Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

■  Platform: PlayStation 3                               ■  Category: Action, Adventure

■  Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment      ■  Developer: Naughty Dog, Inc.

 

Uncharted is fairly basic in both game play and story.  While the story isn’t as deep and gritty as say Lord of the Rings, it’s a good story in it’s own right, focusing more on the characters then anything.  Almost as though the game was built, and then some poor mouse was dropped in it and must now find his way to the end.  As a third-person shooter it’s relatively simple with a decent amount of platforming and while the transition between the platforming and fighting is smooth, it is noticeable, giving you a chance to prepare yourself ahead of time.  Whether or not this is intentional or not is hard to say, though there are fights with no transition, making it seem intentional.  Uncharted uses scripted events during platforming and fighting to both impress urgency, and the understanding that you are indeed climbing across a hundred year old building that really is falling apart, so hurry it up already, jeez.

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Shadow Hearts

Shadow Hearts

■  Platform: PlayStation 2                               ■  Category: Role-Playing

■  Publisher: Midway                                       ■  Developer: Midway

 

Shadow Hearts is a singularly unique and innovative game.  The first thing you’ll notice about the game is the typical menu-driven turn-based combat system.  The second thing you’ll notice is a fancy white circle that pops up the second you try to do anything called the Judgment Ring.  The judgment ring has a hand that goes around the face just once, whenever the hand passes over a highlighted area you need to hit x to actually do anything, making you work for everything you do, from attacking to using an item.   This is not a game you want to play without checking out the manual first.  I should know, because that’s exactly what I did.  Unfortunately for you battle isn’t the only place where the judgement ring will show up.  It also follows you onto the field, and while you might think “big deal” the truth is Shadow Hearts did it years before Batman.  Though unlike Batman’s “press x 3 times to leave the vent” Shadow Hearts kindly tosses you a “You’ll never look cool in front of your girl friend ever” level of difficulty; where If you get it right you can continue the game, get it wrong enough times and the girl you just saved pushes you out of the way and does it for you.

Loser.

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Persona 4

■  Platform: PlayStation 2                               ■  Category: Role-Playing

■  Publisher: Atlus                                           ■  Developer: Atlus

 

Persona 4 is something of a mix between a dating sim and a dungeon crawler.  Instead of dating though, it’s more like a friend sim.  As you level up your friendships called Social Links you gain bonuses that help you with the dungeon crawling aspect of the game.  That may sound simple, but it’s far from it.  Things get complicated after that.  Very complicated.  The battles themselves are simple; they’re turn-based and menu driven, much like the RPGs of old, you can also set other party members to auto-pilot or manual if you so wish.  At the same time you’re introduced to battle you are also introduced to Persona “Your true self”.   Be prepared for a crash course on Freudian psychology because things only get weirder.  Each team member gets their own personal persona, only the main character can swap out personas, allowing you access to a wide variety of skills.  while that doesn’t sound so hard, how you obtain your personas is.  You get the chance to collect new personas after a battle, if you fuse these personas with others you get newer, and perhaps stronger personas.  I bet your wondering where the dating sim bit fits in.  Well, in order to get higher level personas not only do you have to level up social links corresponding to the persona type, but your character also need to be a least the same level.  The in game tutorials cover the whole fusion system by taking the hands off approach.  Basically you’ve got to more or less figure it out yourself.

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Tales of Graces f

■  Platform: PlayStation 3                               ■  Category: Role-Playing

■  Publisher: Namco Bandai Games              ■  Developer: Namco Bandai Games

 

Namcos handling of the Tales series is notoriously dickish, so it was a pleasant surprise when Tales of Graces ƒ actually made it to market, and in a surprisingly un-dickish move, only the extended cut made it state side, though, that also means the original was out in japan for years and never made it across the lake…

Tales of Graces ƒ plays like any Tales game; battles are real time and special moves are assigned to different directions on the left joy stick.  Picking a direction and an attack type allows you to preform either basic or special attack chains.  Unlike most Tales games Tales of Graces ƒ does not use SP to cast spells or use special moves; instead you use CC that can be replenished by simply guarding for a short period of time.  Every moves requires CC to preform, and dodging at the right time allows you to store more CC than you could normally.  Also introduced are titles that you equip and level up, each level granting you a new permanent upgrade to either skills or base stats.  Each title also comes with a unique ability that is only available while that title is equipped making title choice fairly important during boss battles.

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