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.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Tekken 2

By late 1994 Namco had already managed to get Tekken 2 out there to arcade goers. Of all the games I play Tekken 2 is one of my absolute favorites because its everything a sequel should be and a large source of nostalgia for me.

Back when dad was in the arcade business Tekken 2 was one of the games he had that i remember playing quite alot when it was in the shop.  At that time I had never played Tekken 1 but now that I have I can make the comparison call and talk about what it did that was so special.

First off the bat if you had played Tekken 1 you will instantly notice the overhaul the graphics received. Though the characters faces are still largely stoic, the character models and faces have all been redone to make everyone look much smoother.  Even the CGI cutscenes in the game totally overshadow those of the first game. Though most of the CGI endings are short burst showing the characters doing something like they do each one has a ton more personality than those in Tekken 1. Rather than sticking in those ugly sprite backgrounds into alot of the scenes everything is fully rendered and flows much more fluidly than before, you'll find no more of Michelle's odd knee running in this game.

Non graphically speaking the gameplay is still the one step per button tap style, but it all feels much more fluid. Whereas Tekken 1 could get almost sticky feeling at times, Tekken 2 handles its movement system much more better. In this entry we also start to see some of the characters signature moves that they have even still in Tekken Tag 2. Heihachi and Kazuya who were near perfect clones in 1 even start to disseminate themselves slightly, a trend that would be solidified in the great clone character slaughter of Tekken 3 and 4.

All that being said the game manages to bring over all of the original cast, although several of the subbosses got little attention other than being graphically redone. Characters like Kunimitsu, and Ganryu had real potential, but instead they are just mainly clones of their respective rivals, with a few extra moves that they got from the PS1 port of Tekken 1.

All in All Tekken 2 is a monumental entry to the series, and an important game in the early 3D fighting game scene.  I still load it up from time to time to hear those catchy tunes and experience the addicting gameplay.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Skull Girls

Well because I found yet another subject worthy of review I'm pushing on back the Tekken 2 review to next time I run out of ideas to do. Skull Girls has for me been one of those under the radar games. I first heard about it on Gamefaqs a few months ago and made a mental note to pick it up once it dropped and try it out, as I'm always eager to try out any new fighter that hits the market.  Much to my surprise the other day I logged onto the computer to see that it had released the day before. Fortunately I had a few spare points on my XBL account so I dropped them and downloaded the game.

One major selling point of this game right off the bat for me was that it was not only created in part by Konami, but longtime Castlevania series music composer Michru Yamane had  a large hand in the composition of the tunes within.

Skull Girls may feel a bit skimp when one first turns it on. At launch there are only a handful of characters, and sadly the developers did not put move list into the game meaning you'll have to experiment, or go on the developer's website to find out what they are. Gameplay wise it plays like a good ole 2D fighter with an all female but interesting set of characters. They range from your psychotic abomination out for revenge character to your cartoon character inspired crazy gunner type character.

Despite solid gameplay there are a few things that might turn away a newcomer to the fighing genre or maybe less hardcore fighting fans. The very first time I played the game I loaded up the story mode and picked a fun looking character to get a feel for how it played.  I left the difficulty set on normal, but within seconds the CPU destroyed me. I was paired up against Peacock, a very zoning efficient character who ran to the other side of the screen and mercilessly destroyed me with all sorts of spammed projectiles. Probably just a tough character matchup i thought. I'll try someone else. Well I picked another character and once again had it handed to me within seconds . What Skull Girls considers normal is a Normal Difficulty CPU on level 1 unleashes 10 and 15 hit combos , wall stunning, and overall humiliating you. I had to set the CPU to the easy and next to easiest setting to even get something remotely beginner friendly. I realize alot of the people buying this game won't be for single player yes, but if we ever want to increase the player pool a little bit more care should be taken in creating CPU. I almost feel like for a fighting game a dumber CPU (regardless of the difficulty) say something like in Tekken would be more adequate over one that just destroys you and refuses you practice.

Despite the flying sunglasses "deal with it" CPU the game does have one beginner friendly mode and that is the tutorial which will walk you through and test you on everything from walking and jumping to chaining advanced level combos together.  That being said chaining combos in the game in a big part of the gameplay, and unlike alot of Capcom's latest, getting a big showy combo together really isn't too tough. I applaud the game devs for showing you how the chaining works and giving you some examples to work with to help the newbie get started, if only the CPU wouldn't rape them as soon as they decide to actually try some of this stuff.

After having seen all this and clearing all the storymodes I decided to check out the online, and sadly I was disappointed. The online ranked match attempts to join you to an impromptu room, but after several minutes all I was able to find in any region were "room no longer available," and could not connects.  After I finally did get a match the game paired me up for my first match ever with someone who easily destroyed me in about 3 combos and didn't break a sweat. I realize that this is an arcade title but even early XBL arcade ports of other games have ranked systems that match you to the right skill, or let you choose same skill or below you. You can only learn so much from being destroyed before you waste your time. If you want to get better you need to play players near you level to get a feel for the game's system, as well as see what beats what, what works, what does, etc.

Bottom line is Skull Girls worth the 1200 MSP price tag? I'd say yes. Fighting game fans will have alot of fun with this new gem into the foray, and with promise of DLC and probably fixes ahead the game might very well fix some of its flaws. If you're new to fighting games Skull Girls might be worth picking up despite its CPU unfriendliness because of the in depth tutorial system and small number of characters means less to learn overall.