noiseredux vs.

Posted on Jul 8th 2013 at 08:44:29 PM by (noiseredux)
Posted under PSP




If you happened to read my recent blog post about my playthrough of the first Final Fantasy on PSP, then you'd probably know that I was extremely excited to continue on with the second game. Strangely, I got all kinds of warnings from folks. "Just skip that one... trust me" kind of stuff. But I shook it off. I'm the type of gamer that tends to look for what's good in any game I play, and often am able to find enjoyment in plenty of games that others would just rather not waste time on. Surely I could find some fun in Final Fantasy II - especially a great looking remake like this one! Right?




Well I was right about one thing... it does look great. Much like the first remake, Final Fantasy II looks amazing on PSP. These new sprites and backgrounds in widescreen are really breath-taking and I think sort of what we all imagined our SNES RPG's looked like back in the day. Likewise, the re-recorded soundtrack is excellent. Unfortunately that's where most of my kind-words for this game stop.

Many of you are probably already versed in Final Fantasy II and its extremely flawed leveling system. And though I had heard about it beforehand, I don't think I was prepared for how tedious this really made the game. Rather than just leveling up your characters through experience, everything has to be individually leveled. Your weapons, your spells, your Hit Points... everything. You want to be tougher? You need to take a bunch of damage. You want to cast an effective spell? You better cast it a lot.




Of course there's 'workarounds' but they suck. Basically you can do things like constantly beat up your own party on purpose or cast spells and then cancel them before your turn is over. I didn't even bother with any of that. Truth be told, breaking the game truly broke the experience for me altogether. Instead, I attempted to play it straight, and ultimately that just broke my spirit to continue.

After two or three hours of my weak party walking between two towns, I was just about ready to throw in the towel. I figured I'd take a look a guide though. This right here shows the difference between Final Fantasy I and II. For the most part, I never really had issues figuring out how to progress my journey in the first game. But here I was, still in the earliest section of II and was baffled. The guide told me how to get Minwu the White Mage to join my party. So I tried that, and he wouldn't join. I back-read the guide to make sure I had done everything I was supposed to and as far as I could tell I had. I checked another guide, same thing. Tried again and Minwu wasn't having it.

So I shut the game off in disgust. Even if I could figure out what I was doing wrong and got Minwu to join my party at this point, I wouldn't want to. Final Fantasy II seems one of the most poorly executed RPG's I've ever attempted. This coming from a guy who could appreciate the limitations of item-usage in Riviera The Promised Land! I think perhaps if Final Fantasy II could have been remade with a completely re-vamped (and more traditional) leveling-up system, it could be a game worth diving back into. But in its original form it will remain just a curio to me. I think it's time I start looking for Final Fantasy III instead.



Posted on Jun 13th 2013 at 07:46:50 PM by (noiseredux)
Posted under PSP




I have considered myself a fan of the Final Fantasy series since right around the time that the very first game hit Western shores. Though in my fuzzy memories I can't quite recall if it was Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior that was my first RPG experience, I'm guessing it was the former since that's the series I ultimately felt more connected to over the years. To elaborate, I'd at least call myself more than just a casual fan of the series. I've played nearly every numbered installment - including sequels. I've played many of the spin-off's (Adventure, all three Legend games, Crystal Chronicles, Tactics, Tactics Advanced, Mystic Quest, etc). Hell, in many cases I've even played multiple ports of the same game - for example this first game which I've experienced on NES, GBA and PS1 before picking up this PSP port. And yet here comes the shocker: I've never actually finished a Final Fantasy game. Seriously. Two decades or so of playing these games and I had never watched the credits roll on a single one of them.
 
Whereas some gamers seem to feel a certain compulsion to beat every game they play, I've never really been that way myself. When I know I've got limited time for gaming to fit within my life, that means that I'll generally play a game for as long as it keeps me enthralled, and it's time to move on to something else when that something else successful grabs my attention away. Never once have I felt cheated though. It's just realistic to realize that in many cases RPG's are just too vast for me to see through to the end. Most recently I picked up Final Fantasy XIII-2, not long after launch and paying less-than, but close to retail. Did I finish the game? Nope. Sadly though that one had to do with losing a bunch of PS3 saves. At any rate, while I never got through XIII-2, I did enjoy the ten or so hours I spent with it. In that case how could I be upset? To me, I felt justified spending $4 per hour for a game that I enjoyed playing for ten hours. At the end of the day isn't a video game supposed to entertain us?



 
Oh gosh, I've certainly gotten off track here haven't I? Well the point of all this was to say that even though these are my feelings on such things as 'value' and desired game-length and so on, I also realized that while a fifteenth proper numbered installment to the series has been announced, I've still never seen the end of any of them. And maybe it was time to change that. Sure I could cherry pick. Maybe I could finally see what happens after Shinra Tower in VII (I've stopped there three times since the game's release)? Maybe I could finally decide if I really prefer IV to VI? Maybe I could finally give VIII and XII a much fairer chance than I have in the past? Nah. It seemed like the natural thing to do would be to just start back at the beginning.
 
The original Final Fantasy has been re-released many times over the years. And as stated earlier, I have played many of these different takes on the game. The PSP version seems about as deluxe as you can get. Not only is it easily the prettiest version of the game graphically, but the PSP's wonderful widescreen really accentuates the visuals. Add to this the fact that there were now many impressive cut-scenes to help progress the story as well. Along the same lines the game now has a wonderful CD-quality soundtrack in portable form thanks to the UMD media. Other additions beyond the superficial overhaul include some extra dungeons that I personally spent very little time investigating.



 
As I started the game up I decided to go with the default roster of classes: a knight, a thief, a white mage and a black mage. Sure customization and strategy is great - but for some strange reason I'm sometimes a fan of just sticking to the default and seeing how a game feels if you don't tinker with a thing. Overall, I found the party sufficient. My knight and thief handled the dirty work physically, the black mage was there to unload some brutal magic on bosses, and the white mage did her best to keep us all alive. In fact the party was so sufficient that I actually had very little problem advancing for the entire twelve hours it took me to get up to the final boss, Chaos. I did very little grinding up to that point. I was mostly only equipping items, weapons and armor that I found in dungeons or won from battles. And really my mages (well, now wizards) had only a handful of magic spells to work with.
 
The Chaos battle did not go well. And after a half-dozen or so failed attempts I admitted to myself that it was time to backtrack out of Chaos Tower, go back to all the towns and start spending money on hardcore magic and weaponry. And why not? I had maxed out my gil by the end of the game. I told you I was stingey about spending.



 
As I made my way back up Chaos Tower an hour and a half later, I started thinking back on my quest. Here it was, my first RPG and twenty years later I was finally making a solid effort to see the story come to a close. Oh, how many times over the years had a slain Garland with a level 3 or 5 party and then watched those beautiful opening credits roll? But never once had I seen the end credits. All those years I had gone missing out on so much of the awesome middle game. I hadn't even been aware there were mermaids in this game all those years. But now I was progressing from one floor to the next in Chaos Tower now. My party was all above level 50. We had weapons like the Excalibur and the Marumasa. Heck, even my black mage was killing most enemies in that final dungeon with a single hit.
 
So once more we faced Chaos with narry a worry in mind. Among us four we had nearly every spell in the game including protection spells, and spells that would make us move faster or hit harder. We had a spell that would not only revive a fallen character, but refill his HP completely. We carried 99 potions, hi-potions, ethers and phoenix downs with us. Chaos didn't stand a chance.



 
You better believe that the internal speakers in my PSP were tested that night as I blasted the end-score that played over the closing credits. I saved my game and took the UMD out and realized that for the first time a Final Fantasy game to me wasn't just about enjoying the journey while it lasted until my eventual detour. For the first time I stuck with it until I reached my destination. And though that final few hours dealing with Chaos and grinding infuriated me, I realize it was my own stubbornness about spending gil and powering myself up that put me in that position.
 
And I also realize this: as much as I prefer console gaming, there's no doubt that playing this on a PSP made it far more likely I'd finish. The ability to save anywhere, and pick it up later and continue immediately at the exact spot I left off meant I continued far more often. Any bit of progression could be made with even a spare 20 minutes while half-watching TV. So to that I must conclude that although I've played nearly every version of this game to be released in the US, I'll plan to make my way through II, III and IV via their PSP ports as well.



Posted on Jun 5th 2011 at 06:36:08 PM by (noiseredux)
Posted under Magazines, PlayStation 2, PSP




Like many game collectors, I truly enjoy thumbing through pages of old gaming magazines. There's something really fun about putting yourself back into the context of the time when the magazine was published. This week I got Issue 91 of PSM in the mail as part of a trade. I was thrilled to open the sealed magazine for the first time since its publication in December of 2004. As such, I thought I'd share some key pages with you.

(Spoiler: PSM in 2004 definitely liked boobs. You've been warned! See you after the jump...)



Continue reading PSM: December 2004, Issue 91



Posted on May 10th 2011 at 12:27:30 AM by (noiseredux)
Posted under PSP, Mega Man, Game Boy Player Land




Ever since I first started this blog, I have always wanted to offer things to readers. I've actually had various surprise projects in mind for quite some time. And finally the first finished one is here. I present to you all Mega Man: Game Boy Powered-up Levels!




If you're not aware of Capcom's wonderful PSP release Mega Man: Powered Up, then you don't know what you're missing! It was an amazing remake of the original NES Mega Man title that uses a bit of a 2.5D perspective, a super-deformed character design and adds in lots of excellent flourishes that really add to the game while never losing what fans have loved since day one. However, the most remarkable thing about Powered Up (and the reason for this blog post) is the Construction Mode, which allows you to not only create your own levels, but also share them with friends.

This is where Game Boy Player Land comes in. You see I loved the creative possibilities of Powered Up. And considering it was this really unique and awesome portable recreation of a classic game, that still had this very retro feel to it I really started to draw parallels between it and some of the old Game Boy Mega Man games. And then it hit me: what if someone were to recreate some of those original Game Boy levels for play in Powered Up?




So that's exactly what we decided to do! Mega Man: Game Boy Powered-up Levels is a four-stage downloadable remake of the first four levels from the classic Game Boy release Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge. Though the levels will all eventually be made available to download via the PSN servers, for now I've included all of the links and directions you'll need to download them right here.


The Levels

In order to play these levels you must own an official copy of Mega Man: Powered Up. The four levels are available via PSN. Simply search for these codes within the game's menu:

44645843-005
44645843-006
44645843-007
44645843-008



The Cover Art

As an added bonus, you can also download the printable artwork and make your own UMD case for Mega Man: Game Boy Powered-up Levels. The case looks awfully handsome sitting on your shelf rubbing elbows with the rest of your PSP collection!

http://www.megaupload.com/?d=C2B4IW16


Obviously we hope you enjoy these levels. Feel free to drop any and all feedback, and keep your eyes on the blog for other future projects like this.

*A huge thanks goes to the two recruited members of the GBPL dev team on this project. Although I came up with the idea and basically directed the project it was my good friend Flake who did all actual level design. And graphic designer extraordinaire sevin0seven is responsible for the amazing cover art.



Posted on Apr 10th 2011 at 03:50:54 PM by (noiseredux)
Posted under Fighting, PS1, PS2, PSP




The picture above is my personal Darkstalkers collection. It's a series that I have in the past several months become completely addicted to. My first introduction to the world of Darkstalkers was through Capcom Vs. SNK 2 where I started using Morrigan and realized that her move-set was so intuitive to me that I was just as good with her (or better) than I was with Chun-Li, who had been my standard fighter since Street Fighter II was released all those many years ago. After doing a bit of research (namely on http://HardCoreGaming101.net) I learned that Darkstalkers was essentially the coolest thing ever:  a combination of Street Fighter style fighting and a horror movie theme. I was sold.

When I started collection PlayStation games again this year one of the first games I picked up was Darkstalkers 3 due to a deal I couldn't pass up. The game seemed totally brilliant to me. Using Morrigan, I zipped right through it -- continuing only once. I was now officially hooked. I picked up a copy of Darkstalkers Chronicles on PSP soon thereafter, and same thing. One sitting, one continue. Yes, this was definitely a series that I could connect to in a big way. I quickly started collecting all the releases for Sony consoles. As such, let's take a look at them all.






Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors was released for the original PlayStation pretty early in the console's lifetime. Note the longbox. Although there's some frustrating load times, the game is a pretty great arcade conversion. It looks fantastic with its huge 2D sprites, especially considering Sony's early plan to hype 3D as much as they could with their new system. Of note however is the insane difficulty of this one. The AI is incredibly brutal -- something that separates it from the other Darkstalkers releases. It's also worth noting that the Japanese version (titled Vampire) is worth considering as it features bonus music videos not present in the US release.




Sadly the second Darkstalkers game wasn't released on the PlayStation. Though in 2005 Japan received a PS2 collection of all five of the Darkstalkers arcade games. Unfortunately for we import collectors, this game has a strange glitch that causes it to freeze up whenever a game is selected at the title screen. So unless you've got a Japanese console, the disc is entirely unplayable via normal import-loading methods.






Darkstalkers 3 is pretty much the finest example of the Darkstalkers experience on a home console. Though loading times are present, they're not game-killing. The graphics are gorgeous. The controls are flawless. Since first playing this one, it has become one of my all time favorite 2D fighting games ever. So certainly I've got a level of bias. But considering the fact that it can be had at a reasonable price on the aftermarket (as opposed to even the inferior first game) there's no reason that fans of the genre should overlook this one.






Darkstalkers Chronicles: The Chaos Tower was actually a launch-title for the PSP. Odd considering the lack of mainstream popularity for the series. The game is basically a mega-mix of the first three games. It incorporates all of the characters, moves and styles of each game into one big collection. Though the PSP interface isn't exactly meant for fighting games, this is actually a pretty great release for fans of the series. It looks great, and is certainly playable. An online option would have been a welcome addition though, and sadly the game wasn't exactly a big seller so a PSP sequel is unlikely.




Capcom released two UMD Videos exclusively through GameStop known as Night Warriors Darkstalkers Alpha and Omega. These are actually collections of the anime series that had originally been released on VHS. They look great, and add a bit of background to the characters. And considering their exclusivity through GameStop, they are actually a bit tricky to find these days. Definitely a cool collectible.


Although the Darkstalkers series seems slightly forgotten these days, many of the characters live on in other Capcom fighting games. The Capcom Vs. series has featured many of them (and this blog may touch upon that in the nearish future as well). But Darkstalkers still maintains a cult audience as well. There's a bounty of comic books, cartoons, soundtracks and figurines out there for collectors to delve into. Further proof of what a unique series it really was.



Posted on Apr 1st 2011 at 04:00:00 PM by (noiseredux)
Posted under PSP



I'm not really sure why people are so excited about the Nintendo 3DS. I mean, sure it's got some kind of built-in 3D feature. But really, that's not 3D. That's like looking into a window box. And window boxes are made by elementary school kids for science fairs. They're not exactly worth $300. On the other hand you can right now take your (homebrew enabled) PSP and add a simple plugin to it that would render your games in glorious 3D. And I'm not talking phony bologna Nintendo-3D either. I'm talking straight up red/blue glasses 3D. Check out these screens shots and ask yourself why anyone would want to spend triple-digits on a new handheld.









Read more about the plugin and download it here: http://blog.pspwizard.de/

If you're hip to the whole 3D thing then the chances are good that you already own a perfectly good pair of 3D glasses that came bundled with your copy of Contra: Legacy Of War.



Posted on Jan 28th 2011 at 01:18:03 AM by (noiseredux)
Posted under Blog, PS1, PS2, PSP



It's been a couple of weeks since my last big post. Some of you may be wondering why the lull. Well there's lots to talk about, so I've decided to just jam it all into one big, unstructured post. So let's begin with a post-Holiday story. Being a "gamer," I received a fair share of gift-cards to video game stores for Christmas. And understandably. I don't expect family members to keep track of my constantly in-flux collection. So the day after New Year's my wife and I went out from store to store using up various gift cards (and "mad money" from Grandma) that we received. Here's where the story takes an interesting turn. Most of the gift cards that I received were for GameStop. I went to four of them in a single day only to find that their GBA sections were almost gone. The games they did I have, I already owned. And then I'd start to notice things out of the corner of my eye. And by "things" I mean Playstation 2 games that I wouldn't mind playing.

Let me back up for a minute here. Many of you know me as "the Game Boy guy," and that's certainly understandable. I mean look at the name of my blog, right? But here's the thing: I've had a long history of various systems beginning with the Commodore 64. And believe it or not, when the Playstation launched, it was actually the first console I ever bought with my own money. I had to put it on layaway and pay it off with bits of allowance over a period of months. When I finally got the damn thing, I couldn't even afford a game for quite some time, so I had to settle for the demo disc that came with it. But those demos of Jumping Flash and Battle Arena Toshinden kept me busy. And I really did love that thing.

And though I've always been a bit of a Nintendo Fanboy, I skipped over the N64 altogether. A single friend of mine owned one, and though I was impressed with Mario Kart 64, nothing else really appealed to me the same way that Resident Evil, Suikoden, RPG Maker or the Tekken series did. In fact, the PS1 was awesome enough to me to make me purchase a Playstation 2 at launch as well. This is the last console that I bought at launch to date!

However sometime in 2008 I realized that I just had way too many video games for a married man living in a small apartment. I knew I had to condense. It made sense to focus on a single collection. And thus the GameCube with Game Boy Player made the most sense to me at the time. Though it's true that the PS2 (and it's PS1 backwards compatibility) offers a huge library of games, I decided to focus on the GB/GBC/GBA library based mostly on a handful of series. To be honest, the biggest draw for me was that Zelda didn't exist in Sony's world (unless you count Dark Cloud). So I sold my PS2 along with my PSP and all the games I had for each.

In the time since I've certainly become a bit of an expert on the Game Boy's library. And rightly so, as I've spent enough time with it. But I've also become a far more educated gamer as well. I've spent countless hours reading the amazing wealth of information over at http://HardCoreGaming101.net, http://GameSpite.net and their ilk. I've discovered a new fondness for entire genres (Shmups!) and publishers (Atlus!) and well, I just know a lot more now. It occurred to me that it was time to re-buy my once beloved PS2 and PSP. And so I spent those gift cards.

Now many of you know that I'm a very regular poster in the forums at http://RacketBoy.com. And as I started building up my old PS1, PS2 and PSP libraries all over again, along with new additions, I felt the need to discuss this blog over there. I guess I was looking for permission to expand the blog's horizon. And though I got lots of feedback (some begging I keep it GB-only, others wishing me luck), ultimately I have to go with my gut feeling. And my gut feeling is that this blog is my blog. And my blog will be at it's best when I'm writing about whatever I'm excited about right this very second. So that's what I'm planning on doing, folks. (If you're really bored, you can read the whole soul-searching thread here: http://www.racketboy.com/...mp;st=0&sk=t&sd=a)



My main reason for wanting a PS2 again was to tap into the rather rich library of (both domestic and import) PS1 and PS2 shmups out there. So I picked up a used slim model, and a Hori stick made to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Tekken. A handful of trades yielded me such entries as the US version of Castle Of Shikigami (known as Mobile Light Force II here), along with the second Shikigami, Gradius III & IV, R-Types, Sol Divide, Gekioh Shooting King, and many others. But probably my biggest delight thus far has been Einhander, the infamous Square developed shmup that has proven to be even better than I've heard.

Truth be told I've gone on a pretty serious binge over the past month. Numerous retro collections and fighting games (Darkstalkers 3!) and everything else in between. To put it mildly, I am really enjoying getting back into collecting PS1 and PS2 games again. It has a ton of "hardcore" games that I'm loving attempting to track down, and on the casual front my Celtics are 4-0 in NBA 2K9 and my wife and I are hopefully on our way to a championship in Jeopardy.



Which meant buying another PSP was the next rational step. To be honest I've loved the PSP since it was released. Of course back when I owned one, there weren't as many must-own titles that I knew about. When I first had an original "fat" model PSP, it was mostly used as an MP3-player and retro-emulator to be completely honest. Of course now I'm far more interested in imports and more interesting releases, such as the absolutely amazing Half-Minute Hero which is pretty much blowing my mind right now.

And though I'm not an advocate of piracy by any means (seriously, I hate the Johnny Depp movies even), I can't ignore that the PSP homebrew scene is among the best. There's an absolutely wonderful port of the indie hit Cave Story for the PSP. And the solid Atari 2600 emulator means that I could finally play Halo 2600, which turned out to be one of the finest 2600 games I ever played. It was addicting, and well perfect, forcing me to beat it as quickly as I could.


So there you have it, dear readers. The end of the beginning. Or whatever it is. Of course I'm not abandoning Game Boy coverage, but I am intending to let other stuff in. I hope you all stick around to see where things go from here. Hopefully some of you are just as excited as I am.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
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