Done stabbing mans – also, I’m a pretty pretty princess.

Well, Assassin’s Creed decided to stop crashing halfway through levels, and decided instead to start crashing between levels, so I was able to finish it.

I don’t know quite how to describe my feelings on this – on the one hand, I’m really glad that I was able to play through entire chunks of the game, uninterrupted, and as a result had a lot of fun – on the other hand, it still crashed a lot, just not during critical bits, and it’s hard to say good things about a game just because it started crashing when it was more convenient for the player.

I remember hearing several complaints, back when the game came out, that people expected it to be more of a stealth sort of game, where you carefully cased your target, waited for them to be unguarded, and went all stabby on them in the dark of night with no witnesses.

It’s not that sort of game, though.  Even early levels have you fighting a lot more than being stealthy, and the final level, which is basically a running, multistage boss fight, is 100% fighting and no sneaking around or platforming.

That said, I found the action bits to be entirely satisfying, so I wasn’t disappointed when the stealth bits got thrown out the window.

The ending is shameless sequel setup, with your character left more-or-less completely without resolution.  If I’d played the game two years ago, this would vex me.  Since the PSP sequel comes out in a couple of months and picks up right where the first game left off, I’m OK with it.

After that, looking for a change of pace, I took Lost Kingdoms off the Gamecube shelf and gave it a spin.

I wasn’t really paying attention to console games between 2000 and 2003, so I wasn’t around for the Gamecube launch – or for that matter, the PS2 or Xbox launches.  I was still wrapped up in the sort of cocoon that you live in when you’re a MMORPG addict; you are vaguely aware that other things are happening in the world but they don’t seem to matter much.

As a result, I didn’t go through the new-console bipolar syndrome, where you’ve just spent a few hundred bucks on a new box that plays games, only there’s not many games for it, and every new release gets hyped well out of proportion to its actual potential and then winds up disappointing you – and that’s the environment Lost Kingdoms was launched into, as the Gamecube’s “First RPG”, a label which manages to quite completely fail to describe the actual contents of the game disc.

I assumed, when I started it, that it was an RPG first and foremost, though I’d heard that it was “card based” and assumed that there would be some sort of card game based battles.

Turns out, it’s all card game based battles with the lightest veneer of RPG painted on top of them.  This was a bit of a shock, especially since I’ve never played any console games based on card mechanics and was quite out of my element.  I managed to get my feet under me after about six hours, which was just in time for the game to end.  Yes, it’s really that short.  There are, I am told, some side quests you can do to pad it out, but I wanted to get my kingdom saved.

It’s a weird genre – and I admit that I say this solely based on this one example, which may not be representative of the genre at all.  You’re playing a character – and, let’s give From Software a thumbs up for making it the Princess’s turn to save the kingdom – but you’re as much a spectator as a participant; your role in most battles is to get on to the battlefield, summon up a bunch of monsters, and then run around trying not to die before your monsters can beat the other monsters.

The challenge comes from all this happening in real-time, with no idea what cards you’ll have access to at any moment, making you adapt very quickly to changing circumstances, which I would call a good thing.

On more of a down note, it’s made more complex – and downright frustrating, at times – by the Japanese obsession with elemental strengths and weaknesses, which seemed to ensure that, at any given moment, the four cards I had visible in my hand were precisely the wrong four cards for whatever type of opponent I was facing.

Anyway, despite having to repeat some early levels four or five times because I had the wrong cards or simply ran out of cards before I ran out of opponents, I persevered to the ending, have a vague sense of being a better-rounded person as a result of trying out a new genre, and will probably be much less confused should I try out the sequel, which of course I bought several years ago even though I hadn’t even started the first game.

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