Saturday, December 26, 2009

Xbox 360 look: The Last Remnant

The Last Remnant is in some ways Square-Enix's attempt to bring the Romancing Saga franchise to the next generation of consoles. I think this is extremely interesting because the Saga series has always been very unique in its approach. In fact the Saga games tend to take their uniqueness a bit too far and create games only a small group of people can understand let alone enjoy.

I know the phrase "It's not for everyone" gets terribly overused around here but once again it has to be said. While the Saga games have aspects standard to the JRPG they also have tons of their own sub-systems that create something rather off-putting and picking up on them can be a bit of a struggle. Take for instance how experience is handled. In Saga games the characters don't level up. Instead they randomly gain stats as they win battles. Furthermore the battles they win must be ones where the party is weaker than the enemy. Where this gets strange is that enemies can gain in strength along with the party. There's a hidden rank in some of these games that actually cause enemies to change to more powerful ones. This means that after awhile the rats the player was picking on in the first dungeon could become behemoths of the apocalypse. This rank extends beyond battles as if the player doesn't properly maintain it it'll lead to them missing out on the many quests NPCs dole out. Sure other quests will pop up depending on rank but since some can open up entirely new dungeons and lands to explore that equates to a lot of missed content.

Thankfully it's not all that frustrating. Saga games are usually light on the equipment requirements so the party is adept for whatever situation that comes about. After every battle all party members are restored to full health. Magic Points(MP, TP, EP, or whatever) are given out as battles progress so the player can use powerful skills constantly. So for the most part even if the player can't quite figure out how to work the system to their advantage the games never become truly daunting.

The Last Remnant is definitely a Saga game. The storyline is about as tolerable as the average JRPG will allow and most of the player's time will be spent in dungeons or in combat. While the dungeons are very standard and predictable they serve their purpose.

To properly explain the battle system we must first start with how parties work. In this game they are known as Unions and eventually the player can form up to five unions with 18 party members(though in the 360 version only six of them can be powerful leaders). After deciding on the characters for a Union a formation must be decided upon. These affect everything from defense to certain attacks to mobility to achieving a particular maneuver with slightly more success. Rarely does this boil down to life or death but any advantage is worth having.

When a battle starts all of the Unions will participate. The enemies are like-wise organised into Unions and after deciding their orders they will clash until one side is wiped out. I say "orders" because unlike other RPGs they are a not "commands". When the player selects an enemy party to attack a list of orders will come up. These are adapted to the current situation and take into account multiple factors like morale(the huge bar at the top of the screen), union configuration, status of other unions, and so on. The average list of orders will consist of "Attack", "Attack from afar(with spells)", "Attack with special skills", "Heal selves", "Heal other unions", and so on. Don't be surprised if not all of these pop up at a given time as the game will only allow you to give orders if they are deemed necessary. You can't give individual commands to party members so if there's certain weapon-skills you tend to favor it can be frustrating.

Skills cover all of the necessary things like killing and healing. They are learned during battle and gain in power from constant use. There are also character unique abilities like summons and special attacks. These are definitely useful and should be triggered whenever possible(though getting special attacks require certain conditions).

When two opposing Unions attack each other it is known as a deadlock. From there other Unions can join in to flank their enemies, assist from outside, and so on. Since many foes are capable of area of effect attacks it may be necessary to keep unions out of direct combat to heal others. Bosses and certain enemies tend to lead to multi-deadlocks. These can be a very bad thing because as long as the unions are involved in those the enemy can continue to make moves(this tends to be especially devastating depending on what attacks they are capable of).

It's definitely a lot to absorb but the game gives the player several tools to make things a bit easier. The Battle Rank is back and while it won't cause the player to miss out on quests it will lead to slight gains in enemy stats over time. The Battle Rank doesn't account for other factors like the Union's equipment or skills so no matter the rank the player should have little trouble with fights deemed to be below the player's level(as determined by the morale at the start of the battle). Obviously with these easier battles there are less stat gains to make so that means the player will have to constantly do tougher battles. At least they'll have more fun in the process.

All the same though I'd recommend being overpowered for certain story-related encounters. I say this because these fights can take over an hour just to complete and losing all of that progress because the boss wiped everyone out in a couple turns will lead to quite a bit of rage. The majority of the game will be spent in side-quests anyway and the story-related fights can only scale so much. Despite my misgivings with the battle rank it actually turns out to be well thought-out and the worst aspect of it is that maybe you'll find yourself slightly bored from destroying too easy foes for little gain. This can eventually become an annoyance if like me you decide to run away from enemies during exploration. Thankfully BR is pretty easy to control and as long as you don't revisit areas constantly it stays fairly level and very challenging.

Like many other recent RPGs there is a crafting system of sorts in The Last Remnant. There are tons of components to find and collect and certain parts will be used by union members to strengthen their equipment. It can be a headache to scour the world for a certain flavor of insect wing though.

All of the biggest faults with this game are in the technical sense. At least on the 360 you're in for a pain if you don't install the game on your HDD. Even then the battles are plagued by low frame-rates and stuttering. It gets tolerable after awhile but if you have the PC for it I recommend going that direction. As a bonus the game allows for players to make Unions filled entirely with Leaders. Aside from Leaders having more versatility and power than regular soldiers they also have their own looks and voices that lend a bit of personality to each battle(plus there's actually a Leader named Gabriel, can't go wrong with that right?).

I should also mention that this game is best played with the minor assistance of a guide. There are a handful of missable side-quests and in order to get the most out of the game every last one of them must be completed. Despite this game being one of the better JRPGs I've played this year I have to admit that missing out on these quests took a bit away from my enjoyment of the game. I'm also a bit perturbed by the lack of a clock that tracks amount of time spent on the game. Then again it's probably best that I don't know.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

PS2 look - King's Field: The Ancient City

One of the most pleasant surprises of this year is the success story Demon's Souls. Considering the nature of the game and how its designed I was quite shocked to see it sell as well as it did. Sure it's nothing incredible especially when compared to the likes of Infinity Ward's or Nintendo's latest it's still quite respectable.

Before Demon's Souls however From Software's mainstay Fantasy game was the King's Field series. These first-person RPGs feature a heavy emphasis on atmosphere, exploration, and punishment. Anyone who has played Demon's Souls can attest to the punishment aspect. It is a welcome part to the game because it's designed fairly and creates an experience that's a bit more unique than more traditional adventures. The only problem with King's Field is that most of the games are only available on the PS1 and tend to look very dated. Everything else holds up if you can look past that though.

The Ancient City is the sole PS2 King's Field game and is the best entry to start with for those interested in the series. In a land doomed by constant fear and death one man must take a mysterious idol to the bowels of evil itself to restore light to the kingdom. While The Ancient City's strength isn't in story-telling it's certainly in atmosphere. These games are very dark and somber experiences. You'll meet less than 20 living people throughout your adventure and almost all of them wish they were dead(and a few are even granted that wish). This isn't like the average RPG where there's always somebody to welcome you at the front gate with a warm greeting. Everyone in King's Field is depressed about something and their face carries an absolutely dismal look.

When the player looks at the world surrounding them they will also gain that feeling of hopelessness. The Ancient City is a horrible place filled with ruins, crumbling villages, lava-pits, and pretty much every dungeon design we don't look forward to. In what has become a sort-of tradition for the series one of the first things the player will do is fall into a pit of lava.

Death is a concept we've long grown accustomed to when it comes to videogames and The Ancient City does little to make it easy. While the game can be saved it is only through save-points and chances are good that the player will have to go for thirty minute or even hour long stretches without saving. Clearly the designers could have implemented a system where the game can be saved at any time but where's the fun in that? Progress is only gained by taking risks while at the same time approaching everything with caution.

The pacing in King's Field has always been very methodical. While some would say that this is simply a slow-paced game I think this is not something you can run through and expect the best. The pacing is everything here and every situation must be carefully handled. This is especially true early on since simple mistakes are usually fatal.

To explain this better I'm going to look at the foes of The Ancient City. These creatures come in all shapes and sizes and cover about everything you're bound to expect. The thing to keep in mind is that these monsters can hit very hard. If the player is caught off-guard or surrounded they will die. One of the very first dungeons is filled with poisonous slimes. If the player touches one of these the poison will kill them in seconds. Pretty much any mistake made in this game usually leads to death.

The way that combat is handled leaves little room for error as well. A melee-based first person perspective is enough of a challenge but King's Field brings it up a notch by requiring that the player is properly facing the enemy in order to hit them. To further complicate things a stamina bar determines how much damage they do with a swing. Stamina is drained by running and emptied entirely by swinging. In order to take down any beast it's important to watch for openings, play it safe, and always keep track of the environment. Not only is it possible to fall off a cliff while fighting with a foe there's the chance a player could run into a wall and get stuck just as the monster makes the killing blow.

The strangest thing is however is that as the player progresses the game will actually become easier. While the game strives to keep the level of challenge at a state where it grows with the player's skills and abilities after several hours things start to pose less of a threat. This is mostly due to the magic system in the game. As the player explores The Ancient City they'll come across magic crystals that teach spells. While they start off very weak through constant use they gain in levels and start to become very useful. In fact I would argue that some of them can potentially become game-breaking(like the healing spell). In a way though it is a good idea to be able to allow for more mistakes as the dungeons and puzzles become more challenging to solve. Every aspect of the game plays off each other naturally and when one aspect starts to become easy another aspect will jump in difficulty.

The Ancient City's greatest strength is the design of its world. It's seamless and unlike Eternal Ring each area is sensible and creative. There's no wandering nothing more than increasingly similar hallways to flip a switch or find a key. Every inch of the land feels meticously crafted to be just as real as a videogame can allow.

As far as replay value is concerned that's a tough one to consider. There's not much to this game in terms of optional content and the only reward for completing the game is an ending. It might be an experience worth re-living in a month or even a few years at least. Aside from that the player could challenge themselves further to abstain from certain spells or focus on using different weapons and equipment to progress. There's a bit of leeway in how to handle combat at least.

In any case The Ancient City is a worthwhile trek and is certainly worth a look for those seeking adventure or fans of Demon's Souls who want to explore previous games.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Xbox 360 look: Ninja Blade

One of my favorite titles from the Xbox days was Otogi 2. This action game by From Software featured large worlds that were almost fully destructible and had all manner of mythological Japanese demons to send flying into walls or through buildings. Obviously I was excited about Ninja Blade. Okay yeah the trailer wasn't too hot and the demo really wasn't that great either but when have those things been indicative of the final product? So I got the full game and gave it a go.

Like Otogi, Ninja Blade is a 3D action game that takes place over 9 very long stages(we're talking 15 to 45 minutes a piece). The hero is a rather dorky looking dude by the name of Ken Ogawa. The problem with Ken is he has serious Daddy issues. Over the course of the game his father betrays him and leaves him for dead. Yeah I know it sucks but Ken won't stop whining and complaining about it until he saves the day from a parasitic menace.

Assisting him in this endeavor is Michael Wilson. If you haven't heard of him that's probably because you didn't play Metal Wolf Chaos(a JPN-only Xbox game..yes I'm being "that guy" again). Michael is a future U.S. president and will one day control a giant mech to take back his country from a backstabbing vice-president. Why this guy isn't the playable main character of Ninja Blade makes little sense to me.

Regardless Ken is still a Ninja and has access to a number of different moves and blades. He's got the running, the jumping, the wall-running, the wall-jumping, basically all of the standard stuff. In terms of weapons he has a regular sword, a heavy sword for breaking things, and light swords attached to wires for grabbing onto faraway objects. Further rounding Ken out is Ninja magic. By using the elements to his advantage he can solve minor puzzles and find weakpoints on the bosses.

Weapons aren't much good without bad guys and Ninja Blade certainly has enough to go around. Oddly enough a lot of the foes are of the slow and lumbering variety, which is hardly befitting for the fast Ninja action we've grown to expect thanks to titles like Shinobi and Ninja Gaiden. There are some flying creatures and even encounters with enemy ninjas but for the most part it's boring freaks that like to leap on the player.

The bosses are at least slightly more interesting. They're huge and quite impressive. Most of the time they're also not content with waiting until the end of the stage to get killed. This aspect is handled very well and feels dynamic. Which is good because otherwise the level designs are terribly predictable.

I'm sure you know how it works right? You fight some bad guys of varying types, then probably do a bit of platforming, then go back to fighting. It's the same thing us action game fans have been doing time began. It certainly doesn't help that certain areas are repeated in other stages and the attempts at breaking up the monotony simply aren't thought out very well.

For example the chief method of introducing variety in Ninja Blade is through QTEs. While Ken is a loser he's highly skilled and amazingly creative in his handling of nasty creatures. Furthermore he's pulling off stunts several thousands of feet into the air. Of course doing all of this is handled with a bunch of button presses. I think this generation is overrated just as much as the next guy but surely I would have imagined that we'd be getting past that whole "mildly-interactive cutscene" nonsense.

What it comes down to is that when the player reaches the boss they'll hack away at it for several minutes while dodging its attacks. Then after the boss's health meter is drained they'll be stunned and then the player can finish them off with some finish that's several times more exciting than the actual fight or even the rest of the stage. There are a few creative stages like one that takes place on a moving airplane and another that has multiple paths. More of the stages should have had multiple paths as it would have helped the replay value a lot more than replaying stages to get a higher score(whic is fine too but these stages are pretty freaking long).

The only other bit of variety to Ninja Blade involves missions where the player shoots things with a gun mounted to a helicopter. I liked these sections when they were actual arcade games like Operation Wolf or Space Gun. At least those games made up for their weak concept with some amount of depth(plus you got to hold a sweet gun). In Ninja Blade you simply shoot things and maybe use your ninja vision to slow things down enough for particular moments. The Ninja vision can actually be used elsewhere in the game but I didn't bring it up before because most of the time it's a pain. It's a pain to use and it's also a pain for the eyes and possibly head as it drenches the screen in a bunch of special effects that make me feel like I'm going blind. Sure everything slows down and that's useful but it's at the expense of my vision and possibly my lunch.

The biggest problem with this game is that in the end it's little more than a clone. By now you've probably figured that this game is a God of War clone. Now it's been awhile since I've played God of War 2 but the resemblances are obvious. There's the unlikeable main character, swords attached to wires(instead of chains), bosses that can only be killed via QTEs, and oh yeah all equipment is upgraded by collecting red stuff. Yes I know that last one was cloned from Devil May Cry but that's another story.

But that's really alright. Clones can be good and if a clone is better than the originator then that's just wonderful. Ninja Blade is unfortunately not nearly as good as anything it cloned. It's terribly shallow, kind of buggy, has nothing in the way of interesting puzzles and the moments of actual brilliance tend to be squandered due to the ineffective handling of mechanics and level design.

In the end though Ninja Blade really isn't a bad game. I have trouble thinking of a single game I'd not want to play instead of Ninja Blade but still it accomplishes the basic goals. It is a playable game, it won't make you cry or hate yourself or even consider taking up reading. However it will leave you unfulfilled, empty, and probably depressed about the 10 or so hours that could have been spent playing something else. At least take the time to watch all of the cutscenes as they are pretty cool.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Xbox 360 look: Tomb Raider Underworld

Prior to Underworld my only experience with the Tomb Raider franchise was the PC version of the first game. In fact it was only the demo version and I spent more time manipulating the camera to see more of Lara Croft's curves(well at the time they were more like angles). Nearly a decade and a half later I find myself with the latest in the series and hey I even played through it.

Seeing as how I've missed about thirty games I'm not sure what the deal is with a lot of the characters in this game. I recognize Lara sure but apparently she has to deal with this rival named Amanda. Amanda is so goth she has her own Succubus which she keeps in a glass jar. Predictably tables are turned, crosses are doubled, and Lara has go to opposite ends of the world to find the tools necessary to stop the bad guys.

These tools are located in ancient ruins and are designed in a way where only the dexterous can reach its hidden treasures. In fact a lot of exploration in this game is tied more towards solving the various platforming puzzles than tinkering with pressure plates, messing with light sources, or finding various keys of all shapes and sizes.

Lara is definitely fit for the job because in her youth she was apparently a gold medal gymnast and her parents were great archealogists. Not only does she have that whole pressure plate stuff mastered but she can jump reasonably well, swing gracefully from the inexplicably large number of bars placed everywhere, and grab a hold of crevices that have conveniently made paths for her to easily figure out.

3D platforming has always been rather problematic and this game suffers at times from it. Early on the platforming is fluid and well put together. This is handled by using a sort of forced system where as long as Lara is facing the right way and/or is in the right position she will successfully make every jump. In a way there are no mistakes only miscalculations so as long as the player pays attention to the environment they can survive the most precarious of platforms. This is important because Lara is a bit on the fragile side and falling for more than 10 feet is usually fatal. Later on however the restrictions are eased to the point where the safe path isn't so obvious and I felt like at times what feels like the natural way to progress comes off as un-natural. This is a bit hard to describe so bear with me here. Late in the game I have to escape from a pit. There are some platforms I can't reach so to get to them I end up crawling on a statue to reach them. I'm not sure if this was how it was supposed to work or I cheated a little. All the same it felt very strange.

To help Lara along she has various pieces of equipment. There's the always handy flashlight but Lara will frequently make use of a grappling hook. This little number is necessary cause there are quite a few huge gold rings placed over chasms or nearby cliffs so Lara can swing across or rapple down. More than slightly useless are various other tools like cameras, sonar, and so on. The camera would be one thing if there was stuff worth getting a picture of and the sonar would help if the game wasn't almost completely linear and thus near impossible to get lost in.

Speaking of useless Lara also has access to a large variety of flips and rolls. I think these are done purely for style as I've tried using them for what might be their intended purpose(like dodging traps or avoiding enemy attacks) and ended up getting killed for my trouble. They are fun to watch and very well animated though. If the intended purpose was to show off well that's cool too.

Lara also really wouldn't be herself without her trademark guns. Yes of course I'm talking about her dual pistols that she takes with her on every adventure. These are handy for capping the various bats, bugs, giant spiders, humans, and whatever other nasties that happen to bother her. Before each new area she can even decide what secondary weapon to carry along(like a shotgun, a pair of uzis, a speargun, and so on). Thankfully there are no bosses to fight or anything because I'm not sure I'd be able to stand it. The combat in this game is pretty terrible. Every enemy takes several bullets to cap and they frequently like to double-team Lara. Her melee attack actually tends to be more useful than anything as it keeps enemies on the ground and unable to react.

Worse still is Lara's motorcycle. I'm not sure when the developers gave her one of these but it is one horrid piece of work. It also makes very little sense from a design perspective because some of the stages have ancient ruins designed around driving a motorcycle inside. Boy if those thousands of years old Ancient Civilizations didn't have ramps for Lara to drive her motorcycle over I'm not sure what she'd do.

Like any other higher power the camera in this game dictates the success and failure of the player. Unfortunately in this game's case it's more failure than anything. It's actually not too bad at first since some camera swinging is necessary to find the best way to reach the next area. At times the camera will even point out areas that Lara can traverse. Before all is said and done however expect countless moments where the camera is focused on her feet or some other location that probably won't save Lara from a horrible death.

In a way I'm thankful and also confused by the way Underworld handles death. The checkpoint system is extremely generous and I think the most progress I ever lost due to becoming a corpse was less than three minutes. What confuses me though is that there are medkits and health vials that can be used to restore Lara's health. I find this weird because Lara's health is restored when she dies. Now I know what you're saying, the healthkits are for the players who don't want to die. To this I respond with "why bother?"

The biggest problem with this game is that quite simply it's rushed. The first couple areas are great in that they feature beautiful locales, solid mechanics, and are fun to play through. Before long however the locales are dull, the level designs have become pedestrian, and worse still the mechanics simply start to fall apart. Towards the end of the game you will die and it won't be your fault.

The most unfortunate aspect of all is that for me at least the game never becomes truly terrible. The worst bits of the game are thankfully very brief(they all involve blue kool-aid that kills instantly) and the ending focuses on Lara's platforming rather than some terrible shoot-out. This disappoints me because I can't make up a bunch of clever analogies like "Wow she's great for the first couple dates but before long she sets fire to your bed and strangles the cat." This game turns into a pure mediocrity instead of a pure piece of crap. I guess something like "style over substance" would be more fitting but that's such a boring phrase. For that matter it doesn't quite fit as her style really isn't all that great either.

Still I think I might give Tomb Raider: 15th Anniversary a chance anyway. I've heard a lot of great things about it and apparently it's a remake of one of the few great games in the series. I can see where they're coming from here cause Underworld has its moments but that's all they really are...just moments.

Whoa dig the new look!

This blog was long overdue for an overhaul so I did the sensible thing and put black text to a white background instead of vice-versa.

Still not doing pictures though.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

End of the Year Awards for 2k9

Since everyone else is doing it here are my videogame awards for 2009.

Best download-only console game - Virtual On: Oratario Tangram XBLA - There have been a lot of great original titles this year like Splosion Man, Shadow Complex, and so on but for me at least a high quality port of one of the best games ever made is enough to take the top spot.
Honorable mention: Streets of Fury. This twisted combination of Pit Fighter and Guardian Heroes combines a great combat engine with solid controls, good music, and enough good-natured cheesiness to make any beatemup fan smile.

Biggest Disappointment - Way of the Samurai 3 - I really enjoyed the first game way back when and even not too long ago. This game however just adds far too much and refuses to balance any of it out. There's a job system where you can take on tasks for money but it's horribly implemented, there are hundreds of swords to earn and thousands of moves to learn but most of them aren't worth the trouble. To add to this the character designs are very bland and the game drags far too much and loses the pick up and play appeal of the first game.
Dishonorable mention: Raiden IV. Overall it's an improvement over Raiden III but that's not saying a whole lot and after Raiden Fighters it's impossible for me to go back.

Best game I wish I played when it came out - Breath of Fire 5: Dragon Quarter - I guess I was scared off by the various sub-systems the game employs so I missed the boat when it first came out. Playing it back then might have re-shaped my outlook on videogames and led to me not focusing on collecting DVDs for several years.
Honorable Mention: Wizardry: Tale of the Forsaken Land - This game is a class act in every sense of the word. I think it was partly due to titles like the Dark Spire and Etrian Odyssey 2 that I gave this game a chance. I'm certainly glad I did.

Worst game I wish I played when it came out. - Eternal Ring - I probably would have been a lot more tolerable of this game if I had picked it up when the PS2 launched. Then again I was still into the Dreamcast at that time so it was probably for the best.
Dishonorable mention: Nanobreaker. At the very least I could share my frustrations with other forum members.

Best game I wish I was playing instead of the one I'm playing at the moment - Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 - There's a lot to like about Ninja Gaiden 2 on the 360. There's also a lot to dis-like. Due to my lack of a PS3 I can't rectify this by buying a version that apparently fixes a number of problems I'm having with the original. It's a darn shame really.

Best Xbox 360 game - Mushihime Futari - No doubt about it M2 put together quite a port of an absolutely excellent 2D shooter. While this game is so intense that I need therapy sessions in-between 1CC attempts it's still a serious improvement over the first game and one of the best titles Cave has ever produced.
Honorable mention: Red Faction: Guerilla - I don't usually play multiplayer games but this one was incredible and very addictive. Problem is of course nobody is playing it anymore thanks to Modern Warfare 2(boooo hiss).

Best Wii game - New Super Mario Bros....Wii - As far as 2D platformers go this is the one to beat. It's certainly up there with the likes of Mario 3, World, Yoshi's Island, and so on.
Honorable mention: Onechanbara. Yeaaahhhh..I didn't play many Wii games this year.

Best DS game - Retro Game Challenge - While none of the games stand out as exceptional on their own the package as a whole comes out to be something rather special. Shame we'll probably never get the sequel.

And uh...that's it!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mushihime-sama Futari has arrived!

It took a few weeks but finally Cave's latest console port is in my hands.

There's not a whole lot I can say at this point as I've barely spent a couple hours with it. It's certainly challenging as I've yet to even scratch the harder settings.

There's even a novice setting for when your newborn infant wants to play. Then again it'd probably be a bit too easy for him/her.

The arrange mode is a real oddball. It's also very easy but it puts a huge emphasis on scoring using an interest character-swapping/bullet-reflecting system. At the moment I can't make heads or tails of it but triggering fever mode is always a thrill.

Reko(the heroine) is certainly an interesting piece of work. For one I'm scared to say much of anything about her because I believe she's under-age. She may look 18 or so but I'm pretty sure that along with everything else she was designed to never age(despite this game has to take place at least a year after the events of the first). Everything else about her physically borders on the point of hilarity. For one her dress is designed to hug every possible curve, she rides a massive beetle while striking provocative poses, and she wears a bow on her neck with a ribbon that hangs low enough to be perpetually squished between her...well you get the idea.

Still it's good clean fun as the entirety of the game is spent dodging purple death while mashing bugs into stew and collecting copious medals. It is amusing how much the landscape has changed for shooters though. Used to be we'd all fly ships and blow up other ships or tanks. Now we control teenage girls in tiny outfits who let out high-pitched screams when their all too fragile lives are snuffed out. I guess I can't complain though as the games are still very good.

Anyway I'm going to keep playing this at least until ESP Galuda 2 hits the Xbox 360 in late February. Hopefully this release will be region-free as well.