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Old 11-22-2004, 08:11 PM   #61
Messanic
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Fall season impresions 2004

I was at my local Blockbuster earlier and started playing THUG2 for ps2, they had it on and I wanted try it out. Sady, skating games arent that awsome to me after playing Aggressive Inline, too bad Akklaim went under. The employee there agreed with me and said that it was one of Akklaims few good games, along with Turock 1+2 for the n64 and MK2.

The manager there then asked us what we thought of the games on display, they had SC2 running on the xbox, THUG2 on ps2, DKC2 for gba and the god awful Donkey Konga on the gcn. I said that Donkey Konga was ass and there were a few little kids there that agreed with me, yes it was that bad, read Paper's review. So the clerk switched the gcn and ps2 games with demo disc's, the gcn demo had everything but RE4, the game I wanted to play on the gcn demo the most. But at least there were other games worth playing on the gcn demo, or were they?

Veiwtiful Joe 2 - not impressed
I seriously take back all the stuff I Vert, you were right, nothing has changed, so why would I need VJ2? Simple, you get to play as Sylvia from the start and the graphics have improved, thats it. With that improved gfx, theres slowdown and lots of it, especially in SLOW, and playing as Joe. Yes, theres slowdown in the SLOW vfx power, fucked up ain't it? This game was more of the same, I just wanted the smooth 2 player action, Capcom didn't deliver and I feel no reason to buy this game when I own the first game.

Baten Kaitos - impressed
I may have to keep an eye out for this game, the card system isn't really a card system at all. The music and graphics are awsome, the game doesn't move at 60fps but the framerate seems to be capped at 45-50fps, which is the standard for most games nowadays. The voice acting is really bad though, sadly this isn't enough to make me buy a gcn, but all fun indeed. The battle system is turn based and fun too, yes thats right, Baten Kaitos is now in my hall of fame of fun turn based battle systems, with CT, XGRS, and VP.

Metroid Prime 2- not impressed
This game has the same problem VJ2 has, and it's a shame too. The controls are faster and a little more loose but theres really no point in anyone getting this game unless you don't own the first game.

Paper Mario 2 - hmm...
I'll have to play the full version of this game, the demo didn't really give me a good idea of what the game was about.

Mario Party 6 - Not impressed
You'd have to be an idiot to want Mario Party 6 after gettin duped with the third game. It's another Mario Party and the mini games arent that good like in the first and fourth games.

After finishing up the gcn demo I played the ps2 demo disc, there were only 2 games that were worth playing, since I have the other demos at home.

Megman X8 - impressed
I didn't want to play the game at first, but the clerk persuaded me to give it a chance, so I did. It's pretty good, the controls are tight and spot on just like X's ps1 outings and all the things that made MMX7 crap, bugs, camera angles, etc, are gone in the demo. Theres also a bit of challenge too, I also hope that they leave in the Japanese voices since the English voices for the US version were ass. Shotaro Morikubo, also isn't doing the voice of X in this game, it makes me sad too, oh well, I can hear him all I want in this season of Naruto.

Taiko Drum Master - impressed
There were only three songs in this demo, but these three songs made this demo better than the pos Namco calls Donkey Konga in the US. The game is surprisingly fun without the drums controller and drum sticks but I've also played the import at a convention earlier this year, so I already knew the game series was awsome. The US version shines in this demo and if I can't fint it, I'll probably just buy this and some other ps2 games if I can't get my ds on Friday.

The ds games were also in and I actually got to play the ds at work today, one of my buddies was playing it in the break room and he let me play. Those screenies don't do the ds justice, Mario DS looks way better than the n64 version. Now back to BBV, some ******* bought 3 ds' and they just sold the last one today, they had four and they probably wont get any in until next year. ****, Friday is after Thanksgiving too, that really blows, in fact, that sucks and blows.
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Old 11-22-2004, 09:59 PM   #62
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Messanic
the graphics have improved, thats it. With that improved gfx, theres slowdown and lots of it
The only slow-down I encountered was when I was attacking the enemies normally without using any VFX powers. There is no major slow-down in VJ2 in the demo with RE4. Sylvia for some reason cannot punch but shoot a gun. I blame PS2's incompetence for any problems with VJ2.

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I just wanted the smooth 2 player action, Capcom didn't deliver
Come up with a tangible concept of how co-op in VJ would work & be fun/retain the VJ formula than you can whine.

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The voice acting is really bad though, sadly this isn't enough to make me buy a gcn
This is Chrono Cross 2. The long awaited sequel of your dreams. Yet voices that can be turned off deter you from picking up this greatness? Shame on you.

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no point in anyone getting this game unless you don't own the first game.
I wouldn't say that. Prime2 offers more challenge and continues the Metroid story.

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I'll have to play the full version of this game, the demo didn't really give me a good idea of what the game was about.
I did not like the Paper Mario:TTYD demo at all. This game is worth picking up after I read some of the humor and Icarus' review score.

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You'd have to be an idiot to want Mario Party 6 after gettin duped with the third game
The microphone and faster board speed have me interested. I've never bought a Mario Party game...

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better than the pos Namco calls Donkey Konga in the US
Play Donkey Konga on Gorilla or with friends and tell me it's pos. Until than you're only kidding yourself.

Get your hands on RE4 immediately and you will buy GC or steal the one that's got the demo inside.

Last edited by Vert1; 11-22-2004 at 10:03 PM.
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Old 11-22-2004, 11:01 PM   #63
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Vert, I played the gcn version of VJ2, not the ps2 version. No, Baten Kaitos or RE4 arent enough for me to get a cube, but the Nintendo games are. Thus the gcn is the last thing on my 'to buy' list for games. I also didn't like Chrono Cross that much, Chrono Trigger is a far superior game, graphics, gameplay, sound and plot, CC still had some pretty visuals though. Next, BK isn't CC2, infact, that game reminds me of Legend of Dragoon for ps1, good game but you knew what they were aiming for and it wasn't happening. The US version of DKonga still is ass, the songs suck so bad that the ****ty DDR and DS mixes in the US and UK put it to shame. My advice Vert, import the Japanese version of DKonga 1+2 and play those with your friends until then, your kidding yourself. As for VJ2, it is not a bad game by any means, it's just not worth purchasing if you have VJ which is half the price on both ps2 and gcn.
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Old 11-23-2004, 12:06 AM   #64
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Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter

Nobody really liked this game, but if you hated this and liked Megaman X: Command Mission, your an idiot. Why, becuase thier made by the same team. But why do people hat BoF5 so much? Simple, the difficulty, amd restraints. I'll show you what I mean.

Story - 8
You are Ryu(duh), your d-ratio is 1/8705, or something like that. This is a time in the very bleak future where the place known as the sky is non existant. Your job is to to deliver a packge while being accompanied by your buddy Bosch, little did you know that the package you were transporting would bring about a big adventure. Now it's Ryu's job to bring Nina to the 'surface.' Theres only four characters to play as in this game as opposed to BoF's 8+(counting transformations). Either way these four will more than make you feel welcome in thier worlds and thier lives.

Graphics - 10
Jeesus! The graphics in this game crazy, it's cel shaded and theres an fmv at the beginning of the game that really shows some of the games' prowess. I love the art style for this game too. The characters are modeled well and definitely fit the dark tone of the game. What gets me is that this game is a mature rated game in Japan yet over here it is completley unedited and it's rated Teen. Why do I say this, well it says partial nudity on the back of the box, and you will see all of the partial nudity there is once you get Nina. The perv that designed Nina's model must really enjoy kiddy porn cause her dress is see through, so you can literally see everything, the tatoos, crotch lines, ass crack, the whole shibang. The crazy part was that my mom was the one that pointed this out, and only then did I notice so it's a plus for being articulate but I also think it's kinda disgusting. This game looks awsome and for Bemani I'm sure it looks even better.

Sound - 9
This game has an awsome ost as well, it fits the tone of the game well, athough the game isn't as good as BoF3's ost it's still high up on awsome game music. As usual theres multiple battle and boss themes, theres also voice overs. Ryu still grunts and moans like in the older games and Nina does the same, the only person that really talks is Lin.

Gameplay - 8
For a game so fun, it has some srious flaws. By that I mean that this game is hard as hell. You are limited to the amount of time that you can save and you can only save with a save token or quit out, which when you load your game, your quick save data will be lost obviously. So you'll be playing this game for say, 2 1/2 hours without being able to save. The battle sytem is turn based and tactical, and you really have to play all the battles with extreme tactics and caution, an ambush, or wrong move can cost you a whole 2 hours of gameplay. You have a circle around you and the same for your enemies, this is your range of movement. Depending on where you are will effect your what abilities you can use, you can have up to double the aamount of ap you start off with in battle.You can do this by finishing a turn and as soon as you finish attacking or what have you. You can however, use any of your attacks indefinitely in the game, but you need the ap to do so. You can also use as many items as you like in battle, along with setting traps and bait before battle so you can get the upperhand.

The battles take place in the same area but not the same area, by that I mean wherever you attack an enemy, if it's a place where you can get them but they can't run or get you the better, some parts may be cut off. You also can't run unless theres a door nearby. I also said, if you lose though it's game over, you can however, restart from your old save with all your party experience, party experience is similar to the experience orbs in Valkyrie Prifile. You use the experience from previous battles and add it to a party members so if thier too weak you can give them an extra level or two. But if you start over without beating the game then it's like taking one step forward and two steps back. So chhose wisely how you want to go about beating the game. Your D-ratio will also get lower as you continue to beat the game. The better you play through the easier it'll be the next time you play.

You also have a D-counter, this little cube shows up after Ryu turns into a dragon for the first time. You learn how to D-dash, by holding R2 and you can also D-dive. The problem is that whenever you use the D-dive you wind up in more trouble since it dramatically increases your D-counter, and when the D-counter reaches 100%, you die. No really, it's game over, there are also no healing spells, not one. But your party is good for fighting of course, Nina is good at magic and setting traps, Lin is good at ranged fighting, and Ryu is good at close range.

Difficulty - 8
This is a hard ass game and I commend Capcom for making a tactical rpg where I'm required to think no matter what level my characters are at. Although the limits that are put on you really suck when in very sticky stituations.

Replay - 9
This game has a new game plus feature and thees a lot plot for people to play through, the only bad thing is that you have to beat the game several times to get such awsome exra's.

Overall - 8.7
This is a great game despite the restrictive flaws, but thats what makes it so fun. This game is like $10 brand new antwhere. My suggestion is that like ICO, people should go out and buy it.
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Old 11-23-2004, 01:38 AM   #65
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I'd say that Metroid Prime 2 is a good game but not the improvement I was hoping for.
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Old 11-23-2004, 06:00 PM   #66
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Vert, I played the gcn version of VJ2, not the ps2 version. No, Baten Kaitos or RE4 arent enough for me to get a cube, but the Nintendo games are. Thus the gcn is the last thing on my 'to buy' list for games. I also didn't like Chrono Cross that much, Chrono Trigger is a far superior game, graphics, gameplay, sound and plot, CC still had some pretty visuals though. Next, BK isn't CC2, infact, that game reminds me of Legend of Dragoon for ps1, good game but you knew what they were aiming for and it wasn't happening. The US version of DKonga still is ass, the songs suck so bad that the ****ty DDR and DS mixes in the US and UK put it to shame. My advice Vert, import the Japanese version of DKonga 1+2 and play those with your friends until then, your kidding yourself. As for VJ2, it is not a bad game by any means, it's just not worth purchasing if you have VJ which is half the price on both ps2 and gcn.
Actually it isn't technically Chrono Cross2 but that's what people call it. VJ2 was held back because Capcom had to struggle with the inferior PS2 hardware.

As for Donkey Konga in the US I have lots of fun playing it with my friends and by myself. Importing the Japanese version is a grand idea though.
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Old 11-24-2004, 08:34 PM   #67
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Breath of Fire III

Back in 1997, when Capcom was a much more awsome game developer, Breath of Fire III hit store shelves, and it hit hard and fast. I was never able to actually finnd this game anywhere but Blockbuster, it was a good thing too since, Breath of Fire III is the best in the series. I rented the hell out of this game, and then I moved, so even thought I now had a blockbuster within walking distance, I couldn't rent it as the game was always rented out. Luckily my buddy bought a copy and was able to borrow it from him, but he lost his copy as soon as I brought it back to him. So I was forced to buy the game as soon as I had the chance, it didn't occur to me that all I had to do was buy it from Capcom's webpage. I'm still currently playing it and the fourth and fifth installments too, but out of all three, this is the one that I've been playing the most.

Story - 9
Once again, you are Ryu, you have just awakened or rather been disturbed from your long sleep incased in chrysm. As the only survivor of a legendary dragon clan, you embark on an adventure to discover your roots and find the people responsible for your clan's extermination. Ryu once again says nothing at all, and lets the supporting cast do all the talking. The story is pretty straight forward on the lines of a shounen manga. The hero starts off as a little kid, meets new people, gets trained by 'Masters,' learns to cotrol his 'power' and eventually grows a little older. If this game were a manga I would read it all day.

Graphics - 9
The graohics in this game rule, theres 2d characters on an isometric 3d grid. Sadly the camera angle is stuck in a 45 degree angle. The characters and spells are beutifully animated and have a lot of frames in thier animations. The spells are also in 3d and some of the dragons are crazy awsome.

Sound - 10
The best ost in the series, the forest music is a little questionable though and anyone that has played CT will see my point after playing this game. This game also has voice overs, Ryu and Nina are so cute as little kids and when they grow up, thier voices are still high pitched. Rei has the same voice no matter what as does Momo, Peco, and Garr. The monsters sound like monsters of course and so on and so forth.

Gameplay - 7
One of the perks about the BoF series is the ability to turn into a dragon, sadly Ryu is the only one that has this ability. Throughout the game you get Dragon Genes, these will determine what type of dragon you can turn into and the stats he has. You can select up to 3 genes but the more you select the more ap it costs, the Ryu in this game also isn't as overpowered as the Ryu in BoFII, not like it matters as the series is know for being hard as hell. There are extra skills that you can learn from enemies but who would want to, as some of the skills that you learn from can be learned from Masters.

Masters arent like the Shamans in the second outing, these guys simply effect your stats when you level up and they also effect the abilities you learn. My advice is not to try and make super offensive characters awsome magic users, it only screws your character development. Some masters also have prerequesites, now as for the enemy skills, I do however recommend having Ryu learn the "Influence" skill from the boss goblin in the beginning of the game, you'll see why it's needed. There monsters also make this really annoying sound when you take 0hp or miss, and it happents often, the monsters are fast not well armored.

This part is sort of a pain in the ass too since all the monsters you meet will dodge your attack at least 8 times no matter how powerful or fast you are. The series was always about making the right moves at the right time and using a certain pattern anyway. You can also go fishing, and random encounts arent on the world map, but rather when your walking on the map a "!" appears over your head. When it does press X and you'll be taken to an open area where you can walk around and get into fights. There are always items to be found on these maps and when you get them, you can leave, camp and do it again. When your characters are killed in battle and not revived until after, thier hp max goes down and stays that way until you sleep in an inn. I think that pretty much sums up the gameplay.

Difficulty - 10
This game is hard, it is however still beatable, you just have to level up a lot. Usually people can beat BoF games barely making it to level 35, but I really don't think that it's possible for this game. I was at level 55, in what I hope was the last dungeon, and seriously got my ass kicked left and right. The random encount was also a bitch and they kept giving me the same powerful monster over and over again. I wonder what the last boss is like...

Replay - 9
I've restarted this game several times and I still havent beat it, but I havent had even the slightest feeling of obligation. I know that theres still masters left to learn from and skills to learn and places to go, I don't think that theres much of anything in the realm of sidequesting, but this game is like reading a book to me(technically it is). I just keep reading and I can't put it down.

Overall - 9
My love for this game is like diarhea, I just can't hold it in. Do yourselves a favor and play this game, it's better than some of the rpg's before it and especially better than some of the games out now. This was one of the best games from Capcom and I've also said, the best in the series.
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Old 11-25-2004, 01:06 AM   #68
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Messanic ~ "The best ost in the series, the forest music is a little questionable though and anyone that has played CT will see my point after playing this game."

Yes, it's true that it sounds very similar to CT's Secret of the Forest. Plagarism?
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Old 11-25-2004, 01:19 AM   #69
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I think so, but I kinda failed to mention that the battle system was remeniscent of Super Mario RPG's which that battle system was Lufia 2's battle system. Wait, maybe thats why I didn't mention it. Hell, I think I'll review Lufia 2 now.
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Old 11-25-2004, 01:43 AM   #70
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Umm, actually, Breath of Fire's battle system is the same as it was on the SNES, and the previous installments came out well before Super Mario RPG which was near the end of the console's lifespan.
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Old 11-25-2004, 04:33 AM   #71
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calling baten kaitos chrono cross 2 is very stupid. those who say this need to be slapped.
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Old 11-25-2004, 05:07 AM   #72
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I feel important.. im posting in a personal ratings thread... not that i care... only get to get my name in every post. hahaha im diabolical
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Old 11-25-2004, 07:31 AM   #73
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I bought Breath of Fire 3 but,after 2 or 3 months the game disappeared
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Old 11-26-2004, 02:07 AM   #74
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calling baten kaitos chrono cross 2 is very stupid. those who say this need to be slapped.
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What a long strange trip it?s been with Baten Kaitos?I?ve gone from hating the game to loving it, back to hating it, then loving it, and finally settled in the nice little position I?m in now. Likewise, my review of the game had a similar progression and hence what you are about to read is the product of quite a lengthy process. Make no mistake, had I submitted my original review shortly after the game came out, it would have been a seething attack at Namco?s Monolith Software. Now however, I?ve reached a more Zen like state and hence with that, the review:

If Monolith Software deserves any kind of praise for Baten Kaitos, it should be for the immaculate degree to which it succeeded in emulating any number of recent RPGs, though Chrono Cross pushes ahead of the selected material by far. In fact, *so* much does Baten Kaitos (BK) resemble Square?s million selling hit, that I?ve actually questioned if it?s not directly related. Everything from the game?s look, musical score, concepts, and even plot (at times) reeks of a Square game. Funny thing is, however, with Square currently making so few games of proper refinement, it?s actually quite rewarding to play something ?modeled? after their best work: it?s not unlike the Xenogears/Xenosaga issue and, as with Monolith?s initial sortie, the end result proves to be something vastly superior to the inspiration.

The Sheer Beauty of It All
Without a doubt, the first thing any gamer will pick up on is the incredible graphics cavorting around their television screen. I?m wholly convinced that BK is hands down the most beautiful game ever created; it goes light years beyond anything produced on the PS2, including anything published by Square. If video gaming could be likened to a spectrum of televisions, Crash Bandicoot would represent the old, crappy analog boxes, Final Fantasy the impressive plasma sets, and BK the all out high end flat-screen HDTV complete with DVI hookup. Many gamers are quick to note that despite the higher processing power of its competition, the Gamecube seemingly has the most impressive graphics of them all, at least when its programmers know how to do their job correctly. BK is unlike any game you?ve ever seen before, even surpassing Square?s own Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles or Nintendo?s Zelda. It isn?t just an eye-candy paradise; it?s an all out visual experience: Every single area in the game looks like a vibrant painting come to life, complete with real time effects such as pillowing smoke, moving clouds, blowing wind, playing animals, rolling leaves?you name it and this game depicts it. If you can imagine, for a second, how impressive Chrono Trigger looked on the Super Famicom. Now think back to how blown away you were at seeing Chrono Cross (after accepting that the characters were just as good without Toryiama?s design) and especially upon reaching the world map. Well, BK is the same way only even more so, and the true beauty is ?world map quality? only used everywhere. It?s literally as if Monolith Software took Chrono Cross, started off by redesigning the game using 128-Bit capabilities, and then refined it 1000%. (Mind you, of course, this should not be surprising considering that Monolith IS composed of ex-Square employees, many of whom made the esteemed Chrono games). It?s simply put, resplendent.

Oddly enough however, for a game that looks as pretty as this one, for a game whose inspiration is anything under the Square umbrella, for a game whose developer?s last work was chock full o? FMV, Baten Kaitos doesn?t have any, save for the introduction. In much the same way the intro to Chrono Cross worked, so too does BK?s: it is a montage of scenes from the game, depicted in FMV and in a rather strange move with English language dialogue. The FMV itself is just as wonderful as the game?s graphics, and I will admit that it was somewhat disappointing not to see more of it.

A Strange Ways We Come
Gameplay wise, Baten Kaitos is unlike anything you?ve played, most likely. Well, it was unlike anything *I* had ever played at least. Personally, I hate card games; I never got into Magic the Gathering (or any of the cash ins), I don?t like Yugi-Oh. I just don?t ?get? it, and this has translated similarly with my video game experiences. I never even bothered to pick up the Rune series (Lost Kingdoms in the USA) out of sheer dislike over anything dealing with cards. Thus for me, Baten Kaitos was really the first game of its kind I?ve ever played, and hence unfortunately my commentary may not be as helpful as that of someone familiar with this RPG genre offshoot. BK?s gameplay just plain surprised me, both in terms of how fun it could be, and how refreshing it is. So many people, myself included, rant about how RPGs now adays use the same hackneyed ideas over and over and over. Really we have ourselves to blame, as what do companies think when a game like Final Fantasy VII becomes the poster child for an entire genre? Competition take note of what sells, and make appropriate changes/decisions. Thus it was to my utter surprise that BK would take such a radically different path.

As hinted at, everything revolves around cards, which the game in turn names ?Magnus?. These little pieces of paper have usages both in battle and out. Basically the game works like this: Players guide the avatar (the main character, named Kalas) around the various locations, be them towns, world maps, or dungeons. In towns, you can speak to villagers, interact with scenery, find hidden Magnus, or engage in side quests (more on this amazing tangent shortly). The world map functions much like that of the Chrono series: a giant ?painting? of sorts which players simply move their character(s) from one location to the next, no battles occur. In dungeons players can fight monsters which thankfully appear ON screen, solve puzzles, interact with the environments, etc. The ultimate goal of course being to kill the boss at the end/solve the problem at hand so as to allow progression of the story.

World In The World
One of the most impressive aspects of Baten Kaitos is that the game is not confined to just one area. Rather, it encompasses multiple worlds and hence you can be sure that just when the setting begins to get stale, a new one will open up for further plot expansion. It goes without saying that far too many games (most of them non-RPGs however) feature a single area to explore and hence never broaden their surroundings.

Town and Country
Aside from the sheer beauty of the towns themselves (each has its own look to boot), much of the game?s story and dialogue occur here. Players will, as with any RPG, talk to inhabitants to gain insight as to what to do next, meet new people, seek support, buy supplies, and more. Careful surveillance and exploration will undoubtedly yield a number of hidden Magnus cards for your collection. In towns, you will also undertake an impressive variety of sub-quests, some of which may or may not involve going to dungeons or other towns and places to accomplish, more on this later.

Dungeon Master
Personally, I feel the term ?dungeon? is inappropriate for a game like this one. The term conjures up images of dark, dank places and what you find is anything but as there are forests, mansions, and even clouds. Anyway, as mentioned previously all the monsters are visible on screen, so the player never has to engage in a battle they don?t want to. For the most part, there is a single objective which must be accomplished in each dungeon, usually killing a boss to obtain a necessary item or gain access to the next location. It is here that the brilliant battle system comes into play:

Crazy Cards, Multiple Magnus
Once a player makes contact with a monster on the field, the game will enter the battle mode, which is for the most part turn based, though there is an active time element factored in as well. Using a variety of Magnus which the player can freely pick and choose at any time when NOT in battle, a fixed number of random cards will appear for selection. Players can either use offensive Magnus to attack the enemies, or use defensive/supportive ones to aid their party; the catch is that only one type of action can be carried out each turn: If you want to attack a monster, it is impossible to suddenly opt to heal during the sequence as doing such will benefit the opponent, not you. When the game begins, you may only use a scant few cards per turn but as you level up (explained later on) you will eventually get to utilize a much larger number of Magnus at once.

Attacking works via a dynamic combo system: Each Magnus has a number assigned to it (starting with the Roman Numeral ?I?) and such denotes their power level. The catch here is that you can?t downgrade the level, only increase it. Thus if your first selection is a Level I card, you may then select a Level II or III (etc) card to follow it up and so on. You may not, however, begin with a Level III card and then expect to move down to a Level I follow up. ?Why would one even want to use lower power cards?? you might be asking. Well, because using a wide variety of Magnus is the only way to initiate the powerful combo attacks which your characters can use. There is also an elemental affiliation associated with most cards, and hence this factors in to create even more strategy based game play. Then factor in the use of voice Magnus, special Magnus, and even more unique cards and you have quite a deep system.

Furthermore, numbers work in an entirely new way in BK. While each attack does X damage or recovers X HP to a monster/character, it is not until the end of the turn that the numbers are tallied, literally. After each turn there will be a Battle Results screen that lists damage dealt, damage recovered, extra percentages (as using certain combinations yields in added % to the results of the action), etc. I might also mention that this screen is the only form of a ?Pause? feature available in battle.

There are quite a number of other dimensions of battle, however I will deal with them later on in the review. Now I turn to leveling up. Leveling up occurs in a way quite different than in other RPGs. You don?t actually accomplish it by fighting (though it?s still integral to the process), but instead by visiting a save point and warping to a sort of church, then praying with the Priest to actually go about the growth. There are two different options when it comes to leveling up, one is for your character?s statistic levels (Strength, HP, Evade, etc) and the other for their growth level (the number of Magnus they can hold, use per turn, etc). Normal leveling up can be accomplished by killing monsters like any other RPG, but leveling up your growth level, as with Chrono Cross, requires the accomplishment of a special event, usually killing a powerful boss. This ensures that players don?t just sit around fighting battle after battle and gain too much power, as the game emphasizes Magnus use just as highly as it does individual statistic levels.

Over Time
By far one of the most creative aspects of Baten Kaitos is its use of time to radically affect the game. Time determines both the legitimacy of your Magnus as well as the amount of money you can receive. Let?s say you get a new Magnus; it?s a Banana and is used for healing. After enough time, the banana will begin to spoil, decreasing its health restorative potential. Given enough time, the fruit will be rotten and actually cause health damage should it be used. Sometimes however, allowing Magnus to age will actually prove beneficial as it may unlock new Magnus or new combination usage potential.

Money is something you can never have enough of, as they say, but unlike all the other RPGs where monsters apparently carry purses, you have to earn money in BK, but it?s not what you think: in order to make money, you need to take pictures. Yes, that?s right, pictures. There is a Magnus ?camera?, to put it bluntly, and it must be in your active cards so that when it comes up in battle, you can snap a picture of the opposing force. Whereas a normal monster won?t fetch much, a ferocious boss sure will. But then again, your gain is a direct product of time. If you take a picture, then quickly run to sell it off, you may find to your chagrin that the snapshot is still developing and hence you will need to wait until the picture comes into focus before selling it. (To note you can sell it early, but doing so won?t earn you nearly as much). Furthermore, the longer you wait to sell a picture, the more money you can get from it. While a recent boss shot may earn you a hefty sum of money in the thousands, wait enough time and the picture will become ?rare?, providing tens of thousands (if not more) in compensation when you finally opt to sell it.

More For Your Money
Since Square released Final Fantasy VII, seemingly every RPG developer now feels obligated to include mini-games/side quests in their releases as well. Unfortunately, many times these additions feel like last minute implementations and hence are badly used, poorly executed, or just plain un-fun and annoying. In far too many circumstances (especially pertaining to side quests), the event feels to artificial and out of place, that the player actually looses sight of the ultimate goal of the game. Fortunately, Baten Kaitos? takes a different perspective on the realm of side-questing, four of them, actually:

1. Honoring Your Heritage: Early on in the game, an older man will give Kalas a scroll and ask him to complete it by finding the dispersed members of his family and thus recreate his family tree. From then on, gamers must pay attention to clues from NPC (non-player characters) to try and figure out which one of them are in some way related to the old man. While such a bland side-quest/mini game may be viewed as just that, it?s actually quite fun to partake in (and is completely optional as are the other two main ones) and definitely a refreshing splash from the boring nature of stamp collecting or item finding game-long quests which so many other RPGs make use of.

2. Sea Of Stars: Aside from leveling up at ?church?, players may also opt to engage in the task of recreating the constellation map. Earned/found at various points in the game, players will receive a part (or whole) constellation image which, when taken to church, will result in the placing it in the night sky. What more, the ?minister? charged with assisting in the task will reward you along the way.
continued...
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Old 11-26-2004, 02:08 AM   #75
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3. An Apple A Day?: or an Orange, or a Bannana, or Milk, or a Flower, or even a Stone. Baten Kaitos? main fetch quests occur in a manner quite a bit more involved than any other RPG to date (at least that I can recall). Mainly in towns but occasionally elsewhere, NPCs will ask Kalas for a favor. To use the most basic example, say someone wants an apple. Early on, Kalas receives a scroll with 5 blank Magnus capture cards to use in these quests. Thus, you must locate an apple and capture it in Magnus form (think of it like taking a picture), then bring it back to the individual who requested it for a reward. There are an enormous number of side quest fetching missions like this (some required to complete the game, most not) and with that, an endless wealth of potential pick-ups.

4. Dungeon Nepotism: Directly related to the previous side-quest topic, many of the dungeons have hidden secrets or necessary tasks which the player can/must solve with the Magnus capture card feature. It can be anything from putting out a fire with a vile of water to patching a ?hole? in a path with a piece of cloud. Whatever the case may be, dungeons are most definitely favored in terms of using Magnus.

Sour Spots
Unfortunately, one of the few areas where Baten Kaitos takes a dive is in its stanch linearity: Unlike ?inspiration? Chrono Cross, the events in BK play out in a much more Final Fantasy X like fashion, and hence the player feels like they are on a set of train tracks, capable of looking out at the surroundings but not getting off to explore them. The world maps, while quite large, are really nothing more than a bunch of pretty images, as you can never fully explore them, rather only enter the locations which the game chooses.

Another major issue with BK is the battle system; while I?ve gone to great lengths at explaining how innovative and refreshing it is, there is a dark side as well: battles take far, far too long to finish. While those more inclined towards simulation games may in fact relish drawn out skirmishes, I however, do not. To be honest, an active time battle system the likes of which Final Fantasy X-2 featured (frantically fast paced) is more my cup of tea. Note that it?s not so much I want battles to consist of button mashing or lackluster experiences, but rather after fighting enough times, one gets a bit fed up with it all. I?m well aware this is a personal opinion however, and thus let me try to explain my complaint.

1. Because each and every battle makes 100% use of Magnus, each battle is therefore a little strategy game type venture in and of itself. This eventually gets quite tiring when it becomes impossible to kill a modest critter without spending at least a full minute in battle. While, given the nature of the game, it?s definitely acceptable to expect a five-or-so minute boss battle, there is just no reason why each and every single battle must become a chore. For example, if you haphazardly select cards, the end result may be such that the monster does not die with your first character?s attack. Thus you now have to repeat the process with the second character and hope it dies. If not, then the third, etc. The alternative is to take each battle seriously, and use efficient combo attacks. Well, then you have an issue whereby the game becomes similar to Final Fantasy VII and VIII: the player must sit and watch the attack play out each and every time you use it. Sure the combos are fun, but they get just plain boring when you?re forced to deal them out (and then watch them) EVERY time you fight a monster.

2. The concept of single-type battle actions causes much aggravation. It is just plain annoying when your characters are low on life and hence every action becomes critical: you need to kill the monsters ASAP, however you also need to heal your team ASAP. Because of the game?s action implementation however, you can only do one thing per character per turn. Thus if you have the first character attack, he is therefore unable to heal. Should the opponent have higher agility than your second character, it may very well kill him/her and make the situation even graver. While this all makes sense given the combo-laced nature of the gameplay, it is a feature which nonetheless does not work well. Directly related to this issue is that the healing and attacking items do not have separate selection stocks. If you choose to attack the monster and do so indifferently, it?s quite possible to accidentally select a health restorative item and UNDO your damage by healing it.

Related to that last issue is Baten Kaitos? use of real time reactions once you begin an attack/defense sequence. Once you attack an opponent, it will then (via the game?s AI) select any number of defense Magnus from its own deck to lessen your blows. Likewise, when it comes time for a monster to attack your characters, its up to you to select the defensive Magnus, also in real time. In many cases, the monsters begin their assault far before the player can even react, and thus blow one connects entirely. The player must actively select the best card from their (randomly selected) defense Magnus and fend off/parry each attack.

Another timing issue revolves around that of timing-out. While you have all day to decide what to do before acting, once you select the first Magnus you must then quickly select the next one, then the next one (etc) otherwise your turn will end early. The same goes when defending against attacks. The problem is that there is very little chance for the player to make tactical decisions as to which cards/combinations to use and thus mistakes can be made; in the end it boils down to memorizing the Magnus cards in your deck.

3. While I appreciate Monolith?s thinking in terms of the Deck Reshuffle concept, it?s yet another feature that really doesn?t work in the end, mainly because of how annoying it becomes. If you?re facing a difficult monster, or especially a boss, it is not uncommon to have to reshuffle the deck one, two, or even three times. Reshuffling becomes especially annoying in that it takes away your character?s turn for that round of combat. True, monsters are bound by the same rules, but the process is annoying nonetheless. I understand why reshuffling is logically necessary, but I just don?t like it. Similar to this is the issue of random cards. Again, logically it makes sense but when you must waste an entire turn simply because there are no appropriate cards to use, things become quite taxing on the player, especially if you desperately need to heal and don?t get the proper Magnus.

Excessive Chatting
BK tragically suffers from the same illness that befouled Xenosaga: the fatal condition of prolix cut scenes. While thankfully not on par with the 20 minute ?run to the bathroom-make dinner-read a book? variety the likes of which dominated Monolith?s previous game, BK is not without its share of 5-10 minute cut scenes, rendering the player a lifeless drone as they sit and listen to dialogue, push button to advance it, and listen to some more. Worse yet, the babble in BK isn?t anywhere near as interesting as the neo-science jargon featured in Xenosaga. Not to say it?s boring mind you, but at least the Namco ?Episode 1? played up its astrophysics setting quite nicely. I commend Monolith for toning it down, but they still need to try a bit harder.

Serge and Kid?s Further Adventures
Anyone who played Square?s Chrono Cross will no doubt have numerous bouts of ?Been There, Done That? syndrome. While the overall plot of Baten Kaitos is different from Chrono, many of the events themselves are not. Take, for example, the adventures contained on the game?s first continent: Hero Kalas begins the game by running to a beach-type area to complete a task for someone. Afterwards, he then traverses through a mountain pass, and subsequently enters a giant, sprawling town. Kalas then needs to get something important, and hence finds himself using an old waterway to sneak into a large mansion on the outskirts of the town. In this mansion, many new characters are encountered and riddles posed, the adventure ultimately culminating in a showdown at the top floor and a ?shocking? ending. Odd really, as I basically described the first two hours of Chrono Cross just without the parallel universe concept included. In fact, it?s quite surprising that Square hasn?t thrown a lawsuit on Monolith/Namco for doing something this extraordinarily similar. While the entire game is far from a rehash of Square?s title, there are nonetheless many future events as well which resemble Chrono Cross far too much. Granted Baten Kaitos tries to spice things up with altered specifics, and granted that the plot twists and such are still fun to experience, but at the same time it?s not exactly treading innovative ground.

Otherwise Known As: Chrono Cross 2+
In the end, what more can be said about Baten Kaitos? It?s as if Monolith Soft took the best elements of Chrono (perhaps at times a bit too literally) to make a new game, then decided to add 100% more content to it, complete with an all new battle system. The game defies expectations, and provides what can only be described as one of the most creative and well-spend playing experiences that the Nintendo Gamecube has to offer. It is a shame that more companies can not produce games on par with this one, as such would indeed spell the demise of the proverbial ?Bargain Bin?. Oddly enough, Baten Kaitos did not meet Namco?s sales expectations in Japan (a problem no doubt related to the Gamecube?s less than phenomenal success in its country of origin) and hence the possibility of a sequel, or even a similarly creative game thus becomes a questionable one. What?s more, as of my writing this, Namco has yet to officially announce BK for overseas markets (though every other gaming website would claim otherwise) and hence may remain confined to the realm of Japan for all eternity. Regardless of what happens, Chrono fans, card game fans, RPG fans; basically anyone who likes entertaining and creative products should make a point of playing Baten Kaitos; gaming gold like this comes along seemingly only once per console, and it would be a true shame to miss cashing in on it.
You can be quiet now, Gearhound.
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