Project Referb: August 2020
September 01, 2020

The Idea: Every week or so, to take a review that's unexplainably racked up a lot of rapid fire hits for reasons no one will ever understand and update it. Not rewrite it completely, but tidy away sections that have maybe not aged well, add screenshots where applicable and update the tagline in order to promote that punlife I have chosen. The site's undergone a lot of changes over the years, and the formatting once used has aged. For example! I remember the first time I played around with putting screenshots in the body of my review then tourney and/or RotW judge, Jerec, wondered out loud if it was a form of cheating. It's not my intention to rewrite handfuls of old reviews, just bring them a little up to date. If I can retrofit a pun tagline in there, all the better.

Deus Ex: The Conspiracy.

For reasons, at the time of writing, this is the second most read review on the site since the great database crash reset the hit counts. It wasn't that way when I last looked a month or so back. It was nowhere near. I have no explanation for this or any of the reviews I’m about to talk about ranking so high. I mean, sure, Deus Ex is a milestone game and is insanely popular because of that, but that also means every site to look sideways at video games in the last two decades has reviewed this. This is also the PS2 strain that most people didn't like. It's a bizarre activity spike.

I'm not sure the port deserves the 5/5 I gave it back when, but the game itself certainly does. I've argued with myself whether or not to knock it down a rating, but decided to keep it as is. The review is certainly overwritten in parts, which makes sense because 2007 Gary was a much more serious fellow than 2020 Gary, for better or for worse. Still, I've not done a lot here; nuked some repetition and smoothed out some overlong sentences. Any period Gary loves his overloaded, overlong sentences, after all.

The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion.

Oblivion is the longest review I've ever written by some distance. It's more or less a bunch of edited and repurposed blog posts that you can still find in the backend of my blog (from back when it was a realm and I posted stuff there a lot more regularly) stitched together under the context of a review. But it kind of works? It's effectively a trio of stories that present the game at its best and at its worst. It's always done okay for hits because it's one of the lowest scored "critic" reviews despite being mainly glowing, taking the game to task more harshly than most of its collection of unfortunate bugs and repetitive main questline. I suspect the hit count on this has come from the old Gamerankings days. It sits at #3 for me, and #6 for the site.

I've picked at some bad word choices here and there, but I've mainly tried to break up the huge wall o' text with some pretty pictures in the hopes of distracting you from all the words. I don't see myself writing anything this size again, though I do love a good storytime ramble review. I think the last thing that came close was Neptune's Pride, which is just a whimsical recount of an entire playthrough.

Star Ocean: The Second Story

This was a review written back in 2006 when, rather than being a pretentious Indie gamer, I was a pretentious JPRG gamer. When I decided to write reviews, it was a way of sorts to document the weird stuff I found in forgotten bargain bins that no one else had ever heard of. To this end, the first volley of reviews I wrote probably never made it to this website because they were bloody awful. They included stuff like a turn based SNES RPG based on the Tenchi Muyou anime released only in Japan, and EU-only releases like TechnoMage, Ark of Time and Monsterseed (though Monsterseed was revisited because I just don't have it in me to leave something that awful alone). Star Ocean 2 is not an obscure game for the masses but was to me, because the series never managed to get to EU shores and, once Gary had learnt how to play imported PSX games, his paycheque never fully recovered.

Star Ocean was bought in a bundle that included Thousand Arms, Wild Arms 2, Vanguard Bandits and (urgh) Chrono Cross. It was perhaps my favourite of the bunch (though I remain fond of WA2) but became the first one I played of the four because former HG girl and continuous thorn in my side Viridian Moon hyped it up endlessly because she had a nerd girl crush on the unbearable bishie anti-hero who you can either recruit late in the game or leave to die. I left him to die just to spite her. We later played through Chorno Cross at the same time, and I believe the shared agony of that experience is what has bound us together for what seems like forever.


Good lord, 2006 Gary -- lay off the thesaurus now and then. That's one hell of an overwritten review you have there.

I mean, I think it was because I wanted R-Type to be held in suitable reverence because it was THE scrolling shooter in the same way that, say, Street Fighter II was THE tourney fighter. Still, I'm supremely confident I've not used salmagundi in a sentence since. I do still use coevil a lot, and now I suspect I know what I can blame that on. That I have a tendency to overwrite things isn't a new lesson to me (even to this extreme, which is easily the most overwritten thing I've done so long as I resist the urge to revisit Panzer Dragoon Orta) but, what was heartbreaking for me is when I went back to play this game on an emulator to get the new screens and the game kicked the shit out of me. I used to be so good at this! I still twitch game quite regularly! Why are your reflexes so worn down and awful, 2020 Gary? 2006 Gary was a hack writer, but at least he could play R-Type right! Still not enough to forgive him for using shmup as an actual word, though.

Most recent blog posts from Gary Hartley...

jerec jerec - September 02, 2020 (04:07 PM)
We've come a long way. I found the judgement in question, from July 2007.

"I enjoyed this nice little bash review. The introduction was my favourite part of the review. "It’s a relic of an age that, as a media, video games moved on from long ago" was a fairly strong line. I like how you point out how stupid, how bad the things in this game are, such as the terrorists that don't use cover, or your ally that does nothing but get in your way. Those screenshots reinforce those points well enough, but that seems like cheating to get pictures to do your dirty work. :P"

jerec jerec - September 02, 2020 (04:13 PM)
Are you sure about Star Ocean 2? I remember owning a PAL copy back in the PS1 days. I'd found it in an EB Games bargain bin when they were making room for PS2 games.
overdrive overdrive - September 04, 2020 (12:24 PM)
That's kind of neat -- doing this as a project. I'll occasionally read through older stuff and correct typos that I've missed over the years. And rarely, I will rewrite an older review -- although the last two of those I did were ones from the old GameFAQs days that weren't good enough to bring over here (Captain Commando, Image Fight).

And, if anything, reading this was a good refresher on just how great Star Ocean 2 is. Now that we're 20-25 years past the glory days/expiration day of the original PlayStation, I'd go as far as to say it might be my personal BEST OF SYSTEM as far as RPGs go. During the PS days, I'd have put it below at least FF VII, but I think SO 2 aged a bit better. Even if I still have panic attacks thinking about the Decus-n-Vesper battle. So many times hearing "SPICULE!!!!!!" (or any of the alternate quotes -- my favorite was "OH IT'S HOT OW OW OW!!!!!") screamed, so many times watching my entire party suffer so much damage it's impossible to come back, especially since the spell effects were just these insane light shows that could give a person seizures even if they're not susceptible to stuff like that. And it seemed like whenever I did a good job mobbing him, frickin' Vesper would start turning people to stone and next thing you know, here comes Spicule.

The pain never ends...

ALSO: I recall your Oblivion review being a catalyst for me making that my first 360 purchase. You did a great job of illustrating the fun of having a world that sucks you in so thoroughly that you can start up a night with a goal in mind and never accomplish that because, while on the way, you got caught up in a dozen other things.
EmP EmP - September 13, 2020 (11:00 AM)
Jerec has that comment on tap -- of course he does! I can even now recall that the game was a first person shooter called The Mark and it was sodding awful. I took it from a PR group when we used to have a little UK pool of writers assuming that someone else would take it, and then no one did.

I think, now I look into it more, SO2 got a weird limited release where it didn't get the costly multiple translation job most EU-bound games demand and was only bought over in English. It was very limited, though. Certainly here at least. I've never seen a PAL copy

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