Monday, January 19, 2015

Information Kills Exploration

I was recording a Let's Play of a favorite game from my child hood the other day ( Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time), and I got myself off on a tangent at one point in my commentary.  Back in 1998 N64 emulation wasn't really a thing, and games were nowhere near as advanced as they are now ,despite having come a very long ways since their inception.  The internet was certainly around in 1998 but most of us had dial-up and limited access compared to the always on state we find ourselves in today (DRM pun not intended lol amirite).   The convenience and power of the information we have on the information super highway has killed some of the magic in gaming. Particularly when it comes to exploration of the unknown.

Lets go back in time to 1998 and Ocarina of Time's release.  During the course of the game Link does all kinds of things in the 3D world that we considered ground breaking. The game gave you a living world, with a day/night cycle, and tons of secrets and hidden items to find.. Think back for a second to that feeling of stepping into Hyrule field for the very first time and realizing that you could set off in any direction almost unhindered. To be fair , you had areas you couldn't access without the right items but that was the fun of the game was it not?  I can still think of two or three side quest you can do as soon as you leave the forest. The point is that you didn't know.

Link did it all in Ocarina of Time and it was groundbreaking , but players wanted something more. That something in particular was the Triforce . Anyone who's played through a Zelda game knows about the Triforce. These 3 simple triangles are a source of unlimited power, especially when they are all three united.  Link never obtains the triforce in Ocarina of time (at least not as a menu item anyway), but players didn't accept that. For years after the game's release people plodded through the game. Trying all sorts of wild theories and outlandish actions to try to open the secret trigger that would lead us to Link getting the Triforce.

Enter the internet. Gamers my age with internet access will remember getting online and reading Triforce rumors. They also will remember rumors about Luigi in Mario 64, finding secret pokemon, and other games of the era.  You didn't know what was possible because we didn't know games like we do now.

With the rise of the internet and internet speed has come a way for people with very specific sets of skills, (skills that can be a nightmare for people like you)  to connect to tons of other people in an instant. To call into place what I mean,  before Resident Evil 5 was released there was a demo. People with the right know how managed to get into the game data, and discover tons of secrets about the full game. They predicted a boss fight with Wesker, driving levels, and other level areas, and it turned out  they were all true. Ocarina of Time is no different (well actually maybe it is. Have you seen all the crazy beta stuff left in that game?) Triforce rumors are dead now. No one would believe you if you posted one today. Why is that? The same data mining. Now we can dump a rom or ISO of a game on the internet on release day and data mine it to Oblivion (or Skyrim). When the next Zelda is released there won't be rumors about things just guides on how to make stuff happen.  Any high profile game like Zelda is going to have the ISO dumped and data mined within hours of release, so that no secret can stay. Imagine if there were still no way for your average Joe to open up an N64 game in a hex editor.  There might be triforce rumors still around today. Now that's not to say anyone would think it was true (someone would have found the thing by now!) but there would always be the possibility that Nintendo put in some crazy outlandish thing that no one would ever think to do that would set off a chain of events leading to the Triforce.  

People still do find things that have been hidden in games for many years, but these discoveries are becoming fewer and fewer.

I miss the way Ed Boon and the Mortal Kombat team used to create buzz around Mortal Kombat in the days of yesteryear by purposefully putting red herrings into the game, and rumors into the community. His team even made of a few of them true !  If a game like Mortal Kombat 1 was released today as it was then it would be mocked and forgotten. The original MK was groundbreaking at the time and Ed could keep people playing because of his rumors. It worked because we had no way to know what was hidden in those rom chips. Now if we claimed things like that someone would just dump the roms peruse the code and announce the truth to the world.

Perhaps all that to say, the rise of the information super highway and technology has taken some of that magic out of gaming. The illusion of endless possibilities. 

Of course we can't blame it all on the internet. Growing up out of the magic time of childhood has something to do with it. When you grow up gamer you start to learn how programming and gaming works. You understand there are limitations. You understand that there as things the programmers wouldn't do, you understand how certain things have to work.

Perhaps all that rambling to say that people often talk about how gaming has lost sight of itself, or is a shadow of the thing it was in the 90s, but perhaps what it has really lost is that element of surprise and mystery it used to have. Good games are a suspension of belief. You forget about even the fact its a game as you begin to consider the limitless potential you have to do and try new things.  Think about say stepping into Hyrule field, or hunting for "Poke Gods" or trying to unlock Luigi. When was the last time you felt that amazement in the latest Assassin's Creed or Call of Duty?  There will always be new people, and people like myself always sticking to gaming, but I think the industry's future success or failure for my generation of gamers and gamers who came before me will depend on their ability to create a world that leaves something to the imagination rather than something to the day one patch. We aren't children anymore its going to take more than the latest DLC or the same tired old game engine from the year before.

So what is it exactly? I couldn't say. Unfortunately  I am not a game designer.  Someone has to try something different and shake the boat. I look forward to the day we can find the potential again .


Monday, January 12, 2015

Middle Earth Shadow of Mordor

I was actually going to title this Shadow of Boredor but the joke was so obvious I'm sure someone has made it somewhere else on the web.

I've got more objectivity than the menu screen in Golden-eye 64 on this one. I've seen maybe two of the Lord of the Rings movies, and that's it. I've never read the books, seen the prequel trilogy, or anything else. The only other interaction I had with the whole Middle Earth phenomenon was I played Lord of The Rings online for like 3 days once, several years ago.
Shadow of Mordor was my introduction to the current gen of gaming, and everyone knows the first game they owned for a new system. Its like your Mario Brothers on the NES or your Mario 64 for N64, or Resident Evil 5 for Xbox 360 (for me).  You always want a good first game for a system to set the  tone. Unfortunately I'm sad to say Shadow of Mordor was a disappointment at best.

Shadow of Mordor has you playing as a wraith named Talion trying to avenge his family. Along the way he's assisted by another wraith that only he can see, who helps him get a grip on his powers.  To avenge your family you need to run around Mordor open world style, collecting arbitrary items and whozits , as well as taking on street races and assasination miss- I mean picking up flowers, and runes and completing weapon challenges.  Ezio can also climb up on towers to unlock fast travel for an area. Did I say Ezio I mean Jason , wait no I mean the guy from Watch_Dogs wait no Talion sorry.  Yes they did the Ubisoft thing and had you climb a tower to open up an area on the map. Come on gaming can we please leave this mechanic behind?

Talion can't seem to decide if he wants to be like Ezio or if he wants to be like Batman from the Arkham games. Most of the time he decides to be a moron, clinging to walls in combat, and refusing to drop down off waist high ledges. The combat works like your modern Batman game , but Talion also does parkour  stunts and climbs up the scenery and such. There's also a certain Dynasty Warriors type thing going on in Mordor, as hordes of enemies always seem to be only a stone's throw away from you at any given point, which brings me to the nemesis system.

Despite all the tomfoolery surrounding the game's marketing company and the nemesis system, in my own opinion its a great idea, but its limited by the medium, and it becomes droll and repetitive.  In short, enemies that kill you or you encounter often end up becoming your nemesis, and they grow stronger with each success they find against you or their fellow orcs.  You'll also have to use your wraith powers to interrogate other orcs to get information on the powerful ones. Like I said, great idea limited by the medium that grows stagnant in the end. Since the orc army has to be literally limitless (or otherwise you'd find the game world populated only tumbleweed and stuff after several hours) there's no real point to killing them other than to move along your powers and the story.  Some enemies tend to get insane combinations of strengths as they level that make them more of a chore to fight than a challenge. Often times you'll manage to whittle down a nemesis to low health only to be greeted by "enraged by x" (replace x with arbitrary reason to have your jimmies rustled) . When an enemy gets enraged they regenerate health at an insane amount, get stronger, and pretty much ruin your good time.  These strengths that generals pick up as they get stronger mean you have to go hunt down the one thing they're afraid of to have a chance of killing them. It actually gets rather silly. You'll have an enemy with a laundry list of immunities (immune to stealth, immune to range, can't be finished with melee , gets mad at losing etc ) and he'll have a weakness to flies so you'll have to drop a nest in the area and suddenly he can take damage. This looks like a classic example of one of my game design cardinal sins, which is making something a certain way to force you use a certain feature. With good game design all abilities are useful and you use them because they are so, but with Mordor it seems like they only make certain enemies become "enraged at losing" so that you're forced to go ask his neighbor about his traumatic house fly experience as a kid so you can deal damage to this guy aka you have to use this stupid contrived system we came up with. The developers had to know that beating an enemy to death with your sword is the more efficient way of doing it, and gamers always find the most efficient way, so they had to force you to use flys, or mounts , or arrows, or some other completely random thing that will magically let you kill someone who gets so mad about having his head cut off he becomes invincible.   Making things worse is that whole like Dynasty Warriors thing they threw in. As I said above you may run into your current rival on a lonely road at night but after engaging him its almost certain that at least 20 or 30 of his friends may show up. The reason this works so well with Dynasty warriors is that non general enemies tend to be dispatched in one or two hits, and they rarely all attack at once, which is unrealistic but it has to be that way otherwise you'd be swarmed and die all the time and the game wouldn't be fun. Mordor throws caution to the wind with what Dynasty Warriors figured out and gives all the other Orcs a substantial amount of health and ranged abilities, and the ability to attack you from behind and machine guns,  and bombs, and grenades and ok I'm getting out of hand, but you see my point. This is another reason the nemesis system falters. All the other enemies you're fighting have the ability to become a nemesis themselves if they kill you. The one you're currently tracking just happens to have a big list of things he's immune to /scared of tacked on to him.  Dynasty Warriors also has characters that use big wide sweeping attacks to help you mow down the hordes. Its not realistic but its fun. Shadow of Mordor remember, uses the Batman Arkham system of combat  and uses combos 'n' counters with a side heaping of finishes on downed enemies.  Batman's combat system is great, and for the most part it works well for Mordor too , at least mechancially. The problem Mordor has is that while Batman would fight about 4 or 5 or maybe even up to 10 goons Mordor will throw 20 or 30 plus enemies at you while you're trying to take on one guy. They will also re-spawn indefinitely. Can you see how this is a problem?  If I'm trying to take down old Grafawl Num Nuts (POW 15) over here who's immune to everything except cake made with soy milk during a full moon in January,  and I have at least 100 other enemies trying to get a piece of me, its going to be difficult to get it done. Especially when you get to the later parts when you start running into enemies with shields or without counter prompts. Even worse if you get killed by Grafawl Num Nuts he's going level up , be stronger, and probably pick up even more immunities. So now your soy milk cake you spent all that time baking is worthless, and had you managed to use it on him he'd probably be "enraged by losing" and get all of his health back anyway.

Now I will admit I did not finish the game.  So its very possible after enough hours you become so powerful you one shot everything. If so that would certainly levy some of the problems I had with the hordes, but at that point why not just go play Dynasty Warriors which has 100 Talions to play as rather than this one boring guy.  I did put in over 20 hours, completed over half the "story" missions and spent the rest of the time running around hunting certain orcs and collecting all the little runes, and weapon missions in hopes of getting strong enough to alleviate the problems I spoke about earlier.  The story seems to take somewhat of a backseat,  and unless the story mission counter in the menu is hiding something from me there's only about 20 story missions anyway. The ones I played through were all pretty boring , standard stuff involving tailing other characters, being stealthy and of course hunting certain orcs. The upgrades you get from doing all this stuff come from experience points and power levels. As your power increases the amount of abilities you can buy increases and you spend the aforementioned experience points to get them.

All in all Shadow of Mordor is disappointing and bland. I fell for a hype train and I regret it.  The nemesis system while an interesting concept, has to give up too much to work in a video  game , and it just gets repetitive, and it makes the enemies annoying to fight.  Mordor is also another game suffering from an identity crisis.  The combat wants to be Arkhamy, but the movement is more Assassin's Creed (with arms wide open) and the hordes look like Dynasty Warriors but all the trash mobs have just about as much health as the big guy.

Hardcore LOTR people will probably consider Shadow of Mordor worth checking out, and if you've got a hunkin' hankering for some more Arkham combat you may also want to pick this up used or on sale. Picky gamers like myself will want to avoid Mordor or at least try it before buying.

Shadow of Mordor earns a disappointing 4/10.

 It takes a lot to make a game
A pinch of orcs and murder, too
A scoop of bits to add the spice
 A dash of modern gaming to make it nice, and you’ve got
Too many orcs

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What is a Castlevania?

February sees the sequel to Castlevania Lords of Shadow, which is named as you might expect, Castlevania Lords of Shadow 2 .  That being said I wanted to take a minute to talk about this game and Castlevania in 3D.  Ever since Castlevania 64 and its much more complete director's cut edition, Legacy of Darkness were released, fans have been divided about CV in 3D. I personally think that Castlevania 64 and Legacy of Darkness are two of the best games in the series, and was an honest projection of the games' atmosphere into 3D.  The two CV games on the PS2 Lament of Innocence, and Curse of Darkness were great games in their own right, and important additions to the CV Canon, but sadly they are more dungeon crawlers than they are Castlevania.

If you think about the old games you had a hero (usually a Belmont) fighting his way through the Castle and countryside to reach Dracula and defeat him, and that's exactly what CV64 and LOD did. Both games featured stages with very distinct themes, and the 64 games had very distinct stages, with memorable set pieces. I'd also like to point out that the amount of things you can use the "check" feature on and get descriptions of is mind boggling. The developers definitely wanted to put some detail and personality in to the characters. It seems like every so often when I play the game I find some other random object you can click on and get a description, everything from chairs to "the mechanism that opens the portcullis" gets some little snippet of text giving your character's musing on it.  Some of the common complaints you hear about the N64 games is that the camera was bad, or the controls wonky, but having played them both all the way through numerous times I can honestly say the camera was never more than a minor annoyance, and in a time when 3D gaming, and 3D platformers were just getting off the ground I think that any annoyances with CV64 and LOD's camera was no greater than any annoyance you would find any of the other early 3D platformers on the N64 or PS1 at the time.

And don't try to tell me the controls were an issue. Have you played Castlevania 1, 3 or Belmont's Revenge? These are all considered high lights of the series, but the controls are far far from smooth. Not to say that they are bad, but in each one the control of the character was something that had to be mastered. Belmonts and their friends have always moved in less than agile ways, and mastering that was a part of the reward to the game. Once you got to know the controls and how they worked it was no longer hard to dodge enemy attacks, no you had everything you need it was just about thinking carefully how to use it.

Finally I get to talking about Lords of Shadow 2 and what it has to do with all of this. I was very excited for the first game and made the mistake of being very hyped for it, resulting in an excruciating wait for the game's release years ago. This time I have kind of distanced myself from the game and the hype so that I go in fresh not knowing what to expect.  I wasn't one of the types that felt that LOS wasn't a real CV game, because I felt it was, just in a different light.  A lot of people were saying around the release of LOS that they hoped it wasn't a "mistake" like the N64 games supposedly were. Ironically I think that Lords of Shadow 2 may end up being more like the N64 games after all.   The developers have told us that LOS2 takes place in an open world, which interestingly enough is how Castlevania 64 was first envisioned. You had to travel the countryside and the castle to make it to the final confrontation. It had multiple characters, and a freer roam feel to it than any Castlevania had ever had before Symphony of the Night changed the series game play style.  Also I view the plot of the N64 games to be some of the deepest the series has to offer as far as plot twist and back-story.  The whole atmosphere with the plot to ensnare Cornell's wolf spirit and the involvement of Gille de Rais and Actrise was all perhaps a bit campy but as far as CV games were concerned with it was daggum William Faulkner.  Lords of Shadow has done a great job of setting up a new CV lore and setting with a mere 3 games to work with as opposed to mainline CV's some 20 canon games released from the span of the 80s to now.  The reveal that the final scene in LOD 1 was taking place in the present day was quite a jolt to me. A storyline kind of jolt I had never got from another CV game, and I hope that Lords of Shadow 2 will continue to build on that kind of revelation.

My face when at the end of Lords of Shadow 2 you find out that the whole thing took place in modern day all along and that they were using water to fight the monsters because Gabriel was a ghost all along.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Fighting Layer

Fighting Layer is a bizarre Japan-only, Arcade-Only fighting game released by Arika in 1998.  Fighting Layer is supposedly similar to the Street Fighter EX series, which Arika also developed, however having only briefly played that at a friend's house back in high school I can neither confirm nor deny the veracity of that statement.  What I CAN confirm is that Fighting Layer is a great gem of an arcade fighter that sadly seems to have been buried at a time when fighting games were a dime a dozen, and 3D fighting games were starting to become more than novelties in the genre.

Ironically Fighting Layer still has a website on publisher Arika's page after all these years, though it is all in Japanese. Using my limited knowledge of Japanese I was able to glean that the story line is nothing we haven't heard before. A group of fighters headed to a tournament on an island, each with their own reasons and quirks for going, as well as a sinister villain waiting to defeat the last man standing.  The game draws  its odd name through the mechanic in which you progress through the game. Instead of moving up a ladder your character is presented as fighting through a mansion with various "rooms" and "floors"  that the game's matches take place in. There are also several bonus levels which can alter your path throughout the game. At one point you will fight a suit of armor, defeat it and you go up and later get to choose your animal fight stage, lose and you're headed to the basement and set on a course to fight the shark. Yes that's right there's a shark. Before you face the game's sub-boss and the final boss Vold you'll have to fight a dangerous animal. There are three of them, Tiger, Eagle, and the aforementioned Shark.  These animal fights can be challenging until you get the pattern down, and what's worse as a cheap way to get quarters you only get one round on these fights, which is fine if you win, but upon losing you have to pay for another one round match just to try to beat these stupid things. Considering this game will mostly see play on emulators nowadays this isn't a problem, but I can see this being a major turn off for Fighting Layer's case back when it was in Japanese arcades.

If we take a look at these goofballs trying to fight their way through the island tournament, we'll find fighting game staples such as Tetsuo Kato, your typical Japanese martial arts type character complete with always training attitude and torn white gi so he's not too straight edge,  WrestleMania heyday lookalike characters like Exodus, and Clemence Kelieber, Lan and Shang, your Chinese kung-fu type characters, a ninja etc, but also complete oddballs like Cappriccio  who looks like something out of Alien Resurrection, and the game's final boss Vold who is something of a mix between a wild animal and a Japanese train pervert.  That's not to say these characters are bad, to the contrary, most of them are fairly fun to play as and are interesting enough that you'd want to know a backstory. Unfortunately, most of the official ones are pretty vague, and the game's endings tell you even less about them. There are two characters from Street Fighter EX, whom I suppose have a little more meat and potatoes to them, but some of Fighting Layers more interesting characters like George Jinsent, Preston Ajax, and Janis Luciani have almost no information available about them.

Gameplay wise Fighting Layer works like something of a hybrid between those weird Fighting Vipers era caged 3D fighing games and other 3D fighting games like Tekken and Virtua Fighter. It is possible to find yourself moving into the fore or backgrounds, however much of the action will take place on a 2D plane, and you are limited by a cage. The juggling and combo aspect feels very Tekken though with it being possible to chain normal attacks and supers on to falling opponents to knock in a few extra hits.  Unlike Tekken and Fighting Vipers however it does feature a super move bar, which maxes out at three units allowing you to execute super moves.  These super moves also can have powered up variations which change the name of the move. The names of them super moves are spelled out dramatically on screen when you finish an opponent with them which is a nice touch that theatrically falls somewhere between the seizure inducing Street Fighter round ended with a super animation and the not so spectacular fall down animation from being finished off by MK9's X Ray moves. The game's introductory cut scene boast a number of advanced features such as Barrage Blows(the supers), Hard Reversals,  Super canceling etc, but its nothing we really haven't seen before, and if Fighting Layer of all games did pioneer any of these things, its notability has been lost by the sheer obscurity of this title.

Despite its obscure nature, and a somewhat limited , though interesting single player experience Fighting Layer is a lovely gem of a fighting game, and its a shame it never got a proper PS1 port with awful looking but endearing Tekken 1 era CGI endings, Vs. modes and move list etc.   If you  have the means its worth checking out. I'm not saying that MAME can emulate it, but MAME can emulate it and if you have a good enough computer it should run easily well enough to enjoy.


As an aside what’s the deal with all those old 3D fighters having the matches take place in cages? I remember Virtua Fighter having ringouts, but it just seemed like everyone else said we’re doing this in a cage. I guess at that time they didn’t really know a way to handle the fact that the arena had to be realistic, which would have been hard if the players just moved on infinitely. It took the Tekken team to finally say SCREW IT we’re doing infinite stages the ground will just have to look silly when it moves, and if you don’t like it tough Ganryu.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Returning with new old content.

My good pal and fellow blogger RivenMike has been blogging for online for several years since the introduction of his own blog That Guy Named Mike (link incoming), and at one point I planned to do some guest game reviews on there. Why cleaning out my pc hardcore for Guild Wars 2 I came across this little  gem of a review I wrote for Castlevania Curse of Darkness on the Playstation 2. As a fun treat and as a way to get this blog powered up again, I decided to post it here in all its unedited glory.  My apologies for lack of updates, it has been a busy few months. Between work, and getting engaged to the best girl in the world its hard to write on here!  With Tekken Tag 2, Guild Wars 2,  Resident Evil 6 and some of my other favorites on the horizon I'm sure I'll have plenty to talk about !

Castlevania Curse of Copy Paste

Hello gang Mike has been gracious enough to give me a spot here to post my game rants and reviews so here they are.

My game reviews often have no rhyme or reason. They come and go at my whim and this has been a long standing trend that started with my video reviews on youtube.  I might review and NES game one day, and then decide to review and arcade game the next. There’s really no telling, and I’ve had no problem with that trend there so I’ll use it here as well.

Castlevania Curse of Darkness is Castlevania’s 2nd outing on the PS2, and it bears an overwhelming similarity to its PS2 predecessor Lament of Innocence.
Curse of Darkness is a direct sequel to Castlevania III on the NES . Even though Trevor and co gave Dracula the boot Wallachia is still under the curse of Dracula.  It seems that one of his old devil forgemasters is trying to resurrect him or some crap like that and its up to you (as Hector a devil forgemaster that betrayed Dracula and thus gave Trevor and co the big open door to kill Dracula) to defeat this crazy lummock and destroy Dracula’s curse. 

Hold on a minute. What’s a devil forgemaster?

Apparently devil forge masters   are the guys who make Dracula’s minions. Unfortunately the game just starts throwing this term around as if fans of Castlevania Canon have heard it before. Good job Iragashi here you go again.  My problem with this is that the game goes on about the forge masters, but it never gives you any back story to them. And since this game takes place quite early in the canon the absence of these forge masters later in the time line makes it even harder to swallow. Maybe since the loss of one forge master was such a great loss that a guy with a whip , a cross dressing magician,  a pirate, and rebelling teenage(by vampire years) son were able to defeat the almighty Dracula he decided to give the whole forge master plan the boot in successive resurrections, but I digress.
In all fairness the story isn’t THAT bad. For the most part it follows the Lament of Innocence format of throwing you some story information after important boss fights or when entering new areas. Other than the oh-by-the-way introduction of the Devil Forge masters the only hero from Dracula’s Curse that makes an appearance is Trevor, and he’s stabbed later in the game as a way to make you have to fight Dracula when he’s inevitably resurrected.
Control has actually been changed slightly from Lament of Innocence. Instead of using one of the two attack buttons to open doors you use the button on the opposite side of the controller. This takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s no big deal. The moving around was to simplify the attack system. Instead of your usual hard and light attack buttons you have one attack button, and a combo ender button that allows you to spice of your combos. Each weapon has several combos and special attacks that can be fiddled around with, and you’ve got multiple types of weapons this time around. Hector can pick up mineral fragments that enemies drop and combine them to make weapons. Weapons fall into 4 categories Swords, Spears, Knuckles, and the random? category.  The first 3 are self explanatory, and the ? Category carries everything else. ?  Category items range from spiked baseball bats to bludgeoning shields.  Using these weapons are pretty much standard to your 3D action beat em up. Anyone who’s played Devil May Cry, God of War or any other game of that genre will get it.
Anyone who played Lament of Innocence will know that that the biggest problem was the overly repetitive level design. In LOI you spent most of your time fighting through a room of enemies, going down a hall way, fighting a room of enemies, and repeating that.  Normally with a sequel you build on game play of the first while righting the wrongs done by the first. For some strange reason Iragashi decided to think outside the box and make the game’s level design more repetitive and improve on the already decent combat system and oh by the way some monsters in to help you via the ID system.  For the most part this CV functions as a dungeon crawler. You fight your way through the levels (occasionally you have to use a special ability to cross a section) and get to the boss. Since it’s up to combat to make the game more interesting they gave us the earlier mentioned “Innocent Devil System.”  Since Hector used to make minions for Drac it makes sense that he can make his own to help him in his fight against Dracula’s minions. You get about 6 of these critters and they range from being Golem type monsters to fairies. Each of them has multiple transformations depending on the jewels you give it. Jewels can be obtained by killing monsters with a certain weapon. This is an interesting concept, although some ID transformations and more useful than others, and you have to use certain weapons to get them.  It’s a bit troublesome to have to switch between weapons to get certain crystals, and at times the weapon you have to use to get a certain  crystal may mean taking a hit in power which is not what you want when you’re facing a horde of enemies.
All and all Curse of Darkness is a good romp and likely the Castlevania fan, dungeon crawler, or beat um up enthusiast will have fun with it. If you’re a CV freak like me it’s worth the buy especially at the bargain price you can likely find it at now.
Specific Situation Complaint:
Later in the game you must fight Hector’s former friend and fellow devil forge master, Isaac. During certain portions of the fight he’ll summon his own ID which must be killed before you can hurt him. This situation has come up in many games before , but please remember game developers it shouldn’t take me 30 minutes to kill a minion. Issac’s first ID is a flying demon which is very hard to hit thanks to Hectors very heavy jump physics. (pretty much makes all flying monsters in the game a pain) The lock on system will insist on locking onto Issac (who is invincible), and thus drawing the camera away from the real target. Worse still while Isaac is locked on to the flying ID he summoned will fly around bashing you and spitting fire. Meanwhile your own senseless ID will try fruitlessly to attack him thus wasting his own life. It’s really one of those “this shouldn’t be that hard but it is  RAGE moment.” 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tekken 3

After a long hiatus I'm back at it again and we're firing back up our goal of reviewing all the main series entries of Tekken .

Tekken 3 isn't necessarily my favorite entry in the series, but nonetheless I do believe it is probably the most important. In the storyline 20 years has passed since Tekken 2.  This was essentially Namco's excuse to introduce a new protagonist and make him old enough to fight in a tournament. That protagonist is Jin, the son of previous series protagonist/antagonist Kazuya, and the Tekken 2 newcomer Jun Kazama. Heihachi's Tekken Force uncovers an ancient fighting alien named Ogre who goes around slaughtering worthy fighters (including Jin's mother), so he seeks out Heihachi and together they plan to use the King of Iron Fist 3 to lure Ogre out and defeat him. Of course Heihachi has his own sinister motives, but that's a whole thing altogether.

Tekken 3 was sort of a "refining" Tekken. Due to the 20 year time jump alot of characters were simply too "old" to fight or just disappeared altogether. Most of the clone characters like Kunimitsu and Wang simply disappeared, and most of the Tekken 2 newcomers save Lei Wulong disappeared as well.  Because of this we also see the introduction of what are now series mainstays such as Jin, Hworang, and Bryan Fury.

The series physics have also undergone a major overhaul as well. The more rigid stiff fighting system of Tekken 1 and 2 has been replaced with a more fluid form of movement, as well as even more potential for juggles and the deeper tactics we see in Tekken today.  This sharper system combined with newer slicker graphics drew in the players and made Tekken more mainstream than ever.

Though still not my favorite Tekken alot has to be said about the Playstation port of the game. It effectively builds on the modes and features of Tekken 2's home port and delivers a very meaty home experience. Along with your standard, arcade, practice, and time attack modes, modes like the beat em up styled Tekken Force, and the addition of a theater mode (that lets you use the Tekken 1 and 2 discs if you have them) for in game movies and music are welcome additions that really give you bang for your buck, espeically if you picked the game up for 15$ like I did. There are also two console exclusive characters, but they are very gimmicky, and haven't returned as playable characters since.

All in all Tekken 3 is a very solid entry and a very important one in the series. The only real problem I have (besides from my bias at my old favorite Lee being absent in this one) is that it just feels slightly bland, perhaps because Namco has put so much effort into selling Jin as a character. To be fair Tekken really didn't have a protagonist until 3. Kazuya was in 1 till you found out he was evil in 2, and Heihachi won Tekken 2, but he was never really a "good guy," so shoehorning Jin into this thing, and aging all the other characters 20 years to do it was like a chemo treatment to the series. Good in its own way but at the same time it killed some of what classic Tekken was.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Massive Mass Effect Fiasco

You knew it was coming. I had to tell you all about just what I thought about Mass Effect 3 and the ending that has seemingly rocked a fan base at its very core.  First off for what its worth ME 3 is not a bad game at all. The story is a solid continuation of the narrative from the first two games. Its also worth noting that the gameplay is also very solid. Mass Effect 2 tightened up the gameplay from the first game and made it into more of a narrative based shooter, and Mass Effect 3 took the best of both worlds . Its much easier to run at angles than in ME2 and though sometimes its spotty you can now run over cover without having to sit down the other way and duck first. Despite this addon  the cover system seems to have gotten much stickier. Often times while attempting other actions I found myself sticking to cover on the side fire was coming from resulting in a few stupid deaths. Also in the stupid death department is the ability to die after you've been "saved by the cutscene" There were a few instances in the game where I completed an objective just in the nick of time only to find that after it finished playing the game gave me the ole critical mission failure screen.

Mass Effect 3 also attempts to rectify the whole disdained mining system from two by having you simply ping planets for objects and then gather anything useful that you find. Its an interesting incentive to search the galaxy, as it gives you war assets that determine your final strength for the final push.

Mass Effect 3 also has a multiplayer mode for the first time in the series. As skeptical as I was to begin with I can honestly say I've spent more time in this mode overall than I have with the main storyline. After finishing the main game and having its ending leave a bad taste in my mouth I've been playing the multiplayer. Its a blast to say the least. Its very simple, you and 3 others against ten waves of enemies, while you try to complete various simple objectives. You can do these games on Bronze, Silver, or Gold and the higher the difficulty the more XP and Credits you'll earn. You can use these credits to buy weapon packs which include weapons, mods, upgrades, and ever new characters. They have also released a free DLC pack called Resurgence, which adds several new weapons and a new character for each class. For the first time we get to actually control the other races in the series and its quite fun. Want to play as a Geth or maybe an Asari? How about classic ME enemy race the Batarians? With the free resurgence pack, you can!

Now about that ending, no I wasn't on the side of those who actually liked it, but as far as the whole fiasco I'm quite surprised something this catastrophic has happened within the fanbase. Games have been giving us less than satisfactory endings since the dawn of the video game narrative, but I don't think one has ever elicited such a fierce backlash .  I won't spoil too much here but the problem I have with is isn't really the route they took with it, but the fact it went so much against the whole your choices matter in the end. I made a point to get nearly 100% of all the war assets and get maximum readiness, but the ending I got was still equally depressing and for the most part the same as the "bad" endings. There are also a few off the wall continuity errors with a certain scene involving your crew as well.

So yeah. The ending may leave a foul taste in the mouth of some because of a lack of influence and continuity errors, but I'd still say its worth the time of a playthrough.  The game has , if anything caused EA To hit the "Bad publicity" spotlight, which may be a positive thing. With all the nickel and diming by EA and other DLC pushers its might be a good wakeup call that the customers can turn things on you if you do something so bad you get enough of them to care.