Reviews Ahoy: COH Books, 360 Demos, GITSSAC2ndGSSSM

13 08 2007

Laid up today after a hellish night of acid reflux, muscle cramps, and nightmares. I took the proper precautions but got whalloped anyway… so, taking it easy today, just leisurely reading and playing games. Here’s some minireviews of various things.

I got both the lisenced fanfics (aka “novels”) for City of Heroes, “Web of Arachnos” and “The Freedom Phalanx”. First one covers Statesman/Recluse’s origins, second one is the genesis of the modern day FP (states, Positron, Sister Psyche, etc.)

Web of Arachnos is… OK. There are moments where there’s no good way to introduce a character other than three pages of the narrator explaining their background, and there are some awkward transitions. Statesman, for instance, only puts on a costume and fights crime as a psychological tactic to push Nemesis off the front page of the newspapers, yet somehow by the end of the book he’s a true hero despite it being an underhanded technique originally. It’s also not clear why the heck States and Recluse were friends prior to their transition; it’s pretty clear Recluse has contempt up the wazoo for States, and ditches him without a heck of a lot of transition needed. Etc. Basically the whole thing is entertaining but a bit awkward.

Freedom Phalanx is MUCH better. Unlike the dickish bastards of the comic book, these guys are real people with real people problems and aren’t arrogant pricks about it. Seeing them evolve from being soloists to team players is an interesting sight, and the PLOT is quite good, feeling like a real story arc from the game with clues, fights, and plenty of twists. If I had to recommend grabbing one of the books, this’d be the one. The only objection I had was (minor spoiler) Statesman is pretty much a deus ex machina, doing nothing to help the team at all until the last 20 pages or so. His subplot is really well written and emotional, but it’s hard to see him as part of the team when he only drops in to save their bacon in the last battle.

Also on the slate were a variety of demos I’d grabbed for the 360. Notables: Bioshock and Eternal Sonata and Stranglehold.

Bioshock is LOVE. It’s amazing, a feast for the eyes and the ears, with great artwork and great acting and great action. Even with the demo being largely an on-rails shooter to introduce game concepts it was atmospheric and a joy to play. I’m definitely getting this on PC when it comes out; I just can’t wrangle the 360 controller for shooters. I am glad there’s an easy difficulty setting, too.

Eternal Sonata won me over. I wasn’t expecting much from this; a by the books Japanese RPG with all the staples. Villagers who mutter to themselves repeatedly. Invisible walls. Teenagers with superpowers bludgeoning local animals for no adequate reason. I got all that, granted… but the artwork was beautiful, a wonderful change from Unreal engine’s gooey rubber people. The music was simply lovely. And above all… the battles were FUN. A mix of RPG tactics and action RPG brawling, I had fun outmanuvering, trying to reach a light/dark zone, trying to max out the amount of damage I could do in my 5 second turn… as much as I don’t want to buy some generic, sprawling JRPG, I may have to buy this simply because I was undeniably hooked and enjoying myself. And in the end, games SHOULD be about fun.

Stranglehold failed. Not because it’s a bad game; there’s clearly a lot of variety of action, a lot of things to do. But the control scheme is insane-o, even by FPS standards, requiring near ambidexterity and perfect visual focus to study every single object and enemy on screen at once and figure out the best use of your 6 or so different special techniques to dispatch them. It’s like playing three games of Max Payne simultaneously, and while that SOUNDS fun, for gamers like me it’s damn near impossible to play. Even if I had it on PC it wouldn’t help since I’d need to juggle a few dozen keys for all the techniques while simultaneously running and jumping and diving and shooting and such. Not my game. Not bad, but clearly not my game.

Finally, watched Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig The Movie Solid State Society Alpha Dash Plus For Matching Service. It was… well, it was 2nd Gig, alright. Whereas the first season was largely understandable and kept things moving, the second wallowed in incomprehensible politics and technology. Even with 3+ minute segments of nothing but exposition it was impossible to follow, and the movie is no different. The action was at least good, and the movie watchable, but not something I’d really recommend.

Also: Check previous blog entry if you’re an amateur audio engineer. I’ll keep responses about that project in that post.

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12 responses

13 08 2007
pockyman

Eternal Sonata looks and plays wonderfully. ^^ I’m just hoping for a Japanese-language option, because I’m a fan of some of the VAs being used.
(and to be honest, I didn’t think the acting was worthy of the game, it felt a little flat most of the time)
Bioshock looks neat. Too bad it’s an FPS. ;_;

13 08 2007
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

One concern I have for ES is if the story will match up to the other quality elements. Everything other than the fighting in the demo screamed “I AM A GENERIC JAPANESE RPG!!! LOVE MEEEEEE”. I know the story core (hallucinatory world Chopin’s experiencing as he croaks) but I hope that they make it sing instead of just being a loose framework to jam a bunch of battles into.

13 08 2007
pockyman

It looks like it could go either way. Hopefully it will have a rich and wonderful story, though.
I dunno. I probably won’t be buying it, now that I’ve discovered that it’s English only.
Besides, I have way too many games to play as is. @.@

13 08 2007
danel4d

I agree with you on the CoH novels… I’m not sure where I’d heard that Recluse was the leader of the gang and States his sidekick (is that suggested in Freedom Phalanx?); I couldn’t help but think that that’s a potentially more interesting dynamic than the one in Web of Arachnos, which can come off as something of a kind of Evil Chancellor, what with Recluse seeming to dislike Statesman getting all the glory and stuff. I also didn’t like the hints of “Science is bad” in Recluse being the sciencey one, while Statesman had a kind of magical reverence for the Well of the Furies… I tend to dislike such Magic Good Science Bad themes anyway, and especially when its one not present in the actual game at all…
That the novels are as good as they are really does draw attention to how inept the comic book can be.

13 08 2007
pockyman

Well, I’m stupid. It IS being released bi-lingually. Sweet. :3

14 08 2007
meredy

If you’re gonna get Bioshock(for which I applaud your taste!), grab the LE from EB Games/Gamestop/Babbages/whatever else. Ten dollars more, but you get a Big Daddy statue, a making of DVD, and the soundtrack.

14 08 2007
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

FAIL
I cancelled my Amazon order, then went to gamestop… and found out the LE is only available for the 360, not the PC. Dangit!

14 08 2007
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

PHEW.
Fortunately the local brick and mortar EB Games has it. Jen’s gonna help me arrange a preorder tonight. Yay!

14 08 2007
meredy

According to all news sources I’ve ever seen, the PC version has an LE as well for 59.99. Even gamespot reported on it. So it’s weird that Gamestop is saying their isn’t one. :/
If there isn’t, I apologize for false information then, especially since you canceled a preorder elsewhere for it before finding out.

14 08 2007
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

There was, they just stopped offering it through the website with no posted explanation. It’s still at their stores, and I got it ordered there.

14 08 2007
jengagne

Preorder: Acquired.

15 08 2007
cmdr_zoom

My fear is that Bioshock is going to be too intense for me. I played System Shock all the way through and loved it, but couldn’t get past the first level of 2; improvements in the visuals, etc had apparently crossed my “too realistic” threshold. Yes, I am weak.

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