that needs to be dealt with. Those are the kinds of stories and characters I like, because I kind them much more interesting.

We then discuss Marvel vs. DC in terms of movies, which is always a sad discussion to have, because DC sucks with regards to movies.

0:30:45 I have, after what seems like an incredibly long time, FINALLY beat Project X Zone.
An impressions piece on the game will be posted on this blog on Saturday, for those of you who want a more detailed write up on my opinions. Until then, I've think I said all that I wanted to say on that subject for now. Aside, of course, from the fact that I did not like this game at all.

And leave it up to Chris to mention Destiny in this discussion, somehow.

0:42:40 I am playing Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne.
On some level, I understand where all the talk about Nocturne being difficult stems from. At the same time, I think much of that talk is unwarranted. While it definitely does not hold your hand, the game can be made easy if players are smart about the demons the recruit and fuse to the party.

It's not so much hard as that it gives players a lot of room for customization, and counts on them being smart enough to use that room to make a well-balanced party. Otherwise, the game will punish them for poor decision making. The Press Turn System, which I elaborated on in my Digital Devil Saga pieces.

So far, I've really enjoyed the game so far. Expect an impressions piece when I do eventually finish it.

It is only in hindsight that I realize that I took entirely too long to say my points. So by the time I finished, we needed to move on to somebody else.

0:55:45 Garrett does some programming in his game design class.
Again, it's interesting comparing Garrett's classes with my own. He is going for a dedicated game design degree. I, on the other hand, am going for a generalized Bachelor's of Science in Computer Science.

As a result, we learn a lot of same material, but it different ways. I didn't really get into the nitty-gritty of planning out systems and mechanics until later. For me, the coding came first. But for Garrett, the opposite is true. I've not much to say on the matter, but it could be worth further study by academics as to how each style affects the student being taught.

0:57:45 Garrett reveals his inner Japan/Korea-ophile.
In particular, we talk a bit about Gantz. I remember that I had a couple of friends from high school loving that series. I would only learn about it later by browsing TV Tropes. Seems like an interesting series, but like most manga, I do not have the time to decide to catching up.

1:08:30 Chris talks about upgrading his desktop.
The bottom line is that one should not cheap out on PC components. Just go whole hog and get the full upgrade. At that point, it'll save you massive headaches later.
Learn from Chris's mistakes as I intend too when I eventually have to go through this.

1:19:50 Chris talks about his internet troubles.
In which Chris and I pool our shared internet knowledge in what could be called the most informative segment we've ever had on this podcast.

1:25:00 We wrap up.
We'll a strange bunch, for sure.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Impressions #16.5: Persona 4 Arena: Ultimax: Part 2

When we last left off, I was discussing my thoughts on Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. I discussed the story and presentation of the game. Today, we will continue past that point. This article is dedicated to the mechanics and gameplay side of the equation.

In terms of mechanics though, Arc System Works was working magic. Ultimax surpasses even its predecessor in terms of making a fighting-game friendly to both beginners and experts alike. For beginners, the game offers many helpful systems to get them started. As an example, every character has an “auto-combo”, an easy combo move that is performed by repeatedly mashing the A button. Veteran players will be able to easily block the entire combo if they see if coming, but this does give newer players a tool to start learning new characters, since everyone has that same combo input.
Another way the game facilitates beginners is through a simplified control scheme. Every special move in the game can be performed by a one or two quarter-circles in a given direction, followed by one the four attack buttons. Unlike many fighters, they are very few complex command strings that need to be input. The key to mastering a character is in knowing when to use a move, not how. Should even this be difficult to pull off, there is a new “S-Hold” system, that allows players to hold down the A button in order to charge the S-Hold meter. The longer the button is depressed, the stronger the move will be when it is released.
On top of these systems, the game offers facilities to help beginner and intermediate players improve their skills. Aside from the standard “Training” mode, two modes are also in the “Practice Modes” category. These modes are “Lesson Mode” and “Challenge Mode” respectively. “Lesson Mode” is designed as a tutorial for basic mechanics for the game, including new mechanics which were added. On the other hand, “Challenge Mode”, is unique for each character. They all have a list of challenges to perform, each one teaching the player about one of their combos. This offers the player a same environment to try to ingrain a combo into muscle memory, helping them transition into the state of being an advanced player. With all of these systems, beginners can start developing skill in a very user-friendly manner.

However, there is still a lot for expert players to play around with as well, in order to get the edge over their peers. Furious actions are commands that can be used to grant temporary invincibility frames and a decent attack at the cost of a little health. This can be used when the player is about to be attacked by a massive combo, in order to capitalize on it. Another option is referred to as Burst, which can be used in several ways. Most commonly, it can be used to break an enemy's combo by sending them flying. Alternatively, a One More Burst can cancel the player out of a combo, returning them to a neutral stance in order to keep up the pressure. Newly added to Ultimax is the Golden Burst. If the enemy is in range, but not connecting with attacks, a Golden Burst will send them back in order to gain full SP meter and all their lost Persona cards. Many intricate systems are all working together to create a truly elegant fighting game for the experienced.

In terms of balance, quite a bit was changed from the last game. One of the most notable changes is in the balance of Persona cards. As befitting a Persona game, every character, with one exception, has a persona that they can invoke during a fight to aid them. If the persona is attacked during the execution of a move, they are dismissed and the character loses one of their cards. Once all of their cards are destroyed, the persona is broken, and will be unavailable for a time. Persona 4 Arena gave every character 4 persona cards. Ultimax changed this by re-balancing the number of cards each character has. Characters like Elizabeth or Yukiko, who are heavily reliant on their personae to fight, get 5 or 6 cards. Meanwhile, people like Akihiko, who rarely ever need their persona, only possess 2 cards. More cards mean it takes more hits to break the persona, but recovering from a break takes more time.
Furthermore, movesets have been tweaked for returning characters. While they still have roughly the same attacks, new moves were added, and many had their properties changed. The most notable of these changes would be the severe nerfing Yosuke received to his Sukukaja, which would previously practically guarantee him the win for the round. Also, the buffing of Naoto's trap, which make it easier for her to perform her Hamaon/Mudoon instant kills. I personally really appreciate these changes, as many of them were greatly needed.

New additions have also found their way in. The biggest of them would be the addition of several new characters, to the point of nearly doubling the original cast. All of the surviving members of SEES who were absent for P4A are present in P4AU. Yukari returns, with her bow and persona, Isis. As befitting an archer, she is very much a distance fighter, not too great in close-range combat. Ken and Koromaru, who fight together, work better at mid-range. Junpei, on the other hand, is not that great in anything. Other characters from the P4 fiction, like Marie, Adachi, and Margaret, join the cast as DLC for $5 each. Each are fairly good in their own right, but serve different playstyles. Also included in the game, Rise joins the cast as a playable fighter for the first time in a Persona game, without any DLC. Lastly, the antagonist, Sho Minazuki, is another newcomer to the cast. He has two forms, with and without a Persona. Both forms serve the same general role of a rushdown character, but they are unique in many different ways to each other.
Another huge addition is that most characters have a “Shadow Type”. Shadow Type characters play very differently from their original counterparts. For starters, they use the old auto-combos from the original Persona 4 Arena. Also, while they cannot Awaken, they can use Awakening SP Skills even in their normal state. Furthermore, SP for a shadow carries over between rounds, adding a new layer to resource management since any SP left unspent can make the next match easier. On that same token, if they max out their SP, then they can enter a Frenzy, where skills no longer cost SP for a short time, until the Frenzy runs out and SP resets to 0. Lastly, they have more health and deal less damage, in exchange for the inability to Burst. Honestly, while the addition is appreciated, most Shadows are pretty useless aside from a select few. I rarely ever used them. Enough tweaks, balances, and additions were made to the game that it feels like a brand new game all its own.

Overall, ATLUS and Arc System Works developed a excellent game that appeals strongly to both fighting game and Persona 3/4 fans alike. The mechanics are easy to understand at a surface level, but experts will find many layers of depth and variety should they wish to dig deeper. Enough was added since the original Persona 4 Arena that the price point more than justified. It is an incredibly easy recommendation to make.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Texture Pop: Episode 11: Jumping Achark

I could take this space to explain exactly how this picture and title were conceived for this episode. I could also explain why this post is out two days after the podcast was release and why no one posted that a new episode was released.

I could do that... but I won't.

Also, Nick joined us again as a guest. You remember Nick. His name starts with an N and ends with "ick".

0:00:00 Introduction
In which I take the time to make fun of Sam and his living in Georgia-ness.
I also remind Sam of the reason why he wasn't there last time, because he apparently forgot.
I'm pretty sure Garrett was drinking during the cast, but I'm honestly not sure.

0:06:14 Viewer Questions
Truthfully, we did not do these last week because we are all lazy. Please don't tell Sam that.

"Are you guys fans of the old school space sim games?"
Honestly, unless Star Fox counts, the answer is no. At least for me.
We take a brief detour to discuss Star Citizen again, for reasons.

"Have you guys ever played a game you found so complicated that you gave up?"
I'm sure fighting game players are displeased with my answer, but it's true for me. I'm fine at a couple of fighters like Soul Calibur, Injustice: Gods Among Us, or Persona 4 Arena, but most of them just take too much time in order for me to really get good at them. Street Fighter, Tekken, and others of their ilk escape me. I get the theory behind them, but I just cannot execute when push comes to shove. We didn't mention Tekken here, but it applies all the same to me.

My answer side-tracks the discussion and heavily derails it.

0:34:20 Nick has been playing Super Smash Bros. 3DS
Though I've never owned a Nintendo home console, I have to admit that I've always had an interest in Smash Bros. The mechanics are very solid, and it's perfect for large groups. At some point, I'm going to have to get it.

0:39:05 Nick has been playing Brave Frontier
F2P leaves a bit bad taste in my month after Marvel Puzzle Quest. It's unfair, but it's true.
We use this time, however, to discuss Bendgate. By the end, we completely forgot the original topic.

0:44:50 TITLE DROP!

0:45:30 Nick watched Dracula: Untold
Which leads to pun times, movie talk, and making theaters laugh.
Talking about bad movies gets us to start talking about The Room, and unintentionally funny movies.

0:55:56 Garrett released a review for Destiny.
And it's right here.
We continue to be the best Destiny podcast on the internet.

0:57:00 Garrett's Two Cents editorial are going to be a monthly feature.
His description is pretty comprehensive.

1:01:50 Garrett plays Game Dev Tycoon.
I wish actual game development was this easy. The game is a nice little excursion, but it's incredibly easy make tons of money in-game.

1:04:20 Garrett talks real life.

1:05:00 Comic talk with Garrett and Chris.
And we discuss how Status Quo is God and nobody ever stays dead, unless they get cancelled.

1:11:03 We briefly disconnect while Garrett was talking
Because Sam's setup makes no sense.
His motherboard is probably cursed.

1:12:41 Garrett talks about his developer class.
And his partner sounds like a moron.

1:16:55 Garrett talks League of Legends.
You know how it is.

1:17:30 I played Persona 4 Ultimax.
You can hear more about my thoughts on the game here. Part 2 should be out in a few days.

1:21:30 I watched a Heavy Rain LP.
This LP, to be precise.

I remember liking Heavy Rain at one point, but honestly the game is really bad. I'm legitimately surprised at how much badness was crammed into a single game. The voice acting is awful, the story is terrible, and the choices are meaningless.
And David Cage somehow got worse in Beyond: Two Souls.

1:26:14 I watched Two Best Friends play The Walking Dead: Season 1.
You probably don't need a link, but it's here just in case.
It's actually pretty amazing at how easy it is to dislike most of the cast. The entire weight of the plot seems to come from the relationship between Lee and Clementine. The rest of the cast is either take it or leave it, but without those two characters, very few of the rest of the people who join the group serve to just cause problems.
As for Kenny, fuck that guy.

1:31:15 Nick talks about The Walking Dead: The TV Series.
The TV show and the comics are interesting in how quickly they make you hate the characters. I have never read the comics, but I watched one episode of the TV show and decided that if the next episode was "Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies", that would be better than anything else.
Hearing Chris talk about how Meryl and Darryl (I couldn't care any less if spelled their names wrong) were added in to make the cast more relatable is infinitely fascinating. We then discuss other comic to movie adaptation.

And I talk more about the game after that during this discussion.

1:37:50 I yell at Sam for his hosting abilities.

1:38:41 I mention that Naruto is coming to an end.
We then talk about manga franchises that have lasted entirely too long, of which there are many. Bleach is mentioned. Though we never bring it up, I feel that One Piece belongs on this list.

And Chris talks about why he quit Spawn on a related note, following up with more comic talk. Bottom line, comics are bullshit.

1:51:50 Chris has played Mario Kart.
And I have nothing to add to this conversation.

1:59:25 Sam is reading a love series which I didn't get the name of.
It's anime/manga.

2:02:45 Sam bought some movies while out on holiday.

2:03:05 Sam saw Austin City Limits in Texas.
And we discuss musical politics. Like musical chairs, but much less fun.

2:08:20 Sam bought a loud keyboard.
A Razer BLACKWIDOW to be precise. I love Corporate Cool names.

2:11:50 Sam played Shadows of Mordor.
And I'm super jealous because I really, really want to play it. I don't care about Lord of the Rings, but the game just looks awesome.
We then briefly discuss other Lord of the Rings games.

2:20:20 Sam beat all the Dead Rising 3 DLC
And doesn't care about it.

2:21:10 Sam beat Neverending Nightmare
And Garrett wants it to be good, and I'm tired.
It still sounds pretty gruesome, even when it's trying to be a game.
I assume that without spoilers, this is a hard game to talk about.

2:25:20 Sam bought Assassin's Creed: Liberation and Freedom Cry
And he finds their portrayal of slavery weird.

2:26:30 Sam bought Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition on the PC.
Not much to say, aside from what was said during the cast.

2:27:55 Sam watches anime with one of my friends.
It's Japan, and therefore weird.

2:29:50 We start to wrap things up.
None of us can apparently not play games during a podcast.
I'm so, so sorry for this cast.

At the same time, we randomly give our one fan a happy day.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Impressions #16: Persona 4 Arena: Ultimax: Part 1

It is a strange coincidence that Persona 4 Ultimax would be released during my so-called “Season of ATLUS.” Considering that I just finished Digital Devil Saga 2 the day before it came out, the timing could not be any better. As a massive fan of the Persona franchise, I would be lying if I said I was not predisposed to liking a new entry, even if its not a game in the main series. That was no less true when the original Persona 4 Arena was released. Even still, I am willing to stand firmly behind it even without the brand name appeal. There is quite a lot here, and much is done to appeal to every possible member of the target audience.

Fans of Persona 3 and/or 4 will be happy to note the inclusion of a story mode. Taking place after the first Persona 4 Arena, Ultimax details how the casts of Persona 3 and Persona 4 come together to uncover the truth regarding what happened. As both groups begin to start their investigations, a mysterious blood red fog covers Inaba. Both crews are thrown headlong into a new “P-1 Climax” battle tournament shortly afterward, and their captors state that the world will end if they do not succeed in winning the tournament in one hour. From there, the story goes in some pretty interesting, and surprising, directions at times. Being a canonical story in the Persona universe, it is almost required for fans to go through it at least once.
The tale is divided into episodes. First up is Episode P4, which tells the story from the perspective of the Investigation Team from Persona 4. After that is completed, Episode P3 becomes available, which retells the story from the point-of-view of the former SEES operatives from Persona 3. While the overarching story remains the same for both stories, there are significant differences between them. At the same time, there are plot elements that are only hinted at in one episode, that are explained in greater detail in the other, and vice-versa. Ultimately, the True Ending, which is unlocked by completing both episodes, makes it very clear that the P4 side to the tale is canonical, while Episode P3 serves as more of a “What If?” scenario.

Though the story itself is very well written, and an incredible job of bringing all of these characters together in a believable way, its presentation leaves much to be desired. Fans of the original Persona 4 Arena probably will not be terribly surprised to hear that, as Ultimax has the exact same style its predecessor had. The story is told in a manner similar to visual novels, where characters are represented by static 2D-artwork on top of a background image representing the area they are in. When this does not suffice to explain the action in the scene, a text description of the action is displayed on top of these elements. On occasion, these scenes are broken up by a battle, as dictated by the story. Even among fighting games, this is not a terribly unique style of storytelling.
The problem with this style, which feels even more pronounced here than it did in the first Persona 4 Arena, is that these scenes take a long, long time. It is not uncommon to spend an hour or more just watching characters talk to each other before ever participating in a battle. Because of the game's (admittedly handy) auto-advance mode for dialogue, this almost literally means that players will not be pressing any buttons at all for very prolonged periods of time. Even when fights break out, the AI for the story mode opponents is extremely stupid, so it takes almost no effort to trounce them with little more than a few combos and throws. Should even that be too much effort, the game even offers an “Auto Mode” which will make the AI fight for the player. Yes, this would literally mean that the player is watching the game play itself on the scant few moments that the story gives them a moment to interact with it.
And that transitions nicely into another thing I noticed when playing Ultimax. While Persona 4 and Persona 4 Arena both had very long cutscenes (even Persona 4 is infamous for having three hours worth of scenes before players ever got to fight a monster), they had an interesting way of keeping players engaged through that process. Persona 4 offered dialogue choices throughout all of these scenes. While those choices rarely, if ever, had any significant meaning, they kept the player's attention by giving them a chance to both think about what transpired in the game, and express their views on it, even if those views mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. Persona 4 Arena also offered choice in terms of which character they used as a viewpoint character and in what order they were played in.
In either case, these kind of “meaningless choices” would serve to greatly improve the end user-experience for Ultimax. It almost seems like the writers forgot that they were making the script for a video game. Usually, the only choice players have is in which character in their current group gets to fight the upcoming battle. Aside from that, the only dialogue choice made is right before the final boss, and is one of the most obvious choices I have ever seen in a Persona game. The game's presentation would have benefited from some interactivity in order to keep players more engaged during the story section. Some people are going to hate it, others will tolerate it in the name of a good Persona story, but I hesitate to say that anyone is going to “like” the presentation.

Unfortunately, I appear to be a little too long in the tooth for this article. As I was writing it, I realized that I was quickly approaching 2000 words. I sincerely doubt many of you out there would be comfortable reading all of this in one sitting. As a result, I decided to break this up into two parts. We will leave off here, since I have finished discussing story and presentation. Next week, I will discuss mechanics, characters, and new additions to the game.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Texture Pop: Episode 10: Are You Tsunder Ready?!

So, Sam could not join us this week because he was away visiting relatives in the foreign country known as Texas. To fill in the vacant slot, I brought a friend of mine Ryu... Ian, to the cast this week.

Also, the image and title for this week were both my idea, so you can go ahead and blame.... thank me for that.

0:00:00 Introductions
To understand the context behind this initial conversation, Ian uses a very crappy headset that only works when a game is playing on his console. You'd have to ask him more about it, because I would never purchase a headset like that.

0:05:10 Chris, Ian, and I all bought Persona 4 Arena Ultimax
We actually cut our session of Persona 4 Ultimax short to record the podcast. Truthfully, that's probably a large part of why Ryu... Ian joined us for the podcast.

The day this podcast went up, the price for Marie and Adachi went from free to $5. Anyone who hasn't gotten them yet is SOL unfortunately.

I will talk about the story and mechanics more in my upcoming Impressions piece, so you can look forward to that. Although, I will admit that this discussion heavily informed some of my thoughts on the game.

When Chris talked about "It would be worse, they could say 'A battle was fought'", it reminded me of the cutscenes from Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days that were included in Kingdom Hearts 1.5 ReMIX. That's exactly what they did, but I think it's more acceptable because of the presentation of those scenes.

In terms of fighting games, this is a great purchase because they added so much to the game. The discussion is so through that I think it stands on its own very well.

Also, the fact that the original P4 Arena Story is DLC reminds me of how the story of the Dissidia: Final Fantasy was included in Dissidia 012: Duodecim when that game was released.

This discussion did give Garrett ample time to come into the chat, luckily enough.

0:41:35 I finished Digital Devil Saga 2 (finally)
I will say, explaining this story to someone else is really silly unless you were actually following it from the very beginning. I really can't listen to my own explanation without laughing.

It's the weirdest use of Buddhism I've ever played. And you can

*SPOILERS* Also, I constantly mistakenly refer to Seraph as "he." Canonically, since they are fusion of a guy and a girl, they are technically hermaphroditic.

You can also see my impressions piece on that game here.

0:52:30 I was accepted? into a beta for Dragonball: Xenoverse.
And I have literally nothing to say about it.

0:53:30 I Kickstarted One Night Ultimate Werewolf: Daybreak.
And we talk about pricing and stuff. The Kickstarter is here if you are curious.

0:55:00 Ian reformatted his HDD.
And he talk about the games he played since he lost the save data for them, like The Last of Us, Suda 51 games like Shadows of the Damned, and Platinum Game's games like Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.

We then detour to discuss Avatar: The Legend of Korra and binge watching as a concept.

Ian probably would have talked more if we didn't spend all our time playing Persona 4 Ultimax.

1:05:00 Garrett plays League of Legends
And we talk a bit about F2P games and other things.

1:09:30 Garrett plays The 3rd Birthday and The Yawg.
I unfortunately cannot comment too much on these games, because I've never played.

1:10:15 Garrett saw Box Trolls?
I don't know if I got that title right.
We also take a brief detour to discuss movies.

1:11:55 Garrett goes back to The Yawg to discuss it some more.
And some of the things in the game sounds pretty gruesome from what he was talking about.

1:17:25 Garrett talks comics!

1:18:10 Chris goads Garrett into talking about Destiny.
And we're still the #1 Destiny podcast on the internet.

Since Ryu... Ian is here, I get to take this time to tell him off for convincing me to play the beta because it's "teh best thing evarrrrrrrrrr!"

I would really like to see a "developer tell-all" about Destiny. I think it would be truly fascinating. There has to be a story behind what we got as the final product.

This conversation is probably nothing you haven't seen before on the internet in some capacity. It's a fine game, but it's not the ultimate god-slaying game of awesome that people thought it would be.

1:29:15 Chris recently obtained a Wii U.
Specifically, the Mario Kart bundle.
He also seems to really enjoy all of the features of the Wii U.

I actually did not know that the Wii U GamePad could be used as a semi-universal remote the way Chris describes.

It seems like installation was pretty easy for him too.

We also talk briefly about services like Netflix and YouTube and how they compare on different consoles.

1:36:55 Chris talks about the games he bought for the Wii U.
It's Mario Kart. Do you really need me to talk about it? Everyone knows how good Mario Kart games are.

He also got Wonderful 101 and Hyrule Warriors. I don't have much to say about Wonderful 101, but Hyrule Warriors looks amazing. I have been watching footage of that game, and even as someone with no interest in Zelda or Wii U, that game looks HYPE!

1:40:10 We discuss Wii U hardware again.
Being able to use the GamePad in so many ways makes it an interesting, and very useful multi-purpose tool. I was actually surprised at this, because I honestly didn't know that the GamePad had so many features.

1:50:07 Ending
Turns out we actually did release the cast on time... but I was just dragging my feet too much.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Texture Pop: Episode 9: The Sickest Episode

So, this episode is really, really late. There are a couple of reasons for that. First off, we did record something two weeks ago. However, Sam had to reformat his hard drive due to various things (you know how it is with various things). Because he forgot to back anything up, he lost everything not saved in the Steam cloud, including the recording and his Dark Souls 2 save.

As for this recording... well, that should be pretty self-evident from the contents of the podcast.

The MP3 version of the podcast can be found here: (eventually)

0:00:00 Introductions
Yeah, Chris was really sick while recording this podcast. This has been a really bad past few weeks for recording the podcast. Again, various reasons.
Also, Sam's work kept him later than usual, and Garrett was busy too.

We actually lied, viewer questions did happen, but not easily. You'll see later on.

0:03:53 Microsoft bought Minecraft for $2 billion
And honestly, even though I've never been huge into Minecraft, I can totally respect Notch's decision to bail out. He's done a lot of work that he never really signed up for, and just wants to make games like he used to.

0:08:40 I played Digital Devil Saga 2.
Since I've actually finished the game in the time since the recording, I've written an impressions piece on the game, detailing my thoughts on it. Aside from that, the conversation here was fairly in-depth, so I have not much more to have.

Having said that, we also take the time to briefly discuss religion in RPGs. Interestingly enough, I also wrote a piece sometime ago on this very subject.

Also, I did not realize how badly the connection was affecting the recording. We'll keep this in mind for the future.

0:20:32 I played Only If
And you shouldn't, because its bad.

It's a mediocre puzzler, with a bad antagonist, terrible voice actor, and a vapid story.
Luckily, since it's Free-To-Play, I lost nothing from it.

And at the time of this podcast, Sam sent us the log-in info of the podcast e-mail (work his phone, while at work) and I tried to get the log-in set up. Keep this in mind for later.

0:25:05 Chris played Fist of the North Star: Ken's... huh?
And as he started talking about it, I got the e-mail working. Unfortunately, I needed to get Sam to send me the verification code.

0:27:30 (Impromptu) Viewer Questions
"Have any of you had a chance to play Wasteland 2 yet?"
Though I really want to, I'm going to wait for a sale.

And then he got sidetracked by talking about the new Steam front page. I explained it in the cast, so there's no need to reiterate it here. Overall, I really like the changes because it gives me an incentive to actually use Steam to browse for games the way I used to, before Early Access and Greenlight.

"What do you think of Star Citizen so far?"
Chris sums it up better than I could, honestly. I've not really been following it, but at the same time I don't think it could possibly live up to all of its promise.

0:38:00 Chris played Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage
It's Mad Maxx meets Japan meets Dynesty Warriors. There's not much more that one can say about it... except that the boss fights apparently suck.
Sounds like the rest of the game is fun, so at least there's that.

On the subject of voice acting, I recall an old anime called Duel Masters. In that show, when one character challenged another to a card game, they would use the Japanese phrases for "I challenge you" and "I accept". When asked, the people in charge of the dubbed said the reason was that it both sounded cooler and made portions of lip-syncing easier. I strongly suspect that this would be part of the reason why some phrases in this game were left in Japanese, even for the English dub.

0:51:25 Sam gets home and joins us.
And while he sets up, Chris and I stall for time. We stall HARD for time.

0:52:50 Sam gets his mic set up.
And we talk a bit about work and stuff.

For the record, at the time of this cast, I was grinding in Digital Devil Saga 2 in order to get strong enough to take on the final bosses. When I said "You bitch", I was angry because one of my character's was confused, which made them throw $100000 onto the ground. Had to reset the game to save my money.

And rather than get on subject, we keep going to other topics that were not what Sam is playing this week.

0:57:15 Sam beat Dead Rising 3.
And instead we talk anime zombies. "It's really bad, I should get a copy of it."

It's a Dead Rising game, not much more needs to be said.

1:01:31 Sam bought Neverending Nightmares
And I've seen it a bit since Sam talked about it here. It is REALLY fucked up.

1:09:20 Sam had a birthday
And now he is of legal drinking age, like the rest of us.

1:11:00 Sam bought at iPhone5S
And we take the time to shit on the flimsiness of the iPhone6. It's really amusing, to be honest.
At the same time, we praise Samsung for making good products.

1:16:00 Garrett joins the show, completing the ensemble.

1:18:30 Garrett regales us with tales of his League adventures.
Again, I'd talk more about this if I knew more about League of Legends. Until then, I'm content to just listen to these stories.

1:22:40 Garrett rented Destiny
So we can talk about it next week.

1:26:10 Garrett talks about his college classes.
And again, I can't help but be reminded of my old college classes from Freshman/Sophomore year.

1:30:40 We talk about Blizzard's cancelled Project Titan
Which is interesting because it leads into an interesting discussion on the MMO genre as a whole, and Blizzard's part in making it the way it is today.
It's actually amazing how well Blizzard does by developing only a few games, using an extremely limited number of IPs.

This leads into a conversation as to exactly why old Blizzard games (and other companies) do not post those old games on their own stores.

1:41:30 We talk about the new Gauntlet.
It felt really weird me to be the only one who knows about an old game. Usually, I'm completely in the dark with these segments. In this case, I'm the expert, which is really cool. I remember playing both Gauntlet: Legends on the PS1 and Gauntlet: Dark Legacy for the PS2. Really good games.

And Sam did actually buy us all copies of Gauntlet.

1:47:45 We wrap up the cast.
See ya next time!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Impressions #15: Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2

Life has been pretty busy. Balancing school, work, and personal responsibilities/hobbies can get quite tiring at times. This is why I have been so slow in staying up-to-date lately, straying slightly from the 1 article per-week goal I set for myself. Having said that, I did manage to set aside the almost 40 hours necessary to complete Digital Devil Saga 2. Thus, my season of ATLUS continues relatively unhindered given the circumstances. Released in the second half of the same year as the first game, Digital Devil Saga 2 is a direct continuation. For the purpose of this article, I am going to assume that you have either already read my impressions of the first game or played it yourself.

As the word “Saga” might imply in the titles, both games are made to strongly compliment each other, best enjoyed in order. One of the things that I noticed when starting Digital Devil Saga 2 is that writers assume that the player beat the first game when they wrote the script for the sequel. Should that not be the case, the game will mostly just assume that the player will gleam most of that information from character interactions. Though not many things happened in the first Digital Devil Saga, it was an important piece of the puzzle because it helped to established the main cast of characters and the major plot points which would be capitalized on and explained in the sequel. Without that knowledge, players might still be able to follow the basic plot, but they will miss much of the subtext and background behind interactions between characters. Even at the start of the game, the story does not stop to establish the characters in the player party, their powers, and why they act the way they do. It is assumed that the player already knows this because of their time with the first game, and thus no further explanation is required.
Many of the mysteries established in the first game, such as Sera's mysterious origins and powers, why the Embryon and other characters from the Junkyard seem to remember pasts which they could not possibly have experienced, and what the Junkyard and Nirvana truly are get explained and expanded on. Again, though this information can be followed by someone who does not have experience with the first Digital Devil Saga, not having this pretense severely reduces the impact these reveals have. Eventually, everything is explained and the whole story comes together very nicely, with most loose ends tied together in a surprising denouement.

As far as the combat goes, the general gist of it is the same as it was in the first game, which I talked about in my last article. Having said that, I want to expound upon something I discussed in previously. In the Digital Devil Saga impressions piece, I mentioned that the game has an interesting difficulty curve where the beginning is very difficult because of your lack of skills, something which I have since taken to calling “Yukiko's Syndrome” after the legendarily difficult first boss fight of Persona 4. Without a variety of skills, it becomes difficult to exploit weakness and gain the extra turns needed to turn the tides in the player's favor. In fact, sometimes the lack of early-game abilities can mean that the player will be blocked and lose turns as a result. For this reason, some players might find it difficult to really dig into DDS and similar games. However, if they stick with it, they can often find that the game gets a lot easier, since they unlock more abilities. Ultimately, the ability selection unlocked will often be the primary factor determining player success, even moreso than character level. It is a interesting dynamic that is often present in Shin Megami Tensei games.
Aside from how combat previously went down, the game presents some new refinements to the mechanics. One of the biggest additions is Berserk Mode. In the original DDS, there was a Solar Noise meter that acted like the phases of the moon of a tradition SMT game, changing from 0 (MIN) to 8 (MAX) and back as players advanced in the dungeon. This meter represents the amount of solar data flowing out from the sun at a given point in time. In the original game, this had no real effect on anything besides the prices for vendor trash and very specific skills, so I did not comment on it. In this game, a new mechanic relies on Solar Noise. Should the player run into a random encounter during the state of MAX Solar Noise, there is a chance they will enter battle in a berserk state.
In these special battles, the party will be in unable to control their demon powers, entering a half-human, half-demon state. This state greatly enhances critical hit rate and allows all physical attacks to ignore resistances from enemies who can absorb/repel them. However, the accuracy of the party will greatly decrease and they can only use physical attacks, hunt attacks, and items. Further, defense is greatly reduced and no magic can be used in a berserk state. Should the party win a battle in Berserk Mode, the experience gained will be double the normal experience. Alternatively, if the player feels like they cannot win a fight, the rate of success for escaping battle rises to 100%. It is an interesting risk vs reward mechanic that can be both a blessing and a curse to the player.

One more thing that differentiates combat in DDS 2 from DDS 1 is party configurations. In the previous game, players could often get away with only having 3 characters that were their main fighters, leaving the rest to just faff about on the sidelines. Since party members would rarely ever leave the group for long periods of time, players could generally keep the same three party members for the whole game and experience no downsides. In Digital Devil Saga 2, this is much less safe, especially towards the end of the game. Towards the end, the game is much more willing to play around with party formations, and members will often leave for long stretches of time or force themselves onto the front-lines for a single boss battle, like the infamous Kimahri-only boss fight in Final Fantasy X. As a result, it is much more necessary to keep every character developing their skills at a steady rate. This can be difficult since reserve members do not gain experience (called Karma in-game) during a fight. However, there is a skill which can allow them to do so, which can help combat this problem. Since it is a fairly inexpensive skill that can be purchased early on in the game, most players will not feel the pinch. Still, that is a equipped skill slot going to waste to fix a problem that really should not be a problem in the first place.

In terms of character development, the Mantra system from DDS 1 returns, but with a twist. Previously, the mantra system resembled more of a chart, like the perk system in Skyrim. To unlock a given Mantra, it was mandatory to master all of the Mantra below it on the chart, getting all of those skills beforehand. Now, the Mantra system is much more of a grid, along the lines of the License Board system in Final Fantasy XII (although DDS 2 came first). When a given Mantra is mastered, every Mantra around it on the grid is unlocked for the character to purchase. There are even special Sealed Mantra on the grid that can only be unlocked when every Mantra around them is mastered by at least one member of the current party. All characters start somewhere close to the center, and have the ability to branch out from there in whatever way they choose. This results in much less restrictive system. Rather than having to expressly master every Earth-element spell to get to the more powerful ones, players can just find a path to a high-level Mantra around it, and master that one instead. This gives an incredible freedom when choosing how characters develop that is rarely seen in JRPGs.

And that freedom is required, because boss battles are even tougher this time around. In the first game, even if the player did not know what a (mini-)boss could do, they still might fare a decent chance against them with a generalized build designed to take down random encounters. While this is still true about half of the time in DDS 2, there are also many boss fights where it is necessary to either look them up in a walkthrough, or lose against them multiple times in order to figure out exactly how to handle them. Without the right ability setups, many boss fights can be said to be nearly impossible, particularly towards the end. The game trusts that by that point, the player has strongly diversified their skillset and has the tools to counter whatever comes their way. As a result, it has no qualms about throwing monsters with very specific weaknesses and attacks at the player. Every skill can be important at some point in the game, and keeping this in mind will make a huge difference in the long run.

At the end of the day, Digital Devil Saga 2 is a good game in its own right, but heavily relies on the previous entry in order to truly get the most out of it. It just barely has enough exposition to explain its story on its own, assisted in part with flashbacks to cutscenes from DDS 1. Having said that, the game plays well, and challenge remains constant, because a single battle can prove lethal to the unprepared. Fans of the Shin Megami Tensei games, or of difficult RPGs will find themselves welcome to the party. Others might struggle to enjoy it to the same degree.