Jeremy's Reviews Blog

Friday, August 11, 2006

Astonishia Story (PSP)


The PSP has no shortage of RPGs, but many of them are ports from other systems. Astonishia Story is one of those ports, apparently originally being a Korean PC game which was ported to the Korean GP32 handheld system. As such, it doesn't really utilize the power of the PSP, but nonetheless provides a pretty unique (if short) gaming experience for those willing to give it an honest chance. (The popular RPG it most resembles in terms of gameplay is the Shining Force series)


The main character is Lloyd, a Knight. He is assigned to be a part of an escort for a magical staff as it's being moved from one town to another. It's largely a ceremonial duty. Or so he thinks. But the staff convoy gets ambushed, and he is the sole survivor, left alive because the villain likes his spirit. But he is determined to get the staff back. Which is what the rest of the game revolves around, as he tries to recover it, but soon discovers that other magical artifacts have been stolen.

Basically, he travels around a world map from place to place. It's fairly linear, in that while there is freedom to go anywhere, ultimately you have to go one way to advance the plot.
(Though where to go is not always obvious).

While the plot itself is serious, many of the encounters and people he meets are rather bizzare. And there are a lot of jokes and numerous modern day references, so much so that you'd have think this was a Working Designs translation (except the modern day jokes in this are actually funny and aren't already dated).

When you combine this with a sometimes very odd translation, the net result is a very amusing, whimsical and surreal game.

The game doesn't have all that much characterization. Lloyd doesn't have much of a personality, other than being a bit rash and eager to be a proper Knight. There are a number of cinematic scenes which relate some dialogue and interplay between characters, but not all that many.


As RPGs go, this is a fairly tough one. There are a lot of encounters, and you will be fighting a lot. Thankfully though, it's got a great combat system (very similar to Shining Force). While it's not quite as deep as in a tactical RPG, it's pretty similar. Basically it's grid based - the battlefield is full of squares, some full of terrain and obstacles, like hills and trees. Or tables and chairs. Each unit takes up space and blocks movement.

On a units turn, they can move, then attack or cast a spell or use an item.

There's definitely a lot of strategy involved. Especially early on in the game, where you just have Lloyd, you will want to fight where only 2 attacks can hit him at a time

On the downside, there's really not many different types of opponents. Maybe 20-25-ish.

Also, the game's combat engine seems somewhat unbalanced. Magic is much more useful than attacking physically. And this isn't helped by there being the games equivalent of Gandalf (a super-powerful wizard) in your party for quite a while.

However, by the end, you'll probably be breezing along, until you reach the final fortress (which comes all too quickly, probably 15 hours into the game), where the difficulty ramps up dramatically. If you are caught unprepared, you'll likely have to do a lot of backtracking and leveling. Especially for the final bosses.


Although they don't really impress when you first start playing (looks like an RPGMaker game), the more you play, you begin to notice that the graphics are actually quite good. Basically, they are very high resolution sprites. The amount of detail in the game is extremely impressive. Both in terms of detail of objects, and the animation. Clocks move, fires burn, everyone has a shadow, there are birds and clouds constantly flying about.

On the other hand, they aren't very colorful. To my eye, it looks like the palette is only about 64 colors, like an old Sega Genesis game (okay, more than that, maybe 256, but no more than that). Even in the portraits, there's a lot of solid colors, no shading, which indicates a very small palette. There are also the occasional glitch while moving, the graphics get a bit darker. Not always, but enough to be noticeable.

The sound isn't so great. There's really no speech in the game. There are sound effects, but generally these day a second or so to load, so it's a bit weird. What sound effects there are, though, are quite good.

Loading Times

Loading times in general aren't bad. Maybe a second or two to change screens in a town, about 5 to enter/exit a town, and about that to enter/leave combat. During combat there will be a pause for a second or two for a new animation to load, if a unit performs a new type of attack. (If you use the same over and over it probably won't pause, but otherwise it will).

Final Thoughts

If you can get past the very old school graphics and appearance, you'll find a decent, if very quirky, game.

The real weakness of this title is its short length. You should be able to finish it in under 20 hours, probably closer to 15, depending on how much leveling you want to do.

This not only makes the game not a great value, but also really hurts the story of the game - it's hard to care about the characters because there really isn't much development in them. There are some nice touches here and there, like the romantic triangle between Lloyd, Ylenne and Akra (with Rodoug being hot for Akra himself), but that itself is unrewarding, because it's covered very briefly. You want to care about what happens, but it's just hard to bring yourself to, because the characters are so flat.

I really have to wonder if the game wasn't originally longer, but cut in half when ported to the PSP for some reason.

If the game were longer, I would probably give it a B-, but since it's so short, a C- is probably more accurate. Call it a 6/10

Monday, August 07, 2006

Pulse (Movie/DVD review)

This is a Japanese horror movie. It's apparently being remade by Hollywood. I've had it in my Netflix queue for a while, but it generally got pretty low ratings, so I kept pushing it back down.

A lot of Japanese horror movies seem inspired by The Ring/Ringu, and while it does have that, this perhaps owes more to movies like "Fear.dom". Basically it tells the story of two different people, or groups of people. A woman who seemingly works at a flower shop, and a perpetually befuddled college student.

Anyway, one of the flower shops co-workers (a guy named Taguchi) doesn't come in to work. Then he mysteriously kills himself. Then so do other co-workers.

At the same time, the college student comes across a weird web site showing ghosts. So he goes to a computer lab at his school and tries to get help. And he befriends a really hot looking chick who is a computer science major (I think - she's always in the computer lab). And she helps him. Sorta. Mostly they just become friends.

Meanwhile, more and more people become prey to this supernatural thing. It either makes people really depressed, or turns them into shadows. Will the main characters find a solution to stop? Or even really an explanation of it? Actually, you know that from the begining of the movie. (One of those moves that starts at the end, and is a flashback)

It's a long and rather slow moving movie. There's not a lot of horror. More just general creepiness.

I enjoyed it, but I can see why so many others on Netflix gave it bad ratings. It really doesn't have much of a point, or any action, and nothing is ever really explained that well.

I strongly suspect that the movie was not meant to be a horror movie, but to make some sort of allegory about the use of the internet and how it separates people from each other, as opposed to real contact. I can see their point, but at the same time, I think the internet has been a boon for people like me, who generally aren't the most social folks. Not to mention the unattractive.