That the economy isn’t in a warm and fuzzy place is no secret. Gas prices, the cost of food, just about everything with a price tag has seen a jump, leaving wallets a tad lighter as of late. So where does this leave video games? The new generation of consoles has not exactly come at an opportune time in North America. With more people strapped for cash and console prices more on the substantial than affordable side, gamers have still somehow been finding ways to shell out the dough for the PlayStation 3s, Wiis, and Xbox 360s of the world. Price drops have helped things out some, but at the end of the day, a $60 game is still a $60 game and there isn’t much that can change that.
Luckily, there is the bargain bin. The best friend of every gamer locked in dire financial straights, the bargain bin is fill of a ton of great games from this and the last generation that can be picked up without having to reduce one’s bank account to nothingness. We here at TGR want to help you stretch your cash as far as you can and are here to offer a little advice for your next gaming purchases.
When I bought Conan, it was at full price, and I would be hard pressed to say I regret the purchase. Being a fan of Conan and gratuitous violence in general, I did enjoy the game and will probably play it again. Nonetheless, for $60, it’s a scanty gaming experience. The game will last you maybe seven or eight hours, and the gameplay is blatantly ripped off from God of War. There are a lot of games out there that people call God of War clones, but I would bet you that none of them live up to the title like Conan does. The controls in this game are literally button-for-button identical to that of Sony’s blockbuster franchise. If you have played God of War for more than an hour, you will be able to tackle Conan with little trouble.
There are other problems with the game as well. The visuals are fine, and definitely show the trademark texturing and sheen of a next-gen game, but they are still rough. The cut-scenes, though generally few and short, are terribly dated, looking almost like a late PlayStation 2-era game. The in-game graphics actually exceed the quality of the game’s cinema scenes, which is a rarity. The audio as well is flawed. The soundtrack is perfectly adequate, booming with all the primitive energy one would expect from a game based around Hyboria’s favorite barbarian, but the voice acting is so-so. Actor Ron Perlman serves as the voice of Conan and while he is adequate, he sometimes doesn’t fit the part. Furthermore, the developers made the odd choice of having Conan spit out one liners in battle. While they can be amusing at first, half way through the game you’re going to get tired of hearing Conan yell, “My blade thirsts!” Luckily the game lets you adjust this.
With all this criticism, you might be wondering why I would ever recommend such a game, at any price. Despite its flaws, Conan is still a fun-to-play action game. It rips off God of War to no end, but one would do well to remember just how fun God of War is. And while Conan copies a lot, it also makes some some beneficial changes to Kratos’ formula. While God of War does feature a combo system, it is largely pointless. Conan requires you to put in just a bit more effort and is better off for it. You gain experience points by killing enemies just like in God of War, but instead of upgrading your weapons, you use them to buy new moves. The combo system in Conan is surprisingly deep, requiring some practice and memorization but also staying accessible enough for players more accustomed to simpler styles of fighting; the tree of moves is pretty extensive as well. Conan can pick up the weapons of his defeated enemies, and accordingly there are four different sets of moves based on each style of fighting: grappling, sword and shield, dual wielding, or two-handed.
Conan is no God of War, but it does do some things better than it. If nothing else it’s entertaining, and if you haven’t bought it yet, you don’t have to shell out $60 for it. Conan can be found used and new at pretty affordable prices and is totally worth the current prices. If nothing else, it’s a nice distraction while you wait for God of War 3, but if you give the game a chance, Conan may surprise you and prove itself to be more than that.
- Amazon (note: Used Amazon prices are subject to change):
- New – $19.99 (360)
- Used – $13.40 (PS3)
- Used – $9.99 (Xbox 360)
- Best Buy:
- New – $19.99 (PS3)
- New – $19.99 (360/PS3)
- Used – $17.99 (360/PS3)
Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions (PSP)
The original Final Fantasy Tactics has long been a classic amongst fans of tactical RPGs, and the re-release improves upon it every possible way. The first biggest perk is obviously that it’s portable. You can sink a lot of hours into this game — I recently beat it in about 30 — and it is beyond convenient to be able to bring it anywhere with you. The PSP version also has new CGI scenes, and two new jobs, but the biggest and best change is easily the new translation of the script. War of the Lions has one of the most complicated stories out of the Final Fantasy franchise, and the plot suffered severely from the shoddy translation the original American version received. The new script provides huge levels of clarity to the plot that make the game far more enjoyable.
The core game itself is fantastic. You will be hard pressed to find a deeper game in any genre. You control an army of sprites who can take on various jobs or classes in battle. It sounds relatively simple, but get a few hours into the actual game and you’ll understand how extensive the game really is. The level of customization available to the player is all but astonishing. Work with a character long enough and you can literally shape them however you please, picking and choosing from any slew of earned skills to fashion a warrior fitting to your style. Some classes and skills inevitably end up being more useful than others, but this doesn’t detract from the fact that the game all but begs you to experiment with it.
Moreover, the process of earning skills and experience is rather enjoyable. While you could easily term it simple level grinding, the battles in War of the Lions are addictive, offering more of a challenge than the menu driven, random encounters of most other RPGs. The battles can become a bit repetitive after awhile, but mostly only because just about any act can become tedious if you do it for 30 hours.
War of the Lions isn’t without some flaws. While the battles are more fun than your standard RPG fare, they still fall into some of the traps of the games more contemporary brethren. Menus are used extensively throughout. Just the act of moving a character from one space to another requires you to cycle through several menus asking you what you want to do, "Are sure you want to do that? What direction do you want to face?" Considering that the player can have a maximum of five characters on any given map and the enemy will rarely have less than that (and often more), many fights, be they all-out brawls or minor skirmishes, can be very long and very slow. The game tends to lag at times as well; casting even a minor spell seems to tax the PSP into slowdown, which is curious considering that War of the Lions graphics first appeared on the PS1 and are comprised mainly of 2D characters on crude looking 3D terrains.
The story too, despite the new translation, can still get kind of fuzzy at times. There are just so many characters and so much going on at any given moment that the player will be hard pressed to keep track of it all. Only towards the end do you really have sorted out who is on whose side and what’s causing what.
All of this said, with the recent release of a greatest hits version, a brand new copy of War of the Lions is only $20. For this price, its minor flaws can be forgiven, because in the end you are still getting a substantial epic for far less than its worth. Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions is a fantastic game that was great ten years ago and hasn’t degraded much since. If you have a PSP and enjoy RPGs, there is no reason not to buy it.
- Amazon (note: Used Amazon.com prices are subject to change):
- New – $19.99
- Used – $15.50
- Best Buy
- New – $19.99
- New – $19.99