Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Review: "Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney"

I have wondered whether to review all three Phoenix Wright games plus the one Apollo Justice game at one go and figured that it would be too long if I were to describe my opinions for EACH game, but individually, it will be a little short. So what the heck, I'll just do it one by one. Note that Phoenix Wright is focused on the storyline, so expect some spoilers.

"Phoenix Wright" is a fully story-driven interactive game (think Hotel Dusk: 215 and Monkey Island series). There is only one route to take and there are no shortcuts or whatever, only do what you are expected to do. If you are unsure, it isn't really a shame to check out guides from time to time since it can get frustrating when answers are not as obvious.

You play as Phoenix Wright, a newbie defense attorney under the tutelage of the famous Mia Fey. Instantly, the game throws you into the courtroom as a tutorial level. There are two parts to the courtroom battle: the witness testimony and the random QnA sections. You are given a few chances to be wrong, as indicated at the top right hand corner of the DS top screen.

Usually the prosecutor will kick off the battle by calling upon a 'decisive' witness, who claims to have witnessed the crime. The game seems to revolve around murders and frames, which is alright since they give the player a sense of importance (imagine solving a petty theft crime). You will then be asked to 'cross-examine' the witness.

During cross-examination, you are required to search for contradictions and sometimes, clues, in the witnesses' statements. They usually have around 4-5 sentences which you can review them by pressing the front or the back arrows on your touch screen, bringing you to the next or previous statement respectively. There are two things you can do during cross-examination: Press and Present.

Pressing a statement will cause Phoenix to ask further inquiries about it. You can actually Press every single sentence without a penalty unless otherwise stated by the judge (prosecutor will claim it will harass the witness). Sometimes when you Press, you will be asked to perform actions like "Press further" or "Raise an objection!". Everything is tightly scripted so there's no pattern for this part, just play along and have fun.


Presenting evidence to a statement is the most common way to advance the courtroom battle. When you see a contradiction with the evidence and the statement, you can present the evidence to advance. However, if you got it wrong, you will the penalized by taking away a chance (the top right hand corner thing). Once you reach 0, it is Game Over.

Sometimes, you have to answer questions presented by the judge and the prosecutor, in which you either have to answer as a multiple choice question, presenting the evidence, spotting something in a photo or a video, etc. Again, here, everything is tightly scripted so there's no pattern. This kind of 'freedom' in scripting aid in immersing you to the story, especially for people like me who always looks out for patterns in even the smallest things. As I said earlier, it's a interactive story-driven game so just play along and have fun.

Outside of the courtroom, Phoenix will be wandering around gathering evidence and talking to people. I wouldn't say much to this as all these are scripted according to the story. You just need to talk to people, open more dialog options, look for clues in the surroundings, and present related evidence to the related person.

And now we talk a bit about the story.
You are Phoenix Wright, understudy of the famous Mia Fey. After the tutorial level, you receive your very own solo murder case: The murder of Mia Fey. You were seen in the office by a witness who claimed that you are the murderer. Intriguing isn't it. Right off the bat, you are involved in a rather delicate case, with you as a suspect.

As you continue playing, you will gain the help of Maya Fey, Mia's younger sister. She is a spirit medium, and is able to channel dead spirits into her body to aid Phoenix's cases, although she's not very good at it and can only do so at extreme cases.

Just as you finished the last chapter, a bonus chapter will be unlocked. You will be introduced to a young forensic scientist wannabe by the name of Ema Skye. Her sister is accused of murder and she is willing to plead guilty. The strange thing about this case is that there are two murders of the same person at two different locations! Play more to find out :)

This chapter is a little unique because you will be interacting with objects you have not done before for the past chapters.

1) You will be able to look for fingerprints using a special spray and powder as well as matching them to a database.
2) You will be able to examine (in 3D) and interact with your evidences
3) Examining moving pictures aka videos for evidence


fan-made strip depicting what courtroom battle are like, in a comical way.

"Phoenix Wright" chapters are all very captivating and exciting to play. Even if the gameplay isn't much, you'd still want to see what happens next. The characters in the game are all very vibrant and outstanding. In fact, the most normal people in the game are actually Phoenix himself and Edgeworth. The rest have a range of personalities like being extremely forceful, loudmouth, geek-ish(!), and having less than usual common sense, causing all of them to be very memorable. There isn't even voice acting! Only text!

Despite all the murder cases, Phoenix Wright's story might be leering towards that of a 'suspence' or 'thriller' but it has many light momemts too. It's also great to see how the most calm looking criminals crack under pressure from Phoenix. It can be scary or funny as hell.


- Great story and cases, the only reason you even need to play this
- Interactivity may be lacking
- Linear gameplay, even for a interactive story game

NeetGeek gives "Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney": 8/10

Monday, September 28, 2009

Game Storylines (from a technical view)

When people look at games, what they usually talk about are the graphics and the gameplay. This is especially true for games that are not released yet. Game companies always show off the gameplay of their creation, alongside with the graphics.

I don't blame them. It's very easy to showcase, talk and discuss about how beautiful the games' graphics are or how unique a certain gameplay mechanic is, but it's incredible difficult to talk about the storyline of the game without referencing to some of its contents. That's why game reviews on games that are based on storylines are so difficult: because it's hard to make people believe that a game is good for its story by not giving any form of spoilers.

Before I continue, take note that whenever I meant "good storyline", I meant the way the story is constructed, not the contents. If you want to know about writing a great story in a content point of view, this is the wrong post. This is a technical post on how storyline can help a game.

Okay let's take a game series like LucasArt's famed Monkey Island. There are many Monkey Island fans out there but the gameplay is actually linear and boring when you think about it. The graphics are merely average too. But people love it because of the story. That is how powerful a storyline is to a game. In many ways, storyline is the SOUL of the game much like how graphics is the FLESH of the game.

One key statement I would like to make is this: "Let the story drive the game progression structure, not the other way around." It is an impossible statement, because without game progression, the whole game will seem like a mess and all the new players will hate it. But it is best to try to make it look that way, give the players the illusion that there isn't a structure at all, and that there is only the story.

Players, especially gamers (which are the majority), will look out for your game progression structure whenever they are bored. This is dangerous and hazardous to your games. Knowing your game progression structure means that it is very easy to predict the later parts of your game, not just the story. If he predicts it right, there's no point in playing your game anymore, because the element of the unknown is gone.

We all know having a progression structure to a game is inevitable, so the best way is to hide it with a good storyline, so that all the players will think about the storyline instead of figuring our your structure. It's very annoying to play a game which goes "Hero! You must go defeat a evil man but his room is locked by 4 keys! To get the first key you must go to the Temple of Fire!". Immediately you can tell that the other 3 'keys' mentioned are the other elements, most probably ice, earth and wind or something along that line. Before the player starts the first dungeon, he will already start to feel jaded.

A game storyline must be captivating enough to induce the player with the emotion of yearning to find out more about what happens next. Its contents can be cheap, dumb or lame, but it should at least induce the player with the emotion of being interested in progressing the game. This emotion should last until the end of the game, without dropping its momentum (too much) at any point.

Having good storyline will redirect the attention (wow it sounds like sales now) of the player away from the ugly sides of your game. Yes, storylines are THAT powerful. Final Fantasy doesn't have good game mechanics, but everyone plays because there is a need to find out what happened. Love or hate your game, they bought and played from the start to the end; that's the point I'm trying to drive at for those who haven't figured it out (It's hard to explain from the start, so I apologize for the late introduction).

I know I'm getting a little long-winded here so I'll just come to a close here. The bottom line is to hide your gameplay under the guise of a story. Storyline is so powerful, if games like Bejeweled actually have a nice storyline, I'll probably grind through hours of it just to see it. Of course, not every game needs a storyline to succeed, but it's extremely useful to have them.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Review: "Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days"

Seeing that Gamespot released a launch center for the arrival of "Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days", I figured I would do a sneak-peek review since I've played the JPN version already.

"358/2 Days" takes place in between Kingdom Hearts 1 and Kingdom Hearts 2. To be more specific, it takes place right after Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, chronologically speaking of course.

This game gives us more background on the mysterious character in Kingdom Hearts 2 named Roxas (If you haven't played the series, please skip this or wiki the storyline out). All we know from KH2 is that Roxas is Sora's Nobody, created when Sora became a Heartless. However we don't really know much about Roxas' own background, his own life in Organization XIII. Many fans loved using Roxas and is disappointed that you stop using him early in KH2 (who doesn't like duel wielding keyblades!). Thus that's what this game is for: Roxas. Here's a brief overview of the story:

Roxas, unlike most Nobodies, does not have memories of his counterpart (aka Sora) before he was created. He was found my Xemnas and became the 13th member of Organization XIII. There he was mentored by Axel ("A-X-E-L, got that memorized?") who ended up, as we all know, as Roxas' very good friend . Soon, a 14th member named Xion joined the Organization. Okay I'm threading near the spoiler line here, so all I can say is: Roxas and Xion ended up as close friends, since they are kinda alike like not having memories of their counterpart. Then a plot twist concerning Xion's true purpose happened (omg so close to spoilers!).

You wonder if Roxas ever gets sick of the same ice cream in this game...

Anyway, it's still about the life of Roxas overall. 358/2 means '358 work days and 2 days off' as bluntly stated by one of my friends. Unlike other Kingdom Hearts games, this one is quest/mission based. There are main missions and side missions on every world you visit (yes you still go around Disney worlds). Main missions advance the storyline, side missions gives very nice rewards and self-satisfaction for your greedy perfectionist self, so usually, you would want to complete everything. Hence, you will end up visiting the same world over and over again, just that you will be doing different things each time. However, there isn't many variations of things you can do, so the game CAN get boring at many points of time.

So bottom line is, the game can end up feeling like a grindfest. Then again, there is MULTIPLAYER. Yes, I said it: MULTIPLAYER, which you and your friends can revisit missions and play cooperatively or competitively. This way, everyone can grind together! (I just destroyed the mood there I think)

Combat remains pretty much the same

Combat is still the same as the ole KH1 and KH2. I'm a little surprised they managed to pull it off on a Nintendo DS. You beat enemies, they drop green balls that restore HP, bubbles that restore NP and colorful balls which gives you money. Oh yes, they finally added in LIMIT BREAKS to the game. But what IS new is the Panel System.

The Panel System is a very interesting way to customize your character. It determines you equipment, your spells, your stats all in one interface. For example, if you place three 1x1 'Fire' power-up panel on three 1x1 empty slots, you are able to cast 'Fire' 3 times. If you place a level up power-up panel, your character will level up (you don't gain levels normally in this game, you 'equip' levels). As you progress through the game, you will be given more slots as well as more powerful power-ups to equip. The power-up panels may exist in several different odd shapes, causing you to try to fit in the power-ups you want like a jigsaw puzzle. It almost feels like the 'koma' system from Jump Ultimate Stars series.

The panel system rules your character.

We are only a few days till the arrival of the English release, so for those hoping it wouldn't suck, I would confidently say that it doesn't. At least, if you are a Kingdom Hearts fan, I don't see how it would suck for you. You get to use Roxas after all :)

Anyways, I'm planning to get this game because my save file for the JPN version recently died and I would like to listen to the English voices, the way I played the rest of the KH games. I didn't really like Roxas' japanese voice anyway. Here's the E3 trailer:


- You get to use Roxas!
- Smooth gameplay, alike to KH1 and KH2
- Panel system is a great customization system and it actually does not suck
- Good story overall. I liked the Xion plot twist.
- Story that sets up the KH2 stage satisfyingly (ie there's no empty time 'holes')
- Hard mode available for those worried about difficulty
- Multiplayer!


- Repeating maps may be boring
- Repeating maps may be boring...really
- Repeating maps may be boring...really, so get a friend to play along.
- Some map 'puzzles' can be tedious and boring (Square Enix does it again!)
- Story doesn't pick up until towards the end.
- Not enough quest variations, so repeating maps may be..._______.

NeetGeek gives "Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days": 7.5/10

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Review: "Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast"

I first chanced upon "Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast" when I randomly walked into a LAN center and saw a few people playing it, so my friends and I decided to give it a shot. We ended up playing for around 3-4 hours before we had to go home because there was school the next day (ya I was only a teen then). Naturally, I obtained my own copy and installed it at home.

I don't think many people have a good first impression of the game since it kicked off as what-seemed-to-be just another Star Wars FPS game on its single player mode. But the best part comes shortly after, when your main character, Kyle Katarn, gains the usage of the Force and his own lightsaber.

Playing the single player makes you feel that you have progressed from a cool modern-age samurai to an invincible GOD. Unfortunately, Force Powers are automatically purchased as you go through the story. In multiplayer, you can be given Force Points that can be used to purchase Force Powers, which come in 4 different categories: Basic, Light, Dark and Saber Techniques.

Basic Force Powers are the staple of all Jedi. Push/Pull powers affect how well you push/pull as well as being pushed/pulled. Force Speed always you to move damn fast in Multiplayer, or activate bullet-time in Single Player. Force Seeking allows you to dispel Mind Trick effect and dodge sniper beams. Can't forget Force Jump, which can potential make you jump really REALLY high.

Light Force Powers are powers used by Jedi. Absorb protects and absorbs you from force-based attacks, Protect reduces damage done on you, Mind Trick renders you invisible to the target and Force Heal...well...heals you.

Dark Force Powers are powers used by the Sith. Force Grip allows you to be Darth Vadar, although you have more fun when you grip and throw them into a bottomless hole (watch out for people Force Pulling you along with them!). Force Lightning makes you Darth Sidious, zapping people with electrical power. Dark Rage drains your HP but makes your attacks stronger. Force Drain drains the target's so-called "mana" to adds it to your own pool.

Lightsaber Techniques only come in 3 parts: Offense, Defense and Saber Throw. Offense determine what saber stances are available to you. Level 1 only gives you Yellow (mid) Stance, Level 2 give you Blue (light) Stance, and Level 3 gives you Red (heavy) stance (correct me if I'm wrong, memory's a bit rusty). Saber Defense determine how well you block your attacks, or else even blasters can easily kill you. Saber Throw just gives you more control of its effect.

Non-stop lightsaber action!

In Single Player, you will not get to play with: Dark Rage, Force Drain, Force Seeking, Force Absorb and Force Protect, but you will still have loads of fun playing as Kyle as he tortures and dismembers helpless Stormtroopers and weak Siths known as "Reborns" (ya it's the midichlorians shit). Some powers might work a little differently like Mind Trick controlling enemies to shoot their own allies.

For Multiplayer, remember that the lightsaber isn't your only tool. There are still powerful weapons that even a lightsaber cannot defeat. There's one that works like a shotgun, and no Jedi can survive a fully charged wookie-bowcaster backstab. This is one of the games where more players means more fun. There are even trapped rooms with its death-switch located outside. Imagine 3 guys fighting in a room and you just touch the switch outside and watch them all get crashed/incinerated/zapped.

I would highly recommend playing this game first before you play its sequal, Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, just for Kyle Katarn =)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Feedback to feedback

Thanks for all the feedback about this blog. I've received comments mostly about the design of the blog, that red doesn't suit me or whatnot. Or that my content is kinda backdated.

It's quite difficult (and boring) for me and me alone to try to go head-on and create a blog that talks about the same stuff that big sites like Kotaku or Gamasutra talks about. For anime blogs, it was NEVER my intention to make anything like Sankaku Complex. Although I try to make it a gaming/anime blog, it is essentially a blog which contents are heavily focused on my own comments and opinions about stuff I see about gaming/anime.

In other words, this blog is not trying to mimic Kotaku or Gamespot. It is still my blog, take out all the random stuff I wrote on my previous blog which only like 5% of the viewers can relate to, and which I can't even remember what I blogged, turn it into something that I am interested in so that I can actually have motivation to blog about. Last time I HAVE to force myself to blog. If you remember my old blog, it has quite a few post that goes like "Back after a long absence", which is kinda pointless and annoying. It breaks the flow and the consistency of the blog.

Did I take out all my old blog post? No. I still left the rather good ones which others can still relate to. Most of my old post mentions several people which I did not even give a brief description of. Worse, I mentioned them in their initials (like YH). I still intent to make such post, just try to make it relevant and worth blogging, and make it more pleasant to read. People read to get information, not to get disconnected and confused by the content. I vetted every single darn post (there's like 200 of them) to decide if people outside my circle of friends have an idea what's going on.

Hence I have reviews. It's the easiest medium bridge the gap between my comments, my interests and other people who are interested. However, due to my current situation and interest, I always dig out old games, or search for those REALLY REALLY old games (like NetHack or Dwarf Fortress).

I think that retro games have a certain complexity that our current generation of games could never have. The most newer generation of games have shown us about 'complexity' is being able to sandbox. You don't see RPGs nowadays having things like being hungry, thirsty, and shit happening (like really really shit happening). Yeah, I agree that's pretty hardcore to most people, but hey, it's fun. Those games give a long-forgotten perspective to gaming that newer generation of games don't have.

So I try to look around at weird places, get freeware games, old games, etc. If you wish for a whole writeup + reviews for newer games, I'd suggest you drop by GameSpot (I have it linked here at the sidebar :p) or other places like MegaCritic or Demonoid. There are tons of places that does it, and I'm not interested in fighting for a spot amongst them. Of course, that doesn't mean I don't play mainstream 3rd gen games. All I'm interested in offering are my very own opinions, unbiased to the media. I read of a couple of reviewers who got sacked because he gave a game some rather crappy score.

Also, there are a few reviews that I don't agree on like GameSpot giving GTA4 a 10/10. I think it's quite ridiculous because I don't even think it deserves an 8. Oblivion a 9/10? I don't think so...too many things that can be improved for that game like its contents.

So that's a full view of what NeetGeek is about. So on to the design.

I'm not a webpage designer, or any kind of designer. Most of my friends know what I do best is to copy something, take out anything I find to be worthless and add on some of what I think has worth. That's how I pretty much do everything in my life. That's the SAF way, my way, and it is a really good way.

So essentially, I can't really think out of anything out of the blue because thus far, I haven't studied (or rather, analyzed) all the random design stuff like colors-matching. All I have with me is to try to apply human psychology onto my website design (like where to place a navigation bar, etc). Right now I know NeetGeek doesn't really apply to that in various areas (like the navigation), because I suck at designing. I know where I want it, I just don't know how to go about putting it.

So why not use Dreamweaver? With time I could do trial and error and decide what's best for the blog. There are two reasons: I do NOT have the time and Blogger is a bitch. If I were using classic template, it would be fine and dandy, but I can't because of the advent of 'Widgets', I can't stay long with the classic template. Widgets are just too damn useful, so I have to switch to the new "Layout" based template.

The new template doesn't translate well with dreamweaver's design tab, mainly because they don't use conventional HTML methods. Tabs like [b:section] are not recognized. It's even worse because they replaced [style] with [b:skin]. The most I could do with DreamWeaver now is to change into [style], do my codes, and change it back...and imagine what my skin looks like with content because is not recognized on DreamWeaver and cannot place content on itself. So the best way is to edit on the blogger dashboard itself and preview my template like crazy, which uses up more time and effort. Not saying it can't be done, I just don't really feel like doing it now.

Thanks about it. Thanks for the feedback, I'll continuously try to work on them :)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

3D pixels = ???

I stumbled upon this at a couple of days ago. Upon seeing the first 0:02 seconds of the trailer my inner fanboy screamed in delight. I thought I was going to have heart attack.

The game is translated as "3D Dot Game Heroes" (3Dドットゲームヒーローズ). It is a single-player action game. In fact it almost looks like a Zelda ripoff. It will be released at 5th November this year (yet another November game!!) on the PlayStation 3. w00t! Looks like my PS3 isn't going to die anytime soon!

Also you might notice retro game references on the trailer above. I managed to spot FF1 and Legend of Zelda, and maybe Dragon Quest (not sure). Concept of the game idea is to bring old pixelated game and turn them 3D, in a VERY literal sense. Can't wait for it XD

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Review: "Lost Odyssey"

Back when X360 first released, Lost Odyssey was one of the highly anticipated games for the console, mainly because it was announced to be made by the original Final Fantasy team. Honestly speaking, back then, I didn't know what I wanted in Lost Odyssey. Something different? Something revolutionary? It is always something I look out for in JRPGs, but what can I expect from a team of developers so darn dedicated to old school turn based combat?

Right off the bat, I will mention that Lost Odyssey has great graphics. It is something Square Enix will never fail to disappoint when developing their mainstream titles. I don't think I can even critic about anything regarding this field. The foreground blends with the background, the minimal lo-res to hi-res switch (there isn't that much of a switch), the loading times, the special effects rendering, the amount of lag...they are all too good. Heck you don't even need installation to run the game smoothly.

The solution to all pixelation problems: Blur!

The music was composed by the legendary Nobuo Uematsu. I've been a fan of Nobuo since I can remember and although I feel all his music sounds the same (he thinks so too), he still did a really good job with Lost Odyssey. In fact, his style of music really blends in with the setting. Nobuo is, to me, a master of background music and atmospheric soundtracks and in that sense, it seems that he has actually improved with Lost Odyssey. He has really come a long way since 8-bit midi soundtracks.

Before we head to the storyline and mechanics, we look at the character design. Takehiko Inoue's art seems rather old school, and some characters, in my opinion, does not translate well on 3D (like Jansen). Still, I shall not question the artist, although I still have issues with the army of Tinky-Winkies marching for war. No matter how much space I give artists, their helmet design really blows.

Now we come to the biggest problem of the game: Hironobu Sakaguchi. There is a good reason why people occasionally nickname him "SUCK-aguchi". It seems that ever since FFVII, every story he tried to create result in a lot of unique content that doesn't make sense, or just plain lame and silly. Lost Odyssey was no exception. In fact, it almost seems as if he reached another level in what he is good at.

You play as Kaim, an immortal whose has a purpose in the world which was forgotten because he somehow lost his memories (it will be clear once the story unfolds). You will think that Kaim is alike to Squall at first due to his silent no-nonsense nature, but it really isn't his fault.

Along the game, you get to meet 4 other immortals: Seth the lady pirate, Ming the fair queen, the evil Gongara and...your wife, Sarah (possible FF reference here?). Everyone but Gongara (naturally) joins your party. You will also meet mortals that join you, most of them are related to some of the immortals (offsprings). Apparently, every immortal lost their memories because of Gongara (won't tell you the reason here) and he wants to build a massive tower of destruction (aka Death Star, just that he's no Darth Vadar).

Turn-based combat strikes again!

Here's a brief opinionated outline of every character:
Kaim - Silent, no-nonsense, protagonist. Kaim seemed to be like Squall from FFVIII, but after going through 1000 years of crap, you don't see him blurting out lovey stuff out of his mouth too often. In a sense, he's very very matured (1000 years man).

Seth - Seth is outgoing, and upstart pirate immortal that is like a yin to Kaim's yang. She's still quite tolerable as far as outgoing characters go (I hated Marle from Chrono Trigger btw) and she has a rather dark and sad story (again, 1000 years man). She's also your standard speed-type character

Ming - Ming is your quiet, delicate queen-type. She is hailed as a very wise queen and some thinks that she's immortal (duh she is). She's a queen of a peaceful country filled with soldier that looks like a mix of white feathered chickens and ancient greek soldiers. She also has a...dark story, but it's a simple one. Ming is a strong magic user.

Sarah - This is the character with almost no character development other than she is Kaim's wife and that she goes crazy before you met her. I have to actually search up GameFaqs to dig her name out. Sarah is a strong magic user.

Cooke - Kaim and Sarah's granddaughter. She's a child and a older sister to Mack. Reminds me of Relm from FFVI. She is a rather decent character overall.

Mack - Kaim and Sarah's grandson. He's rather air-headed and slow. Combine that with his stubbornness and he becomes a bit of trouble. Mack always make his sister, Cooke, worry for him. Overall, both of them add flavor to the main story.

Sed - Famous pirate and Seth's son. He's a very old man too. He would be a good character but his relationship with Seth and the way he acts in stuff concerning his 'mother', everything suddenly seems so wrong I can't put a finger in it. It is a rather strange scene that only Sakaguchi is capable of. Although I encourage everyone to see why, I must add that it's a bad thing.

Tolten - Oops, spoilers. Yes, this buffoon of a King joins your party. And yep, that's all I can comment.

Jansen - The clown of the party. In fact he almost dresses like one. He was Gongara's messanger boy until he discovered his plans.

Cooke, I am your GRAND-father!

I can't really let on too much spoilers here so I'll just leave what I think about the story:

"Lost Odyssey's story is a little unique due to the 'dealings of immortals that mingled with mortals', but it's only that uniqueness that drives the story. If you look at the story as a whole, with only the 'immortality' part being only as a flavor of the story, and look at how the story progresses, it is actually nothing special and nothing new.

In fact, there are certain key characters in the game that makes the game seem less serious and thus less enjoyable considering the tone of the setting, since they disrupt the feel and flow of the story. The only thing left to look at that could possibly raise my opinions is the villain and yet again, Lost Odyssey fails to deliver a villain that is special in terms of personality and actions. Like I mentioned: He just constructed the Death Star, but he is no way nearly as cool as Darth Vader or Emperor Palpatine.

To sum it in a sentence: Sakaguchi wrapped old and used contents with a completely different skin."

Gongara - Not really what I'd call 'badass villain'

Mechanics in this game is nothing really new. The only 'big' addition is the use of 'Rings'. You can equip 'Rings' to give you an edge in battle (like doing extra damage to Machines, draining HP, etc). In battle, when your character does a normal attack and has a skill ring equipped, You have to hold down the RT button and release it at a certain timing to perform more damage. Here's an example video:

Since there's immortals and mortals, there's a game mechanic related to that. Immortals know nothing at the start. For them to learn more abilities, they need to 'link' with a mortal in the active party. They cannot link with an immortal. Since the game allows 5 characters in an active party (conveniently), you will want to place all 4 immortals (since they are so goddamn powerful) and 1 mortal to leech skills/spells from. How fast you learn skills/spells are calculated by AP gained. Once you obtain a certain amount of AP required by the skill/spell, you learn it. Conveniently, each mortal specialize in something that the others don't (Cooke for White Magic, Mach for Spirit Magic, Sed for teasure hunting/grinding abilities...). Immortals can also learn from accessories they equip.

Although at first immortals can only 'equip' a few skills, there is an item out there that increases the amount of slots you have. In fact, there are too many. This causes immortals to be actually really overpowered, in a gameplay point of view.

There's also one more mechanic called 'Composite Magic'. It is basically group-based versions of your normal Black/White/Spirit magic. Without equipping it, you lose the ability to cast useful elemental spells that affect all your enemies as well as powerful white magic spells that removes status effects from your group, which is not possible with just normal magic. Composite Magic usually has long casting time that can delay your casters up to the next turn, but at higher levels, once you obtain skills like Reduce Casting Time II, you will be able to cast on the round itself. That's two times the effectiveness if you do the maths.

As far as character growth is concerned, the game stay equally hard (or easy) from the start to the end of the game as long as you know what you are doing. You won't find yourself grinding at any point of time. Looks like years of developing JRPGs really paid off in that sense.

And finally, we come to the ultimate gem of the game: Thousand Years of Dreams. It is, by far, what drove me throughout the game. It is basically just a wall of text per story. Every story is unlocked by either story progression, talking to people, or seeing certain events. It is penned by award winning short-novelist, Kiyoshi Shigematsu, and whoever translated his works to English did a very good job of keeping the feel. The short stories are truly masterpieces, each filled with an overwhelming amount of emotion enhanced by the structure of sentences. Its content was further improved by the way the sentences and phrased form while you read (there are all kinds of effects), as well as the beautiful background, sound and music. I think I almost cried at one of the stories.

Thousand Years of Dreams

- Great Graphics
- Great OST
- Thousand Years of Dreams was done very well
- Certain enemies have interesting abilities, making combat interesting for the first encounter

- Nothing really new
- Main story isn't anything new or exciting
- Turn based combat throws off the pace of the game sometimes.
- Combat can be long and weary after you found the exact steps on how to deal a certain group of enemies.

NeetGeek gives "Lost Odyssey": 7.5/10

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Related Definations

I might want to set up a glossary page after this lol

Not in Employment, Education or Training. Also defined as "Neither in Employment, Education or Training", "Young people Not in Education, Employment or Training" or "Not currently engaged in Employment, Education or Training".

Originally a UK Government classification for young adults aged between 16 and 19 (sometimes 16 to18) who, for whatever reason, are not in employment, education or training. This classification does include those who are long term sick or who might be looking after family members.

Young adults aged between 14 and 15 can be classified as at risk of becoming a NEET.
- by Brian Cryer's Glossary of IT Terms

Not to be confused with Nerd. A geek does not have to be smart, a Geek is someone who is generaly not athletic, and enjoys Video Games; Comic Books; being on the internet, and etc.
- by Urban Dictionary

Although there are occasions where the hikikomori may venture outdoors usually at night to buy food, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare defines hikikomori as individuals who refuse to leave their parents' house, and isolate themselves from society in their homes for a period exceeding six months.[2] While the degree of the phenomenon varies on an individual basis, in the most extreme cases, some youths remain in isolation for years or even decades. Often hikikomori start out as school refusals, or futōkō (不登校) in Japanese (an older term is tōkōkyohi (登校拒否)).
- by Wikipedia

Monday, September 14, 2009

Movie: "Gamer"

At last, a movie about us geeks. 'Gamer' is a movie about Kable (Gerard Butler), a death-row prisoner who takes part in an online multiplayer FPS deathmatch game known as "Slayers", where he is consciously mind controlled by an actual 17-year-old gamer Simon (Logan Lerman). Any death-row inmate who participates will be freed after 30 consecutive victories. The movie starts where Kable and Simon had already gone through 27 victories.

The basic setting is this: A technical and eccentric genius, Ken Castle, developed a sophisticated mind control technology and used it to create a game named "Society". It is like The Sims, only that a player mind controls a willing victim to that they would like to do. You can either be paid to get controlled (for desperate people) or pay to control (desperate people, though in a completely different sense). It took the world by storm and Ken Storm became an instant billionaire surpassing even Bill Gates.

Then after some time, he created the FPS "Slayer", which revolves around the same mind control concept, only that it is catered to violence and its participants are death-row inmates, reassuring that even if the prisoners die, it wouldn't matter anyway since they are on a death sentence.

And the rest is history, I shan't spoil the show for you.

The special effects are rather sweet, especially when they replicated the FPS-like UI and the modern-day FPS third person camera (the Gears of War type). They also abused the static screen effects a lot to create an effect that there is lag/ping/loading/etc.

'Gamer' is what you might expect if Nintendo reached their ultimate goal (creating a completely immersive game aka The Matrix jack-in concept) and suddenly turned evil with mind control technology. You can try to imagine Miyamoto as Ken Castle, but Castle ain't japanese and too smooth so it's actually quite hard to think about it.

This movie has quite a few geek references that normies might not understand when they watch it. Terms like 'fag' or 'ghey' that are somewhat overused might not click in with normal audiences.

But for me, I had fun watching :)


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Vocaloid Nendoroid, WARNING EXTREMELY MOE!

I was browsing through Sankaku Complex and chanced upon this post

Honestly I almost died with joy and sadness. Sadness due to my currently limited income, happy because they are in a trading figure set and thus inexpensive. I almost spent a bomb on the Haruhi set.

This product is avaliable as a trading figure Nendoroid set: Buy a box of them and in it, there are random Nendoroids in it. If you are unlucky, you might end up buying tons of boxes, but of course, the best way is to trade with others via services such as Yahoo! Auctions or eBay. In total, there are 11 normal figures and 1 'secret' rare figure. Good luck with that one!

*sigh* Hatsune dual wielding leeks gets me EVERY time:

Death by Moe!!!

This product can be pre-ordered (and ordered when the time comes) here.
For Singapore residents, you can try contacting KKnM.

If you want to see it in action, I chanced upon this at YouTube quite some time ago. It is a 3DCG animation done with the older Vocaloid Nendoroids:

DDO is now FREE

As of 09/09/09 Turbine went Free to Play for their most recent not-so-popular MMO: Dungeon and Dragons Online. It sure has come a long way, from a pay-to-play MMO on release at 2006, to removing the subscription fees, to being free to play. Of course when I say "free to play" I meant that there is still cash shops in the game.

This reminds me that it's about time I write a DDO review. DDO is quite a different MMO as compared to the ones currently floaing around like World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, Age of Conan, Warhammer Online, etc etc. Hmm I wonder that after creating Asheron's Call, killing Asheron's Call 2, Turbine decided to finally settle down with DDO?

Registration and client download at the DDO homepage.
You can find me as "Cannae" at Khyber server.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Review: "Samurai Legend: Musashi"

Looking through my old PS2 game pouch, I chanced upon a game that I have actually completed. So I wanted to write a review, but I can't remember anything about the game other than being very tiring. I decided to find out and slotted the DVD into the PS2.

Samurai Legend: Musashi is in many ways alike to it's PS1 predecessor, Brave Fencer Musashi, although both stories does not interlink. It is an action/adventure game.

The game kicked off in a rather good start. You will see a really overdone cell-shading effect as the game's overall graphical direction, making the game rather colorful and outstanding. At the time this game was released, it was beautiful. Story is a bit lacking. Upon watching the first introduction scene, you can easily guess the whole story already. It's the traditional girl-gets-kidnapped-hero-come-to-rescue plot. Even worse, the story involves going to 5 different-themed elemental dungeons. But look at the bright side, at least the voice acting is quite decent.

Overdone but beautiful cell-shading

Basically, the whole town (which is actually a floating whale or something) was attacked by baddies and everyone evacuated all over the world. One of your side-jobs (albeit an important one) is to find the citizens of the town, who were trapped in crystals and you must break them open (and they call these crystals "escape pods"). Rescuing them will make them appear at the town and most of them will offer various services like the Arena, General Store, Appraisal, Item Combine, etc. If you have played RPGs long enough, you will actually know what all of them do without even a explanation.

Combat mechanics is actually quite interesting...on paper. The key feature of this game's combat system is that Musashi can unlock abilities for himself. By holding "R1", Musashi will lock onto a target and charge his 'focus' gauge. When it is full, you'll have to wait for the target to unleash a specific attack on you, in which the game will temporary freeze. During the freeze time, you press the Square button and follow the instructions stated. Upon doing so, you will learn the ability. Some costs mana. Some doesn't. And with so many abilities to learn, it isn't surprising that most of them becomes obsolete after some time.

That's about the most interesting mechanic there is in the game. Combat overall feels horribly dull and grindish. All the enemies can be defeated the same way: Square, Square, Square, Square, Square - which is actually the first move you learn in the game. It is probably the fastest way to level up your character, other than spamming the overdrive move which costs like half your mana. By the way, the X-spamming move is actually rather slow, espacially towards the end. Since the game uses this move as its staple bread and butter combo to defeat foes, combat ended up being quite slow. Don't worry though, foes are quite slow, predictable and dumb too so you can actually keep mashing until you see something coming, then stop and defend.

I learnt the best move in the game!

Boss fights may seem quite cinematic (as they should), but even though they are different in looks and attacks, they are still fundamentally the same. Somewhere in between, they will throw out an attack that leaves them vulnerable, and then you attack. Nothing much to comment on here.

Oh yes, not forgetting a key 'feature' to the game - "Carrying". Some of the people needs to be rescued, but due to some silly excuse ("My leg fell asleep!"), Musashi have to end up carrying them, limitating your attacks. One attack that can be noted is the spin attack done by throwing the victim up and pressing "Square". That attack is quite powerful and is worthy to note, but otherwise, "Carrying" is to create yet another limitation to your already limited movesets.

That's all there is to the game. It is actually a pretty long game, considering that there seemed to be endless amount of enemies to be defeated (the same way over and over). Despite my tone in this review, this game is still worthy of a runthrough. Like I mentioned, the graphics are great, the voice acting is also pretty decent. Music and sound are also done nicely, making fighting (or grinding) mobs at least a bit more tolerable. A small little effect that did that I actually enjoyed was the way mobs are defeated. Depending on the way Musashi swings his sword, when the opponent dies of that hit, he will freeze and be sliced at the exactly way the sword sliced him.

Here a small gameplay video:

Overally, great graphics and sounds, average mechanics, boring combat. Still worth a chance.

- Great graphics
- Good sound and music
- Good art direction
- Decent RPG mechanics
- Learning abilities is actually quite fun and cool to watch.
- Good voice acting

- Boring Combat
- Learned abilities become obsolete fast.
- Draggy overall experience
- Bad story filled with an incredible load of 'cliche'
- Did I say 'Boring combat'?

NeetGeek gives "Samurai Legend: Musashi": 6.5/10

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Review: "Mario Kart DS"

Despite the amount of times I can bash this game, Mario Kart DS will always somehow return to haunt me. It has one of the best, if not the best, multiplayer experiences of all the DS games I've played.

Like most Nintendo games, Mario Kart DS isn't really catered to competition, even though it's a racing game. If you've played other Mario Kart games, you will know that it is a series which allows players to screw other players on the race. These are done not only by the standard racing game method of knocking an opponent away from the track, but also by the use of items. Items are obtained randomly from "?" boxes. The type of item depend heavily on the player's position. For example, first place never (at least I haven't seen it before) get anything other than banana peels and fake "?" boxes as their items.

"?" boxes that gives random items depending on your position

Here is the item list:
Banana - Comes in threes or one. Anyone who lands on a Banana peel will lose control of their vehicles temporarily.

Fake "?" Box - Anyone who lands on a Fake "?" Box will immediately be stopped in their tracks.

Red Mushroom - Comes in threes or one. Using this item will give your racer a temporary boost in speed. Quickest way to accelerate to your maximum speed.

Red Shell - Comes in threes or one. Threes will rotate around the racer when used. Opponents that get hit by a shell will immediately be stopped in their tracks like the fake "?" box. When used again, 1 shell will shoot forward and home towards the nearest opponent. Getting only one red shell does not allow you to deploy it as a shield.

Green Shell - Comes in threes or one. Threes will rotate around the racer when used. Opponents that get hit by a shell will immediately be stopped in their tracks like the fake "?" box. When used again, 1 shell will shoot straight towards the direction you are facing and will bounce like a ping-pong ball if it hits a wall. Getting only one green shell does not allow you to deploy it as a shield.

Ghost - Renders you invulnerable, invisible, and steals an opponent's item for you. Usually for people at middle placing.

Lightning - Zaps everyone on the track except you. Everyone's size will decease as with their weight (allowing you to easily knock them away from tracks) and speed. You will also cause everyone affected to lose their current items. Usually for people at middle placing.

Bomb - Upon deployment, will have a short delay before a wide explosion as big as the track's width sometimes. Everyone affected will be blasted sky high! Usually for people at middle placing.

Missile - Transform into a missile. You will basically be automatically brought forward at a high speed and will knock away any opponents in your way. Usually for people at low placing.

Blue Shell - The bane of the 1st place. This shells will home towards the 1st place racer and create a blast effect similar to the Bomb blast effect...without the delay of course. You can hear it form miles away. Usually for people at middle/low placing.

Golden Mushroom - For a limited time, you can use the golden mushroom and boost yourself as if you have unlimited Mushrooms. Usually for people at middle/low placing

Squid - Blotches everyone's DS screen with a black ink blob. Usually not very effective but at certain critical times, it will kinda screw people up.

I have the green shell!

The DS screen is split into two different parts (duh). The top screen is used for the actual gameplay, while the bottom screen can show a map view of the track with the racer's position OR a top down view of your surroundings. The top down view is able to pin-point certain traps opponents have set up for you and the rest. For example, a banana peel on the track will appear as a 2D banana peel on the top-down view at the corresponding location. These two views are interchangeable with a touch on the touch screen or the "Y" button.

Are there special techniques in this game?
There is one, and it is based on one mechanic: "Drifting". When you hold the "R" button, and hold left or right directional button, your racer will perform a small jump and start drifting (useful for facing bends for certain characters). During this state if you mash the left and right directional button, you will see blue sparks that keep appearing under the racer's cart, before it becomes an ongoing orange spark. Releasing the "R" button will give you a speed boost as if you have a mushroom.

The name of the technique is called "Snaking" and it can be quite difficult to do depending on the track. It requires you to keep doing the technique above over and over and over again until you are not confident in doing it. Usually if you drift towards your right, chances are you will need to do the next one towards your left, hence creating a snake-like motion, and ergo: "Snaking".

Here's a video tutorial by IGN on how to perform "Snaking":

Any more mechanics?
There is two more mechanic a newbie wouldn't know. First is the starting boost. When your race is starting, you can get a quick boost to get in front of everyone immediately after the countdown. The trick to doing this is to hold the accelerate button the moment the "2" is going to fade.

Sequence of events:
Countdown 3....2....(hold accelerator)...1....GO! = gain the starting boost.

The second mechanic tries to implement the "Drafting" mechanic in many racing game. When are tailing a racer at a close distance, after a certain time pass you will get a temporary speed boost. This is often used when I play with my friends.

So much about the mechanics and items, it is no wonder Mario Kart DS is a fun game to play with your friends. With yourself...hmm...not so much, but playing with your friends is always a blast. I usually have tons of fun with 4 but you can actually play with 8(!), although it will lag.

Not to mention, this game have more than 25 maps for you and your friends to play with! It is a game that can really probably last a long time if you and your friends have nothing else better to do. And not forgetting, this game actually has WiFi support!

- Great multiplayer experience
- Advance techniques to learn: Snaking, Drafting and Blue Shell dodging
- WIFI connection!!!
- Many stuff to unlock, making single player quite meaningful

- Boring minigames (that's just my opinion, but the mini-games seemed pointless to me)

NeetGeek gives this game: 9/10!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Review: "Batman: Arkham Asylum"

And finally it is here.

Following up its demo review, the game "Batman: Arkham Asylum" truly does not disappoint. The primary concern that most people have about Batman:AA being a repetitive game, like Assassin's Creed, was removed. Batman:AA drives the player throughout the game with its cinematic gameplay, and immersive storytelling. And there isn't one point when I felt bored.

Detective Mode tracking

We all read from the demo review about the detective mode. On detective mode, Batman will gain X-ray vision, detected armed/unarmed targets and heartbeats of a target. The complete game shows its additional feature: Tracking. The detective mode seemed to be able to track almost everything that the average person thought impossible: alcohol fumes, DNA, fingerprints, tobacco traces, etc. From a programmer point of view, it is actually the same code with different skin. However, it really adds to the immersion, allowing the player to feel that he really is Batman.

If you have played the demo, you will notice that whenever Batman completes a task, or defeat an opponent in combat, he will gain experience points. Experience points in Batman:AA can be used to buy skills at "WayneTech". This ranges from skills that enhances his melee combat skills, to upgrading his armor to improving his gadgets. Melee combat upgrades allows Batman to perform a grapple or a takedown after a certain combo count is met. Sadly, the skill list seems to be lacking and most of them are boring.

Dealing with foes come in two-fold: Stealth and Straight-up Melee. In a straight up fight, Batman is able to change target anytime by just changing the direction of the analog stick. In Easy and Normal modes, an extremely bright logo (I'm exaggerating, but it's very noticeable) will appear on an opponent's head if they are about to strike. Pressing the Counter button will cancel its animation and force Batman to counter him immediately (talk about cheap, Batman can control your animation frames!). Also, double tapping the dodge button + direction of the opponent will cause Batman to flip over your target, rendering him helpless. It does not screw up your combo counter. There are many other stuffs to do, but elaborating them here will take a whole page.

Stealth is usually used when too many targets are armed. Batman is still human after all, and can only take so many shots. In this case, you are required to take down every target with as little attention to you as possible. For early stages, you can deal with two side-by-side targets by throwing a Bat-a-rang at one and glide kicking another (where Batman swoops down, in bullet time, to kick a target). As you get more upgrades, handling more complex situations become easier, although with patience, you don't really need to use the upgrades. In fact you can just do silent behind-the-back takedowns if you are good enough.

Also, again if you have played the demo, you have seen those Joker Teeth clattering noisily at random places. You can throw your bat-a-rang to destroy them and yield experience points. The point of them? Riddler.

Riddler hacks into your communications at a early part of the game. He supposedly has riddles, trophies, and challenges for Batman in every zone. Completing riddles is part of the game completion percentage indicated at your save file, and some of them unlocks stuff such as character biographics and challenge maps. The most innovative thing they have in Riddler's Challenges are the riddles themselves. You are required to find the answers to the riddles and scan them at the correct angle and magnification by holding the L2 button (or the detective mode button).

One of the items I find interesting to collect (as part of Riddler's Riddles) are the interview tapes. The interview tapes are sure to ignite the fanboy within every fan. Every villain involved in the game has 5 interview tapes to the found and each interview tape tells us more about the villain as well as the interesting conversations they have with their psychiatrist-in-charge. You can spoil yourself by search for them at YouTube.

Puzzle progression is very straightforward. In fact, sometimes I wonder if there are even 'puzzles' at all. If there aren't supposed to be puzzles, then the upgrades Batman receives over the course of the story is just to unlock places he couldn't access. Sometimes you wondering why don't he just bring everything but hey, that will totally ruin the game wouldn't it? A gadget that stands out is the Sequencer. Batman uses it to tune to a sensitive frequency that would override (ie break) a control box (usually used to control an electric gate). Using both analog sticks, you will try to move them until you get a green frequency. It's really quite intuitive.

Cryptographic Sequencer

Finally, boss fights. Boss fights in Batman:AA are rather easy as long as you know the trick. Once you are able to juggle bosses and minions together, there shouldn't be a problem fighting them. Due to the technical direction the game takes (ie being very cinematic) however, boss fights, though boring and easy, seemed pretty epic at times. The camera effects manages to capture key moments and close shaves very well.

Oh speaking of boss fights, I almost forgot about the Scarecrow scenes. Midway through the game, Batman will suddenly start having visions and your surroundings will slowly become more and more surreal. He will start hearing voices of his past and will start seeing stuffs that are kinda scary at times. That is when Scarecrow's fear gas manages to affect Batman. Crazy things will start happening around Batman like raining indoors, tables flying, entering the same place using the exit...Scarecrow's nightmare scene is truly a masterpiece in special effects. It also shows alot for the storyboarding of the game, that the story does not only take place within the boundaries of realism. What really impressed me is actually the developer's ability to smoothly transit from reality to surreal.

Overall, Batman: Arkham Asylum is a dark and gloomy game, probably inspired from the latest Batman movies (Batman Begins and The Dark Knight). The story is a little short, but seeing how polished the gameplay is, I couldn't really complain. One thing I wished for is to meet more villains. In person I mean, not just the mere mention of them.

Villains directly involved in this game includes:
- Joker, the main villain of the game. Uses joker toxins and circus-themed deadly traps
- Riddler, the sidequest provider of the game. Leaves trails of deadly riddles for Batman to solve, although they are not so deadly in this game.
- Harlequin, Joker's 'girlfriend'.
- Poison Ivy, Mutated-Botanist-turned-evil. She believes humans are the root of all evil as far as preserving nature is concerned.
- Zsazz (sp?), An unpredictable serial killer/sociopath.
- Bane, the villain the key storyline item is based on (wow that's some big clue there). He's not a dumbass as everyone thinks he is so stop staying he's dumb.
- Killer Croc, Some bloodthirsty human mutated to a crocodile
- Scarecrow, aka Dr Crane, an ex-psychiatrist that experiments on humans using his fear gas.

Long story short:
- Intriguing storyline
- Great art direction and graphics
- Freestyle combat system (explained in demo review)
- A pretty cool mini-game gadget: The Sequencer
- Challenge Maps.
- Great technical directions (for special effects)
- Rewards for Riddler Challenge that players will actually care about
- Scarecrow scenes

- Too short
- Crappy skill list overall
- Too short (did I mention that already?)

NeetGeek gives "Batman: Arkham Asylum": 9/10

PS: This might be a Game-of-the-year contender imho.

BONUS: As some might already know, PS3 owners are able to download Joker challenge maps for free using the Playstation Store. Remember that you must have a US account to get the Joker maps (Singapore uses HongKong/Japanese store).

Using Joker in combat is not so much difference as compared to Batman, although he has different move animations, he is pretty much the same as Batman without the bat-a-rang. However he is quite different in stealth sequences as he had completely different equipments. For one, he does not have a grappling hook for quick escape purposes, and secondly, he's "Detective Mode" can only be used stationary. He also have a remote control bomb and a single-bullet gun. Because of such limitations, Joker is actually quite hard to use in stealth compared to Batman. Quite fun to use all in all though.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Haruhi Endless Eight in 36 seconds!

9 episodes of Endless Eight compacted into 36 seconds! Looped! It's funny because of the way they cut the video to fit the whacky background music :p

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

MMO design: part 2

A continuation (after many moons) of this post

Today we take a look at Zones.

I've always wondered about what makes a zone memorable. There are a few factors: The mobs, the events, the place itself.

The first two factors mentioned are very commonly used in today's MMOs. Memorable mobs exists since the very first gen of MMOs (Ultima, RO, Everquest). Naturally, the more powerful they are, the more memorable, but at the same time, more painful for the players. There are rare instances where a mob can be so ridiculously powerful for that area that all players simply run away when it is sighted. Doesn't happen very much in WoW, but it exists in Ragnarok Online and Everquest (excessively for Everquest's case).

Next is the events. WoW makes their instances special by having lots of events, creating the effect that the player is playing through a story. If I remember correctly, Guild Wars and Dungeon and Dragons Online also abuses this. Event triggers are harder to implement in the actual world, because it indirectly affects everyone. Although I am a big fan of world triggers, the opinion varies across different people, and it is all dependent on the event. Sure everyone loves a positive event that gives buffs to everyone, but negative events? Sounds fun to me, but not to others.

Finally we look at the zone itself. I believe more can be added to the flavour of the zone other than event triggers, NPCs, towns, buildings, mobs and the exclusive stuff a zone have that others don't (some special item seller behind a secret wall perhaps?). Everquest has an assload of these stuff. Some are harmless like illusion walls. Some are deadly like the forest which spawn high level undeads and shadowknights only in the night (it's only beside a newbie area), and illusion floors that lead straight to a room filled with mobs. And of course, zoning into a zone, where the exit is at a totally different place as the entrance (this was some crazy shit, but it's in Everquest's Plane of FEAR after all).

So with these factors, they form a player's memory of the zone. We missed out the terrain layout and graphics but these are just the skin of the zone. Although it is still an important part of it, there isn't much about these to elaborate about.