Thursday, February 28, 2013

Archview #2: Kensei Sacred Fist

 Breast physics on a man? Game of the forever.
 Kensei: Sacred Fist is your by-the-numbers 3D-Fighter. Clearly inspired by Tekken, visually, it actually borrows the basics from Virtua Fighter and Dead or Alive, featuring one Punch Button, one Kick Button, one Grab Button(Unlike DoA and VF, Punch+Kick is NOT Grab, it's a separate button) and a Guard button. Like every 3D fighter worth it's salt, you have a sidestep, however, there's no crouching or jumping, except for a few moves. However, there's a key difference between this game and the previous three I mentioned... Kensei never had an Arcade release, nor was it meant to. Kensei is a very slow game, characters move slowly, and react slowly to your commands. It takes a while to get used to, and it never quite manages to feel natural.
 The game has a roster of 22 characters... however, there are only 10 base styles, the remaining 12 characters use a slightly(and by slightly I mean 2 or 3 moves) modified moveset from those 10 styles. For what it's worth, all 22 characters, visually, are very different, and the 10 different movesets are nicely fleshed out, some even feature stances! As for how they look.... it's a mixed bag., some moves look really, really good, but others look awkward at best. The ninjas in particular have awful animations and movesets, and there's three of them.
 Regardless, the characters look very good, very detailed. A shame most of them are very odd, and the ones that look good, are rip offs. You have Yugo, a Kazuya(Tekken) wannabe, Heinz, a mixture of Hwoarang(Tekken) and Jacky(Virtua Fighter), Cindy's alt and manerisms are reminicent of Anna(Tekken), then there's Billy and Jelly, two characters, one with a parrot head and the other one a penguin head, who share a slot, not unlike Roger/Alex(Tekken). Originality is not the game's strongest suit. Oh! I almost forgot, there's a Steven Seagul stand-in and the ill-named David Human, a wrestler, and probably, the first male character to have a bouncy chest. The backgrounds are a bit too simple, but there are a few standouts, like the street alley(which, incidentally, looks a lot like Paul's stage in Tekken 3).
 Voice acting in this game is best left forgotten. While it doesn't reach the cheesyness of Virtua Fighter, it's not good either. Some characters speak in english and others in japanese. The music is serviceable, it's so low-key you rarely even notice it while you play.
 You start off with 9 characters, and it's fun to play with each one just to find out which new character you get, prepare for dissapointment though. Something very odd, for a console fighter of it's time, is that there are no character endings whatsoever. There's barely any story either, not that a fighter needs it, but it shows a bit of lazyness. You do unlock an amusing racing-like minigame when you beat the game with all the characters, in which you hold X and race against time through some barebones circuits.
 The game... is not worth it. It's too slow and unresponsive, and lacks any type of originality, but, I feel that they could have fixed all that with a sequel. Kensei feels like a decent foundation for a greater game. Tweak the movesets, diversify the characters, make them more original, make the controls more responsive.... Sadly, a sequel never happened and we are left with this...
It's a 4 out of 10.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"First" Archimpresions: Kensei Sacred Fist

 What... what happened to you?
 I like fighting games, they are my favorite game genre, up there with RPGs and Metroidvanias. After losing all faith on modern gaming, I decided to go retro and start getting older games, when companies hadn't become as greedy as today. My first two targets were: Older games I enjoyed and every PS1 fighting games I could find. I knew PS1 had a lot of crappy fighters, I had a couple, but if I had high hopes for one of them, it was Kensei. So, I boot up the game, pick the character I used to love, Heinz(If Hwoarang(Tekken) and Jacky Bryant(Virtua Fighter) decided to have a baby, it'd be Heinz. And first thing I notice is... input delay. It takes some seconds for the button presses to register. I read about it, but in my memories, it didn't seem to be a problem, I remembered an excellent Tekken 3 clone. Goddammit Young Me, this game is bad. Bad. BAD.
 It has some redeeming qualitites though, the graphics are pretty good, I mean, it's a fighter so it has no excuse, but it is very pretty. It has some neat ideas, for example, when blocking, the character will dodge the moves. It looks really nice, and very different from most fighters. Another neat thing, when tripped, if you press Block at the right time, your character will regain his balance, reminds me of Rival Schools a bit. It also has a huge roster(for it's time) of 22 characters, most of them unlockable, so they actuall give you a reason to play with each character(Since each character unlocks a new one). Oh! And there's an unlockable racing mini-game, but I will have to unlock it again before passing judgement.
 Sadly, they don't make up for the rest of the game. It's very slow, moves feel heavy, but they don't have the "impact" to match the wind-up. Also, the game-crippling input delay. It's very annoying, and not very fun. Remember those 22 characters? Well, most of them don't look very appealing, and those that do, are unmistakable rip-offs, and move-wise, half of them are clones. Remember the "reason" for playing Arcade mode? Well, there are no ending. A Console-exclusive PS1 FIGHTER with no endings. Stories rarely matter in fighting games, but they didn't even try. They didn't even try.
 And that's the gist of it. I will continue to unlock everything and then judge it. It will not be pretty.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Why KOS-MOS doesn't Work: A Xenoblade Prologue

  Meet KOS-MOS, the dumbest design you'll ever find.
 KOS-MOS makes no sense. At all. Bold statement, but completely well founded. KOS-MOS is supposed to be the only anti-gnosis ever, and they make it a... woman? First of all, if you had to give it a human body for whatever reason, you'd give it a male body. Why? Breasts. Breasts get in the way, there's a reason Amazons would burn one of their breasts in order to be proficcient with a Bow. And no, there's no "breast rockets" nor protective coating, proof of this is SRTOG, where KOS-MOS breasts bounce. You wouldn't place important circuitry in a "soft" spot, specially not in such a easy to target place. Breasts have no place on a mobile weapon. I'm willing to give the Realian women a pass since it's feasible to think that, since they don't have any particular purpose, companies would have taken a "Sex sells aproach", after all it's Japan we are talking about, they sell pillow-covers with anime girls on them, and the ever popular breast-mouse pads. But a Weapon? You want it to be efficient. And what about the cost? Being the only anti-Gnosis weapons would mean that she was probably quite expensive, last thing you want is to increase the cost by adding unnecesary features, like breasts.
 And what else does KOS-MOS have to aid her in battle? A Mini-skirt. Right, because that doesn't impair movement at all. And high heels. She's the only anti-gnosis weapon, and she wears high heels and a mini-skirt. Stupidity doesn't end there, it also has long hair, giving enemies another place from where to grab her. This amounts to KOS-MOS being the less realiable weapon one could find, and to top it all off, the only one that can harm the enemy Gnosis.
 I haven't mentioned the brilliant idea to give the ONLY anti-gnosis weapon a conciense yet. Why would you do that? If you, finally, after being defenceless for so long against an enemy, managed to create an anti-gnosis weapons, last thing you'd do is make it a robot. Heck, even in game, there's an incident where KOS-MOS goes haywire and kills people. Why would you continue with it? Just make it a weapon, doesn't take a genius to realize it's much more cost-efficient and reliable than having it "think".
 Her backstory doesn't make sense either, she kills Shion's lover, after going haywire, so Shion decides to complete her? It's not like KOS-MOS was their life-long proyect, not at all. Shion has no reason to decide to finish her, no real motivator. "Kevin's dream"? Bullsh!t. And the saddest part? Shion treats her like a daughter or some kind of love interest(It's Japan, so it's probably both), it makes no sense.
 I noticed something... if you enjoy a game, if it's good, you won't ever think about this stuff. It's only when a game is so bad that you can't stand it that you begin to realize just how dumb the plot can get. That's why some games get away with making no sense. They are so fun they suck you into their world. That's why older games are still fun today, even if they have no story at all. As long as the foundations are solid, you will have fun with it.
 Xenosaga 2 is a game that doesn't want to be played.

Monolith Soft: A Xenoblade Prologue

 Xenoblade is so awesome, I'm making a Prologue article.
 Monolith Soft is a company I've very mixed feelings about. On one hand, they made one of my favorite RPGs ever, but on the other one, they made the worst games I've ever played. Ever. One of the things I hate the most about their games, but they seem to have toned it down(Thanks, Nintendo?), is the fanservice. These guys love it to a fault, and sometimes it detracts from the games themselves. Still, they have made at least two great games, and their new X game is looking mighty fine, and since I've finally returned to Xenoblade, after a long study-hiatus, I decided to speak my mind on how I feel about their games, and... here we are.
 Xenogears, while technically made by Squaresoft, it was made by programmers who later left and created Monolith Soft. Xenogears was, and is an amazing game, from it's highly complex story and characters, to it's fantastic Battle engine, which mixed Fighting Games with the turn based battles of RPGs, it worked perfectly and created a impossibly original, and never imitated(sadly) system. Xenogears downfall is it's 2nd CD. It feels rushed, specially in it's begining, doing away with cutscenes, and switching to character narration, alongside images of what they are talking about. Luckily, it doesn't take away from the whole experience, despite feeling a bit odd.
 Xenosaga Episode 1, their first game as Monolith Soft was... a letdown. It might be a decent game, maybe, but the problem I have with this game, is that I was expecting Xenogears 2, and all I got was Xenosaga. For starters, some of the characters motivations make no sense. Xenogears had a very complex plot, but it made sense, Xenosaga's does not. Another gripe I had was with the battle system. I expected an evolution of the Xenogears battle system, instead we got a watered down version of it. In Xenogears you had Triangle, Square and X as attack buttons, now you only get Square and Triangle. In Xenogears, mixing buttons(each button had a value, Square was 1, Triangle was 2 and X was 3, you could press buttons up to a value of 16) resulted in various special moves, but now you can only mix up to three buttons. It's a huge step back from Xenogears, but it doesn't stop there, Mechs were a huge part of Xenogears gameplay and story... not so anymore. Their importance is downplayed, their designs are generic at best and their usage limited. Oh, and to top it all, multiple pantyshots of the underaged Momo. Thanks Monolith Soft.
 I have played many bad games in my lifetime, but this ranks up there with the worst of them. Definitly the worst game I've played on PS2. It's SO bad I haven't played Xenosaga 3 yet(I finished this one in 2009), doomed forever to collect dust. Maybe. I could go on and on on what makes this game so awful, but I'll save it for another piece I'll write on sequels, so I'll just mention the biggest offender: The battle system. Y'see, for some reason, they decided to change it up, again, but... it's needlessly complex, in a bad way. The first thing you should know, is that the game doesn't want you to play with the characters you want to, oh no, 'cause you see, some characters can make the enemies float, and others can bury them, both features which you'll need to use if you want to stand a chance. Oh, and the enemies with Float status? Only certain characters can damage them. But it doesn't end there, oh no, characters have different attack types, and enemies are weak to certain types of attacks, so you are gonna have to be shuffling characters according to the zone and enemy type. It's not fun, specially when more than half of the cast are an annoying waste of RAM. And you know there's a problem with your battle system, if the boss of a Dungeon is easier than a random encounter.
 Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier was the next game I played from them, and... I've very mixed feelings about it. The Battle System is very fun(for a change), but during Boss Battles it becomes annoying. Each character character can attack up to 5 times on his turn, this 5 attacks are pre-defined before battle, you can have the same Attack 5 times, or different ones. The goal of the battles(Besides winning) is juggling the enemy, to deal the most damage possible. If the enemy falls out of the juggle, he will, probably, block your next attacks, so by carefully cancelling each attack into the next one, you can keep the enemy floating and recieving damage. All this is thrown out the window once you reach a boss. Bosses have the chance, completely random,(And this is a fact) of falling out of the juggle and completely block your following attacks, and later in the game, it becomes quite annoying. The game also suffers from grinding, bosses are damage sponges, so prepare to grind in order to stand a chance against some of them. SRTOGS:EF is a very ugly game, the character cut outs look very amateurish, and so do the sprites themselves, luckily they are mostly well animated. Another thing that sets this game back is the focus on fanservice, from the female character designs(which makes them look really stupid), to their animated cut-outs during their special moves( boobs jiggling), to the dialogue. The game is full of boob jokes, never amounting to anything serious, making it a very light-hearted romp. Somehow, the game got a sequel, but it never got out of Japan. Can't say I care.
 Their last DS game to be released on America was Dragon Ball Z: Attack of the Sayians. It's a very standard JRPG, the battle system is the very traditional turn-based combat most JRPGs follow, with little nuances, like "Super Ki Attacks" and combined specials. It's a very entertaining game, and maybe due to it's source material, lacks any kind of fanservice. The game starts a little bit earlier than the Goku VS Piccolo fight on the Budokai Tenkaichi, and goes up to the battle with Vegeta on Earth. The game remains quite faithful to the source material, adapting the filler from the anime and creating a few original substories(Which were needed if you meant to make an RPG out of DBZ). Surprisingly, while the sprite-art is similar to the one they used on SRTOGS:EF, it looks very pretty now. Characters look big, detailed and animate really well. While the game's ending teased with an image of Frieza, it never got a sequel.
 And this brings us to Xenoblade. While I'm only(Yes, only, this game is massive) 52 hours into the game, it already made me a fan at barely 3 hours in. The Scope of the game is ginormous, if you can see it, you can reach it. And it feels like Sidequests never end, which is both good(Lots of content) and bad(Sometimes you just want to continue with the story, but OCD kicks in!). The characters are not too deep, but the story so far is great, filled with mysteries and interesting twists(But you can see most of them coming anyways). The game feels like an MMORPG, specially the battle system, which I'm not a fan of, but it still manages to put every other RPG on the Wii, and most(Like I played most of them, this is just an asumption, sue me.) of the RPGS on X360/PS3 to shame.
 Monolith Soft, hopes are high for your next Wii RPG, and after Xenoblade, I doubt they'll dissapoint.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Memories of a Young Pokemon Master

 I used to be the best. The very best.

 So how did everything begin? Well, before Pokemon became famous I.... who am I kidding, the TV Show, of course. Regardless, after getting hooked to the TV show, I knew of the existance of the Gameboy games, but I wasn't a fan of the portable console. Such a small screen? Limited color pallette? Bro, I had a N64, 3D, why'd I want a little NES?. Everything changed once I got my grubby paws on Pokemon Stadium. You could link it to the Gameboy games? Oh man, I want this sh!t!. So I pleaded. And pleaded. And eventually convinced my parents that Pokemon Yellow was a great investment for my entertainment purposes! And I promised to get good grades(Which I didn't. Mom, Dad, you should've learnt not to pay it forward!).
 And I got addicted to Pokemon Yellow. I'd play it on the Doduo Tower(Never managed to unlock the Dodrio Tower) for hours on end. Nevermind the fact that I loved, loved the art on the instruction booklet, it used very light colors, and it was very simple, but very eye catching, I'd reread the manual just to look at all the art.
  My closest friends got Pokemon Yellow too, so we'd speak of the game during school breaks. For some reason I can't recall, I suddenly had the urge to play Gameboy Games on the go, so, once again, I pleaded... and I got one... alongside Pokemon Blue(And since my sister would complain, they bought her a Gameboy too, and Pokemon Red). Since this is a third world, pirate games run abound, so I told my parents "Hey, this yellow cartridges are counterfeit, the only yellow cart is Pokemon yellow", so we went back to the store, and, of course, I was right, so somehow I convinced them to get us the original copies of Blue and Red, despite them being waay more expensive. And I ate Pokemon blue up. It was almost the same game as Yellow, but it was still fun. Interestingly enough, as a kid, I never had trouble remembering which Pokemon I had, but when I replayed the game when I was older, I noticed that, once you are in a random battle, there's no way to know if you already caught it!

 One day, for some reason, I decided to bring my Gameboy to school, and after some days, my friends started bringing their GBs to school. And afterwards? Kids who had a Gameboy would bring it. You can call me a TrendSetter! Pokemon became an every-day tradition, I'd clear the Elite 4 time and time again. It was fun.
 Then news of Pokemon Gold and Silver started coming, Oh. My. God, was I excited! I clearly remember an EGM issue that had Ho-Oh on it's cover, my god, did that issue hype me up. I'd tell my parents and my friends about all the new stuff the game would bring! And as soon as those games made it over here, I got Gold and my Sister got Silver. To this day, Gold and Silver remain my favorite Pokemon generation ever. With Cyndaquill being my favorite Pokemon and starter.
 And my god, do I have memories with Pokemon Gold. This was the game that made me want to get a Link Cable(Which I managed to find, but it was a counterfeit, and it would bring some fun experiences later on....). By the time I got it, I had already cleared the game, and the first thing I did was send all my Pokemon Yellow creatures to my Gold Cartridge. My time-honed Level 100 Pikachu and Level 100 Mewtwo were my most prized posessions. So prized, that a then-friend, but future enemy, wanted me to lend him my Pikachu, since he couldn't clear the Elite 4. I said yes, but played the fool and never lent it to him... I had a feeling I might not see my Pikachu again.
 Kanto. Once you beat the game, you opened up the road to Kanto. I had no idea about that, so when I first experienced it, my mind was blown. It's never been done again in any other Pokemon, the ability to return to the area of a previous Pokemon game, which is a shame, since this is one of the reasons Pokemon Gold and Silver were so awesome.
 Red. You can battle Red. This. Mind Blown. Again. Completely unexpected, and completely awesome.
 The legendary Cats. To be honest, way back then, me and my friends thought they were Dogs, so we'd call them the Legendary Dogs. All of us had agreed that it was nigh impossible to catch them all without the Masterball, so we gave up without even trying.... But I had bought a Expert Gamer magazine, and I read about Gengar and Mean Look. So one night, waaaay past my bedtime, I got a Hunter, traded it to Gold to get a Gengar, and trained him to level 56(I can't believe I remember the exact number). So the whole night I was chasing the Legendary Cats. And I caught them. All three of them. Next day I went to school, I was dead tired. But I was feeling like a baws. First thing I tell my friends is "I caught them." I caught them.
 206. That was the last number I saw my original file clock, before my data got deleted. Every day, when my mom would drive dad to work, and then leave us at school, I'd be chilling in the backseat, probably re-defeating the Elite 4. Or rebattling Red. I had caught, thanks to my sister's Pokemon Silver and Red, almost all of the Pokemon, and I was missing a very few of them. I'd probably got over 230 of them. Me and my friends were addicted, so eventually, we started wondering just who was the better Pokemon Master, and I had a Link Cable, so...
 I did mention it was a counterfeit Cable, right? We had the weirdest experience while battling. For some reason, in my friend's gameboy, it looked as if I had sent a Tangela, which I hadn't, and it was a Shiny Tangela. And even though he got the Tangela to 0 HP, it kept on fighting(We, instead of freaking out, were highly amused, so we continued fighting to see what'd happen). As for me, it'd look as if my friend had sent a Tentacruel, which he didn't have, and every now and then, when I got it to half HP, he'd call Tentacruel back, and... switch it with itself? Very odd.
 Fast forward to the future, I got a Gameboy Advance, with Mario Advance 1. It'd be my only GBA game for a looong time, since they were expensive as heck. So, one day we went to the Chuy... Tax-free games? I'm. So. In. The first game I get? Pokemon Ruby. I fell in love with it. It was a blast. Granted, I didn't get as addicted as I got with Pokemon Gold. The fact that only one of my friends had a GBA and Pokemon probably had to do with it, since there was no "Comparing notes" with more people. Still, when I look at Ruby now, I can't see why I enjoyed it so much. The new Pokemon design are a step back from Gold and Silver, and I remember being dissapointed at "just 8 gyms again? No 2nd city?!"
 I wouldn't play a Pokemon game again until Pearl. This time, I could tell the designs weren't too good. Definitly better than Gen 3 though! And I clocked over 120 hours on this game, thanks to the Wi-Fi. Trading 'mons only was a blast. Right now, on that cartridge, I have every Pokemon and Stone I need to fill the Pokedex, but I lost the drive to fill it.
 And then comes Pokemon HeartGold, the one I consider to be the Perfect Pokemon Game. I barely clocked 50+ hours or so, but it is the best Pokemon game. Everything that made Gold good is here, plus all the improvements the series has made over the years. And one of my favorite features? You won't see a new Pokemon until you reach Kanto. So it's the original Pokemon Gold experience, only enhanced by years of perfecting the formula. And my one complaint? Why wasn't this game released so many years ago? Young me would've loved, LOVED this game. It's a shame I can't get as hooked to Pokemon as I once did, but this game reminded me why Gold was so much fun. Why I consider Gen 2 to be the best generation ever. And how lucky the young kids are now a days.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Archview #I : Metroid Other M

 It's not that bad. Shocking, I know.
 Let's get the pink elephant out of the room first: Yes, the story is bad, and sadly, not in a cheesy way. It's not terrible, as in, it could've been a lot worse and it's full of dumb stuff, there's the Samus character-breaking moment with Ridley, a whole "Traitor" subplot that doesn't get "officially" resolved, and some of the actions characters take are baffling. There's scenes that defy all logic, like the Deleter getting out of a certain cockpit, when there was no possible way he could've gotten out without Samus seeing him, and with only one way to run... and right after that, they show him at another place, doing stuff... Yeah, the story is all over the place, but rest assured,  it could've been worse, I think.
 Gameplay-wise, the game doesn't know what it wants to be. Most of the combat has a very arcade-like feel, which I love, with Samus auto-targeting, and you only have to mash the 1 button in order to shoot. Dodging is accomplished by tapping any direction right before being hit, and Samus will dash away, press 1 during the dodge, and Samus will insta-charge her beam, for a quick counter attack. Samus also has a "Finishing move", done by running towards the enemy while charging your beam. So it seems the game rewards quick reflexes, with a fast combat designed on offence, right? Well, you'd be wrong. The game does away with enemy drops(Meaning that combat is completely pointless, unless the doors get locked, the only thing you can get out of the combat is the possibility of getting damaged), instead, in order to recharge your missiles, you have to stay put in place, point up with the Wii-mote and hold the A button for a couple of seconds. And to recharge your health? After your HP falls below a certain threshold, you are allowed heal back a fixed amount by following the same procedure to recharge your missiles. Staying put in a fast-paced game? Kinda breaks the flow of the game, don't it? It doesn't end there, shooting missiles, the most aggravating gimmick of the game, you have to point at the screen with the wiimote, at which point the game switches to first person, in the direction Samus was looking at(So, if you just dodged and need to counterattack, you need to reposition yourself. With the digital pad. That lacks any precision. FUN), hover over your desired target, and hold the B button for a second, only then will Samus ready the missiles allowing you to shoot them with A. Oh, and you can't move while in first-person. Shooting missiles never manages to feel right, it will probably make you hate the controls for the first part of the game. Luckily, once you get the Plasma Beam, you are no longer forced to use missiles, since bosses are suceptible to the Plasma Beam, and the game becomes fun. But until you get said upgrade, the controls will get in your way. The game is not hard at all, even though the enemies deal a lot of damage, but it's easy to dodge... until you need to aim with the cursed missiles.
 The game suffers from this arcady action focus though... Metroid games are associated with exploration and discovery, so they tried to have that in the game, by placing power-ups scattered around, some only accesible with the right tools... and then you go through a door and the game locks it behind you. Once again, it doesn't know what it is: Is it an arcade-action game? or is it an slower paced action game? It doesn't know. It places power ups all over the ship, but it locks doors, so that you are always moving forwards, the game keeps contradicting itself in this regard all the way through, until the end-game, when you are allowed free access to the whole ship.
 The Devs also placed some really annoying and flow-breaking moments in the game: Pixel hunts. Every now and then, after a cut-scene, the game will have you "find" something while in first person. It breaks the flow of the game, it's a dumb mechanic, it's often obtuse, since you might be pointing at the right place, but the game won't register it unless it's the exact pixel it wants you to look at. Sometimes you'll also get mini-boss battles in first-person only, which consist in aiming at the right target and shooting missiles. Heck, the last boss is one of this dissapointing first-person... events. A really lame way to end a game.(Luckily the post-game has the most epic battle in the whole game, so it's worth playing just for that one fight).
 Graphically, the game looks gorgeous, I dare say it's the best looking Wii-game I've ever played. Characters look very detailed, and while the animations are not the best, rarely do they look awkward. The music is... all borrowed from past games, so if you like Metroid's soundtrack, you won't have any problems with it. Finally, voice-acting is... great, actually. Specially Samus, while I was initially put off by Samus' cold, monotonous voice, eventually it sank on me: This. This is how a battle-hardened bounty hunter is supposed to sound like, which is what makes Samus' voice-work so excellent. The rest of the cast pull off a convincing job too, but Samus is a standout among them.
  All in all, the game is not all that bad, it has some very fun mechanics, but they are hampered by a really bad story and the game's identity crisis.
 It's a 5/10.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Important News.

 Just finished Other M.
 And I only have one question, one that I asked myself the whole time during the ending:


The Legend of Zelda are not RPGs

They are not RPGs.
 Do you know what really grinds my gears to no avail? When people mention TLoZ when talking about RPGs. At most, you can say that it has some RPG elements, but at it's core, TLoZ is an adventure game. The one who approaches RPG territory the most is TLoZ 2 for NES, but most of it's "innovations" and changes to the TLoZ formula were abandoned, never to be seen again.
 For starters, Link doesn't level up. He never does, never will. This was a staple of Japanese Console RPGs by the time TLoZ: A Link to the Past was released, and Zelda never used this trope. Another staples that were never used by Zelda: Random encounters and turn-based combat. True, those do not make an RPG(Specially today(2013)), but at the time, most where doing it, and Zelda was not(Except TLoZ 2...). Also, combat in The Legend of Zelda is basically superfluos. Unless you get locked in a room, or are short of supplies(And in this case, it's more of a gamble, since drops are random), combat is unnecesary, you gain nothing from it. Except Bosses, which act more as puzzles than fights.
 Choice. Or rather lack of choice. Link is a mute hero, "See? Mute hero! RPG Staple!"... wrong. Mario is a mute character, that doesn't make Super Mario an RPG, right? "But Link has to make choices!" Wrong. TLoZ gives you the illusion of choice. Most of the important decisions follow the "But thou must" trope, you say "Nay" and they, basically, tell you that "thou must" until you say "yes". The rest of the choices don't affect anything at all, so they are there just for window dressing.
 "But Link can go wherever he wants when he wants!" Nope, no he can't. Some Areas are unreachable until Link obtains a certain item that allows him to bypass certain obstackles, so, once again, the illusion of choice. You need to obtain certain items, which means at least going once to certain places to fetch them, so there is some semblance structure to the quest. Do you know what this reminds me of? Mario 64. You need to collect a certain amount of stars, instead of items, to access certain areas. Same deal. "Lava Dungeon"? Mario has a Lava world. "Snow Dungeon!" Mario has a Snow Level. You could say that Zelda's Dungeons are Mario's Worlds.
 "Ha! but Link's Dungeons are part of a cohesive world held together by Hyrulean land!"... so? Mario 64 has an overworld too, Peach's castle. Peach's castle serves as the overworld, and the many worlds are like Dungeons. If The Legend of Zelda are RPGs, the Mario 64 is an RPG. Is Mario 64 an RPG? Mute hero? His choices don't matter? Needs to collect items to be able to enter certain places? Mario needs to clear certain conditions(Puzzle-like in nature sometimes) to get items? Hmmm....
 But unlike Mario 64, Zelda is a bit more story driven... Thing is, before Twilight Princess, Zelda has no character growth whatsoever. RPGs tend to have character growth and developement, when an RPG has a mute hero, the cast around him get more developement. Zelda Ocarina of Time cheated a bit with the Time Mechanic, do character personalities and status change? Sure, they do, but we don't get to experience the change. Majora's Mask toyed with the idea a bit, but the 3 day rebooting kinda ruins it. Twilight Princess finally introduced side characters who mature as the story goes on.
 Finally, we have currency. RPG games have shops in which you can buy equipment and consumables... Except that most games have some sort of currency and shops. Devil May Cry has red orbs, which are used to buy new moves or healing items. Does that make DMC, God of War or any other modern action game an RPG?
 The Legend of Zelda are fun games, but the RPG elements they have are used very lightly, which makes The Legend of Zelda fall into the Adventure category, with a little action and puzzle elements to make it more interesting.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Metroid: (please play) Other M(etroids)

 This game.... man... this game...
 So, the controls ruined the game, it couldn't get any worse than that, right? It does.
 One of my biggest gripes, is how the game often ends a cut-scene with Samus in first-person view, and the game makes you look(Not just aim at it, you have to hold a button while pointing at a specific place in the screen) at points of interest. Not only is it jarring on such an arcade-like game, but it's a chore. Most of the time, you have to realize that you are trying to find a logo, but the game doesn't offer you any pointers. Some of my... favorite moments were:
 -Sector 1, one of your allies is dead, so someone states "Who could've done this?".... so I'm guessing I have to look at the body? Nope. Maybe there's a monster nearby? Nope. Perhaps I have to analyze the other soldiers and they'd talk to me? Nope. After wasting at least 5 minutes going in circles trying to find whatever I was looking for, I spot blood on the floor. Dark green blood on a light green floor. And I'm supposed to notice that it's not just more folliage? Goddamn.
 -Sector 3, there's a cutscene where they show someone looking at Samus, so I guess I have to look at her(Even though the only reason I know she is there is 'cause I saw it on a cut-scene). I look. No reaction. After searching, I tried again and... it worked.. Seems I had to point at a very specific place. THESE MOMENTS ARE SO MUCH FUN(Bold and Caps? Sh!t just got real).
 This is more of a nitpick, but still worth mentioning: There are places you have to climb. Some of these(At least 3 and counting) have perfectly functional stairs. But no, Samus is too cool for stairs, so you have to find some roundabout way of getting on top of it, usually involving the use of the Morph Ball.
 Oh, and speaking of things that make no sense, Samus finds a Scientist, and she thinks to herself "I have to protect her", so how does she do it? After telling her to "Run", on a facility where monsters are acting more agressive than usual, on a facility where a traitor(more on him soon) may be lurking around, not only does she not mention the scientist to her superior, but she leaves the scientist to her own devices while she does some stuff in another zone. "I have to protect her" but you leave her by herself on a very, very dangerous place? Logic.
 Ah, the traitor. Where to begin? Hm, the fight with Samus, I guess. So Mr. Traitor gets on some vehicle and tries to kill Samus and the scientist, Samus beats him, and when Samus goes to check the cockpit, he is gone(Classic). Thing is, there was no possible way that he could've gotten away without Samus seeing him. There was no big explosion, and the area was very empty, barring some boxes, so Samus would've seen him get away. And the fact that there was no way to go other than the entrance from where Samus came from(Which was now inaccesible) or the door that leads to Sector 2. Samus should have seen him get away. And then the naming. Samus doesn't know who he is, so she calls him "The Deleter". Why? Why not just call him The Traitor, as she has been calling him so far? "But she doesn't know who he is or what his name is!". Exactly. The Traitor and The Deleter serve the same function. It's dumb, specially since Samus doesn't tell or plans on telling anyone about him, it's quite unnecesary.
 This game, man.... this game...

First Archimpressions: Metroid Other M

 I wanted to like it....
I'm in the Forest Zone(Area 1) right now, so I think it's safe to mark down my initial impressions:

 First thing that must be noted, the game is gorgeous. These are probably the best graphics I've seen on a Wii game. And the CG is very pretty too. And hopefully you like watching, 'cause it's a very cinematic game, there's a lot of looking and not playing, at least for now.
 While I didn't like Samus' voice at first, eventually it sank in, that cold, monotonous voice actually fits a battle hardened Bounty Hunter really, really well. This is how I expect a Bounty Hunter to sound like. I do think there's a bit too much exposition though, Samus tends to overanalyze everything, ""Outsider" the word he so carefully chose", "Called like that because bla bla bla", and I'm not sure if I like it or not. One thing I've always loved about comic books, is when the hero narrates, so you read what he thinks, so I kinda like having Samus' thoughts at all times, but sometimes I just want to shoot stuff sooner!.
 Speaking of shooting, my first try at the game felt awesome, really Arcadey(Read: Fast and simple), just the way I like games... at least until I reached the first boss, and I started to notice how awkward shooting missiles is. You have to stay put in place in order to shoot. You can't move at all. "Alright, I'll just shoot after it attacks", yeah, it's still complicated, because: A) You have to point at the screen with the Wiimote, and Samus won't be looking at where you point, oh no, she'll be looking in whatever direction she was before you moved the Wiimote. This wouldn't be so bad, but the game is played with the Digital pad, so having to position yourself after dodging is not entirely comfortable and B) You have to Hold B at where you want to shoot the missiles before pressing A to shoot them. It makes shooting missiles a tad more time consuming than it should. I said the game was Arcade-like, so it's fast, having to stop moving, and aim at something takes time and is cumbersome, but the enemies still move fast, leaving you vulnerable to attacks. Just wait until you reach zones filled with tiny enemies and you have to aim missiles at certain particular spots(Sometimes other moving enemies), targeting the right enemy is no easy matter, specially with the rest of the enemies attacking you. The game is not hard, even though enemies take huge chunks out of your HP, but the odd control scheme makes it hard. Way harder than it'd be otherwise.
 The game does away with enemy drops, so how do you recharge Missiles and health? For missiles, stay put in place, hold the wii-mote up and the A button, and after some seconds they will fully recharge. As for HP, you can only heal when your HP falls below a certain threshold, and then you have to follow the same procedure for recharging missiles. It breaks the flow of the game, and mid-boss battle is not easy to pull off.
 The story is very awkward, how'd Samus get so attached to the baby metroid? Why is Adam such an a$$, yet Samus holds him in such a high regard? Not to mention, I've heard about the "Paralyzed with fear due to Ridley". Dude, you killed Ridley once, you shouldn't be scared... sigh... Funny thing, even knowing how bad the story got, after playing the game, I wanted to like it. Older Arcade and NES games didn't need a story, and after playing the tutorial of the game, and seeing how good it felt, I thought that maybe it could go beyond a bad story, maybe the game was better than the sum of it's parts. But nope, bad controls ruin any game. How can you enjoy what you can't play?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Final Fantasy VII is still one of the Greatest games ever made.

Dat Sword.

 Final Fantasy VII is a pretty divisive game, some consider it unjustly overrated, and the others consider it a masterpiece. I fall under the latter.
 Let's jump back to 1999, I'm this wee kid who's latest games he had played were Tomb Raider 2 and 3. I had previously owned a NES and a NES knock-off, and now had a N64. The closest thing I had played to an RPG was Quest 64, and I loved it(And still do, to this day, one of my biggest guilty pleasures). So I'm at a computer-stuff shop, and I see this odd box, with a rhombo-ish shape, a white box, with a dude holding this big-a$$ sword.
-"Daddy! Daddy! I wantz dat!"
-"Too expensive"
-"Then let's save up!"(This meant that I did jack and he'd save up the $, but I still felt as if I was doing something, lol).
 And then.... it came. I proceed to install it, while reading the instructions booklet and drooling over the box. I'm hyped, I don't know what I'm getting into, but I'm so friggin' hyped. Game's installed, I start it up, the intro CG plays and "HOLY EFFING SH!T THESE GRAPHICS", suddenly this funky purple blob of polygons jumps out of the train "Well, this looks... different"(I never cared about graphics).... and then a battle starts "OMFG HE GREW! THIS IS AWESOME WHAT IS THIS, MENUS? OMFG THIS IS AWESOMEEEEEEEE!!!!!!1111111111ONEONEELEVEN", and the rest, my friends, is history. I should note that one of the... "Features" I liked the most, was that it had "3 kinds" of graphics: Exploring, Battling and CG. I loved that, for some reason, and I still find it endearing.
 What I'm getting into, is that this game was my official introduction into the more traditional RPGs, and guess what? It introduced me and many others. This is the game that brought console RPGs out of a nichey status and into the mainstream. Suddenly, I wanted to play more games like these, heck, everyone wanted to! And companies wanted to have the next big RPG, suddenly everyone had their tries at these, even western studios. Shadow Madness, Legend of Legaia and many others are a fruit of this. Final Fantasy VII proved that there was a very profitable market, hungry for console RPGs.
 But why is it that great? This game had a HUGE world ready to be explored, and it was completely in 3D, if you had the means(Boat, Buggy, Airship, Chocobo), you could reach it. It had towns, forests, dungeons... and it was all very cohesive. Nothing felt out of place in this world. And what made this huge world so much more impressive, was how you were stuck for the initial... 5-7 hours, maybe more if you liked exploring and grinding of the game in one town. After you storm the Shinra headquarters, and need to escape, you get to the end of the highway, and suddenly... What is this? Midgar wasn't the whole setting of the game? Mind.Blown. Maybe if you had played RPGs in the 16-bit era this came as less of a shock, but for me, I'd never seen an overworld like this, and I was not alone.
 Characters. What I enjoy the most about JRPGs is watching the characters grow and develop. In Final Fantasy VII there's plenty of character growth, and each character gets their own sort of chapter. Even the extra side characters like Vincent and Yuffie have their own personal adventures, that show you their motivation, their resolve and how they plan to deal with their problems. Cloud is not "just an emo girly boy", Cloud was the emo guy with "amnesia", he was, dare I say? the first one like that, and just because many came after him, trying to copy or deal  their own spins on the angsty hero, Cloud came first, Cloud aced the part and Cloud was there before it was a cliche. Cloud made angst the new cool. Then, there's the fact that most characters are completely different from each other. You could argue that Vincent and Cloud both fill the angsty persona, but Vincent is a much less talkative(Though him and Yuffie have less lines than the core members...) character, and he'd never have cross-dressed like Cloud. Cid and Barret are both rash, angry characters, but their reasons are completely different.... Speaking of different, how about the fact that there are no whites and blacks? Even Barret, who's trying to "Save the world" gets called out by fellow ally Caith-Sith, he may be trying to save the world, but he is killing bystanders in the process.

 Music. This is a much more subjective topic, what my ears like might not be the cup of tea of another, but MIDI music has never sounded so good, and the themes from FFVII are still fresh in my mind. It may be from Nostalgia, but I love the music, and it always fills me with memories from my childhood <3. I love this music, but it may be my personal taste, moving on...
 Gameplay. Final Fantasy VII had a very unique Materia-junction system, which was deceptively deep. According to the Weapon and Armor you equipped your character with, he'd get different slots for Materia. Each Materia affected your other stats(HP,MP, Strenght, Speed, Defence), so you wouldn't want to handicap your character too much. There was also materia that wouldn't do anything by itself, so you had to place it in a "Joined slot"(If your equipment allowed it) next to another Materia. Even setting up the materia was fun. Battles took a faster spin than  most other RPGS, using the Active Time Battle(ATB) that Square had implemented on their latter 16-bit RPGs, and the 3D graphics made battles look really good.
 Graphics. Most PS1 games have aged really badly on the graphics department. Not Final Fantasy VII. Everything looks how it's supposed to look, and the characters, even at their simplest(When "out of battle") have a very expressive range of animations, so you can tell how they are feeling. From Cloud's shrug, Cid's foot-tapping or Barret's shooting. When outside the overworld, Final Fantasy VII used pre-rendered backgrounds, and they still look very good, and are very distinctive. From Midgar's Steampunk look to Cosmo Canyon's more tribal enviroment. Characters may not have fingers on their hands, but they still pack quite a punch(It's a joke, since they have stubs for hands. It's funny, trust me).
 Lastly, the story. Other game that came later may have dealt with it better, but Final Fantasy VII did it first. Frankly, FFVII took story devices from their past games, the love triangle? Final Fantasy VI, Terra-Locke-Celes, but while it was dealt with undertones in VI, it's made much more obvious in VII with Aeris-Cloud-Tifa. Permanent death of a Party member? Fintal Fantasy IV killed a lot of their characters, but with VII they gave you much more time and reasons to care about Aeris. She was not just "another party member", she was there almost from the start, and she was part of the love triangle, you could take her on a date(Instead of Tifa, Yuffie or *gasp* Barret), there was no way to think that she'd be expendable, so her death was incredibly well done and unexpected(Though going as far as "Crying"(in real life) is a bit too much...). One-Winged Angel last boss? Kefka did it first and... actually, Sephiroth is not necesarily better than Kefka, so... yeah, nothing else to say. Kefka Wins. Move along now.
 My point is, Final Fantasy VII was never a bad game. And it'll never be. The foundations of the game are great, they were great, and you can't take it away from it. If you compare it to other games that came later, sure, it may not be as "good" as them, they may have better stories(And better translations!), they may have better battle systems, but when Final Fantasy VII came out, it was new. It was fresh. And it was awesome.
 Final Fantasy VII is awesome.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The State of Gaming 2013

 What... what has happened? How did we get here?
 Do you remember gaming in the older days? When you bought a game and that was it. You knew, you knew you were getting the whole product. Sometimes, said products would come with cheats, maybe alternate costumes and/or secret characters!. How fun was it to finish a game, and EGAD! a new character! what a great reward!. What do we get now? Achievements. Trophies. Bragging Rights. Air. Nada.
 So, what's it like gaming in 2013? I'm gonna have to break this up, into the worst offenders:

The unholy Evil, DAY 1 DLC.
 Publishers want me to believe that there was "no time to put it into the game before it went into production"? That's bullsh!t. Once or twice, that excuse might've worked, but not today. It's true that sometimes Publishers rush the game developement cycle, but if it was meant to be in the game, why charge us extra? True, sometimes it is free. Sometimes, but it doesn't make it any less tacky. Do you know what day 1 DLC means? It means that if you run out of space on your hardrive, and need to uninstall the game, said extra content is lost forever, until you download it again. Once PSN/XLive is no more, and the retrogamers of the future want to play the game, they'll get a subpar experience. Fun.
 This Evil sometimes comes without an excuse, which makes it even worse. They announce this Day 1 DLC before the game is even finished. Sometimes it's even used as a pre-order incentive. Do y'know that pre-order incentive used to be? An artbook. Maybe a CD with the music of the game, or some keychain or little physical extra. Do y'know what a pre-order incentive is now? Content that was in the game, locked out, on purpose, to ensure pre-orders(Buying new at full price) and that later buyers, posibly when the game is cheaper, need to spend a little more to get the missing content(Which is a 100kb file that simply unlocks the content).

 Then we have another pest, that usually goes hand in hand with Day 1 DLC...
.                                                                                         ..the dreaded DISC LOCKED CONTENT.
 The biggest culprit of them all: Capcom. This is content that it's in the disc that you just bought, but you need to shell out more dead presidents(Money, for those weird foreigners that don't have presidents on their cash) in order to gain access to. Publishers may try to bullsh!t the consumer with excuses, but the truth is: they want your money. Since I mentioned Capcom before, I will use them as an example with Street Fighter X Tekken:
 "The characters aren't finished" -> Data miners found the complete. Even their endings. Their alternate costumes(Which are gonna set you back 1 extra dollar per costume).
 "It's to allow players that didn't buy the DLC to play with those that didn't" -> Right, that's why we need the endings too?
 "It had a separate budget from the main game"-> So, you planned DLC even, even if the game didn't sell well? That's risky, specially for a money-hungry publisher.
Then we have the defenders:
"Get a job and the cost becomes a non-issue"-> Having the money, doesn't mean you have to get ripped off.
"Companies exist to make money"-> Companies exist to make money, yes, but if you think about it, everything is about getting money. Being a doctor makes you earn money, so you are gonna screw with your clients by cutting back on your equipment? Give them a subpar treatment for more cash? Like... giving them a subpar product for more cash? Companies exist to make monet, but they don't need to rip out ther costumers.
 And if there was any doubt left that Capcom wanted your money, later patches altered the Character Select Screen, so even if you didn't buy the DLC, you can see ALL the characters, with the DLC ones being grayed out, as if to taunt the consumer and tempt them into giving them their money. GG Capcom, GG.

Speaking of "Grayed out" brings us to the next topic, one that is a bit more debatable.... LACK OF CONTENT AND MISCELANEOUS DLC.
 As I mentioned at the start of this piece, previous videogame generations included all sorts of bonus stuff. Alternate Costumes, Secret Characters, etc, all included in your initial purchase. Now games seem to shun unlockables in favor of selling you extra stuff. The rewards you get from finishing a game range from a mere new difficulty level to Trophies or Achievements(Which are just bragging rights). Fun. The worst part is that games haven't gotten any more content to make up for it. It's the same kind of games you bought before, with the same base of content, maybe less, but lacking all the extra unlockables. Remember Cheats? They were quite prevalent in the 32 and 64 bit generations. They were fun little extras to mess around. Now they sell you cheats(...Capcom...) or don't include them at all. Cheats were never "needed", but it seems games now are trying to act more... mature? so to speak, "This is not meant to make you have fun! It's to make you think 'cause we so deep, brah" eh, I digress, but I will talk more about that soon. The point is games have gotten more expensive to produce, games now recieve bigger budget, and they get higher quality assets, better textures, more polygons, more work, more DLC.

 Games today seem to be... trying too hard. They are trying so hard to look realistic. It sounds cliche, but it is true, games today are fond of Browns, Greys and Blacks, shunning away from the more pleasing, less realistic, colors. There are still colorful games, like most indie and anime-games, but they are the lesser kind. Colors do not make a game, but after playing 4-5 current gen games, monotony sets in, Fiction is not evil, Videogames are a form of fiction, yet it seems they are trying to ape movies. Games trying to be what they are not: Movies. Taking elements from said medium is not an inherently bad thing, but it can go too far. Examples of this are Heavy Rain, for it's unusual gameplay and Uncharted, for it's abundance of scripted scenes. I'm not saying they are bad games, but they are games pretending to be other things.
 It's not all bad though! Thank's to the internet, if you lack gamer friends, you can play online! But due to it's more... impersonal nature, it tends to bring out the worst in people, so pray you have a thick skin. But the best thing, probably, to come out of this generation, is Steam(It's older, but still), Playstation Network, Xbox Live and the such. Thanks to this services, games that had no chance of being published, maybe due to it's smaller scale, in content, now can be sold for a more reasonable price. Indie gaming has flourished thanks to this, and this is a VERY good thing.

 Yup, there are great games being made this gen, games that have huge amounts of content and don't try to rip you off with DLC(Most of the time).... Games like:
Batman Arkham Asylum and Arkham City(The DLC is not a requisite, and even without it, the game offers a boatload of content).
Lollipop Chainsaw
Borderlands(The DLC really does feel like the expansions of yore, it's a good amount of content at a reasonable price. And the main game is very beefy)
Infamous 1 and 2
Tekken Tag Tournament 2
These few games are examples of respecting the consumer. They offer more content than your average game, they reward the player for PLAYING and not for PAYING. And what DLC they may have doesn't feel like "A small addition for money" but extra content.