Archives for posts with tag: Playstation 2

It’s been a while since I posted about my YouTube channel, A Game with Chums, so I thought I’d throw up a short update.

As Hallowe’en is now upon us, I’d like to point out that we’ve been playing horror games all month on the channel, and tomorrow, October 31st, our final video goes up. We’ve been continuing with our let’s play of Supermassive Games’ Until Dawn on Mondays, and then uploading a random horror game every Wednesday and Friday, until last week when we decided to go all out in the run up to the day itself, and post a new one daily. Here’s our latest one, which went up yesterday.

This was our first time playing Forbidden Siren, so we weren’t great at it. It was pretty tense though! Below you can also find the latest part of out Until Dawn let’s play. Things escalated pretty damn fast.

Here’s the list of all the games we’ve played so far for our month of horror, as well as the platforms we played them on. Why not catch up before our final video goes up tomorrow? I’ll also have a timely review for you tomorrow as well.

Project Zero || OG Xbox
The Evil Within || Xbox One
The Thing || OG Xbox
Yomawari: Night Alone || PSTV
Layers of Fear || Xbox One
The Suffering: Ties That Bind || OG Xbox
Dead Space || Xbox One
Corpse Party || PSTV
Condemned: Criminal Origins || Xbox One
Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth || OG Xbox
Resident Evil Revelations 2 || Xbox One
Silent Hill 2 || OG Xbox
Forbidden Siren || PS4

If you happen to check out any of our videos, please do let me know what you think below, and come back tomorrow for that final video and spooky review.

2014-03-23-015933Final Fantasy X|X-2 HD Remaster is finally (finally) with us. After a wait of almost two-and-a-half years, I finally have one of the games that convinced me to pre-order a Vita in my hands. Actually, I have two copies (erm…), as I also grabbed a copy of the PS3 limited edition, which comes with a gorgeous little hardback artbook, complete with notations for much of the included full-colour art.

But it’s the Vita version which has most impressed me, despite the reduction in resolution from its big screen brother. It looks every bit as sharp and clean as the PS3 version (bar some artifacting in some FMV scenes – disappointingly, one of my favourite scenes in the entire game is quite macroblocked), and those lovely bright colours that drench the beaches and jungles of Besaid really pop out of the handheld’s OLED screen.

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I’m constantly stopping in-game to pick out detail that you could barely identify in the original PS2 release, like the Besaid ruins in the shot above, or the ornate flooring of the island’s Temple of the Fayth. It’s far from the best-looking title on the system (you can probably look to Killzone: Mercenary for that), but it’s been impressing me at every turn; I know the game very well, so it’s almost like seeing a long-held favourite in a new light.

What I’m less sure of so far is the remastered music. Some of it is unquestionably better in my opinion (like Besaid’s theme), while others I’m less sure about, such as ‘Calm Before the Storm’. It’s only subtly different, but for the worse in my opinion. The original always had a somewhat otherworldly feel that the new arrangement doesn’t quite manage to elicit.

The gameplay though? It’s as good as it ever was, and it’s actually surprised me just how good. Final Fantasy X is a game I’ve played twice. Well, almost twice; I never quite finished it the first time (at launch – I had a lot going on, okay?), so I went back about three-or-so years ago (yep, just before they announced this remaster…) and played it from start to end. By the time I reached the climactic hours of Tidus and Yuna’s adventure, I was massively overpowered. Not because I’d purposely set out to be so, but I just had so much fun battling with the game’s enemies and exploiting its systems.

Replaying the Vita version these last few days, I’ve been reminded of just how inviting and engaging the game is. In conversation with a friend, a fellow Final Fantasy X fan, the word that kept coming up was ‘frictionless’. The game doesn’t put many obstacles between the player and their enjoyment, and when it does, it’s actually fun to overcome them. Take grinding for instance, that constant jRPG companion that so many have come to loathe (and I say this as someone who’s been stuck on a single boss in Tales of Eternia for weeks). For me, battling in Final Fantasy X is not only enjoyable, but compelling. I want to do it, and I want to do it because the battle system puts everything in your hands and just says ‘have fun!’

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The game is probably one of the easier instalments in the series, but it’s kept engaging by making everyone useful in some way: Tidus is fast, so his turns come around often enough to use him as a backup healer; Yuna has her white magic and summons; Rikku can steal and combine items, and one-shot mechanical enemies; Kimahri can learn abilities from his enemies; and so on. So you’ve got a relatively straight-forward take on the traditional Final Fantasy job system, but what keeps X engaging is the ability to switch any party member in or out of battle at will to meet your needs. Up against an enemy with high physical resistance but weak to magic? Switch in Lulu and deal some massive damage. His buddy’s armoured, you say? Auron, you’re up!

This immediacy is further reinforced by such design decisions as giving your white mage Esuna right off the bat. Generally, you’d have to work for such a useful spell, spending your initial hours throwing away precious items to cure your party of status effects. Here, you just sub someone else out for Yuna, cure the afflicted, and then get back to your gameplan. Save points in the world will replenish your health and magic, making level grinding more appealing as you no longer need to travel to an inn each time you reach your lowest ebb, and levelling and skill acquisition also benefit, offering to make the process as simple or involved as you like; I’m using the expert sphere grid for the first time, and enjoying the initially-overwhelming scope to develop my party as I see fit, but players that just want to follow a straight path can do just that with the normal grid, letting the game shape their characters’ growth for them.

If this all sounds like it makes the game easy, well… it can do. But in adding an extra layer of both strategy and, crucially, possibility, what it ends up doing is replacing a system that often boils down to using the same three characters and mashing ‘X’ to spam physical attacks in an effort to speed through encounters, with one that not only encourages you to experience more of what the game offers, but makes it enjoyable to do so. In Final Fantasy X you’ll use everybody. Not just once in a while, but often in every fight. It gives you the tools to do what you need and want to do, and it’s eminently satisfying when you do it.

Final Fantasy X is looked at as the point where the series began to streamline somewhat, the logical conclusion thereof being 2010’s Final Fantasy XIII (indeed, there are many parallels you could draw between the two games, not least their linearity). But when I talk of the frictionless nature of Final Fantasy X, I don’t mean streamlining. I mean the ways in which the developers have taken fairly complex systems and made them easy to understand and manipulate; the way they’ve taken often-frustrating game mechanics like grinding and made them enjoyable and compelling. I mean the ways in which they’ve sanded down the barriers between what the player wants to do and what the game allows you to do, making it possible to have fun no matter what you’re doing in the world of Spira.

Except Blitzball. No one likes Blitzball.

Tomorrow sees the launch of Tales of Symphonia Chronicles, an HD re-release of GC/PS2 RPG Tales of Symphonia, regarded by some as the height of the series, and it’s less well-received sequel, Dawn of the New World. The collection is PS3-exclusive, with both games coming on a single disc, and there’s also a limited edition – something we’ve come to expect thanks to recent Tales of releases.

Of course, I just had to buy the limited edition, because I’m a sucker for soundtrack CDs, plastic figurines and shiny boxes. Are you interested in what’s in that shiny box I mentioned? Of course you are! And luckily for you, I took some pictures. I’ll highlight a few in the body of this post, but be sure to check out the gallery at the bottom for all the images.

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First off, the shiny box. It’s a card case with a plastic slipcover over the top, and it’s covered in beautiful art from anime studio ufotable. There are some close-ups of the gorgeous, colourful art that graces each panel of the box in the gallery, and in those images you can see that it isn’t ruined by any logos – those sit on the plastic slipcover, allowing you to admire that artwork in full.

It’s not a big box, as far as limited editions go; big enough to hold a blu ray case, but deeper – think of a blu ray TV box set and you’re not far off the mark. It’s certainly much more compact than the gigantic Tales of Xillia or Bravely Default limited editions.

So that’s the box, but what’s inside? Hidden within, we find the game case, with one game disc and two soundtrack CDs (one each for Symphonia and Dawn of the New World), a new paperback novel written by Takumi Miyajima called Successors of Hope, which bridges the gap between the two games, and five (well, four really) mini figures of Lloyd, Colette, Emil and Marta (plus a tiny Tenebrae).

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It’s a nice set, as long as you haven’t seen the US version. American fans get a couple of nice extras that we don’t, such as a steelbook case and artbook, and all the other elements of the US edition are better executed. The box is nicer, the novel is hardback, the soundtrack is spread over four discs (whereas the two EU discs are MP3 audio discs rammed with tracks – these refused to play when I tried them in my Xbox One, so I suspect that they’ll need to be ripped to my PC) and also come in their own 4-disc jewel case, rather than being stuffed into the game case. The game case insert is also reversible, something that isn’t possible in the EU edition because the inside cover lists the OST tracklisting. American fans also get a full colour manual, while ours is not only black and white, but only affords a small handful of pages per language.

It all feels a bit budget compared to the US release, which isn’t really something you should be thinking about a collectors edition you’ve just spent £70 on. It’s a nice set in isolation, and I’m happy with it, but it’s disappointing that not only is it missing a couple of items from the US release, but that everything that did make it in is also not quite as good as its American counterpart.

Anyway, back to those contents. As I mentioned above, the OST discs are MP3 audio discs, with around 50 tracks on each, and they’re housed in the same case as the game disc. They’re are also nicely decorated with full-colour game art, and look great if attractive discs are your thing.

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Then there’s the mini-figures. A fair amount of limited editions come with a figurine of some sort (and then there’s the frankly ludicrous Titanfall one), but it’s not very often you get a whole party to play with. The mini figures really are ‘mini’ (at a couple of inches tall, most of their size is down to their gigantic heads), but it’s nice to have a variety of characters in the box, and they’re all nicely detailed. Tenebrae really is tiny though, and is more of an addition to the Marta figure (even standing on her base). Below, you can see them mingling with my other Tales of figures.

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Overall it’s a nice set, and it’s always encouraging to see the Tales of series doing well enough in Europe that collectors editions are even viable. Here’s hoping we get one for Tales of Xillia 2, which should be releasing some time later this year, and looking a bit further into the future, next year’s Tales of Zestiria.

Be sure to check out all the images of the Tales of Symphonia Chronicles Collectors Edition in the gallery below.

It’s been a long long time coming, but finally we have a European release date for the HD remaster of Final Fantasy X and its direct sequel X-2. The collection will hit store shelves on March 21st next year, a whole three months after the Japanese release.

Below you can see a massively spoilerific trailer in celebration of the announcement. These games are over a decade old now, but if you haven’t yet played them and want to go in fresh, I would strongly advise you not to watch. Or maybe mute the audio.

The trailer also takes time to point out some of the extras we’ll be getting our mitts on in this package. First up is ‘Eternal Calm’, a fifteen-minute in-engine chapter that bridges the two games, providing the impetus for Yuna’s quest in Final Fantasy X-2. We’ll also finally be able to play ‘Last Mission’, an additional, multi-level dungeon run that takes place three months after the end of the sequel.

The pair of games looks absolutely gorgeous, and watching the emotional scenes play out to a backdrop of ‘Suteki da ne’ really got the hairs standing up on the back of my neck. I can’t wait to adventure through Spira again, although it’s curious to note that the trailer makes no mention of my preferred format, the Vita.

As far as I’m aware it’s still coming (it’s confirmed for release alongside the home console version in Japan, at least), but the end of the trailer, when we first see the confirmed release date, only mentions the PS3 version. I really hope the Vita version hasn’t been canned. Releasing it on a handheld in Japan makes perfect sense given how common they are, but I wonder if Square-Enix has decided it’s not worth it outside of their home territory. I’m hoping I’m just being overly cynical and we see the game launch on Sony’s handheld alongside the PS3 version – I already have that beautiful special edition pre-ordered, so I’m hoping for cross-saves!

ffxhdtidusyunaAbout a month ago, it was revealed that Final Fantasy X|X-2 HD would sport a new audio drama written by Kazushige Nojima that would play over the end credits of the game. Well, we can now hear a snippet of it in the video below.

In it, we can hear that James Arnold Taylor is returning to voice Tidus (which isn’t a massive surprise, considering he returned for the Dissidia games), and we also hear another character speaking, who appears to be voiced by Laura Bailey (to my ears, anyway). I haven’t played X-2, so I don’t know if there are any mild spoilers in this piece, but there don’t appear to be. Watch at your own discretion.

Tidus mentions that it’s been two years since Spira entered the Eternal Calm (at the end of the first game), which is roughly when X-2 picks up, so I wonder if this is will serve as a linking piece between the two? If I’d played X-2 before now, perhaps I’d know!

Some have speculated that the audio drama could be a lead-in to a Final Fantasy X-3, and considering the second character seems fairly unsurprised to spot Tidus, even mentioning the crowd up ahead and the star shining in the middle of it (remember at the start of the first game Tidus was supposed to be a star blitzball player?), perhaps it could be. Of course, you could argue that the second character is speaking from the perspective of Tidus’ Zanarkand (seen at the very start of the first game), but I think the fact that she mentions a road that used to be called Mika Road rules this out: Mika was the Grand Maester of the now-disgraced Yevon religion, so it makes sense that they would rename a street named for him after its fall. For me, this suggests the second character is speaking after the Calm.

I wish I could say we won’t have to wait long to find out, but Square-Enix are still yet to announce a release date for this. The E3 trailer simply said “2013”, and we’re running out of months. Gamescom will take place this month, and Final Fantasy X|X-2 HD will be on show, so hopefully we’ll get a firm date there. Wouldn’t it be great if they just said, “it’s out next month guys! Enjoy!” A man can dream.

Over on their EU blog, Square-Enix have been sharing some new images of the game, and it’s safe to say it looks incredible. This really isn’t the usual cynical cash-grab HD upscaling that we see all to often – this game has had some work done! Noticeably, the battle UI has seen a few changes, giving it a bit more of a modern feel. Have a look:
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You can see more images over on the blog, but just have a look at this pic of Besaid! It looks glorious! ffxhdbesaid

Be sure to visit the Square-Enix blog and have a flick through all the beautiful images they’ve provided.

Square-Enix has put out a new video showcasing the differences between the original SD version of Final Fantasy X and the HD remaster that is in development for PS3/Vita. The video shows off the opening in-engine cutscene, and it’s an interesting comparison, demonstrating not only how much more detail we’re seeing in HD, but also how much more of the scene we’re seeing thanks to the widescreen presentation. It also shows off some differences in colour; the original footage has an orange-y cast to it, without which the HD version looks much more realistic.

The video also announces that we’ll be seeing a limited edition for the home console version. Packaged in an outer box, the set comes with a nice-looking hardbound art book featuring concept art taken from both Final Fantasy X and its sequel X-2 – both of which come on one disc for PS3, and as separate releases for PS Vita. The games support cross-saving, so you can journey with Tidus, Yuna and friends on the big screen at home before continuing your adventure on the morning commute.

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There’s no news of a limited edition for the Vita versions, nor do we have a release date yet, but I’ll be buying both. Because I’m a sucker. It occurs to me that when I buy both HD versions I’ll have three copies of Final Fantasy X-2, and four copies of Final Fantasy X. I think it’s fair to say I like FFX.

These HD versions should be the definitive versions of these games, with all the added International goodies, high-definition rendering and the news that this release will include a 30-minute additional ‘drama’ at the end of the credits, penned by ex-Square-Enix scenario writer Kazushige Nojima, featuring new cast and character voices. What this will entail is presently a mystery, but it’s always nice to get more stuff. I’m looking forward to replaying Final Fantasy X again, and playing its sequel for the first time. Now all we need is a release date.

sympA rumour has hit the net today concerning an HD re-release of celebrated GameCube jRPG Tales of Symphonia. Dubbed the Tales of Symphonia: Perfect Edition, the pack will apparently contain both the original cult game and its less-well-received Wii sequel Dawn of the New World (called Knight of Ratatosk in Japan). The pair are said to feature HD graphics and the collection will see release on PlayStation 3.

The rumour comes from Spanish site Koi-Nya, which I have linked at the bottom. It purports to be a summary of an interview with Tales of series producer Hideo Baba that took place recently but has yet to be published. I can’t seem to get the page to load no matter how many times I try, but a friend managed to get through and copy-pasted me the body of the text, which I have reproduced below.

During the celebration of Expomanga 2013, we had the pleasure of chatting at length with Mr. Hideo Baba, producer of the series Tales of, and although it was not until within a couple of days when post the full interview, we bring you of the juiciest and shocking news that Mr. Baba dropped relative Tales of Symphonia: Perfect Edition, a remake in HD for PlayStation 3 would include both sets of Symphonia, the Tales of Symphonia Original (GameCube, PS2) and Tales of Symphonia: Knight of Ratatosk -Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World in the West (Wii).

And, following the rumor of the existence of this title whose information we gained from internal sources-nya koi, we decided to ask about its reliability to the producer of the series. Although Baba was not in a position to officially confirm its existence, has been able to drop that thing would be “a representation of the dreams and hopes of the fans, who have long been wanting it” and that may soon know something about it.

In case of confirmation of the existence of this game, which we expect to hear so soon, this game would be released at least in the United States, locating the source from which we obtained the leaked information, and which also spoke that Tales of Xillia 2 would have secured its location in the West .

In addition to this news, Hideo Baba has told us many other interesting news and curiosities about Tales that soon you can read the full interview granted us.

EDIT – I’ve just got the site to load, after about ten attempts – perhaps their servers were overloaded by thousands of Symphonia fans descending upon them!

It’s a little difficult to parse what’s being said here, as it’s been machine-translated from Spanish. To me, it seems that Koi-Nya had heard of an HD remake from some other source, and then asked Baba-san about it, who replied that such a project would be “a representation of the dreams and hopes of the fans, who have long been wanting it”, while also pointing out that he was ‘not in a position to officially confirm its existence’. The problem here is that, thanks to the translation I can’t tell if, having been questioned about the rumour, Baba has basically said “wouldn’t that be great! It’d make a lot of people happy, right?”

I’m a little sceptical – perhaps too much so. I’d like to believe that this website wouldn’t have posted their story if my above interpretation were the truth of the matter, but I’ve never heard of this site before (not surprising, as I’m not Spanish, nor do I speak the language), so I have no context for this; as such, I can’t just take this story as gospel. They do, however, seem to suggest that Baba said we’ll hear about it soon, so maybe I’m just being a massive cynic. As an aside, they also seem to be claiming that Tales of Xillia 2 will see a Western release – I’ve not seen anyone pick up on this little tid-bit.

I want this rumour to be true, I really do – I missed out on Symphonia when it released on GameCube, always telling myself I’d grab a copy later. Then it was too late and it became increasingly hard to find. I watched the Symphonia anime recently and fell in love with the world, characters and storyline, and it just made me even more desperate to play the game. So I really want this to be true. But I’m not going to be getting my hopes up too high until Hideo Baba officially announces it. Namco-Bandai’s annual Tales of Festival will take place in just under three weeks (June 1-2) in Yokohama, Japan, so perhaps we’ll hear more then? Fingers crossed.

Source: Koi-Nya
http://www.koi-nya.net/2013/05/12/hideo-baba-deja-caer-una-posible-remasterizacion-para-ps3-de-ambos-tales-of-symphonia-tales-of-symphonia-perfect-edition/

x2yrpA while back we had our first official trailer of the PS3/Vita remaster of much-loved jRPG Final Fantasy X. The short teaser seemed to hint that the release would be more than just a simple upscaling for modern displays, and that it’d truly live up to the term ‘remaster’ that Square-Enix used to describe it. It also confirmed the rumour that direct sequel Final Fantasy X-2 would be included, though it did not show any footage from that game. I wondered at the time whether X-2 was a recent addition, and that perhaps the developers had not yet started work on it.

Well, today we can see what they’ve been doing, and the results are stunning. Over on the Square-Enix blog, a number of images from the remastered X-2 have been published, and it’s pretty amazing how clean, clear and beautiful they look. Take a look at this shot of Paine for an example. Make sure to click each image for the full-size version.

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I think these shots look even better than the Final Fantasy X HD screens! Here’s another shot, this time of Rikku, because everyone loves Rikku, right?

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It’s interesting to see just how intricate some of the original artwork is, with details emerging that perhaps weren’t particularly apparent upon the game’s original release. Just take a look at this image of the Gullwing’s airship, the Celsius; there’s some incredibly intricate detail in there.

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It looks like Square-Enix are doing a fantastic job so far on this remaster, and they’re certainly doing the original art and assets justice – some elements on show here look almost on par with some current-gen games, especially the fantastic character models. I can’t wait to get stuck back into the world of Spira, and as I’ve never played Final Fantasy X-2 before (despite having a copy on my shelf), it’s going to be a nice mix of nostalgia and novelty. Now all we need is a release date!

Follow the link to the S-E Blog for a couple more screens.

Final Fantasy X HD gets its first official trailer
https://pushstartgaming.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/final-fantasy-x-hd-gets-its-first-official-trailer/

Square-Enix Blog
http://eu.square-enix.com/en/blog/new-final-fantasy-x-2-hd-remaster-screenshots

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Final Fantasy X HD has been in limbo for a while. First announced about a year and a half ago for PlayStation 3 and Vita, the remaster entered radio silence for a prolonged period of time, surfacing recently when a short clip emerged showing protagonists Tidus and Yuna, along with a few summons behind them. While only a tiny peek, it was enough to see that it appeared that Square-Enix might be doing a bit more than just a simple upscale.

Recently, things seem to be ramping up. We’ve had confirmation that, not only will the release include a remastered version of the rather maligned sequel, Final Fantasy X-2, but that both games will be the International versions released in Japan (which should mean we’ll get the bridging scene Eternal Calm). On PS3, the two games will be on one disc, whereas Vita owners will have to buy each separately. A couple of days ago, IGN also posted some gorgeous-looking screens from the remaster, which I will link at the bottom.

And today, we have our very first trailer. And doesn’t it look beautiful.

Of course, Final Fantasy X was always a lovely-looking game, yet here in HD it seems to reach its full potential. It looks so sharp and clean, and the detail really comes to life. It’s great to be able to pick out the ruined towers of Zanarkand in the distance as the group sits at camp on the edges of the destroyed city, and that scene with Tidus and Yuna in Macalania looks absolutely glorious.

I have a handful of things I’d like fixed in this re-release, and from this trailer, it appears at least one of them has been addressed; re-rendering the excellent cutscenes in HD. In truth, I’d have been surprised if they didn’t do this, but I admit I had been worried. When last I played FFX, with my PS2 connected to my LCD TV via a component cable for a clearer image, the cutscenes were very low-res, blurry and macroblocked, and it damaged the overall presentation. The short clip of Zanarkand being destroyed by Sin at the game’s start puts these fears to rest – it looks clean, clear and highly detailed. I had similar reservations about the handful of pre-rendered backgrounds, such as the entrance to Zanarkand’s blitzball arena/temple, so hopefully these will also be cleaned up.

My biggest bugbear with the original PAL release is the speed it ran at. Games of that era typically ran at a 50hz refresh rate here and 60hz in their American and Japanese incarnations, resulting in a game that ran around 17% slower for European gamers. You can see this in Final Fantasy X just by watching Tidus run – it seems more like he’s bounding across the surface of the moon. The image was also a bit stretched horizontally, meaning we had characters that looked stockier and wider than they should have. I’ll be very surprised if these things aren’t fixed for the re-release, especially considering that the code will be taken from the existing Japanese International release. Hopefully we’ll get a full-speed, widescreen presentation this time.

Curiously, Square-Enix have also set up a site for the remaster which promises an announcement trailer to be revealed tomorrow, March 25th. I admit, this site has passed me by, so I don’t know if it’s just sprung up or if it’s been live for a while now, but I wonder if the trailer that will go up tomorrow will be the same as the one that has appeared online today, or whether it’ll be another (hopefully lengthier) video. Here’s hoping for the latter, and maybe even a release date!

IGN’s FFX HD images:
http://uk.ign.com/articles/2013/03/22/final-fantasy-x-hd-vita-ps3-details-confirmed

Square-Enix’s dedicated site:
http://www.finalfantasyxhd.com/en/index.php

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About a month ago, I saw Silent Hill: Revelation, and shortly thereafter wrote of my (massive, crushing) disappointment with the film. As a big fan of the Silent Hill franchise (the first four games at least – I haven’t yet played much of the titles beyond The Room) and speaking from a position of having enjoyed the first film, I was disheartened to find that despite the filmmakers getting many of the details right, the film as a whole was poorly conceived, and often downright cheesy.

Two positives came out of the experience, though; firstly, the end-credits music led to my ‘Musical Mondays’ piece (linked at the bottom of this article), and secondly, it made me want to replay Silent Hill 3, if only to banish the memories of the film from my mind. Armed with the much-maligned Silent Hill HD Collection (PS2 games tend to look pretty damn horrible on an HDTV, even with a component cable), I set to work. It goes without saying that spoilers may follow – I’ll try to keep them to a minimum, but if you’ve never played Silent Hill 3 before (where have you been!?) and are planning to do so, avert your beady eyes.

The first thing that hit me upon loading up the game is the main theme, ‘You’re Not Here’. I mentioned in my piece about the music of Silent Hill that I couldn’t really remember any of the game’s soundtrack, so it was a surprise when this song came storming back into memory upon hearing the first few bars. I’m not sure how I ever forgot it.

The second thing that I picked up on was also to do with audio – the new voice artists. Heather’s voice is vastly different from the original game – she sounds much older, and seems to possess a petulant attitude that the original artist didn’t convey. The original delivery is also more natural – the phone call to her father at the beginning of the game is a good place to see this; the original voiceover sounds like an actual, believable two-sided conversation, whereas the new track sounds more like someone reading lines with little direction – a little flatter in terms of emotion, or perhaps more specifically emotional attachment. You can see the differences in the video below.

Not all changes are bad though – Douglas Cartland’s new VA sounds appropriately grizzled and world-weary, and at first I wondered if it was Richard McGonagle (Uncharted‘s Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan). I have since found out that he is voiced by Kirk Thornton, who also voices Harry in Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, which I have yet to play. Anime/jRPG regular Yuri Lowenthal is also present in the cast, here voicing Vincent, and Claudia Wolf’s VA does a pretty decent job too.

Considering Heather’s is the voice you’ll hear the most, it’s a bit annoying that her new track isn’t up to the standard of the original release, but the VA does grow into the role more as the game goes on, and it’s not too difficult to ignore after a while. It’s a shame though, that the HD Collection doesn’t allow the choice between both the original and the new casts, as it does for Silent Hill 2.

Getting to the game proper, it’s interesting to note quite how much of a change in pace Silent Hill 3 is from the big budget, set piece-led action games that dominate the current gen. In a climate where the relentless forward momentum of Call of Duty seems to permeate every facet of gaming (even the producers of Final Fantasy XIII admitted to being influenced by the FPS, hence the pace of that game’s battle system and the claustrophobic linearity of much of its world), it’s refreshing to get dropped into an environment where progress requires that you check every corner of every corridor, carefully cross-referencing your in-game view with your map and searching for a door you may have missed. Puzzles are also a feature of gameplay that appears to be missing in many genres these days. On normal puzzle difficulty, they don’t offer a massive challenge, but they are generally logical and need to be thought through, without making you feel too dense or frustrated. One puzzle comes to mind that requires you to use three very disparate items – before you discover the final element, it’s likely that you won’t even realise that the other two pieces need to be used together. As with most things in Silent Hill, exploring your surroundings thoroughly will often see you through.

It’s also refreshing to play a game that holds you in thrall thanks to it’s atmosphere, rather than a succession of flashy set-pieces, and it’s telling that, when you check a door, you find yourself hoping that it won’t open so that you don’t have to deal with whatever might be behind it. Instead, you find yourself hoping for a broken lock so that you can mark it off on your map and move on.

Look at all those lovely blocked doors...

Look at all those lovely blocked doors…

A couple of things struck me upon playing Silent Hill 3 again for the first time in many years. Firstly, enemies are far more abundant than in either of the preceding games in the series. Of course, this being a survival horror title, it’s usually best to run right past the bizarre monsters that inhabit this twisted world, and that’s what I did, wherever possible – this strategy also helps with item management, another big piece of the survival horror pie. Some enemies in this game are more difficult to run past unscathed, however, either due to fast movement speed or a wide reach to their attacks, meaning sometimes it’s best to clear them out, especially if they’re milling about in an area you will have to backtrack through a few times.

This lends the game more of a combat focus than previous games (which is amplified by the inclusion of weapons like the submachine gun), and given the more linear nature of Silent Hill 3, which I’ll touch on later, it makes it a bit harder to find alternate routes to avoid combat in some instances.

I was also surprised by how long the opening of the game is. In my hazy memory, I remembered Heather reaching her apartment to make a grim discovery less than an hour into the game. At the start of the game, Heather wakes from a horrible nightmare to find that she’s somehow nodded off in the middle of a Happy Burger establishment in Central Square Shopping Centre. According to my (clearly unreliable) memory, there was a short section in the otherworld mall before Heather left and reached her apartment, which would then prompt her to visit the eponymous Silent Hill.

Boy did I remember that wrong! There were a number of other environments between Heather and her home, and it was three hours of solid gameplay before I got her there. I’ll admit that the opening few hours did at times drag for me, but it’s entirely possible that it’s because I was expecting to get to Silent Hill earlier and really get stuck in to the story of Heather’s origins. A player coming to this game fresh likely won’t have the same issues and expectations.

I mentioned earlier that Silent Hill 3 is more linear than previous instalments, so I’ll go into a bit more detail on that. In the first two games, you eventually have the entire town of Silent Hill to explore; granted, many places are closed off to you thanks to roads that drop off into a dark abyss, or for the simple fact that not many buildings are open for exploration, but you have a map of the town, and you can run along the vast majority of it, scouring the streets for items or clues, or just generally running away from skinned horrors. When you finally reach the foggy town in Silent Hill 3, you can only go to the your next destination – Brookhaven Hospital. Sure, you can enter the Heaven’s Night bar from Silent Hill 2 along the way and score a few items, but it’s a momentary stop on your short run to the hospital. Should you wish to explore the shrouded streets any further, you’ll come across either a road-block of some kind, or Heather will simply tell you that that’s not the way to go, and turn back.

The more linear nature certainly lends the game a greater sense of focus, though it also feels shorter – my save file came in at around seven hours – but it’s hard not to miss the sense of atmosphere that comes from wandering the streets of the town.  The atmosphere is often saved, however, by some fantastic, almost abstract environments, like the otherworld Brookhaven, where the walls seem to be pulsing and flowing with blood, or sections of the otherworld chapel near the end of the game where the walls appear to be set aflame. It’s these otherworld locations that tend to be at the heart of how the game makes you feel uncomfortable – they’re dripping in the series’ signature blood and rust aesthetic, and the sense of creeping dread they instil, coupled with bizarre, unexplained sights such as Valtiel appearing every now and then, turning mysterious valves, gives Silent Hill 3 a different, though no less unsettling atmosphere than the depression and isolation often felt in Silent Hill 2.

Valtiel, always turning valves...

Valtiel, always turning valves…

So it’s a subtly different game from it’s immediate predecessor, whilst being recognisably of the same series. This is a good thing – Silent Hill 2 is excellent, arguably the best psychological/survival horror game yet made. Re-treading it would only produce a lesser copy. Silent Hill 3 isn’t massively dissimilar in it’s central mechanics, but it walks a different path from the same starting point, and serves as a great follow-up/companion piece to the original entry, and giving those that care to look a greater insight into the world and the dark Order at the heart of all that lurks in Silent Hill. It’s the perfect antidote to those games that whiz by in a flash of explosions and gunfire – something to unsettle you, absorb you, and make you think.

And with the nights closing in and darkness falling like a shroud, now is the perfect time to play it.

A note on the HD Collection: It’s impossible to avoid the negativity surrounding this collection upon release. I can’t speak much for the version of Silent Hill 2 contained herein, as I played just a few short hours of it when it first arrived. My biggest gripe with Silent Hill 3 is Heather’s voice, which I’ve already covered. I did encounter one or two audio bugs where a sound file seemed to abruptly stop, but this happened maybe two or three times across seven hours of play, and they were always small ambient audio samples. There were also a couple of instances of massive slowdown where the game literally ground to a halt and I wondered if it might crash. It never did, and these issues only ever cropped up after defeating a boss, and so never interrupted actual gameplay. Also, the streets of Silent Hill are as lacking in fog effects as Silent Hill 2, but considering those streets take up about five to ten minutes total of your playtime in Silent Hill 3, it’s much less of an issue here.

For the vast majority of my playtime, Silent Hill 3 ran smoothly and looked great, and if you’ve wanted to invest in this collection but were put off by the negativity, I’d say go and grab a copy. As a final note, I played the 360 version, which is supposedly the worse of the two thanks to the PS3 version receiving a second patch that Konami refused to release for Microsoft’s console. If you have a choice, buy a PS3 version, but I don’t think you should be too put off the 360 version if that’s your only choice.

Read my Silent Hill Music Special:
https://pushstartgaming.wordpress.com/2012/11/12/musical-mondays-silent-hill-special/