Laura Parkinson (stormfeather) wrote,
Laura Parkinson

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Monday Fun #19 (reviews)

My bad? (The last few entries in this vein have started with "oops" because I was late or missed an update, so I figured I'd do something different. It'd be nice if the "something different" didn't involve being late or missing one, for a change...)

This time around I'm in a bit of a quandry. I have a series of semi-related games I'd like to review, one of which at least I don't remember as well as I'd like. I have a game I just started replaying for the PS2 last night that I wouldn't do justice to without more of a chance to review it and see everything it has to offer again (because it's got quite a lot packed into it), and I have an online link that I also just started playing with last night, and need more time to learn before I try to review it.

So... I guess I'll go with the first option, because the one specific game I'm thinking of that I don't remember well isn't one I was planning on giving a glowing recommendation for anyhow. And since this'll include a lot of games, the blurbs will be shorter, anyhow.

So let's get started. We will call this segment: Sailing, sailing, over the bounding main! Because I like really old cheesy references like that. That's just the type of girl I am. And because the games I'm going to all round up involve ships in some way - either taking place almost exclusively on board them, or involving ship trading while you build up an island, or what have you.

Sid Meier's Pirates!/Pirates

Game type: Pirating! (No, not software pirating...) Adventure/Strategy?

Time demand: Decent, but not horribly long - about as much as you want to put into it

Platform: PC (for this review... also an original version on a ton of old computers like the Atari and Commodore - plus more recent versions for the X-Box/360/PSP)

Released: 2004 (for the PC remake - 1987 for the original)

What it is: It's hard for me to really classify this game, since it seems to span over a few different genres. Really, it's about pirating. That's what ya need to know. Mateys.

You start out as a young nobleman who has had Nefarious Deeds performed against your family, yadda yadda, and you are now about to make your own way in the world. Of course the ship you sign onto has an Evil Horrible Captain who makes the crew snap, and you lead the mutiny that lets you take control of the ship and start your career as a Brave Swashbuckler. (I include all the caps because some of this IS a bit overdone in general, at least nowadays, but it's still fun and the basis for a fun game, so take it as tongue in cheek rather than scathing, m'kay? And really, the story's supposed to be fairly generic I'd guess, to leave you a pretty open field as to just what you want to do.)

The game from here on is... well, open. Although it's supposedly about piracy, you can be a pirate-hunter and privateer just as easily as an all-out pirate, but whatever. Semantics, right? It still involves sailing around blowing the snot out of other ships and getting Booty. You start out with a small ship, and can eventually buy or capture other ships with better cargo space, faster speeds, better handling for sails, etc etc.

You can buy or capture cargo to sell, food to supply your crew out in the ocean, cannons to Blow Stuff Up, and improvements to your ships to do various things. You can also capture specific crewmen on enemy vessels that make your life easier, or get special booty through purchase or presents or what have you that do various special things for you. The idea is basically to build up a good bit of gold as quickly as you can, before your crew gets too restless, then sail to a port to spend some time ashore and split the gold. A few months pass, then you hire the start of a new crew, see if there are any specific requests in town if you want to take them, buy whatever cargo you like, and the cycle starts anew.

That's fairly watered-down, but there is a bunch to do in this game. You can fulfill requests by town governors and so on (usually escorting people to a new settlement, escorting a new governor, tracking down a wanted crook, etc.) which will net you some sort of reward, even if it's just reputation. As you build up rep you can be rewarded with land of your own, special items (mentioned above), and the ability to dance with and eventually woo various governor's daughters, which is a whole other side plot/quest.

You can also do things such as hunt down a nation's enemies, plunder treasure ships, hunt down the notorious pirates around the area, collect treasure maps to hunt buried treasure, and (gasp) follow the storyline by hunting down a specific pirate that you collect info about, and eventually piecing together what happened to your family and setting it right.

As you might guess there's stuff in the game I haven't even really touched on, and a lot more in-depth stuff I could go into, but this is already long considering the number of games I want to cover here. So suffice to say - this is a fun game, with a lot to do. If you like this sort of thing at all, you might want to give it a try. (There's a version over 360's X-Box Live that I might try out at some point myself, but I can't swear how good it is.)

Tropico 2: Pirate Cove

Game type: Strategy/building

Time demand: A few hours probably for one scenario, not anything too demanding.

Platform: PC

Released: 2003

What it is: I'm sure I've regaled you all with this game and the original Tropico often enough already, so I'll try to keep it fairly brief.

While the first Tropico game was simply an island-building (and running and... dictating) game, the second one switches to Piracy, which makes it eligible for my little run-down here. It's a quite different game than Sid Meier's Pirates!, in that you don't even personally direct any ships. Instead you are a Pirate King, building up and governing an island of pirates (or, in some scenarios, privateers), while giving overall directions to your islands and the various pirate captains that use your island as headquarters.

This game is a lot of fun and pretty addicting. You can play either sandbox or campaign games, or specific one-off scenarios. You need to get materials from your island to build ships and buildings, and create weapons, and so forth, but you also need to kidnap captives to run your industries, and plunder gold and treasure to fill your coffers and keep your pirates happy, not to mention fund more building. You have to balance your industries with various buildings to keep your pirates happy, and balance your pirates' love of anarchy and defense with the captives' need for order and fear, all the while satisfying other specific needs of both pirates and captives to prevent either a mutiny or a captive rebellion (or just even single captives escaping, which gives the chance of informing a navy where your island is and having them send the fleet after you).

I won't go into too great detail, but as I've mentioned multiple times before, this is one of my long-time go-to games, that I go back to and play every once in a while just because I miss it. *smooches*

Port Royale 2

Game type: simulation/trading/building

Time demand: Probably not very hefty, I've never managed to play all that long.

Platform: PC

Released: 2004

What it is: This is the game I mentioned above that I really don't remember all that well. It probably says something about it that I'm just including it anyway without making sure I go back to play it again, or that amongst the other games of this general type that I've played tons and remember pretty well, this one I can barely give details on.

The sad thing is, this game has a ton of potential. You run one or more sailing ships, trading various commodities between ports, balancing supplies of each with high demand at various ports of call, and sometimes perhaps taking part in a little combat, such as against pirates. Unlike Sid Meier's Pirates! there is also a pretty hefty island-building, business simulator aspect to the game as well, where you can buy land and build up certain industries to then sell the results yourself, rather than having to buy them and lose out on some of the profit.

The thing is though that I don't know if the balance is very off on this, or if I just suck at it for some reason (perish the thought), but your funds dwindle extremely quickly, making it almost impossible to do just about *anything* or build up any sort of empire or fleet, and making it both difficult and excruciating to try to get a game off the ground.

I don't know, maybe I should really give this game another try at some point, but for now, I'd say it's best to try one of the other reviewed games if you really want to try out a game of this general type.

1701 A.D. (Anno 1701)

Game type: Simulation/building/trading

Time demand: Open-ended, play for as long or short at one sitting as you like, but it tends to suck you in...

Platform: PC

Released: November 21, 2006

What it is: Marketed under both names (which I suspect may have something to do with the fact that it's originally by a German company), 1701 A.D. is really more a trading/colonizing game than a sailing game per se, but since the building and colonizing takes place on islands and exploration and trading (and of course naval battles) require ships, I'm including it in this run-down.

In this game you start out with one warehouse (or a ship not yet tied to a specific island on some settings), and from there must build up a colony, providing housing and goods for your colonists to both satisfy them, and allow them to upgrade their habitations, eventually going fron Pioneer to Settler to Colonist and upwards. You also need to carefully watch your gold, since until the very highest inhabitant level just taxes aren't enough to keep you from going into the red, and trade to make up any deficit.

You can trade by simply putting specific goods up for offer at your port (how many you can buy and sell at one time depends on the level it is), and letting the Free Trader (or any AI opponents you've gotten onto good terms with) stop by and buy and sell. You can also load your goods onto a ship and take them to a friendly port, either the Free Trader, an aforementioned friendly computer-controlled settlement, or a Foreign Culture you've gotten onto good terms with. You can do this manually, or you can set up a specific trading route that will automatically load and unload certain cargos at various points, without you having to run it. Of course, for each trading route you'll need a ship...

These trading routes are also important because to grow, your budding civilization needs certain goods, and not all of them can be found on any one island. So you'll either need to settle other islands to exploit their resources and bring them or the finished products back to your main island, or trade for the required goods, which is expensive and can't be done for too much at one time. The first route also leaves you with the option of selling off any excess goods, which is all to the, er, good.

Of course, you're not always on friendly terms with the various computer-run inhabitants (usually especially the pirate colony), so there are also more martial options. You can build fighting vessels as well as the trading ones, building armies and moving them around via ship, and so on. However you want to play - friendly trader, or conquer-everything type, it's up to you.

There are other aspects to the game, such as sciences and independence and yadda yadda, plus specific scenarios you can also play that each have different events and goals but... trying to keep this somewhat brief. So I'll wrap up at this point and say that although it doesn't necessarily sound like much, this game's fairly addictive, and fun. If you like this type of thing in general, you might want to give it a spin.

Okay, from this point on, the games aren't really the same overall genre of game, and don't necessarily revolve around ships quite as much, but I wanted to branch out a bit so...

Suikoden IV

Game type: JRPG

Time demand: 15-20-ish hours overall, possibly more if you're anal. *furtive look*

Platform: Sony Playstation 2

Released: January 11, 2005 (US release), August 19 2004 (JP release)

What it is: I'm sure I've also mentioned this game more than once, in terms of the overall Suikoden game series, but since I didn't want to just restrict this to PC games once I thought about it, I figured this one fits the bill as well, in its own way.

Now, if I had to rate the Suikoden games in order of how much I like them/how good they were, IV would probably be on the bottom. It's shorter in length than any of the other games except the first, it breaks off the usual continuity to go to a less interesting time/place, and the characters in general just aren't as fun. It also lets you control less characters in a party than the other Suikoden games, four, which is a big downgrade compared to the usual six, when you have so many characters to choose from and various combinations you want to include.

That being said, while this is (nearly universally from what I've seen) considered the weakest of the Suikoden series, taken totally on its own, it's not as bad. It's still a good RPG (shush, montoya, with an interesting (but not too convoluted) storyline, at least *some* interesting characters, and a ton of stuff to do.

So how does this relate to the whole sailing thing that I've had going on in this overall series of reviews? Well, here's the thing: while each Suikoden game has your main character (eventually) build up an army around him, using a various place as a headquarters which eventually grows as you gain more followers, in this particular case your final headquarters is a large ship. The various shops and services are all located within the various levels of the hold, and you get around between the various islands that make up the overall world map by sailing said ship around.

This might be a bit of a stretch I suppose compared to the other more ship-centric games in this overall roundup, but this game (after the first few hours anyhow) centers so much around the ship/headquarters, I felt it has a place on the list. You spend much/most of your time on the ship, you have to sail to get pretty much anywhere, and there are aspects of the game such as net fishing that depend even more on the unique nature of your headquarters.

The problem however is that the whole sailing aspect is, in some ways, one of the weakest aspects of the game (well, alongside the Nay-Kobolds)- the navigation is slow and annoying, it can be too hard to dock at times, uncovering the world map can be very tedious, so on and so forth.

Still, as a JRPG taken just on its own, the game is fairly good, and it's a part of one of the best series out there, so there ya go.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Game type: JRPG

Time demand: Hefty, overall

Platform: Nintendo Gamecube

Released: March 24, 2003 (US release), December 13, 2002 (JP release)

What it is: Ah, the infamous Cel-da. I almost forgot about this game in my roundup, but the inclusion of Suikoden IV sparked off my memory and told me if I have one, I should probably have the other.

Now, I'm a bit embarrassed to say this, but I never did actually finish this game. It goes on pretty long, and I think I got distracted by other Shinies. And it's been a good while since I have played it, so I may not have the best memory of it all. I should, however, be able to remember enough to give a general idea.

Called Cel-da as a nickname by many gamers, the game is infamous for not only using cel-shaded animation in the game, but going to a very "kiddified" look in the process. In execution this was overlooked by a lot of the series fans because the animation was extremely smooth and well-done, and the gameplay was solid, but the style still led to a lot of outcry. Luckily the series went to a very much more mature, realistic style for Twilight Princess, but this game still remains.

All of that said, this is one of the more involved RPGs for the gamecube, taking a lot of time to complete and including a lot of depth. As usual Link is the unexpected Hero that arises from obscurity to chase the Tri-force McGuffins du jour, but in this case (as you might expect from its inclusion in this list), the quest takes place in a boat that you must sail between the various islands to get anyplace.

This is probably a little more involved in the sailing front than Suikoden IV, because it also takes into account wind directions, things like storms and whirlpools, and so on. There are also sunken treasures to excavate, many of which have treasure maps to lead you to them, small uninhabited islands to find and explore, and so on. So again I'd say it allows for inclusion on this list.

Otherwise, this is... a Zelda game. It has a game-specific Gimmick (in this case, a conductor's baton that lets you control different aspects of the wind for different effects), an overall quest, and various sub-quests to take part in, such as trading, playing the various mini-games, excavating the aforementioned sunken treasure, etc and so on. There is a large arsenal you build up over the course of the game that grants you access to further areas and hidden things in previous dungeons, and a ton of areas to explore and conquer.

There's also a link-up with the Nintendo Advance available, which involves the character Tingle...

On second thought, no, let's not talk about Tingle.

So to round up a complex game fairly briefly, other than some large annoyances (the animation style, certain... characters), the game is deep and fun, but in many overall ways a typical Zelda game. Just with lots and lots of sailing.

Skies of Arcadia/Skies of Arcadia Legends

Game type: JRPG

Time demand: Long overall, varying between save points (or saves on the World Map)

Platform: Dreamcast/Gamecube

Release (SOA): November 13, 2000 (US release), October 5, 2000 (JP release)
Released (Legends): January 3, 2003 (US release), December 26, 2002 (JP release)

What it is: This might be considered fudging a bit, including the game on this list, since it doesn't actually involve sailing ships at all - it involves ships that fly through the skies, in a world where the land is all floating islands in said sky. The general spirit of the thing is much the same however, especially as it revolves so much around exploration and piracy, so I'm going to include it on the list. Plus, it's just a fun game and deserves mention. So nyah.

Skies of Arcadia was originally a game on the Dreamcast, and eventually a slightly improved version was released on the Gamecube, called Skies of Arcadia Legends. Now, I will state that I only played the Gamecube version, so this review really is about that, but the other game needed to at least be mentioned.

The game revolves around Vyse, the son of an air pirate and prospective pirate himself, who dreams of sailing the ocean

Yargh. Typed... too... much!

Enjoy! Cause after all that, I think I've already talked enough.

(Oh, and if there are any I forgot, feel free to mention them in comments. Either I might have something to say about them, or I might have somehow missed them and want to check them out!)
Tags: games, monday, reviews
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