Friday, 21 November 2008

Aquanaut's Holiday: Update - PS3

Well after around 20 hours, I finally completed the main storyline in Aquanaut's Holiday on PS3. I'm glad to report that even after the credits roll, you can continue playing. Just as well, because I've only unlocked 14/50 trophies so far and my Aqua Library still has gaps in it.

It remains one of the most relaxing games I have ever played and some of the sights are unforgettable. Dozens of Manta Rays sweeping over a sunken Inca temple, huge whales rising from the deep, massive clouds of silvery sardines moving as one, piles of dinosaur bones lying in dark forgotten corners, secret passageways, shipwrecks resting on the sea bed and a huge mountain of treasure are just some of the things you'll see when you're exploring the ocean. You'll even encounter an extra terrestrial visitor.

There have been some moments of confusion due to the substantial amount of Japanese text, although when in doubt, I always headed for my home base to speak with my two colleagues. Even if that doesn't move the story on, kicking back and exploring this massive ocean at your leisure usually triggers an event.

As far as I can tell, there are 35 Sonobuoys to discover, each one unlocking a new area of ocean. The fact you are free to travel from one side of the ocean to the other with just a small amount of on the fly loading is quite an achievement.

I'm now on the last side-mission and after that there is still plenty to do. I've found all the singing fish, but only completed one of their song patterns to the full. That leaves 19 still to go. However, even when this is done and my library is complete, I'll still go back to Aquanaut's Holiday just to enjoy the sights and sounds. The addition of a camera is fantastic and I'll continue to take new pics as I explore the depths.

All we need now is a full English version to appear. Rumours are circulating that the Asian version is in English, but we'll have to wait and see. With word that National Geographic are releasing Afrika/Hakuna Matata in the US, maybe there's hope Aquanaut's Holiday will also enjoy a Western release. Let's hope so.

All the pictures in this thread were taken by myself. Enjoy.

Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon - Wii

A quick read through this blog, and you'll know that I hold Sega and Chun Soft's masterpiece Shiren the Wanderer in the highest regard. I'm currently having a lot of fun with the wandering samurai's second DS outing - I was killed by a giant gerbil late last night - and the title retains everything that made the original so appealing, while adding a few neat touches.

I've never been one to sit and play one game at a time, though, partly because part of my job involves reviewing the latest game releases, and partly because I'm an impatient bugger, too eager to play the latest thing.

So when not playing Shiren 2, I've sunk around 10 hours or so into Square Enix's latest title Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon on Wii. And although it shares many similarities to Shiren and other Roguelikes, this Final Fantasy spin-off is much more forgiving.

It's not an new series either. Our yellow feathered chum made two Mystery Dungeon appearances on the PS1 and has also headlined many other games, including the recent DS game Chocobo Tales.

The biggest difference between Chocobo's Dungeon and more established Roguelikes is that when you die, you keep your level and any items you had equipped. The only thing you’ll lose is unequipped items and money you’ve picked up on your travels.

Although some might scoff at such a change to the core Roguelike mechanic, the game is all the better for it, making it more accessible to those who were put off by Shiren's crippling difficulty. And although Chocobo's Dungeon is presented in a colourful fantasy wrapping, it still packs quite a punch.

The game centres around Chocobo and his treasure hunting friend Cid, who are magically transported to the town of Lostime, a place where the residents are losing their memories every time the town’s bell tolls. So it’s up to Chocobo to enter the dungeons of the residents’ minds and recover their lost memories.

All the staples of a good old-fashioned Roguelike are intact, including monster houses, devious traps, and cursed items. And just like in Shiren, you will die in many amusing ways. You'll also have to keep an eye on your hunger level, but luckily you can buy Gysahl Greens to fill you up.

Another nice addition is Chocobo's ability to change jobs. As you progress through the story, new job classes become available. I've just unlocked the Dragoon class, and I also have access to White Mage, Black Mage and Knight. Upon entering a dungeon, you have the chance to choose which job to use to tackle the dungeon. Each job can be levelled up, granting you access to bigger and better abilities and magic.

Square-Enix have also included a smattering of special dungeons to keep players on their toes and these are a definite highlight. Some take all your items away and reduce you back to lvl 1, while others give Chocobo one hit point to get through the dungeon. These are a nice diversion from the regular dungeon crawls.

While not plundering the depths of people’s minds and exploring locations such as the Mines, Chocobo is free to run around the town of Lostime. The town is the hub of the whole game, and from here there is plenty to keep you occupied.

You can upgrade your equipment and fuse items together to create powerful objects at the blacksmiths. For example, a copper item could rust, especially when fighting enemies with salt water attacks. However, if you fuse your Copper Talons with a set of Gold Talons, you end up with Copper Talons that will never rust. Each item can also be levelled up by paying the blacksmith money.

There is a storage facility in town, where you can keep your items and there is also a bank, where you can save all your hard-earned cash. The fun doesn't stop there either. You can go fishing, plant flowers, play a decent card battle game online and get your hands on other items, all from wandering about the town.

If you feel a bit under powered to tackle new dungeons, you can replay any dungeon you've cleared by visiting the local church. You can also get any items that have been cursed on your travels blessed here.

It's a cracking game and hats off to Square Enix for releasing this in the UK. With no word on Shiren 2 on DS or Shiren 3 on Wii getting western releases, this will certainly keep Roguelike fans happy.

For RPG lovers looking for a new challenge, or dungeon crawling novices, Chocobo’s Dungeon is well worth checking out.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Taiko no Tatsujin - Wii (Taiko Drum Master)

I posted a few months ago about the delights of Taiko Drum Master on DS. I still play it regularly and it remains fun, even when you've managed to complete all the songs.

The fact the series has never come to the West is a real pity. So when you see the latest version on Wii, you can't help feel disappointed that it will probably never come out here.

This version looks closer to the magnificent arcade game, and if the Wii was region free, this beauty would be top of my Christmas list. I mean, just look at it. Forget about Rock Band and Guitar Hero, this is what I want to be playing.

Come on, Namco. Release this over here. You know it makes sense.

Check out this Japanese guy showing off his stick skills. Awesome!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Shiren the Wanderer 2 - DS: More discoveries

Since yesterday I've put another three hours or so into our hardy samurai's adventure, so I though I'd post some more of my findings.

One of the big differences this time is that there only seems to be one village. Every time you clear a dungeon you come back to the starting village with all your items and money.

In town, many of the features will be familiar to Shiren players. You can upgrade weapons at the blacksmiths, visit the store to buy new items and equipment and you can also store all your valuables, safe from the dangers of the dungeons.

Shiren and Koppa at the village inn

However, there are a couple of new features in town. The first is a bank, which is an incredibly useful addition. Now you can save up for the more expensive items. The storekeeper is currently selling a sword for 15,000 gitans and it has an attack of 20 - very nice.

The second new feature is the arena. Here, you can beef yourself up before heading into the dungeon. The time you can spend here is limited, but when you first go in you can get to lvl 4/5 before the clock runs down. After your initial visit, it costs money to enter. The amount increases every time by 200 gitans, but it's definitely worth the cash

There are plenty of new items to be found when in the dungeon. Along with the warp scroll I mentioned before, there is also the wonderful Resurrection Scroll. If you are carrying this in your inventory, you'll be brought back to life on the same spot you died. I've only found one so far, so I assume they are quite rare.

Shiren reads a powerful scroll

Another interesting new feature is that if you equip a similar type of sword and shield, you receive a boost to your stats. I equipped a wooden club and a wooden shield on my travels. Along with getting the usual defensive boost from the shield, it also increased my attack from 2 to 5.

Some enemies will now turn into a trap when killed, which can be a pain, especially if you've killed them in a narrow corridor.

I've also noticed a lot of armbands lying around. However, be warned, armbands can now break, so enjoy them while they last. In the original Shiren on DS, I found a Happy Armband which granted you the ability to level up as you walked. Now, though, even if you have a fantastic armband, it will break, so you can no longer rely on them to see you through the whole game.

Pekeji - the fat one - returns

The most interesting one I've found so far is the No Hunger Armband. As you would expect, when wearing this little beauty, your hunger bar will not drop - very useful if you're out of rice balls.

Best item I've found so far is a Demon Shield. This has a defensive base stat of 14 and looks the business. It has a suitably ugly face, complete with red, lolling tongue!

Absolutely loving this, and although identifying items in Japanese is almost impossible, I've found a rough guide which translates a lot of the items. At least now I can tell the difference between a Herb of Confusion and a Medicinal Herb!

Also, take a look at the cover art. Absolutely brilliant, and a thousand times better than the western release of Shiren 1 on DS. All we need now is for Sega to translate Shiren 2 into English and release it over here soon.

There's also no word of a European release of Shiren 3 on Wii. It's been out in Japan for some time, but I doubt it will ever come out here. Rising Star games have been doing a sterling job releasing Japanese games in the West...I wonder if they would consider picking up Shiren on Wii... I can only hope.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Shiren the Wanderer 2 - DS

This morning, Shiren the Wanderer 2 on DS (Fushigi no Dungeon: Fuurai no Shiren DS 2 - Sabaku no Majou) dropped through my letterbox from Japan and I've put around an hour into it, so time for a few first impressions.

The first thing you'll notice is that this is much more story driven than the last game. The graphics have been polished up, and Shiren, the backgrounds and the monsters all have more detail.

The game starts with Shiren and his trusty sidekick Koppa wandering across the desert, when, crippled by fatigue, Shiren collapses. He is then found by guards and taken to a fortress in the sands, where he and Koppa are chained in a cell.

A princess then appears through a secret entrance, unlocks their shackles and flees.

Shiren is in the cells on the 6th floor and has to get to the first floor to escape. Without any items in his inventory, this series of dungeons involves a chasing pack of guards. Diagonal movement and careful avoidance of traps is key to getting out.

This serves as a brief tutorial about movement and, if you're careful, you'll escape from the fortress easily.

Then it's on to a nearby village, where Shiren meets up with his fat old chum from the first game - Pekeji. Yes, he's back and it doesn't take long for this troublesome character to convince Shiren that within the desert fortress, there is treasure to be found.

So off they set in the dead of night, and within a few paces of setting foot in the place, Pekeji falls down a pit. So Shiren and Koppa head off to find him.

Within the first dungeon, a few things become apparent. First is that underneath Shiren's health bar, there is a hunger bar. This is very useful, as before, you had to go into the menu screen to see how hungry Shiren was.

Also, along with creatures such as old favourites Mamels, there are new creatures, including a hog, who, after levelling up, killed me in one hit! It's good to see some things don't change.

Going back in the dungeon for a second time I found a scroll I didn't recognise. I read the scroll and was warped out of the dungeon and landed back in the village with all my items.

I haven't had a proper look around the village yet, but if there are storehouses, these scrolls could become incredibly useful for escaping from dungeons and storing valuable items.

So far, so good, but I'll post back on how my adventure is going.