Monday, 22 October 2018

Knights of Valour 3 (Arcade)

It's strange that even to this day, none of IGS' arcade games have been ported to home consoles, the only reason I can think of being that no console publisher wants to bother with a Taiwanese company? But still, their beat em ups were always pretty ambitious, taking the inventory system from Capcom's Dungeons and Dragons beat em ups, and gradually expanding on the idea, eventually culminating in this: Knights of Valour 3, which brings various console game concepts and brings them to the arcade.

The biggest and most obvious thing is the use of memory cards. Though this is actuall pretty common in a lot of post-2000 arcade games, this is, as far as I know, the only beat em up that uses them. What does it use them for? For saving your progress in the game, and the stats, equipment and inventory of your character. Yes, it is another beat em up with those dreaded "RPG elements". But in this case, I'm willing to be a lot more forgiving than usual.

There's a couple of reasons for this, the least important being that the "progression" is very slow and very gradual, so it's not like grinding over and over to make the game easier is going to be a big thing, especially since there's a couple of barriers to this: firstly, it's an arcade game, so every time you play and die, that's the price of a credit thrown away, so you'd be better off getting better at the game, than waiting for it to get easier. Secondly, the item/equipment shop is only accessible after completing a stage, so there is a minimum barrier of entry before you can unlock new moves and better weapons and such.

The big reason I'm more forgiving, though, is simply that it's an arcade game, and it's not meant to be played the way I've been playing it (alone, on a computer at home). It's meant to be played in a public, social setting, with other players. And I can really see how that would enhance the game greatly: a group of friends, each with their own memory card containing their character, playing every day on their lunch break or whatever, gradually making progress through the game over the course of months. As far as I'm aware, there aren't any other arcade games that offer that kind of long term experience (like I said earlier, there are other arcade games that use memory cards, but as far as I know, they're all competitive, rather than co-operative), and it sounds like something that'd be really enjoyable. And after you've all finished for good, the memory cards themselves look really cool, so they'd be nice keepsakes to hold onto.

If you're curious about this game, it's still worth playing in MAME: it's decent enough fun, and it also looks incredible, but I have to say that, though it's very unlikely, I really hope I one day get to play it as it was originally intended, since the developers really did make an arcade game that offers and experience you can't perfectly replicate as a home game, even though the game itself could easily be ported to any of its contemporary home systems (Knights of Valour 3 was originally released in 2011).

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Ore ga Omae wo Mamoru (DS)

This game's title translates to "I Will Protect You", and it was part of a short-lived initiative to try and lure female visual novel fans towards "proper" games. The only other game I know of that was a part of the initiative was a reskinned version of the RPG Dungeon Maker. The luring in this case was entirely thematic, having a white-haired bishonen as a protagonist, various other bishonen in the town, and a female NPC for them all to fawn over. The game itself, though, definitely doesn't feel like it was made with players new to action games in mind.

Ore ga Omae wo Mamoru is a platform RPG, or a metrovania, if you like, and it starts out being brutally difficult: even the weakest enemies will take a ton of punishment, while you'll go down in just a few hits. Despite the fact that it doesn't have experience points and levelling, there's still an inverse difficulty curve in effect, since as time goes on, you get access to better weapons and armour, and healing items become easier to get ahold of, and things quickly get a lot easier after the first hour. Still, that's pretty much a part of the genre, and all the RPG-style Castlevaniae have this problem, and I love them, so I can't really hold it against OgOwM. Though when I say it gets easier, I'm referring entirely to combat and survival.

The big problem I have with this game is the language barrier, so if you can fluently read Japanese, you can stop here: this game's pretty good, if you've played all 3 DS Castlevaniae to death and want something similar, this is the game to go for. For everyone else, though: after killing the irst boss, I got totally stuck. All I could find were locked doors and walls that looked destructible, but I had no Idea how to open them. I also found a few chests with key items in them, though those items didn't seem to open any of the doors I could find.

It really is a shame, too. I remember there being a bit of buzz around this game when it came out in Japan, a lot of people being intrigued by the idea of an action RPG designed by and for women, but it seems that interest fizzled out almost instantly. GameFAQs has the long-abandoned beginnings of a walkthrough and a map with very little annotation, and there's also a forum thread somewhere on the internet from 2010 announcing a translation patch that never materialised. Hopefully someday, interest in this game will be revitalised, and someone will write, if not a translation patch, at least a proper walkthrough, so everyone can play it. Until that happens though, you're going to have a tough time getting through if you're not Japanese-literate.

Here's an addendum to what's written above: a few days after writing this review, I had to play the game a bit more to take screenshots, and during this session, I somehow triggered a long series of cutscenes. After they'd finished, not only was my max HP increased, but I also now had the ability to break those aforementioned destructible-looking walls. So I am able to progess a bit further in the game, but since I have no idea what made this happen, I still stand by my earlier opinion that the language barrier is fairly strong for those who can't read Japanese.