Thursday, January 28, 2010

"What To Do When Booth Gets Back..."

SO, I've been debating a few things over the past couple of months about this blog and NO, I'm not going to drop off the planet with another project (well, not just yet). While I was writing up all 95 pages (or 57,522 words) of that Neo Nectaris: Military Madness strategy guide for Hudson Entertainment, I was also streamlining my games collection. Selling off some titles while expanding others. I think my tastes are changing or revolving back towards strategy, role-playing and quality adventure games across different platforms more than other genres, but I'm certainly not giving up on everything else I like.

Now, I COULD just shift focus and make DAF more of a site geared towards the above mentioned genres, however, there are already a few older (and better) places on the Internet for this. Of course, i don't want to limit what's covered here at all, as I'm in no way going to miss all the stellar first and third party releases falling out of the sky in what's looking like an even better year than 2009 in terms of great games. Decisions, decisions...

Anyway, I'll let you guys know what's what - in the meantime, I've a bunch of stuff to finish up - after I finally get some sleep, that is...

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Madness is OVER (But Boy, Was It Fun While It Lasted)!

Yes, I FINALLY completed my strategy guide for Neo Nectaris: Military Madness for the iPod Touch and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. I'll be reviewing the game later this week, so keep a  eye peeled. How is it? Let's just say if you're a fan of Nectaris, you'll love what's here. The game is pretty tough and definitely not a "casual" experience and it's definitely not one of those cutesy Japanese strategy games with spiky-haired characters and cranky, demonic end bosses.

But I'm getting ahead of myself - back in a few with a couple of updates. I'm going to be catching up on a lot of stuff, that's for sure...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Yakety Yak, Plus A New Place to Visit...

OK, Comments are back, so fire away. Pirate Captain C, this probably means you (and what's up with my Nutella supply?)

Also, if you're at all intereted in a really cool RPG project that's coming along quite niecely, check out the jClassicRPG developer blog! This Java-based homage to great classic RPG's such as Wizardry and The Bard's Tale is being cooked up by a small team guided by Pal Z. Illes (call him Paul), a Hungarian software programmer with a huge passion for the genre.

Anyway, click on over and check out the game (you can download the current version and yes, feedback is more than welcome, as it'll help the team make a better final version). If you like what you're seeing and playing, you can even donate to the cause and get your name in lights. Well, not in lights exactly, but if you like, Paul will give you a shout out on his blog!

That's my good deed for the day done, so it's back to finishing up a certain strategy guide I've been toiling away on for a few months - back soon with a more wordy update...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Open Season (or Thanks, USPS!)

Hmmmm... This paranoid anti-terror stuff is going too damn far AND invading my privacy to boot. So far, every game I've gotten addressed to me at Destroy All Fanboys! has arrived OPENED and very badly resealed or in at least two cases, not sealed well at all. I'm gathering that those postal inspectors out there have been screening my DAF mail to make sure I'm not some home-grown terrorist or something like that.

Hell, if they keep opening my mail and sending it to me in the condition it arrives in, I might go postal after all (but for a totally non-terrorist manner).


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Review: Zaku

Platform: Atari Lynx

Developer: PenguiNet

Publisher: SuperFighter Team

Players: 1

Rating: E (Everyone)

Official Site

Score: A+

Dust off that Atari Lynx* and get ready for some hardcore shmup action – Zaku is finally here and it's an instant classic that you don't want to miss. SuperFighter Team and developer PengiNet have cooked up a solid and spectacularly tough 4 Meg chunk of horizontal arcade shooting set in 16 stages set over five worlds packed with big-eyed cartoon enemies and wacky screen-filling bosses that will give you candy-colored nightmares on each of its difficulty levels. The game is a near-perfect throwback to the days of classic 8 and 16-bit shooters and every level, every second of the game oozes quality, if not sheer programming genius. How this is running on the Lynx and looking as great as it does is a wonder, but it truly shows just how powerful (and under appreciated) the hardware was (and is).

Friday, January 8, 2010

Freelan¢ing for $ony (Slight Return, Once More with Feeling!)

This article has appeared in at least two places, once in print (in my fanzine, Continue? back around 1999 and a second time a few years later over at Digital Press in my "Did You Know?" column). I figure I'd expand it slightly and give you folks who miss my usual postings something to read as I try and get my Sony PR contacts back after too long.

(Heh, like THIS is going to help?)

Anyway, it's a fine and funny story, and yes, it's all true (well, except for the parts about my head popping off or being otherwise damaged).

No Comment (Well, For Now...)

Yes, I get mail and yes, I actually respond on occasion - case in point:

"Hey, why'd ya disable comments?"

Well dear readers, I was getting some very annoying porn spam and Asian porn spam at that! I've nothing against Asian gals, porn or SPAM (although it's too salty for my diet, sorry Hawaii - love the islands, but SPAM will kill me if I ever go back there and have it every day - as Fred Flintstone once said, "Pass the poi")

Anyway, I'll add comments back to the blog once I can sort this Hello Cutey Honey Kitty nonsense out.

Besides, those of you who know how to reach me by other means can do so, so there!

Back in a bit - busy week still in progress...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Review: Divinity II: Ego Draconis

Platform: Xbox 360

Developer: Larian Studios

Publisher: CDV

# of Players: 1

Rating: M (Mature)

Official Site

Score: B+

Featuring a vast game world fun to explore,
many quests to take (or perhaps ignore),
Divinity II, that new Larian lore
more than deserves the posted score

It's got some quirks (but don't games all?)
mayhaps a patch will raise things tall
Still, for adventure, heed well my call
What's here is tops from wall to wall!

Plain old good to flat out great RPG's make me wax poetic from time to time and as it deftly straddles the fence between those two poles, Divinity II: Ego Draconis gets 2010 off to a fine start in grand style for genre fans. Sure, it wears some of its PC origins on it sleeve a bit too proudly, yet the game is quite addictive and indeed, very highly playable for hours on end. Despite some pesky technical issues that rear their ugly heads, the game is also often quite good to look at provided you aren't wistfully recalling something else while playing. Warts and all, you can't knock developer Larian Studios for bringing this sequel to the stellar 2001 PC RPG Divine Divinity to the 360. The first game was an instant classic (it's been an automatic install on the three PC's I've had since 2001) and what's here comes very close to being equally as fun an experience. If you're looking for depth and a flat out huge and fun world to explore, Div II delivers and lets you keep the change.

My personal key to getting the maximum enjoyment out of games is to NOT lump them together "by today's standards" (*yawn*) or try to judge them based on how similar the game world are to completely different games made by different developers. To me, each and every game world is a separate entity that lives or dies by the characters that inhabit it and should be judged as such, period. It's all about appreciating different game worlds on their own merits and whether or not the developer has managed to pull me in to the experience by creating a place I don't want to leave despite half-falling off the couch with droopy eyelids. Div II does that and does it well and often enough that some of its more familiar genre moments are easily forgiven. Sure, you'll be killing scores of lesser enemies to level up, tackle a bunch of quests involve fetching and returning some oddball items and there are plenty of NPC's you'll have no use for once you take care of a few jobs for them.

On the other hand, you get a metric ton of laughs here thanks to a killer bunny, a goblin named Charlie and the ability to change your character's sex after a certain point in the game. You can read minds at the cost of a bit of experience points, another fun touch that nets some fine side missions or leads to the occasional dead end conversation. On the surface, the game might seem a bit too “classical” for its own good, but once you're absorbed into the richly detailed game world Larian has crafted, you'll find yourself liking what you're playing more and more. "Innovation" is a highly overused (and overrated) buzzword in gaming these day. I'd much rather have pure FUN while playing a game than have to sit through yet another gimmick that's going to be overshadowed by the next gaming trend two months down the road. Div II might not reinvent the wheel, but it sure as heck gets great mileage.

If you played Divine Divinity, you'll absolutely appreciate what's here right from the beginning. If you're new to the series and happen to love open world RPG's with lots to do and many secrets to discover, you'll be grinning from ear to ear once you start exploring. Then again, the game has a way of making you grin (in a good way) at much of its content. Questing feels extremely satisfying (despite the occasional not so hot reward) and combat is nicely visceral indoors and out. Monsters have the tendency to run off and regain health (an VERY welcome touch), so some of the tougher battles become a matter of dealing with the horde as quickly as possible. Things get even trickier when enemy spell casters spritz out health to their fellow travelers like cute sales gals in Macy*s during the holiday shopping season (or any time of the year, actually).

After a chunk of challenges, you'll eventually capture and make your home a huge battle tower, a structure that lets you store loot, send out hirelings on side missions and even change your sex. I bring this up again because it's an unusual thing for some US gamers to deal with. Your stereotypical guy gamer is more used to playing the square-jawed heroic type and ogling the sexy polygon babes in their games and most gal gamers (who refuse to be stereotyped) are used to ogling the guys and complaining loudly that the babes are too under dressed. Here, the gender bending is an amusing extra that should keep both sides happy.

Also happy-making is the game's well done level of challenge. The game's difficulty is balanced out enough that you'll know quite well when you're wandering into trouble. On the other hand, you can also get stomped royally by a mid to high level baddie in the midst of a pack of weaklings. There are plenty of risk vs. reward spots to discover and if you're properly prepared, it's always great to uncover a hidden cave or well-guarded treasure. You'll have plenty of great skills to use and when you get that killer Dragon form, nothing beats running away from a crowd of goblins (or other creeps) all set on "kill", leaping off a cliff and transforming into a flame spewing winged beast that can roast up those smelly goblins but good. You can also use your dragon form to find hidden caves tucked away in cliff walls and other high places.

It's here that the game reminded me of Surreal Software's underrated, overlooked PS2 game, Drakan: The Ancients' Gates (with an even more open world, of course). Controlling and combat with the dragon is fantastic and the overall sense of flight is very well realized. Unfortunately, just as in Drakan (and Divine Divinity), there are only a set amount of creatures in the game. Should you decide to go on a killing spree and attempt to slay every bad thing in the game to pieces, you'll find yourself many, many hours later with a worn out controller and a very empty collection of indoor and outdoor locales totally free from monsters. This isn't a fatal flaw by any means, by the way. The first game and Beyond Divinity (a fine RPG which wasn't a true sequel) had this feature and I can think of a few other RPG's that allow for this "realistic" population of creatures good and evil.

As gamers reared in the age respawning baddies to reap for rare loot over and again, some players are so used to the modern open game world with endless looping and recycling of monsters, not something so... natural. That games where the population is indeed finite will be quite a reality grasp for a few folks out there. Get used to it, I say. Or please at least admit that, hell, you're having so damn much fun playing the game that yes, you wanted it to go on and on after the final credits have spooled up. In English, this isn't Diablo, a Diablo “clone” or a game where you can exploit one or two areas for a few days and come up for air with an over-powered tank. You have to earn every bit of experience here by hard work, and that's all right by me.

Presentation-wise, Div II is a bit of something old, something new. The nicely sized fantasy environments are impressive, but definitely play the game on a HDTV setup for maximum visual effect. The difference is like night and day if you see the game on a standard-def set and switch over. Yes, there's a bit of screen tearing and slightly weak texture work on an analog set, but at 1080p, stuff practically pops off the screen. Much of the character animation isn't quite as snappy as I'd like it to be, but it's not a game-killer. The sounds and music are great stuff featuring the solid, expressive voice acting mentioned above and a superb soundtrack that features a few memorable tunes.

The ending might be a source of pain for those that crave post-endgame spelunking or some sort of “New Game+” nonsense, but I rather liked the resolution. Not every game needs that stuff, and besides, I'm sure Larian might consider some sort of patch or DLC in the future if the game sells well and the fans ask nicely enough. That, or we'll see another sequel at some point down the road. My money would be on both and I'm hoping the developer has NO crazy multiplayer aspirations. Divine Divinity was a singular single player experience and Div II just about equals that game in terms of immersion and overall “feel”. If you're an open-minded RPG fan, absolutely give this game a shot and support one might fine creative team and their baby.