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 Post subject: Re: R-90-2's Review node.
PostPosted: Tue Nov 20, '12, 8:38 am 
I remember seeing the ads for El Viento in old Electronic Gaming Monthly magazines. They usually got my attention, but I don't think I've ever seen the actual game until now. I had no idea the folks behind this would go on to make the Tales series and Tri-Ace's games. That pedigree makes me want to look for a copy of this title again and finally play it.

 Post subject: Re: R-90-2's Review node.
PostPosted: Fri Dec 7, '12, 3:03 am 
La-Mulana (remake)
Developer: NIGORO
Release date: 2011 (JP) 2012 (NA/EU)
Platform: Wii, PC
Genre: Archaeological Ruins Exploration (Actually Metroidvania)

La Mulana is perhaps one of the most notorious indie games ever created. The game was created over the course of years, and made as a deliberate throwback to the game library of the MSX computer system, most specifically Maze of Galious. When it was finally translated into English, it gained a reputation due to its combination of retro graphics (constructed to resemble those of the MSX2, right down to the old system's graphical hardware limitations), excellent soundtrack, great atmosphere, and soul-crushing difficulty. The popularity of the game received an incredible boost through the Let's Play concocted by Ex-Something Awful member Deceased Crab, and so the game hat a cult following. Some time later, the three creators of the original announced that they would be developing a full remake of the game for WiiWare, and would publish it in the US through Nicalis. However, Nicalis dropped the ball, NIGORO gave them the boot, and decided to publish the game in the West- for PC, the same platform as the original. The remake of the game was finally published through Playism and in the summer of this year.

The story of the game is as follows. Lemeza Kosugi, a university professor/archaeologist in the Indiana Jones vein who was raised by ninjas because his father was something of an absentee, receives a letter from his traveling dad. It's a taunt, telling Lemeza that he has probably found the legendary source of all life, the ruins of La Mulana. Not wanting to be outdone, Lemeza packs up his things and leaves the country. When he arrives, all of his equipment save for his whip and laptop are seized by airport security, and it is starting with those that he must unravel the mystery of the ruins.

For anyone who has played through Super Metroid or later 2d Metroids, or their spiritual descendants such as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, the basic game structure should be fairly easy to understand. The game is an exploration-based action platformer, where the character starts with the basic types of platformer mobility, such as moving and jumping, then acquires more movement tricks as the game goes on, such as double-jumping, wall-clinging, the ability to not drown in water, and so on. The game allows a fair amount of exploration, but grabbing seal keys, defeating bosses, and grabbing items greatly expand the area that you're capable of reaching- and with 17 distinct areas, there's a lot of exploring to be done. The controls have seen something of an improvement since the original game, in that jump is now a separate button instead of using the up directional, but one has to get used to the fact that your ability to change direction mid-jump is rather limited.

Of particular note is that the gameplay is built around punishing people for not playing close attention. Trying to whack just about everything with your whip or other weapons is the fast track to demise, as the ruins do not appreciate it and will strike Lemeza with lightning if he hits certain sensitive bits. If you go ahead and hit a switch surrounded by skeletons, don't be surprised if a statue falls on you, spikes pop up, or other such nastiness occurs. According to the developers, the games was designed around the idea of making you think like an explorer- a real explorer wouldn't whack everything he sees or jump into pits without checking where they go first, right?

This actually really gets into the way the gameplay mixes with the story. You see, as in a select few other games, such as Planescape: Torment, the story of La Mulana is discovered, not told. you see, pretty much all of the puzzle hints and background information about the ruins (some tablets are both puzzle hints and backstory) are found on stone tablets or on the bodies of deceased explorers that you need to read, each of which provides a part of solving the mystery of La Mulana, such as the history of the last days of the Giants in the Mausoleum of the Giants. It is through reading all of these tablets and solving puzzles, then using these items to unlock further areas, do you get the full picture- a large part of what the game is about is finding out what the game is about.

A fair bit of warning, of course- when the devs tell you to be on the cautious side, it's because La Mulana is not a game that's afraid to be hard on its players- because there are more places to save in the remake, the ruins now have a fair number more traps, quite a few of which can cause instant death. The combat is no slouch either, so the game really encourages you to explore as thoroughly as you possibly can before taking on most of the bosses of the game. the puzzles themselves range from the straightforward to the utterly diabolical- most people may eventually need a guide for at least a couple.

La Mulana's art direction was superb, both in the original game and the remake. From the little details, like Lemeza holding onto his fedora as he drops from falling or jumping, to the bigger details, such as the very well-animated bosses and enemies and so on. I will say flat out that the game probably has the best soundtrack you'll find in a Metroidvania, with the possible exception of Super Metroid itself. There are an incredible number of wonderful pieces, and they aren't reserved for the later parts of the game, either- The music for the entry area of the ruins is generally considered one of the best pieces in the whole game.

La Mulana isn't for everyone, but it is very good at what it does- being awesome and rather unforgiving. It's also around $15 at Playism and, so it probably won't break any banks.

Some vids to get you started.

The history of La Mulana


Beginner's Guide

Last edited by R-90-2 on Fri Dec 7, '12, 3:03 am, edited 1 time in total.

 Post subject: Re: R-90-2's Review node.
PostPosted: Sat Jan 5, '13, 8:02 pm 
Star Trek: Bridge commander
Developer: Totally Games (Published by Activision)
Release date: 2002
Platform: PC
Genre: Space combat sim (Star Trek sim?)

While there have been very, very many games based on the Star Trek franchise, not many of them have been worth playing. The best of these based on the original series is probably the Star Trek 25th anniversary adventure game for the PC, the CD-rom version of which had voice acting provided by a staggering amount of the original cast. While there were a few reasonably decent games based on the Next Generation era (one of which managed to be decent while being based on Voyager, of all series), none of them, as far as I'm aware, were especially blowout hits. However, there was entry I found especially curious, and was only recently able to acquire- Star Trek: Bridge Commander, a Star trek game played mainly from the physical perspective of the one plonked right down in the captain's chair. However, novelty doesn't make a game good on its own- it's the application of a game's particular idiom that determines its quality.

So, the steup is a little something like this. A short while after the end of the war with the forces of the Gamma quadrant, the USS Dauntless is assigned to do things more traditionally associated with Starfleet, such as minding the scientific outpost in the Vesuvi system. During this routine patrol the Vesuvi system's star suddenly explodes, severely damaging the Dauntless and killing her captain leaving you, the first officer, as the new captain of the ship. Operating out of starbase 12, you are tasked with finding out why the star exploded, who, if anyone, was responsible for it, and making sure that the rest of the sector doesn't collapse into chaos.

The gameplay is built around being played from the physical perspective of the captain's chair. As the man on the bridge, you control your ship by giving orders to the various bridge officers- science, navigation, tactical, engineering, as well as your first officer. Engineering allows you to adjust the ship's power distribution and damage repair priorities, science runs system-side scans for things out of the ordinary, your first officer is used to regulate ship alert levels (which determine which tactical systems are powered up), navigation makes you go, and tactical is about shooting things and possibly blowing them up. It is possible to take full manual control of the ship, but this is generally not recommended except in cases where you really need fine control of the ship's movement. The AI is actually fairly good about handing your ship in combat.

The game is divided into eight "episodes", which are each further subdivided into a number of individual sub-missions. There is no save-anytime function in the game, which can be annoying, as some of the sub-missions can be especially lengthy- the game is only saved when the player reaches a new sub-mission within an "episode" of the game. The player starts the game with the USS Dauntless, but soon upgrades to the more powerful USS Sovereign. This is something I appreciate- many games keep such upgrades until so late in a game that a player rarely has time to appreciate or experiment with their new toys. However, the Sovereign doesn't really handle that much differently than the Dauntless does, it just generally has bigger number across the board.

However, the lack of difference in handling generally tallies with the fact that the varying species have their own design ethos, and knowing how a particular species builds their ships is the key to overcoming them in space combat. Learning this may be a painful first time experience, considering the power of some of the ships involved, but a particular species tends to build all of its ships along a particular line. Romulan warbirds have impressive firepower and are built like bricks, but are also fairly sluggish, Klingon ships are fairly speedy, strong, and have really tough front shields, but are vulnerable from any other angle, and so on. The varying weapon types also have some of their own properties, but in general, beam weapons always hit, but their damage isn't amazingly high and it drops off with range, disruptors are rapid-firing and fairly strong, but have no real tracking capabilities, and torpedoes are powerful, but require a solid lock to hit. Thankfully, the player doesn't have to learn this the hard way in-mission. The game has a "tactical simulator", a quick-action mode that allows the player to command any ship in the game against any sort of opposition from the game that he/she chooses to put in. Another thing about combat in the story mode is that enemy ships will not always fight to the death, retreating after they've taken a certain amount of damage more often than not- not all space captians are utter fanatics, after all.

The mission design, in general, is actually fairly strong, and the decisions that the player has to make throughout the game are not just limited to the tactical. One does have to use the functions of the varying stations on the bridge in order to effect not only combat diecisions, but also research and diplomatic functions as well. Fans of the Star Trek franchise know that Starfleet is an organization that wears many hats, space combat being only one of them- and before the game is over, you'll have to exercise all of them if you want a successful resolution. However, the game does occasionally mess up in its mission design- fore example, one of the sub-missions is actually a stealth mission, which are pretty much universally horrible in space sims. There has not been a single one to my knowledge that has been any good, as the genre and game engines are never built well for such actions.

One think I have always found curious is how willing the cast members of various Star Trek series have always been to take up voice acting their old characters when it comes to games based on the franchise. This game is no exception to that rule, as Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner do reprise their old roles of Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Commander Data of the USS Enterprise-E. The rest of the voice acting is decent or at least not the sort that makes you look for the option to turn it off. The graphics may seem a bit raw nowadays, but they were fairly up top for 2002.

Bridge Commander is, at the very least, a game that one should not consciously avoid. It's something to look for is you're a Star trek fan, and worth at least giving a try even if you aren't.





 Post subject: Re: R-90-2's Review node.
PostPosted: Sat Jan 5, '13, 9:47 pm 
I've just discovered this thread but I haven't got time to read all of the review you've made so far but that's impressive ! Congratulations :) I'll try to read them as soon as possible but keep up the good work ! :)

 Post subject: Re: R-90-2's Review node.
PostPosted: Sat Jan 5, '13, 11:46 pm 
I am a trekkie!! This game looks like fun to me and it sounds very interesting thanks to your review. I like that the original characters are willing to do some of the voice work...that's great!! It would also make the game more fun to play. I wouldn't mind giving this one a try. :clap:

 Post subject: Re: R-90-2's Review node.
PostPosted: Sun Jan 6, '13, 11:25 am 
I love that the Trek cast is so willing to do voice work for the games of the franchise. I just wish more of those games were actually good. None of the ones I've tried were done very well. Bridge Commander sounds like a step up, though. I'd like to try it some time, if I ever have a chance to play it.

 Post subject: Re: R-90-2's Review node.
PostPosted: Mon Jan 7, '13, 1:44 am 
Silver_Surfer1 wrote:I am a trekkie!! This game looks like fun to me and it sounds very interesting thanks to your review. I like that the original characters are willing to do some of the voice work...that's great!!

It would also make the game more fun to play. I wouldn't mind giving this one a try. :clap:

And, I think my current avatar tells you where I stand on Trek. :)

Ys I & II Complete
Developer: Nihon Falcom corproation
Release date: 2001 (JP) 2009 (NA/EU as Ys I & II Chronicles)
Platform: PC, PSP
Genre: Action RPG.

Ys I & II Complete is actually a collection of the two remakes (Ys I & II Eternal) of the first games in Falcom's long running Ys series of action RPGs. The reasons I am reviewing both games together is first that nowadays they are always packaged together, and second is that they were originally supposed to be one whole game in the first place. It was deadlines and hardware limitations that caused the game to be split into two back in 1987, when the original version of Ys I was released for the PC-8801 in Japan. Ys I & II were also the first of the Ys games to be localized, with the Master system version of Ys I and the Turbo CD combined release of Ys I & II both making the trip across the Pacific. This particular version of the game would not be localized properly until the port to the PSP in 2009 by XSeed games as Ys I & II Chronicles. While the sprite graphics were greatly improved for this remake, and the music receiving superb remixes, the gameplay did remain largely the same. The major question, then, is how 1987's game design fares nowadays.

So, here's how it goes. There was once an ancient country called Ys that ruled over an island called Esteria. Even though much knowledge about it was lost, it was always described as a great paradise of peace and knowledge, ruled by the wisdom of six priests, and blessed with the guidance and power of its twin goddesses, said to be daughters of the goddess of the twin moons. However, for all of its legendary power and wisdom, the entire country suddenly vanished almost without a trace some 700 years ago. No one has any clue as to where it has gone, but the temptation of solving such a mystery is too much to ignore for some, such as Adol Christin, a young man from a remote town in the mountains of the country of Gallia. He tries to sail across the sea to Esteria, but ends up getting shipwrecked on the island by a storm. though his beginnings are rough, he will soon find that uncovering the fate of Ys is merely the first half of his involvement in its story.

The gameplay of Ys I & II has changed roughly none since the game's initial release in 1987. It actually possesses a rather curious combat system for those mainly familiar with games such as the Legend of Zelda or Soulblazer. There is no attack button. Attacking enemies is actually done by moving into them, and the result is actually dependent on how Adol is positioned when colliding with the enemy- if he hits them dead on, both will take some damage, if hie hits them off-center, only the enemy will take damage, with attacks from the side or back causing more damage. However, the same is true if an enemy hits Adol from the side or rear. This creates a system where, rather than stopping to fight, as in other old action RPGs, you actually move to fight, which gives the game's combat a fairly unique feel. Aside from that, there are the usual RPG standbys, such as levels, experience, and equipment which boost Adol's stats. Powerleveling is cut off at the knees, because the amount of experience Adol gains from enemies is determined by his level, and so gaining levels from lower-level enemies just ceases to be practical after a point. Ys II introduces magic, which allows Adol a ranged fireball attack and other special abilities dependent on MP. Adol's HP also regenerate while he stands outdoors, and it is fairly swift regeneration- helpful because death can come fairly quick in some parts of the game.

Ys I & II are actually played as separate games. There has only been one release of Ys I & II that plays as the game was originally intended to, and that would be the release of the game for the Turbo CD. This does mean that Adol has to start Ys II without any of his gold, levels, or equipment, but it does actually make a degree of sense, considering how he transitions between the first and second part of the story. Even combined together the game is not especially long, but most action RPGs weren't even back then- the initial timesink came mainly from trying to figure out what one had to do, while doing it was not especially time-consuming, though it could be difficult. Such difficulty does rear its head in Ys I, as the player is likely to hit the level cap before entering the second half of the game, meaning that the player will have to rely on skill alone to defeat all of the bosses in Darm Tower. One thing that ought to be mentioned about Ys I & II in general is that it is very much old-school. Half of defeating bosses is knowing the strategy to pull it off, and the other half is having the stats to back it up, so there is some forced grinding involved in overcoming a fair number of the bosses, especially in Ys II.

The dungeon design is fairly strong throughout Ys I & II. They are generally not so long that they overstay their welcome, and even the very long ones (Darm Tower) have rather varied areas in order to keep things interesting. Unless one severely outlevels or outgears a particular dungeon, they also do tend to be rather dangerous across the board, from the first temple in Ys I all the way down to the final areas in Ys II. The bosses themselves are not particularly forgiving. One thing that is true across pretty much all of the Ys games is that there are no "gimmie" bosses- all of them pose a fairly significant threat for the time when you encounter them. It is also one of the few games of its where you can retreat from bosses if things get too hairy, though as one can save anywhere else, this usually isn't a very used feature of the game.

As for the actual story progression, it is important to note that Ys I & II were some of the earliest action RPGs to have a story whose details were largely revealed in-play, and thus was one of the first to have NPCs that existed to do more than dispense equipment or advice of dubious utility. While a number of tropes and archetypes may seem rather cliche nowadays, Ys I & II may well have actually been the first game to have used a number of them in the first place. Adol himself is a silent protagonist, which is actually justified by the framing story of the Ys series itself. The basic framing device of the Ys story is that it's derived from the found and translated journals of the adventurer Adol Christin, recovered a thousand years after his death- and the one thing he never really talked about was himself. Something I've always felt about these early installments is that it feels like the world is just a bit more "magical" than many other RPGs- iut's something that' hard to quantify, in some ways.

The actual art direction is fairly good- the sprites are well-drawn and decently animated, and the art style for the portraits of major characters is a high cut above the style found in the earlier releases. Of particular note is the music. The original soundtrack of the first release was composed by Yuzo Koshiro (Streets of Rage, Actraiser) which means that the base material was of already high quality, and the remixes made for this game manage to elevate it even further. The Chronicles release even has a new set of remixes, though whether you use the Complete or Chronicles versions of the tracks is something up to the player. I prefer the Complete version, because there are some tracks in the Chronicles versions of the tracks that I feel are "overmixed". Sometimes a little less is more.

Ys I & II do remain games worth playing- all I can say is to avoid the DS port of the game, as it tries to make "improvements" that generally detract from the game. Other than that, any version of Ys I & II complete are definitely worth giving a run-through.
Screenies are from the translated Ys I & II Complete.





Ys I Intro.

Ys II intro.

Last edited by R-90-2 on Mon Jan 7, '13, 1:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

 Post subject: Re: R-90-2's Review node.
PostPosted: Mon Jan 7, '13, 4:43 am 
So that's how the battle system in Ys I is supposed to work. I bought it on the Wii Virtual Console some years ago, but didn't get far because the battles made no sense to me. Taking such a different approach in that version without explaining how it works was not a great idea. Maybe I'll try it again now that I have some idea of what is going on there.

 Post subject: Re: R-90-2's Review node.
PostPosted: Mon Jan 7, '13, 2:32 pm 
R 90 : thanks for the review of this/these game/2 games ! As a big fan of YS, what an interesting Review ! To dive back in the world of Esteria is such a pleasure with Adol and your review !!
About the combat sytem, when I was playing Ys on the Master System (a long long time ago !!), that was my first "RPG", just before Phantasy Star I think (but I'm not totally sure !) but in action RPG so as it was my first, no problem at all about it :)
That's a bit different and that's ok for me !

 Post subject: Re: R-90-2's Review node.
PostPosted: Mon Jan 7, '13, 5:00 pm 
I really need to try out La Mulana and Ys I and II some time. I've come this close to downloading Ys a bazillion times. Thanks for the reviews on these two.

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