Wednesday, January 18, 2006

News for Nerds

Roar (1997)
I stumbled across this on the Sci-Fi channel; it’s another one of these bad fantasy shows that SciFi has resurrected after their deserved first-season cancellations. Heath Ledger, surprisingly, stars as a polite and friendly Irish warchief circa 400AD. His older sidekick sports a handlebar moustache and looks more like a leather-daddy than Pictish warrior – they are all named things like Colm and Liam and I’ll be damned if I remember which one is which. It seems basically like a silly Xena knock-off, but is certainly an interesting piece of TV ephemera.

Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2 – Avatar Tuners
Avatar Tuners is, of course, the secret bonus unnecessary subtitle for this most recent Megami Tensei outing. I played SMT:DDS1 but not all the way through; I found it kind of boring and monotonous, and also monstrously difficult, although in a rare twist I actually liked the story. About a fifth of the way through I returned it to Gamestop, which involved a shouting argument with a Russian immigrant and the manager which left me shaking with rage SO BAD that I had to move to England and marry into a wealthy family and kill a troubled actress before I even wanted to TALK about it.
Anyway, we’re talking about the sequel here. Every review I read said that the first game was not as good but you needed to play it in order to have the faintest idea what’s going on in this version. This is true if you are kind of slow or if you suffer from the vapors or aphasia. I chose just to enjoy the new plot as an in medias res beginning – it’s not too hard to pick up on, since it’s kind of a blend of the Matrix and most Megami Tensei games (although not as willfully dumb as the matrix). As usual for the series the world has ended, people have made deals with the devil, and your character is part demon, part waifish Japanese wisp. It doesn’t look to be as philosophically interesting as the opposed reasons in SMT: Nocturne (you got to pick between Struggle, Solitude, and Silence, so in retrospect they weren’t that interesting either). The fact that this tissue-thin story is winning my praise really says something about the general quality of RPG plots, but it is not something that hasn't been said frequently and inarticulately before.
The camera controls are a little stiff and there’s no way to shut off the clamorous, idiotic music, but they’ve brushed up the graphics, combat and character development systems and it looks like it’s going to be a whale of a game. The balancing also seems better. The game is wickedly hard for about the first five battles, but after that it settles – most battle require some thought and there’s definitely a possibility that ANY encounter could leave you dead, but that’s a nice change of pace from the ponderous or very easy systems of a lot of other PS2 games (Dragon Quest VIII and any final fantasy, for instance). Also, the battles generally resolve in less than a minute, which sounds like it would cause seizures, but is actually just perfect.

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