Archive for January, 2009

My Thoughts About Koei’s Warriors Franchise

January 30, 2009

I have to say, if there is at least one non-Nintendo franchise that I am really hooked on, it would be the Warriors Franchise. The first time I played a Warriors game was at a friend’s house. He owned Dynasty Warriors 4 for the PS2. The first time I saw the game, I was having a grand old time clearing away hordes of enemy soldiers, and it didn’t matter to me if I didn’t know the name of the character I was using!

My interest in the game expanded when I got Dynasty Warriors 5 for the XBox. I started with the very first character in the Character Select screen: Zhao Yun. To this day, he is one of my most favorite characters, mainly because of his spear and of his heroic nature. As I played each character’s storyline, I felt the joy of learning about each character’s backgrounds and, of course, the weapon each character used. I mean, what’s not to like about cutting down the Yellow Turbans with Guan Ping’s buster sword or knocking multiple foes upside the head with Ling Tong’s nunchucks? Oh, while I’m on the subject of characters, there is one generic officer named Cao Xing. Just to be funny, I’ve nicknamed him “Cow Crossing” (although, if I recall correctly, the “c” makes the “ts” sound).

It was not just the characters I really enjoyed. The stages were memorable, as well. I always remember Hu Lao Gate for being the stage where I battle Lu Bu to the point where I am nearly KO’d and am heavily relying on True Musou attacks just to keep myself from receiving the final blow. Wu Zhang Plains, He Fei Castle, and Bai Di Castle were great as final stages, but I put Wu Zhang Plains first as the ultimate battleground. Wide open area, plenty of room to fight multiple enemy officers, the battle at the fortresses at the upper area of the map, just perfect for me. And if I prefer a castle siege, no doubt that I would pick He Fei Castle, every time. I prefer being on the invading side, myself. That way, I get to dodge all of the catapults and statue traps and stuff before making it to Cao Pi, himself.

Whenever I am not in the mood to fight, I like to read the history behind the Dynasty Warriors game, with the story of the Three Kingdoms and information about certain officers. I sometimes pondered to myself what things would’ve been like if Sima Yi failed to take control of the Wei Kingdom. I’ve always liked to learn about the Shu Kingdom, myself, with Liu Bei’s dream of a kingdom founded on virtue.

Just recently, I got an XBox 360, along with Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires. I loved it, a lot, mainly for one reason: most of the battles were not scripted, and each battle seemed different each time, with the location of the main camp changing and changing my battle strategy according to how the battle was set up (which officers went where, and such.) I loved playing with different army setups in Empire Mode, and, since I allow edit officers, I sometimes fight them in order to attempt to add them to my army or ally with whichever faction is in possession of one of them. Playing “mercenary faction” (mainly allying yourself with multiple other factions to fight alongside them for gold) is fun and profitable, as well. Best of all, I can go to Free Mode, set up my favorite characters in armies, use weapons I’ve obtained and upgraded in Empire Mode, and even set my conditions to Good, Bad, or Even. I’ve actually set up a Bad-condition match in one map (it was a map often played against the Nanman faction in DW5, but I can’t remember what it was), have only my character in my army, and fill every slot with an officer and lieutenant for the enemy army. It wasn’t easy to go through, since multiple officers attacked me, but I eventually made it and won, although I was doing it on Easy mode.

I’m probably not going to get a Dynasty Warriors game above 5, mainly because Koei changed a lot about the game in Dynasty Warriors 6, including getting rid of many of the unique weapons. I understand that Koei may be looking for a more realistic approach to the Three Kingdoms, but without Guan Ping’s buster sword or Cao Ren’s buckler blade, it just isn’t the same for me. I saw Lu Bu’s new weapon, but without his Sky Scorcher, it just doesn’t seem right. On a side note, I do like Liu Bei’s younger look. Oh, and I did see a video of Fan Castle in Dynasty Warriors 6, and, correct me if I’m wrong, the map is mostly castle. I miss the field outside the castle. I should probably look at the video again to see how Fan Castle floods, if it floods.

Some time after getting Dynasty Warriors 5 for XBox, I got Samurai Warriors for the same console. Being set in feudal Japan, I was interested in the warfare of that time and place. (It takes place, I think, over a millenium after the events of the Three Kingdoms era.) I did just as I did with Dynasty Warriors 5: start with the very first character, who happens to be similar to Zhao Yun in weapon type: Yukimura Sanada.

Like Zhao Yun, Yukimura Sanada became one of my most favorite characters of Samurai Warriors, next to Hanzo Hattori and Keiji Maeda. Also, like Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors had a colorful selection of characters. It didn’t have nearly as many characters as Dynasty Warriors 5 did, but that didn’t bother my enjoyment of the game. Anyway, I’ll talk about a few of my favorite characters apart from Yukimura Sanada. First of all, the ninjas: Hanzo Hattori and Kunoichi (which, to my knowledge, is a generic name for a female ninja.) Well, the first reason I enjoy playing as them is, well, they’re ninjas! What’s not to like about playing as a ninja, especially a ninja who lightens up the dark atmosphere of war with her comic personality? There’s also Keiji Maeda, who I used to dub “the Lu Bu of Samurai Warriors” until Tadakatsu Honda got promoted from generic officer to UBER-PWNAGE MACHINE WITH A DEER ANTLER HELMET! Ok, no more going crazy with the Caps. 😛 I find it funny how he has a lot of hair, like some Dragonball Z hairdo, and then, when you switch to his alternate outfit, BALD. And yes, the Caps were necessary, there. He still looks cool bald, though. I enjoyed Shingen Takeda and his witty personality on the battlefield. His alternate outfit’s mask creeps me out, though. And, of course, the demon king, Nobunaga Oda. First thing I thought when I saw him: “Hey, this guy looks like Cao Cao!” Well, no doubt I wasn’t the only one who thought that. More on that, later.

One interesting thing I’d like to point out is that the battles were somewhat more flexible than the battles in Dynasty Warriors. The battles progress by completing a series of objectives that may or may not appear, depending on the player’s actions. Most characters have splits in their storyline, meaning that a certain objective will effect the battle so much, that, if succeeded or failed, will cause the character’s path to branch a certain way, sometimes leading to one of the two character endings. However, Okuni, the dancer, has tons of secret endings. However, all but two are basically her dancing alone with another Samurai Warriors character while that character thinks upon what he was, with Okuni claiming that it was all a dream. The enemies in Samurai Warriors seem a bit tougher than the ones in Dynasty Warriors, and it is harder to make massive amounts of KOs in the game. Also, another part that annoys me is that some of the stages involve going to the highest floor of a castle to fight a warrior. Well, it’s not all that bad, except the scenery is pretty much the same, and with a time limit, you don’t really want to waste time on the myriad of grunts who want to take a stab at you. Of course, there are traps, and some can be aggravating. (Man, I bet it must be hard to make it from the bedroom to the bathroom at night.) Still, I loved the game for what it is and what makes it unique.

As far battles go, most of the battles are not really that memorable compared to the battles in Dynasty Warriors. It’s hard for me to remember the battles that went on (and sometimes, harder to remember their names. I mean, Mikatagahara isn’t something that sticks in my head very well.) Probably the battle I remember best is Siege of Osaka (Summer), where the Toyotomi Army face off against the Tokugawa Army. However, without in-game info of the story behind Samurai Warriors or their officers, it’s kinda hard for me to figure out when this battle occurred.

When Warriors Orochi came out, I was eager to see how creative Koei could get with combining Dynasty Warriors with Samurai Warriors. Well, I got Warriors Orochi for the PSP, since I did not have an XBox 360 at the time. A few differences between the PSP and the console versions: most cutscenes were basically screenshots of cutscenes in the console versions, most of the voice acting was cut out, save for the scenes and for whenever your player KOs an enemy officer, and the maps (not the actual stages) were 2-D. It is still a lot of fun, though. The story mode is split into four factions: Shu, Wei, Wu, and Samurai Warriors. Zhao Yun leads the Shu campaign and pursues Liu Bei throughout the campaign after being freed from prison himself by Zuo Ci. Cao Pi leads the Wei campaign and is part of Orochi’s army, until he manages to find the right moment to turn against the Orochi Army. The Wu campaign shares a similar fate, except that Sun Ce takes the spotlight in order to rescue his father, Sun Jian, from Orochi, so the Wu army will no longer be obligated to serve under Orochi’s army. Lastly, Nobunaga Oda leads the Samurai Warriors campaign as he spearheads the Coalition army in an effort to fight the Orochi army head-on.

Well, the fun part about Warriors Orochi is unlocking extra missions that allow you to unlock certain characters if those missions are completed correctly. The last extra stage requires beating Stage 7 in a specific manner. It is basically an alternate final battle from the Koshi Castle stage. The fun part about these battles is that they all take place on the most well-known Warriors maps. Well, Wu Zhang Plains is Stage 7 for the Samurai Warriors Campaign. Probably my most favorite alternate final mission would be Battle of Chi Bi. It pretty much copies Dynasty Warriors 5’s strategy, except you need to head to the other side and clear the way for a fire attack, while Masamune Date goes on a rampage against your officers on the east side of the map. Lu Bu has a major role, being in each final mission. However, the only final battle that has Lu Bu in his prime would be the Battle of Mikatagahara, where Lu Bu takes his position in guarding one of the gates to the enemy camp. After Story Mode is done and all, most players would want to call it quits, as Free Mode is basically playing one of the story mode stages as any group of characters. You don’t even get to experience being part of the opposing army. I have actually tried to unlock everything in Warriors Orochi, myself, but Chaos Mode is too tough without getting enough ability upgrades for Attack, Defense, etc. To me, it’s still fun playing as my favorite warriors with the Warriors Orochi engine.

Some things I want to point out in Warriors Orochi is that if you’ve ever made comparisons between, say, Zhao Yun and Yukimura Sanada, you will see something like that in this game. Yukimura helps out Zhao Yun at one point, and both compliment each other in their spear skills. Also, the programmers did indeed touch on the whole Cao Cao/Nobunaga Oda look-alike thing and they built part of the Samurai Warriors campaign on that.

I haven’t gotten Warriors Orochi 2 for the XBox 360, yet, mainly because I’ve been cutting back on my video game spending, and I mostly just buy used games, nowadays. From what I’ve read, it looks like I’ll enjoy the second game as much as, if not more than, the first. I haven’t seen any info regarding a Warriors Orochi Empires game, but I want to say that I will definitely buy such a game if Koei works on one. At one point, one of the characters, I think, Zhao Yun, mentions the terrain being unusual. I would like to see that reflected in a map form of Orochi’s world. What I would suggest is to make Koshi Castle smack-dab in the center of the map, and have it only accessible after clearing the rival factions. Then the final battle with Orochi will appear. And speaking of rival factions, this is technically possible, due to certain stages in Warriors Orochi, where you fight against a “neutral faction”. One such battle is Chen Cang, where Nagamasa Azai occupies Chen Cang Castle, and Cao Pi’s army, now defected from Orochi’s Army with Da Ji taken as somewhat of a prisoner of war, invades the castle. The Nanman also would be their own separate faction, and there was also a separate coalition army being formed by Sakon Shima, who ends up becoming part of Nobunaga’s Army. I would like to see custom officers return, but with a bit more customization than in Dynasty Warriors 5 Empires, such as different colors for hair, and maybe a broader range of voices.

Wrapping up, the Warriors series may be scored low by reviewers on game websites, such as gamespot.com, but if there’s anything I’ve read in a review about the Warriors series that I agree with, it’s that you’ll either like a lot or not like it pretty much at all. For me, I’m glad I’ve enjoyed the Warriors series. Not only do I get a beat ’em up game series that I enjoy very much, but I also love reading about history.

New Year’s Testimony

January 26, 2009

Since this is the beginning of the year, I thought I’d post this testimony to start off my blogs, since it has to do with New Year’s Resolutions. It also gives detailed info on pretty much who I was and who I am now. Feel free to comment on the testimony or any part of it in particular.

The Unforgettable Resolution

Most of my life, I lived only for myself. Even the good deeds I had done were mainly to make me feel good. My pride was in myself, and I thought little of the important things in life. In the recent years, I started to change my way of thinking, not on my own , but through the Holy Spirit. In the end of 2007, I made a New Year’s Resolution. I wanted to get more involved with Olive Branch Ministries. Little did I know that the Lord was guiding me to something big.

At the start of 2008, I began to go to prayer meetings at Olive Branch. It was a new experience for me, and I had to make this a habit if I wanted to keep my resolution. At first, I had to set my watch to remind me of the prayer meeting. I even missed maybe a couple of them, but now, I don’t need to worry about setting my watch anymore, because I made going to prayer meetings a habit. Being at the prayer meetings helped me in my prayer experience, as it has given me guidelines on how to pray and what to pray for.

March 2008, I was invited by my friend David to go to Bible Study with his friends. I was nervous, but I did agree to go, and even though I was unfamiliar with their Pentacostal form of worship, I learned to get used to it and soon got more involved. I eventually got more involved by going to Victory Fellowship and participated in Wednesday services. David helped me strengthen spiritually by showing me a Christian radio station: K-LOVE. At first, I switched between that and my other radio station, but after a couple of days, I set my car radio to K-LOVE and never went back. I began reading my Bible, as well, as a result of these experiences. Although I haven’t read the entire Bible yet, I am looking forward to getting there. Even so, it will take me more than one trip through the Bible for me to learn everything there is in it.

Being at Victory Fellowship, I’ve learned many things. I learned about tithing and speaking in tongues (although that I still am not yet able to do, but I want to do at some point), and I even developed a new way to greet other people: I use my right arm for a handshake, and I use my left arm for a hug. I have to admit, at first, hugging people other than ones in my family didn’t feel right at first, but now, I do it so naturally, now, and it feels really good. I started tithing in the summer of 2008 and have made it a habit since then. Raising my hands in worship also became a habit for me, and I love to do it to the Holy Ground Medley at Olive Branch, not just to express thanks to my Lord, but also to be “lifting up my holy hands, for the Lord is here, and where He is, is holy.” Today, I don’t go to Victory Fellowship much anymore, probably because of a prayer I made, one night. Up until then, I was tithing at Victory, and, going to two churches in one week, it meant that I am tithing at one church and not to the other. So, I prayed that the Lord would guide my tithing to Olive Branch Ministries. Well, I did not expect the results to be what they were. I started feeling alone, spiritually, when going to Victory Fellowship. It most likely have been because I wasn’t speaking in tongues while others were, or others were filled with the Holy Spirit at one moment, and I felt embarrassed, because I wasn’t feeling what they were feeling. I eventually just stopped going to Victory under the reason that I needed to make sure I slept a full night for work. However, my prayer was answered. I am tithing at Olive Branch ministries, just like I prayed for. I still miss going to Victory, though, since I have made many friends there.

Another major change happened online. I became a moderator of a message board in January, but in the increasing months, relationships with the other staff members seemed to quickly crumble, especially from dealing with topics of religious discussion. In March 2008, I left the staff and then the entire message board. I was done with them. I could not handle being around the other staff members anymore, and I wanted peace. Looking back on that decision today, I thought to myself where would I be had relationships not crumbled. Well, I would certainly be in a position of some importance, but I would not be close to the Lord. Also, I was hanging out with the wrong crowd. I was among those whose god is not my Lord, and with those who even went so far as to mock my Lord on a daily basis. In a way, I am claiming that being at that message board was stifling my relationship with the Lord. I do not claim this to be true for all Christians, just to myself. In July 2008, I sent a message to those I had the biggest grudges with and told them that I have forgiven them and that I thank them for leading me, if unintentionally, to this radical change in my life. To this day, I don’t regret making the decision to leave. Come to think of it, that moment seems to reflect Psalm 1 to an extent.

Because of 2008’s New Year’s Resolution, I have made a new New Year’s resolution: to have an even closer relationship with my Lord. This first Sunday of the year was a really great start for that, with the hymn “Thank You, Lord”, and Colossians 3. Today, I know what it is like to have Jesus as my Lord and my personal Savior. It is a very warm feeling. My bond with Him is a strong personal one. When I have a problem in my life, He is the first one I go to, and when something goes wrong, whenever a thought pops up in my head that tells me to blame my Lord, I curse that thought and banish it without thinking upon it, because I know in my heart that my Lord’s ways are perfect. He is the reason I have a close personal relationship with Him. He is the reason I now have a passion in life, a career that I will never steer away from. He is the reason that I do not hate myself, as the younger me once did. This year, I resolve to walk forward in Christ, that I may have experiences greater than the experiences in the year before.