Saturday, May 25, 2013

Blog: Rhapsody!

I've been playing the DS version of this again:

I bought it for my DS ages ago, but I only really play my DS when I'm travelling and I hadn't been doing much of that until recently. Now that I've relocated to Bangor for work, I find myself getting the train back to Manchester quite often, giving me ample time to play with my portable consoles!

The first thing I'd point out I'm really annoyed that they changed the battle-system for the DS remake, because the tactical battle-system was the main reason I liked the PS original. Fortunately, the turn-based battle system they replaced it with isn't completely terrible, though I have to admit that if it was an amateur game then I'd have gotten a little frustrated with how easy the battles are initially. I probably only stuck with it since I'd paid for it and since I have good memories of playing the original, and fortunately they do get more entertaining as the game goes on. I guess it's just that the pacing is a little too slow for someone whose played a lot of JRPG games over the years!
I couldn't find a decent screenshot of the English version T_T Anyway, the turn-based battle system is pretty intuitve, I just wish they'd stuck with the tactical battle-system used in the original!

What hasn't changed from the original is the storyline, which remains really funny, heart-warming and deeply entertaining, at least if you can bare the overly cute cutscenes :3 The characters are really vibrant and very easy to identify with, which is obviously a good thing, and this is most obvious in the early scenes involving Cornet and the Prince. I'm sure that anyone who ever had a crush as a youngster will immediately associate with how both of these characters deal with these early exchanges, and especially with the internal dialogue that both characters express, because I highly doubt that it was just me who was so paralysingly shy/awkward around crushes as a kid.

What I'm also really glad about is that, even on a vanilla DS screen (which isn't exactly the best screen in the world), the graphics remain really vivid. It does sometimes feel like they are trying to squeeze a little too much out of the small sprite-size they're forced to use on the DS, but it's never so bad that it becomes detrimental to the rest of the experience. The music is also really amazing, which you'd expect from a game that has "musical" in the title, although some of the sound effects during battles leave a little to be desired. I'd really recommend using earphones if you want to get the best out of the music, since the songs can sometimes sound a little tinny on the native DS speakers (although that might just be because my DS is getting very old!)

The graphics are really bright, vibrant, and ultra-cute. They really fit the mood that the game tries to generate.

Overall, I really recommend this game to anyone whose into JRPGs. Just make sure you don't give up on it too quickly, because it really does get better as it goes on!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Hype: Star Stealing Prince

I don't actually think this game needs any more hype because it already won most of the yearly awards over at and it's already had a TV Tropes page made for it... but it is the RPG that I've been playing over the last few weeks so I thought I'd talk about it anyway. 

Obligatory title screen shot...

Star Stealing Prince is a JRPG that focuses on the titular Prince of a small kingdom perpetually covered by snow. It contains most of the systems and tropes that you'd expect from a traditional JRPG, with anything slightly different from the norm being thoroughly explained throughout the course of the early-game, and the detailed execution of these systems is something that has really impressed me as I've played through the early-game.

A good example is the in-depth characterisation that even the most minor NPCs are given. Each conversation you'll have with someone in the Prince's kingdom is a far-cry from the crude one-liners that littered most early JRPG outings (such as the early Final Fantasy games). It's rare to see a game try to inject so much life into the environment that its heroes find themselves in and, since it's something that I've always aimed to do in my own games, it's awesome to see other people trying this out as well. It's a simple idea, even if it is incredibly difficult to execute throughout the course of a game (it can be difficult coming up with things for irrelevant characters to say), but it adds so much to the game. Even more so in this game, where the obvious love the Prince has for his subjects (and vice-versa) goes a long way towards fleshing out not only the kingdom itself, but the personality of the main character as well. When seemingly meaningless interactions add so much to the development of the main characters, it's definitely a good thing.

The environments in this game really are pretty.

Anyway, I could go on and on about this game and I've only beaten a handful of the areas, and since I'll eventually be writing a review of this game (when I finally find the time to finish it, work and Starcraft 2 are taking up most of my time!) this will have to do for now. Trust me though, if you're into JRPG games, this game is definitely worth a shot!

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Devblog: Getting Out Of Riot Grrrl's Development Hell

Sore Losers: Riot Grrrl is a game that I've been working on for a very long time. Originally intended as a short project into which I could dump ideas that didn't fit the JRPG formula I used in Sore Losers, it soon sprawled into a much larger project than I had intended. Unfortunately, real life eventually managed to get in the way and I wasn't able, nor willing, to work on the game for over a year. That's obviously a long time, and so getting back into the flow of things has been very difficult... but there's nothing I can do about that other than to work hard. I've promised myself, and the friends who've helped me out, that this game is eventually going to get finished and so finishing it is what I'm going to do. 

So, where am I up to? I returned to the game to find that three out of the planned five levels were complete (which had been the situation for longer than my hiatus had lasted), and that I was in the middle of bug testing those levels. This meant that I spent the first couple of months or so bug testing, fixing bugs, and then bug testing over again. Fortunately, I didn't find as many bugs as I'd found when I was making the original Sore Losers, so I'm obviously getting better at this game development thing!

Admittedly, bug testing can sometimes be a very annoying process because it usually ends up feeling like you're taking away from the game rather than adding to it, but in this case it was actually a very therapeutic process. This is as it as it allowed me to familiarise myself with how many of the game's most important systems worked and how they were linked into one another, which in turn made it much on me when I eventually started creating new levels and content.

After finishing the bug testing, it was time to get on with making the fourth level, and that's actually going well so far. Several stages are already complete, and I have a well developed plan for how the rest of the level is going to pan out. All I really need to do is turn my plans into both code (which is actually the easy part because of the clever, modular system I've set-up for generating new levels) and sprites (which is by far the more difficult part because I'm so slow when it comes to drawing out all the level backgrounds, monsters and characters I need). 

Overall, it's good to be making progress, so I'll leave you with some screenshots and continue my work! 

The final level takes place in a government building, throughout which stand many militaristic statues such as this one (I'm still not sold on the shading; probably needs a touch up).

Given that government in this game are a very paranoid group of people, there are lots of secret passages and security measures to deal with in this particular level!