Tales of Unfinished Reviews

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Today I have something a little different for you. After the new year rolled over, I recently reflected on the articles and changes That’s All Games went through. What I didn’t cover, however, were the reviews that didn’t make the cut. It was interesting to see that I experienced quite a bit in terms entertainment that would’ve been covered on my site. So today, I will give you a look behind the scenes and show off the games, books, comic books, and movies I had viewed since this blog’s conception, but didn’t make it into any of my articles as of this writing.

Before I dive right into what didn’t make the cut, I would like to lay the ground work for this article. I will tell you what the product is, why a review didn’t get published, and a possible way it could be published at a future date. The reasons are varied on all fronts, but it boils down to mostly time constraints or if the product in question didn’t feel like a good fit. So let’s start by looking at the video games that didn’t make the cut.

The Games:

Odama: Gamecube

odama
This odd game requires a microphone accessory to play.

Partway through my blogging journey, a friend of mine from The Gamer Collective had offered for us to team up to help promote each other. He desired to have game reviews on his page, but felt that he lacked the expertise to do so on his own. I was happy to oblige, and have been sharing all my game related articles on his Facebook page since. Part of our arrangement was that I was given access to some of his games. I picked out five to try out for some reviews. The first one was Odama on the Gamecube, an odd game that caught my eye.

Odama is a hybrid of genres in the gaming world. It blends real-time strategy, and pinball, of all things. Even more unusual is that it takes place in feudal Japan. You have to command an army while playing pinball, where the pinball destroys troops on both sides of the conflict, and the armies fight over the position of a giant bell. You have to have your army carry the bell to the opposing side to complete the level.

Now, the issue here was the way you had to command the army: you had to yell commands into a microphone accessory that I lacked access to at the time. I tried to play without the microphone, and ended up losing almost immediately after the pinball was launched. It appears that the microphone accessory is necessary to play the game effectively. Since I couldn’t play through the whole game at the time, I had to delay or cancel the review.

The Gamer Collective does have access to the microphone accessory, so if I wish to attempt this retro review in the future, I will have to be sure to test the mike prior to borrowing the game. Hopefully it would work on a Nintendo Wii, but if it doesn’t I will have to borrow a Nintendo Gamecube in order to cover this obscure game.

Odama wasn’t the only game that didn’t get reviewed from The Gamer Collective. Let’s look at the other game from the initial five I had borrowed that I didn’t finish.

Phantasy Star 0: DS

phantasystar0
Box art for Phantasy Star 0. I couldn’t realistically see myself finishing this game.

Phantasy Star 0 on the Nintendo DS was the second game I couldn’t finish for review. While Odama I couldn’t finish due to lack of proper hardware, Phantasy Star 0 I didn’t review due more to its quality. The short answer was that I was too frustrated to play through the entire game in order to give a fair review. The long answer involves the issues I had with the game’s features.

First off, this game is a 3D action RPG released in 2008. You get to decide the “race”, gender, class, and appearance of your main character. In general, this doesn’t sound too bad, many games have this sort of feature, especially if there is some online or multiplayer features, which this game has. With the initial character customization, I was unsure which combinations were easiest to play as. I decided to stick to the defaults with some adjustments concerning the character’s appearance. The game told me it was for beginners.

The next thing to note was the hub world. There were the occasional NPC villagers, the obligatory shops, and a teleporter that brings you to the missions. While there was a fair amount of setup before you go on your first mission, there were only text-based tutorials on how to fight. I had to remember how to string combos, dodge roll, and use items on the fly in order to progress.

I discovered when I started a mission that the controls felt slow. It was hard to know if my sword attacks would hit, and of note, they had a chance to miss even if you are the right distance from the enemy. There was a delay when you press the button to attack where the sword swing animates then hits the enemy. I thought you had to repeatedly hit the attack buttons to perform a combo, but you actually had to wait for the end of the swing before pressing the attack button again in order to trigger the next part of the 3-hit combo. It also looked like you could be hurt and interrupted by the enemy as you attempt the combo, and that the enemies don’t flinch when attacked (although player characters do!).

After a death, I noticed there wasn’t a healing spot or inn in the hub world to replenish your health. You had to spend money buying potions to recover, then spend more to restock them in order to be prepared for the next attempt. Alternately, you could just not be hit and wait to level up by gaining experience points to fully recover, or get to a healing spot partway through a mission. Maybe the option to heal becomes available after completing the first mission, but I got frustrated enough to put the game down after failing the first boss.

The first boss was a dragon that attacks just by walking into you (among other actions). Sure, the game gave me a healer ally to try to make the fight easier, but I had to fight the controls just to keep the camera focused on the boss as it flew around the arena. Ultimately, I lost interest here, and wasn’t prepared to play a long game of frustrating controls, with a cumbersome player character and enemies that didn’t quite telegraph their attacks. I felt it would be unfair to judge a game I had no will to complete, let alone finish the first mission.

All in all, this game may have to be revisited with much more patience if I ever wish to cover it. It may be that it was designed for a different audience than myself, as it felt a little like Monster Hunter (a popular enough series with similar controls that I personally don’t like). Perhaps I will need a friend to cover the game with the right perspective if that fails. The game also doesn’t feel like a good enough fit for my blog at this time. Considering how rare the game might be, I doubt many of my readers would be prompted to try to find it.

Go to page 2 to read the rest of the article. This includes the books and comic books I have read, plus the movies I viewed.

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