Final Fantasy XIII : Where has the past week gone?

First off, I am not going to go into the story line of the game. Just know two things : 1. Good vs. Evil and 2. Big monsters.

I knew that Final Fantasy XIII was going to be different but I didn’t realize how much.

The very first thing that I noticed was the linear, tunnel like, “exploring” that your character/party did. Almost like the Tomb Raider series, running through buildings, caves, and the what not. There is very little expansive territory to search through. Of course there is an area where you go through side quests and massive beasts are all around.

Second thing is the battle system. In past games I would make two teams, making each person with certain strengths knowing that if my team leader died that I would have to use the next in line. Nope, not this time. If your team leader dies during battle, you have to start the fight over. This is frustrating when you have been hacking away at something for 10 minutes. There were several times where I would just stare at the screen in dismay,going, “I almost had it! WHAT THE CRAP!” But overall, the battle system is easy to learn and upgrade.

The cutscenes are gorgeous. This is where you spending big money for that TV and sound system comes into play. The playing graphics, for that matter, are gorgeous as well. Often I could not tell the difference. The one thing that I did find funny is that each character had to have their “We can do this speech!” cutscene. Some of it is quite high school drama and some can get to the point where you want to turn the volume down.

The main problem, it is very petty, with the game is the map. You are able to view a map of the area and some of it is difficult to see. There are no markers saying where each spot leads to and you do not have the ability to mark it. I can’t remember if other FF games did the same. I just find it odd and annoying. Some of the caves start looking the same and running down a path for 20 minutes before realizing that you are going the wrong way is a time waster.

I also find it funny that every and I mean every Final Fantasy follows the same character stereotypes.

  1. There is always a bad ass lead character that is driven and will throw themselves in harms way no matter the cost. You will play them the most.
  2. Always a macho, testosterone, “dude”.
  3. A cute, flirty, giggle giggle girl that can do major damage.
  4. A random, easy going black guy that feels like he has nothing to live for. You always want to use him but in the end he is a so-so character.
  5. Someone with a staff who is rough, tumble, and secretive.
  6. The useless guy. Sometimes is a animal.

Overall Final Fantasy XIII is wonderful. Even with little flaws and occasional bad acting, it is still worthy of your attention. If you are the type that does not enjoy long epic adventures, you might want to look somewhere else. I am currently clocking in 60+ hours, still have all the side quests to complete, and have not beaten the final chapter.

This is a buy for those who know what they are getting into.

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Summer, bands, Red Dead and FF13

Well, I got a lot going on and nothing to really write about. I am playing through Final Fantasy 13 and Red Dead Redemption. Both are huge games! So far both are worthy of anyone looking to really sink their teeth into epic games. Also, I am busy with my band, The Great Liars. You should check us out!

Until I finish a game or come across some awesome new music, it might get light here during the summer.

The Future is Me : Return to Earth Again

Seeing bands grow, especially when you personally know the band, is great to witness. In the case with Raleigh, NC’s,  The Future is Me, I have known members of this band for several years. I have shared the stage with them in various projects and bands. Their debut self released EP, Return to Earth Again, is a great blend of modern alternative rock and (I hate this term) screamo.

Return to Earth starts with a great builder called The Calm. TFIM throws out the typical song structure and gets right to the meat that leaves you pumped into the next straight forward Heresy in the Age of Reason. I hear remnants of The Bled, Thursday, Minus the Bear, and Glassjaw. TFIM touches on them but quickly breaks loose into their own style and feel.

Paul Kelley throws the lyrical hooks out and always catches the ear. He is one of the best vocalists in the Southeast rock scene. He pushes emotion in every line and you feel where he stands. The muscianship of Kelley, Mike O’Donnell, John Tomasevich, and Matt Szalecki is top notch.  Nothing seems forced or out of place. Fluidity of songs keep you wanting more.

I have not seen TFIM live yet. I plan to. Playing live is the true testimony of how a band stands. They have never failed in past projects and I expect only the absolute best from them now. The Future is Me could quickly sail the flagship of North Carolina rock. Please listen to them at www.myspace.com/thefutureismemusic You can also find them on itunes.

Medal of Honor : DICE Multiplayer Beta = not Battlefield : Bad Company 2

I was able to pre-order Medal of Honor through Gamestop the other day. With a pre-order I was given a key code to try the multiplayer beta. The Beta is going on from June 21st-July 18th. I am also a part of the EA Gun Club so I got to get in before June 21st. Sometimes it pays to be part of every side group with a game.

Anyway . . .

DICE is trying some different things with MOH’s multiplayer. Some of it is concerning. They did such a wonderful job with Battlefield : Bad Company 2. I almost want to shake them and tell them to stop changing the wheel!

The first thing that is different is the controls. Now, I know this is a BETA and that nothing is final, but why have different controls for something that the bulk of your players are still on another game (BFBC2) and use to that scheme? If it offered something different, I would say sure. But not in this case.

I did not see any actual team play. Mainly just people running around and shooting. Very COD if you ask me. I like the team work aspect that they did in BFBC2. I hate to keep bringing up Bad Company, but it is a great multiplayer system!

The graphics are sharp. The ragdoll animations are a little stiff. The weapons , though few offered, looked great. There is some learning curve to the use of them. The strength of a light machine gun feels almost the same as a AK. That does not make sense and needs to be fixed. Grenades need more power. I also, want to say this about all FPS – IF YOU GET HIT BY A .50, IT SHOULD BE A ONE HIT DEAL. I am so tired of shooting guys with tank guns/heavy machine guns and them running away.

Bottom line is that DICE really needs to use these next few months to implement ideas from their successful Battlefield Bad Company and make this the game that would make any Call of Duty fan weep. They have a lot of work in front of them.

Also, if you are running a PS3, it crashes and freezes a lot. DICE knows that and are working on it.

Mini Ninjas : Its like Calgone and Japanese feudal warfare wrapped up in one.

Charming, relaxing, and simply fun. Mini Ninjas is a great game from start to finish. The game offers a surprisingly long gameplay adventure, I logged in around 12+ hours.

I was not thinking that this game was going to be too difficult or frustrating. Knowing by the cover that it would appeal toward younger ages, I figured that if I wanted it to be more difficult I would have to make it that way. The replay value is fairly low and for the perfectionist player it offers several trophies/awards to obtain with multiple runs at different difficulty levels or replays of different stages.

The story is wrapped around a little ninja named Hiro. His master has sent him, along with Futo, on a journey to destroy the Evil Samurai Warlord. Along the way they rescue other ninjas that had been captured. The rescued ninjas are playable characters and have certain strengths. Hiro, for the most part, is the most used and is the only one that can use the powerful Kuji magic.

The graphics are quite stylized and the music is very relaxing. Some of the levels are fairly large and offer a lot of exploring. Parents watching their kids play will want to join in because it is very inviting. My wife and I shared gameplay duties. It was just fun!

The game has been out since September 09. I would figure that you could find it for fairly cheap or easily available to rent.

M.A.G. : EXPLOSIONS! EXPLOSIONS! *yawn*

MAG: Massive Action Game? Well they got the massive and game part right. I was hoping that this game was going to blow my socks off. I imagined rooms filled with 256 players being in total chaos. Well, they were in a sense. In the sense that people were just running around and there was no real direction.

The game starts off with you having to decide which faction you are going to fight in the “Shadow War”; VALOR, RAVEN, or SVER. Each group has its pros and cons and neither out powers the other. It really boils down to how you want to look. Careful though, once you choose the group, that’s it, you fight for them forever. That can be a pro or a con. Pro because it can really develop some online loyalty. Con because you might get tired of that group and just want to freshen up a game.

There is a leadership and command structure that I really do not want to get into. It basically allows there to be leaders of squads that call the shots.

Let’s just cut to the bottom line : The game has decent controls but the switching of weapons can get annoying. Huge maps that will have you running a lot. It looks good but the sound is so bland. Mines explode and sound like balloons popping. Guns sound like BB guns and are about as powerful. I kept wishing that I was playing Battlefield : Bad Company 2. And that is what I am going to do.

Rent M.A.G. if you have some time to kill. Just keep in mind that there are better FPS Multiplayer games out there.

Godhead : At the Edge of the World

Okay, first off, this album came out in 2008. I just found out that they had released it about a week ago. I first saw Godhead in 1999 at DragonCon in Atlanta. Their mix of electronica and metal just struck a chord in my heart. I purchased their first three albums and then did not hear anything from them until 2003 when they released Evolver. Let’s just say I was not a fan of that album.

Let’s all thank Steve Jobs and iTunes. Without iTunes I would have lost track of a lot of bands. Godhead being one of them.

Godhead released At the Edge of the World in 2008. This is a perfect album from this band. Dark, moody, and emotional at points. Nothing gets too busy, it can make you drive fast. By the end of the album, you want to start the ride all over again.

People have described the music as gothic rock, At the Edge of the World should be described as a damn good hard rock album. Nothing against gothic rock, I just can not hear it as that.

Godhead is supposedly in the studio working on a 2010 release. I hope that they are working in the same direction as this album. If so, they could become a household name. It pleases me that Godhead have been around for so long and have not thrown in the towel. Sure, I forgot about them for a couple years, but they still made an impression on my ears in 1999. Thank goodness they still are in 2010.

PS – Pick up their 1998 release Power Tool Stigmata

Killzone 3 slated for 2011!

Guerrilla Games has shown off an amazing piece of work with 2009’s Killzone 2 and plans on topping it with Killzone 3. We all knew that the game was going to come out. So there was never really a secret on that part. The main secrets are also pretty obvious, such as: full single player campaign, multiplayer, and co-op modes.

Development started right after Killzone 2. Guerrilla Games is taking inspiration from Uncharted 2 and God of War. In fact Uncharted’s Naughty Dog will be assisting in the development of the games engine.

Guerrilla Game’s is stating that there will be more diverse environments (snow, jungle, etc.) as well as fully destructible environments. That makes sense considering that if one is firing a massive rocket launcher, you would expect the wall to be blown apart. From what I am reading there will be more weapons. Some almost seem very Ratchet and Clank-ish. Weird? Sure.

Things I hope to see with Killzone 3 : I want Rico to shut up, Sev to man up, and Helghast to smarten up when being shot at.

Heavy Rain : It will get in your head!

I knew that Heavy Rain had already received good reviews. Mainly due to the unique gameplay and mature story line. Everything you read about the game is true. It is that good!

Mind you, if you are a person that has a hard time making split second choices, you might have a very short game. Your characters will die and the killer gets free, simple as that.

The story revolves around a city with an unique serial killer known as The Origami Killer. The killer only strikes during the rainy season and only targets 10 year old boys. The main character that you play is Ethan. His son was kidnapped and he is desperately trying to save him. His own past is haunting him, which only makes things tougher. Along the way he meets Madison who helps him in her own way. The two other characters are Shelby (Private Eye with torrid past) and Jayson (FBI Agent trying to do good).

If you are expecting running around like Laura Croft or Modern Warfare, forget it. You are playing the lives of these four characters. If you choose a wrong move or do not press the right buttons, they die . . . forever. You will not know how their story plays out. At least not until you decide to play through the game again and again. I played through 4 times and received 4 different endings ranging from very sad to moderately happy.

The beginning is slow, but needed to understand parts later in the game. It introduces the controls and basic gameplay. Getting you use to the button configurations and timing aspects that are needed through out the game.

I give Heavy Rain 10 Stars of Awesomeness. It broke the basic routine of playing a video game, introduces fresh ideas of story telling and gameplay. I would rent it and see if it is your thing and then buy after it sucks you in.

Deftones : Diamond Eyes

Let’s step away from the games for a moment and applaud the Deftones. The past 6 years has been riddled with discouragement, band failure, and tragedy within their ranks. Each album since 2003 has been filled with experimentation that had not hit the mark. We knew what they were doing but it never seemed to fit together.

With Diamond Eyes, they hit it. Every note, every word, every thing is exceptional. It has been a long time since I have heard a band with this much raw passion for the music they are creating. It is truly inspirational.

The Deftones have always created an unique sound, they have now created a new bar for themselves.