Friday, October 31, 2014

Month Overview: October

Games finished in October:
 Assassins Creed 4                                                                9.0
 Dragon Ball Raging Blast 2                                                 8.0
 Castlevania Symphony of the Night                                    10
 Katamari Damacy                                                                8.0
 Megaman Star Force Dragon                                               6.0

 Slow month. I've no idea why, I wasn't particularly busy nor anything. Ah well, the few games I played were really, REALLY good. Can't ever go wrong with Symphony of the Night!

 Game of October:
 Yes, I did score Symphony of the Night higher. Yes, I would pick Symphony of the Night any day of the week over AC 4. But the fact is, it was the second time in the year I went through SotN, but it was the first time I played AC 4, and I really, really enjoyed it. It was pretty good, almost as good as  AC 2, Ubisoft did good.

 No disrespect to the other games I played this Month, but Symphony of the Night is still Symphony of the Night.

Now Playing: Crash - Mind over Mutant

 'Tis that time of the year again
 Ya know, when the tests start piling up, so I have the need to start a lot of games, and so I do, and stuff? Yeah, that time.

 I'm up to mission 4, and just as with Crash of the Titans, it ain't anything special, but it's good. Post-Naughty Dog Crash games aren't as bad as people make them out to be, they haven't even been close to reaching the excellency that 2 and 3 displayed, but they haven't been terrible. Bah, Twinsanity had its fair share of flaws, but it made up for them in its boldness and creativity with the franchise. Ah, but I digress, Mind over Mutant is off to a good start!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Archile's Grab Bag: The Last one

 It's a shell of a timeeeeeeeeee!
 This is it! The last package of the year. WHAT SURPRISES COULD IT HOLD?!
 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 - Battle Nexus: I used to play this one on the PC, and I loved it, among all the TMNT games I've played, this was probably my favorite one. I watched and read some reviews the last couple of days, seems it wasn't well received, hopefully it's not a case of me being to young to realize just how bad it really was.

 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 - Mutant Nightmare: Ah yes, the only one of the 2003 Konami entries I didn't play, probably since it was my PC Gaming period and this one didn't get a PC release, needless to say, I was having a blast with Konami TMNT games of the era, so I've longed to play it for some years now.
  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: This one I played it on the PS2, I remember being kinda indifferent to it? Guess I'll have to see how's it held up today.
 TMNT - Mutant Melee: This one I played it on PC! It was the only TMNT game based on the 2003 cartoon that didn't make it to the PS2. I think... I think I liked this one, but found some things tedious, namely unlocking characters? Can't remember very well, but I do remember it causing my PC to struggle when too much stuff happened at the same time, heh.
  One Piece Grand Adventure: This is the thing that introduced me to One Piece. Kinda. The first game was One Piece Rumble Arena 3, and I fell in love with this Eneru guy, of course, the game was in Japanese and the Internet wasn't as readily available as it is today. I remember reading "Unlock Bon Clay" and of course I had no idea how he or she looked like, so unlocking characters was always a fun experience. Years later I would find out that it actually received an American release in the form of Grand Battle... but it was missing Eneru, among others, but I only cared about Eneru. Imagine my surprise when I found out that there actually was a sequel that reintroduced many of the elements that got lost in the translation, Eneru among them!
 Crash - Mind over Mutant: Crash of the Titans was surprisingly good, really! So good that I've been wanting to play the sequel, and last Crash game on a home console, for a while.

Now Playing: Diablo 3 - Reaper of Souls Ultimate Evil edition

 Evil dies hard(I'm so bad,)
 There's no sidequests. NO. SIDE-QUESTS. DO YOU EVEN RPG, BRO? Customizable stat spread is gone. Really? Oh, and skills are earned as you level up, instead of having to pick them yourself. Passive skills can now be switched at any moment, so now deciding how to specialize your character doesn't feel important. Yet I'm having fun.

 Yes, it's fun, the Crusader looks badass, skills are pretty good looking(If a bit simple), and there's something about loot-based dungeon crawlers that I just love. I like it, but not entirely, at least so far. Oh well!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Unsung Marvels #5: One Piece - Unlimited Adventure

 I felt like writing, so I shall write. Sue me.
 Y'know what one of my favorite genres is? Metroidvanias/Castleroids. They are built upon the premise of "backtracking", which should be a huge no-no. A good Metroidvania makes the backtracking enjoyable. D'you know what kind of games usually suck? Licensed games. Here we have One Piece Unlimited Adventure, a Metroidvania based on an anime, and it's really good. For the most part.

 It's no secret that English is the best thing to happen to linguistics, however, dubs tend to get a bad rep, for some reason(I can only speak for Latin American dubs, and they were really good.), but I digress. Unlimited Adventure doesn't have dual audio, so you are stuck with the English dub. I really don't like the English dub, I mean, it's not awful, but... I really can't stand Luffy's voice. Now that that's out of the way, I can go on.
 Someone, for whatever reason, thought that it would be a good idea to make a Metroidvania out of One Piece. Incredibly enough, the idea was approved and Unlimited Adventure was made. The game works... mostly. Y'see, Metroidvanias, the good ones anyways, lock areas behind obstacles that require a certain ability. Maybe a far off platform that requires a double jump, maybe an obstacle that can only be broken with a special skill or weapon. One Piece offers these obstacles in the form of barriers that require... ingredients. Almost everything in the game drops ingredients, enemies, rocks, hitting trees to have their fruit fall, fishing(You can fish) and even bugs that need to be caught with a net... or having to mine minerals with a pick. These same ingredients can also be used to craft items, some for offensive purposes, healing items or just to enhance a character's HP or SP. This should spell doom for the game, it should be a bore having to grind and farm all these ingredients and elements, but... the core game gets so much right that it's easy to forgive. Plus, it ain't as bad as it sounds, I promise.

 Speaking of characters, on the Story Mode you get to play as all the 8 Mugiwaras at the time(Luffy, Zoro, Nami, Usopp, Sanji, Chopper, Robin and Franky) and you can switch characters at any time, which will probably be a necessity as bosses can get rather tough. Sadly, having so many characters has a noticeable drawback, y'see the more you use a move the stronger it gets, so you'll probably have some really strong characters, the ones you play the most as, while others will wind up underpowered. You might be willing to switch characters as you play, but there's EIGHT characters, and the game is rather long, so you eventually you'll just give up on keeping them at similar levels. I found it easier to use train all characters until they get their full basic combos and then only train their special moves, while focusing on rotating between three characters(Unsurprisingly I chose the big three, Zoro, Sanji and Luffy(In that order)). These three were also the only ones I spent my ingredients in enhancing their HP and SP.
 Unlimited Adventure is gorgeous, and I do mean gorgeous, but it comes at a cost... the framerate tends to suffer when it gets crowded. After you are done with the Story Mode, you unlock the Colosseum(It might not be the correct name, sorry) in which you have to survive against a army of marines as any of the characters you have unlocked. To the game's merit, there's a ton of unlockable characters, including Pauly, Shanks, Whitebeard and Arlong.... but most of these characters have very limited movesets, in particular when compared to the Mugiwaras, which is really, really disappointing. What's the fun of using a character that has three or less measly attacks? There's also a Versus Mode, but it suffers from the same issue, characters besides the Mugiwaras have very limited movesets. For example, Crocodile has but three moves(A, AA and Waggle) while Eneru has four(A, AA, Air+A and Waggle)... then Calgara, a character with way less creen time than either has a moveset comparable to a Mugiwara Not cool!

 Did I mention waggling? I did. This is one of those rare Wii games that actually have a good control scheme. Yes, really! Waggling is only used for some special attacks, which makes it fairly unintrusive. The rest of the controls feel really good, A is your basic attack, B is jump, pressing both at the same time(A very easy task when holding a Wiimote) performs a dodge. Holding C and pressing an attack button performs an special attack, while double tapping C performs a dash. The directional pad is relegated to items(Picks, Nets, Healing or explosives) while the Minus button allows you to swap characters. Easy, simple, comfortable.
 So, if it's so good, why didn't it took off? I can only guess, which means I'm gonna speculate. Number 1, it was a Wii game and we know that the Wii didn't appeal to "hardcore" gamers(I hate the term, but in this case it saves time) while Metroidvanias are a rather obscure sub-genre of adventure games. Number 2, you think Metroidvanias are obscure? The West hates One Piece. While in Japan it's one of its most celebrated Shonens, it hasn't taken off in the West, for some reason. Number 3, Namco. The game had little promotion coupled with a small quantity of copies produced(Seriously, the price has skyrocketed on Amazon). You couple all of these together and you get, well, a rather obscure game. It's very worth it though(Although maybe not at the price Amazon is demanding),

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Now Playing: Sonic Battle

 I just took a couple of mins to give it a go, it''s alright, not as good as I remembered, ah well, I havetake this one off my "To-play" list, so it's on!

Review #160: Megaman Star Force Dragon

 Oh boy, how do things change...
 It's no secret that I used to love the series(Cough Cough), but time has passed, and this is my third time through the game. So, how does it fare now?

 Megaman StarForce begins with a depressed Geo. He´s been skipping classes for a long time now, and neglects friends, due to fear of getting hurt, since his dad went to space some years ago and he never came back. Eventually, Geo meets the alien Omega-Xis, Mega for short, who grants him the power to turn into MegaMan. This is just a small introduction, the story itself is fairly decent with a couple of really good moments, although characters are fairly bidimensional. Still, the writing is Ok for a kids game.
 The game takes place in the future, so there are tons of technological advancements and commodities. For starters, when Geo turns into Megaman, by jacking in on a hotspot, he becomes an EM wave-entity, unable to directly interact with the real world. He can, however, jack into various devices, and he will need to, in order to clear the viruses. While Geo himself cannot walk on the EM-Roads, he can put on his visualizer  in order to see them and talk with nearby EM entities. To turn into Megaman, Geo has to stand over  over special zones, and he goes directly into the EM-wave roads above town.

As stated, you explore the town as Geo Stelar, and accept quests from townsfolk, while battle are only fought as Megaman. While on the Wave Roads, you are subject to random encounters. Fights take place on a 3x5 Grid. Megaman can only move to the sides, while enemies get to move through rows as well. Before each battle, you get to pick among 6 cards, randomly selected from your 30(Up to 5 mega and 1 giga card per deck) card deck. While there are six cards on display, you can only pick: Same cards, cards of the same column or cards of the same row. There's also gauge that slowly fills as you fight, once it gets full, you can pick new cards. After each fight you either get money or a new card.
 Battles use a Rock-Paper-Scissors kind of system. Fire cards deal double damage to Wood enemies or enemies standing over Grass panels. Wood deals double damage to Electric enemies or enemies over electric panels. Electric cards deal double damage to water enemies and enemies that are frozen. And Water deals double damage to fire enemies. There are also non-elemental cards. Megaman, usually, is non-elemental, but if he uses one of the special forms, he gains an elemental 
affinity. Get hit with your weakness, and you revert to Normal Megaman. Speaking of "Special forms", in order to use the transformations, Geo has to get the Star Force card and pick it. While you can only use the version of your version of the game, if you link up with players with the other versions, you can use their transformations... except that since the Servers are dead now, this is no longer a possibility.

 The game has a rather huge problem... it's a grindfest. Getting cards means hours of grinding. Y'see, each enemy holds a different card, and after each random encounter, you either get ONE card from ONE of the enemies or money. Don't get the card you want? Too bad, gonna have to roam for that a random encounter that has the enemy you need, and hope that this time, it drops its card. Sure, you can use the C-Finder, which you get near the end of the game, to ensure a card drop, but it could be ANY card drop from the enemies you just fought. And you will need to get all cards in order to access the post-game. Bosses open up a completely different can of worms. First of all, fighting them again is a bit of a chore, as they are the rarest random encounters, and getting to them doesn't mean you will get the card you want. There are three versions of each boss card, and they depend on the rank you get. 1-7 is the vanilla card, 8-10 is the V2 card and 10(rarely) or S gets you the V3 card. That means that if you are extremely lucky(Remember that rank depends on the time it takes you to beat them, which in turn somewhat depends on which cards you randomly get when you fight) you could get all three cards after three fights... but that's just hopeful thinking.
 The 3D used in battles, looks very nice, although the rest of the game is made up of 2D sprites. While I felt the sprites looked pretty nice(Megaman has different sprites for facing left and right!), the next games in the franchise would put this one to shame. The game lasts about 20 hours, and there are loads and loads of quests.... which can get a bit annoying, since you need to:
1st) Pulse into the Wave Roads, get above the NPC, read his Transer(A device everyone carries around, like a cellphone)
2nd) Pulse out, talk to them as Geo.
3rd) Do the quest. You can't accept any other quest until you finish the last one you accepted.
You have to do this every single time you want to tackle a quest, sometimes you'll have to pulse out, talk to the person, only to have to pulse back in and return to where you where.

 Megaman Star Force 1 was a great game the first time I played it. It was a good game the second time, but on my third time through it... it has taken its toll on me. I'd still recommend giving it one go, but three times? That's overkill!
 6.0 out of 10

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Reminiscing about Dynasty Warriors

 Gonna take you back to the past to play some sh... oh wait.
 So, I'm supposed to be studying, so I don't really have much game time right now, but I wanted to write a lil' bit, so here I am. The beginning of this story harkens back a time before Youtube. A time where you got your videogame news from dial-up connections or videogame magazines, where knowing how a game played out wasn't as easy as going online and getting some videos. Regardless, at this point in time I had just graduated from the Nintendo 64 to the Playstation 2, I had already played the amazing Metal Gear Solid 2 and the obscure and underrated little gem Okage. So, I was out with the family, and I came across this game. The cover was very alluring, all these knight-like characters holding these different weapons... I had to play it.

 And never before had I played something like Dynasty Warriors, nobody else probably. Here you were thrust in a very open battlefield, filled with what felt like thousands of warriors, but was actually more like a dozen or so, still, your body count would easily rise over the hundreds. You played as this overpowered general that could mow down enemies like it was nobody's business. When you first get to the select screen you are greeted by these weird warriors with weird names like "Zhao Yun", "Zhou Yu" and "Guan Yu". Eventually I settled with this guy named "Zhou Yu", he wore red and brandished a Sword, he was my kinda guy. I had countless hours of fun with the game, but I think I wasn't very good at it, since my most vivid memories reside on the Yellow Turban Rebellion stage, the very first in the game. Later I would come across the "Unlock all characters" code, and the one that allowed you to edit the opening. Boy, how much fun I had editing the Opening(Something which I would find amusing at best nowadays!). I quickly decided that Zhou Yu would be the main good guy and the one that'd get the most scenes, Diao Chan would be his babe and Ma Chao would be his friend. Jian Wei was relegated to the enemy/rival character and I think Zhao Yun was the main bad guy.

 As years went by, I came across DW 4 and 5 on PC, which I installed, but never took them "seriously". I just downloaded some trainers to unlock everything, just so that I could, on my spare time, pick any one warrior(Mostly Zhou Yu!) on any stage and have a riot. I remember playing some stages during some university classes, heh.

 Ironically enough, later on in my life I'd get very interested in the "Three Kingdoms" period of China, and grew very fond of the depictions of the ancient Chinese generals in these games. For some reason I tend to sympathize with Wu, must've something to do with them being associated to the color red and the fact that I played as Zhou Yu. Plus, they were the least douchebaggish of them all(Come on, Shu totally had that betrayal coming, Liu Bei refused to give them back Jing!).

 Present Day, I'm still in love with the series and the spin offs. I've Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage, Warriors Orochi 3(My personal favorite), DW: Gundam 2 and 3, Dynasty Warriors 2, 4, 6, 7 and DS and Samurai Warriors 3 and 3DS under my belt, plus, I already bought DW 8 and have plans to get Hokuto Musou 2 and the One Piece Pirate Warriors games later this year, and even so I'm still not tired of the series. Sadly Zhou has received some changes I'm not fond of, they changed his sword into a Staff, and gave him the bishonen treatment, ruining how he looked, but it seems DW 8 brought back his old head, so I might just give him a try. As for which characters I play now, that'd be the badass Cao Pi, Sima Zhao and Wang Yuanji.

 Since I'm at it, might ass well speak a little bit about the DW clones I've played:

 Sengoku Basara - Samurai Heroes: This one is really good, and I love, absolutely adore the English dub, they got it so right. The gameplay is very badass as well, it has a very different flavor to Samurai Warriors(The direct competition) which is very welcome. I'm not completely sold on the character designs though, I really like Mitsunari and Ieyasu(Even over their SW incarnations), but the rest of the designs... eh, not my cup of tea.

 Saint Seiya - Sanctuary Battle: I used to love Saint Seiya, but after rewatching it last year I can safely say that I despise it. It's dumb, it's sexist and it makes no sense. REGARDLESS, I really like this game. I mean, the first time I played it and went for 100% completion I came across the game's biggest flaws: DW is a very repetitive game, but thanks to its rather free-form approach to how you can play each level, repetition doesn't sink in very easily. In this game, if you go for the extra chapters and missions you will be redoing the same levels over and over and over again, and they are very linear, offering little variation, which means the game becomes a total drag and if you couple it with the limited movesets of each character... regardless, I've played the Story Mode over 4 times already, and I never get tired of it, it's very well paced and recreates the story arc pretty well, borrowing elements from both the manga and the anime. Just... don't play it for too long!

 Bleach - Soul Resurrection: Remember the issues I had with Sanctuary Battle? How linear and repetitive it was? How movesets were very limited and rather dull? Yeah, it's even worse in Soul Resurrection. It doesn't even have a great story mode(Which is what saves Sanctuary Battle). This game is the perfect example of how NOT to make a Dynasty Warriors game. Movesets are very limited, it feels even worse than Sanctuary Battle. The stages are very linear, you've always have to go through them in the same exact matter, fighting, usually, the same enemies over and over again. Then the game has 50 missions... which take place in the very same stages that you must traverse in the very same way. You've no idea of how repetitive the game can get, and how fast you get tired of it. And the story mode is very lame, it covers, more or less, from the last Grimmjow vs Ichigo bout 'till Aizen's defeat, but it skips through a lot of events, there's not a single Vizard in the game, for instance(well, technically you get Ichigo). Sanctuary Battle had a very in-depth story mode, which is what keeps me coming back to it. The one saving grace of this game is that you get to play as Mugetsu Ichigo, which is badass.

 Know what? Since I'm at it, might as well talk a bit about my favorite Musou games:
 Fist of the North Star - Ken's Rage: Being a HUGE fan of the franchise, as sexist, dumb, ridiculous and plot-hole ridden as it is, probably played a huge part in it, but here's why I love it: First of all, the graphics are downright amazing, but where it shines the most is in the cutscenes, they recreated some of the best scenes in the series with amazing detail. Then there's how unique the characters feel, sure, it has less characters than any other Musou game, but each one feels very unique. There are three styles, Hokuto, Nanto and Special, and even between characters that share a style, they've unique R1 actions and unique attack strings. Customization, each character has a healthy amount of special moves, and you can bring up to four with you at any time. Every time you use a special attack, the game will pause, show you a few still shots of the aftermath with the name of the move in Japanese in the lower area of the screen, very badass and faithful to the series. Lastly, the "feel" of the game, movements have a lot of weight behind them, giving each move a very deliberate, powerful feel to them, as a result the game feels slower than other Musou games, but in this case, it's not a bad thing. I love this game, I platinum'd it and pumped over 80 hours in this effer.

 Dynasty Warriors - Gundam 3: I didn't dislike DW: Gundam 2, but it didn't sit well with me, the friendship system was an absolute nightmare. Dynasty Warriors 3 fixed that, but added some very weird, disjointed "mission" mode, where you selected missions and you'd get random maps most of the time? It was weird, very weird. And yet, I clocked over 120 hours into this one, platinum'd it as well. I really can't say "why" I liked it so much, I just did.

 Warriors Orochi 3: I loved Hokuto Musou(Fist of the North Star), partly, due to how slow it was, but I liked this one due to how fast it was. I love the gameplay mechanics, like bringing up to three characters with you(And even then it feels too little, there're so many more Warlords I'd like to bring with me!). As previously mentioned, the speed, this game is faster than even DW 7, and it also seems to be able to show more enemies on screen at the same time than DW 7? I dunno, but battles in this game feel even more massive. Then there's of course the incredibly huge roster of characters, over 90 in all, and they are, at least, slightly different from each other. Clone characters from DW 7 got decloned so that now they only share the basic Square string. All in all, this game is the ultimate celebration of everything that makes the Warriors/Musou series good.

 And that's about it, my story with the Dynasty Warriors games. I don't think any of them would even crack my top 50 games(MAYBEEEEEE Warriors Orochi 3), but I always enjoy them, they are fun, mindless mashers in which you can feel like a total badass while mowing down hundreds of enemies, how can anyone dislike that!?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Review #159: Katamari Damacy

Let's roll up to beee a single star up in the sky!
  I know weird. At least I thought I did, until I played Katamari Damacy and learned what "Weird" really was. And boy, is weird something awesome! Katamari Damacy is unlike anything else you've played before.... unless you play it now a days, in 2014, when thousand of flash games based on it have already come out, games in which you get bigger as you eat stuff, allowing you to eat bigger stuff. That's Katamari Damacy in a nutshell.

 This is the skinny: You play as the Prince, yes that's his name, son of the King of All Cosmos, a very irresponsible King who gets drunk and, basically, destroys all the stars in the sky. Of course his highness can't be bothered to right his wrong, so he send you to the Earth, in order to gather stuff and remake the Stars. Totally makes sense. There's also a subplot, told through cutscenes after each stage, concerning a family that's going to see the father, an astronaut, set off into space. This family is really weird, and so is the story, which is awesome. The King will talk to you before each stage, greeting you in different languages and rambling about the stage's objective. He is really weird, which makes him really awesome, and funny. I tend to say this a lot, but you don't play this game for the story, even if it only adds up to the weirdness, which in turn adds up to the awesome.
 In order to gather stuff to create the new stars, the Prince is given a Katamari, a ball that will stick to itself anything you roll over that is smaller than it. As you add up stuff to the Katamari, it will eventually grow bigger allowing you to grab even bigger stuff. It's as fun as it sounds, and some levels are downright impressive, since you may start up smaller than a mouse, but by the end of the level you will be picking up people into the Katamari... and then vehicles, and then buildings, and then the land itself! Seeing your Katamari grow in size, alongside seeing everything rolled up into it, is very rewarding, and never gets old, nor does picking up people as they scream in fear and try to run away from your rolling Katamari of doom! While you are given a time limit for each stage, you can unlock "Eternal" versions of all three levels, with no time limit, in order to goof around, which is a pretty neat addition.

 The game does have a few shortcomings, for starters, it's pretty short. Yes, the game has 3 different "levels", although the game has 9 main missions spread through those 3 levels, plus, there are special "Make a constellation" levels that task you with different objectives, such as grabbing the biggest, and only the biggest, of a certain type of item, so you have to avoid the smaller ones as you try to grow bigger. There are also side objectives, such as finding a present hidden in every level(Which grant items that you can equip on the prince!), or getting 100% on the "Collection", basically, grabbing one of every kind of item in the game. Regardless, the game does feel pretty short, which is really disappointing as it's so much fun.
  A minor gripe comes in the form of the controls, which can take a while to get used to. You must push on both analog sticks on the direction that you want to roll the Katamari, or in order to turn around on either side, you push up on one stick and down on the other. It takes a while getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature. The biggest any in the game, however, is the camera. It's very easy to lose sight of the Katamari behind a wall, making it impossible to see if there's an obstacle on your way until you manage to get out of there. This ties up to the fact that crashing onto stuff usually means having stuff fall out of your Katamari, which is a fairly common occurrence. And that ties up into another flaw... in order to go up certain steps or buildings, you have to roll towards it... which many times means that your Katamari will "crash" into it, no matter how close you are, and you'll see your stuff fall right out of your Katamari, sometimes it's impossible not to lose stuff as you try to climb over stuff, and depending on what you have on your Katamari, climbing might not be a possibility, since a pole or something of the like will get in the way of the climb.

 Katamari Damacy is a very simple game, when it comes to graphics. Objects, even humans, are fairly blocky and simple, heck, the Prince is a 2D sprite! However, it was probably the style they were going for, plus, seeing all the stuff you've rolled up on your Katamari is very impressive and often times amusing(Just look at the screenshots!). The soundtrack on the other hand is very quirky-slash-awesome, and fits the game perfectly, plus, some of the tunes are pretty catchy. There's also a bit of voice acting, and it's terrible, but it adds to the awesome.

 This game is very weird. It's also very awesome. Despite it's small, but sometimes annoying flaws(The camera, in particular), the game is so much fun that they are easy to ignore, plus, the game is unlike anything else you can find on a console.
 8.0 out of 10.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Review #158: Castlevania - Symphony of the Night

 What a wonderful night to have a curse.
 I said I was saving my Symphony of the Night review for later, and what better month than October? Join me(As if anyone read this!) as I take yet another stroll into Drac's castle... er, castles.

 Symphony of the Night is a rather divisive game in the Castlevania fandom, some people love what it did for the series, while others hate the direction it spun the series into. Said direction meant taking away the stage-based platforming the series was known for, and thrusting it into a Metroid-like approach, a much more forgiving and open experience which would later be known as "Metroidvania" or "Castleroid". What is a Metroidvania? Basically, they are very open games that have you exploring different areas, usually giving you almost complete freedom in where you wanna go and when. "Almost", because you'll come across obstacles, from locked doors to platforms that sit at unreachable heights, needing you to find a keycard or item that will allow you to go on. Expect to do a lot of backtracking.
 You play as Alucard, Dracula's dhampir son, as he enters Dracula's castle in order to stop the resurrection of his father. Along the way he'll come across a handful of NPCs, most important of them all, Maria Renard, who has come to find out why Richter disappeared. The story is fairly simple and forgettable, you do not play this game for the story. As previously stated, you are given free reign over where to go, and Dracula's Castle is fairly large. As you go through the Castle, you will eventually gain the ability to double jump, resist water damage, turn into mist, a bat or a wolf, allowing you full access to the full extent of the castle. Play your cards right, and you'll unlock the Inverted Castle.

 While it seems lazy, seeing how the Inverted Castle is the same old Castle, only turned on its head, it has a very different feel to the first Castle. While the first Castle feels much more structured and limiting on how you approach it, when you reach the second Castle you should've most of the secondary abilities that limited where you could go on the first one, thus offering you much more freedom on how you explore it! And while the enemies are stronger(And the item drops are better!), it goes by much faster than the first Castle, not that it makes it any less fun. Basically, while they are technically the same, they feel much different, which is really neat. Speaking of different, finishing the game unlocks Richter as a playable character, who plays very differently from Alucard, and while he can't equip items, among other handicaps, he has better mobility and exclusive skills to make up for his shortcomings. It also makes the game harder, which is somewhat refreshing seeing how the main game is rather easy, and a bit short(6-7 hours if you are not trying to speed run it), which really sucks because the game is so damn good!
 While Alucard can use to the classic sub weapons(Axe, Dagger, Holy Water, Cross, StopWatch and a couple of new ones), he can also equip a whole slew of different weapons. And I do mean weapons, unlike the Belmonts who had been restricted to the Vampire Killer, Alucard can use Swords, Maces, Nunchakus, Boomerangs(Limited Quantities), Bombs and other explosives(Limited quantities as well) and gloves, among others. To be fair, weapons of the same families tend to feel very samey, and the Crissaegrim on the second Castle is easily the game's best weapon, but the options are nice. You can also spend money found from fallen enemies or destructible objects in the Library, which is run by the librarian who'll happily trade you good for it. There's also Magic Spells to be bought from him, which are used by inputting fighting game-style commands, but they are a bit hard to input. Oh, and Alucard levels up by slaying enemies, which means you are getting stronger all the time, even when farming for items(Those damned Schmoos hate dropping the Crissaegrim it seems!).

 Not gonna lie, the game looks a bit dated, however, the animation is pretty smooth. Heck, the fact that latter games(Up to the PS3/X360 online Monster-Hunter-like game) borrowed sprites from this game should tell you how good the spritework on this game is.... or how lazy Konami got. Music is excellent, when it came to Castlevania, Konami never disappointed when it came to music... the voice acting on the other hand is rather lame, due in no small part to the hammy lines they had the Voice actors read. However, you do not play this game for the story.

 Symphony of the Night is a timeless classic, the gameplay hasn't aged at all, and I consider it one of Metroidvania's finest. However, if you have a PSP, there's absolutely no reason to get this version. While this one has tighter controls, the PSP version has a better translation, better voice acting, which are improvements on areas that don't really matter in this game... but it also has a bunch of  extra content, including a playable Maria Renard. Plus, you get the remake of Rondo of Blood AND the original Rondo of Blood, one of the best Classicvanias ever.
 10 out of 10.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Review #157: Dragon Ball 2 - Raging Blast 2

 Dragon dragon, rock the dragon, dragon ball z!
 When it came to Dragon Ball games, there were two sides you could fall upon, you either liked Budokai 3 or you liked Budokai Tenkaichi 3. Or maybe you were like me and liked both, but that's besides the point. Raging Blast 2 is the second game in the series that succeeded Budokai Tenkaichi, a game I had played the demo a couple of times before, but I hated it... yet for some reason I decided to give it a whirl, as in a honest-to-goodness try, and here we are. Also, I might compare it to Budokai Tenkaichi 3 every now and then, comparisons are inevitable since they follow the same principles and have the same foundation.

 Back when the Budokai Tenkaichi first debuted, these fighters were something very different, as the camera was positioned behind your character at all times. Now a days it's a bit more common(Naruto Ultimate Ninja, Castlevania Judgement), but I digress. The game plays very similarly to Budokai Tenkaichi, but the controls have been overhauled in an effort to streamline it, and the end results are a bit mixed. You do basic attacks by mashing on the square button, and the triangle button, which acts as a weak ki blast from affar, allows you to finish you square strings in different ways according to when you press it. Movement has been simplified a lot, now you constantly dash while pushing the stick on any direction, while holding the X button consumes ki in order to grant you a faster boost. The L1 and L2 buttons now control your height, but as long as you are on the air, you character will automatically home in on the enemy. A change I didn't like, is that when you enter "close range" you lose your dash, and instead are reduced to "hopping" and sidestepping, which doesn't feel very good. Sure, you can use X to dash in, but it's not a good alternative.
 The biggest change has been to the Supers and how they work. The good is that characters now have customizable "Super" move loadouts, in which you place up to four different supers, which is really good and adds variety. The subjective is that blast stocks are now gone and the "Passive" abilities that consumed stocks are now categorized as "supers" and consume Ki, while Ultimate Attacks are now done simply by charging Ki and entering "High Tension", this is a change I'm OK with. The bad is that you do special moves by pushing the right stick Up, Down, Left or Right, problem being that it's not very accurate, many times I saw myself doing the wrong Super since I might've pushed a bit more to the right than up, or stuff like that, something that didn't happen with the previous control scheme. There's also a new mode, when you charge Ki and enter High Tension, you can now press R1 to enter "Raging", which disables your Special attacks but grants you access to longer melee attack strings and better mobility options.

 Other slight tweaks come in the form of the customization items, just as in Tenkaichi, characters have a numerical limit, and the different items that enhance your stats have a number associated with them, as long as you don't go over the limit, you can put almost as many items as you want. Almost, because you are also limited by a 10 item slot. I didn't really mind the limits, but I know some people have found them a bit restricting, still, there are a ton of aesthetic items that I really liked and cosume 0 points, these allow you to remove headwear or scouters from the character, prevent their clothes to break from damage or allow you to change the aura of the character. Speaking of Auras, there are a ton of different and they look amazing. Props for the uncloning characters received, you'll find a ton of exclusive moves for each character(both normals and supers), which makes all the characters feel much, much different from each other than in Tenkaichi 3. A change I didn't like is that characters that are related to each other(Say... Frieza and Son Goku, Gohan and Cell, etc) will talk during battles, even normal battles. It's not too annoying, but I wish it could be turned it off.
 The game has a fair amount of modes: Galaxy Mode, Battle Zone, Single, Team and Power Battles, Tournament and tutorial and training modes. Tutorial, Training, Single Battle and Team Battle are self explanatory, Power Battles have you making a team where characters have different values, and Tournament allows you to play "Normal Tournament" or "Cell Tournament", and each allows you to tweak the ruleset(You unlock different rules by playing through them). Battle Zone allows you to pick a character and go through different enemies, while getting handicapped in various ways, you can also earn Stamps by further handicapping yourself, but... the Stamps unlock nothing, they are not worth it, still, finishing a route unlocks "Enhanced Characters", if available, which is an overpowered version of an existing character that can't be customized. Battle Zone is fairly fun, and it's where you unlock the really cool customizables, like the auras.

 Then there's Galaxy Mode, which is a mixed bag. Y'see, there's no story mode. There's not story mode on a modern DBZ game. I understand some people might be tired of going through the same storyline over and over and over and over again, but the replacement isn't very exciting. The good thing is that it makes you play as every single character in the roster, as each of the 60+ characters has his own Galaxy Mode. The bad is that this mode can get pretty repetitive, as early as after finishing with one third of the cast you'll have seen every different "mission". While the missions are fairly easy, there are a couple of blunders, the "Get hit, get killed" missions. These are disgustingly unfair, having you fight two or more fighters than can kill you in one hit. They feel more like luck based affairs than skill. You can earn "Seal Near Death" items through the mode, but... the translation is terrible. There's "Seal Near Death 1", "Seal Near Death 2" and "Seal Near Death 3"... but there's no way of knowing which one you need to equip, so if it's not the right one, it's back to the customizing menu for you. This problem extends to the super move descriptions, there's a ton of "This moves evades the enemy attack"... on rush super moves. "Shoots a short-range beam attack" when it's a long range beam attack, bottom line is: Do not trust the descriptions.
 Graphics are colorful and vibrant, character models look amazing and the stages have a satisfying amount of detail, considering how large they are and how often they get destroyed. And it runs at 60 FPS which is always a treat. Beams and Auras are on a level of their own, they look downright amazing and there are ton of different types of beams, very nice. I can't speak for the English dub(I'm weird like that), but the Japanese voice overs are really good, as always, sound effects are great, but the music... The opening would led you to believe that it would feature a techno-rock soundtrack, not unlike Dynasty Warriors, but most of the tunes in the game are fairly... bland, they fail to pump you up for battle. Luckily you can play your own songs if you don't like them.

 Budokai Tenkaichi 3 set the bar pretty high, both in gameplay, feel and character roster. As far as "feel" is concerned, Raging Blast 2 easily surpasses Tenkaichi 3, moves look the part and look much more painful. As for gameplay, I'm still not completely sold on it, and I think the controls were better before(And it took a while to get used to them, my muscle memory kept failing me). Roster... well, Tenkaichi 3 was on its third iteration, so logically Raging Blast 2 is still playing catch up. To be fair, they have all the required characters and then some, and they added some characters that, at the time, had never before gotten a playable appearance(Tarble, Hatchiyak).

 Is Raging Blast 2 a worthy successor to the Tenkaichi series? It is. Is it better than Tenkaichi 3? Yes and no, both games have their strengths. But if you liked the Tenkaichi Series, it's very much worth it, the controls will take a while to get used to, particularly if you played a lot of Tenkaichi 3, but once you get the hang of it it's smooth sailing from there.
 8.0 out of 10

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Now Playing: Katamari Damacy(.... and Symphony of the Night)

Naaaaa nananananana na na na naaaa!
 My self control is like terrible, so I just started another game: KATAMARI DAMACY. It's pretty dope, even if the camera does it no favors. Love the sountrack, love the insanity of the whole ordeal, and god, do I love rolling up people in my Katamari.

 I also began Symphony of the Night(Again), and it's a terrific game, I don't think I'll ever get tired of it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Review #156: Assassin's Creed IV - Black Flag

 'nother year, 'nother Creed. Except that I kinda binged through them in less than three months.
 So, where do you go from Assassin's Creed III? Easy, you go back a couple of generations and play as Connor's grand father, Edward Kenway, d'oh!.

 Since Desmond's story was pretty much over at the end of AC III, one would've hoped we they would abandon the pretentious present-day sections, but such is not the case. Instead of playing as Desmond and his rather likeable allies, you now play as... yourself? You, as in "you" you, in first person, as a videogame tester for Abstergo. Yes. The present-day sections are veeery corny, cringe inducing even, and while I think they intended to make them so... they still made me cringe. At least they are fairly short. As for the Assassin of the year, we now get Edward Kenway, a pirate who comes across the Assassins and Templars of his time and gets involved in their affairs more than he would've wanted, it's tough being a selfish pirate when you are after the same object both parties want, even if it's for personal gain when it comes to Edward. Yes, Edward is very unlike previous protagonists, and even though he is always looking for coin, it's hard not to root for him at times. While the story lacks the scope of previous games, it was fairly entertaining for what it was.
 The game borrows heavily from AC III, but it's not as blatant as AC:Brotherhood towards 2, AC 4 borrows and expands on AC III. The most notorious element being ships, AC III had fantastic ship-combat elements, and AC IV expands upon it by... well, almost 70% of the game you'll be on your ship travelling through the sea while engaging in piratey behavior, like sinking and plundering other ships. Everything that concerns naval combat is spot-on, moving and attacking feels very tight, and you can put your skills to the test by trying to take on "Legendary" ships which require special strategies to bring down. When you destroy an enemy vessel, you can steal some their cargo, but, if you chose to board them, you'll get 100% of their cargo and choose to use their ship to repair yours, bring it to your Fleet or use it to lower your Wanted level. Furthermore, you can upgrade your ship or customize it a bit, you'll grow fond of the Jackdaw, Edward's ship. Lastly, while the game allows for "travel speed"("Hacked" enhanced speed when out-of-combat) or "Fast travel" to known locations, at times, it can be a bit of a drag sailing from place to place, the numerous shanties your crew sing can aid to make it more pleasant, but get ready to spend a little more time sailing than what you would like to.

 As far as the on-land sections go, it's your same good ol' Assassin's Creed. There are collectibles all around the game's world for you to find and collect, Assassination missions for you to partake in and a few Naval contracts. Among the new items to find, you have the shanties, which are so worth it, as the songs are fantastic, and maps that lead to buried treasures. Finding all of these is easier than ever, as syncing with viewpoints will show everything on your map, as for the collectibles outside of towns, you just have to find the charter's Fort and liberate it. The game also adds new Underwater segments which are easily the worst of the bunch, underwater controls are merely adequate, but they are fairly boring, only one of this is mandatory though. Returning from AC III is hunting, which has been a bit simplified, but it's still fun, and there are new harpooning hunting sequences in order to hunt Whales and Sharks, which are quite decent. Hunting grants you the items you need to enhance Edward's armor(IT'S BACK! Although it doesn't reflect on Edward's attire.), but if you can't be bothered, you can simply buy the pelts and skins at shops. There's also a bunch of optional activities on the "real world", which have you hacking through simple, dull minigames and finding 20 notes "hidden" throughout Abstergo, they are just filler though. You get a trophy for hacking 15 of the 33 computers and... nothing for the notes. Fun. It's completely optional, so no use complaining about it, plus, you get some cool extras that deepen the lore of the series.
 The game does have its fair share of flaws though. The least of them being the environments. As the game takes place on the sea, you'll be visiting a ton of Islands and Island-towns... and they all look the same. Previous Assassin's Creeds have had some fantastic recreations of famous landmarks, and the towns in every game felt fairly different, with a ton of variety in the buildings and objects that made up the towns, such is not the case here. There are about 2-3 "big" towns, but they also feel very samey, with few elements that set them apart. Then there's the combat... when fighting 3-4 guys, it works fairly well, but when the fights get crowded, particularly when boarding ships, it all goes to hell. The targeting system is a mess, sometimes it feels as if Edward targets whoever he wants to target. And since this game borrows the combat system from AC III, the enemies that require particular strategies return, like the guys that can only be killed by breaking their defense with the X button, so if I break a giant's defense, and I press Square right after, IT MEANS I WANT TO KILL THIS GUY, not that I want Edward to try to attack the guy that parries normal attacks. This is a very common and annoying occurrence. Then there's the fact that enemies only seem to die from "finishers" and not due to health, this means that if you are in the process of killing one of the tougher enemies, and another one tries to attack you, you either counter his attack or take the hit, regardless of the outcome, the enemy you were attacking will "recover" and force you to start the attacks on him all over again.

 On the bright side, the presentation is phenomenal. Graphics are downright gorgeous, water looks beautiful, and while the environments are samey and repetitive, they are also quite colorful. There's a lot of vegetation that uses very clean and bright greens, the end result is a very appealing world. Character models also look really good, I'm willing to say that Edward sports my favorite assassin's robes yet. Voice-acting is spot-on, as per usual with the series, and the music? The music is very, very fitting. Of particular note are the Shanties that the crew sings, which are very convincing and fitting of the period, not to mention fairly catchy.
 Before wrapping up, I'd like to talk about the exclusive "60 minutes of gameplay" on Sony consoles. These "60 minutes" are more like 20-30 minutes, and I'm including cutscenes and the retry I had to do due to a glitch on one of the missions. This "content" stars Aveline, but it offers no substance, it's glitchy and it's short. It's glitchy due to how your partner behaves, fairly dumb, and the game will often "teleport" her towards different places. There was also this one cutscene where the gun and charm a character was grabbing decided to float outside the guy's hands, which at the time was fairly amusing. The script is also a bit dumb, with no substance. It starts with Aveline going to the forest while Connor's letter is being narrated, which basically says "Yo Aveline, I need you to find this woman because of no particular reason, 'K thanks bye". Three missions later you are done. Yeah, I'd say it isn't worth it, even if you really like Aveline(Or if you are interested in her character, like me, but don't have a Vita and/or dislike digital media).

 Assassin's Creed IV is one of the best Pirate games I've ever played, I'd place it high up there alongside Sid Meier's Pirates. It's so good that it almost makes you forget about how bad the combat can get, or ignore how similar places can look. Plus, the core of the game is quite solid, with a ton, and I do mean a TON of side activities, AC IV is a game that will take you a loooooong time to complete.
 9.0 out of 10.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Now Playing: Dragon Ball - Raging Blast 2

 I finished Assassin's Creed 4! New game time!
 Yeah, I do have "on-going" games, like Megaman StarForce Dragon, which I'm playing every now and then, Crimson Gem Saga which bored me so I'm not ready to pick it up again, Project X Zone, which burned me out, so I'm on an extended break as well, and then there's Demon's Souls and Rune Factory which I swear I will finish this year. I swear.

 Regardless, since Xenoverse is looking mighty swell, I decided to scratch this one off the list. For the life of me, I can't get the hang of the new controls. Budokai Tenkaichi 3 got it so, so tight, and in their effort to simplify the controls, they made a mess. The graphics are pretty cool. The lack of a proper story mode is disappointing though, and Galaxy mode feels like a drag, specially how you unlock levels for other characters on certain galaxies, and how you unlock items, which you could need for the harder missions, on random missions, et all. It looks beautiful though,

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Super Smash Bros for 3DS

 "For" 3DS. Get it? "Four" Smash Bros "Four" 3DS.
 I was trying to keep myself away from the Demo, as to play the game in full once it arrived, but it's gonna take a while and I couldn't contain myself any longer...

 Firstly, it feels much faster and much better than Brawl. It's not quite as fast as Melee, and the characters aren't as slippery, but it's definitely faster than Brawl. I've put about one and a half hours in, and this is my favorite speed, so far.

 People were dubious of Sakurai when he said that each character was made from scratch, and they do feel new. Maybe it's because of the new speed, but the animations feel different, a good different. Speaking of speed, the game runs flawlessly at 60 FPS and it looks beautfiul, but the 30 FPS Assist trophies and Pokemon look quite... ugly, particularly the Nintendog, but I understand sacrifices had to be made, and I can live with that.

 I tried out all the characters at least twice, Megaman and Villager, the two available newcomers, feel amazing, they are incredibly fun to play as and are very unique. Villager has a Down+B that changes depending on the state of the plant he, well, plants with the first down+b. The next downward special becomes a water sprinkling move which pushes away enemies or turns the sapling into a tree, and it also turns the next uses of Down+B into an axe chop. It's awesome. And the Side B? SO. GOOD. Megaman has so much variety on his moves it's crazy, what he lacks in comboability he makes up in usability, he has so many attacks, many of them ranged, and most of them have a huge area of effect. And the Final Smash is just epic, having the other Mega Mans changing colors to match NES Mega Man would've been the cherry on top, but I'm not complaining.

 As for the veterans, Link has a dashing+A, which isn't as useful as the thrust he used to have, but it feels really good and look cool to boot. Mario remains the same basically, but I was never much of a Mario player, I think I only used him thoroughly in the N64 version. And then there's Pikachu, with his changed Down+B, which I'm indifferent to, and... is it me or his Final Smash really... bad? I seem to remember it packing a bigger punch.

 All in all I had a blast, I'm loving it so much. The only problem would be the controls, but... It's Smash Bros on the go. ON THE GO.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Month Overview: September

Games finished in September:
 Zenonia                                                                                                             4.0
 SMT: Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha VS The Soulless Army               7.0
 Spawn Armageddon                                                                                         4.5
 Def Jam 2: Battle for NY                                                                                 8.0
 Blazblue: ChronoPhantasma                                                                            7.5
 Shinobi                                                                                                             9.0
 Deadly Premonition: Director's Cut                                                                9.5
 Borderlands 2: Game of the Year Edition                                                       10

 Spawn was disappointing, I used to like that game so much... regardless, after the terrible Zenonia and Spawn, September hit a stride after Def Jam 2, which was really, REALLY good. Then came Shinobi, which was amazing, followed by Deadly Premonition, which now sits among my favorite games ever, and somehow, another game managed to top it....

 Game of September:
 Honestly, Borderlands 2 is just "more of the same", but when the "same" is so dang good, how can you blame them? The biggest changes, or improvements, are merely superficial, a stronger script, which is welcome but not a necessity when it comes to videogames, and the addition of a minimap being the most notorious ones. This is my kind of game.

 This game is somewhatish the opposite of Borderlands 2. While Borderlands 2 has awesome gameplay and a great story, Deadly Premonition has terrible gameplay but awesome story/setting. I kept thinking about the game, the setting, the situations and the NPCs long after I was done with the game, I just couldn't get enough... which is why I'm gonna watch Twin Peaks this month!