Way of The Samurai 3: The Oddball of Samurai Games

I like to imagine there’s a game series out there, one that merges the history of the samurai with the oddball nature found in a lot of Japan’s popular media. A game series that is both steeped in history, while still being screwy enough to capture the weirdness that Japan has become so beloved for. Well, look no further my fellow fans of weird video-games, for there is a series that caters to those strangely specific needs!

“Way of The Samurai” was made by the game company “Acquire”, best known for making the rather odd action series “Akiba’s Trip”. Acquire was assisted in development of the game by another studio named “Spike”. Together, they created the first Way of The Samurai game, and history was made!

The main purpose of the game was to allow the play to craft their own experience, by giving the player the tools to be the kind of samurai they wanted! Even though the first two games lacked the character customization and surreal comedy of the succeeding games, they still set the bar high for what these games could do.

While these early titles gave you a pre-made character, they allowed you to do what you wanted. You chose how to engage in the story, which factions to align yourself with, and what kind of samurai you wanted to be. Heck, later games even let you be a pacifist! That’s right, you could choose to use non-lethal means to take down your opponents and not take a single life at all.

Conversely, you could choose to be a violent and merciless samurai warrior, destroying all in your way. As the games went on, they allowed you to make more and more choices. At this point, you were given free-reign to better craft the samurai you want as your avatar. Way of The Samurai 3 was the natural stepping stone in this, allowing better customization and world-building.

To be honest, I’ve only played a bit of the first 2 games, mostly through emulation. It’s hard to find them in stores nowadays, and I lack the PS2 to be able to play them. However, I recently picked up both the 3rd game on Steam and am having a blast with it!

In Way of The Samurai 3, you could choose from one of many branching paths to take in the story. The game does have 22 endings, so it’ll take a lot of playthroughs to see everything! WoTS 3 has a rather interesting story, but you won’t get the most out of it on just one playthrough.

All of the games in the series are meant to be played through more than one, giving the series a fair amount of replay value. On top of this, you can carry over all your gear and items from one play-through to the next, which is much appreciated! Way of The Samurai 3 follows the same general plot as the previous games: You are a nameless samurai, one who was the lone survivor of an epic battle.

From there, you venture through the town of Amana and discover the game’s various factions. What’s interesting is that they all have their own pros and cons, making each group distinct from each other. You have the forces of Castle Amana, who are immensely strong, but are lead by a man who is too ambitious for his own good. You then have the villagers, who wish to simply live in peace, but lack the drive or desire to defend themselves. You then have the Ouka Clan, who fight for a noble cause, but are led by a complete coward.

These three factions are all joinable, and each offer several entertaining side-quests to go along with them. I think the best to way describe WoTS 3 is that it’s Fallout New Vegas, if it skipped directly to the third act. WoTS 3 was also that turning point in the series, in which it started to embrace the more nonsensical and goofy elements that it would come to be known for.

The story is kept mostly serious, though the stuff that happens outside of cutscenes borders on insanity. One such example is how you talk to NPCs, you’ll often get odd replies from seemingly normal answers. You could tell a person that you’re doing great, and then they’ll steal yen from you! Or you could help a mysterious individual, only to end up fighting against a warrior from a completely different game series entirely! Yeah, it’s one of THOSE games.

WoTS 3 is definitely an amazingly fun game, but it has a ton of problems. The game doesn’t fully explain what you need to do, so you’ll find yourself just walking around and engaging in activities until the plot kicks in. All of the customization options needs to be unlocked, which severely limits your customization for your first few playthroughs. There is an exploit you can use to unlock everything in the game early, as shown below.

The options themselves are limited to heads, different bodies, and some accessories. This means you can’t fully design a character the way you could in other games. While the game does have 22 different endings, a lot of them are just variations on pre-existing ones.

Despite the game’s clunky nature, the lack of direction, and the extremely dated (even for the time) graphics, the game was still a ton of fun! I’ve played through the game three times, and even used an exploit to unlock all the customization features. While the game definitely has its problems, it’s one of those few games that I felt really let me be the kind of samurai I’ve always looked up to.

You’re probably wondering what I think of the game’s sequel as well? I both both of them during this recent Holiday Steam sale, but have only played 3 so far. I dabbled in a bit of 4, but had problems due to issues with the screen resolution settings. Still, I had fun with what little I’ve played of it! Honestly, I recommend playing any WoTS game, if you’re lucking for some fun and random samurai action. Just be warned, they aren’t the prettiest games, and they’ve got problems in a lot of areas. Still, it’s one of the few games where you can beat an army of thugs while wielding a vegetable, so it’s definitely A-OK with me!

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Virtua Quest: The Lost Shenmue Game

Anyone remember the Shenmue series? This series was originally released on the Dreamcast, and managed to provide a wholly unique experience. Shenmue was not only an action RPG, but it was also an open-world life simulation game! You played as a young man named Ryo Hazuki, who was on a quest to avenge his father. What people often forget is that Shenmue was originally something entirely different.

Originally, the RPG was going to be released on the Saturn, and was going to be a spinoff of the popular Virtua Fighter series. It was given the working title “Virtua Fighter RPG: Akira’s Story” and was set to take the world by storm. Eventually, the plot was changed and it was moved to the Dreamcast, the rest is history.

Despite dropping the Virtua Fighter characters and plot, the game remained mostly the same. Shenmue has since become a cult classic, despite not selling a whole lot of copies upon initial release. Now, one may wonder what a Virtua Fighter action RPG would’ve been like.

Well, we eventually found that out in the year 2004. That year, we were gifted with the game known as “Virtua Quest”. The concept of Virtua Quest may sound similar to those who know about Shenmue’s development history. Virtua Quest is an action RPG featuring Virtua Fighter characters, a plot that is kicked off by the main character’s father, and a game about fighting evil as a young man. Much like in Shenmue, there’s also a focus on learning and mastering martial arts moves.

This is where the similarities end, as Virtua Quest is an entirely different type of experience than Shenmue ever was. While Shenmue was more focused on its life simulation and open-world elements, Virtua Quest was pretty much a linear beat-em-up with RPG elements.

Virtua Quest felt like a fusion between the sci MMO elements of Phantasy Star Online, with that of the beat-em-up fighting of a Virtua Fighter game. Despite not being an MMO itself, Virtua Quest is set within the world of one. You played as a young man named “Sei” and you traveled into the virtual world of “Nexus” in order to make cash to buy a bike.

From there, Virtua Quest ballooned into an insane quest across the virtual world to fight an evil organization and learn various martial arts moves. Like I said earlier, Virtua Quest feels very similar to Shenmue’s original concept. One thing the game has that Shenmue also possesses is the ability to collect figurines, which take the form of hidden CGI models scattered throughout the game’s world.

Despite Virtua Quest only baring a small resemblance to Shenmue, is it worth playing? Well, not really. Virtua Quest was a fun beat-em-up for the time, but has aged horribly! Characters move really awkwardly, the story is bland, the voice acting comes off as pretty boring at times, and the platforming sections could be rather annoying.

Is Virtua Quest terrible? Nah, it’s mediocre at best. There’s nothing standout about it, unlike Shenmue. Still, it’s interesting how Virtua Quest ended up being somewhat similar to what Shenmue was originally going to be. Virtua Quest may be written off as a Kingdom Hearts ripoff nowadays, but it did something unique: It rescued a forgotten concept from the 90s. That’s something truly great indeed!

Star Wars: A Fanbase Divided

So, Star Wars Episode VIII just came out. The long-running sci-fi series has just released yet another film, and it’s divided audiences quite a bit. Not since Star Wars episode II has their ever been such a divide on people who love and hate the film. I haven’t seen the film yet, though I fully plan on watching it at some point. So, what’s got people so divided about this film?

Honestly, I’m not sure, since I’ve avoided most spoilers. I hear it has something to do with a rather pointless subplot that takes up nearly 30 minutes of the film, though it’s probably something more than that. I’ll definitely see it, since I’ve never seen a Star Wars film that I didn’t enjoy. Sure, there are some of them I don’t like, but I still get some form of entertainment out of watching each individual film.

The idea of this huge audience split makes me just want to see Episode VIII even more now. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what’s in this film that’s alienating audiences, and uncover this mystery for myself. I’ll be sure to put up a review once I see the film for myself and have an understanding of it.

New Discord Channel + Top 20 PS Vita Games

Hi guys! I thought I’d mention that I have a Twitter page, that I’ve started to use more lately. In the past, I hadn’t really used it all that much. So, I thought I’d start using it more and more recently I’ll be sure to embed my Twitter onto my blog, so you can all check it out. Also, I now have a Discord page:

https://discord.gg/XswH76z

The invite is open to anyone, so if you want to be part of a Discord group just starting out, feel free to join. We’ll discuss comics, video-games, movies, or just stuff in real-life. There’s a sub-chat in there as well for PS Vita games, which segue-ways into another announcement. As my year-end project, I’m doing a top 20 Vita game list. I already have the list constructed, but I’m looking for honorable mentions.

Have any Vita games you’d like to see me talk about? Be sure to message me in this chat and let me know, maybe I’ll even include it in there! Again, the Discord chat is open to everyone. I’ll be sure to write out some rules in time, once there are enough people there to facilitate having an extensive rule list. For now, these are the rules I have set in place:

  1. No Roleplaying/ RPing
  2. No drama or attacks on other users
  3. Be respectful of other people’s personal spaces

I’ll probably add more as the group gets bigger. Anywho, that’s all I wanted to say for now. Have a good, and hope to see you in the chat!

Vanillaware: A Truly Fantastic Game Company

What makes a game company good? Is it the quality of the games they put out? Is it how they treat their customers? Is it how frequent they can release solid entertaining video-games? I think it’s a mixture of all of these things, which is what makes Vanillaware a truly great company. Vanillaware is one of the few companies that manages to consistently put out good quality games at amazing prices.

Vanillaware’s catalog consists mostly of RPGs, action RPGs, and the occasional turn-based strategy game. While they haven’t put out as many games as Bioware, Bethesda, or Obsidian have, they’ve still managed to release a fair amount of solid and entertaining games. The first game of theirs I’ve played was Muramasa Rebirth. At that time, I was pumped about the upcoming release of Dragon’s Crown for Vita and PS3.

I was fairly impatient and wanted into indulge in this amazing game right away! Dragon’s Crown was billed as this spiritual sequel to the Dungeons & Dragons arcade games, albeit with far better graphics and more in-depth RPG elements. While impatiently waiting for the game to come out, I bought the remake of Vanillaware’s previous game: Muramasa Rebirth.

Muramasa Rebirth was a game that I would always pass by in the game store. To me, it looked like some generic Japanese game, one that was probably released to cash in on the anime craze that was still going strong at the time. Once I had the game on Vita, I realized how wrong I had been all this time! Muramasa was a beautifully crafted side-scrolling action RPG, one with a heavy emphasis on Japanese folklore.

The visuals were stunning, the world was gorgeous, the voice acting was amazing, and the combat was slick! The ability to choose from over 100 swords was astounding, especially since most of the swords had their own unique special attacks! Couple this with two separate story modes, each with their own series of alternate endings, and you have a game that’ll take you many hours to complete.

Muramasa did more than just whet my appetite, it made me even more hungry for Dragon’s Crown! A few months later, this game hits store shelves and I am pumped. Dragon’s Crown is one of the few games I’ve ever pre-ordered, and I’m glad I did! It not only came with the game, but also an art-book with some amazing hand-drawn pictures inside it.

The game’s developer, George Kamitami, put an amazing amount of work into how the game looked. It was gorgeous 2D graphics, which made both the game and the art-book look visually stunning. Heck, the cover of the art-book was even designed to resemble a Dungeons & Dragons rule-book! Everything about the presentation was stunning, more so than any other game released at the time.

Despite the rather provocative designs of certain characters within the game (such as The Sorceress), the game managed to be a really good action RPG game. Dragon’s Crown was a side-scrolling dungeon crawler, one that was put together really well. No joke, I’ve probably played Dragon’s Crown more than most of the games in my collection! I can’t even begin to tell you how many hours I’ve sunk into this amazing game, it ranks as one of my favorites.

Despite all the hours I’ve put into Dragon’s Crown, I still haven’t beaten everything in the game yet! There is also an updated re-release for this game coming out exclusively for PS4, which may lead to the game getting some more updates! Oh god, imagine if they extended the level cap above 255…

Dragons_Crown_US_boxart.jpg
One of the few games out there where the in-game graphics look just as good as the box-art does!

So yeah, Dragon’s Crown lived up to the hype, in my opinion. I played the game on and off over the course of a few years, patiently waiting for the next Vanillaware masterpiece to be released! Come 2016 and Vanillaware decides to remake another one of their games: Odin Sphere. Released almost a decade after the original game, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir proved to be a stunning remake of its source material!

Unlike Muramasa: Rebirth, the new Odin Sphere managed to be a remake that updated more than just visuals and sounds. New moves were added to the characters, as well as adding a modified leveling system, complete with up-gradable skills. That’s not including all the other features added, such as sub-bosses and the ability to dodge. The game had essentially been remade from the ground up into something wholly unique!

The remake also let you play the original version with updated visuals, which was a nice bonus. Vanillaware made a legitimate remake of a game, instead of just simply making the textures high-resolution. This is something that is rare in the current games market, where games are remade to look and sound slightly better, while adding nothing new to the experience.

After play through all of Odin Sphere for the very first time, the waiting game once again began for the next title. So far, I had played through three Vanillaware games, all of which were extremely well-made! I feel that I got what I paid for with all of these games, which isn’t something I can say about major game releases nowadays.

Vanillaware eventually announced their next title, which was titled “13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim”. The game is set to launch next year, and will feature gameplay centered around mecha combat. That’s right, this Vanillaware game will let you pilot a giant robot! Not much is known of this game yet, but it looks pretty badass!

While waiting for 13 Sentinels, I came across another game made by former Vanillaware employees. Despite this not technically being made by Vanillaware, it feels like the kind of game they would make! I’m talking about “Grand Kingdom”, which bares an almost identical art-style to most Vanillaware games.

The game was directed by the same guy behind “Grand Knights History”, a Japanese exclusive Vanillaware game. In Grand Kingdom, you make an army of soldiers out of your own custom created characters. You then send them out on missions, or explore the world in a boardgame-styled isometric view.

Grand Kingdom was something I recently discovered, and I’ve been playing it quite a bit lately. I’ve definitely enjoyed what little I’ve played of the game thus far! So, that’s my history with Vanillaware and its games thus far. With 13 Sentinels just around the horizon, I feel it’s time to go back and play through my entire Vanillaware library. I want to be prepared for when 13 Sentinels rocks my socks off, and the best way to do that is by going back and experience this company’s amazing games once more!

My Favorite Video-Game Mods

Video-games are great, especially in the modern gaming market. There are so many different games to play, and several of them have garnered massive fan-bases. When you have a large enough fan-base, then fan projects are bound to happen. That’s where video-game mods come in! For those who don’t know, a video-game mod is a fan-made addition to a pre-existing game.

The mod can do a number of things: Fix glitches, add in new audio tracks, add in large quantities of new content, or change the game in a large number of major ways. Mods can do so much with pre-existing games, sometimes even bringing a fresh take to an old title. So, I decided to talk about some of my favorite game mods today! Keep in mind that I do not own the copyright to any of these mods, I do not personally know any of the people attached to the creation of said mods, and this is not a paid advertisement in any way. With that said, let’s get started!

Morrowind: Tamriel Rebuilt / Morrowind Rebirth

http://www.tamriel-rebuilt.org/

https://www.nexusmods.com/morrowind/mods/37795/?

Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind was a truly massive game. Despite only taking place on a small island in Morrowind, it gave the player a huge expansive RPG experience. Of course, the game was originally meant to be much larger. It was meant to take place over the entirety of Morrowind, fully letting you explore the massive province. Unfortunately, budget restraints kept this from being doable.

However, that didn’t stop dedicated modders from trying to fulfill that dream! This brings us to “Tamriel Rebuilt”. Tamriel Rebuilt is one of the most ambitious game mods ever created. The mod looks to add the ENTIRE landmass of Morrowind to the game, including all of the various islands and areas that make up it. New quests, weapons, characters, artifacts, and factions have been added to these new lands as well.

The plan is for 8 different maps to be available, 3 of which have already been completed. The mod’s creators have been working on this for over 15 years, but have managed to make a lot of progress within that time. It’s still far from complete, but what’s there is truly engrossing.

The mod requires the “Game of The Year” Edition of Morrowind to operate properly, which you can pick up for about 7 bucks during a Steam sale. If you’re interested in diving into the classic world of Morrowind, this is a good mod to have with you. I also recommend getting “Morrowind Rebirth”, which is another great mod. Both these mods work well together, and add enough content into this already meaty game to make your head spin!

Fallout New Vegas: New Vegas Bounties / New Vegas Killer

https://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/37310/?

Ever wonder what being a bounty hunter in a post-apocalyptic wasteland would be like? Well, you can live out that rather specific fantasy with a mod for New Vegas called “New Vegas Bounties”. The game mod lets you work as a bounty hunter, facing off against increasingly challenging targets.

The mod features full voice-acting, which is surprisingly well done! Best of all, the guy who made this also made sequels and spinoffs! There are direct sequels to New Vegas Bounties, but there is also “New Vegas Killer”. If you chose the bad ending at the end of the original Bounties mod, you can then partake in this non-canon spinoff. In this expansion, you join the villain at the end of the original mod, now taking missions from him.

The amount of detail that went into these mods is astounding! Sure, they are nowhere near as massive as Tamriel Rebuilt, but they still provide a rather large surplus of content. Best part is that they are fully voice-acted, with a lot of the voices actually sounding pretty good. If you are looking for an excuse to dust off your copy of New Vegas, I highly recommend giving these mods a shot. Just keep in mind that they are insanely difficult!

Elder Scrolls Online: Skyshards

https://www.nexusmods.com/elderscrollsonline/mods/26/?

Another Elder Scrolls mod, though this one is a thousand times smaller than Tamriel Rebuilt. Elder Scrolls Online is the MMO version of the long-running Elder Scrolls series, so it wasn’t inevitable that people would make mods of it. Unlike mods for previous games, the mods only change certain things such as textures.

They generally don’t add new armor, weapons, or locations, since this is an online game. Still, the mods that are available for ESO are definitely worthy of being on this list. This mod changes a small feature about the game: Skyshards. The Skyshards are little magical gems that give you three skill-points, as long as you collect 3 of them.

Of course, they can be rather annoying to find. You can see them glowing in the distance, but only if you’re within a certain distance of them. Heck, some may even be hid in random dungeons! Collecting them can be a bit of an annoyance at times. This mod marks the Skyshards on your map, which is the only thing it does.

Despite the simplicity of the mod, it managed to save me a lot of time when it came to collecting the shards. Now that they were featured prominently on my map, I didn’t have to run around in a wild goose chase attempting to collect them. That’s what I call progress!

Jade Empire In Style

http://www.moddb.com/mods/jade-empire-in-style

The last mod I’d like to talk about is a mod I’ve discussed before: Jade Empire In Style. I won’t say too much on it, since I’ve already rambled on quite a bit about it. What the mod does is add a ton of new items, a crap ton of new martial arts styles, several new side-quests, and talking animals that allow you to tweak the difficulty. These are just a few additions and tweaks that the mod adds. Honestly, it makes the game a whole lot more refreshing and really expands what you can do in this massive martial arts fantasy game!

In Conclusion

Mods are a great way to expand what our favorite games are capable of. They are free (most of them are, at least) and great additions by fans that allow us to mold our games into something wholly unique. Even if what they are adding is relatively small, they are still giving us something great with each individual mod. Here’s hoping that I’m able to expand this list, and include other incredible mods! Who knows? I may make more lists of my favorite mods in the future!