Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Review #136: Asterix and Obelix Kick Buttix

 Yet another game I loved when I was younger, reviewed today!
 Remember Asterix? Yeah, you probably don't. It began its life as a comic book, but managed to get a few animated adaptations. While they reached my eyes when I was younger, Asterix never took on, still, whenever I caught it on TV or came across the comic book in libraries, I'd spend my time on it. Asterix and Obelix Kick Buttix is an action/adventure game based on said comic, released for the PS2 and Gamecube, did it manage to make the license justice?

 Caesar, the main antagonist of the franchise, has raided the village of the Gauls while Asterix and Obelix were out, taking everyone captive to different parts of the world. As luck would have it, a Roman spy defects to Asterix aid and informs him of what happened, and ends up helping him save the rest of the Gauls. The story is very plain and simple, but it doesn't aim to be much more, and they got the personalities of the characters right, at least as far as I could remember, even though the supporting cast only gets little screen time. Bonus points for basing the enemies on the enemies from the comics.
 Controls are very simple, square attacks or performs context sensitive actions(Like pulling, pushing or grabbing items), X jumps and triangle performs a grab on dizzy enemies. Successfully hitting enemies raises the combo bar, once filled you can unleash special combos, provided you bought them from the vendor. Combat is very basic, and at times dull, but it seems the developers thought it was better than what it is, so many a times certain objects pertinent to your objective will become inaccessible until you defeat a certain number of enemies. Twenty enemies is alright. Forty is pushing it. By the end of the game, it will be locked behind over hundreds and hundreds of enemies, had the combat been more engaging, I wouldn't have minded, but in this game it's just obnoxious. Later in the game you can purchase the Twister combo that will thin out the enemies in a matter of seconds, I'd complain that it makes the game too easy, but in this case it's a godsend. Also, some enemies will decide to be extra annoying and will run away from you for reasons unknown, them being faster than Asterix makes finishing off 40 of these cowards quite a chore.

 Most of the time you'll play as Asterix, with Obelix on tow, Obelix's AI is alright but he takes no damage which is a plus. When you are not fighting, you'll be exploring and puzzling, and at certain times the game will switch control over to Obelix. Obelix plays basically the same as Asterix but with less Combos. Regardless, a ton of the puzzles requires switching between characters, having the game make the switch for you makes them a bit easier than they could be. As for the levels themselves, they are five in all, very colorful and lengthy, plus, they house a wide variety of collectibles and secrets, exploring levels is very fun. Among the collectibles, there are 51 Golden Laurels, getting every Golden Laurel in a level will unlock a costume for Asterix or Obelix. Controls are alright, but movement feels a bit wonky since Asterix and Obelix move with very exaggerated, floaty motions. The camera is a bit unwieldy, being a bit to sensitive, and when it moves by itself it tends to pick the worst camera angles it can. Finally, each level has a boss fight at the end... except that it's the same boss, but with additional obstacles. That's right, the same boss has to be defeated using almost the same strategy. The last boss is just two of them, very original of them, huh!
 Graphics are fairly good, all characters look just how they should, and levels are very pretty and varied. However, animation is terrible, it seems they were aiming for a cartoonish feel to the movements, but they didn't get it quite right, the end result looks off. The game has a few very good tunes, but the rest are kinda bad, plus, the game sometimes decides that it'd rather not play any background music. Voice acting was passable at best, Obelix being one of the worst.

 It seems as if I've mostly bad things to say about it, but the game is more than the sum of its parts, it actually manages to be fun when you are running and jumping around levels, it's when the game decides to push combat onto the player, locking them in those four hundred man fights when it's at its worst.
 5.0 out of 10.

Now Playing: Mario Kart 7

 Mario a la go.
 I'm going out this weekend, which means I needed a game, and I was THIS close to taking Project X Zone(That was the name? The Capcom/Namco/Sega crossover thing), but in the end I opted for Mario Kart.

 So, first impressions: Looks beautiful. I played the first of the "original" cups, and it's... eh, Shy Guy Bazaar was good, but the other three were rather plain, maybe they feel better at higher ccs. Then I played the first retro cup... they brought Mario Kart DS' Luigi's Mansion track, and it's glorious. The first N64 track was also a nice surprise. Gliding and Diving feel so superfluous, might as well not even be there.

 Oh, and no Wario? Wario better be a hidden character or something. All my mains are gone: Diddy, Bowser Jr, DryBones and Wario, what am I to do?

Now Playing: Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha VS The Soulless Army

 Name's quite a handful, eh!
 Raidou Kuzunoha the 14th is the second most badassest character in Shin Megami Tensei, second only to the HitoShura/DemiFiend. I love Raidou, however... I had only played Devil Summoner 2, inexcusable, which changes today.

 Overall impressions? A huge step down. I mean, I knew that Devil Summoner 2 was considered a HUGELY improved sequel, but I didn't know what to expect. You only take one demon at a time, melee combat is reduced to a single button(No more weak/strong blows), no demon negotiations(Do you even SMT?) and Raidou feels very slow.

 Regardless, the thing I like the most about Devil Summoner is the setting, the characters, the lore. I love the idea behind the four great Devil Summoners and how they are succeeded by people taking their names as titles, that's very cool. I love the setting of a Japan early in its westernizing, and how the Devil Summoners fit in this world. I love Raidou's cast, Tae the reporter, Gouto his mentor/first Raidou, and Narumi his chief/partner. I also took a liking to Nagi, but she was introduced in the second one, so that's one character who I won't be seeing again... this time.

 The new villains look very interesting. I kinda like the human enemies from the second one better, but this robot soldier-army is very interesting, and I love how they kick Raidou's butt in the beginning. Speaking of Raidou, I love how you take control of him as he takes the test to become Raidou, the strongest in the Kuzunoha family... yet the test has him battling low level demons! Guess their standards are reaaaally low, heh.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Review #135: OutRun 2006 - Coast 2 Coast

 This is what fun is made of.
 If there's one thing I love when it comes to games, it's when they are arcadey, meaning, they are easy to pick up, fast paced and usually score based with very little nuances at their most basic level. I don't usually like Racing games, but OutRun was a game that I always enjoyed, so I knew, I just knew that I was gonna like Outrun 2006.

 I think calling OutRun a racing game is not entirely correct, sure, you are racing against the clock, but you are not racing against other racers(At least on the main mode). "Adventure Racing Game" suits it much better, reason being the way the game itself plays. At the start of the game you start of with 99 seconds on the clock and a very straight forward path that branches in two at the end, rule of the thumb being that the left routes are always easier than the ones on the right, and then whichever route you chose branches off again for a total of 15 "tracks" and 5 possible goals. Needless to say, there's a lot of routes(20 if I'm not mistaken) you can take, and each track is completely different from each other, which is why it feels more like an adventure than anything else. OutRun 2006 actually collects both OutRun 2 and OutRun 2 SP's tracks for a total of 30(Although, sadly, you there's no "mixed" set, you either play on 2 or SP's sets). The game also features two 15 track races(One for each set) which are quite long, but feel very epic and even more of an adventure.
 The game is very simple and built around 2 techniques: Drifting and Slipstreaming. Slipstreaming, the easiest one, consists of running behind another vehicle in order to have it break the windr esistance for you, thus boosting your speed. Drifting is performed by letting go of the accelerator, quickly tapping break and then accelerate again while engaging curves. If you wish to real the finish line, you will have to learn both techniques. One thing I really loved is the difficulty curve, when I first started I usually lost by the third track, but as I got better, learning how to play, I managed to reach every goal with very little trouble. It feels very natural, and very rewarding how you manage to get a little further every time. In no time I was clearing the 15-track monsters which felt incredible.

 Besides the traditional "OutRun" Mode there's three other modes: Heart Attack, in which you must fulfill challenges to earn points as you race through the game and Time Attack, in which you compete against Ghosts as you... race through the game. Time Attack is the only mode in which you can play the unlockable Reverse Tracks(or even Reverse routes, including the 15-track routes) as far as I noticed. Lastly, there's "Coast 2 Coast" AKA Mission Mode. There's two varieties, Girlfriend missions and Flagman missions. Girlfriend missions has you completing challenges for one of three girls, but these are way crazier than the ones features in Heart Attack, like counting cars, picking up food, avoiding meteors among others. Flagman challenges are more straightforward, most of them are simple "race your rivals" in which you start off in last place and must race your way to the top in a set amount of tracks, but there's also a few more interesting ones, like Elimination races, in which every few seconds the racer in last place gets eliminated. These missions are interesting in that they feature the reversed tracks and sometimes mixes tracks from 2 and SP, and they get progressively harder as you go along, culminating in a epic race in which you start in position 100 and must reach the car at 1st.
 Playing any of these modes earns you "Miles" which you can spend in the shop to buy a ton of unlockables, cars, music, reverse tracks and colors... and here's where my first gripe with the game pops up, there are PSP unlockables. This means that the game requires you to link up with the exact same version of the gameon the PSP in order to unlock them, which would suck had it not been for the "Unlock all" cheat. Probably best use it after you are done with the game, as it will overwrite your scores in Coast 2 Coast mode. The game also lets you play the original version of OutRun 2 SP, but it feels kinda needless, as the main game contains everything and anything this has and more, only that the Arcade version doesn't net you "Miles"... maybe it's there to give you a taste of some of the unlockable cars, since everything is unlocked from the start?

 Know what the game could've used? Local Multiplayer. There's absolutely no way to play this on the same console with other players, having online is Ok I guess? But who really used the PS2's online services? It's a bit disappointing really. Since I'm at it, although this is more of a nitpick, I would've liked a mode that let you race without a timer on top, the game really lends itself to casual play, so it would've been a nice addition.
 Graphics are pretty nice, I bet having real Ferraris was a huge selling point for some, but in my opinion, it's the beautiful tracks that steal the show. Each track is very distinctive, particular stand outs being Milky Road and Casino Town. It's a very lively, colorful game and these tracks never get old. The soundtrack is phenomenal, every song lends itself to the game, with "Night Flight" being my favorite. Nothing, absolutely nothing beats drifting at top speed while listening to Night Flight, it feels incredible.

 OutRun 2006 is an amazing game, I found myself getting sucked in the game oh so many times, driving in this game feels like a dream, the sense of speed coupled with the amazing environments and the great tunes.... It's a fantastic game.
 9.0 out of 10.

Now Playing: Asterix & Obelix - Kick Buttix

 Hey, I'm almost done with Outrun(Already!) and the month ain't over yet.
 So, I'm coming out of Outrun 2006, fun made disc, and.... Oh god. I loved this game when I was younger, I had such fond memories of it that I just had to have it.... Either it hasn't aged well or I didn't know what a good game was... but then again, I liked Quest 64. Still do actually.

 Animation is terrible, music is used sparingly who knows why, you switch between Asterix and Obelix when the game feels like switching, combat feels off, I can't pull off the Combo I bought I dunno why... Yeah, I'm not having much fun....

Monday, July 28, 2014

Now Playing: Outrun 2006 Coast 2 Coast

 Can't call me nooow, can't call me noooooow
 This game is what fun is made out of. I don't really like Racing games, but I've always had a soft spot for Outrun, mostly due to the fact that it feels more like a... racing game adventure than a racing game per se. And the new 3D graphics make it feel even more of an adventure.

 Initially I couldn't finish a single round, but after mastering the art of drifting I managed to, and let me tell ya, when you are going at top speeds, cruising through the fantastic locales, drifting alongside some phenomenal tracks(Night Flight being my favorite so far)... it feels amazing, AMAZING.

 I also found out that there are some PSP exclusives. thanks Sega. There's at least 1 unlockable on each catergory that requires you to link up with the PSP version of the game, because you really need to own the same game twice. Sigh, after I'm done with the game and unlocking everything myself, I'm gonna try the "100% cheat" and see if it unlocks the PSP exclusives, if it doesn't.... am I gonna be angry.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Review #134: God of War - Ascension

 I WILL HAVE MY (first)REVENGE... two games later.
 God of War Ascension is the latest entry in this hack-and-slash series, but chronologically, it's the first one. Because we really needed another prequel. One of my biggest gripes with the series in general is that they refuse to change, in more ways than one, but is Ascension the exception?

 The game takes place roughly 8 months after Kratos killed his family(Spoilers? Not that the game doesn't straight up tell you), imprisoned by the Furies. After breaking free, the game switches between past, on the beginning of his quest, and present, in the Fury Citadel. It's... and odd way of telling the story, interestingly, the "present" only gets three scenes, the start of the game, a short while midway through, and then the last part of the game, it's funny because midway through the game you defeat one of the Furies, yet in what would be the "past" scenes, which follow said fight, you'll be carrying more weapons(And probably enhanced them) and fight that very same Fury, unable to kill her. What I mean to say is that the style they chose to tell the story with doesn't mesh well with the gameplay. Not that it matters much, they promised a much more "human" Kratos, and they sorta delivered, but the story is very sparse(Not that it should matter in an action game) but the way this "nice" Kratos behaves around certain NPCs isn't very convincing. Furthermore, it being another prequel kinda takes some of the "impact" away, we already know how the story ends, who cares about the new story that won't affect or even be mentioned in subsequent games? Kratos has already slain gods, gone to Hades, awoken the titans... this adventure feels less impressive as a whole.
 Gameplay is almost the same as other GoWs, while I usually complain that combat is never changed enough(As in, you always get the same combos with the Blades of Chaos/Exile/Athena, but you have to earn all the levels back), this game does make some changes, in my opinion, for worse. For starters, Kratos doesn't get a real "alternate" weapon this time, instead, you can pick up weapons dropped from enemies, which sounds really cool until you realize that most of them are really weak, there's absolutely no reason not to use them over the other weapons. For some reason, they also decided to lock most combos behind the "Rage" meter, what's inexcusable is that they locked staple combos from the series! To be fair, since by the next game Kratos will have gotten stronger, it's kinda cool that he'll be able to use them without the need for rage, but seeing how most of us probably played this game after the others... it's kinda lost on us.

 As for the Rage meter, it increases as you deal damage, but taking damage or whenever you exit combat will make it decrease. It's not a fun mechanic in any way. New to the series, you can now imbue the Blades of Chaos with one of four "elements", Ares' Fire, Zeus' Thunder, Hades' energy? and Poseidon's Ice, each one has a couple of exclusive moves, unique bonuses and each one has a different magic attack. It sounds interesting, but Ice and Thunder are kinda weak when compared to Ares', and what Hades' lack in strength, it makes up in AoE and range. The game also introduces three objects that are used for puzzle solving or combat, these addition I actually liked. The Amulet allows you to freeze an enemy in place, or reconstruct certain broken structures, the Heart creates a double of Kratos that stomps the battlefield or can be used to hold levers or switches in place, and the Eyes can stun or dispel the Fury's Illusions.
 This is a GoW game, so of course QTEs return, but they have outgrown their welcome. Worst of all, it uses the same style GoW III used, with tiny prompts on the four corners of the screen. These create an illusion of interaction, and makes you pay more attention to the corners of the screen rather than to what is happening, which is a shame since cut-scenes are pretty cool. Just give me straight-up cutscenes, you are not fooling anyone, all I'm doing is pressing buttons. Another issue I had is that the button you use to grapple/initiate brutal kills on enemies is the same button you use to pick up weapons, and Kratos tends to prioritize grabbing weapons over causing damage, which was pretty annoying.

 While God of War has always had climbing segments, these were usually rather short, and often times there were enemies you could or had to slay while hanging... for some reason they decided to appease the Uncharted/Assassin's Creed crowd by adding scripted climbing sequences. While the vistas on some of these look rather pretty, they feel very out of place in a GoW game, not to mention that there are no enemies in these, it's just Kratos moving along ledges or broken walls, jumping from gap to gap just because. They also added some sliding sequences, they packed a ton of these in the earlier parts of the game, to a point where they seemed forced, but luckily they drop in frequency on the latter half of the game, maybe they realized that it was only amusing the first two times. And to further prove that this time they went with style over substance, there are a couple of times where the camera will zoom all the way out, which admittedly looks very pretty, but during combat you won't be able to distinguish what is gonna attack you next and/or how to dodge or block appropriately.
 The game lasts seven hours, probably less if you know what to do, which makes it shorter than any other console GoW game. But while previous GoWs, even handheld ones, held a plethora of unlockables in the way of challenge arenas and trials, Ascension has... nothing. Oh, they do have a tacked-on multiplayer mode, but it's hardly the same. In Multiplayer, you choose an allegiance(Zeus, Ares, Poseidon or Hades) which affects your magic and your stats. They also allow you to customize your character... barely. There's a decent amount of armor items, but everyone plays as the same tall, muscular, bald guy, but most of these items are either earned by playing a lot or a couple of them are only obtainable by paying real money. Microtransactions in a first party 60 dollar game, way to go Sony! Heck, the Cestus weapons are only obtainable with real money. As for the mode itself, it does offer a fair amount of modes, there's a couple of single player trials, co-op stages, variations of deathmatch and capture the flag, with both original maps and maps based off areas of the main game. Regardless, GoW never needed a Multiplayer mode, it does feel tacked on, and the addition of microtransactions does nothing to hide that fact.

 If there's one thing that can't be argued, is that the presentation is top notch. Graphics are amazing, textures, architecture, human characters and monsters, all look gorgeous and very detailed. Animation is as fluid as ever, with a silky smooth frame rate at all times. There's some particularly amazing vistas in this game, and the last boss looks amazing, even if the fight itself is a bit disappointing. Music sets the mood for each scene perfectly, and voice acting is top-notch, as per usual.

 I may have spent most of the review complaining about it, but the game holds the same foundations as every other God of War game, it is a fun game, it is entertaining, but it's probably the weakest entry in the God of War series.
 7.5 out of 10.

Review #133: Shin Megami Tensei - Devil Summoner - Soul Hackers

 Surprise review(I was 6+ hours in by the time I had access to my computer, so I skipped the impressions)!
 It's no secret that I'm  rather fond of the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, so as soon as I heard that Atlus was porting one of the many games that hadn't reached stateside, I knew I had to to had it. Soul Hackers is a first person RPG set in present-ish day Japan, as in most SMT games, you are to obtain the aid of demons in your adventure.

 As per usual, you take the role of a silent hero, with a name and last name of your choosing. In this particular instance, you are a member of the Spookies, a group of hackers that live in Amami City, a city that thrives in technology and information transmission. Very early in the game, a new virtual city game launches, Paradigm X, and you alongside Hitomi, a fellow member of the Spookies, hack your ID into the beta testers... soon enough you ran across Kinap, a spirit that sends you on quests through the eyes of dead people, and Hitomi gets possessed by the Demon Nemissa, and then demons start appearing on certain locations... Yes, it's Shin Megami Tensei alright. I found the story to be just the right amount of interesting and engaging to keep you pushing on, but by SMT standards, it's not too deep or long(I clocked 25 hours before finishing the game without altering the difficulty), but most of the main cast are deep enough with different personalities to make them endearing.
 When inside dungeons, the game takes place in first person, as you go around exploring. Dungeons start off pretty straight forward, but get progressively more complex as you go along, the complexity never spikes too hard which is a good thing. Another thing I kinda liked is that dungeons are quite long, now a days dungeons tend to last 20 minutes or so, not here, and the random encounter rate isn't too big. Battles are turn-based, and you get plenty of options. your main character can talk to demons, to negotiate with them and try to recruit them, hit with a sword, hit with a gun, use items or summon demons, Nemissa/Hitomi can use a sword, a gun, items or magic while you can order your demons yourself or have their AI choose their moves, they can't use items though. Both enemies and allies have different resistances and weaknesses, sometimes this translates into draining or even reflecting a source of damage, these are innate to each demon, but on humans it depends on what armor pieces their are wearing. It's a fun combat system, but sadly before the "press turn" mechanics that are so fun in modern SMT gams.

 Defeating enemies will reward you with experience points and the most important currency in the game: Macca. Macca can be sold for money to spend in shops, it can be used to negotiate with demons, you need it to fuse demons(Demons don't level up, so you must fuse or recruit new demons in order to maintain a good party) and you need it to summon demons. Yes, summoning a a demon(Placing them from stand by into your party) costs a certain amount of Macca depending on the demon, and just having them on the party consume Macca for each step you take in the dungeon(Which is why you should only fill all 4 demon slots on boss fights only). Honestly, it's not as annoying as it sounds, Macca was never an issue for me. What is annoying, however, is the Loyalty system. Demons have different personalities, and these reflect on how they want to be commanded("dumb" demons should be allowed to do what they want, "Sly" demons like casting spells, "Wild" like to attack,etc), and unless they hit Loyalty level 5, there's a chance that they might not listen to your orders. But what is annoying is that sometimes, even with maxed loyalty, they will refuse your order and do whatever they want, and these will cost you loyalty! "Grinding" for loyalty on your demons, to have them at optimum loyalty for boss fights, isn't much fun.
 The main character carries a "COMP", a miniature computer slotted on his arm, which is where you carry your demons(Demons are data). There's a maximum slot count, which you should keep in mind, but the best feature of this COMP is that you can slot it with different chips. Some are merely cosmetic, but others provide useful qualities, like healing you as you walk or allowing you to save anywhere. Speaking of saving anywhere, that one is kind of a must, seeing how cheap the game gets on the latter dungeons. Latter dungeons have enemies spamming Hanma, Mudo or Stone-inducing attacks. Y'see, if the main character dies, the game is over, even if you have other allies alive. Hanma and Mudo, if they hit, are 1 hit KOs, and if you main character gets petrified, it's game over as well. Now, you can nullify these depending on your equipment, but having resistance to all three is either impossible or crippling your defense. It gets borderline frustrating just how much enemies love spamming and targeting the main character with these by the end of the game, which is why the Save Anywhere feature is so useful. Going back to the COMP, very early in the game you get "Hacks", which allow you to decrease or increase the difficulty(As far as I could tell, it affects the damage you receive? I didn't test it much as I preferred to stay on the default difficulty), allow you to see the enemies weaknesses and strengths among other goodies.

 As for the presentation.... this looks like a DS game A pet peeve of mine is when people say that a game looks like "A game from X Console", X usually being a console from a previous generation, but in this case, it's true. Graphics are very dry and lack any kind of animation, it's not ugly by any means, but it looks very dated. The 3D does nothing for the game, might as well not even bother. Music was pretty good, not the best of SMT's soundtracks, but it's good, fitting music. As for the voice acting... every scene in the game is voiced, and the voice acting is excellent, every performance was believable. Lastly, while the game is rather short for an SMT game, finishing the game unlocks "Extra Game", a six mini-dungeon romp with extremely hard bosses, if you want a real challenge, and you can't save until you are done!

 Soul Hackers is a really good game, but rather short by SMT's standards. Thanks to the "hacks", it's pretty accessible if you aren't familiar with SMT, although the latter dungeons can get pretty annoying with all the instakill spell spam. It's hard to recommend over other SMT games, but it's still a good game.
 7.5 out of 10.

Now Playing: God of War Ascension

 I'm not done with Darksiders II!
 Darksiders II is awesome, but it's pretty clear I won't be done with it by the end of the month, and I've been wanting to play this one for a while, and since vacations will be over by the end of the month... I said let's do this.

 Multiplayer: Decent-ish. It's nothing special, it's full of microtransactions if you want the really cool looking armors, and then there are other armors that you need to grind levels. Also, you HAVE to be bald. It feels tacked on and the microtransactions add insult to the injury.

 Single Player: Graphics are amazing, probably the best looking game I've ever played. Gameplay is basically the same as previous games, but for some reason they tied some of Kratos' old moves behind the rage meter. Why? I mean, it makes it look cool when you play GoW 1 or Chains of Olympus, with a stronger and oler Kratos, and having those moves as normal moves, but since this one was the last released, it's just annoying. And the QTEs are getting old, they outgrew their welcome by the time GoW III hit the scene, this is just dumb. And did they really need all this climbing sequences? The Uncharted/Assassin's Creed influence is undeniably, GoW always had platforming, but not like this.

 It may sound like I've only bad things to say about it, but I am having fun, just not as much as I had with previous games.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Review #132: Street Fighter Alpha Anthology

 Even more Street Fighter goodness.
 Street Fighter Alpha Anthology is a collection of every single iteration, arcadewise, of the Street Fighter Alpha series. It'd take a while to get in-depth about each of the seven games, so I'll just talk a bit about every game.

 First up is the very first release, Street Fighter Alpha. This is, probably, the slowest SF Alpha game, it's pretty easy to notice, not that that makes it bad. This game introduced the basic mechanics on which the rest of the series would build upon, there's Air Guarding, Alpha Counters and the then-new three-tiered energy meter which you could burn on Alpha Counters or special attacks of varying strengths, depending on how much meter you'd spend. The game offers a then-respectable 13 character roster, and the very first time Final Fight would cross over to the Street Fighter world via Guy(even though it was already confirmed that both series took place in the same world). It's a decent time-waster, but having the much superior Alpha 2 and Alpha 3, there's no real reason to return to this one. Besides the Arcade mode, you get VS, Training, Survival and a very short "2 vs 1" mode. Oh, and the font is kinda hard to read.
 Alpha 2 introduces 5 new characters, various tweaks, new endings for every character and the addition of "Variable Combos", by spending meter and pressing either two kick or two punch buttons. There's no much more to say about this one, it's basically Alpha 1 with more characters. Then there's Alpha 2 Gold, which introduces Cammy, new moves for some characters and "Super Turbo" versions of characters returning from Street Fighter. To be honest, there's little point in to playing Alpha 2 when Alpha 2 is clearly the game with more stuff, even if most is just fluff. Both Alpha 2 and Alpha 2 Gold contain the same game modes as Alpha 1.

 Alpha 3 not only contains even more characters, but the overall gameplay received major tweaks. For starters, after picking a character you get to pick an "ISM", basically, an style. You get Variable Ism, which turns your Energy Meter into a two tiered gauge that allows for Custom Combos, Standard Ism, basically Alpha 1 style and X Ism which gives you a single energy bar and reduces you to only one Super, albeit much stronger than its Standard Ism counterpart. Clearing the game with at least one character unlocks Street Fighter Alpha 3 Upper, which is Alpha 3 with a ton of new characters and new playstyles, just as Alpha 2 Gold makes Alpha 2 obsolete, the same goes for Alpha 3 Upper and Alpha 3. Contains the same modes as the previous games, but the 2 vs 1 mode is fleshed out.
 Then there's Super Gem Fighter Mini-Mix, a fighting game featuring super-deformed incarnations of various characters from Capcom fighting games(Mostly from Street Fighter). It's a very different kind of game, much more beginner friendly, there's only a Punch, a Kick and a Special button. When you hit your enemy, or various objects that randomly spawn, they drop gems which you can pick up to strengthen your special moves. While it's very cutesy and easy to play, it does have a little bit of depth and it's fun for a while.

 After beating the previous six games with at least 1 character you unlock Hyper Street Fighter Alpha. Just as with Hyper Street Fighter 2, you can pick any iteration of a character and pit it against any iteration of another character. There's also bonus "Styles" based on Darkstalkers, Marvel VS Capcom and Street Fighter 3 to further mix it up. It's a great bonus but... only Training and VS player mode, disappointingly.
 Luckily, when it comes to presentation, this holds true for every game: Graphics are very good, very colorful, while the animation isn't as smooth as Street Fighter 3's, it has a very anime feel. Characters have big frames and even bigger muscles(Not as big as Street Fighter IV though!), alongside a very flashy presentation thanks to the FX and the style used for cutaways between matches and menus. Music excellent, offering a wide arrange of tracks throughout all 7 games, ranging from really good to catchy. Bonus points for having 0 load times after you pick a game! There's also a nice variety of extras in the form of secret menus and color edit on every character in every game.

 While I don't find Alpha as appealing as Street Fighter III, as a whole, this is a better compilation than the Anniversary Collection. Even if you only plan to play Alpha 3(Seeing how its got the most characters), it's nice to have the other 2(5?). If you love Street Fighter, or Fighting Games, this is a no-brainer.
 9.0 out of 10.

Now Playing: Street Fighter Alpha Anthology

 Because I haven't had enough Street Fighter yet!
 Firstly, a bit about my history with the Alpha series: The first game in the series I played was Alpha 2 on the PC. I didn't know anything about the series, as far as I was concerned, only 2 and 3 existed, and I had only played 3 what... 1-2 times on the Arcades. I instantly fell in love with it, it was beautiful, both in gameplay and graphics. I must've spent hours in front of the computer playing that damn game... and then I found out about Alpha 3 and the massive cast of characters, needless to say, it was a major factor in me jumping to the PS2 instead of the Gamecube from the Nintendo 64.

 Alpha 3 on the PS1 was beautiful, a ton of characters and a great single player mode, I loved it a lot. I didn't spend as much time playing it as I played Alpha 2 on the PC, mostly because I had a lot of other stuff to play on the PS2, but I did return to it every now and then.... and then the GBA port was announced. I think the GBA version of Alpha 3 was the game I've taken abroad the most, sure, the GBA's lack of buttons crippled the game, but it was still Street Fighter Alpha 3 and you got three(Eagle, Maki and Yun) new characters!

 You could say I like the Alpha series. I've just started it and I'm making my way through Alpha 1, and as a I played it I couldn't help but notice the amount of care that Capcom has always taken when it came to Street Fighter. Street Fighter 1 is best left forgotten, but 2, 3, Alpha and IV are all fantastic in their own way. Sure, they go over board with their updates, and ever since we got into the DLC era Capcom has gotten... greedy, to say the least, but they've always been quality games. Except Street Fighter X Tekken, Capcom just wanted money when it came to that one.

 So, what can I say? This compilation is beautiful.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Review #131 : Street Fighter - Anniversary Collection

 Now with double the amount of Shoryukens.
 Street Fighter 2 was the game that initiated the Fighting Game craze of the nineties. Street Fighter 3 is, sadly, a cult hit, but those who know it know the amount of depth that game has. So for Street Fighter's 15th anniversary Capcom decided to bundle both games and release them back in the PS2/Xbox era and this is what we got.

 It had been a while since I last played Street Fighter 2, but as soon as I turned it on, my god, it all came back, all the nostalgia surrounding that game. Street Fighter 2 is a timeless classic that has aged very little, and this iteration of the game is probably my favorite, when it comes to playing with other people anyways. This game contains the "Hyper Street Fighter 2" edition of the game, basically, a Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo tweaked to allow you to pick any available iteration of each character. Want to pit vanilla SF 2 Ryu, before he got any command moves or the super meter, against Super Turbo's Akuma? You can do it. Casuals won't see much differences between iterations, but not only is it fun to pick from any version of the character, it also allows you to see just how much the character evolved with each iteration, just look at how the 4 original bosses had a ton of recycled animations, but by Super Turbo their crouching normals got changed.
 The one aspect of the game that has seen better days is the graphics department. Characters sprites are ugly, when compared to other copycats of the era, the animation and sprites are gorgeous, but by today standards they are a bit on the ugly side. Luckily the gameplay still cements it as one of the best, that hasn't changed. On the other hand, the soundtrack in this game is glorious, almost every tune in the game could be considered a classic on its own. The bonus games(Destroying a car, destroying a pile of bricks, etc) are gone, while on a nostalgic level I kinda lament it, I would've probably turned them off after playing them once, so it's not too bad. Lastly, the game has barely any loading times, although for some reason, when switching menus it takes quite a while to load, but once the arcade ladder or versus'ing gets going, the loading times are gone.

 While the game is still a real masterpiece, there are a few nitpicks to be had. For instance, the AI is brutal, it can be challenging even at its easiest difficulty. You don't play the CPU to learn the basics of your character, no, you play the CPU to outcheese it. Now, couple this with the lack of modes(Arcade, Versus and Training mode) and you'll realize that if you meant to play by yourself... you are not gonna have much fun. Fighting games are meant to be played with other players, and it's especially true in this case. There's also not a lot of extras, it's nice that we get a gallery with the openings for all Street Fighter 2's editions... but why can't we get a gallery for the unlocked endings? Ah well...
 As for Street Fighter 3, the game packs the "Third Strike" version of the game, the last one and, arguably, the best one. It would've been nice to get the other 2(Especially since they have different backgrounds, different balancing, leap attacks were performed differently and Yang was a Yun clone in vanilla SF3!), but you'd probably forget about them pretty fast. What can I say about Street Fighter III? It's one of the deepest fighting games ever created, and a personal favorite, that never gets old. There's a lot of strategy in its mechanics, from the amazing parry(After I first learned of it, back in the day, I started wishing other games would implement it as well!), the fact that the Super Move you choose affects the amount of meter you get(Both in size and amount of bars) which forces you to consider how will you use the EX moves... It's an amazing game that sadly never got as renowned as it deserved to due to many characters being "weird" or new, gamers don't usually like new things sadly.

 The game is almost opposite of SF II when it comes to presentation, the graphics in this game are glorious(Like SF II's soundtrack), with smooth and detailed animation few 2D games can match. Music on the other hand isn't as good as SF II. It's not bad by any means, it simply is... a bit forgettable, and coming right out of SF II it's hard not to miss those great tracks. While it only has Arcade, Versus and Training, like SF II, the AI isn't annoying in this one, and you get unlockables in the form of Gill and more colors for each character! Plus, you can mess around in the "Directions" menu to alter how the game plays. You can disable Super Moves, Guarding, Throwing, Jumping among a lot of other thingies which could lead to some amusing situations.
 Before rounding up, let's not forget that the game packages the Street Fighter 2 movie. It's a decent flick, great music, good voice acting, great art-style, decent animation and terrible, terrible story. If you like characters like Blanka, Dee Jay, Cammy or Zangief you are outta luck, but at least you get to see all 16 characters from Street Fighter 2. The movie only comes with the American dub, which I found to be pretty good, but I know that some will hate the lack of Japanese voice acting.

 Street Fighter Anniversary Collection collects the most important entry in the series, and probably gaming history(SF II) and, arguably, the best one(SF III). There's absolutely no going wrong with this one, however, to make the most of it you are gonna need another player. It's also a bit hard to recommend this version of SF III when the HD edition on PS3/X360 contains the same game, but enhanced and with more single player content. But hey, at least you get SF II and a movie with this one!
 9.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Now Playing: Street Fighter - Anniversary Collection

 I just wanted to watch the movie...
 ... but the game sunk its claws on me and... I found myself playing Street Fighter II. Street Fighter III might be my favorite, but the movie is on SF II's gallery, so I went there... and kinda wanted to try out the game, for old time's sake and... I found myself engrossed in it. I had forgotten just how GOOD Street Fighter II was, definitely a timeless classic. And that music? My god, that music. is amazing.

 What else can I say? This game is a blast, and now I'm off to watch the movie, but I had to log that I officially began playing this one, I doubt I'll make a new entry for SF III though.

Archile's Grab Bag: Early Wednesday Edition

  New package!
  Dishonored - Game of the Year Edition: I've been wanting to play this one for a while, but since loads of DLC kept getting released I chose to wait. And here we are!
  God of War - Ascension: The God of War series is surprisingly good, and for some reason they decided to go back in time instead of continuing the story(We all know Kratos is alive). Hardcore fans of the series call it the worst in the series, and to be honest, knowing that it's yet another sequel kinda makes it feel less exciting.
  Mass Effect Trilogy: Another game(series) I've been wanting to play for a long long while, but decided to wait for a GOTY or a Collection.
  Spawn - Armageddon: Spawn on the PS1 looks terrible, Spawn on the Dreamcast looks like my kind of game, Spawn on the PS2... got mixed reviews, but I kinda liked it! It was time I got it again.
  Crash Team Racing: I've never been much of a fan of racing games, but I do love Crash, and since I plan to play every major Crash game I had to get it. Except Crash Bash, screw Bash.
  Samurai Champloo - Sidetracked: While I loved the series, I never much cared for the game... until I found out Suda 51 was involved. I need to play this.
Crash Bandicoot - The Wrath of Cortex: Part of my Play all Crash games mission, the loading times sure are annoying.... ah well, I think I will go through 1 to 3 before tackling Wrath of Cortex(4).

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Now Playing: Darksiders II

 Death comes to all.
 It's no secret that I adored Darksiders(10 outta 10), first thing I did after I finished? Looked up where to buy Darksiders 2, which I promptly did the day after(Today). I'm dead serious. There's so much I want to talk about that I don't even know where to begin with...

 Let's see, first thing I noticed after booting up the game? This music is amazing. Darksiders 1's music was nothing special, I barely even noticed it was there, which is why it surprised me so much. Guess I'll do gameplay next, well, the introductory segment up till the battle against The Keeper of Secrets/Dark War was fantastic, everything I expected Darksiders 2 to be and more, basically, Darksiders 1 with RPG elements, which sounds like a kickass idea to be honest. And then I reached the overworld... I dunno how I feel about it? It's a bit barren, sure, there are chests, pages and probably other stuff hidden away(And it's really cool how the barriers preventing you from accessing other areas are, well, the lack of tools to reach the entrances! I could already spot what looked like grappling points). Still, I liked Darksiders 1's narrower overworld a bit more, at least as far as I've played. After reaching the Cauldron I was afraid that the game turned into a Action-RPG with no puzzles, but my worries were laid to rest pretty early on, luckily. It's funny 'cause I usually prefer more straightforward action games, but puzzling is part of what made Darksiders so good, it had to return! Funnily enough, I couldn't avoid noticing that the game feels a lot like Kingdoms of Amalur, the greens and the golem-like enemies... it's very reminiscent of KoA, which is a bit odd, but it seems that DS 2 will take place over more... mystical lands instead of the remnants of Earth, which is a shame as the previous setting was great, but who knows the game might still surprise.

 Then I wanna talk about Death. I spent a bit reading up on TVTropes, avoiding spoilers, about Death, and it seemed like he was gonna be a speedster type of character. And it shows, his frame is slimmer and he doesn't wear heavy armor or huge weapons, unlike War. Actually, you can equip hammers and maces, which are huge, but Death attacks very slowly while wielding them. Regardless, I was afraid that he wouldn't feel as badass, or as strong as he is supposed to be, he is the strongest of the Horsemen after all... Well, as soon as you start fighting you'll notice that the way he zips around, shredding everything in his wake, he could totally stand up to War. Heck, the first boss is an apparition of War. The first boss! Going back to War, I love how they have very different personalities, and they made a great job at portraying him as very cocky, but considering his strength, confident suits him better. He also seems to have a very cynical sense of humor "They call me pup or lad, but I much prefer my own name, Karn", to which Death answers "Pup it is then". If I had to choose, I prefer War, both visually and personality-wise, but Death is very cool in his own right.

 Basically, I'm loving the game, I've mixed feelings about the overworld, but it might change with time.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Review #130: Darksiders

 In which I proceed to praise this game from top to bottom.
 Y'know how people with a terrible understanding of the word "mature" want a "mature Zelda"? This is that game. Developed by Vigil Games and published by THQ before their demise, Darksiders is a game that borrows a ton of elements from other games and blends them together seamlessly. The adventuring and puzzling from The Legend of Zelda series and combat mechanics that feel like a mix of Devil May Cry(the combo system) with God of War(The heavy feel behind the attacks, dodging), it's something that, surprisingly, hadn't been tried before, and it works. It works so well.

 The game takes place before and after the Apocalypse. You play as War, one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who comes to deliver the human race only to discover that the seals, which were placed to stop Heaven and Hell from invading the kingdom of man, hadn't been broken yet. War loses a fight with the demon Straga and spends 100 years in imprisonment while his wounds heal. Awoken and healed, he is directed by the Council to find out what happened and end all who were involved, placing him under the leash of a Watcher(Voiced by Mark Hamill!). The Story is alright, but where the game really shines is in its setting, the world itself, all the very memorable characters, fantastic scenes of badassery and some fantastic lines.
 The game is set in the Kingdom of Men, or what remains of it, as War comes across the demon Samael who promises to take him to the Destroyer's lair if he slays the four Chosen of the Destroyer(The game is full of terms depicting badassery like these!). What this translates to is to War finding the dungeons, finding the boss inside and killing it. The game borrows a lot from Zelda in this regard, as the dungeons are filled with puzzles, and you'll usually come across a tool that will aid you in clearing the puzzles inside, defeating the boss, and then granting you access to treasures in the overworld that you couldn't reach before. Puzzles are very fun to figure out, and the way they gradually get harder as you advance through the game is very well balanced.

 While Puzzles are a big part of any Zelda game, the combat is usually just a means to an end(Maybe clear the room to open a locked door or what have you) and very shallow to boot. Not so here, War will do battle against zombies, Demons and Angels, aided by his sword, the ChaosEater, a Scythe, a Metal gauntlet and other miscellaneous tools that double as weapons. The game maps the ChaosEater to the Square button, and whichever secondary weapon to the Triangle, while tools are used with the R2 button. Controls are very simple, but combat is very fun and gratifying. While War's moveset isn't as large as Kratos or Dante's, it's serviceable and allows for simple juggling combos or switching weapons mid attack. Thanks to the weight behind each attack, it feels really good. He also has access to deffensive manouvers, a dash that doubles as a dodge and a parry/counterattack move by timing the guard button just as you get attacked. War also has four different spells that can be assigned to a four-slot palette accessed by holding the L1 button. Lastly, as you deal damage with the ChaosEater you'll fill your chaos gauge, once maxed, you can enter War's alternate form, not unlike a Balrog from Middle Earth, and wreck havoc on your foes.
 Killing enemies rewards you with souls, which you can then use to barter with Vulgrin in order to buy new moves, consumables or enhancements. There are 12 enhancements in the game, 2 that you can buy, the rest you have to find, these provide slotted and passive bonuses. Passive bonuses are granted just by possessing the enhancement, but you can also slot them to any of your three main weapons in order to gain better buffs. Speaking of finding, there's a ton, a TON of stuff to find, usually hidden behind puzzles, there's Life Shards(Collect four to extend your life bar!), Wrath shards(To increase your Wrath bar, aka mana), the Abyssal Armor set, relics and, well, the enhancements. There's no shortage of stuff to find.

 The art direction for this game was helmed by Joe Madureira and it shows, big, muscled guys sporting huge pieces of armor and weapons, but it's all very stylized. Joe Madureira's art has never been translated to 3D so faithfully before, and it looks glorious. Character design is excellent all around, the NPC demons, like Samel and Vulgrim, in particular look very good and detailed, War himself is no slouch either. The world of Darksiders is very beautiful, with a lot of different environments to traverse. Voice acting is just as good, with a ton of known names involved, like Liam O'Brien and Troy Barker, but the rest do a solid job as well, every Voice Actor manages to sell you on their character. As for the music... it's there? It's not that it's bad by any means, it simply isn't very notable.
 As much as I loved the game, there were a couple of minor inconveniences that I should at least mention. the biggest one being how limited your slots are. There are six tools but only three slots for them, which means that by the end of the game you could potentially have to go back and forth to the menu to equip and unequip some of them, especially if you want to use the Mercy. This also goes for the skills/consumables, there are four skills and a different variety of consumables, but they all share the same 4-slot palette, I played on normal and didn't use consumables at all, but I can see how this could become annoying. There's also a bit of input lag when pressing buttons, but nothing too bothersome.

 Darksiders is hands down one of my favorite games released on the last generation, I actually struggled coming up with bad things to say about it, which is why I called them minor inconveniences, as they didn't managed to put a blemish on this masterpiece. Some people might take issue with the game not having a single original gameplay mechanic to call its own, but when it does what it does so well, who cares? A game doesn't need to be original as long as its fun, and Darksiders is as fun as it gets.
 10 out of 10.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Review #129: Dragon Ball Z - Ultimate Tenkaichi

 I hate myself for buying this garbage.
 Which are the bigger criticisms that DBZ games get? That all the games are basically the same, they refuse to evolve, they are style over substance. So Bandai decided to make a new system(Which reuses a ton of animations from Raging Blast mind you) that makes the game, basically, play itself for you. This is to Dragon Ball games what Final Fantasy XIII is to the RPG genre.

 There's four modes to this game: Story, Hero, VS and Tournament. The latter two are self explanatory, so I'll go over the first two. Story Modes is actually rather good, it covers the story from the Saiyan saga to the Buu saga, with a couple of bonus Movie fights and a GT fight. The story mode does an alright job of retelling the story, there's a nice amount of in-game cutscenes with a few remastered scenes from the anime(These are amazing, the quality is very crisp). Sadly, a ton of context is giving on text-scrolls before each chapter, and these take a long time to scroll, so you'll might as well skip'em, still, a very lengthy mode and a good retelling of the series. Then comes Hero mode, in which the much touted "Create-a-Character" character is the protagonist. This is an all new story, which is a mediocre fanfiction at most, but hey, at last we get to create a character! It does come with a few shortcomings however, the creator is very barebones, you can unlock a couple of new hairstyles or clothes from the main cast, but it's very limited all in all. As good as that could possibly sound, this mode is a grindfest through and through, you can unlock skills to customize loadouts, but these involve fighting each master 6 times, and each character in the cast is a master, so it will take a long time. This wouldn't be such a chore if the game was any fun, but more on that later. Grinding isn't just limited to that, the fights in this mode will get exponentially harder as you go along, requiring you to fight fights in the overworld in order to raise your stats, which takes a long time. Still, fights will get nigh impossible, with enemies that can destroy you in two combos while it would take you a whole lot more to bring them down.
 Being a grindfest is the least of this game's problems, sadly. The new gameplay mechanics are downright terrible, no two questions about it. Basically, you are place in an arena alongside your enemy, and you both get free movement around each other. Fights take place either at "Blast Range" or "Melee Range", you can only change range by executing a move that has you pressing either left or right, your enemy does the same, if the enemy presses the same direction, you receive damage, otherwise they'll take damage, regardless of the outcome, you'll change range. Now then, Triangle executes a Strong Attack at close range or a strong ki blast at long range, while Square will produce a Ki blast combo or a melee combo. This is where it gets "interesting", after pressing square three times(And assuming at least the last attack connects) you'll enter a minigame in which you must either press Square or Triangle, once again, your enemy does the same, if they press the same button as you, your chain is cancelled, otherwise you initiate multiple cutscenes of you smashing your enemy while the game has you pressing square or triangle to make you feel as if you are doing something.

 Notice the problem with the game? Everything(unless you hit them on their back) you do puts you into a 50-50 situation in which you either take damage or deal damage, regardless if you are on the offensive or not. This is so dumb, and worst of all, the game basically plays itself as the same animations and camera angles play over and over and over and over and over again. While some of the basic Square attacks are different between some characters, the special "enders" after each chain is the same for every single character, you'll be seeing the same animations over and over again. This game is terrible. There's another underlying mechanic in the form of ki, when the enemy uses a special attack, if you have Ki, you can spend it to guard, evade or counterattack the move, and there's a tiny bit of strategy involved, since if you get your enemies into a chain you'll take away from their Ki meter(Square button chains take away more Ki, but increase your Special move gauge slower, and it's the other way around for Triangle chains). Oh, and lest I forget, there's input lag. All those QTEs? You gotta be extra fast because your inputs register late. All those times you have to press a button once a marker reaches a certain point? Gotta press it earlier. This is especially noticeable in the tutorial where many have spent hours trying to get it right, you just need to know about the input lag.
 One of the few neat things about the game is that you can choose which special moves to equip on a character, mind you, not all characters have more than two specials, but it's still a neat detail. Or it would be if it wasn't for the fact that the character roster is very lacking. If characters where more unique, I'd easily forgive it(Or if the game was any good), but there's no excuse for such a small roster that's missing characters such as Goten, Kid Trunks or Dabura while tertiary characters like Pui are in. It's even worse when you consider the huge amount of animations that were lifted straight from Budokai Tenkaichi/Raging Blast, where did they spend their budget money? Or was this game made on a small budget? The real question is, who thought that a game in which everything you do puts you in a 50-50 position to receive or deal damage, a game that plays itself would be fun?

 Now that I'm done with the mediocre and the bad, comes the highlight of the game: Presentation. The game is drop-dead gorgeous, stages are brimming with color and life and they take damage as you unleash special moves. Character models use a new cell-shading style that makes characters look as if colored by hand with pencils. It's beautiful. The special effects such as beams and auras are also eye poppers. Guess this is where their money went, huh? On the flipside, the mouth animations are terrible, most animations come straight from Raging Blast and the way characters rotate when turning around during cutscenes is embarrassingly bad. Music is incredible, I love this game's OST, probably my favorite soundtrack on a DBZ game.... even though some tracks don't really fit the fights or the scenes they are used in, however, by themselves they are still fantastic tunes on their own right. The game offers dual audio, and while I can't comment on the American dub, the Japanese dub is great and I think that some characters got recast? I don't remember #19 and Gero having those voices, but I could be wrong.

 Dragon Ball Z Ultimate Tenkaichi is a terrible game and strictly for fans. As bad as everything, besides the presentation, is, I'd say that the story mode is worth it for fans, but just the story mode, as the battle mode, by itself is terrible whether you play it by yourself or with other people.
 2.5 out of 10

Now Playing: Darksiders

 This game I like.
 Know how people have been clamoring for a "Mature Zelda"? Well, by mature these people mean "it's dark and gritty and has blood and stuff", well, this is their game. Joe Madureira conceived the art for this game and oh boy does it show, it's like an Image comics come to life, it's gorgeous.

 As for gameplay, Devil May Cry meets God of War meets The Legend of Zelda, it's so much fun! On my first session I played nonstop until Tiamat's defeat, and it was glorious. I've nothing bad to say about the game, maybe that the music is nothing to write home about(A metal soundtrack would've fitted this game so much better, it just screams of Metal!), but that's just a minor, minor issue.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Review #128: Assassin's Creed III

 The best Assassin's Creed since 2!
 Ever since Assassin's Creed became a yearly franchise it suffered from a steady decline in quality. Storylines became shorter while side activities grew repetitive and obnoxious. And now we have Assassin's Creed 3, the number isn't just for show as the series went a rather large overhaul.

 As per norm, the story focuses on two time periods, present-day has Desmond and his assassin allies trying to save the world from a catastrophe, and Ratonhnhake:ton aka Connor, an assassin of Mohawk blood trying to do right for his people during the American revolutionary war. Unlike most recent games, Desmond's side of the story is a bit more fleshed out, with three present day missions set around the world, plus, the actual conclusion to Desmond's story. Connor's has two parallel storylines going on at the same time, the optional Homestead missions which feature a ton of rather cliche'd, but endearing, storylines and the main storyline itself. The story is pretty good, but it does have a couple of oversights(Some which are explained in the novel, some which have no official explanation at all) regarding Connor and Haytham. Characters are a strong point in this one, Haytham in particular standing out as one of the best characters in the series so far, and now all your Assassin recruits have been fleshed out via optional conversations that flesh them out neatly. All in all, a decent story line, although it takes a bit before it gets going, Connor doesn't get to wear the Assassin robes until Chapter 5!, with great characters and a lot of optional depth.
 The very first thing you'll notice is that the controls have been streamlined for the better. Basically, you can do as much as you could, but with less button presses. For example, running and sprinting are now one and the same, tied to the R1 button, while Parrying doesn't require holding the R1 button anymore. At times, muscle memory will fail you, but after getting used to it, the new controls feel much better. Gone are the shallow bombs, tower defense and Borgia/Templar influence liberation missions, replaced by much meatier side content. For starters, hunting, there's wild-life living on the Frontier, some are harmless, some yearn your flesh, and in order to end them you get tools like bait or traps. Another new addition is Naval combat, which is much more fun than it should. It does feel a bit out of place, like the tower defense mode from Revelations, but unlike that mini-game, Naval combat is incredibly fun and there's over a dozen different missions to partake in.

 Borgia/Templar Influence has been replaced with liberating forts from the British, however, these are completely optional, not getting in the way of your income, besides, each fort is completely different from the other, while they do all play out the same in the end, they at least offer some variation in how you must approach them, besides, there's only seven of them. Finally, we have the whole tunnel system, probably the worst side-activity in the game, which is used to open up various fast travel stations throughout Boston and New York. It wouldn't be an Assassin's Creed game without collectibles, and the game offers them in spades, from  Feathers in the Frontier and Almanac Pages, Chests and Peg Leg trinkets around the cities, there's no shortage of stuff to find.
 AC 3 finally gets the economy right! Previous games either gave you too much money(2, Brotherhood) or too little(Revelations), but AC 3 makes it so that the amount of money you earn steadily increases as the game advances and you can buy more expensive stuff. The whole renovating mechanic is gone, changed by improving the Homestead. Improving the Homestead consists of over a dozen of optional side missions which see Connor recruiting people into his homestead. These people set up their trades in the homestead, allowing Connor to buy materials for cheap, and then you can either sell these materials or craft them into better stuff and sell them for more money. Homestead missions open up as you go along, so that you can't craft the really good stuff(Which includes the better weapons as well) until later in the game. The game has a very neat pace at which you are allowed to do stuff, which is something Brotherhood and Revelations really needed, unlike Revelations, you can no longer get the best stuff by chapter 3! Which reminds me, the whole armor system is gone, which is a shame, but in the long run it matters little.

 I don't know if I've made it clear yet, but there is a lot of content in the game. There's a ton of Naval combat missions, homestead missions, a ton of activities and minigames and other really interesting sidequests. There are assassination missions(Very simple "Assassinate X target"), courier missions(They are not even timed!) and Brawler missions in which you have to fisticuff your way through various opponents. Then we have the really good ones, the Frontier Tales and Hunting Missions. Hunting sees you tracking special breeds of animals and then hunting them, while Frontier Tales have Frontiersmen telling Connor about a folktale(The headless Horseman, a Kraken, a UFO, etc) and then you have to find the origin of said rumor, these consist mostly of going from one place to another and then pressing circle on certain spots, but it's really cool to see where the mundane origins of these rumors! And if you thought you were done, you'd be wrong. Instead of recruiting random NPCs and getting them into Assassin's robes, you know must complete a certain set of missions to trigger a "Recruit Mission" in which you recruit an NPC, up to six, for your assassins. As previously stated, all six of them have different personalities, backgrounds and designs, which is a step up from the generic NPCs from the older games.
 Assassin recruits have also received a major overhaul. Sadly, the extremely overpowered "Arrow Storm" attack is gone, kinda. Instead of simply summoning your allies, you now get a lot of different functions for them. You can have them escort you, as if you were a prisoner, in order to enter guarded areas, you can set them up to attack anyone who dares step into a certain area, you can have them follow you as bodyguards, you can have them attack from afar(Similar to Arrow Storm, but not as good). As cool as all these functions are, it would've been neat if they forced you into using them, as the game is still quite easy as not to need the use of these. There's new weapons as well, rope darts, guns and the bow, besides the gun, there's no real reason to use any other as your sword can get the job done just fine. To be fair, combat is now harder than ever, with a lot more enemies that are only vulnerable to a certain form of attack(Counter attacking, Disarming, crushing their guard or using environmental attacks), and with enemies swarming you dying is now easier than ever, however, as a whole, the game is rather easy, just not AS easy as previous installments.

 It seems to be a recurring thing, but graphics are once again, much better than previous installments, at least when it comes to details on the character models. Boston, New York and the Frontier are all beautiful to look at and a refreshing sight, and the new weather system(Snow, Rain, Fog, Summer) is pretty neat. HOWEVER, neither Boston nor New York have as many high buildings as Italy or Constantinople, a minor loss, but it's quite noticeable. But, as per usual on AC, there is a lot of pop in and clipping. For some reason, character's clothes still clip through the horses, but even worse, during cut-scenes character's clothes will try to overlap each other, which is pretty jarring, not that seeing a ton of foliage just pop up in front of you out of thin air isn't. Music is fairly good, although not as memorable as previous games, and the voice acting is really good for the most part, with Haytham standing out(Not only is the character is extremely engaging, but the voice actor performed an outstanding job at delivering his lines).
 Before wrapping up, it's worth mentioning that the game houses a fair amount of bugs. The least offensive being people disappearing in the distance. There's a couple of big offenders that are hard not to notice, one being that music will stop playing for no reason what so ever during certain missions and the other being the Percentage tracker getting stuck. I understand that pushing a game every year is a must for Ubisoft, but they could put more effort into quality testing.

 Not since Assassin's Creed 2 had I had this much fun with a game in the franchise, heck, after Revelations my interest was waning rapidly, and then AC 3 came along. It's a fantastic game in every regard, it might not have the same impact as AC 2 had, but it stands on its own legs just fine. And Haytham is the best character in the series. Just saying.
 8.5 out of 10.