Ragnarok Odyssey (Japanese release) Review, and I Can’t Wait for the North America Release

You know a game is good when you can play it in a language you do not understand and be thoroughly hooked. I am referring to Ragnarok Odyssey.

One of joys of living in New York City is having a local game store like Video Games New York that specializes in Japanese imports and retro games. I frequent this place a couple of times a month just to check out their new arrivals and cruise through their vast selection of retro games and consoles. It was on my last visit that I was chatting with the store clerk. I wish I could remember his name, he deserves a shout-out. (It’s always refreshing to find a video game store clerk that is actually very knowledgeable of video games.) We were talking about their latest Japanese PS3 imports when he pointed out their Japanese PS Vita titles. And there it was: Ragnarok Odyssey. Score!

I must admit, I was totally unaware that this had been released in Japan and there is a North American version due out in Q3 2012. I have always been a fan of the Ragnarok universe, and to see a PS Vita addition had me like a kid at a toy store days before Christmas. Ragnarok Odyssey was released in Japan earlier this year to much acclaim. A Hong Kong release is slated for July 12 that includes both Chinese and English.

Before I go on, let the record show that my knowledge of the Japanese language is limited to what I have learned from Kill Bill, sushi restaurants, and watching anime. (I fully intend to work on this skill in the immediate future…) To be this excited about an action rpg without being able to understand the dialog and menus of the game (or for that matter the items I am purchasing experimentally from the various vendors in the game) tells you that this is going to be a great addition to the PS Vita game library and the Ragnarok universe.

Not being able understand the language yet be able to pick it up and quickly figure out that gameplay is a credit to the designers of this game. A game should not have too steep of a learning curve. Ideally the controls and logic of the game should be somewhat intuitive. And this one has that working for it in addition to everything else. From the lush music of that pops up with the title page, to the amazing opening action-filled battle movie that begins the game, to the stellar graphics and art-style of the game, this game is an audio and visual delight. The gameplay is much like Monster Quest where you take increasing difficult missions of venturing out to rid the area of increasingly difficult foe or gathering items while battling these critters. There are a nice variety of character classes to play. (I am playing the default Sword Master class.) The boss battles are challenging. You will die a few times, and this game does have a certain amount of forgiveness in that it lets you resurrect twice during a mission, but you will still fail a quest every once in a while. There is a lot of loot to be had on these missions too. Developers Acquire and Game Arts and publisher XSEED have also taken unique advantage of the PS Vita’s features by incorporating an unique in-game “near” app access feature in addition to using the touch-screen to bring up potion and communication menus. You will get a kick out of making your character flirt, joke, sass, bow, wave, cheer, anger, taunt, etc., etc. I know I a missing a lot of the content of this game since I am clueless as to what’s being said, but to enjoy it this much… I can’t think of higher praise.

I can’t wait for the English language version. I hope the people behind the localization meet the high-bar that that the developers have set, because this is and shall be a great title Vita, and a great game, period.

Review Rating: 9.5/10

  • Available now in Japan (and your local store that carries Japanese imports!)
  • North American Release Date: Q3 2012
  • RP-T+ for Rating Pending: Targeting a Rating of Teen or Above
  • Genre: RPG
  • Publisher: XSEED Games (and Gung Ho Entertainment in Japan)
  • Developer: Game Arts

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The Absurdity of the Gamer-Led Console Wars, and How I Make My Choices of Platform

As I stated in my previous blog entry, I am a huge Sony fanboy; but that does not mean that I have any less love for my other consoles. Yes, I own all the current gen of hardware: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii (and also PS Vita, PSP, and 3DS). And, I have a huge custom gaming PC. That being said, I think the console wars is ridiculous. It is not the one-upmanship of the console makers that bothers me; that is just healthy competition that brings about evolution in the industry. What I think is really sad and is the bashing and hating perpetuated by gamers themselves. Each console has its merits. Each offers something different. So, although I am a Sony fan, I play each with equal enthusiasm. Why can’t gamers respect the choices of other gamers? These systems are not cheap. Games are not cheap. So most have to make a decision of one console over the others. Respect their choices. Each console has carved its own niche, and with good reason.

Nintendo has some of the best, most classic franchises ever! There is no debating that. I think that is one point on which most every gamer (and non-gamer) can agree. It really pisses me off to hear the inane criticism of “it’s not in 1080p” or “its online sucks.” A game doesn’t have to be in 1080p to look stunning. Resident Evil 4, the Zelda games, Epic Mickey, these all look great. As for online, that is not a deal breaker for me. I love online games, but I also enjoy the solo game or having someone over for local multiplayer. And there are some online games: Mario Kart for example. So what if you don’t have voice chat. It’s not needed to enjoy these games. As for economy, Nintendo is definitely the system to own if you are on a tight budget. The console is almost half the price of the others, and the games are $10 to $20 less in price.

Then there’s Microsoft and the 360. The one thing that I say MS has excelled with is their online capabilities from messaging to voice and video chat and how it integrates in online games and game lobbies. But, consider this: they better have excelled at this. They’ve only had two decades to experiment and tweak it to get it right. They built on their own .NET framework and have incorporated everything they learned from their Windows division. Then there’s the Kinnect. How cool is this? I feel so Minority Report every time I play a Kinnect game. They also have some great exclusive franchises: Gears of War and Halo primarily, not to mention Forza and Fable.

And for Sony and the PS3, they’ve come a long way. Great hardware from the beginning. (I still maintain that their graphical and physics capabilities are best and have not fully been exploited.) It has Blu-Ray, which holds much more data. The GUI is much less cluttered and easier to navigate. And their catalog of games, I feel, is aimed at a more mature demographic of gamer. They have some great exclusive franchises too: Uncharted, Resistance, Killzone, God of War, Gran Turismo. Also, they have PlayStation Plus, which is a huge economic boon for gamers. (See my previous blog.)

So why do gamers insist on trash-talking and bashing consoles? (Psychoanalysis is not my forte, but I surmise it is some sort of envy/jealousy akin to Freudian penis-envy, or whipping it out to see whose is bigger, but I digress.) Each offers something that the others don’t. It’s a matter of personal taste and personal economy. We need a little more tolerance and respect in this community.

This brings me to my second point of this essay, and a question that is asked of me frequently. Since I own all three consoles and a gaming PC, why do I chose certain buying multiplatform titles on one console over the other? The answer is simple: control scheme familiarity for some, graphics for others, and the demographic of the community playing an online title.

The Resident Evil series, for example, I have to play on Sony consoles. Why? I played my first Resident Evil games on the original PlayStation. I am familiar with that controller and that control scheme for those games. For me RE is at home on my PS3, as are Final Fantasy games. On the flipside, the Elder Scrolls series is at home for me on the Xbox line. When it comes to FPS, I go back and forth: I like the community on PS3 that plays Battlefield games (I also played the earlier ones on PS2). As for the COD series, I go back and forth, one installment on one the next on the other. (I have close friends that like to play it on 360, and clan buddies on the PS3.) Then there are some games which I only play on PC: the Crysis games, Portal games, and F.E.A.R. games. These games originated on PC, and I like the control and mod capabilities of PC, not to mention the supreme graphics of PC. And the game ladders and lobbies of PC reign supreme. I have not mentioned Nintendo here because Nintendo has carved it its own unique niche, and all my Nintendo games are Nintendo exclusives.

In gaming, as in other forms of entertainment, it’s about what makes you happy, what really grabs you. Let’s put this war to rest, and enjoy gaming with others (or alone) and sharing our experiences. We have enough negativity in our real world, don’t let it invade our escape.

My First Blog Post (here): Kudos and Thank You, Sony

Now that I have this blog set up, and I am pretty much pleased with it, it is time for my first blog entry…

I should preface this by admitting that yes, I am a huge Sony fanboy. But, that does not mean I have any less love for my other consoles, and I have them all. Each and their respective “only on” titles have given me great satisfaction and many hours of gaming. (I have a future blog planned for why I purchase certain multiplatform games for certain platforms over others.) That being said, time for my praise of Sony.

This last week, coinciding with an impressive showing at E3, Sony rolled out a plethora of AAA titles free to their PlayStation Plus subscribers. Now that I have mentioned PlayStation Plus, let me rant a moment about the PS Plus nay-sayers and haters. How can anybody logically complain about having to pay for this service. Need I remind people that Sony does not charge for playing online like Microsoft does. Sony does not require players to have a “Silver” or “Gold” subscription to take advantage of online multiplayer gaming the way the 360 does. PlayStation Plus is a subscription service whose members benefit by getting discounts on games and downloadable content, exclusive access to other content and features, and early or exclusive access to betas. Xbox Live charges $60 annually for a Gold membership just to play online and take advantage of the online features. Sony does not. But for $50 annually you get 24 times that much in games and savings. Sony reports that in 2011 Plus members received more than $1200 in savings on games and downloads. All that for $50. I rest my case. Nay-sayers and haters, to use the vernacular of leet speak: STFU!

So, as I mentioned above, coinciding with an impressive showing at E3 (and that was a clever public relations strategy), I turned on my PS3 and headed over to the PlayStation Store, something I do every time I power up my black beauty, and what did I discover? At least $240 worth of free AAA titles for Plus members. I was particularly ecstatic because I was literally minutes away from going out and picking up a copy of Warhammer 40,000, which I had been thinking about for a long while and is still selling for $40 to $50 retail. And here it was free! And there were many more titles that I wanted to add to my collection. Now I have most all of them downloaded and installed on my PlayStation 3. In one day, my Plus membership paid for itself 5-fold. Thank you, Sony! Here are the titles that were made free to Plus members this week:

  • Virtua Fighter 5
  • inFAMOUS 2
  • Little Big Planet 2
  • Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One
  • Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine
  • Just Cause 2
  • Saints Row 2
  • Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
  • Hard Corp: Uprising
  • Choplifter HD
  • Zombie Apocalypse Never Die Alone
  • Sideway NY

It occurred to me that the PlayStation Plus service has also achieved something else: it has made PlayStation 3 and its games even more accessible to the public. Let’s face it: this is an expensive hobby (and for some – obsession). But now, for the cost of one game, someone who has spent their hard-earned money on this console is treated to a library of games that, as in the case of 2011 Plus games, is worth up to $2000. All for $50. I can’t think of a better investment for any PlayStation gamer.

For more information on this roll-out of games check out the PlayStation.Blog.

See you online!

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