Saturday, February 28, 2015

Month Overview: February

 Games finished in February 2015:
Retro Game Challenge                                                     8.5
Megaman X Command Mission                                      8.0
Half Minute Hero                                                             9.5
The Sims                                                                          5.0
Half-Life                                                                          8.5
Power Rangers Super Legends - 15th Anniversary         5.5
Gods Eater Burst                                                              8.5
Crisis Core - Final Fantasy VII                                        4.0
Einhander                                                                         8.0


 Overall strong month, with only Crisis Core to blemish it. Man, was Crisis Core bad, I was so surprised to find out that it was written by the same guy that wrote Final Fantasy VII... The story did so many miss steps, remember how Sephiroth was supposed to be an anomaly in how strong he was? Memory Cloud was level 6-7 while Sephiroth was on the late 60s, if I remember correctly, to show you the wide difference between Sephiroth and the rest of the First Class SOLDIERs... except that now Sephiroth had to equals, in Angeal and Genesis... and eventually Zack too. Hilariously enough, Zack can't do half the amazing stuff Genesis, Angeal and Sephiroth pull, yet we are to believe that he is just as strong... And when Zack got promoted he wasn't even half as good as Sephiroth, while even have all these people on the same class? It made sense before, since it was only Seph, but if you've such power houses, it might be time for a new Rank or something.... or how about the fact that they felt the need to reboot the SOLDIER first class and Turks costumes to black, for whatever reason,  or even the randomness of the gameplay.... Man, Crisis Core just makes me angry.


 Game of February 2015:
 Half-Minute Hero, on the other hand, made me very happy. It's an amazing game, with a hilarious premise and a great execution. It's GOTY material no doubt. It's a tad disappointing that the sequel didn't get a physical release outside Japan, guess I'm gonna have to cave in and get it on Steam.

 Runner-up:
 Speaking of great games, Gods Eater Burst. It was so much fun that unless I found myself grinding for rare drops, it was hard to notice just how little meat to the game there was. Few monsters and few environments should've spelt death for the game, but the game was fun enough. At least for the 50+ hours I invested.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Now Playing: Pokemon Omega Ruby

 'Nother Pokemon generation, 'nother Pokemon remake.
 Whoopty do! So Omega Ruby, officially started it. I mean, what is there to say? They removed customization, with sucks since the Ruby's cap is terrible, but now you can run in diagonals, which is all kinds of awesome. I mean, what is there to say? It's Pokemon, it's the same game it's ever been, I like it.

 I guess I could write a bit about my history with Ruby? I bought Ruby pretty much at release, and at the time, I remember hating the new monsters(I still do!), but there were some standouts, like Groudon and Torchic, 'sides, I hadn't seen Generation 4 and how bad they could get, so I don't dislike them as much now a days. Trainer Bases were something I absolutely adored, it was like a enhanced version of your Room in Gold and Silver, however, I would've liked some way of knowing WHERE your Secret Base was, since coming back to the game after some weeks meant I would forget! I also remember being extremely disappointed that there was no Johto after finishing the game, no other game after Gold or Silver would house 16 badges ever again.

 For as much flak as I give Ruby, it's quite probably the Pokemon game I replayed, in its entirety, the most. After I first finished the game, a bazillion years later I would transfer all my 'mons to Pearl, and I gave it two other playthroughs to farm Legendaries and the other two starters to my Platinum game. Eventually, I would replay it again in order to transfer every Ruby 'mon to Heart Gold. At that time my Wi-Fi was being wonky, so I didn't bother farming legendaries, plus, I had everything I needed to fill the dex in Platinum, so my life long dream of completing the Dex had been fulfilled. Kinda. I eventually completed it in Y though!

 Expectations? I dunno. I'm open to the idea of being surprised, but I'm not particularly fond of Hoenn, and the removal of Trainer Customization was, in my eyes, a huge step backwards. But then again, Mega Beedrill is all kinds of badass... Even though my Mega of Choice is, usually, Scizor.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Review #210 - Einhander

 Killer AIs are so 80s.
 Remember the 90s? Remember when Squaresoft would go outsider its comfort zone and create some great titles that weren't RPGs? I remember.  Einhander is a vertical shoot'em up that brings its own unique spin on the genre, and it's pretty dang good.

 Should I bother with the story? Who plays shoot'em ups for the story? There actually is an story to Einhander, it's pretty dark and grim, and even holds some twists if you manage to make it far enough. I didn't care for it, and neither should you, but it's amusing that Square went out of its way to give it such an involved plot. It's not bad, it's actually fairly interesting, but me, personally, didn't care for it. The game can be played on Easy, Normal or Hard, it's a seven stage romp that can be finished in under an hour if you know what you are doing. I'm terrible at these games, so I had a hard time finishing it in Easy, but the game is far from a bullet curtain, if you've the skill, it's probably quite manageable. That said, if you lose a life, you are sent back to a checkpoint, so you can't just force your way through. One thing to keep in mind is that you can't save your progress, so when you start the game, you better commit to it. Initially there's 3 ships, but you can unlock another 2, one by finishing the game on Hard while using less than two continues(Evidently, this is far beyond my skills) and another one by achieving 15 bonuses, which is easy if you know how to attain these bonuses.
 The game offers some very interesting mechanics, and they change a little depending on which ship you pick. The game is named after the Arm your ship possesses, which you can use to punch the enemies behind or below you, or to hold the various weapon pods. There's a wide variety of weapons, some stronger than others, and each weapon can be used in two different positions, above or below you, which you can be changed at will, some just change if they fire below or above your machine gun rounds, but others may shoot behind you, depending on where you equip them, While you can't save the game midway through your run, the game is saved after you win or run out of continues, and every pod that you grabbed gets 'saved', this way you can choose to start with that weapon equipped the next time you play, which also means you are re-equipped with it every time you respawn. These weapons have a secondary function... you can use them as shields. While your ship dies in one shot, if you time it, or reposition yourself so that a bullet hits a pod, it will tank the shot for you! Pods have limited 'endurance', so they aren't such a commodity.

Every ship comes outfitted with a standard machine gun, the only weapon that houses unlimited ammo, but they use the pods in different ways. One Ship has an enhanced Machine Gun, but can only wield one weapon at a time. Another one allows you to use two pods at a time, but having two pods means that you can't use the machine gun, so you will have to consume ammo, plus, depending on the pods, you may get one of those that shoots behind you if equipped in a certain position, so double fire may be an impossibility. The third one can only equip one pod at a time, but allows you to store up to three different pods. As for the unlockable ships, one can't equip pods(But has a waaay better normal gun) and the other one is an enhanced version of the third ship, that can store almost infinite ammo of each pod(You have to collect the ammo though!).
 As far as looks go... it's alright, I guess. Bullets are clearly defined, and I didn't have trouble spotting them, most of the time, if I got shot down, either I knew why or I got distracted. Something I liked is how the game becomes clearer as you go along, at the start you are in a city, at night, but by stage 4 it's already morning and you are raiding a base! The music is incredible, it's really, really good, it gets you pumped for what's coming, I don't think there was a single track I disliked

 I'm not fond of shoot'em ups, and I'm not good at them, but I liked this one, and I kept coming back to it until I eventually finished it(On easy) which speaks volumes of the game's quality. The entry barrier is a bit higher than other shoot'em ups, which means I'm not sure if anybody else who isn't fond of the genre will like it though.
 8.0 out of 10

Now Playing: Jeanne D'Arc

 'Tis pretty dope.
 It probably wasn't the brightest idea to begin a new game when the month is almost over. It's also, probably, a bit too early buuut, these are supposed to be my very early impressions(Since I like seeing how, if, my appreciation for a game changes between how I first felt when I played and how I do after finishing).

 ANYWAYS, I'm liking it. The game is gorgeous, beautiful animated cut-scenes and very detailed and good looking in-game 3D models. The gameplay is simple, but I think I'm gonna like this 'Transform' ability on Jeanne, she gets extra turns whenever she slays an enemy! I wonder if I can exploit it by killing allies.... 'Tis good, I like Jeanne as a lead.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Review #209: Crisis Core - Final Fantasy VII

 Oh, boy...
 Final Fantasy VII is my favorite game of all time, there's not a single thing I hate about it. Well, there wasn't, until "Compilation of Final Fantasy VII" was announced. I loved Final Fantasy VII, imagine me completely elated by the news! Oh, I was younger back then, I didn't know just how badly they would try to milk the game that functioned perfectly as a stand alone story. They would devalue the character development Cloud went through with Advent Children, as well as managing to shoe-horn appearances by Zack and Aerith, not to mention devalue Sephiroth as a villain by bringing him back, just because. Or how about having the TURKS fight a mysterious previous instance of AVALANCE in Before Crisis? No, I am not a fan of everything that happened after Final Fantasy VII, the Final Fantasy games work as stand alone games, the moment they try expanding upon it, be it The After Years, X-2 or XIII-2 and XIII-3... well, the original XIII was terrible, so those don't count, they spit on the original game.

 Here's the first problem with Crisis Core: There's no story to tell. Really, Final Fantasy VII told you everything you needed, or wanted, to know about Sephiroth, about Zack and his relationship with Aerith and Cloud. There was no mysterious events to deepen, nothing that needed fleshing out. There was no story to tell. That means that they had to create a bunch of new characters that are inconsequential, since the main story has been told and this is nothing but filler. We have Genesis, which is Sephiroth but isn't Sephiroth and wears a red coat. The character is insufferable, something bad happens, Genesis is there and quotes LOVELESS(An in-game poem), and you might fight him or not. 90% of his dialogue is made up of LOVELESS quotes. His motivation is as vain as his personality, they probably realized you were gonna hate him, so throughout the entire game you fight his 'copies', so that you can take out your anger on them. Oh, and spoilers, he is forgiven at the end, so that he may save the world one day after Dirge of Cerberus. Because Nomura was a fan of Gackt and had to have him on the game, and of course he had to have a big part on it. They even shoehorn him into events that happened during FFVII's flashbacks. We also have Dr. Hollander, who is Dr. Hojo except he's not. He's a terrible villain, and the game has you chasing after him most of the time. They even tried to make light of it by giving him a 'funny' running animation. Terrible character. Lastly, there's Angeal, the original owner of the Buster Sword and Zack's mentor. This character had a lot of potential, the idea of a mentor was good, he gets some of the best lines in the game, in a game full of great dialogue(Shame the story is so bad!), but it quickly goes down the hole as he 'develops'. His drive is not convincing, and I felt as if they didn't handle the character very well.
 Hilariously enough, they gave the Buster Sword some backstory, and now it's supposed to be Angeal and Zack's legacy. Y'know, the worst weapon that Cloud could equip in FF7? The first Sword you unequipped and were HAPPY to? A weapon weaker than a bat with nails found in the Temple of the Cetra? Yeah, now that Sword that Cloud stops using after a couple of minutes of gameplay is supposed to be a big deal. Hilarious. Now then, my problem isn't with it being a legacy weapon, it works for Zach's story arc and development, my problem is with the ridiculous backstory behind its creation and how it costed Angeal's father's life. They also tried so hard to be Final Fantasy VII, they recreated some scenes, which is terrible. Having old moments remade with this engine, that's good, but recreating scenes but with Zack on Cloud's place is terrible, now we are to believe that Aerith and Zack met in the same way she did with Cloud, with almost the exact same dialogue. Or how they redid FF7's opening but with Zack coming out of the train, but giving it the flimsy excuse of it being a simulation. That's bad. Pandering for the sake of pandering is bad. The story is oddly paced as well, one of the worst chapters having you go from place to place talking with different NPCs, while the main 'narrative' unfolds via the Mails that you get. It's not a good story, and it's badly told. That said, it does have some good moments, like the way Cloud and Zack met, which was handled pretty well, seeing a nice Sephiroth was also interesting, and while the story is so bad... the dialogue is really good. I also really liked Zack, he is so cheery and happy, unlike sassy Cloud. The Ending was excellent as well, it's a shame you have to trudge through the rest of the game to get to it.

 As for the gameplay, where to start with... In the game you play as Zack, d'oh, with the camera centered on his back, though you can rotate it with the shoulder buttons. The game has random encounters, kinda. The places where Random Encounters can take place are scripted, so walking on them will trigger the encounters(It's usually round, wide areas), but you can skip some by walking on the sides of the area, that said, if you are unlucky to finish a battle close to said sides, you might accidentally trigger the same encounter just a few steps after the fact. It's not the best of approaches, but it could've been worse. The game is pretty linear, sometimes you are allowed to walk around through Midgar and unlock Optional Missions or do some side activities, but every time you get shipped outside Midgar, there's little in the way of exploration. Now then, these optional missions can be accepted at any time provided you are standing over a Save Point. These missions are.. dull. There's over 200 missions, and all of the same are the same, you get thrown on some dungeon, need to find a certain monster and kill it. Doing more than 5 of them in a row is a drag. What's worse, it's easy to get frustrated or overleveled, since the way these unlock is terrible. For some reason, you can do some high-level missions at the START of the game, yet by advancing through the game, or talking to NPC's later down the road, you may unlock Easy missions. Why? Why not tie the difficulty of the missions that you unlock to the time and place you are at in the game? I, foolishly, thought to finish all missions, and spent three hours doing missions at the beginning of the game. Needless to say, that left me overleveled for the rest of the game. And the only reason I stopped was because enemies had unavoidable(At the time) Death spells that prevented me from going onwards. It makes no sense to let you attempt these nigh impossible odds so early in the game, but unlock trivial missions, with pitiful rewards(Since you'll be more leveled) later in the game.
 You can equip up to six Materia on Zack, the objects that allow you to use spells, skills or passive power ups, as well as up to four different equipment pieces. Battles play out in real time, you can move Zack around, and select from your Attack, Spells, Skills or Item with the shoulder buttons. It's a bit impractical when moving around through your different possibilities, but you can at least pick the order in which your Materia appears, so that you can have your most commonly used spells closer to Attack(the default option). You can also use Square to try to dodge, or Triangle to block. The combat is... alright, but it can get dull after a while. Zack picks the target nearest to him, and you can't switch between targets, which wasn't much of an issue, maybe because I was overleveled for most of the game, but still annoying. Speaking of annoying, certain large enemies and bosses have unavoidable attacks. Really, they will trigger a cut-scene, there's no build up for you to try to cancel it, and do damage to you, with no chance to avoid or mitigate it. What the hell? I never lost to a boss due to this, but it's certainly possible, what a terrible, terrible design choice. But that's not even the biggest issue with the game...

 That being the randomness of the game. Level ups? Random. Limit Breaks? Random. Leveling up your Materia? Random. Summons? Random. You read that right, all of those are random. During battle, instead of experience points you earn SP, which is used to keep the 3 reels on the upper part of the screen spinning. Depending on the numbers you get, you will get different buffs, like temporal invincibility, or temporal infinite MP. The reels are made up of characters(Like Cloud and Sephiroth) and numbers, if the two characters on the left and ride reel turn up the same(Say, Cloud-Still Spinning-Cloud) you will enter 'Limit Verge', which PAUSES THE GAME in order to give you a close up of the reels. No, you cannot 'cancel' Limit Verge. Now, if the center reel ends on the same characters as the reels on the side, you will execute a Limit Break. Plus, if on Limit verge you get three sevens Zack will level up, while getting two of the same number will level up the Materia on that slot. Yes, it's very possible not to get a single level up on one of your Materia through the entire game. What where they thinking? I heard that there was an invisible XP counter that made it likelier for a level up to happen, but that's a lie. I spent about 30 minutes fighting and finally got a level up... and then got another level up on the very next random encounter. Leveling up is entirely random. It's a terrible game mechanics that sucks the fun out of fighting. Innovation for the sake of Innovation is not a good thing, get that through your thick skulls, Squeenix.
 If there's one front in which Squeenix never disappoints, it's graphics. The game looks gorgeous, the in-game graphics are nothing short of amazing, while the FMV cut-scenes are breathtaking to say the least. Plus, the game employs a lot of familiar enemies and bosses from Final Fantasy VII, seeing them with such a high polygon count made me feel all happy inside. And made me wish for a FFVII remake with these kind of graphics. Who needs HD, just make it look good. The soundtrack borrows a lot of music from FFVII, which is awesome, while the new tunes are a bit more of a mixed bag. I noticed that most of the least notable original tunes are used in the first part of the game, while most of the new music used in the latter half of the game was fantastic. The music used against Sephiroth being particularly good, heck, most of the 'melancholic' and 'depressing' songs were phenomenal. Voice Acting was incredibly good as well.

 Crisis Core is not a good game. It might be a bit better if you haven't played Final Fantasy VII yet, so that the recycled scenes don't feel like a poor attempt to leech of Final Fantasy VII's nostalgia and the new characters don't feel as inconsequential as they do, plus, you can't really compare these rip-offs, Genesis and Hollander, to the originals! Still, even if the story wasn't as bad as it is, the game just can't pull its own weight. The reels were a terrible idea, the optional missions are dull and poorly spread throughout the game and the battles aren't very fun. If you like Final Fantasy VII, stay away.
 4.0 out of 10.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Now Playing: Crisis Core - Final Fantasy VII

 Why can't Square do ANYTHING like normal people?
 Oh boy, here we go. There's two thing y'need to know about me, A) Final Fantasy VII is my favorite game of all time and B) I hate Modern Square-Enix. My feelings about the half hour I spent on Crisis Core so far are mixed at best.

 I guess I'll start with the very first thing you see in the game, the CG cut-scenes. They are amazing, Square's forte has always been graphics, and this is no exception. CG cut-scenes? Gorgeous. In-game models? Amazing. The environments are a bit blander though. Now, as for the intro itself... was it really necessary to redo Final Fantasy VII's opening? It pulled at my heart strings, yes, but... why? If you wanted to show parallels between Zack and Cloud, they could've done it by using a different train on a different area. Oh, but they have an excuse, a flimsy one at that... it's a simulation!

 And they screwed it up. Firstly, they try to trick the audience, with Zack asking why are they fighting Shinra Soldiers, and Angeal replies that they are disguised Wu-Tai soldiers. That's dumb, it's a simulation, who cares? You could argue, and it's a stretch, that Zack was trying to be funny "Yo, why are friendlies my enemies?" and Angeal was being sarcastic. But it's a stretch. And why would you simulate fights against your OWN forces? What the hell? Shouldn't the simulated enemies be, well, you know, your REAL enemies? And the 'last boss' is a Sephiroth simulation. What? And why doesn't Angeal need a visor to see/enter into the Simulation? Heck, why does Zack need it? Also, how come a Simulation broke Zack's sword? Let's entertain the notion that it can somehow create matter.... then why would Zack need the visor? This is the type of nonsense present day Square-Enix is known for, seems to be written by the same guy who did Final Fantasy XIII. No bueno. That said, I like Zack's cheery personality being so opposed to Cloud's no-nonsense demeanor. And no, Cloud was never Emo, he was a bit sassy as a matter of fact.

 As for the gameplay... I dunno, I like it, but I don't. For instance, what enemy Zack attacks is almost completely random, it says that Zack targets the nearest enemy, but I'm pretty sure many a times he didn't target the one closest to him... which meant he incurred damage when I sent him to attack. Attacking feels very... automatic. You can dodge at any time, which is cool, but why bother letting you move around if pressing X will have Zack break into a dash towards the enemy and attack? I dunno, I feel like I'm barely in control. And what's up with Leveling up being Random? Leveling up both Zack and his materia is random. I researched a bit, since even Square couldn't be so backwards when it came to game design, and it kinda isn't, but it kinda is. There's an invisible experience meter that makes it more likely for the reels to stop on 777 and you earn a level up. But still, it's a bit random. Getting Limit Breaks is also random. Why... why would you build a game around random mechanics? Why?

 All in all... now that I put my thoughts on paper, or data, I can tell I'm not really enjoying it. Godammit, Square, what happened to ya?

Review #208: Gods Eater Burst

 Gods are yummy.
 Monster Hunter is kind of a big deal in Japan. Namco wanted a piece of Capcom's pie, so they decided to develop their own take on the idea. The result is Gods Eater Burst, which is Monster Hunter if Monster Hunter ever went anime. As a matter of fact, Gods Eater Burst is the localized version of God Eater as well as the God Eater Burst append/re-release.

 The story is set in a post-apocalyptic future where a new race of creatures, the Aragami, have infested the Earth and mankind fights for survival. Humans wield God Arcs, weapons capable of hurting these beasts, since the wielders must get injected with Aragami Cells in order to use them, but must also keep a bracelet with the Bias Factor in order to keep them in check. Now then, the setting, the world of Gods Eater Burst, I totally adored, I loved the concept behind Gods Eater Burst, although the story is pretty weak. You play as a 'New-Type', a God Eater that can freely switch his God Arc from Sword Form to Gun Form, and happens to be a mostly mute hero, it's kinda weird how they decided to give him or her only a couple of lines, either make him mute all the way, or give him more lines! This is a problem, because midway through the game, your character takes the backseat, and the supporting NPCs become the main driving force behind the story, with your character just.. being there along for the ride. The plot is weak in just how unoriginal everything is, you'll see the plot twists coming from miles away, and every character is pretty damn cliched. Firstly, the art-direction is disappointingly pandering, the females wear almost no clothes, and definitely no underwear, something that the game will let you know, each of the three major female NPCs cover the underboob, cleavage and side boob clothes, because Japan. They look terrible
 It's not just a terrible art-direction, the character themselves follow archetypes that you've already seen countless times. See Soma? The loner? He's like that because he is tired of seeing friends die, so he doesn't want to get close to others, like 200 other Japanese characters before him. And what about Alisa? She's Asuka Langhley through and through, the New-Type that comes from another branch and has some mental issues. The dialogue can get pretty cheesy as well, I couldn't help but roll my eyes every single time the 'big bad' opened his mouth. The game is divided through difficulty tiers, each tier having up to 25 different missions, but only 4-8 of them are mandatory to advance the storyline. After finishing the 6th tier, you'll see the credits, and then you'll be able to go up to the 10th tier, these four tiers being the Burst Storyline. Burst is better written, but it goes full anime. It's not a very interesting story, but it's better written than the main scenario... but it's much more ridiculous. At least your character has a bigger part on this plot! I appreciate the game having a Story, but it's definitely not something to be looking forwards to.

 The game plays basically like Monster Hunter. First of all, you create your character, which can be a male or a female hero, but you get a very few clothing options. Don't worry, you'll be able to craft more. However, I felt the color variety on each piece was very lacking, there's a lot of red, black and white, with not nearly enough Yellow, Orange or Purle, to name a few. Also, a lot of the clothes are very... flamboyant, your characters don't look like people that are about to slay giant monsters. And it's a bit jarring, having these very anime and colorful characters fight these huge, dark, badass monsters. Well, most of them, this being a Japanese game, of course that there are some enemies with female torsos and bouncing breasts. Because Japan. That said, your main hub is the Den, it's here that you can chat with NPCs, buy supplies or craft them, alongside equipment, and pick your missions. As mentioned before, missions are divided through tiers, there's 10 different tiers, plus the post-game Challenge Missions, which total to over 250 missions(only 75 are mandatory to finish the game). Even more if you download the free DLC. And the Japanese version gets even MORE DLC, but because of 'reasons', Namco didn't localize them. Shame, as they added new monsters and equipment.
 While there's a lot of missions, there's not a whole lot of variety. There's only 6 different areas, each one is about as large as two of Monster Hunter's 'sub-areas', however, there's no loading times when moving around, which in my book is a plus, but you'll be seeing the same areas over and over again. There's also only 9 'big monsters' and 3 weaklings. However, each monster gets at least one variation, and they come in 'Fallen' or 'God' variations. Fallen Variations only change the color of the monster, while God variations have slight changes to the 3D model. That said, they each monster and all of its variations behave the same. They may have slightly different attack, for example, the Chi-You and its god variations(Hera and Sekhmet) have the same 'Burst' attack, but the Gods' cover a different area. The Vajra and his two variations are the only monsters with different attacks, but it's mostly in how they work, as they reuse the same animations. Also, the other thing that changes with the variations are the resistances and weaknesses, as well as their weakspots, but otherwise, they are the same monster, but with a different color. Burst adds more 'Variations' to the strong monsters(Arda Nova and Ouroboros), and a new monster, the Hannibal, while the DLC adds Venus, and entirely new monster, and Caligula(A Hannibal variation).

 Now then, from difficulty 1 to 6, while you are fighting the same monsters, they will get stronger, damage and resistance-wise, more aggressive, and they will also gain new attacks as you go up the tiers, so it does feel different when you go up against them again. Burst is a bit.... dull in this regard, monsters don't gain any new attacks, they just get stronger and become damage sponges. It's artificial difficulty really, you are fighting the same exact monsters, except that they can one or two shot you now. To be honest, by the end game I just stopped switching weapons before each fight, or using healing items, since the game wasn't hard, for reasons I will talk about later, it just wanted to eat up my time with damage sponges. And you can argue that Monster Hunter monsters are damage sponges as well, but challenge is a big part of Monster Hunter, this game is not hard.
 If I were to describe the game, I'd call it an easy Monster Hunter. For instance, you can take up to three NPCs alongside you. These NPCs are pretty good at dodging(interrupting your combos with projectiles) and can revive you indefinitely. Kinda. Y'see, when you 'die', the NPCs have 30 seconds to get to your body and give you half their health bar. They've got almost limitless healing supplies, so you can just keep dying and dying, and they will revive you. In over 50 hours of gameplay, they only failed to revive me in time twice, and even then, you get two respawns(Which consume part of the hunt's reward). This is why, eventually, I just stopped buying healing items, and took bigger risks, since the CPU were so reliable in keeping me alive! This can create bad habits, since you don't get such leniency upon death! What's more, enemies in Monster Hunter will go after you if you try to heal without waiting for an opening, not so here, you can just heal in front of their faces. Scavenging for items on the environment doesn't require nets or pickaxes, you just press circle over the shiny spots on the ground. Furthermore, you have a lot of mobility in this game, compared to Monster Hunter, sidesteps are fast, you can jump around and run much faster, all which consume Stamina, but it recovers fairly quickly. You can also use your God Arc to take a bite out of an Aragami, which puts you in Burst Mode for a while, granting better mobility(Double jumping!), and faster stamina recovery, alongside special Bullets.

 Equipment in Gods Eater comes in threes. Your God Arc is made up of three parts: Sword, Shield and Gun, each of these also come in three varieties. Just as with Monster Hunter, weapons have upgrade trees, and you upgrade your equipment with money and items savaged from your prey. The game has a very neat 'exchange' store, where you can trade some materials for others, which can lessen the pain of grinding, when it comes to getting the material you need for your next upgrade. There's many types of damage to take into account: Crush, Sunder, Pierce, Blaze, Freeze, Thunder and Divine, naturally, enemies have different resistances and weaknesses, plus, they may be weak to certain damage source on only some of their limbs. Monsters also deal damage from these sources, and you have three slots of optional equipment to raise your resistances... or other buffs(Or debuffs!) if you prefer. I only cared about these at the start of the game, as soon as I realized just how reliable my team were(About midway through difficulty 7) I stopped caring and stuck to my Wild Yang sword and my Health items. It's an easy game, there's no need to concern yourself with these stats.
 The biggest issue this game has are the controls. As far as melee combat is concerned, the controls are great. The camera can be a bit of a handful, but you can use the digital pad to maneuver it or just tap the L button to position it behind you. You can also use the L button to lock the Camera on an enemy, and most of the time it works well, but sometimes it will choose a terrible angle to get locked at, still, just tap L to 'unlock' it, move it around with the digital pad, and lock onto an enemy again. Using items in the heat of battle can be a bit finicky at times as well, but you'll get used to it after a while. I mentioned that your character is a New-type, and can switch between Sword and Gun Mode at will. Well... the Gun is very unwieldy. You can't lock onto an enemy with the gun, instead holding the L button will put you in 'aiming mode', where you use the digital pad to move the reticule around. Yes, move with the analog pad while aiming with the digital pad, both which are on the same side of the PSP layout. It works terribly. When I used the gun, which is suggested as some Aragami are better dealt with by using the bullets you steal from them, I relied mostly on jumping and shooting, preying I would hit. I did. Most of the time. There's also a fairly in-depth bullet creation mode, and if you use guns mostly, you may get a kick out of it. I just searched for some good combinations online and called it a day.

 It sounds as if I'm mostly being critical, but the game is a blast. I like the fact that it's a more accessible Monster Hunter. I love how much mobility it allows you, in order to move around and dodge attacks, things like stopping a mid air combo with an air block to block an incoming attack, for example. It feels good, and gives it a fairly different flavor to the more methodical MH. Most of the monsters look very cool, and it's fun to fight them. Upgrading your weapons is always fun and rewarding, and trust me, there's a lot of weapons. And the controls? Easily remedied with a console port... which God Eater 2 got!
 While I disliked the art direction on the human characters, the graphics, on a technical level, are phenomenal. Character's hands look a bit... pointy, but otherwise are really good. And the best part? Even when fighting three giant monsters, with three other NPCs... the framerate remains steady. It's amazing. And the environments, while few, look great as well, further selling the idea of a post apocalyptic earth. Graphics get straight As all the way through. Music is very... Japanesy, there's a lot of songs with lyrics, and they fit the game very well, while I'm not gonna be humming the songs any time soon, I don't think there was a single track I disliked. Voice acting is really good as well, the Japanese names are pronounced a bit... off, but no biggie. That said, good voice acting can't save a bad script, heh!

 Gods Eater Burst might be a shameless rip off, but it's a quality rip off. If you like Monster Hunter for the challenge... nope, skip this one, but if you like the franchise for, well, the gameplay, Gods Eater Burst gets the highest of recommendations.
 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Now Playing: Einhander

 Well... unlocking the Bonus Ships is pretty much out of the question!
 I broke my Maximo disc. Yes, I did. The PS2 wasn't reading the disc, and I did some searching around, seems most Maximo copies are... troubled. People recommended putting scotch tape over the disc, which I did, but it didn't work... and when I removed the tape, it took part of the data layer with it. True story. Long story short, I wanted to play Maximo, but got stuck with Einhander instead.

 Shooters are not my thing, but Einhander had always interested me... well, I just wasted 10 continues and didn't make it past Stage 4. On Easy. Which pretty much means I'm not even gonna bother trying to unlock the two ships. That said, I like the game, it's quite fun, when my butt isn't getting kicked! And as hard as it was, every single one of my 30+ deaths was my fault, and it felt like it was my fault. It's not cheap, and it's far from a bullet hell game, I simply suck at these! Heh. I'm like it, I'm not particularly fond of the genre, but I can recognize the game's quality.

 Oh, and this being a SquareSoft game, of course it had to have a very convoluted story line! It's two pages long!

Review #207: Power Rangers Super Legends - 15th Anniversary

  It's morphin' time!
 Power Rangers Super Legends is a 2D action-platformer game, featuring characters from over 15 years of Power Rangers history. Kinda. One thing to keep in mind, is that this game is aimed at children, first and foremost, which makes it easier to forgive some of its shortcomings. That said, as someone who enjoys Tokusatsu shows and enjoyed Power Rangers back in the day, there's quite a few of missed opportunities.

 The premise is simple, Lord Zed has gone bad again, and he comes across the Time Crystals, that allow the holder to travel through time. The Future Omega Ranger, a somewhat original character created for this game, tries to stop him, but the crystal shatters and the Omega Ranger gets stuck, however, the Operation Overdrive Rangers come across shards of the Crystal, which allows the Omega Ranger to contact him. What follows is the Omega Ranger recruiting other Rangers to aid him stop Zed. The story is pretty simple, but to be honest, it works. It is a kid's game, and the premise works well for the game. And this is where a lot of my gripes reside. The game features 15 levels(Or is it 16? More on this later), each series getting 3 stages, and this would probably raise some eyebrows, as it can't possibly cover all of Power Rangers' story... and it doesn't. Operation Overdrive, Lost Galaxy, Ninja Storm, Mighty Morphin' and SPD are the only series that get levels, with two 'guest' Wild Force Rangers. What the hell? How is this an 'Anniversary' game? As a game for kid, it ignores most of the older series, like Zeo, Turbo, Time Force and Dino Force in lieu of having the most recent ones, y'know, the ones children may be most familiar with. And what's up with Tommy Oliver, arguably the most iconic Ranger in the franchise, not being represented in any way, shape or form? No other Character has had so many appearances in the franchise, not having Tommy in the game is an absolute crime. Lastly, the cut-scenes are told via animated 2D cut-outs of the 3D models, they look terrible. Was animating the 3D models so hard? Even the game's cover looks pretty bland, mixing real photos with art, plus, the Yellow Ninja Storm Ranger doesn't even appear on this game.
 Gameplay is surprisingly good, and it can be played the whole way through with another player! You've got an attack button for a three-hit combo, a launcher, a ground pound, an aerial ground pound, throwing, dashing and air dashing, blocking, double jumping. The beauty of it, is that it has a pretty decent juggling system, that allows for some simple aerial combos and juggles, you can even downed enemies with a ground pound or a slide! It offers more depth than, probably, any other kid's game out there. Hilariously enough, you can perform infinite jumps by juggling an enemy, since every time you perform the aerial launcher, it allows you to jump again... and it's actually an encouraged game mechanic, as some collectibles can only be accessed by using it! While the fighting is fairly good, the Blaster enemies can get downright annoying, as you can't block blaster attacks, it's suggested to throw another enemy towards them, but when in tight corridors, and these blaster enemies are guarded with heavy enemies, that can't be thrown, they become a problem. Not that dying has any consequence, you just lose some of the experience orbs that you've collected and respawn right where you died.

 When you are not fighting, you'll be jumping around and trying to collect as many items as possible. The levels aren't particularly well designed, but every now and then you'll come across some fairly good platforming sections which require using the different combinations of jumps and aerial dashes to get through.... But then again, there's the occasional Leap of Faith. Then there's also the wall jumping, which is a bit iffy. For starters, two walls may look the same, but not all of them will let you cling on it to let you perform a wall jump, hilariously, in one stage your Ranger will actually cling on thin air. It doesn't stop there, sometimes if you don't initiate the Wall jumps on the right wall, or at the right altitude, you will miss the ledge, and the game won't let you cling to the wall immediately below said ledge to wall jump again, no sir, back to the bottom and start again. Throughout the level you'll find experience orbs, which are also dropped by defeated enemies, and will 'level up' your Ranger after each level. Not that there's an experience gauge or anything, so there's no way of knowing how much you need for each level up! Plus, besides an extended life bar, I didn't notice my Rangers getting any stronger. There's also temporary power ups to be found, that can aid you in battle, like increased damage or invulnerability. Each level also has four goals: Defeat a certain amount of enemies, perform a X-hit combo, collect all Ranger letters and find all 10 "timeline collectibles". The Timeline collectibles unlock art, while the Ranger letters unlock Rangers. Here's the kicker, some of these are veeery well hidden. And I do mean VERY well hidden. As in I needed a guide to find some of these.
 My issue with this is that finding all these RANGER letters, or Timeline Collectibles if, for some reason, you really want to see concept art of the level, is a bit of a hassle. Not only are they well hidden(It is the third time I say it, but I really want to make it clear just how well hidden they are!), but the levels have a ton of  'Points of no Return', usually in the way of a barrier that activates as soon as you go across them. Levels are fairly long, upwards 10 minutes long, and if you miss a letter, it means replaying the entire level. Not only that, say that you finish a level but miss just one letter... the next time through, you have to find each letter again, not just the one you missed. What the hell?! Now, y'see, playing as different Rangers is one of the game's most important selling points, but all 20 of them play exactly the same. Sure, they may have different max stats when fully leveled up, but they share EVERY. SINGLE. ANIMATION. I don't feel rewarded for collecting these Letters, just let me play as the darned Rangers! Worst of all, if you are gonna make all characters simple palette swaps... why include only 20 characters? There's no excuse for, at least, not having the entire Ranger teams featured in the game. Was making different textures so hard?

 Now then, every 'normal' stage ends with a boss fight(It translates to fighting the same 'boss' in each timeline twice, they don't even change their tactics), and every fight is the same. The boss attacks, you must jump out of the way, wait for them to laugh, and then attack. Or you can just mash the attack button, it's not like dying is so bad. Every time they lose a fourth of their health bar, they will jump back and summon minions for you to kill before they come back to fight. Every single boss fight is the same, but at least they have the decency to have different, if similar, attacks. As mentioned, each series(But Operation Overdrive and Super Legends, which only have two each) have three stages... but the third one is a Zord battle. Zord battles are disappointing to say the least. They are glorified QTES the play exactly the same all the way up to the final Mega Zord battle in the game. Every Megazord in the game has the same exact animations and attacks. Plus, it seems like the Mega Zords and Giant Bosses have lower quality models than the ones used in the normal stages. Remember that I mentioned a 16th stage? It seems that some PS2 discs are missing the Mega Zord battle from the SPD levels, mine included. I tried searching for footage online, but the only pieces of proof about this 'level' existing are the cut-scene at the end of the second SPD level(Which has Zed powering up the boss you just defeated) and the word of some random GameFaqs user. Whichever the case, you aren't missing much, it would've just played like every other single Mega Zord battle.
 The presentation is, unsurprisingly, pretty lackluster. Character models are fairly simple, and there's very few enemy models, most of them being palette swaps of 5 different enemy types. To be fair, it's a colorful game, and the Rangers' animations are pretty smooth. While on a technical level the stages are fairly bland, on an artistic level they look quite alright, sometimes even good. Music is dull, for lack of a better word, there are a couple of tunes that are decent, but most of it is forgettable. Voice acting is passable, but I think the overreacting and how the Rangers talk somewhat fits the vibe of the franchise, so I didn't really care for it.

 The worst part about the game is that it carries the '15th Anniversary' subtitle, this is not an Anniversary game, it does not celebrate everything Power Rangers related, instead, it's just A Power Rangers game, no wonder the European version lost said subtitle! I may have been harsh on the game, but at the end of the day, as far as kid's games go, it's pretty good. Platforming can be satisfying, and the uncomplicated, but somewhat stylish, combat and juggling system are a good introduction to other, better action games. That said, as a Power Rangers fan... it's hard to recommend, while it's really good, for a kid's game, it really doesn't offer much for someone who likes the franchise.
 5.0 out of 10.

Now Playing: Power Rangers Super Legends - 15th Anniversary

 These collectibles...
 Lemme level with you, Gods Eater Burst is fantastic, I was playing it in tandem while I was studying. But I already finished God Eater(Difficulty 1-6) and am currently playing through Burst(Difficulty 8 to be precise). Thing is, I really want to upgrade my weapons, which means grinding, and I've been grinding the Sehkmet and Magma Gboro-Gboro for a while now... I grew a bit tired of it, I needed something else.

 To think that at one point in my life, I spoke highly of this game to a friend of mine, I might actually have compared it to Devil May Cry. Evidently, it had been a while since I had played DMC, else I wouldn't have lied like that. Anyways, the game is... acceptable. The combo system is alright, it's dead simple, but taking into account the fact that it's a kids' game... it's fine. That's as far as I'll excuse it though. Every character is a color swap of each other, which baffles the mind as to why they only included 20 characters in the game. THIS GAME IS SUPPOSED TO CELEBRATE POWER RANGER'S 15TH ANNIVERSARY, goddamn. It also skipped a ton of series. So we are missing characters, missing series, and every character plays exactly the same, with the same exact animations. What the hell? And what's up with the lack of Tommy? You know, Tommy Oliver, arguably the most iconic character in the Power Rangers franchise, the one with the most roles? And there's no 'Super Sentai didn't have Tommy!" excuse, this game was made in the West, for Western players. So where the hell is my Tommy Oliver? You mean to tell me that BILLY made it over Tommy? That there's no Turbo or Zeo Rangers? And need I remind you that every character plays exactly the same? ALL THEY HAD TO DO WAS ALTER THE TEXTURES. GODDAMN.

 And the cherry on top? Collectibles are devilishly hidden throughout the game. Just let me play as the color swap of my choice, dammit! Sometimes, collectibles are lost forever until you restart the whole level, and stages are pretty darn long. I can excuse this in games like Kirby, because Kirby is actually fun, and I feel rewarded for finding these secrets. I don't feel rewarded by finding every Ranger letter, all I get is a friggin' palette swap of the same character I've been playing since I started the game.

 It is an acceptable game, just a terrible, terrible Power Ranger's Anniversary Game.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Archile's Grab-bag: Evil Edition

  YES. YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES
 Threads of Fate: One of the first PS1 games I've ever played, it's a sort of successor to Brave Fencer Musashi. It was pretty fun.
 Power Rangers Super Legends - 15th Anniversary: It's no secret that I love Tokusatsu shows, no in small part thanks to Power Rangers invading my childhood. It's disappointing that no version of Tommy Oliver made it in, but I remember it being a pretty decent game.
 Maximo - Ghosts to Glory: Another of the first PS2 games I ever played, along Okage, Metal Gear Solid 2 and Dynasty Warriors 2. Back when video game news weren't so readily available, and I didn't know just what I was getting into. And that made it all the much better, the only thing I 'knew' about Maximo was the cover of the game, and the game itself was a blast, hard, but extremely fun.
 Resident Evil 2: I suck at Survival Horror games. The only  SH game I've ever finished was Silent Hill 4(foreshadowing...?). I also began Resident Evil 1 a couple of years ago but soon gave up. The classic Resident Evil game in which I made the most progress was Code Veronica. But I was always curious about Resident Evil 2, and I did say I was gonna play it, so.... Oh god.
 Einhander: I'm not a shoot'em up guy, but Einhander is a game I've been wanting to play even since I heard about it, but I never bought it for one reason or another. Ah well, it looks pretty decent.
 Red Faction II: I loved this game. Loved it. I have fond memories of the gatling rifle-thing actually, I think it was one of my favorite weapons in an FPS ever. It also had a fairly cheesy storyline, heh!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Review #206: Half-Life

 Rise and shine, Mr. Freeman.
 Half-Life 2 is an undeniable classic. Half-Life 1, while it didn't receive the highest of critical acclaims, was well received as well. My only experience with HL was, and still is, with the PS2 port, which I played shortly after it was released, Back when I finished it for the first time, I loved it, it was great and quite unlike the second one. It's time I go back to Black Mesa and find out just how well has the game aged.

 In Half-Life you play as the scientist Gordon Freeman, who is in the center of an experiment gone wrong, which results in uninvited guests from planet Xen. At first Gordon must try to escape Black Mesa and survive the invaders, but pretty soon the Government gets involved: Nobody leaves Black Mesa, in an effort to erase the accident from history. The narrative is pretty simple, but for an FPS, it works. There's little in the way of character development, Gordon being a mute hero, but the beauty in the story is in how it's told, there are no cut-scenes in the game, instead, every dialogue and exposure is done in real time, as NPCs talk to Gordon. You are free to listen to them, run around while listening, or just leave them talking to a wall. Honestly, it's done a bit better in Half-Life 2, it's pretty easy to miss important dialogues in this game, still, it was done pretty well for it being their first attempt.
 As far as gameplay goes, while it's a first person shooter, it also has its fair amount of puzzles, beyond 'find the key to open the door', and platforming. Gordon comes equipped with a HEV suit, that greatly enhances his endurance capabilities, lets him run faster, eventually grants him a super jump, and protects him from the elements. Health is restored by finding medikits or medi-stations on the walls, and the HEV's energy, which only applies to the defense capabilities, is restored by finding energy cells or Energy Stations on the walls. This being an older FPS means that Gordon can carry an enormous arsenal of weapons, most are pretty by-the-numbers, y'know, your shotgun, rifle and pistol, but you'll also come around experimental weapons and a couple of alien weaponry. Regardless, as lethal as Gordon is, sometimes the best strategy is to run, if you want to survive Black Mesa, you'll have to learn when to fight and when to run.

 The puzzles are pretty interesting, most of these involve dropping Gordon on a rather open area, and then you have to activate stuff on different rooms in order to open up the way. As a matter of fact, there's many enemy encounters, not categorized as bosses, that are simply too tough for Gordon to handle by himself, so you'll have to use the environment to kill them. It's pretty fun. What's not so fun is the large amount of platforming in the game. Jumping in a first person shooter works as well as you would expect. To be fair, only a few of my deaths were due to platfoming, but many times it felt as if I just barely made the jump I needed, still, jumping in this game isn't very fun, and it certainly could've used less of it. Level design is pretty good, there's the occasional obtuse level in which it isn't immediately obvious where to go to, but it's the exception to the rule. I do like how it's one persistent world, it's not divided by stages, you are always moving forward without 'cut-aways' between levels.
 Back in the day, one of the most touted features was the interaction with NPCs. There's guards and scientists, the former aid you by shooting with their puny guns, while the scientists can heal you. I don't know if this was an issue in the PC version, but in this game, the default speed is sprinting, you can either sprint or walk, in order to run you have to push the analog stick slightly close to the plastic's border, so it's very cumbersome. Thing is, NPCs can't keep up with Gordon HEV's sprint, thus often falling behind, and eventually stop following you. They are not very useful, but it's annoying not being able to rely on them, well, they have a very bad pathfinding, so they may get stuck following you anyways.

 One thing to keep in mind, is that this game is from an era before console games employed autosaving. You'd better save often, particularly before platforming sections, but that's alright, you'll learn the hard way. And hey, look at the bright side, you can save anywhere at any time. A rather helpful feature is Quick Saving, which saves to the PS2's memory, which means the Save is good until you turn off the console, what makes this feature so good, is that reloading a Quick Save is pretty fast, allowing you to retry pretty quickly.  Aiming with the analog stick isn't as precise as aiming with a mouse, which is why the game allows you to lock on, by pressing circle while the reticule hovers over an enemy. It works well, and it does make up for the lack of mouse... but then again, this game allows you to use the PS2 Keyboard and Mouse, if it tickles your fancy!
 Exclusive to this port, well, at the time of its release anyways, is the Decay mode. It's a separate storyline that follows Dr. Gina Cross and Dr. Colette Green, who were in Black Mesa at the moment of the incident. As a matter of fact, their story runs parallel to Gordon's, while it doesn't further the story, it fleshens it a bit. This mode is made up of 10 different stages, and it's meant to be played by two players. You can play it by yourself, but it means switching characters constantly, the character you are not playing as will not move. Ever. They will fight back, often times wasting ammo, but they won't move an inch. Decay is a very fun mode, the puzzles are fairly fun, but playing it by your lonesome is very tedious. There's also a Deathmatch mode if you are so inclined. That said, multiplayer modes in this game have a very small issue.... the models for the guns are gone. You only get the HUD and the targeting-reticule, but no gun, which I felt was a joykill.

 Ah, the presentation... it hasn't aged well. Back in the day, the visuals were an upgrade over the PC version, but nowadays, it looks pretty bad. Animations are rigid and textures are muddy. The color palette is fairly subdued as well. Music is... alrightish, nothing memorable, but the main theme is rather good. Voice acting is... passable. There's nothing particularly outstanding or convincing, but it won't break immersion.

 Half-Life has fairly well were it matters. The presentation has seen better days, and the jumping is pretty annoying, but everything else works really well. It made some pretty nice tweaks on its way to the Console in order to make up for the lack of Keyboard and Joystick, and the Decay extra is great, when played with another person.
 8.5 out of 10.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Review #205: The Sims

 Back to the past!
 Who hasn't played The Sims? No, really, there's few games with such a wide audience as The Sims. It's been over 15 years since the release of the very first version of The Sims, and we are up to the fourth iteration of the series. After all this time, is it worth it to go back the game that started it all? And a console port at that? Nope, it's not.

 The premise of The Sims is to create a family of 1 to eight Sims and... play god. You can build them a house, and expand it at any time, then buy furniture, toys, electronics or decorations to make an abode that suits your fancy. You can let your Sims have free will, but you're always allowed to order them around, and they themselves can study, train or practice different activities such as cooking in order to better themselves, or even get promotions in their jobs! I really don't need to explain what is The Sims, but the point I wanted get at, is that there's no 'goal' in The Sims, there's no 'end' to the game, no objective... unless you play the PS2 version.
 Exclusive to this port is the Get a Life mode. It's a sort of goal-based story-mode, in which you start as a slob that lives at home with his mother, eventually moving into his Dream House. It's a great idea, and I appreciate having the mode, really, I like having objectives in my games! However... back in the Sims 2, keeping your Sim happy was kinda tedious, and keeping your Sim happy is a necessity if you plan on finishing this mode, as he or she will refuse to study or train if they aren't happy, and taking into account that they have to eat, sleep, socialize, have clean rooms, go to the bathroom and have fun.... it's pretty tedious, and you'll be doing progress every few minutes during hours of game time. It's not much fun, and sadly, it's a requirement to finish this mode in order to unlock the classic The Sims mode... or you could use a cheat. Definitely use the cheat and keep this mode as a curiosity or novelty for a rainy day. Or something.

 As far as the port goes, it's pretty decent. The interface is pretty clean and easy to navigate, even if finding objects to buy is a bit cumbersome. This version also lacks everything The Sims would eventually have through expansions, although it does have some content from House Party, it lacks a ton of furniture and other items. Another thing to keep in mind, is that the framerate can chug a bit from time to time, I found it better to simply hide all walls(By pressing circle, you can also make it so that they disappear if the cursor is over them, but this is what makes the framerate dip the most). So far, it sounds like a very inferior port, and it kinda is, if only it didn't have the two player mode.
 There's two ways to play in Multiplayer, either the Minigames or Classic. The Mini-games are unlocked as you advance through Get a Life, and they are pretty dull. For instance, there's one in which you compete with another player to socialize the most and then get money donations from them, the one with the most money when the time runs out wins. Yeah, they are pretty bland. But you can also play the classic mode with another player, and that's awesome. The screen gets divided diagonally, with each player having their own cursor. Sure, going into Buy Mode pauses the game for both players, but it's a small concession to make in order to play with another player! For some it might be just a novelty, but I thought it was genius. And it's pretty fun too!

 The graphics are certainly... not the best. Character models are simple, and the textures look pretty muddy. The music and sounds are... they exist, and they are there, but I didn't care much for them, although the Sims theme is pretty good Still, the presentation isn't The Sims best feature, and it never was, and for what the game is intended to be, the presentation is more than acceptable. The Joystick controls are fairly good, it's no mouse, but it gets the job done, and I'm pretty sure they did the best they could.
 So, is it worth it to go back? No, I don't think so. Yes, the Multiplayer Mode is a huge selling point for me, but the other day I found out that the PS2 port of The Sims 2 also features this Mode! Which makes it even harder to recommend to come back to this version of The Sims. It's still a good game, but sadly it has been outclassed by every other iteration of the series, so... skip this one.
 5.0 out of 10.

Now Playing: Half-Life

 It's fun, has aged pretty well so far.
 So, here's the deal: Gods Eater is a blast, I'm close to the end of vanilla GE(Meaning, Diff 6 missions... but then there's the Difficulty 7-10 Burst missions...), but right now I have to farm Emperor Fangs from the big bad Vajra Emperor... and it's gonna take a while. So I need an interim game, and since I had to delete my Half-Life data a couple of months ago to make space in my memory card... Well, Mr Freeman, it's time to get reacquainted!

 The game has aged pretty well. The ally CPU is absolutely terrible, it loves getting stuck, in no small part due to the game defaulting to the 'Dash' speed, so unless you are incredibly precise with the analog stick to just maintain a run... they are gonna be left behind. There's also platforming. In a First Person Shooter. It feels pretty off, I only fell to my death once, but more than a couple of times I felt as I wouldn't make it. No bueno!!

 That said, the gameplay is pretty fun, it's hard to explain, but it feels good. It's a pretty basic game, from an era long gone by, but it feels good. Shooting is fun, exploring Black Mesa is fun.

 And after I'm done, I'll have to do a DECAY run, the PS2 exclusive(I don't remember if the Dreamcast had it as well, or if it had its own unique alternate mode) in which you play as two female scientists, with their own power suits! It's pretty alright, although it doesn't work very well with one player.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Now Playing: Gods Eater Burst

 Easy-mode Monster Hunter?
 So, when I first popped in the game, I expected a Monster Hunter clone. I wasn't ready for the anime. Let's say that the anime opening is as ANIMUUUU as it gets! And so is the character creator. This is both good and bad. The good? Like most post-apocalyptic anime media, it features a pretty cool setting, the monster design, so far, is pretty neat, and the weapons are fairly original... however, female characters are walking fan service pieces of meat. Because that's the only way Japan knows how to portray women. Ironically, the female avatars are pretty decent, it's the NPCs that look all kinds of ridiculous next to the fully clothed badass male characters.

 That aside, I'm diggin' the gameplay, it's like an easier Monster Hunter. Sure, the Vajra kicked my butt in the Cowboy Mission, but I'm pretty sure that if I had tried harder, I could've beaten him. I love the gameplay too, it feels like a more agile Monster Hunter, the dashing is more responsive, the 'stepping' covers more ground and there's jumping and double jumping, plus, the weapon attacks are much faster. I like it.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Review #204: Half-Minute Hero

 Time is money, yo!
 Half-Minute Hero is awesome. No, really. It's an affectionate parody of the RPG genre as a whole, parodying various Tropes and mechanics, condensing 30 hour games into 30 seconds. Kinda. It also contains a RTS(of sorts) sub-game, a shooter sub-game and a escort-mission sub-game. While it has that 30 second limit, there are ways to extend that limit, but stages last less than 5 minutes at most. It's a very interesting package, and makes the most of its gimmick without wearing it thin.

 The game takes place during 4 different centuries, beginning in Goddess Era 100 in which you play as Hero, who must defeat over 30 Evil Lords that have cast the Spell of Destruction that ends the world in 30 seconds. Hero gains the aid of the Goddess of Time, and together they travel together to stop the enemy that is teaching the Spell of Destruction to the Evil Lords. Goddess Era 200 has you playing as a beautiful Evil Lord, as he defeats the brainwashed humans and the one creating the tempering with the human minds. Goddess Era 300 stars a naive Princess that turns into a no-nonsense badass whenever she wields her crossbow, and must try to heal her father's illness. Lastly, there's Goddess Era 500, after two centuries of Darkness, it's up to the Knight and the Sage to resurrect the Hero and put an end to the darkness. The story is very tongue-in-cheek, as it makes fun of everything it can. There's a level that slowly turns into gameboy graphics, starring Evil Lord CATS who has 'set you up the bomb', if you know what they mean. Even at it's bleakest, the game is always trying to put a smile on the player's face, and it works, it's particularly effective if you enjoy RPGs and know what it's parodying, but even then, I think the humor would work on anyone.
 Hero30: This is the game's centerpiece, it's the most in-depth and longest game. For instance, the other modes have 30 stages(or 'quests'), this one has alternate routes for a total of 50, there's even alternate endings! While the other modes would take, at most, an hour and a half to complete, Hero30 can easily take up, as a whole, more than 5 hours of your time. As Hero, you walk around an overworld, usually, filled with random encounters, which play out automatically with the hero running towards the enemies, dealing and taking damage, and winning a fight earns you XP and money. Towns may have equipment pieces on sale, as well as healing herbs or on-the-spot healing food. 30 seconds is too little time, most of the time, to grind for experience, get better equipment, solve the quest's puzzle and slay the Evil Lord, which is why the Goddess of Time will rewind time, for a small fee that increases as the more you use her services, if you find any of her statues in towns.
 You start each 'Quest' in level 1, a side effect of the Time Goddess using time in your favor to hasten the grind, but you keep the equipment you bought on previous quests. That said, you can't use equipment earned in later stages while replaying old ones. Each quest is more than just slaying monsters until you are strong enough to defeat the Boss, stages usually have some kind of issue or gimmick, there's a stage that has no monsters, for example, or another one in which you must find a hammer so that a bridge can be rebuilt. As previously mentioned, depending on what you do, you may open up alternate routes depending on how you finish a stage. All in all, it's extremely fun to play, it's very simple and requires little of the player, but it's very engaging. The only blemish on this game is an alternate stage that requires killing 108 Evil Bosses in order to play... which means grinding the stage you can beat the fastest, even if you go around each route, you'll only end up with 50+ bosses defeated on your first time through the game. A better alternative would've been requiring you to earn both titles in every stage, since these titles are virtually useless, and it would've been a good incentive to replay levels in different ways to earn them.

 Evil Lord30: This is the game I cared for the least. As the Beautiful Evil Lord, you must summon monsters to defeat humans. The game follows a rock-paper-scissors system when it comes to battles. This time around, the Goddess will take up all the money you're carrying in order to rewind time, so you can pay her as little as 10G. The thing is, whatever money you've got after finishing a level adds up, and it's then used to upgrade the Evil Lord, so you want to keep as much money as you can!
 The reason I didn't like it as much as the others, is that, while it is fast-paced as the others, it feels slower, mostly since you have to wait in order to summon the strongest monsters, which was a bit boring. It has the best soundtrack though!
 Princess30: This one is a blast. It's a bit of an on rail-shooter, as 30(notice a trend?) knights carry the arrow-shooting Princess to her goal, an item of sorts, and then back to the castle. The Princess has a 30 second curfew or her mother will shut the castle gates, so your objective is to have your knights go as fast as they can, while avoiding obstacles and killing enemies, since losing Knights means losing speed until other knights come and take their place. You can earn more time by walking over the Time Goddess' carpet, which will slowly spend your money for more seconds.

 Knight30: This one is a bit slow-paced, but it's fun. As the Knight, you have to protect the Sage so that he can cast the Spell of Destruction, which takes him 30 seconds, and destroy all enemies. The Knight is fairly incompetent, so while he can wield the weapons or objects throw on the ground, he can't kill the enemies, only dizzy them. Most of the time, your weapon will be your body, as you dash into enemies in order to slow them down. It's OK if you die, just walk your ghost back to the Sage, and he'll revive you!
 You can also carry the Sage in order to take it out of harm's way, or throw enemies into other enemies as well. Before each stage you are also allowed to take items with you to aid you in buying the Sage time.
 Hero300: Finishing the other four modes opens up Hero300. As it takes place in Goddess Era 500, the Time Godess is gone, so five minutes is all you get. This one is pretty exciting and fun, it's like an extended version of Hero30, with everything that made it so good in the first place.

 Hero3: There's no story to this one, the Time Goddess just felt like challenging you, so you only have 3 seconds to save the world. Naturally, the Time Goddess is available in this mode, not that it will help much. The hardest mode in the game, it unlocks the Music Player, but it's a fitting end to the game!

 Half-Minute Hero employs a pseudo 16-bit look, sprites definitely have as much, if not more, colors as most SNES games, but they aren't as detailed as, say, Final Fantasy IV sprites. It's also done on purpose to make fun of RPG character designs, just look at the official art(Which is unlockable in-game) and compare the intricate character designs with the simple sprites! Even then, the characters manage to be impossibly charming, and everything single piece of equipment is reflected on the Hero's sprite, which is pretty darn neat. The Soundtrack is a bit small, but it sounds pretty good, particularly the Evil Lord30 music, which features heavier-sounding tunes.
 Half-Minute Hero is a phenomenal game, and an excellent reason to own a PSP... or would've been. An updated re-remake is available on Steam, as well as its sequel, which was actually released on PSP too... only in Japan. Regardless, as a PSP game it's an excellent game that lends itself to playing on the go or during short breaks, and it brought me back to the 'Just one more stage' empty promises we all make ourselves when playing an addicting game.
 9.5 out of 10

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Now Playing: The Sims

 Yes, the Sims one, I'm goin' retro baby.
 Now then, I'm not much of a Sims guy. Sure, I was hooked back when the Sims 1 first released, who wasn't? But I abandoned the series afterwards, I never even played The Sims 2!

 But there's a reason as to why I went back to The Sims 1, on the PS2 no less... Multi-friggin'-player. You can play The Sims on PS2 with two players at the same time, genius. Anyways, in order to unlock classic The Sims mode you have to go through the Get a Life mode... or use a Cheat Code. For Backlogging/Completion reasons, I'm gonna go through get a life... and what can I say, it's a bit tedious. I had forgotten just how fast a characters Status dropped in the Classic Sims! You barely have time to study books when your Sim gets depressed so fast! Oh, and your 'mom' is a real... pain in the ass, so, Ok, she won't clean your messes, that's fair, but she won't clean up after herself either! What a royal.... That said, I finished the first 'house'(Mission) already, so I'm good to go.

.... And I'm wishing the game would give me a weapon and enemies to crush, just sayin'!

Review #203: Mega Man X Command Mission

 Turn-based Maverick hunting!
 What is a Mega Man, you ask your self. It used to be one of Capcom's flagship franchises, one that they milked as hard as they could, but since the quality was somewhat consistent, we didn't mind. This one time, someone had this weird idea of turning Mega Man into an RPG. No, no, not Mega Man Battle Network/Rockman.Exe, a turn-based traditional JRPG. And it worked.

 If you ever played a Mega Man game for the story, you were doing it wrong. You'd expect otherwise in a JRPG, but it isn't the case, if you play Command Mission for the Story, you'll be sorely disappointed. The story is as lame as latter Mega Man X installments, this time around it concerns the Resistance Army(X and company) VS the Revolution Army, led by Epsilon, a new villain. The story has a couple of very obvious plot twists, and a very forgettable cast of side characters. Being an RPG, it introduces new allies for X: Spider, a generic male suave bounty hunter, Cinnamon, a generic female nurse, Marino, a generic female thief(Japan LOVES this archetype) and Steel Masimmo, the most interesting character of the bunch. There's a very big issue with the cast... each character gets a chapter that introduces them, Cinnamon and Marino sharing theirs, but after X, Axl and Zero group up, which is the very next chapter after the last of the other characters are introduced, these characters fall to the wayside, never to be seen in a cutscene again, except the second-to-last one in the game. They don't even get an epilogue in the ending. The only way to get more information about these characters is to speak to them in the base during chapters, and get a couple of lines of dialogue from each. So if you expect a gripping story and deep characters, this is not your game.
 Now then, gameplay, that is where it's at in this game. The game is divided in Chapters, each one sending X and his allies to a different location in order to find a Maverick at the end, except that X doesn't get their powers this time. While the game is very linear in that regard, you are free to explore previously visited areas at any time, in order to retrieve missed goodies or open up previously locked doors to get better weapons by fighting challenging hidden bosses. The Energy Tanks return in Command Mission, you start the game with one E.Tank, but you can collect more throughout the course of the game, and they can be used in or out of battle to heal your characters by spending their contents. It's a fairly interesting mechanic, since there are no other health-replenishing items in the game(Besides revival items), and Cinnamon needs to spend her Weapon Energy(More on this later) in order to heal her allies, and it can only be done in battle. Energy tanks are replenished by finding Yellow Crystals on the ground, or you are sometimes rewarded with E.Tank energy after a battle, so you must choose carefully when to use them.... Or return to base and sleep, which also replenishes all your E.Tanks.

 Lastly, there's no traditional armor equipment in this game, you can arm your characters with one main weapon and two side weapons, but the real customization comes in the form of 'Force Metal'. Each character has a different amount of slots(For instance,X has 4, while Massimo only has 2) and a different numbered total Erosion. Each Force Metal has a different number of Erosion, and while you can exceed the max amount of Erosion, it will have negative consequences on your character. These Force Metals have different attributes, some raise your Strength, some your Life Energy, others give you resistance to certain Status Effects or there are some that give you bonus Weapon Energy per turn.
 The game used the infamous Random Encounters, meaning that battles are triggered at random by walking through dungeons. The Encounter Rate is fairly inconsistent, sometimes you may get another encounter just a couple of steps after the last one, while other times you'll be able to walk through an entire zone without triggering one. Battles play out fairly similarly to Final Fantasy X, you can see the turn order on the bottom of the screen, so that you can plan your moves, and you can press L2 on one of your character's turns to swap him out with another character, without losing a turn. On your turn you can use items, either of your Sub Weapons(Consume Weapon Energy(WE)), Special R2 skills(Which consume WE), attack normally or engage HYPER MODE.

 Characters are fairly unique, which makes combat very engaging, you have melee attackers like Zero, Cinnamon and Massimo, ranged fighters like X and Axl, while Marino's attacks depend on her main weapon! Flying enemies are weak to ranged attackers, while some enemies need to be hit with melee attacks to damage their shields and allow ranged characters to deal more damage. Each character starts each battle with a different set amount of WE, and they recover WE each turn, this WE can be used to unleash the powerful R2 attacks or the sub-weapons. The R2 attacks are unique on each character, Zero has you inputting different commands in a set amount of time, X's only needs you to hold X to charge your buster, Cinnamon requires you to spin the right analog stick, etc, and each R2 attack is unique to each character. X's damages every enemy(And if you use 100 WE, it's a guaranteed critical), Cinnamon's the only healing skill in the game, etc. Furthermore, Hyper Mode is unique for each character, although only the S-Rank hunters(X, Axl and Zero) get the more interesting ones, X and Zero even having unlockable alternate Hyper Modes. For example, Axl's cloaks him, meaning every attack will miss, if you equip him with the 'bait' sub-weapon, you can make your entire party invulnerable since they'll keep aiming at him. X's and Zero's make them even stronger(X gets different R2 and Sub Weapons while in Hyper Mode), and their unlockables are game breakers.
 The game is very colorful, and character designs are, in my opinion, some of the best in the franchise. X's new design is particularly badass, and Epsilon looks like something you want to destroy. That said, the models aren't particularly good looking, the mouth animations are particularly cringe worthy since they aren't synced to the audio, and even if they were, their mouths flap around very eerily. Music is really good, it's not as good as some of Mega Man's finest, but it's certainly a pretty good soundtrack, and fits the X series to a tee. Voice acting ranges from passable to terrible, but then again the story isn't very good, so I didn't mind it, no matter how convincing the Voice Actors could've been, they wouldn't have been able to sell me on the game's plot.

 Command Mission is a very weird game. It's a RPG spin off from a Platformer series, and it's a JRPG with a terrible plot, that manages to be good thanks to the gameplay. It's hard to recommend to either X fans, because this is a slow-paced game that plays nothing like other X games, or to RPG fans, because the story is so dull. That said, the gameplay is really good, the Force Metal and Sub-Weapon system is very engaging, battling is a blast, the locations are appealing and fun to explore, character design is very neat. It's pretty good, just not for the reason an RPG is supposed to be good.
 8.0 out of 10.