Tag Archives: GCN

Baten Kaitos Origins (GCN)

I actually bought this game before I got a GCN, since I found it on sale and liked the look of the game. I did, however, play through Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean first.

The first game isn’t strictly necessary to understand what happens in Baten Kaitos Origins, since Origins is a prequel set about 20 years before, but it does have quite a few references to characters that show up in the other game to reward players who know what’s going on.

Story: You play as Sagi, a spiriter just enlisted in the Dark Service. He’s got a mechanical puppet friend named Guillo, a machine which is a bit more than the typical puppet (though they’re not telling the Dark Service that). But when his first mission leaves Sagi framed for murder, he and Guillo are suddenly fugitives. And then they stumble across a giant creature which provokes Guillo into some frightening abilities . . .

Milliarde (Milly) joins on your way out, and from there on it’s a crazy romp through floating islands and a dream-land that Sagi keeps entering whenever he encounters one of the beasts. Unraveling the mystery of these “afterlings”, stopping an ambitious politician’s attempt to promachinate the world, and uncovering dark secrets about the word and themselves is par for the course.

It’s hard to say too much without spoiling some of the better plot twists, but overall I love Baten Katos Origin’s plot. I think it generally improves tremendously on Baten Kaitos. The fact that there are only three party members means they each contribute significantly to the game, there is a major arc involving each one, and the inter-party dynamics is a huge part of the humor and drama. Guillo and Milly’s infighting brings out some of the best humor of the game. They all have such a personal stake in what’s going on—and Sagi in particular has a shocker of a revelation that makes what looked like a plot contradiction with the first game something that works perfectly.

Also, Baten Kaitos Origins continues the Baten Kaitos conceit of making you, the player, an actual character in the game, as Sagi’s guardian spirit. There are some rather obvious pauses in some of the spoken dialogue to allow for your custom name, but it’s still a win to have the characters talking directly to you and involving you in their decisions. (Sagi, as an aside, is much nicer to you than Kalas was, which is doubly ironic considering how both of them end up).

There were a few oddball moments, though. Anuenue bogs down the plot due to the sheer amount of backtracking and running around doing little errands to get the action going again (tip: the Holoholo bird and chicks is not the nightmare fight it’s made out to be, as long as you favor ex combos with Guillo with finishers that hit multiple opponents. He’ll kill both chicks every turn or two, allowing Sagi and Milly to focus on healing and/or damaging the Holoholo bird, who wastes the fight respawning the chicks). And one of the villians at the end was a total shock in a bad way, in that I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out why it happened at all.

(And don’t turn the game off too soon! There’s an extra scene after the credits.)

Gameplay: Baten Kaitos Origins, like Baten Kaitos, uses card-based battles with cards called magnus. If you think that sounds boring, watch a short clip of a fight on Youtube—these are very fast-paced, particularly as you level up the ability to see and discard more cards at once. The game rewards long combos as well as specific types of combos (called Ex combos which will boost your damage). Battle cards range from standard attack cards anyone can use, to character-specific finisher attacks, to weapon/armor/accessory cards, to healing, to various modifier cards.

Out of battle, there’s also quest magnus, which are generally environmental things you can “draw” for help completing puzzles, boosting stats, or upgrading equipment cards. Along with the quest magnus you get mixer magnus, which allow you to combine the quest magnus to make new magnus. Any recipes you create get filled out in your library, so you can easily refer to them later. The library will also store any Ex combos you’ve done, magnus you’ve collected, and enemies you’ve fought, so it’s a nice way to see everything.

Unlike Baten Kaitos, only the quest magnus decay (usually getting worse with age), so there’s much less deck micro-management (and your battle healing items no longer become useless on you, yay!). You can also create multiple decks, if you want to balance them differently (eg, a multiple-enemy deck versus a single-enemy deck, or a boss deck with more healing versus a random encounter deck).

There’s also a Coliseum, although it’s worth mentioning the Coliseum has a rather significant bug if you make small talk with the receptionist before unlocking Vega that will cause Rank 5 never to show up. In general there are some nice prizes and it offers some optional boss fights near the end for a good challenge.

Overall: I would recommend a guide (GameFAQs has many good ones) if you’re interested in the sidequests or filling out the Library, but generally going through the game isn’t too hard by itself. The story is very good, managing to support and subvert Baten Kaitos all at once. It’s a shame the game never got a lot of attention, as this packs a lot of highlights into one game. I rate this game Highly Recommended.

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Tales of Symphonia (PS3/GCN)

In the land of Sylvarant, the Chosen is sent out on a journey of regeneration every time the world’s mana fails. Collette, the current Chosen, is all set to recieve the revelation that will begin her journey. Her childhood friend, Lloyd, desperately wants to go with, both for the adventure and to be with her. Then disaster strikes, and Lloyd has nowhere else to go but with the Chosen and her group. The adventure slowly unfolds into a story far larger than anything Lloyd could have imagined…

I’m a bit late to the party on this, admittedly. Tales of Symphonia was released a long time ago, and although I have the GCN version, the PS3 version is the one I just finished. (I have a tendancy to get stuck in long puzzle dungeons, put the game down, and forget about it long enough that it’s hard to pick back up again). Since that is the case, I’m going to be discussing some outright spoilers below, so feel free to skip the rest of the plot notes if that’s a concern.

PLOT: The story does a good job of hiding where it’s heading, so that if you haven’t been reading anything online about this game, many of the twists will likely be a surprise. I do like how Lloyd’s attempts to save the world have a tendancy to be rather destructive, and how people are rightfully mad at him for blowing up their homes or killing their relatives, and yet he doesn’t stop trying to do what he knows is right. Even when it becomes clear he hasn’t got the full story.

That said, the story is also rather simplistic in ways. There’s a good reason Kratos is one of the most popular characters in the game—I think he’s got the best character arc of all of them. Unlike Lloyd, who tends to be purely focused on whatever the goal is, Kratos has many conflicting loyalties, and although he tries to do what he can to satisfy all of them, he ends up looking really bad. But he doesn’t justify his decisions, merely lets them work themselves out.

GAMEPLAY: The battle system is the action-fighting style that makes Tales games so much fun. All of the characters are solid on the field, so who you pick is generally going to come down to personal preference (with the exception of a few bosses that will require certain characters, mostly Sheena). Raine is the only real healer, though, so she does tend to take priority in most party formations.

The dungeons are very puzzle-heavy, which can be a bit of a chore in the middle of the game when you have to hunt down multiple summon spirits one after the other. That being said, once solved the puzzles also tend not to reset, so any subsequent visits do go faster.

There’s plenty of skits and extra content available. I did most of the sidequests, although I skipped much of the Colesium simply because I was too low-leveled to make a good run of the advanced modes and did not feel like grinding (though as an aside, any Tales game does make grinding less a chore simply by turning up the difficulty, at which point even regular enemies can become as difficult as minor bosses, and they will drop additional EXP to boot).

One fairly major aggrevation for completionists is the sheer amount of replays the game will require to get everything. There is a certain scene in Flanoir, particularly, that has unique story content (plus in most cases some only-in-this-version title or items) for every single playable character. That’s nine scenes. Some of the titles will combine, so I think the actual number of playthroughs required to get a full 100% on titles and the Collector’s Book (required for a title for Genis) is 5. I was able to save right before Flanior and watch both Kratos and Collette, and I do think Kratos has the best scene of the nine, but picking him does cause some major changes in the plot later on.

OVERALL: I did enjoy this, and beat the game in about 75 hours having done most of the content (again, excluding Colesium as well as certain character weapons that required Level 80 to obtain, and skipping the optional dungeon). The ability to carry forward bonuses for new games using the Grade earned in battles from a completed game means any subsequent playthrough would be faster, but I doubt I will be playing through again anytime soon. One big difference from some of the later Tales games is that the clear files created after you beat the game do not allow you to keep playing on that same file, but rather start a New Game+, so do anything extra you want before the final boss.

Fans of the series have likely already played this, but to those who are thinking about diving in, the PS3 collection offers a great opportunity to get both this game and its sequel for a reasonable price. There is plenty of footage on Youtube if you need a visual of how the game looks and plays. The PS3 version does include a few things that will make life easier, such as additional compound Unison attacks, but they’re more tweaks than anything and either version would play largely the same. I rate this game Recommended.

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance (GCN)

After only owning the game for several years…. *coughs* … I finally beat Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance last night. So I thought I’d post a mini-review on the game.

Story:
You play as Ike, a young man who is the son of the commander of the Greil Mercenaries. When the country of Crimea is invaded and its monarch killed, only the princess escapes. The Greil Mercenaries are hired to protect the princess and see her safely back to her throne. Various other subplots surface, like the ongoing relationships between beroc (humans) and laguz (shapeshifters), the fate of the herons, and the titular Fire Emblem itself.

For the most part, the story is simple but solid. There are a few characters that feel rather useless (Sothe is the worst, because he actually made some pretensions to a plot but it goes nowhere) because they contribute nothing of interest to the plot. Overall, the story arcs from the first few fights pretty directly to the final confrontation.

Graphics:
The graphics make use of plenty of still images for character portraits and during plot sections. I actually really liked seeing the beautifully-drawn stills over somewhat-passably rendered in-game graphics. There are a few CG movies, but not very long, which lend some extra dynamism to the most important scenes in the game.

Gameplay:
This is a pretty hardcore strategy RPG. I can’t remember if I played on Easy or Normal, but several of the chapters are brutal if you’re trying to figure out how to keep everyone alive. Towards the end, however, it actually got a lot easier; by then I had been using my core fighters all game and they were maxed out level-wise, which helped. Being the indecisive person that I am, I managed to collect all of the stat-up items but only used the two Arms Scrolls because I kept dithering about which character to use them on. I still beat the last several chapters in one try. If I replay the game I have a better idea now of what skills and stat-ups I would likely want to use, and where.

There are a few frustrations with the gameplay. The game is a series of battles, one after the other, so there is no ability to level up or increase stats except through the plot. This is just the nature of the game. But where it hurts is that you’re limited to using weapons that are your grade or lower, and the only way to level up a weapon grade is to have that character use that weapon a LOT. So I maxed out my swordsmasters fastest (Ike actually didn’t hit S-level until the last chapter of the game), my lance-user a bit slower, and most other characters I was struggling to get to an A level in ONE weapon to be able to use the better silver weapons. So although I read comments online critiquing characters like Nephanee for only being able to use one weapon, realistically you’re stuck with one good weapon and one cruddy weapon on the dual-wielding characters like Oscar. The only exception is characters like Haar, who come in so late in the game he already has a B in both lances and axes (which made me happy because although I had a few characters who could use axes at that point, no one but Boyd could use any of the good ones). The Arms Scrolls can increase weapon levels, but you only get two of them (I waited until the last chapter of the game and used them both on Soren so I could bump up his Thunder rating in order to better fry the dragons in the last chapter).

There are no sidequests. The game is very linear in that regard. The replay value is mostly enhanced through trial maps that are unlocked by beating the game on various difficulties, and characters you can unlock (I believe just for those trial maps) by beating the game a certain number of times. That being said, I don’t feel a huge desire to replay this, although the strategy was fun. It’s a pretty long game even without that. I believe I clocked 38 hours on my save file, which doesn’t count all the battles I had to restart after an hour because someone died (you can’t bring anyone back from the dead, so it’s best just to start the chapter over).

Also one small irritation was that I moved both Boyd and Oscar to bows (the most useless weapon in the game, in my opinion) to use the triangle attack (one of two special moves), but never actually managed to get my characters in a position to be able to pull it off. The main problem is that a bow-user CANNOT hit anyone who comes right up to him, so putting bows on someone when more than one enemy has access to them is asking to get slaughtered. That was my main problem getting Rolf any levels either, because unlike Soren, who can actually hit the people who attack him if I forget to defend him well enough, Rolf can’t do a thing. So he never got to shoot as many people as he needed to level up his bow properly because I had to keep hiding him behind front-line characters who ended up slaughtering the enemy before Rolf could get a shot off.

So, final thoughts… I would like to see the sequel, although since I don’t have a Wii I may just watch the plot segments on Youtube (the game should be significantly shorter without all the battles). It’s given me an appreciation for strategy games and I am definitely interested in playing more of the genre, although I do find myself longing for a bit more elements of an RPG, like the ability to fight random battles in order to increase whatever stat/gold/etc you need. I rate this game Highly Recommended.