Tag Archives: PS2

God of War Collection

I’ve spoken before on how shallow and brainless I think the God of War series to be, and I’d still much rather play something like Bayonetta, but I like them enough to justify £25 for both of them redone in high definition. Given that the first one managed to impress even after the 360 and PS3’s releases, I was keen to see how they held up with a spit and polish, and the answer is pretty damn well.

They’re not going to fool anyone into thinking that they’re new releases or anything, and some of the perspective tricks are shown up in HD like ropey special effects on a Blu-ray movie, but a few added pixels, some v-sync and a mostly locked 60fps – I’ve seen drops in areas with lots of particle effects, like the first game’s Desert of Lost Souls – do them a world of good. The spell is broken somewhat when you see Athenian soldiers who look like troop models from a 1998 RTS and the unchanged FMV looks horrific – rendered from the PS2 engine for standard definition and badly compressed to boot – but this is a retro compilation at the end of the day. I’m not going to dock a retro compilation point for not looking completely shiny and new.

I’m disappointed that the remastering on both of them couldn’t have extended to proper surround sound, though, with only PS2-era Dolby Pro Logic II present and some glitches in that to boot. Remixing the whole thing might have been a lot to ask, but Sony’s been excellent this generation in terms of pushing next-generation sound as hard as visuals and I think it would have made a world of difference.

Given the PS3’s current situation surrounding backwards compatibility, maybe this is testing the water for the approach to come. I’d have no problem rebuying some of my favourite PS2 titles given this kind of treatment.

The obvious one to ask for and one that’s probably likely is a Team Ico compilation in advance of The Last Guardian, but I could reel off a list of PS2 favourites that would be excellent candidates for this kind of treatment: Kingdom Hearts, Silent Hill, Devil May Cry, Final Fantasy… Stick them on a disc or release them individually as à la carte downloads from PSN. Hell, why limit this idea to the PlayStation? Splinter Cell and Hitman both have sequels in the works and I’d relish the opportunity to play through the earlier iterations again. If universal backwards compatibility isn’t possible, this is the next best thing and has plenty of benefits of its own.

The God of War games remain a bit of a guilty pleasure for me, and this is definitely the way to play them. They’re two of the best action games of the last decade and the low price for them looking and playing this smoothly is a steal.

The screenshot in this post was borrowed from Bitmob’s comparison feature here.

Best of 2008 #9: Persona 4

Persona 4

Considering that this was the second Persona game that I played in 2008 and that it had to live up to the high standards of its predecessor, the standard that Persona 4 manages to hit is all the more remarkable.

I was pretty much guaranteed to like this one as soon as I saw the small-town Japan setting – I like another game with a similar setting, in case you didn’t know – and although I do indeed like that better than the more anonymous city of Persona 3, there are other reasons why I like this one better. There’s no more shooting oneself in the head to summon demons, but you can’t have everything.

It’s not far removed from P3 in terms of gameplay and structure, but all of its changes are for the better. As well as finally letting me see what a spell does from the menu, finally removing the need to memorise the functions of moves with such descriptive names as Pulinpa or Marakukaja to avoid the potentially harsh punishments for using the wrong one, there’s more variety to the dungeons, better characters, and a fantastic translation.

I mean, somehow the translation team managed to take a cute bear-thing called Teddie, who’s with you throughout and talks in frequent bear puns, and not make the whole thing un-bear-able. Sorry… but it’s still an impressive feat of translation in an already genuinely funny script.

So a round of applause for Atlus, sending out the PS2 with one of its best RPGs and what will surely be – I’m sure that I said this about God of War II and Persona 3, but I actually think it’s true this time – the console’s last truly great game.

Persona 3 FES

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FESMuch as I’d like to, I can’t spend all my time playing GTA IV (16 hours over the long weekend was quite enough), and with the rest of the development world going into hiding until everyone gets bored, I’ve had to turn over a few rocks for something else to play.

So I came to this: the expanded edition of last year’s well-received Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3. This is where I put a rant about how it’ll never come out here, but I only just found out that the original game did, in fact, come out in the UK. Still, that doesn’t improve our chances of getting a remix of a game that probably didn’t make it out of four figures in sales. Import is the only way to go if you want FES (pronounced ‘fess’, as it’s short for ‘festival’).

Right, here comes the synopsis. I’ve played some weird games in my time, but this one takes the biscuit. The premise is that there’s a 25th hour to every day called the Dark Hour. Most people are completely unaware of it, as they transmogrify into coffins (seriously) for the duration and return to normal at 12:01 as if nothing has happened. But a select few are able to retain their form and must spend their nights fighting ‘shadows’, demons that emerge from a mysterious labyrinth called Tartarus, which only appears during the Dark Hour. Someone dies or inexplicably becomes catatonic during the night? That’s the shadows getting up to no good with them.

Naturally, your protagonist and some of his school friends are among those with the ability to roam the Dark Hour. They also have the handy ability to control personas – personal demons called forth from their psyche by shooting themselves in the head. Yes, really. Strengthen your personality by day by making friends, having relationships and joining clubs, and it makes your personas and their spells stronger for when you roam the randomly generated 200+ floors of Tartarus, grinding and fighting occasional bosses to build yourself up for monthly story events that occur during the full moon. Continue reading Persona 3 FES

Devil May Cry, but I certainly will…

Devil May Cry 4

Despite my (correct) assertions that Ninja Gaiden is the best of the current big three 3D actioners, I’ve remained something of a Devil May Cry virgin. I’ve gotten to first base with the series, having owned the godawful PAL version of the original, but when I got frustrated with that and saw the bad reviews for DMC2 I just stopped caring about the series, so I never went all the way.

Naturally, with Devil May Cry 4 available in demo form and shortly to be released in all its glory, now is the time for me to get cosy with Dante. And that’s the last love analogy, I promise.

I nabbed myself a copy of the Devil May Cry 5th Anniversary Collection, which contains the three PS2 instalments in all their NTSC full-screen full-speed glory. A good deal at their original retail price, but thanks to some credit they only set me back £20. If you need proof that now is a good chance to go back and get the last generation’s classics for ridiculously low prices – assuming you don’t have a 40GB PS3 ;) – there you go.

I haven’t even had the chance to touch the second two games, being that I’ve found the first one obscenely hard. For all the flak that Ninja Gaiden gets for being difficult, when I revisited that last year I can honestly say that I didn’t hit a sticking point like I did with THE FIRST BOSS in Devil May Cry; the same point at which I got stuck when I first bought the game. I was getting my arse kicked, to the point that I restarted the game from scratch and spent a while fighting the enemies of the second mission, getting enough red orbs to buy more powerful attacks. Essentially I was being forced to grind in an action game. And when I did finally beat him I immediately suffered a kicking at the hands (paws?) of some shadowy big cat thing.

But yet I’m still thoroughly enjoying the game, even despite the awkward button layout. I’m finding that it has the same well-pitched learning curve to the combat that I enjoyed in Ninja Gaiden. You can feel yourself getting better at it and although death can be frequent, it’s usually something that you did wrong. It’s the thing that both series do right and that the fireworks of God of War have no answer to. And of course NG makes you feel like a ninja, DMC a badass demon hunter, while both have far deeper combat and combo systems. It’s no contest, really.

The Devil May Cry 4 demo is fantastic, by the way. I’ve played both versions and you can’t go wrong with either (depending on how much £10 is to you), and it’s looking like a phenomenal game – Nero is a great character and playing the original at the same time really shows how much more polished the series has become. And then with any luck by the time I finish it off we’ll be mere weeks away from Ryu’s next appearance. Can’t wait.

Best of 2007 #8: God of War II

God of War II

As far as I’m concerned it’s testament to how strong the 3D action genre is at the moment when my least favourite of the current big three – Devil May Cry, God of War, Ninja Gaiden – can make number eight in my best of the year. With 2008 due to bring us a new installment in all three series…well, the phrase “pig in shit” comes to mind.

It’s fitting that a console that brought such a vast library of great games got a send-off as spectacular as God of War II. Nine times out of ten such a major game wouldn’t have come to the ‘obsolete’ console when its successor was out there and, at the time certainly, wanting for AAA titles. But the fact that it could run on the PS2 is all the more impressive when you see it. I don’t know what development voodoo the developers have done, but at times this game pushes around things that most games of the HD generation wish they could do.

It’s only real flaw is that it’s God of War. That is, it’s more of a button masher than its genre counterparts and is ultimately as shallow as Kratos himself. But it’s not trying for the technical mastery of Ninja Gaiden or the deep combo system of Devil May Cry. It’s a rollercoaster ride, about the fireworks more than the grey matter despite being ostensibly the same genre. It’s Independence Day to their Bourne Identity. And while one is clearly better than the other, I have plenty of time for both.

Having played the PSP demo, I can’t wait to see what the team can do with the PS3 hardware in 2009. Killzone what?

Ryu ga Gotoku

It might not have been particularly huge news on all the main gaming sites, but I’m very excited by the news that Sega’s recent Japanese action game Ryu ga Gotoku (translates as “Like a Dragon”) will be released in the West under the more marketable name of Yakuza.

As you may or may not have guessed, the reason why I’m excited is not only that it’s supposed to be an excellent game and a return to form for Sega, but because it’s also been called a spiritual successor to Shenmue, a game that I’d rank as my second favourite of all time and that I’m borderline obsessive about. It’s not as slow and doesn’t have the emphasis on exploration and investigation, but it looks nice and I can’t look at this shot without being reminded of certain areas of Shenmue II by night. This is one I’ll be watching keenly over the next few months.

Let’s just hope that the localisation isn’t ruined by horrible voice acting again.