Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Month Overview: March

 Games finished in March 2015:
Pokemon Omega Ruby                                                 7.5
Street Fighter X Tekken(Vita)                                      6.0
Tomba!                                                                          8.5
Tomba! 2 - The Evil Swine Return                               9.0
Injustice - Gods Among Us - Ultimate Edition             8.5
Escape Dead Island                                                        5.5
Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late                                      9.0
Dragon Ball Xenoverse                                                  3.5

 So, what happened with Jeanne D'Arc? Pokemon Omega Ruby happened. It's funny, because I'm not even having fun anymore, but the collector in me compels me to fill that 'Dex. Goddammit. Xenoverse was pretty disappointing, I knew the last-gen port was gonna be gimped in some way, but the framerate issues really hurt it, specially since it forces you into fights with more than 2 fighters. And then there's the fact that the grind-heavy gameplay isn't very fun, I gave up after three days of grinding for the last Dragon Ball, it's the only DBall game in which I haven't unlocked everything, but between the framerate and the grind... I just got annoyed.


 Game of March:
 UNIE:L is amazing. No, really. I like how it's a completely new IP with a completely new cast of characters, I love how easy it is to get into it. It's not perfect though, it could've used some kind of tutorial, and since it cares so much about story... how about some sort comprehensive story mode or an encyclopedia to cover all the terms it uses? At least, all the things it's missing are somewhat fluff when it comes to a fighter!


 Runner-up:
 Tomba! was pretty flippin' good. Tomba! 2 is flippin' awesome. I mean, the worst thing I can say about it is that it's a tiny bit too much like the first one, but when the first one is so good... 'tis not such a bad thing I tell ya. The Tomba! franchise, while short-lived, is excellent, it's a great blend of Metroidvania with Adventure elements that makes both games quite unique.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Now Playing: Haunting Grounds

 Pretty flippin' good.
 Where to start... I guess from what I didn't like, since it's like.. just one thing? To put things into perspective, I just played 2 hours straight and only stopped myself because wanted to write this and grab a snack, otherwise, the game's got a solid grip on me! It's that good.

 So, what's the one thing I didn't dislike? This is a Japanese game, and as with 90% of Japanese media, there is fanservice. From the very first scenes in the game, they try to show as much of Fiona's skin as they can, with the moving sheets and why not. And no, they weren't trying to showcase her as vulnerable, the camera angles were not needed! And it got worse. She dresses... decently, but her breasts move all over the place over the tiniest of steps. Seriously. It could be somewhat justified since she isn't wearing a bra, but still... more than a couple of times I went from unnerved to laughing due to how ridiculous the jiggle is. Japan, will they ever learn? Probably not.

 But what did I like? Everything else! The music, graphics and camera angles mix together to creep you out, and it's so beautiful. More than once I would stop what I'm doing since I heard footsteps or what not. And while the Dog/Human duo is hardly original(Dead to Rights, and Shinobi to name a few), in this game it works, since both Fiona and Hewie are not badasses and are certainly not very strong, so their cooperation is a bit more endearing, and it's easier to care about them. Puzzles in the game seem rather easy, two hours into the game, I already made it into the Moon Reflector Room and didn't find myself wondering what to do at any moment

 Something I noticed while playing, is that while the moments before the chase are incredibly tense, and while the atmosphere is pretty dang creepy, the chases themselves are more annoying than anything. I'm not scared while running, and I rarely found myself in danger, so it's more annoying than anything having to run and find a place to hide in order to continue doing whatever the hell I was trying to do. Maybe there will deadlier enemies later on? I... I think I hope so!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review #218: Dragon Ball Xenoverse

 This ain't gonna be pretty.
 First things first, if last gen ports of current gen games are gonna be this terrible, just don't bother. No, really. Xenoverse is a game I've been kinda hyped about ever since it's initial announcement. I watched a lot of videos, and tiny details like characters swimming while under water pumped me up in all kinds of ways. But I was worried, worried because Dimps' last anime game was Saint Seiya Brave Soldier, and worried because it was very ambitious with its 3 vs 3 battles, and feared for the X360 and PS3 ports. The good news, is that they did a couple of things right... the bad news, is that the game suffers from an identity crisis and terrible performance issues on last-gen platforms.

 One thing people usually bring up about Dragon Ball games is that they always cover the same storyline, but I never cared, I like faithful adaptations, and while I don't consider myself a fan of the franchise(Just the games!), I've yet to get tired of replaying the same story over and over again. This game borrows heavily from Dragon Ball's 'expanded' universe, with Mirai Trunks(Ahem, 'Future Trunks') being part of the Time Patrollers. You get to play as your very own created character, you are even allowed to pick gender and  race from Human, Saiyan, Namekian(Male only), 'Frieza's Race'(Male only) or Majin and each one having their own strengths or perks. Regardless, you are the latest addition to the corps, summoned by Shenron, and must help Trunks 'fix' the timeline that a couple of villains are altering by powering up the villains of the series. This means that you get to fight alongside the Z warriors as the Ultimate Gary Stu/Mary Sue, y'know, even a Human is able to keep up with a souped up Majin Buu! One thing that I couldn't help but notice is that your character isn't... they don't acknowledge his presence a lot of times. The game has a ton of gorgeous cutscenes, and the rest of the characters barely even look in your direction, most of the time, although they reference him a bit more in the in-game dialogue, plus, there's some unique lines depending on your race!  I didn't really care about the story, but I'd lie if I didn't crack a smile here and there, and there's a couple, but just a couple, of truly genius moments. All in all, I didn't care for it, but it's far from being bad, and they could've gone with the trite 'evil clones' story(Which Dimps actually used on their Shin Budokai PSP games!), but they didn't! Oh, and by the by, the story does a lot of jumps and what not, so it expects the player to know DBZ's storyline, unless they want to get lost or have things make no sense to them.
 As I mentioned previously, one of my biggest gripes with the game is its Identity crisis, it doesn't know if it wants to be an MMO-like game or an RPG. Instantly you'll notice that there are no menus what so ever, everything is done by picking you created character and walking over to a counter or a NPC. And even then, there's not a whole lot of 'modes', there's the Story Mode(Talking to Trunks), Parallel Quests(Online and Offline), Offline(CPU) and Online Battles(Player), as well as Tournament and VS Player(Local). Here's the thing, there's very little in the way of options. As far as VS CPU goes, you can't change the difficulty setting, and they are slightly challenging, I'd say that they are harder than Story or Parallel Quest CPUs! And even then, and this goes both for Online and Offline VS, you can't change number of rounds(Defaults at 1) or how long the match lasts. What the hell? That's not even the kicker, Local VS Player can only be done 1vs1 and only on the World Tournament Stage. There's a reason for it, it's the smallest stage, so the camera can keep both characters on-screen at the same time, still, it's pretty lame, they could've shrunk  the invisible barriers on the other stages or something. And probably you noticed already, but there's no Training Mode, there's no way to lengthen the duration of a round, and the only way to battle a dummy is by going Local 2Players and pummeling a defenseless second player.

 And I'm not even done with issue like these, how about the fact that the character roster isn't very well balanced? Certain characters are just naturally good done others, and there's nothing you can do about it. There's these 'mob' characters, Saibamen, Frieza's soldiers and Cell Jrs, and they are absolute garbage, any character can easily dispose of them, so why even bother including them in the roster? No, really, I can't even try to figure out combos since the VS CPU can just own me in seconds flat when using these buggers. Y'know, a lot of people took issue with the 47 character roster,  but I think it's just fine, it has all the necessary characters and then some, and being the first entry on a pseudo-fighting game, I think it's forgivable... even if the combat system isn't exactly deep, but more on that later. But even then, I have issues with the character roster outside the quantity... Movesets are defined by costumes. That's right, 'ripped clothes Goku' not only has different stats than 'normal' Goku, but it also has different moves and special moves. It's so shortsighted, and it annoys me even more because the game has some costumes that no other Dragon Ball game has! But picking 'pig-tailed Videl' is just a death sentence because her stats are terrible and her specials are worse. I don't know whose idea was it, but it's aggravating. And I wasn't planning on holding the DLC against it, since it seemed to have been made after the game was made, and they were GT characters.... but DLC pack 2 makes two of the unique villains playable. Enemies that you fight in the game, that obviously have their model and animations done, can only be played by buying the 2nd DLC Pack. Really? I mean, REALLY?
 Not done yet. Character creations offers more than a fair amount of customization options, which I really liked, but it doesn't come with a few short comings. For instance, costumes affect your stats. I've heard that when you reach max level these don't matter all that much, but having to look ridiculous just because you want a melee oriented character is a bit annoying. Costumes and stats should've been kept separate. And among these tonnes of customization items, which are divided in torso, legs, hands and feet,  you can find a lot of 'character costumes'(Say, Goku's Gi), even some from characters that didn't make it into the game, which sounds awesome.... but you can't change the color of these, which is very disappointing. Still, when it comes to character creation, it's mostly a hit, not only can you create some of the missing characters, you can have some pretty hilarious combinations, like a flesh-colored Majin, with a Super Saiyan-hair wig and wearing a Saiyan's costume for kicks and giggles. Basically, I think the Character Creator is great, but it needs some tweaking.

 Nope, not done yet. When not doing the Story Quests, by talking with Trunks, you'll be doing the Parallel Quests. Parallel Quests are sidequests of sorts, like an MMORPG, that you can take at any time, and bring buddies or CPU allies. All of these come with their own set of rewards, and optional objectives to fight powerful bosses. It sounds great, and on paper it is, there's over 50 of them even, but they come with a lot of issues. Where to start.... The RNG(Random Number Generator) which governs what and IF you get a drop(reward) is downright evil, which translates to a lot of replaying. That's one thing, but remember the optional objectives? You can't see what they are until you clear them for the first time, and sometimes, even if you clear them, the 'boss' won't come. Some of the rewards can only be obtained IF you defeat the boss, and even then, it's still a random drop. It translates to a lot and a LOT of retrying and replaying. Finding the Dragon Balls and finding Mentors(NPCs that can teach you some skills) are also random. So, want a particular skill? A costume piece? Get ready to replay the hell out of certain missions until they drop. Fun. And in an ironic, twisted way, it actually works in your favor, since later Parallel Quests get unfairly challenging, so you will need to grind.
 And no, I'm most definitely not done. Most of these quests allow you to bring 2 Player buddies or 2 CPU allies. Lemme warn you right now, if you plan to play offline, be ready for a world of pain. Allied CPUs are stupid, plain and simple, they will watch you get pummeled without trying to aid you, they will push enemies out of your combos, and they will get wrecked by enemy CPUs. And the best part about it? The enemy CPU will help each other, you'd think that in a 3 VS 2, your 2 allies would be able to keep 1 CPU at bay while you defeat the other one, but nope, they will let the other enemy come and interrupt your combo while they just... watch. And that's one of the biggest issues, the game is balanced for 3 players, but CPU allies get wrecked and are downright useless, but you still want to bring them and hope that the other CPUs get diverted by them while you try to pick'em off one on one, one by one. And you are allowed to bring healing items, some which you can even use on the CPU... but there's certain missions that require you to protect a third CPU(Protection/Escort missions, always a pleasure)... and these CPUs are as dumb as your allies, but you can't heal them. Even better, later in the game enemies gain super armor just because, and some escape techniques that can't be avoided if you are mid-combo, and the allied CPU will always be close by, watching or trying to push the enemy out of your combo, so they will eat that attack, an attack that you can't stop them from using. Fun.

 There's more. It seems that the game favors 'beam spam' builds. From what I've heard, hybrid melee-beam characters struggle the most throughout the game, and then melee specialists(My build) will also have a bit of a hard time. And it makes sense that ranged characters would have an easier time seeing how the game plays, but you can't respec your build unless you gather the seven Dragon Balls and wish for it... instead of one of the 3 Dragon Ball-exclusive characters or costume pieces. Still, I've avoided talking about the game's main source of frustration, and it only applies to the PS3/X360 port of the game, the framerate. If at any time there's 4 or more characters on screen, the framerate will dip horribly. Playing on the World Tournament Stage or the Namekian Water Stage is a nightmare, particularly on 3 VS 3. And the thing is, most fights in the game, either Story or Parallel Quest battles, are made up of four fighters or more.  And yes, you could just opt not to bring CPU allies, but you need them as fodder. The worst part about it, is that on the few instances that the framerate didn't drop, like 1 on 1, I had fun with the game. Still, the framerate issue also applies to the MMO overworld. Initially, it runs flawlessly, but even if you never go online, after a certain Mission, it will populate it with NPCs.... and then you'll be running underwater from place to place. The Framerate issues made everything about the game more annoying, I'm sure that if it wasn't so terrible, I could've dealt with a lot of the game's issues, but the framerate affects everything. Grinding means that after each Parallel Quest, whether you won or lost, you have to walk back to the counter, because it couldn't just spawn you back in front of it, all while dealing with slowdown, only to enter the same battle again, which will probably play in slow motion due to the amount of fighters on screen. It's incredibly annoying.
 The fighting is very fun, albeit simple. You have weak attacks(Square), strong attacks(Triangle), Ki blasts(Circles), blocking(L1) and dashing(L2). While floating, you can go up by holding X or go down by... holding L3(Pure genius), but this is the only confusing bit about the controls, luckily, since when the framerate is steady, controls are very responsive. Each character has four special moves, which you can cherry-pick if it's your created character, and you gain access to them by holding R2 and pressing a face button, while L2+R2 allows you to use your Ultimate attacks. X doubles as the 'dodge'/'pursuit' button, press it while under attack to spend 2 stamina bars to teleport behind the enemy, or press it after a combo to pursue them. As I said, it's a very simple game, but it's also fun. Still, it lacks depth, Budokai this is not. Going back to the game not knowing if it was a Fighting game or an MMO, if you play online battles, it's very possible to be paired against a higher level enemy, which is always fun.

 Graphics are gorgeous, kinda, since you have to deal with heavy slowdown! One thing I adored, and wish more games would do, is that it uses a super oversaturated color palette, everything is very colorful and in your face. I love it. The game might also have the best stages in a Dragon Ball game EVER, they are huge, and with a ton of different structures or geometry, and there's a ton of them! However, I did notice that there are some odd... quirks. Like in Parallel Quests, it's not unusual to get short scenes when new fighters arrive, they might even talk some trash... but their mouths won't move. Cutscenes have always been one of Dimps' fortes, and it's no different here. The soundtrack is... Well, let's just say that the opening song is a new rendition of Cha-la Head Cha-la, and it's awesome. That little I heard of the in-game music was also fairly good... when you can hear them over the SFX and dialogue! As per usual, I played with the Japanese dub, and it's as good as always, and while there's the English dub, I really can't comment on it, but general consensus is that it's good.
 For as much as I hated about Xenoverse, I still think that this is an excellent foundation for future Dragon Ball games. Dial back a bit on the MMO elements, allow for more customization when it comes to online and offline battling, separate costumes from stats, ease up on the RNG-related drops and add more depth to the combat, maybe bring back cancels. Oh, and for the love of god, downgrade the graphics on PS3/X360 ports or just don't bother at all, because I'd rather not play at all over playing under water.
 3.5 out of 10.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Review #217: Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late

 Bicycle chair in the water lot: Early.... I think my title is better.
 The title makes no sense, the story makes no sense and the game is as Japanese as it gets... and I haven't had this much fun with a fighting game since Tekken Tag Tournament 2. Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late, which I'll call UNIEL henceforth, is French-Bread's pseudo successor to Melty Blood, a Dojin Fighting game based on the Tsukihime franchise. Unlike Melty Blood, this is an entirely original ordeal, and as much as it borrows from the former title, it also comes with new gameplay mechanics.

 The story..... The story is a mess. It might make sense, but the game doesn't convey enough information to you, the player, neither in-game nor with the instruction booklet. If you expect to make heads and tails of the story, it's a requirement to look on the net for an explanation of all the terms the game loves to throw around, as if it expects you to know what an 'in-birth' or a 'rebirth' means in the world of UNIEL. I don't play fighting games for their story, although when done right it can be a plus(Look at Mortal Kombat or Injustice, and even Tekken to a lesser degree), so I didn't care to look for what they meant. And even then, the writing is pretty poor, besides lacking any sort of exposition, it also tries to be edgy and throw 'bitch' or sort around. It comes out as forced and needless, and it suffers for it. The setting not withstanding, I love the fact that we get an entirely new cast of characters. This generation had very few new IPS, sure we had Persona 4 Arena or Aquaplus, but those are based on existing franchises, so having a completely new IP is a breath of fresh air. Initially the characters seemed pretty dull, and they kinda are, their motivations and archetypes are disgustingly cliched, with very generic drives and motives of many other characters from Japanese media, but at least they look alright in-game and I grew to really enjoy a few, like Orie and Carmine. Plus, there's little to no fanservice, excepting that one Japanese gamer with too much free time on his hands that decided to slow down various frames of animations from the female fighters, which is incredible of a Japanese game, in a good way. The game offers 16 different characters, with no headswaps or paletteswaps, and two guest characters: Akatsuki from Indie fighting game Akatsuki Blitzkampf and Eltnam(In the form of Eltnum) from Melty Blood. Having Akatsuki in the game is both amusing and great, while Eltnum's storyline is simply hilarious.
 In UNIEL you get: Arcade(Which doubles as Story Mode for each character), VS Player(Offline and Online), VS CPU, Time Attack, Score Attack, Survival and Training, all which are pretty much self explanatory. As with every ArkSys game(Either developed or publish, such as in this case), there's a Gallery Mode, with a few images to unlock by fulfilling certain conditions or buying them with in-game points.,, or you could also spend this in the Customization menu, to customize your Title and Icon, or unlock extra colors for your fighters! Each character starts with 10 colors, and you can unlock another 10. Pretty neat! I only had one tiny little issue with the game... there's no tutorial mode. Granted, it took me about 10 minutes on the Training Mode to get a grasp of the game's system, aided by the instruction booklet, but someone who's a bit less familiar with fighting games might very well be overwhelmed by the many gauges or mechanics employed in the game.

 As for UNIEL's specific mechanics... where to start with? Let's see... There's only four buttons used, A, B and C which stand for Weak, Medium and Strong attack respectively, and D which is used for a couple of secondary functions. Now then, there's three different gauges, the Health bars on top of the screen, and the EXS and GRD gauges below. EXS is basically the energy bar, it goes from 0 to 200, and is increased by dealing or receiving damage. Then there's the GRD gauge which is a bit harder to explain... Doing certain actions, mostly aggressive actions, like dashing towards the enemy or dealing damage, teching throws or blocking(These two are a bit more defensive in nature, kinda) makes it increase, while backdashing or getting hit makes it decrease. In the middle of both GRD gauges(Yours and the enemy's) is a circle that slowly fills, and when it's filled, whoever has the most GRD gets the Vorpal Buff, which grants the wearer a 10% damage boost, but it also lets you use Chain Shift by double tapping D, which either stops whatever your enemy is doing or resets you to neutral if you are mid-combo, effectively acting as a cancel, letting you extend your combo. Doing this transforms all your GRD into EXS and cancels the Vorpal Buff. One thing to keep in mind is that the GRD circle's loop never stops, even after one gets the Vorpal Buff, so if your enemy manages to gain more GRD by the time it fills again, they will gain the buff, so the tide can change at any moment!
 And that's barely scratching the surface of what UNIEL offers. There's a few more mechanics which involve GRD, namely holding D to trade EXS for GRD and pressing B+C performs a character unique move, could be anything from a defensive evasion move or a wall bouncing attack, that consumes one GRD segment. Before moving on to the EXS gauge, there's a few more basic actions left to mention, for instance, mashing Neutral A will perform 'Smart Stear', which is a fancy way of saying Autocombo. I dislike this mechanic a lot, and many fighting games seem to be implementing it, but at least it's a very simple combo that ends in a Super Move if you've the EXS necessary. As with most 2D fighters, every character has motion Special Moves, that vary in strength depending on which button you used, but in this game 'Super' Moves(I'll be using a Hybrid KOF/SF notation system, since it's easier to understand) are not done by using complex motions, no, instead, by using a Special Move with the C button(Strong attack) you'll use the EXS consuming(100), Super version of said Special Move. It gets even simpler, there's also.... 'Ultra' moves, which consume 200 EXS and use an universal half-circle motion+D input for every character. And there's another tier, which I'll call 'Desperation Moves', which can only be used when you've less than 30% health left and consume 200 EXS, and are activated by simply pressing all four buttons together. The last use of the EXS gauge is to enter 'Veil Off', it requires at least 100 EXS, and you enter it by pressing all four buttons, which gives you more attack power and lets you use any Super move(Makes it deplte faster) until it ends.

 It sounds like a lot to take in, and it is, until you get your hands on it and you realize how simple it all is! It sounds overwhelming, but getting the hang of it is very simple, even with the lack of a tutorial mode.... at least for someone with a modicum experience. If there's one thing that 'anime fighters' are known for it's the air combos, and you'd be wrong to expect the same of this game! Jumping is a death sentence, as there is no air blocking, which makes the game a bit more Street Fighter-ish, since your ground game, footsies and pokes, is what will matter the most. Still, it's way faster than any other Street Fighter game, and with some characters, it even lets you chain weak attacks(A) from strong attacks(C)! It's an interesting game, easy to get into, hard to master. Which is probably why I liked it so much. I just can't stop playing it! And for as much as I dislike the Autocombo, it lets others do flashy stuff by just mashing a button, and it's a very simple combo at that, so no unfair advantages.
 As far as visual goes, it uses a rather simple and somewhat cutesy style. Characters have slim, delicate limbs, with huge eyes and simple mouths. Which makes it all the more hilarious when they start cussing around, or talking about killing and the such. It's very, very anime, so if you can't stand it... tread carefully. Animation was fairly good, I didn't find any particularly ugly animation. But if something disappointed me, it was the stages, they are dull and lifeless. Even by now I'd be hard pressed to remember most of them. It makes sense for the stages to be so lifeless, as the game's setting demands it, but they could've liven them up a bit more, add graffiti to the walls, flapping banners on top of the houses, I dunno, something! The music is nothing short of excellent, with each character getting their own tune, and they are all very, very good. Voice Acting is Japanese only, and you might recognize a lot of the voices.

 UNIEL is amazing, plain and simple. Sure, the characters are as cliched and unoriginal as they get, but what Japanese character isn't? No, really. Besides, it's a fighting game, who cares about the story? The gameplay is where it's at, and they knocked it out of the park, with a simple control scheme and a generous combo system, with its fair share of underlying mechanics if you wish to delve deeper into it, makes for a game that is very easy to get into, but hard to master. As much as I'd love to score it a 10, there's a few shortcomings, mostly in the explanation, or lack thereof, department. It needed a proper tutorial, maybe even individual character challenges so that you could get a feel for the characters outside of fumbling around Training mode,  it needed a way to convey more information to the players regarding the story(As uninterested as I was, I'm sure some people care), even adding an in-game encyclopedia would've gone a long way into making the story clearer. Still, most of these didn't really affect me, but there's no denying that it could've done slightly more for the player.
 9.0 out of 10

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Now Playing: Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late

 This game is amazing!!
 I loved Melty Blood back in the day, so I was very, very interested when French-Bread announced Under Night... and very disappointed since only an Arcade release was confirmed, and then the waiting game began.... and it's finally here, and it's everything I wanted. Kinda.

 First, the cast of characters: They are alright. I mean, I love the fact that there's no fanservice, there's no lass wearing a ridiculously skimpy outfit of the likes Japan is so fond of... but none of the characters is particularly note worthy. These aren't bad characters, and maybe after playing with them I will grow to like them, but so far, they are just alright. Oh, and Akatsui from Blitzkampf is in as a guest character! BADASS!

 But where it really shines, is in gameplay. I love it, it's fast, and very easy to get into. It uses three buttons for attacks, like Melty Blood, and a fourth for other actions, and with these four buttons you can pull off a wide variety of technical mechanics. There seems to be a lot of focus on this 'GRD' gauge, which seems to reward 'playing well', and it culminates in a 10% attack buff and free cancels for whoever has the highest GRD. Then there's EXS for the special moves and 'Veil Off'ing. It's very easy to jump in and have fun, since everything combos into everything(Well, not literally, but it's very easy to mash into combos). However, it has that mechanics I hate that many fighters are using nowadays.... the AutoCombo by mashing on the Weak attack button. I understand why it's in the game, but having grown on Fighting games since Street Fighter 2, it's a bit annoying, I just want to mash the weak attack! At least on Persona 4 it made sense, if you got bored of the Story Mode, just mash on the square button and carry on.

 This being a Fighting game, it's unfair to hold the story against it, but... it's a bit ridiculous. They vomit all these terms on you, like 'Hollow Night', 'Night', 'In-Birth', 'Re-birth' and the such, and they expect you to know. There's no Story Mode, and the Instruction Booklet tells you jack, so you must rely on the Internet if you wish to make sense of the story. Me? I don't care, I was having too much fun with the game as to be bothered by it.

 And, by the by, this game had a clearly smaller budget than Blazblue or the like, and they don't charge you for DLC. Extra Color Palettes? Just play one of the many modes, earn points and buy them.

 All I know, is that I'm loving the hell out of UNIBE:L.

Review #216: Escape Dead Island

 Not as bad as you've been lead to believe.
 Funny story 'bout EDI, I've known about it ever since it was first announced, but I wasn't very interested in it. 'Borderlands starts the loot-based RPG FPS and Dead Island copies it, so now that they announces Tales from Borderlands, they have to make an adventure game too, boo!'. And then it released, and reviews poured in, bashing it. But I wasn't listening, I was looking at the gameplay, and it looked like something I would like to play. Turns out, it's not half as bad as they make it out to be. How many 'Worst of 2014' list had this game in them and said that 2014 sucked for gaming? If EDI made it in, 2014 mustn't have been so bad!

 Escape Dead Island begins with Cliff... no, that's not right, it begins with you playing as an Spy of sorts, out to get some mole, as you dismember every enemy in your sight with a Katana.  But once that's over, time moves forward about 6 days, where Cliff and his buddies, Devan and Linda, are on a trip to find out what happened in Banoi Island, by travelling to a neighbor island. It probably makes more sense if you played Dead Island. Disaster strikes and they lose the boat and Cliff gets hit on the head, and it all spirals down for him then. Most of the game is spent either trying to help your friends or deal with Cliff's hallucinations... or are they? The 'maybe it's a dream maybe it's not' angle is a bit cliched, but it can be done well... as for this game? It's alright. It feels a bit rushed, and you'll be able to see most of the twists coming a mile away, but it's not too bad anyways. They also integrate Cliff's apparent insanity into the gameplay, the camera angles may twists, or stuff may rain down on you from thin air. The ending is a bit... off-putting, and makes you wonder just how true is it that this game is the 'missing link' between DI 1 and Riptide.
 Unlike the other games in the series, this is not an RPG FPS. It's not an action game either, this is an adventure game with some Metroidvania elements sprinkled in. You'll come across high ledges, or chambers filled with gas that you can't explore, initially, but get your hands on a grappling hook and a gas mask, and you'll be able to explore them. However, there are no hidden optional areas or nothing of the like, these rooms just hold a few collectibles and bullets, and nothing else. Still, you are rewarded for taking your time and backtracking for them, but they are not mandatory in the slightest. And this is another thing to keep in mind, the game is mostly linear, it's always pushing you forward, you are always told where to go next, and holding L1 triggers a marker towards your destination, but you can explore on your own if you so want to, and you should! However, the in-game map is very unreliable, so hopefully you can navigate your way through, and unlike a bonafide Metroidvania, you don't open up shortcuts, so you've always gotta go through the long way.

 Why would you want to go back and explore these rooms? Well, the game has a whole slew of collectibles. Most of these are pretty much worthless, like taking photos of NPCs or random objects, for some commentary on Cliff's part, or useless postcards but there are a few, like audio logs, that deepen the narrative a bit, not that I cared too much about them. But you may come across the occasional weapon upgrade or health upgrade. The game employs a 'regenerative' health, and you are to realize how hurt you are by how red the screen gets, so it's not readily apparent just how useful the health upgrades are. Same goes for weapons, the game automatically replaces the old weapon for the new one, so you have to trust it that your new weapon is better than the last. One thing to keep in mind is that you can't manually save the game, so even if you found a new collectible, gonna have to wait until you hit a checkpoint and the game decides to autosave, which is pretty annoying in a game like this.
 Combat is... dead simple. Cliff has a Stamina gauge that is tied to Strong attacks, dashing and dodging, which is something that you need to keep in mind when engaging enemies, plus, near the end of the game, you get to choose between melee weapons, and the heavier one consumes Stamina even on weak strikes, but I digress. Weak attacks come in the form of a three hit combo, which is the same regardless of what melee weapon you are using. Eventually you'll come across a gun and a shotgun, these have their uses, like enemies on higher ground, but they are not very reliable. Early in the game, they are fairly good, but latter enemies can take a whole lot of lead. Plus, the game's framerate can be... inconsistent, which can make aiming and shooting a pain in the butt when it's crowded. And even then, it seems that guns have a rather short range, a ton of times I felt as if my bullets should've hit, yet they missed their mark. There's also some rather sloppy stealth mechanics implemented. They're never mandatory, but can make combat a whole lot simpler. By getting to an enemy's back without being noticed, you can press X to pull an instant kill... and sometimes, even if you are in front of them, you have some leeway to get to their back and instant kill them anyways! Still, stealth isn't very polished, sometimes in your favor, sometimes in the enemies', but you are not forced to use them and they can offer a bit of a break from all the fighting.

 In the entire game there's about 5 or 6 different enemy types that get progressively stronger as you go along. It'd be easy to fault it for the simple, and eventually repetitive, combat and the very few enemies you fight... but this game doesn't want to be the next God of War or Devil May Cry. This is an Adventure game, not an Action game, it's focus is on the exploring, on going through the Island, not pulling the fanciest combos and perfectly timed dodges. Which brings me to my next point, there's no Game Overs. Dying has Cliff hold his head in his hands, white out, and recover on the previous checkpoint. Enemies respawn, and you lose anything that you collected between the checkpoint and your death. What's more, lose twice in a row(Or more), and bullets will start spawning next to you. And as easy as it can be... the last stretch of the game has a rather unforgiving difficulty spike. By this time, enemies can take a whole lot of punishment, and you'll be bombarded with enemies from every side. Enemies shooting poison at you, zombies lounging at you, zombies that can hold you from behind so that others can get cheap hits in... It was borderline frustrating to be honest, but the 'infinite lives' made it somewhat tolerable.
 Now then, the game has more than its fair share of problems. Firstly, the framerate. It can't keep a stable framerate at any time. Even moving around barren areas won't be free of hiccups, and during combat it can get pretty bad if you are a gun aficionado, since it will temper with you aiming. The game has some animated 2-D cutscenes... and they all run like garbage, with stuttering audio and visuals, no in small part due to the fact that the game decides to auto-save when they are running. I also came across a couple of bugs. There's this cave, in the Beach Bar, at the start of the game, that has breakable trees coming out of it... this area has an easy-to-fall in corner of which you can't get out. I fell on it three times. Oh, and if you explore it and then try to exit it, it will spawn a breakable branch... that you can't break. You have to reload the game and then exit the cave. This happened twice. Fairly annoying. And then, during the lab sequence, the voices, during dialogue, stopped playing, eventually locking the game on a loading screen. At least it only happened once, and I didn't lose much progress.

 As for replay value, there's a bit actually. The game has a 'New Game+' feature, and apparently, it can be done up to four times, each time you'll get a new key which will allow you to access new areas. Some people speculated that finishing it four times might unlock an extra bit at the end, but I'm not interested in it, not anytime soon anyways. There's also free DLC that adds new weapons, new skins for Cliff, new areas and a new enemy type, which sounds pretty nice, but I wasn't able to try it out(Since I found out about it a bit later after I finished the game).
 I read some comments out there claiming that it looked like a PS2 game. Do you even know how a PS2 game looks? There's good and bad in the visual presentation, though. For instance, the game has a very colorful cell-shaded look, character models look a bit... off for some reason, but the Island is downright beautiful, although there are a couple of ugly textures here and there, like those of windows and glass. Zombies, as mentioned before, come in few types, and they have few 'alternate' looks as well, and they are pretty forgettable for the most part, I didn't care about these enemies in the slightest. One little detail that I loved was that every item or equipment piece that you found is equipped on Cliff, so you can see everything that he is carrying on him, which is really cool. Music on the other hand is laughable. Really, it's pretty bad, there are very few tunes in the game, and they are pretty darn bad. As for the Voice Acting, it was alright, no performance was particularly noteworthy, but I'm not complaining.

 Escape Dead Island is a horribly underrated game. It's far from being a great game, and I'm in no hurry to replay it any time soon, but I liked it a lot, technical issues not withstanding. It's a functional game, with an interesting premise and an alright execution. It was not their best first attempt at a Spin off, but I wouldn't mind seeing them explore the concept in a sequel... provided they can lock that framerate down, polish the combat and add more nuances to it, iron out the bugs, better rewards and a damned jump button!
 5.5 out of 10

Now Playing: Escape Dead Island

 So far... so good?
 Here's the deal, I know about this game's poor reputation, I know that it even made it to some 'Worst of 2014' lists.... but even so, it looked, from what I saw, like a game I would like... and so far, I think I was right.

 I just cleared the Prologue, and I felt like it was a good stopping point to write my first impressions and see how they change, 'sides, it's before you get to play as the douchebag on the cover! Well, I like the gameplay. It's simple, but fun. Attacks lack some oomph, mainly in the sound department, but it's just a minor issue. A bigger issue, but one I didn't care for, is that Stealth is... wonky, for lack of a better word. Walk in front of a Zombie? It's cool, you get a couple of seconds before it notices you. Run? The immediately notice and run towards you. Oh, and there's the guns. If you have a gun equipped, pressing Square or Triangle instantly brings out your sword, which is useful and makes sense... but once the sword is out, the gun gets unequipped. I understand why, L2 acts as Melee targeting or as free-aiming for the guns, but it could've been handled a bit better I think.

 The last thing I want to mention, is that I don't know how I feel about the graphics yet. It's very cartoonish, and colorful, which normally, I would like... but I think the game tries to take itself seriously. Not that a cell-shaded, cartoonish game can't be serious, but if it tries to convey horror.... the colorful, cartoony look isn't the best. And you can't do much 'psychological horror' with Zombies, so that excuse is null and void.

 All in all... I like it. Maybe the critics were wrong, or maybe the game just manages to check all the boxes of things I like. Either way, it's on!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Review #215: Injustice - Gods Among Us - Ultimate Edition

 And we're back!
  Back in 2013, I did an awful write-up on Injustice. Not to say that I'm good at writing, but I'm slightly less awful than back then. I cringed as I skimmed through it, and did some touching up. Just a little, I want to keep it as awful as it is! Afterwards, I would continue to play the game on and off with a couple of friends, but it spent most of 2014 unplayed, so playing it again reminded me of how awesome it was. I'm not particularly fond of DLC, which is why I never invested in it, plus, I knew that an Ultimate Edition was coming, and here we are.

 I stand by everything I said about Injustice in my previous review, but how did it held up? Marvelously. The game is fast, way faster than MK, which I really like, the combo system is fun once you get the hang of it, and I liked how they adapted the characters into the game. Graphics are slightly less appealing than before, some textures are muddy, and there's the occasional ugly animation, plus, some character models are just terrible(Wonder Woman and Sinestro come to mind). It's also a very drab game, with many greys and browns, while the rest of the colors look very washed out. Overall, it looks decent, it's not the prettiest fighting game out there, but it plays well and does the license justice.
 Why would you want to buy the Ultimate Edition? The 6 new characters, the 30 DLC costumes and over 60 new Star Labs missions. Word of warning, it doesn't include every DLC costume. It's missing the Injustice Mobile costumes(Gotta get people to play the game and tempt them into the microtransactions!) or the New 52 Black Adam costume(You have to sync your Warner account, or somethin' like that). As for the costumes themselves, they are alright, but... poorly spread out. Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman have about 8 skins each, but then there's Cyborg and Nightwing with 3 each, or Sinestro only has two. It's a bit surprising, as there's a lot of character history for them to have drawn from, but they probably just went with what would've sold well... which is disappointing to say the least, nobody needs 8 costumes for Batman! And the DLC characters? Everyone but Zod only gets their default look.

 The costumes may be disappointing, but the DLC characters is the reason why you would want this edition. Lobo is a mid-range grappler, he is fun to play, but his Personal Action(PA) is a bit boring, he just strengthens his next Shotgun attack. Batgirl is ANOTHER Batman character, but she is a blast to play. She is strong, fast and very easy to combo with, a perfect newbie character. An agile rushdown character, her PA lets her switch between electrified knucles or bladed ones, the former deal extra chip damage, while the latter deals more damage overall. Zatana is... is definitely the most complicated of the bunch, she can switch styles, momentarily, with her PA, but it's very easy to break her out of it. Martian Manhunter's PA allows him to extend the reach of his normal moves, has a lot of tools, but is a bit on the dull side. Zod is amazing. A rushdown/zoner hybrid that has some of the best, and most fitting, animations in the game. With his PA he can call forth a Wraith from the Phantom Zone to aid him, and it allows him to pull all kinds of shenanigans with his combos! Lastly, Scorpion, who sports a costume from Comic Book legend Jim Lee, he is a rushdown character that might be a bit overpowered, but it's very fun to use. All of them come with their own endings.
 Lastly, there's the 60 new S.T.A.R. labs missions, and I will echo what I said before: They are a neat diversion, but I didn't care much for them. Most of them are the 'mini-game' kind as opposed to handicapped fights, but the Red Son storyline is a bit amusing. This bumps the mission total to 300, which is not too shabby. Something that will cause a divide, is that everything comes unlocked from the start. Tournament Organizers and a few gamers will probably see it as a huge plus and timesaver, but people that like to unlock stuff might not like that. I didn't care for it... but then again, I had unlocked everything on my previous go through the game!

 Is Injustice Ultimate Edition worth it? Yes. The 6 new characters are very unique and add new styles to the character roster. My advice? Do what I did, sell your previous copy of Injustice and then buy this new, upgraded Edition, which is rather on the cheap by now.
 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Now Playing: Dragon Ball Xenoverse

'Nother year, 'nother Dragon Ball game.
 There's only three constants every year in my gaming life: A) I will play a Fighting game, B) I will a RPG and C) I will play a Dragon Ball game. As I've mentioned countless times before, I'm not particularly fond of Dragon Ball as a franchise, but I've always been drawn towards its games, particularly its fighting games..
 It's probably due to the fact that no matter the console, you can always trust on Goku and his friends to make an appearance, and I always love seeing how they will re-envision these characters. As for my favorite... it's a three way toss up between Dragon Ball Z Hyper Dimension, Dragon Ball Z Densetsu and Super Dragon Ball Z, yet the one I've spent the most time in is, probably, Budokai Tenkaichi 3, go figure.

 That said, when it came to the PS2 games, I always favored the Budokai games over Budokai Tenkaichi, and when it came to PS3, Burst Limit was where it was at. It's due to the fact that between Spike's Budokai Tenkaichi/Raging Blast and Dimps' Budokai/Burst Limit, it's the former that resemble a traditional fighting game the most. And I really dig fighting games. That said, I was a bit worried about Xenoverse, as much as I trusted Dimps' previous efforts, their last anime fighting game was Saint Seiya - Brave Soldiers, which wasn't... very good.

 First thing I liked: Cha-la head cha-la, as soon as the remix started playing, I couldn't help but smile the whole way through. Cha-la Head Cha-la kicks butt. Well, it got better, on the surface, the fighting seems very satisfying. Landing blows feels good, and I'm liking the combo system, or what I understood of it so far, even if it seems a tad simple. And then there's the graphics, which not only look good on a technical level, but as a lover of all things colorful, I'm really diggin' the oversaturated color palette.

 Then there's the Story Mode. Believe it or not, I'm still not tired of replaying and replaying the DBZ storyline. It beat the crappy 'What ifs' they come up with, plus, I always hate it when adaptations mess with the source material, not to mean that I hate absolutely every change, if it's good, I can roll with it. That said... I wasn't sold on the idea of 'saving the timeline', but after clearing the first scenario... I think I could, potentially, get behind it. I'm gonna reserve full judgement until I finish it, but... It could've been yet another 'evil clones' what if, so there's that.

 As for miscellanea, I couldn't helpt but notice that the Makankosappo scene keeps getting more and more censored! Budokai 1 had a textured fleshy red hole on Goku and Raditz, Burst Limit turned it into a textureless black hole and now... now they've no physical proof of having being pierced by an energy beam. I don't really mind it though. Then there's the fact that as soon as the game starts, they kinda throw you into the wild without any tutorials, kinda ballsy in this day and age! The three fights are dead simple, so that you can try every button in the joystick and get a feel for the basics. There is a tutorial later in the game, but it's short and straight to the point, so no biggie.


 Basically, Xenoverse is badass.


 Oh, and by the by, if you didn't make your first a character a Saiyan... you've no soul.

Review #214: Tomba! 2 - The Evil Swine Return

 Why won't these pigs play nice?!
 Y'know which game is even rarer and more expensive than Tomba!? Tomba! 2. Released about two years after the first game, Tomba! 2 is a bit 'by the numbers' as far as sequels go, it doesn't shake the formula too much, not that it needed to.

 The story has Tomba! and his companion Zippo the Fly, remember him from the first game in which he didn't appear nor was mentioned in the first one? Yeah, that Zippo, as they embark on a quest to save Tomba's girlfriend, y'know, the one that didn't appear nor was mentioned in the first one, from the Evil Pigs. Yes, it's basically the same story from the last game, Evil Pigs invade the Island, curse different parts of it, and steal(In this case, Kidnap) something of Tomba's, and now he must collect the different Pig Bags and challenge the five Evil Pigs. Yeah, we lost two Pigs, but never fear, as Tomba 2 is a bigger game than its predecessor. It's easy to tell that this time around they tried to have a better story, but both the script and voice acting are fairly terrible, and the translation's quality is quite... dubious. On the flip-side, you don't play games like Tomba for the story, so it's no real loss here, plus, the ending was so corny that I kept alternating between laughs and cringes!
 The game plays just like Tomba! 1 but with more bells and whistles. For the uninitiated, Tomba! is a 2.5 D Metroidvania-like Adventure game, in which you travel around an Island searching for items and abilities that will let you progress or interact with previously inaccessible areas or items. Remember how the last game had 130 quests? Tomba has 133, and an extra 4 if you have a cleared Tomba! 1 save file on the memory card. And here comes my first issue with the game... it does little to fix or polish Tomba! 1's shortcomings. While it is true that you get better hints as to how to complete most quests, it also has more quests that will require a guide than Tomba! 1. There's absolutely no way to tell where the 3 hidden Towers are, and the place in which they hid the Water Pig's Plate is just mean, protip: head for Circus village and travel underground to the Water Temple, you are welcome. That said, there's a lot more variety in the Events themselves, and some will have you travelling across the entire Island, which could be seen as a detriment if you really aren't digging the game enough to enjoy the backtracking. In my case, I didn't mind it, I went through the entire Island(Or what I had explored to the point) every time I got a new Key or ability-granting item, and I never got tired of doing it, a testament to how much fun the game can be.

 While it kept the last game's shortcomings, the developers instead opted on adding more stuff. There's more weapons, even though they are almost as useless as they were in the first one, almost, since now they have uses on the environment or to defeat elemental enemies that hurt you if you try to jump on them. Tomba also gets to equip different costumes this time around that grant him different abilities, like the Pig Suit that lets him talk with pigs or the Squirrel suit that let's him glide. I spent most of the game as Squirrel Tomba, since it's the most useful, but it's a nice idea non the less and some might prefer the swiftness of the Flying Suit, or would rather fall faster as normal Tomba. The laughing and crying mechanics from the previous games return, this time in the form of fruits as opposed to mushrooms, but they behave in the exact same way, and you can eventually get the same 'Mystery' and 'Normal' fruits so that you can change your state as will. And this is something that bothered me a bit, it revisits a lot of ideas from Tomba! 1, to the point of almost feeling slightly tacky. The four different keys for the four different chests returns, Tomba needs to get the swimming ability again, the grappling hook returns, the pig bags/evil pig dynamic, a frustrating on-wheels event. It is mostly a nitpick, as it's not a dealbreaker, but this being a sequel, I expected it to borrow only the basics, and then build as much as new things as possible. I though the Laughing/Crying mechanics were very interesting in the last game, but they really didn't need to return.
 It's not all bad though. I enjoyed the new Island, and it offers a lot more variety in environments than the first game. There's the initial beach, an underground city, a jungle, an ice-covered town and the Water Temple to name a few, and they all feature vastly different structures and color schemes, which makes traversing through the Island very appealing. It also does away with the life system from the previous game, instead opting for unlimited lives, and while you do see the 'Game Over' screen, you don't lose any progress. Boss Fights have been slightly revamped, for the worse I feel, as most of the time you'll be throwing the pigs towards the bag on the foreground, which works as well as you expect. They are not hard, but they can last a bit longer than they need to.

 While the last game used 2D sprites for characters, Tomba 2! only uses sprites for the items. The new 3D models look great, and the environments look just as good. It doesn't just look good for an old PS1 game, it simply is a good looking game. The music is delightful, with a lot of tunes that are still stuck in my head. The game also employs voice acting and it's.... it goes from passable to terrible depending on the character, but hey, at least it's fully voiced.
 I know that I ragged on the game a lot, but I actually really really liked it. It could've done plenty of things better, but what it excels in what it does well. Finding and clearing Events is as satisfying as ever, and sure, you may need some outside help, but I wasn't too bothered by it. It's probably not good as a sequel, since it's a bit too samey to it, but looking at it without the comparison, it's a great game, in fact, I liked it slightly better than the first one. It's definitely not worth the price that it commands now, but hey, if you can get it by other means(PSN, Emulation), it's a great PS1 game that deserves a go.
 9.0 out of 10.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Now Playing: Tomba! 2 - The Evil Swine Return

 Talk about an improvement.
 So, the gameplay in Tomba! was fantastic, no two ways around it, but the visual presentation left a lot to be desired. Boom, pretty 3D graphics, and just the first part of the game alone is visually pleasing, with houses and moving hammers. Next area? An underground pipe facility. And I remember having it much more different locales. Already on a good track.

 And the music? I'm not sure if it's nostalgia, 'cause I couldn't stop smiling as I was reminded of the tunes and soundbits that play when triggering events... but either it's very memorable, or nostalgia is kicking back.

 So we are off to a good start already, good!

Review #213: Tomba!

 For some reason, I wanna eat some ham...
 Tomba! is one of those quirky PS1 games that are considered to be really good, but few people talk about it. It's also one of those games that had their price skyrocket due to how rare it has become.

 In Tomba! you play as the eponymous Tomba, a jungle boy that lives, seemingly, alone on a rather large Island. 7 Evil Pigs have banded together to cure the Island in its entirety, and after a run-in with Tomba, they steal his grandfather's bracelet. Now Tomba is out for blood, and the pigs will pay in blood. Or not. Turns out there are 7 different 'Pig Bags' in which Tomba must seal these Pigs, save the Island and recover his bracelet. Simple enough, the story is but a set-up for the adventure, so it really doesn't matter that it ain't particularly original, it never meant to. As with most games of the era, it's about the gameplay, not about telling a story. You'll come across NPCs and other weird folk that inhabit the Island, but none are particularly memorable or deep, not that they need to.
 Tomba! is a very interesting game, and it's a bit complicated to label under any genre, but I guess the best way to describe it is as a 2.5D Metroidvania with heavy Adventure elements. The Island is made up of many interconnected areas, and as with any good Metroidvania, you'll come across obstacles that you can't yet interact with until you get another ability, or as with Adventure games, people that need help, but you haven't found the item that you need yet. Most of these 'sidequests' are called 'Events' and can be triggered in many different ways, some you get automatically after clearing another one, some are triggered by talking with NPCs and some just by interacting with something, be it touching a bonfire or coming across a locked door. There's 130 Events in the game, which includes both Story and optional Events, although just how many of these are 'optional' I'm not sure, as many rewards from seemingly optional sidequests became necessities to clear the game. That said, there's a lot of variety in these, from getting a Jar to collect Tears from a Flower(On which you must use a special Powder to make it cry), to simply capturing an Evil Pig, you can always expect something new. And I really appreciated the creativity in the game,  take the Mushroom Mountain, which has Laughing and Crying fungi, if eaten, it will make Tomba cry or laugh, which will affect the behavior of the enemy flowers and the background flower, which will raise or lower the platforms in the area! That said, there's a tiny little issue I had with Events... when triggering them, most of the time, particularly when they aren't triggered by talking with an NPC, the only hint that you get is the name of the Event and nothing else, so, y'know, it might be hard to figure out what to do on your own sometimes.

 Being a Metroidvania, it means that backtracking is pretty much mandatory, but the game gives you multiple ways to make it less tedious. For instance, 'Charity Wings', items that can teleport you to any place you've already set foot onto, are in abundance, and finishing the Puppy's Event grants you an usable that acts as Charity Wings, but with limitless uses, then there's the four Bells of the old wise men that teleport you to their abodes. Basically, there are many ways to make the trips shorter. That said, there are some events that can boil down to tedium... for instance, there's three different 'experience bars' that, even when maxed at 10, do nothing for Tomba, but you need to get them to 10 if you want to collect three different Gems(Which make up 3 different Events, by the by), and in order to raise them you must defeat enemies by jumping onto them... and it takes about 100 enemies for each Experience bar. There's usually one or two areas filled with enemies that give a particular type of experience, but the fact is that you will, probably, have to grind. There's also an 'AP' counter, that is raised by killing enemies(In any way) or completing events, and these are used to open a couple of 'AP boxes'. It feels as something that they came up with at the last minute, as there's only two of these, that said, if you are like me and go for completion, you won't really have to go out of your way for these.
 Interestingly for a console game of this era, there's kind of a lot of leeway in how you complete objectives. For instance, the first Evil Pig you defeat has to be the green one, as far as I know, but there's a lot of Events that you can complete, or skip, if you so want. Afterwards, which pigs you defeat are pretty much up to you, minus the Navy Blue one, that has to be the last one. There's a lot of freedom in how you tackle most of the game, and that's pretty cool. However, sometimes it can be a bit hard to know where you have to go next, sometimes one of these seemingly Optional Events might be just the quest that holds the item that you need to open up more of the game. It bears mentioning that the game can get kinda challenging at times, some zones more than others. The Stormy Mountain is an absolute nightmare and it comes pretty early in the game, the Mushroom Mountain can get very frustrating, and let's just not talk about the Race.... While the game gives you plenty of lives, most of the times I chose just to 'Reload' my file, just in case, and I'm pretty sure I could've lost all of my lives had I not resorted to it.

 Tomba's main form of defense is to jump on top of enemies and then throw them below him or to the sides(Throwing an enemy onto another will kill both of them), but you can also find weapons in order to aid you. Honestly, weapons are kind of useless. For starters, killing an enemy with weapons doesn't grant you Experience for the Experience gauges, and secondly, killing an enemy with the BlackJack takes 3 hits, while jump-and-throw kills them instantly. There's really only two weapons that you'll use, the Grappling hook, to grapple around, and the GrappleJack, a fusion of the BlackJack and the Grapple that kills most enemies in one hit, but you get it fairly late in the game, kinda. Every Boss in the game is fairly easy, and while the obstacles and attacks change, you just need to jump on top of the Evil Pig and throw him into the rotating or moving bag, and you are done. Even the last boss is beaten in this manner.
 As far as the presentation goes, I was left fairly unimpressed. There's not a whole lot of variety in the jungle, as far as colors go, with mostly colorful greens and browns. I wasn't particularly fond of the 2D sprites either, they are not bad by any means, but they lacked a certain... punch? Or maybe more creativity in the enemies themselves? I can't quite put my finger on it, but the spritework in the game leaves a bit to be desired. The music wasn't very good, there were a couple of tunes that actually annoyed me a bit.

 As much as I didn't care for the presentation, the gameplay is solid, and the game itself is very entertaining, it does feel like an adventure. I liked its twist on the Metroidvania genre, and while some things could've used better hints, fumbling around trying to clear Events was pretty dang fun, to the point that I would often walk all the way through the entire Island on foot every time I got a new ability or Key. Is it 100$ worth of fun? Probably not, but if you don't mind the inflated price, it's a blast.
 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Review #212: Street Fighter X Tekken(VITA)

 Oh boy, have I been waiting to write about this one....
 Street Fighter X Tekken was one of last generation's biggest fiascoes. Lemme paint the picture, the first teaser was released, Kazuya beating the hell out of poor Dan. That trailer alone was one of the reasons I wanted to get a then-current gen system. As time went by, the hype surrounding the game grew larger and Capcom spent a lot in their campaign, they even financed a reality-show that pitted two teams against each other. Fans from both Tekken and Street Fighter were hyped, Fighting Game pros would sing the game praises, the game was a sure sell. And then it released, and on the very same day, DLC characters and costumes were found on the disc. 'Wait, maybe it's just data for the characters'. Nope, the full models were found. 'Maybe they aren't finished' some hoped, heck, Ono himself talked about how he wanted Blanka to make it in but they couldn't port him properly... and the very next day, people found a way to make these DLC characters available, and they were completed in their entirety, they even had Prologues and Endings. And then Capcom came with their usual bullcrap 'It's to make it easier for people that don't but the DLC to play against people that do'. Whatever. Capcom wanted to make SF X T a DLC cow and milk it for all it was worth, and it backfired on their faces. What's worse, while the game was fun to play, assuming you forgave Capcom for screwing you over, it wasn't so much fun to watch. Professional matches would often end in time outs, and would end up as an stalling game. They patched it numerous times, but it was too late. Heck, one of the patches added a game-freezing bug that they didn't patch well until a week after the fact. Even worse, they would tell their investors that the lackluster sales were due to the saturation of the genre. Bullcrap. And this is where I'm coming from, someone who was unbelievably hyped for the crossover of two of his favorite fighting game franchises, and how Capcom screwed up in the name of money.

 Where do I begin? The game uses the Street Fighter's standard 6-button configuration for your normal moves, while inputting certain motions with the joystick and pressing a button will produce a Special or Super Move. Tekken characters get motion specials as well as some simple attack strings to try to reproduce Tekken's strings. I think it worked well, for what it was. As far as unique mechanics go, the game borrows Tekken Tag's ruleset: You pick two characters, and as soon as one of them loses all their life, you lose the round. Now then, being a Capcom game, of course you get a three-tiered energy gauge, EX moves consume one bar, while Super Moves consume two. Alternatively, each character can charge one of their Special moves in order to get a free Super, it's very impractical, usually. Using all three bars you can use a Cross Assault, to summon your ally for a while and pummel the enemy two-on-one, or use a Cross Art, a move in which both of your characters use a Super Move on the enemy. Since you do pick two characters, you can tag with them by using Switch Cancel, which consumes some energy gauge, or use a Cross Rush, by double tapping a Fierce Kick or a Strong Punch mid-combo, in order to tag out while leaving the enemy in a juggle state. Worth mentioning is that the combo system is much more lenient that Street Fighter 4's, probably to make it easier to juggle, and I quite liked it. Then there's the Pandora Mode, by sacrificing a character with little health left, you can strengthen your remaining character, for a few seconds, and if you fail to defeat your enemy before said few seconds are up, you lose the round. Pandora is a terrible mechanics, that they patched a couple of times, but never managed to make it any useful. Lastly, Gems. The least we say about them the better, the Fighting Game Community shunned them, and casuals didn't care for them, it was just Capcom trying to make money by selling you stat-enhancing KBs of data.
 Capcom was so invested in milking the most money out of the consumer that they made the features as awkward as possible. Take Customization, which should have been awesome, for example. By the time this version was released, a ton of colors had already been released on the Console, but out of the box you only get FOUR measly colors. Let me remind you that these colors are ALREADY ON THE DISC, but they were made free DLC for two purposes: A) Get you into the store, which is one of the Menu options by the way, to try to break you into buying DLC and B) Making you think that Capcom was giving you stuff for free. Customization should've been awesome, instead you first have to spent five minutes activating over 10 different individual Color Palette downloads through the slow as molasses interface. It's not a fun experience. The worst part about it is that the colors are fairly limited, and they aren't even organized, why not put all the yellows together? It's so stupid, a Color Wheel would've been a much better, smarter way to allow for customization. But if they did it that way, they wouldn't have made you think that you were getting extra stuff for free, or you wouldn't have the need to even get into the Store. Heck, you get a Trophy for entering the Store. Capcom was that DESPERATE into getting you in the Store.

 I'm not done yet. Each character gets two costumes, and most of these are downright stupid. They were sold $1 a pop(52 characters x 2 = $104. Plus $15 for the DLC characters. Plus $ for the base game. Then there's some the gems...), To be fair, the idea behind the 'Swap Costumes', having Street Fighters cosplaying as Tekken characters and vice versa, was genius, but they went for either Humor or Fanservice, making most of the quite ridiculous and unappealing. The PSP version only includes the 12 DLC characters, costumes must be bought... unless you got a new copy, which includes a code that nets you costumes for 38 characters. What?? Let me remind you that both the Console Discs and PSVita card have EVERYTHING already on it, so... why do we only get 38 costumes? Why? Money, that's why. Money so that you can download 100 KB unlock keys for stuff that's already on your disc/card. Way to go, Capcom, way to go. Low Sales were definitely due to saturation of the genre.... the DLC genre they must've meant. Why make such a big deal about the DLC? Because Capcom made a big deal out of it, they wanted their DLC cow so badly that they compromised the game's integrity, heck, their integrity as a company, in order to make more money.
 As far as ways to play, it's actually fairly decent. There's the Arcade Ladder, Kumite(Survival), Training, Challenge Mode which houses; Trial, each character gets their own set, Mission, which has you fight certain fights under certain rules and Tutorial; and the already mentioned Customization. As far as the VITA port goes, they also tacked on forced touch controls for customization and traversing the gallery. They aren't too bad, but the fact that you are forced to turn the VITA 90 degrees every time you want to set gems or colors is pretty annoying. There's also optional touchscreen 'buttons' to allow for shortcuts when battling, this I'm OK with, it's optional and can be pretty convenient. That said, I felt the PS Vita lent itself well Street Fighter X Tekken.

 I also want to talk about characters. Street Fighter characters get a very few new faces(Hugo, Poison, Elena and Rolento), and the rest of the cast got very few new animations. This I wouldn't mind had the DLC characters not been, well, DLC characters. Which on the PSVita they are not, so it's kind of a moot point, but I wanted to mention it. The Tekken characters were done relatively well, I loved seeing them in Capcom Style, and I felt the translated them well. However, for some reason the animations for the dashes look... off, on every character, both Street Fighter and Tekken, almost... unfinished? These look fairly weird for some reason, which is inexcusable. Furthermore, you might recognize some of the animations on the Tekken cast as... borrowed, from other Street Fighter 4's characters, heck, some people claim that some of the Tekken's models borrow from some of SF 4's cast.... Regardless, as good as their overall appearance is, I feel as if story-wise, Tekken characters got misrepresented immensely, particularly poor Xiaoyu and Elena, Tekken characters are like caricatures of their other selves.
 But the thing is, are the 12 new DLC characters worth it? That's the only reason you'd want this version over the Console ones, and... they are, kinda. As far as the SF side goes, you get Elena, which is alright, but almost every DLC Tekken character offers something unique to the table, which I really liked. Elena and Wulong were particularly fun to use. And, hey, as 'vanilla' as Bryan's moveset is, he looks so insanely badass. The game also has some gorgeous cutscenes, for the Opening and Endings, but for some reason they ran very poorly on my VITA. I only read about one other instance of this, but no one seems to be mentioning it? Plus, the game will drop some frames every now and then, this wasn't a total deal breaker since it was fairly rare, but more competitive players won't like it.

 As far as content goes, the VITA version nets you 55 characters. There's the 38 base characters, the 12 DLC characters and Sony's bonus five. Pacman I didn't care for, and Bad Boxart Megaman is living proof that Megaman fans can't take a joke. No, Capcom is not 'teasing' you that you are not getting a Megaman game, knowing Ono, he just thought it'd be funny. As characters, they are both terrible. Then there's Kuro and some other cat dressed up as Ryu, they are both terrible characters as well. Lastly there's Infamous' Cole which is actually pretty good. Still, Xbox players aren't missing out. There's also 11 stages, 10 without counting the Training Stage, and they are... meh. They are swarming with character cameos, but I would've preferred something that... referenced Tekken and Street Fighter locations instead of... of what we got. And yes, 10 stages is pretty lame, they obviously spent all their budget on the pretty cutscenes, amazing promotional story-videos(Which are not included in the Gallery, for some reason) and the reality show.
 Expecting a handheld port to look as good as the Console version is just silly, however, it looks pretty darn good, occasional FPS drop aside. As a matter of fact, it looks leaps and bounds above the 3DS port of SF IV, clothes actually have physics now! Stages have lost some animations and other minor details, but, once again, they are much better looking than the Street Fighter 3DS port's stages. Basically, it's not just a 'good looking port', it's a 'good looking game'. The music is fairly good as well, and so is the voice acting, both Japanese and English.

 Street Fighter X Tekken is the perfect example of everything that is wrong with Capcom, nay, gaming as of late. That said, would I recommend it? Yes and no. Competitive players stay away, the framerate isn't locked at 60 and what you really want is an Arcade Stick, but casual players like me? I gotta say, having all 55 characters is pretty darn tempting, but it also means losing out on playing against other people(Unless you coerce them into buying a VITA and SF X T). Basically, it's a lose-lose situation. The sad part about it? I liked Street Fighter X Tekken, I had fun with the pseudo-juggling system, I enjoyed the simplicity of the mechanics, I loved seeing the Tekken characters in Capcom style, I had fun customizing the colors of the character... but Capcom did it darnedest to let you know that they were trying to get into your wallet, and it's hard to shake it off.
 6.0 out of 10.

Now Playing: Tomba!

 What a Pigpen!
 Tomba! is a game about pigs. It's also a game that I've longed to play for quite some years now. I first heard, or rather, read about Tomba! back in my N64 days, when I used to read Gamepro and Xpert Gamer, and would run across ads for Tomba! every now and then. Funny story, I eventually got my hands on Tomba! 2 and I can clearly remember being surprised at the 3D graphics, I was expecting 2D sprites as the ads for Tomba! 1 promised! Regardless, I would eventually enjoy Tomba! 2, even though I never did finish it(Something that I plan to change this year), it made me want to play the prequel.

 And today, for the first time, I played Tomba! and it was glorious. Well, not quite, it's fun, but I'm still not completely sold on it. I like the look of the game, I like the structure, but the game is a bit... it kinda throws you into the wild, so to speak. It's also a joke, since Tomba looks like a Jungle kid, but I digress. Y'see, the game explains little to the player, you have to find out about equippable items by yourself(Not that it's anything close to Rocket Science, but still), heck, the 'Events' are but a name, and you have to figure by yourself how to figure them out. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind the lack of hand-holding, but I think the game might be a bit too vague at times. Like Experience Points, what the hell do they do? I'm level 4 already and I haven't noticed any change to Tomba!

 Surprisingly, I'm digging the Metroidvania-like elements, getting the Jump shorts allowed me to reach new places, and I've already been promised a Swimming ability, which will open up another route. I can get behind that. Seems backtracking is the name of the game, and as long as it's fun, I'm cool with it. Bottom line: I like the game, but I'm still not OK with everything. As fun as it is, is it 100+ bucks worth of fun? ...I'll get back to you on that later.