Posts Tagged ‘Professor Layton’

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #158

February 24, 2012

I went to see Studio Ghibli’s latest, The Secret World of Arrietty, in theaters this week. It follows a family of very tiny people known as The Borrowers because they take just what they need from the humans’ houses they live in. Borrowers move to a new location if they are seen by humans because it becomes too dangerous. Arrietty has just turned fourteen and will be doing her first “borrowing” with her father that very night. At the same time, a new human boy has come to live at the house. It is a fairly simple story of friendship and fantasy and therefore charming from beginning to end. There is a timeless quality to the country (thanks in no small part to Ghibli’s art style) and with the exception of one appearance of a cell phone it gives no hint of the broader world. The exploration of the house from the view of Borrowers is well-crafted and alive making the ordinary noteworthy. This is especially true for green Arrietty who has never ventured into its walls before but possesses all the youthful courage and curiosity you might imagine. The final resolution is possibly the most adventurous of all and made me sad that I could not see where it will lead. In a quite positive way, it breaks the spell of it being a small world and opens it up to thousands of possibilities. My only complaint is the English voice acting was not very good, there were a lot of times the voices sounded completely disconnected and disembodied. The only exception was Arrietty thank goodness. So I look forward to picking this up on DVD and hope the Japanese does it a bit more justice.

I might just stop watching Bodacious Space Pirates not because it is a bad show but because everyone loves it so much I think it is beginning to make me hate the show. When I originally watched the first episode I thought it was serviceable if a bit forgettable. But more and more I just heard people praising the show like it was the second coming of Fullmetal Alchemist. Narutaki and I joked that we must have accidentally watched Totally Tubular Space Pirates which must have been the inferior knock off show. It seems like the one show that is able to get the jaded old school fans and the young moe fans to sit down at the table and agree to enjoy something together. This keeps me watching the anime while trying to discover what I am missing that everyone else is in love with. But the more I watch the more flaws I see with the show. I feel more and more these are flaws I would normally forgive if it were watching this in a vacuum but are unmistakable when I examine the show so minutely. Plus being a Space Pirate seems to be more like a glorified Sea World stage show than the brave adventures of Captain Harlock. Maybe if I come back to this show a year from now I can give it a fair shake. Right now I feel like those people who picked apart Summer Wars until it was devoid of any fun because it got all the hype that it did and I don’t want to be that guy.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #148

December 16, 2011

I’ve started playing Professor Layton and the Last Specter which is the start of the prequel arc featuring the first meeting of Layton and Luke. Since this is the case, the game begins with Layton meeting his new assistant Emmy who quickly became a favorite of mine. She is a new addition with her high energy and physical nature. At times she even acts as the audience to the strange happenings making comments like these villagers are so weird and the like. And it is a good thing I fell in love with her quickly, I just started a new chapter where she has broken off from Layton and Luke to go solo in London. So far the story has been in line with previous games which is a positive; I’ve been able to deduce small mysteries but the Specter remains elusive. The town seems more sprawling complete with canals and boat transportation but like the last two games it tends to box you into a path and only lets you explore at its discretion which I always take issue with. Puzzles are Layton puzzles and nothing has stood out though there does seem to be more real math than before. I’m happy to say the car path mini-game is back, but made way better because it is with trains! I haven’t gotten to London Life yet. If you’ve seen the movie Eternal Diva you know a little more about this game, but I’m looking forward to now go back and watch it with a fuller knowledge.

Mass Effect is a series that has a rich back story and world building aspects that can be totally ignored if you wish to play the game as a straight sci-fi action game. I being a Type-Moon fan of course am the sort of person who will pour over all the in-game encyclopedia entries and journals. So that fact alone won the game major bonus points with me. That aside I think the game lives up to all the praise the fans give to the series. It has a solid plot that you can play through fairly quickly if you skip all the side material. But half the fun is all the side missions you can do. The main plot line maybe be the entrée but the side dishes are equally important to the meal in its entirety although you might not want to do all the silly collect all the tchotchkes missions like I did. But the cool thing is so many of your decisions carry over to the next two games be it huge decisions you make in the main plot line or little choices you make in side quests. It gives you a reason to seek out missions just so you can impact the world as opposed to just collecting more money and experience. Knowing that the people you kill or tasks that you accomplish carry over give every decision you make a satisfying weight and consequence. The dialog and charterers are not War and Peace or Citizen Kane levels but you will get attached to most people and the writing is usually pithy. The morality system is one of the best for a modern video game. There are still some kick the dog ridiculously evil choices but most of the time picking the renegade choice is an acceptably gray moral decision. It makes playing the path other than the white knight choices viable to people who don’t just shoot the scientists in Half-Life because it is cool. As for the two biggest complaints I always hear about the game I agree with one and did not really care about the other. The Mako is sort of annoying as everyone says it is. It’s hardly unbearable but it is clunkier than it needs to be. When you are moving along it is fine but when you spend 10 minutes getting from one location of the map to another when is should have taken 30 seconds because of the terrain you quickly understand why people were glad they removed the tank driving from everything but some optional missions in the second game. The other major complain it’s the inventory system. I thought that about 90% of gear you pick up was just vendor trash but I did not find it that hard to deal with even on the 360. I just wish the shops were not just filled with random inventory as opposed to a fixed stock. I almost always had mediocre to poor armor because of this. Those flaws aside Mass Effect was pretty amazing. I beat it in about a week and missed quite a bit of sleep due to it keeping me up. If you any sort of American RPG fan it is worth trying it out.

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Character Building Exercises

April 4, 2011

I would like to proudly announce that recently I finished off two video games in one day. Although I started them on different days  coincidence made it so I finished Galaxy Angel and Radiant Historia at the same time. Finishing both games back to back made me realize one thing. I would easily recommend both games so the next statement comes from someone who was thoroughly satisfied with his gaming experience (although if the last mission of Galaxy Angel were not an escort mission I would be happier.) Both games are sort of thin when it comes to their characters. They were enjoyable but in realized that had these character been from an anime or manga I would have considered them much weaker.  We simply accept a smaller amount of characterization in video games than we do from any other medium of entertainment.

We all know that video games have changed and evolved quite a bit over the years, but its been in many different directions. Even excluding the change in graphics capability and the potential length of games, plenty of growth in how people perceive games and how the creators make them has happened. They are a new and special type of storytelling, they are art to some and entertainment to many, and by any standard they have become integrated into the fabric of people’s lives on some level. But let’s go back to the storytelling element, certainly there have always been goals and structures for games, but we’ve seen epic stories come to life, too. And things just seem to grow more complex, with bigger ideas, and greater casts. But how characters develop in the story and through the player is still another idea all together.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #104

November 12, 2010

I have happily been engrossed in the latest Professor Layton game the Unwound Future for the last week. The plot is the most fun and lively yet and we even get to learn a bit about Layton’s past and relationships plus see a (gasp) top hat-less Layton! This is also the most personal and emotional installment yet, which makes sense since it is the end of trilogy. Still I was pleased to see myself tearing up at the ending of the events. The puzzles were about the same difficulty level as the second game, which means that overall they are tricky but not overly hard. I still admit to missing the really challenging puzzles that appeared at the end of the first game. In this case even the end puzzles, worth a lot of picarts, were mostly harder versions of puzzles you had already conquered earlier in the game. But my true reason for playing the game is plot, plot, plot so I was indubitably pleased with how it came together. My only complaint is the constant hand holding that started with the second game and only seems to have escalated in the third. There is a journal that I can read if I forget anything, there is a mystery section that I can review, and when I turn on my continued game it reminds me of where I left off. Those things are all fine, what I don’t need is the game to prevent me from wandering and a plot recap every couple of chapters. These things don’t make the game less fun it just takes a bit of mystery solving out of it.

hisuiconProfessor Layton and the Unwound Future is a delightful capping off of the 1st Professor Layton trilogy. As with most the previous games we start with an odd event that spirals into a larger adventure with Layton discovering the grand conspiracy behind everything as he solves puzzles. I did notice some recycling of older puzzles beyond using some of the work horse types of puzzles that are in all three games. But they change them enough that they don’t feel like you are replaying an older game with a new story. I am never usually one to comment on voice acting but the new woman who does Flora is quite awful especially considering how good everyone else has been. I don’t know what circumstances prevented them from using the original Flora but they need to get rid of this lady and fast. The ending of the game was bombastic where is need to be and in contrast heartfelt, touching, and a bit melancholy where it needed to be as well. I will say the giant robot at the end of the Eternal Diva is much more inline with the series now that I played this game. I look forward to the adaption of the prequel trilogy as well as the Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney game.  With all the new material taking place before this trilogy one wonders when they will get to that letter and the end of this game.

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