I'll be perfectly frank with you—I did not expect to like this game.
Grinding for experience, going broke buying equipment that only increases a character's strength by two points, drawing a map by hand through floor after floor of twisting labyrinth, and being crushed by random encounters in the first round of battle are not things that I generally look for in my RPGs. In fact, I would generally say that these are all characteristics of outdated game design best left in the 16-bit era and forgotten.
Game Description: Journey to a floating castle in this dungeon RPG Sequel. In the Grand Duchy of High Lagaard, it is said that the Duke is descended from inhabitants of a castle in the sky. When an unforeseen crisis befalls the nation, it is decreed that the first explorer to retrieve the Grail of Kings from that mythical floating palace will be rewarded with wealth and fame beyond imagining. Enter the central city of Lagaard and begin your journey to the clouds! Etrian Odyssey II boasts an all-star development team, led by director Shigeo Komori. Composer Yuzo Koshiro returns as well, in addition to character designer Yuji Himukai and monster designer Shin Nagasawa, who both worked on the original Etrian Odyssey.
Game Description:Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 is a strange and wonderful trip into an anime adventure. You're an orphaned high school student, transferred to Gekkoukan High School on Port Island. After arriving, he's attacked by creatures known as Shadows. The assault awakens his Persona, Orpheus, from the depths of his subconscious, enabling him to defeat the terrifying foes. He soon discovers that he shares this special ability with other students at his new school. From them, he learns of the Dark Hour, a hidden time that exists between one day and the next, swarming with Shadows. Under the supervision of school chairman Shuji Ikutsuki, he joins his new companions in confronting this threat to humanity. With your school as the primary battlefield, you'll be forced to juggle two lives: Student by day, defender by night. And your greatest challenges await you on the eve of each full moon.
Persona 3's mechanics are ingenious and fresh, the characters are well-written and engaging, the voice work and music are top-quality, the art is beautifully stylish, and by couching it all in a real-world setting far from any of the standard fantasy clichés, it establishes an identity and qualities uniquely its own.
Volunteering for a third tour of duty with the unusual Trauma Center series, I found New Blood to be an extremely unbalanced experience. Though it's undoubtedly one of the most effective uses of the Wii's control system and presents content that virtually no other console developer has attempted, the designers have turned something that should have been a sure thing into a difficult recommend due to an unacceptable level of difficulty.
Game Description: Keep your hands steady and your mind focused for Trauma Center: New Blood, sequel to Trauma Center: Second Opinion. This time around there's a lot more on the line. Every cut of the scalpel, every pinch of the forceps, each and every second that ticks by is of the absolute greatest importance. If you think it's too much to handle alone, invite a friend to assist with the operation and work together to save patients from flat lining. The adrenaline is pumping, lives are at stake, and only you can save the day. Have you got what it takes?
It's too early to pick the RPG of the year for 2007, but if I had to vote today Persona 3 would be my choice...hands down. It's a wild and unique gaming experience that melds disparate subgenres into a whole that transcends the sum of the parts. It's not without a few flaws, but the good so definitively outweighs the negatives that it's hard to imagine anyone who's a hardcore RPG fan passing this game up.
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