Thursday, January 26, 2012

Portable Game Triple Pack

In the past few months, I've completed three games for portable systems: Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions (PSP), The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (DS), and Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth (DS).

Since they're portable titles or ports of well-beloved console versions, I found it difficult to write at length about any of these. So here's some quick takes about each.

Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions (PSP)
Tactical RPGs are probably my favorite genre of game for portables. Why? They're deep, but they're also turn-based, which means means it's possible to just sit the game down at some point, even during the middle of a battle, and pick it up later. So to this point, I've played several Fire Emblem games for GBA, that Advance Wars game for the DS (Days of Ruin or some such), and of course the Final Fantasy Tactics Advance series. Jonesing for some good tactical RPG goodness, I picked up a PSP and a copy of the original Tactics.

Part of the reason I got the PSP version in the first place is because of one very big problem I had with the original. Square's original efforts for the PlayStation, such as Tactics and, of course, some game called Final Fantasy VII, became instant classics. But in their rush to get the games to the North American market these games got very shoddy translations. (My favorite: "off course!" instead of "of course!" in the battle arena in the Gold Saucer, which was probably just a typo, but still.) As bad as FF7's translation was, FFT's was that much worse. Tactics features a wide cast of characters in a plot full of history and political intrigue, including people very literally getting stabbed in the back. In addition, the gameplay itself is complicated. I tried to get past all this, but without a good idea of what was going on I quickly lost interest.

So what I'm driving at is that the PSP version features an excellent localization. The only other major features of the port are a multiplayer mode (which I never tried) and very occasional animated movies for key moments in the plot. (The animations are great, but they are few and far between.) The graphics and gameplay are pretty much the same, except now it's possible to actually understand what the tutorials say.

As I said, the gameplay is pretty much unchanged. Which is great if you played the original (though, since the class names also changed with the translation, there might be a slight learning curve), but can be harder for newcomers. Many gameplay evolutions have occurred in the past 15 years for tactical RPGs, and while some may interpret this as today's games being easier, I'd say in many cases they've just had enough time to get things right. The most annoying issue I found is that I couldn't evaluate the odds and damage for attacks capable of hitting multiple targets, which made spellcasting difficult. The only other problem I had with the port also had to do with spells: the spell animations caused the software to read the UMD every time, which made them much slower than they were in the original version. (Apparently this game was released long enough ago that "installing" hadn't really been thought up yet for PSP games, as I had this option in the more recent Tactics Ogre port that I just started playing.)

These days, I probably wouldn't recommend this game as an introduction to the genre. However, it remains a classic. If you're a fan of the original, you'll probably want to pick this up just for the new translation alone. I'd also recommend it for anyone who likes tactical RPGs but hasn't played this game yet, especially if you liked the Tactics Advance games but want something with a little more depth. (Well, okay, a lot more depth.)

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (DS)
Spirit Tracks is the second Zelda game for the DS, following the lead of Phantom Hourlgass. Controls are mostly unchanged from the previous game, where the stylus is used to move Link around the screen, select/talk to NPCs, use items, etc. It was innovative the first time around, but now it's expected. The game can be said for the rest of the game. It's a direct sequel to PH (and, therefore, Wind Waker), except instead of ships, this time around the game has trains. Yes, that's right, trains. You can collect treasures to sell and use to upgrade your train's health, as various baddies will occasionally attack you as you traverse the world map. This game is fun and I would generally recommend it, but it's not going to blow your mind or anything. (Fortunately, Skyward Sword is shaping up to be very good, and I hope to finish it and write about it soon.)

Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth (DS)
The Ace Attorney games have been covered pretty extensively here, between the original series and Apollo Justice. Timeline-wise, this game takes place shortly after the events of Trials and Tribulations but several years before the core of Apollo Justice. This game is pretty much made for people who are fans of the original series. Several characters make cameos and references abound. You certainly could play this game standalone, however. As it says in the title, this game is just "investigations". While the game still features the originals' trademark cross-examination bits, the focus is on investigating crime scenes deducing exactly what happened. Nonetheless, I still missed having parts in the courtroom (as it provided a change of scenery), and for the most part the investigations aren't nearly as free roaming (as you cannot, most of the time, move between areas at will). In addition, the game doesn't feel deep enough, from a certain perspective. In the Ace Attorney games, you're fighting the prosecution and the witness, in many ways, whereas in this game that extra "side" is missing.

The biggest problem I had with this game, though, were the puzzles. There were certainly times I would be frustrated in the other games, but in this game I really felt like I had to solve things much more on the game's terms, not to mention the number of times I was a step ahead of the game (for instance, in order to present a piece of evidence I would often have to introduce another piece of evidence first, even though I had already made the connection between the two).

Basically, I would only recommend this game if you're fan of the Ace Attorney series. If you aren't yet, hunt down a copy of the original Phoenix Wright game (or download it on the Wii), and perhaps eventually you'll fit in the category of people who I'd recommend this to. Also worth noting is that a sequel to this game does exist in Japan, but Capcom currently has no plans to release it in the US. Would I buy that game if it made it over here? Probably.

1 comment:

Jack said...

Thanks for the Ace review. I was thinking about picking it up, but now... not so much. I did just start playing "Law & Order: Legacies" on the iOS (also available on PC/Mac) and it reminds me a lot of the Ace Detective style of gameplay... only with better graphics and full voiceovers! Check it out :)