My bro!

My bro!

After last night’s session with Persona 4, I am about 7 and a half hours into the game and it keeps getting better. I now have free reign to go around and do what I want, which translates into how I’m going to spend my time after school and what I do before bed.

After school I have several options: I can explore the dungeon inside the TV world, hang out with my friends, or if it’s Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday, practice with the soccer team.

Going inside the dungeon is always a fun test in endurance that reminds me a little bit of Etrian Odyssey. Both games have you exploring a multileveled dungeon with progressively harder enemies on each floor. Both games force you to decide how far you should go before turning around. Try to do too much and you’ll likely die. You need to know when it’s time to fight and when it’s time to leave. This brings me to the one little complaint I have with the game. The enemies are visible on the exploration screen and to initiate battle you need to hit them with your sword, or they can attack you. To get an advantage in battle you need to attack them from behind, so this usually involves me standing around for a minute or two while I wait for these things to turn around.

Hanging out with my friends or practicing with the soccer team both go hand in hand, in that they both involve me leveling up my social links. Social links represent the bonds of friendship I share with people and leveling them up strengthens my personas, demons that assist me in battle. I look forward to going to soccer practice and hanging out with Kou and Daisuke. They’re fun and interesting. On the way home from practice one day we stopped at a restaurant and had some ramen. =D

Other than side characters, I can also hang out with main characters, like my bro Yosuke. We went and got some steaks from this great little stand in the shopping district. Little chewy, but still pretty good. Even if some jerks were gossiping about how Yosuke’s parents are ruining Inaba by bringing Junes, the chain super store, into their town. Hey, I’m from the big city, I love hangin out at the Junes food court. Don’t let the haters get you down.

I freakin love Junes

I freakin love Junes

Before I go to bed there are at least two things I can do. First off, I can study to increase my knowledge. This is all I’ve done so far since no other option has been open to me. However, I bought a book at the book store after school and the next time I jump into Persona 4, I’m reading it before bed. It better be good because it cost me 1200 yen.

Persona 4 has its hooks in me. They created a living, breathing world with intersting characters that I actually care about. Don’t get me wrong, the RPG gameplay is fun, but man I want to hang out with Daisuke and Kou some more. Them some cool guys.

Just some cool guys and some noodles

Just a couple of cool guys and some noodles

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Kids these days

I played the first three hours of Persona on Friday night. After those three hours I pressed the X button hundreds of times to get through lengthy conversations. I fought in maybe five or six actual battles. I might have had direct control of my character for thirty minutes. I’m pretty sure all I accomplished was the tutorial. I had a great time.

Persona 4 is all about being a high school kid in rural Japan and all the burdens that come with it. Including solving murders by going inside TV’s and fighting demons. Most of the time I played was spent being acclimated with the characters and the setting. I went to class a few times, made some friends, and went inside the TV a few times to meet a bear and rescue my friends from demons. There were a few anime cut scenes sprinkled in for good measure.

If there’s on thing I didn’t like it was that the game spelled everything out for me in the most painful fashion possible. It made me feel like I was a two year old that couldn’t even follow the most basic plot developments. For example, I was watching the news one night and after it was over, the main character would summarize everything he just heard. This summarization happens after almost anything plot related happens .

I look forward to the next time I sit down with Persona 4, at which point I’ll provide a more in depth look at gameplay, because like I said, I’m pretty sure I just completed the introduction to the game. Expect more Persona 4 later this week.

Monster Hunter is an aptly named game because it’s all about hunting monsters. It’s a huge game in Japan. HUGE. It has sold millions of copies and when the latest title was released, national productivity actually dipped. How insane is that?

Rawr

Rawr

In the west, the series has a dedicated following, but it is nothing compared to what it’s like in Japan. Why is that? Why doesn’t every God-fearing American share my love for this series? The biggest reason: no wi-fi multiplayer.

Let’s face it. These games are not as fun by yourself. Out of the box, you can only play this game ad-hoc. That might be cool in Japan where every other person owns the game and they have special conventions and gatherings just so people can get together, but that doesn’t fly in America. This is a big country and unless you have friends who are also way into Monster Hunter, then chances are you’re out of luck. The fanbase found a way around this with Xlink Kai, a program that tricks your PSP into believing it’s connected ad-hoc when really you’re using wi-fi, but the casual consumer isn’t going put up with that.

The camera in this game is another weak point. Some critics say you need a lock on button, but I disagree. Being able to lock on isn’t a viable solution because some monsters have multiple points where you can attack them. It would ruin the game if you could lock onto their individual body parts because each monster is like a puzzle. If you don’t have anything to figure out then what’s the point? The only solution is one that can’t be done. The PSP needs a second analog nub. Other games would benefit from this too, so lets hope Sony realizes this for the PSP 2.0. Getting raped by a huge dragon is no fun when it’s the cameras fault.

Needs more analog

Needs more analog!

Some of the things this game has going for it is the art style and the loot treadmill. Damn this game has some loot. Why did I play Diablo 2 for hundreds of hours? Getting that next face melting sowrd or hot piece of armor. Monster Hunter has that in spades, except you really have to work for it. When you kill a monster, your carve their corpse and get all kinds of fun ingredients. These ingredients are taken to the blacksmith, who then whips up some sweet armor and weapons. It’s a neat system where your stuff looks like it was made from what you’re killing.

I will end you

I will end you

The monsters themselves are diverse and well designed. Everything from wyverns, giant crabs, dragons, and even a few hovering squid beasts. The visual design of everything from the monsters, to the weapons and armor is all top notch. Some people might complain about this game being too hard, and it is. But you’re killing giant monsters. Half of which breath fire and death. It would be weird if this game wasn’t challenging. And because of the challenge, it is that much more rewarding when you finally take down a beast that keeps deep sixing you.

He wants to have his way with you

He wants to have his way with you

I want Monster Hunter to be a success in the West. I want all the cool merchandise like models and aprons and comic books. The problem is I just don’t see that happening with the most recent release, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite. Capcom gave it more of a marketing push, and the fans gobbled it up, and maybe a few newcomers jumped on the bandwagon, but this won’t be the title that makes it big. My hope is that when/if Monster Hunter 3 is released over here, it will be the hit Capcom is looking for. It’s a Wii title so it will have droves more potential concumers, and hopefully a fearsome dragon on the cover will be enough to lure in the unsuspecting consumer. I can dream, can’t I?

Until next time Monster Hunter fans, happy hunting!