Thursday, April 30, 2015

Month Overview: April 2015

 Games finished in April 2015:
Haunting Ground                                          8.5
Super Smash Bros. for 3DS                          8.5
Red Faction 2                                                7.0
Blood Omen - Legacy of Kain                      8.0
Legacy of Kain - Soul Reaver                       8.0
Kenka Bancho - Badass Rumble                   7.0

 Rather slow, but solid month. I was busy studying and playing Team Fortress 2 and getting stuck on that one mission in Jeanne D'Arc which kinda halted my progress. It's also a teensy bit early to close the month, but I very much doubt I'll be finishing any game before April ends, so it's appropriate, if hasty. The Legacy of Kainathon has begun and it's been a solid series so far, not counting Blood Omen 2, but seeing how little it adds to the LoK mithos... why count it in?

Game of April:
 'Tis true, Soul Reaver was not the game I rated the highest... but I just couldn't. I wanted to, I really, really did, because I enjoyed the characters and most of the gameplay oh so much, but there were glaring flaws that I just couldn't turn a blind eye to. That said, Raziel is probably one of the greatest characters ever created, and quite probably,a kind of protagonist that we won't be seeing any time soon. Freaky things like Raziel just don't sell as much as bald soldiers or underaged, oversexualized japanese girls do.

 Smash is Smash, and if you've a problem with it, better... Settle. It. In. SMASH! But yeah, it's everything I hoped it'd be. And there's really little else left for me to say!

Review #224: Kenka Bancho - Badass Rumble

 How to Man 101.
 Are you a man? After playing Kenka Bancho - Badass Rumble, you will be. A Bancho is the manliest man you can ever become, and one can only reach this status by being a complete and total badass. And this is what this game is about, becoming the baddest of the bad.

 After naming your Bancho, which can only be a guy, you are thrust into the town of Kyouto, and you make it your one goal to become the Baddest Bancho around. Not an easy task, there's 46 other Bancho with the same goal as you, plus, this is a 7-day school trip, so you are always running against time. As expected, there's not a whole lot story to the game, not that it needs to. The supporting cast is made up of your few school mates, which get a bit of development if you don't ditch the school activities, and the other Bancho, all which have their own distinct looks, but only get a few lines of dialogue. For what it's worth, the dialogue is excellent, they made it both funny and badass, and just like the setting itself, it's very Japanese, with lines such as 'Blame your own weakness!'. It's awesome.
 The game is about managing time. Every morning you are given the option of following the schedule and spend the morning doing the school touring, or ditching the class and hunt some Banchos. The town is made up of about 10 different districts, but moving around town will take up time. Besides your own two feet, you can use Buses, the subway or cabs. Cabs can take you anywhere, are faster than your own feet, but cost a lot, subways are cheap and fast, but there's only about 5 stops, while buses have more stops than the subway, but are very slow. The town of Kyouto is decently sized, but there's not a whole lot to do besides pummeling dudes. Sure, you can occasionally find 'secret' events, but they are just cutscenes, that may or may not trigger a fight or a decision that will slightly alter the ending dialogue.

 As a respectful Bancho, there are rules to follow if you want to be truly respected. For instance, while punks may use weapons(all behave the same though!), you shouldn't pick'em up. And while you can just sucker punch an enemy, the proper etiquette is to engage them with the MENCHI BEAM. The MENCHI BEAM is done by holding R, and it will 'challenge' whoever is in front of you. Most NPCs will cower in fear and run away, but if you use the MENCHI BEAM on punks, they will either bow down to you, fall down in defeat or challenge your MENCHI BEAM with their own MENCHI BEAM. That initiates a Stare down, a phrase will pop up, and a button-pressing mini-game will start in which you must press the correct buttons to form that phrase. It's funny the first couple of times, but it grows old. Fast. That said, if you fail the mini-game, you'll take damage, and failure to engage fights with the MENCHI BEAM will result in a drop to your Bancho rank.
 So, you just successfully insulted your enemy and got the first hit in, then comes the fighting. It's rather simple, Square is for weak attacks, Triangle for strong attacks and circle to grab your enemies. There's a few other mechanics like blocking, charging energy and your Super Attack, but they do little to flesh the system. Fighting is fairly... loose. The camera isn't too bad, you can move it around with the digital pad, but there's no way to lock on to your enemy, so you might have to slightly direct your attacks with the analog nub. The thing is... there's not much to the combo system, you won't be pulling any fancy 10 hits combos or anything like that. Simple is not necessarily bad, but it goes a long way into making it get a tad repetitive. There's no nuance, nothing to keep the fights interesting. But hey, defeated Banchos join your ranks, so you can call them to aid you in battle!

 That said, you can customize quite a few aspects of your Bancho. In Kyouto there's a barber shop and a clothes store, so you can make yourself into a Badass of your liking. Keep in mind that what clothes you wear affect the number of pockets in which you can carry items! But more interestingly, leveling up grants you stat points that you can manually slot on your attributes, and new moves. While travelling on wheels, or at the hotel's room, you can actually edit every single move in your moveset. They have different speeds and attack power, but it's still not a system that lends itself to creativity, as far as combos go anyways.
 I think it's clear by now that the game's biggest flaw is how repetitive it gets. Every day boils down to the same routine, fight random punks, which all fight the same even if they wear different clothes, until they drop an itinerary, then use that itinerary to find a Bancho and defeat him. Sometimes a Bancho will only appear on certain days, so you might have to find another itinerary. Fights never really change, once you find a strategy that works, you will continue to use it all the way to the end, because there's no need to change it up! Another issue is with the Town itself, there's no real map to tell you how to go from place to place, even while entering the Bus, which opens up a pseudo-map, there's some locations that aren't shown in the map. Lastly, the game is rather short, I beat it in about 6 hours, but if you rush through it, you could probably do it even quicker.

 However, the game does have some replay value. You probably won't be able to see everything on your first way through. Either you hunt all the Banchos, and will probably miss some, go to every School Tour, or dip one feet in both. There's many ways to go about each day, and the events on each day are different, which leads to many decisions on what to do! There's New Game+ in the game, and you keep everything but the items you had on your inventory, but you can choose to beat the Banchos you already beat, not that you need to. There's also a 'Night Out' mode, which can be played offline with another player, and while you don't level up in this mode, you can find souls that can be used to increase your stats.
 While it's not a particularly good looking game, it gets the job done. Animations are a bit on the stiff side, but not terribly so, character models are simple, but are easy on the eyes. Kyouto is a fairly simple looking town, but for such a mundane setting, they really needn't go crazy on the backdrops. Plus, it's a PSP game with no frame rate issues and a decent loading times, that's badass. There's not a whole lot of different music tracks, and what few there are aren't particularly noteworthy, but I guess they do fit the game.

 Kenka Bancho - Badass Rumble is a good game. It's fun, and while it's a bit short, there's plenty of replay value. There's not a whole lot of depth to the game, but I'm pretty sure they weren't aiming for that. For a portable game, it gets the job done, it's like a... Yakuza Lite.
 7.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Now Playing: Kenka Bancho - Badass Rumble

 Now that's one badass name for a game.
 Kenka Bancho is a game that will teach you how to be a MAN. It's all about manliness and badassery and being a manly badass and reaching new levels of badassery. Needless to say, this is a game I can get behind.

 I wasn't planning on playing something new this early, but Jeanne D'Arc's infamous 'protect the dauphin' mission kinda took its toll on me(4 tries and counting!), but Soul Reaver 2 hasn't arrived yet, so... Kenka Bancho it is.

 I love the fact that the game is VERY Japanese. In a good way, there's no fan service or pandering, yet it has ridiculous over the top things like the MENCHI BEAM. Because a real man starts a fight with the MENCHI BEAM, which initiates the STARE DOWN. And I love it.

 I can already predict that it will, probably, get a bit repetitive, but so far it's kinda fun. The fighting is a bit too simple, letting you customize your moveset is fun, but it's not like you can pull off anything fancy with the system. At least not now anyways, maybe once I level up my speed further? Whatev's, back to my quest of becoming the TOUGHEST MAN IN JAPAN.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Review #223: Legacy of Kain - Soul Reaver

 Because Kain's arrogance is large enough to contain yet another game.
 Remember that old chap, Kain? Y'know, that guy who got killer, then turned into a vampire, and then had to decide either to sacrifice himself, and the vampire race, for the good of Nosgoth, or damn them all and, well, live? Well, he chose the latter. And he wasted no time, he made himself quite the army, with Raziel being his right hand. And then Raziel had to go and evolve before Kain, which made Kain a bit angry and offed Raziel... Or so he thought. Kinda. Turns out Raziel spent 500 years in pain, but a strange voice claims to have helped him. Sure, he lost some weight. And his jaw. As a matter of fact, he lost his physical form, but thanks to this new benefactor, Raziel is now a Wraith. He can consume souls to will himself into the material world if he so chooses you. Raziel is pissed, and now makes it his quest to end his killer, Kain, and the rest of his brethren.

 Soul Reaver is a third person adventure game not unlike Zelda. Y'know how Zelda loves the 'two worlds' mechanics? Well, Raziel gets to travel between the Material world and the Spectral world. As a matter of fact, you can go into the Spectral World at any time, and you are forced into it if you lose all your health. The only way to enter the Material world, however, requires Raziel's 'stamina' to be full, which is done by consuming the souls of the denizens of the Spectral world, and then you must find a blue portal. The dynamic between both worlds is quite interesting, since Raziel has no matter, he can't interact with anything on the Spectral world(Besides ledges and the such), however, the Spectral world is twisted, literally, so a previously unreachable ledge might be easier to get onto through the Spectral world. Sometimes you'll have to move a block, pull a lever or the such in the Material world, so as to be able to reach someplace else in the Spectral world.
 And then comes my first problem with the exploration, which is the lack of directions. The world of Soul Reaver is kinda large, but there's no map or compass to help you guide your way. Whenever you are given hints of where to go, the voice will say 'Go West of X', which would be helpful if only I knew where West was! Speaking of the voice, there are no real 'checkpoints' in the game besides the 'Gates'(More on these later), and while you can save your game at any time, every time you continue your file, you'll start from the voice's abode. This can translate into a lot of walking, and maybe even solving some platforming puzzles again. Then we have the 'Gates' that teleport you to other 'Gates', but the only way to distinguish these gates is from their symbols. So you better remember that the symbol that looks like a 3 takes you to the Swamp. Was it so hard to just write the name of the area below the gate? It's needlessly complicated!

 There were also a couple of kinks with the overall gameplay that are a bit hard to ignore. The camera is a bit wonky, every now and then, it's gonna stick way too close to Raziel's back, luckily you are given manual input over it with the shoulder buttons(Why not the right analog stick?), and you're going to need to use them to get the most out of the camera. The game also has some very noticeable framerate issues, sometimes they can get in the way of your inputs, making you miss actions like jumps. It can get a bit annoying. The game also tried to make away with loading screens, which was a noble endeavor, but you can tell that the game will sometimes slow down in order to allow it to load, and if it gets coupled with the framerate issues... well, you are in for a bad time! And lastly we've got the jumping... some of the jumps demand a bit too much precision, and Raziel's movement really isn't up to snuff.
 Combat is a very simple, one-button affair, but there's some nuance to it. Your enemies in the Material World are different forms of devolved vampires, and vampires just can't be killed by normal means. You must find weapons to impale them with, water or fire to throw them on, heck, even sunlight will do the trick. You'll also need to consume their soul if you don't want them coming back to life! Early through the game you'll earn the Spectral Soul Reaver, which only manifests on the Material World if your health is full, the Soul Reaver makes your enemies explode, so that even if you don't consume their souls, they can't come back, so it encourages you to do well in battle, keep your health and thus keep the powerful Reaver.

 As you defeat the Vampire Generals you'll earn different skills, which can be used for puzzling, battling or both. As a matter of fact, it's a good idea to backtrack whenever you get new skills, as there's a lot of goodies to be found. There's items to extend your health bar in the Material World, and there's 5 hidden 'Glyphs', which are powerful spells to deal with enemies. All of these are optional, and many of them are hidden in optional dungeons! There really is a lot of stuff to see and do in Soul Reaver. Even if some of it is a bit... cryptic. Some of the puzzles I admit where a bit too complex to finish without a guide, there's this one puzzle in particular, a boss actually, that you need to realize, somehow, that you can lure it outside his arena, and then, somehow, figure out to bring him back to a previous room in the dungeon, in which you already solved the puzzle, and activate the mechanism to destroy him. I'd really love to know how are you supposed to realize all of this by yourself.
 The game looks fantastic, no two questions about it. There's not a whole lot of different enemies, but each 'sub-race' looks different enough. Bosses are large and menacing(As menacing as the PS1 can make them look anyways), and then there's Raziel... Raziel's design is incredibly unique, and the in-game model does it justice. While the Spectral World can be a bit dull in all its blues, Nosgoth is a pleasure to explore, and each area is unique enough so that you can easily identify them. If one thing is consistently top-notch in the LoK series, it's the voice acting, and this game is no exception. Kain's Voice Actor is as phenomenal as always, and the newcomer's Raziel's voice actor matches him in quality. The music can be a bit forgettable, there are many different tunes, but I'd be hard pressed to remember any of them.

 I criticized the game a lot, but the fact is, the game is excellent. There are issues, there are flaws and it has a couple of problems, but the game manages to pull through. Exploring Nosgoth and finding all of its secrets was a blast, most of the puzzles were fun to figure out, even if a few can get a bit too complex.
 8.0 out of 10

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Now Playing: Legacy of Kain - Soul Reaver

 It's a doozy.
 Raziel has to be one of the greatest characters ever conceived. Both in his outward design and the story surrounding him. He loos amazing, mysterious and interesting, his abilities and limitations also play a huge part in what he is, and so is his story and the trials he faces until his eventual fate in Defiance, but I'm getting ahead of myself, ain't I?

 Speaking of 'the greatest things ever', the opening FMV to the game has to be one of the most iconic scenes in gaming, at least of its era. I didn't remember much of the game(Though it came back to me as I payed), but the opening? That one's engraved on my memories for life. It's short and straight to the point, giving you all the information you need to know, it's brutal, and thanks to the accompanying  narration, makes you feel empathy towards Raziel, who is supposed to be a bit of a prick. And then there's the fact that it looks amazing to boot. And it doesn't end there, the game's presentation is top notch as well. Graphics look glorious for a PS1 game, and using the PS3's smoothing options makes it look even better, the voice acting is up to it's usual high standards(For the franchise) and the music completely immerses you in this decayed Nosgoth.

 But looks don't make a game, not that it would matter, since Soul Reaver plays relatively smooth. The camera needs some manual aid, but control Raziel is simple, despite him having a ton of actions under his belt, and disposing of the enemy vampires is a blast. Kain really didn't have the best interest of his kin in mind when he redesigned Nosgoth in his image, so many pointy decorations on which to get impaled? And so many torches on which to get burned on? Kain, you moron!

 You could say that I'm liking Soul Reaver a fair bit, and you'd be right!

Second Time Around: Blood Omen 2 Part 2

 This is what I'd call a Hot Mess.
 Man, where do I start with this one? Maybe by saying that it's a wonky game. Gameplay is wonky, level design is wonky and the presentation is wonky. Take the gameplay, moving and exploration feels OK, with a few quirks, like not being able to glide too far(An invisible barrier will stop you in your tracks!) or how rotating actually rotates Kain, without any leg movement. And the combat? It's slow and clunky. Don't get me wrong, it works and gets the job done, but you'll notice some oddities, like being able to interrupt some enemy combos, or getting stuck in place because the hitbox of their attack actually hit you, even if the animation didn't. Speaking of weird hitboxes, sometimes it feels as if unless you are actually targeting the enemy, your attacks won't register. Sometimes. As a whole, combat feels clunky.

 Then there's the level design, which is a mixed bag. Levels look amazing, that's the biggest sell of the game, the gorgeous architecture and artistic design of the world of Nosgoth. But as for the levels themselves, they have some issues. Firstly, I've seen a lot of people call this one an action game, they are wrong. The puzzle-to-slashing ratio favors the former. There's so many puzzles that sometimes they feel forced, or without a raison d'etre. It's easier to make my point with a couple of examples... For instance, there's this stage in which your path eventually leads you into a random house, and said house happens to have a cracked floor and a box. Just because. But why did Kain even consider entering THAT house in particular? Or another stance in which the road forks, on one end there's a gate, and on the other one there's a warehouse. For whatever reason Kain decides to fumble with the controls, there's no hint as to WHY you are doing it, but you happen to free a monster that takes care of the gate. It's like there's puzzles for the sake of puzzles, but they couldn't be bothered to give you a reason to do them, so to speak. Since I mentioned that time in which you must enter a house, sometimes you'll have to open doors, which sounds like something stupid to mention, but the game is full of doors, 90% which you can't open, so if your path ends for whatever reason, you have to approach every door to check if it gets highlighted and you can open it. It feels random. That said, most of the puzzles were actually quite entertaining to figure out.

 And then we come to the performance... This may be exclusive to the PS2(I heard it was the worst port of the game), but the game runs terribly. The framerate is horrid, expect drops at a second's notice. The cutscenes are terrible as well, particularly on the sound department. Sometimes, ambient noise will drown out the voices, which is particularly annoying, or some cutscenes will lack music, or sound effects and sometimes, even both. On the flip side, voice acting is pretty good for the most part, with a couple of exceptions. Kain's VA is still top-notch and completely sells you on the character.

 Speaking of Kain, nay, of the Legacy of Kain, this game feels superfluous. It does little, if anything, to further the lore of the franchise. Sure, we get to see Kain be an arrogant prick, which is entertaining, but it does little for the franchise as a whole. Then there's the fact that it introduces a couple of plot holes. Y'see, Defiance was meant to explain that Kain actually revived Vorador, and Janos' resurrection as well, but as with most Legacy of Kain games, it was rushed and the explanations were never given. The end result, is that this game not only does little for the lore, but it actually introduces a couple of plot holes. Way to go. And as much as I enjoyed the script, the 'love' subplot was executed terribly, Kain never shows any kind of endearment, or even thought about Umah, but we are to believe that he felt something for her?

 Y'know what's the saddest part about Blood Omen 2? That beneath all of its issues lies a good game. There are good ideas, if a bit half baked. With some ironing out, it could've been really good, but as it stands, it is a memorable game, just not a particularly good one.
 5.5 out of 10

 And now comes the part where I re-read my old review, just for kicks... Wow, I actually agree with the me of two years ago, heck, I mentioned things I actually forgot, like the dumb AI or the terrible checkpoint spread. I also mentioned that the dialogue had some particularly bad lines, but to be honest, I can't remember anything to cheesy, except maybe the Seer's pleasure at being bitten but Kain. And I like the fact that I appreciated how the environments looked, since it is a very appealing world.

 This concludes the 'Blood Omen' branch of the Legacy of Kain series, sadly Kain won't be playable again until Defiance, but I'll get to see him quite a bit. Hopefully he is as arrogant as he was(I can't remember much of Soul Reaver's characterization!).

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Review #222: Blood Omen - Legacy of Kain

 Why hadn't I played this game before?!
 Blood Omen had a rather... tumultuous development, barred in shady deals and mystery, which wound up with Kain and the world of Nosgoth, both conceived by Dennis Dyack from Silicon Knights, in Crystal Dinamics hands. Luckily the end result wasn't affected by it, even if it's a bit sad that the creator lost his character and the world he had imagined.

 The game is an isometrical adventure game in which you play as Kain, a nobleman, who finds himself without drink or bed, and is killed under an assault by bandits. Luckily, the game doesn't end there, a mysterious benefactor offers him a chance for revenge, in exchange for his humanity. Now a vampire, revenge is everything that Kain cares about, and about 30 minutes into the game, he achieves it.... but that's not the end of it. Kain gets, much to his chagrin, tied up in restoring the Nine Pillars that hold the world of Nosgoth together. The story and the lore of Blood Omen are both very interesting, it's a very bleak, dark setting, with a very deranged cast of characters. Most interesting of all being Kain, Kain is no hero, but he is not a villain either. He is given the option, if he so wants, to feed on helpless victims, as well as kill any non-important NPC in the game, if the player so wants to. You don't have to, but nothing is stopping you, and due to his vampirism, drinking the blood of these poor peasants might be the only way to heal yourself. But that? That's just a facet of his persona tied to the gameplay, Kain has a personality, and he will offer a lot of monologues, in which he always loves to inject his opinion or feelings about the matter. He is a very colorful narrator to say the least, and listening to him is always very interesting.
 The game has often been called a 'Dark Legend of Zelda' and the comparison is valid, but it's also so much more. Kain is a vampire, which I mentioned like three times already, and this confers to him a wide variety of spells and abilities, all of which must be found around the world of Nosgoth. He can transform into Bats, Wolf or Mist forms, not unlike Castlevania's Alucard, as well as disguise himself in order to be able to enter towns without having guards trying to slay him or be able to speak with NPCs. Bat form is a glorified teleportation method, it allows Kain to automatically fly to certain marked locations on the map. Wolf grants him speed and allows him to jump over small obstacles, while Mist lets him walk over water or other harmful floor obstacles without a hitch. Finally, Kain can strengthen his basic form by equipping different weapons or armor, all of which have nice secondary effects. For example, his basic armor provides protection from fire, but there's one that automatically sucks the blood out of his enemies, so that he can simply hack away, one that deflects some of the damage back to his enemies and another one that divides damage between his life bar and the mana bar. Then there's the weapons, the club can't kill, so you can feed without accidentally killing an enemy, as well as destroying certain boulders, and the axes are fast and deal a lot of damage while also being able to cut down certain trees, or a fire sword, that is just awesome and burns down your enemies.

 Then there's spells, of which there are many. You have a boring bolt of energy, which is quite useful, the Repel spell, which is the best spell in the entire game, it makes Kain invincible for a while as well as deflect any projectile that comes his way. There's also one spell that makes enemies fight each other, one that lets him possess an enemy, and another one that sucks the blood out of every nearby enemy. Options, there's many of them. As you've probably guessed, the game has many puzzles that involve all of Kain's abilities. Some are as easy as stepping over a tile or a switch, but you'll also need to use your spells and forms in order to get around. And just like Zelda, the game takes place on a rather large overworld, and it has a lot, and I do mean a LOT, of optional content. The game actually keeps track of the 'secrets' you find, there's 100 of them, and finding all of them without a guide is quite the task. The rewards do vary though, sometimes you'll get just a couple of items, but a few of them house items that increase your life bar and mana bar, as well as a couple of spells that are pretty easy to miss( And you don't really need, but they are nice to have!).
 And despite how awesome it sounds, it does have a fair amount of flaws, but I chalk them up to its age. The combat, while offering a lot of choice, isn't all that good, it's a very simple 'mash square' affair, no dodges, no blocking, no nothing, but the worst offender being the hitboxes. Sometimes they work on your favor, sometimes they don't, basically, you'll see a lot of slashes, both from you and your enemies, that should've hit but didn't. Take your energy blasts, a lot of times I knew that I hit thin air, but it still registered as a hit(Not that I really cared, since it made my job much easier!). And as soon as you get the Repel spell, the game becomes noticeably easier. As a matter of fact, couple the 'reflective armor' with Repel, and enemies kill themselves while attempting to kill you, without damaging you, and since they deal little damage to themselves, they end up on the 'sway animation', allowing you to feed. The camera is also a bit... unsatisfactory. You can zoom in or out, but the zoomed in camera is atrocious, you can't see anything coming up ahead. And the zoomed out camera doesn't always have Kain on the center, so it can be a bit disorienting until you get used to it. Still, you can zoom out even further(So much that Kain becomes invisible and an arrow has to point at his location), which is useful for scouting out the area.

 But the most annoying part of the game? The loading screens. There's a loading bar for every menu that you enter or exit, any area that you enter or exit. Oh, and you need to enter these menus to change your equipment. They tried to accommodate for this by forcing you to use 'quick menus', basically, you have to go to the 'Start' menu, and put four spells on a 'quick menu' and four items on another one, then if you want to use any of those, you press R1 for spells or R2 for items, and then you select them, so that you can press X to use them. But even in that case, the quick menus have a very quick loading in and out, at least it's much faster than going to the start menu. But weapons? Nope, gonna have to get used to the loading times. It's pretty annoying in certain sections in which you need to use the axes, to cut down trees, but want to use spells or items. Y'see, equipping the Axes doesn't allow you to use spells or items, so if you are low on health or want to use magic, you are gonna have to go in and out of the menus, to equip and unequip the axes, and then back again. There's only a couple of these areas, but you are gonna hate them.
 There's no way around it, the game is ugly. The game employs a rather muddy color palette, and the character and monster sprites are rather ugly, you can actually make out some details on them when zoomed in, but losing sight of your surroundings isn't worth it. And the FMVs? They are animated quite awkwardly, and the characters are rather ugly(Particularly Kain)... however, I kinda looked forward to them, due, not in small part, to the fantastic voice acting. Every character in the game sold me on their performance, as a matter of fact, listening to Kain was quite delightful! And it'd better, guy's really talkative! The music was also really good, it set up the dark, mysterious mood that Nosgoth promises.

 At the end of the day, I put up with all its quirks, because the game is so damn good. As a matter of fact, I'd say that the game was a bit ahead of its time. Having an anti hero as the playable character, a day and night cycle, that strengthens Kain at night, and sometimes it requires a particular night(Say, full moon) to access some areas, and the whole, big overworld with NPCs that could be killed in a whim... It certainly was ambitious, far more than what the developers could harness on the PS1 at the time. It's a dated game, one with personality, with great ideas and a good execution, bar some limitations at the time.
 8.0 out of 10

Second Time Around: Blood Omen 2 Part 1

 Kain's back!
 I did finish Blood Omen 1, but since writing about it would take longer than writing a 'Now Playing' thingie... here we are, I'm dead tired, sue me.This is the thing... Not only have I played BO 2 before, but I also covered it on the blog(In a very cringe worthy way). Which is why I'm gonna be a lot more loose with this one, it's more of a... 'let's see how it stacks up now' kinda thing. After I 'review' it again, I'ma check back on my previous piece and compare if I had the same issues as before, or if I found new ones or whatever. And another thing, since I'm replaying it, I used the Soul Reaver cheat, and I'm not even ashamed!

 So, things I like: The graphics. I like the environments, the architecture, I love it, it makes Nosgoth comes to life. Sucking the blood out of your enemies(Or victims) feels so flippin' good, it oughta be one of the most rewarding things in gaming ever.

 Then there's the things I don't like... like losing health constantly, I understand WHY they did it, but I don't like it. And the controls? Who though tank controls were a good idea!?

 All in all, I like what I played.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Now Playing: Blood Omen - Legacy of Kain

 And thus begins the Legacy of Kain-athon.
 So, what does the Legacy of Kainathon entails? There's five games in the series, with two 'branches' that merge into the fifth, final game. There's the Blood Omen branch, which includes Blood Omen and Blood Omen 2 and the Soul Reaver branch that includes Soul Reaver and Soul Rever 2, and then there's Defiance, the last game that ties both narratives together. Kinda, since it picks off from Soul Reaver 2. Regardless, there's two ways in which you can play these games, if you care about chronoligical order that is: Blood Omen, Blood Omen 2, Soul Reaver, Soul Reaver 2 and finally Defiance or Blood Omen, Soul Reaver, Soul Reaver 2, Blood Omen 2 and Defiance. Why is that? Blood Omen 2, technically, takes place on an alternate timeline created during Soul Reaver 2. But the way I see it, Blood Omen 2, whether it's what actually happened or what happens after fumbling with the timeline, it follows Blood Omen, so it makes sense to play it after Blood Omen. And yes, I did review Blood Omen 2, but I will give it another look and see how I feel about it two years later.

 Thus begins my journey with Blood Omen - Legacy of Kain. It's... it's surprisingly fun. I mean... it's an isometrical adventure game, with a very dated, muddy look and the combat is simple to a fault... and yet something about it sunk its claws on me. At the outset, the game looks massive. There's 9 pillars that require fixing, which involves killing its keeper, and I gave the map a look... and it's kinda huge. I like how it seems that the game will give you a ton of abilities, I read the instruction booklet, so I know that I will get an axe at some point, and with it I will be able to chop down trees! Not only that, I got the wolf form and now I can jump over small ledges! I can't wait to see what the game throws at me. That said, I'm cautiously worried about bosses, just how much fun can they be with these simple mechanics? Combat involves mashing on Square and hoping for the best, no dodges, no defense no nothing... although I found out that it's pretty easy to move around enemy attacks before slashing them a couple of times and then rinse and repeat. Still, there's no depth to the combat, so... let's see what the game pulls off.

 All in all, it feels like a great way to start the franchise, and this style of gameplay won't be revisited by any of the subsequent games! That said, I noticed that there seem to be a rather obvious focus on puzzles, which is what the other games focused on as well... except Defiance... But I'm getting ahead of myself, and my memory of Defiance and the Soul Reaver games might fail me. There I am, digressing again! All that matters is that Blood Omen led me off to a great start!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Review #221: Red Faction 2

 DESTROY EVERYTHIIIIIING... or just, y'know, a few select walls and floors.
 Red Faction was, as far as I remember, one of the early games announced for the then-new PS2. It boasted having fully destructible environments, and while I never played the first one, nor am I interested in doing so, I did play the sequel. Twice.

 The game has two modes: Single Player/Story and Multiplayer. First comes the Single Player Mode, and I'd like to delve into the Story a bit... but it's hard without spoiling it. Y'see, there are few story bits, but it's there, and it moves rather fast. To say the least, it has a plot twist halfway into the game, and I don't remember how I felt about it when I first played the game, but this time around, knowing that it would happen, I didn't notice any foreshadowing or what not, so I think it's safe to assume that it will take some people but surprise.  And hey, it's a twist befitting of an action movie... or well, game. There's also a pseudo-karma mechanic that affects which ending you get, just don't shoot civilians and you'll get the good one! All that said, it's rather short, clocking at about 4-5 hours.
 As far as Story Mode is concerned, I had a couple of issues with it, gameplay wise. Firstly, the feature that they boasted of the most: Destructible Environments. It's a lie. That is to say, there are breakable walls and floors, but they are specific walls and floors. Sometimes you are required to destroy structures in order to continue, but it's a feature that's very underused and the novelty wears off pretty darn fast. Then there's the enemy AI... it's spotty at best. I played the game on the medium difficulty, and most enemies refuse to try to avoid my grenades, and they rarely strafe or move, opting instead to stand in front of you, gunning you down. Later in the game a new enemy is introduced, the last enemy type as a matter of fact, and I like to call them 'The Cowards', these bastards are a real pain in the butt to defeat, as they love, love to round around, without even shooting, just running away from you. And most enemies in the game are immune to head shots and a bit of bullet sponges. There's also a few sections with enemies that spawn indefinitely, so your best bet would be to avoid them and run. And you know what? Despite all that, the game isn't particularly hard. I must've died 4-5 times throughout the entire game. The last thing I want to mention is the lack of subtitles. This is a First Person Shooter, a game that involves a lot of shooting. If NPCs decide to talk to you during a shoot out, believe me, you won't catch a single word they say.

 Then there's the Multiplayer Mode, and it's pretty neat. There's about 30 maps, and not only can you play against another player, you can also add bots to either solo or multiplayer bouts! Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, 'Bagman', Regime and Arena, most which can be played in teams. Bagman and Regime are basically the same, if you become the dictator/bagman, stay alive for as long as you can. Every weapon from the Story Mode makes it in, and some maps even house a few destructible walls! All in all, not a bad offering.
 Red Faction 2 is a First Person Shooter, but an oldschool one at that. For instance, you can carry a gazillion weapons on you, something I appreciate even if switching weapons with a Joystick can be a bit slow, and there's no 'Iron Sights' aiming mode, but at least each weapon gets a 'secondary fire'. Not gonna lie, it takes a little while getting used to. You are also lacking regenerative health... kinda. You can pick up Health Packs, but these act as extra life bars, up to three of them, and your life bar can regenerate if you stay outta combat for a while. A rather long while, so it's usually not a mechanic you can rely on. Still, what took the most getting used to where the controls. Thankfully you can customize them to your liking, so after some fumbling about I managed to get a more modern set-up, one I grew accustomed to in recent years. And hey, the back of the box claims that it supports the PS2 keyboard and mouse, so there's always that.

 The game looks fairly good. Character models are a bit... ugly. To be fair, their designs are at fault, as the models themselves are fine. The environments are a bit repetitive, and with a rather dull color palette, nothing memorable or worth writing home about. Luckily the weapons, what you'll get to see most of the time, look pretty impressive. They even manged to make the good, ol' boring gun look cool. The shooting feedback feels pretty good as well. The music took me by surprise, the soundtrack is pretty damn fine. There's a lot of heavy music, which fits nicely and sounds fantastic. Another thing that took me by surprise... voice acting. It's quite good, and it features a couple of known actors, like Jason Statham!
 I liked Red Faction 2. It's a game that certainly shows its age, but remains a fun little romp. It's probably not a good idea to expect as much destructibility as it claims, or rather claimed, but the weaponry is fun to wield and the core gameplay is pretty decent.
 7.0 out of 10. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Now Playing: Red Faction II

 Them cliches...!
 Red flippin' Faction 2. I used to LOVE this game, I particularly remember being very fond of the Assault Rifle that you get late into the game, thing looked so epic and felt so good. But that was then and this is now.

 So far I've cleared the first mission, and I'm pretty sure I am now playing the mission in which you are betrayed. Oh yeah, I remember it clear as day, heck, I even remember who the final boss was. But I digress, what matters is how I feel about it now... and I feel like it's a bit dated. I've grown too comfortable with what FPS games have become, this harkens from an era way before 'Iron sights' was a thing, so yeah, aiming takes a bit getting used to. Know what else takes getting used to? The controls. L1 is Jump, like, what the hell? I took a couple of seconds to rework the controls a bit, and they are fairly comfortable now, thank god for customizable controls!

 As for the game's main selling point, back in the day, was the destructible environments and.. they are... there? I mean, some structures can be broken, and others cannot, and as far as I could tell, there's no tell or sign on what can be demolished and what can't. So yeah, it's a feature I don't really care about.

 Know what I do care about? Health. This game is before 'Regenerating Health' was a thing, this is hardcore, I love it.

 To sum up: It has aged, but I'm enjoying it. Of course, I've only cleared the first mission, so there's still time before I can safely say how I feel about it. Oh well, time to get stabbed in the back by these bastards.

Review #220: Super Smash Bros. for 3DS

 Just what I expected. Sorta.
 What started as a humble mascot fighter back on the Nintendo 64 is, nowadays, an event. Whenever a new Smash Bros is announced, people get hyped and hungry for any sort of leak on the final roster. If one thing's for sure, is that Smash is yet to disappoint... Unless you are into competitive Smash, but that's a can of worms I'm not willing to open.

 Well, I'm gonna start with the menu because it bears mentioning... it's a bit of a mess. Upon starting the game you are greeted with buttons of different shapes and sizes that lead you to 'Smash', 'Smash Run' and 'Games and More'... and it's in 'Games and more' where 'classic' lays hidden. Frankly, the menus are cluttered and a mess, why hide Classic, arguably the game's main single player component, under a sub menu? like, really. Once you learn to navigate the menus, you'll have access to these modes: Classic, Smash(Online/Offline), Smash Run, Street Smash, Training, Customization and Stadium, where Multi-man melee, Destroy the Targets and hit the bag reside. Where to start with? Classic has been redesigned, no longer do you follow a straight path, but rather, it features branching paths, that all end up against a Mii army and later the Master/Crazy Hand boss. The difficulty selection has also been tweaked a bit, it defaults at 2.0, but you can raise it up to 9.0 by betting coins... or spend coins to lower it below 2.0. You can't change your life stocks, but you start each fight with 2 lives, regardless if you died previously or not. Dying forcefully drops the difficulty setting and lowers the rewards, heck, you may even lose some rewards. All in all, Classic Mode is... it's alright, I much prefer the older set-up, but it's not bad by any means.
 Hit the Bag works just as it did before, pummel on the sand bag and then hit it with the Homerun bat trying to send it as far as you can. Target Blast is no longer an individual challenge depending on which character you choose, but rather a generic mini-game inspired by Angry Birds and the sort. As for Multi-Man Smash it features 10-man, 100-man, 3 min, Endless and Cruel variations, alongside a new 'Rival Smash' in which you must defeat more enemies than an enemy CPU. Smash Run is a weird mode... You've 5 minutes to traverse a medium-sized stage, and defeat as many enemies as you can, featuring NPC enemies from the many Nintendo franchises, although mostly from Kid Icarus Uprising, and collect power ups, so that you have better stats to face another 3 players in a random challenge. It can be a race, or just a run-of-the mill Smash battle. Hilariously, while every player goes through the same map, and can interfere with the other players by using 'powers', you can't actually interact with them directly. Honestly, it's a terrible successor to Sub-Space Emissary, and while it can be fun the first couple of times, and even though the enemies vary between playthroughs, you always go through the same map and it gets very repetitive, very fast. I understand why Sakurai, the director, did away with the Sub-Space Emissary, but I don't agree with it. Heck, even Melee's Adventure Mode was much more interesting than Smash Run.

 Then we have the Normal Smash game, that can be fought either in Stock or Time-based matches against CPUs, Offline or Online against other players. On the plus side, there's an 'Omega' form to every single stage in the game, so that tournament players can fight on t boring, plain and obstacle-less versions of the stages. Heck, you can play 'For Glory' online in order to fight without items and on the Omega Stages, to accommodate for them! As per usual, you can individual items on or off, but... you can't change the frequency. They are either On or Off, and there's probably an explanation for it.... the 3DS' processor probably couldn't handle having the Frequency on high, since it'd imply having a lot of stuff going on at the same time. Then there's Street Smash, a Street-pass based mode, although you can train against CPUs, which has you sliding a puck around, with the touchscreen, trying to through the other pucks outside the platform. It's dull and boring, and I don't understand why there's about 3 challenges surrounding them. Oh, yes, Challenges are back. Think of them as trophies, there's 105 of them, and they are fun...ish. You see, they can get, nay, they will get long in the tooth as a lot of them require finishing X mode with all 40+ characters. Needless to say, Challenges are best enjoyed as something that you clear slowly, rather than trying to clear them all as soon as possible. Hilariously, there's a couple of them that are quite... arbitrary, to say the least, like say... 'play 3 smash matches as Samus', which feel a bit like filler.
 In All-Star Mode you must defeat all fighter, which appear in the order in which they made their first appearance. But the last mode, and the more interesting one, is Customization. Playing through the many modes will earn you three type of rewards: Coins, Trophies and Customization items. Customization items range from costumes, to passive items to moves. Costumes are equipped on the Miis, yes, you can create Miis, there's three archetypes: Brawler, Swordfighter and Gunner, they have derivative movesets(Mario, Link, Samus), but they get their own unique moves, it's pretty neat! The Passive items can be equipped on the Miis or on the normal characters, and they raise and decrease different stats. Lastly there's the Customization Moves, every character gets two different variations to each of their special moves. It is true that not all Custom moves where made equal, some share the same animations and only change the properties of the move, while others like... Kid Icarus' Palutena gets 12 possible different moves altogether. Still, it's a really cool twist, and something I hope they keep for future installments.

 Now I want to talk about the roster... Firstly, there were cuts. Ice Climbers, due to the 3DS' poor processor, Wolf, Lucas, Snake, Squirtle and Ivysaur. Charizard, Zelda, Sheik, Samus and Zero Suit Samus were reworked into individual characters. The 'Gliding' mechanic that only some characters had is gone completely. Every character now gets at least 8 colors, and in some cases, these colors feel more like costumes. Now then, as far as the returning characters go, everyone feels new. Not only thanks to the new engine, but you'll notice at least one or two new animations on every returning character, in some cases there's new attacks. Sadly, while some characters that didn't need a new Ultimate Smash got one, like Kirby, others like Peach and Jigglypuff keep their useless Ultimate Smashes. I absolutely loved all the new comers, minus one I will elaborate upon shortly, it feels as if every new character has something, some new mechanic that makes him completely unique to the rest of the cast. Like Robin having 'ammo' on his specials and smashes, the Villager having a Down Special that changes depending on the tree he plants or Megaman having projectiles as his basic attack. I feel like this is not only the largest, but the best roster that Smash has ever had. Clones are a necessary evil, they allow you to have more characters, but spend less time and money of them, both developers and players win. I could rant about Ganon keeping his cloned moveset from Captain Falcon, but I won't, instead I will rant about Dark Pit. Y'see, I don't mind clones because we get different characters, in this game we get Lucina, we get Doctor Mario, these have different models than the characters they are cloned from. They add variety. Dark Pit looks exactly like Pit, he is nothing but a glorified 8 extra colors for Pit. I even dare say that having Dark Pit in the game cheapens the roster. Look at Alph, he shares a slot with Olimar, yet they have different models... but Dark Pit gets his very own slot? Really?
 I will digress a bit, but you will indulge me, since this is my blog. Before the game's release, people were accusing Sakurai of having bias towards Kid Icarus Uprising, the last game he released before Smash. Palutena made it into the game, and I didn't care, Kid Icarus had a new game recently, Palutena was fine. A lot of weapons and enemies from Uprising were recycled for Smash Run, once again, I didn't really care. But Dark Pit? Why... why would you give him his own slot? I'd rather get Roy back. Pichu. Wolf. Lucas. Anyone but Dark Pit. Anyone but a glorified extra 8 colors for Pit. Mind you, I don't like the game any less due to Dark Pit's presence, nor did it affect my enjoyment of the game in any way, but that doesn't mean I don't get to hate the fact that he is in the game over other, more worthy clones.

 Now with that out of the way, how did I feel about the game? Well, it is Smash through and through, and on the go to boot! The game does feel faster than Brawl, which I like, but not as fast as melee, which I don't mind, and they got rid of tripping. Thank god. Ledges have been reworked, so that if you get on an edge on which an enemy is holding on to... you will push him out of it. It will certainly change how the game is played, as edge-guarding is no longer an option. I liked Edge-Guarding, it could provide some very exciting moments, but this is different, and different is not necessarily bad. The controls are a bit... they aren't terrible, but the 3DS' nub isn't up to snuff. I don't think anyone will take competitive 3DS Smash too seriously as to care for it though. On the bright side, controls can be customized almost entirely, however, the Digital Pad has to do the taunts and the analog stick has to be used for movement. It would've been nice to be able to map movement to the digital pad, but that would mean losing the tilt attacks, so I understand why they did it. As for the gameplay, they managed to keep frame drops to a minimum. If you play without items, you won't get any frame drops at all, and when items come into the equation... it takes for a very crowded scenario for the framerate to drop.
 As well as the game runs, it does have some issues... The game is a bit of a handful on the 3DS' processor, you can tell simply by how long it takes for the OS to restart after closing the game. But there's another tell... in my 20-hour experience with the game, it crashed twice on me. No other 3DS game has EVER crashed on me. I did some research, and it seems I'm not the only one that had the game crash. It's rare enough as not to be an annoyance, but it's still worth a mention. The game does include a lot of content though. There's a lot of music tracks, over 40 characters, a ton of stages(Both new and returning from previous installments), alternate Special moves for every character, a ton, and I do mean a ton of trophies with their own colorful descriptions.... This is a game that can potentially soak up a lot of time, and it doesn't feel like a grind. Unless you are an idiot like me and try to get all the challenges in a short period of time. Do not do that, or the game will get repetitive and even slightly boring.

 The visual presentation is absolutely gorgeous. I dare say that it looks even better than Melee. There were a few concessions made in order to get it looking so good... while the game runs at 60 FPS, secondary NPCs, like Pokemon or Assist Trophies, move at 30 FPS. It's a tad jarring, but nothing too bad. The music... It's Nintendo, and it features tons of classic tunes from the many franchises featured in the game, there's absolutely no way to dislike the soundtrack. Unless, y'know, you have a different taste. But whatevs'

 So, Smash Bros on the 3DS... it's exactly what I wanted. A portable version of Smash Bros. I like how it feels like an in-between Melee and Brawl, it's not too much like either game(Although it tilts towards Brawl), and I like it for that. I loved 99% of the new comers, I loved the new stages and am pretty OK with the ones they chose to make a return. Some of the Challenges could've been better thought-out, and the fact that it can crash is a bit scary, but the game saves often enough as to make it a non-issue. All in all, I liked it. It's not the system seller I thought it would be, but I can't say that I didn't get flippin' Smash on the flippin' go.
 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Archile's Grab-bag : 'nother day, 'nother TMNT game Edition

  New Package, yadda yadda
 Mega Man - Legends: Back when I was younger, I played the terrible PC port of the game and wound up hating it. Heck, I remember I had to play it with my sister, since the keyboard controls for turning and strafing where such a mess, it became a two-person effort! But since it's so beloved, for some reason, I decided to give it another chance.
 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 - Mutant Nightmare(DS) : Just a reminder that Turtle Month is a thing, and a thing that I want to keep yearly, and this is just further confirmation that it is a thing that is happening this November.
  Legacy of Kain - Soul Reaver: Yet another game of which I played the PC port, but this time around, it was a decent port. I don't remember how I felt about it exactly, part of me thinks I didn't like it too much... but I have a ton of memories about it, so I must've liked it! Plus, I even bought the sequel. Anyways, Soul Reaver.
 Blood Omen - Legacy of Kain: And just as I plan on playing Mega Man, a ton of Mega Man at that, this year, I also plan on playing the entirety of Legacy of Kain. It's funny, I just wanted to play Defiance, originally, since I remember loving it, but as I read about it, I noticed just how rich the Legacy of Kain mythos are, and now I want to experience it first hand! And, by the by, Soul Reaver 2 is on its way, so soon, soon I will delve into Legacy of Kain!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Review #219: Haunting Ground

 Give me that Azoth!
 Haunting Ground is a Survival Horror game that borrows more from Clock Tower than Capcom's own Resident Evil franchise. It's a rarely talked about game, and a game that has risen in price, though luckily not as high as Rule of Rose.

 The game pits you as Fiona, a youth that finds herself in a mansion inhabited by some odd fellows, after waking up from a car crash. Eventually Fiona finds Hewie, a dog, and both of them become unlikely allies as they attempt to escape the premise. The story is alrightish, but it's the characters that really stand out. The game features 5 different 'stalkers', enemies that populate the mansion and will attempt to kill Fiona, and most of them are pretty creepy and have their own motives, quirks, attacks and music. Fiona is a bit bland, displaying little more than fear throughout the whole ordeal, but the supporting cast make up for her. All that said, I felt the initial half of the game is a bit stronger and scarier than the latter half, since it starts getting a bit more... wizardry, so to speak.
 The game nails the atmosphere right on the head. Music is creepy and foreboding, and the sound design is excellent, it's hard not to feel unnerved when you hear other steps besides your own, due to the impending arrival of a stalker. The imagery is very bleak as well, with a very grey color palette, but in this game, it works. All that said, this is a Japanese game, so they just had to go full Japan with the fanservice. Fiona's breasts will bounce everywhere with even the smallest step, which looks ridiculous and can sometimes break immersion, I just couldn't help but laugh at how dumb it looks. Plus, the game tends to focus on her breasts during cut-scenes, which is hard not to notice, and almost every unlockable costume offers some sort of fanservice. It's the only blemish to the otherwise phenomenal atmosphere the game can create.

  Gameplay is pretty straightforward, you have to explore the Mansion and find items in order to solve puzzles, simple. Some puzzles involve Hewie, who can enter holes that Fiona cannot, or having him stand on platforms. Hewie is controlled with the Right analog stick, you depending on where you tilt it, you can praise him, scold him, tell him to stay in place, order him to attack or follow you. Issuing commands is very simple, though it can get some time getting used to it, for instance, if you tell Hewie to stop before he stops himself, when ordering him to stand on a platform, he will eventually move, which frustrated me to no end and I had to learn that the hard way during a certain end-game puzzle. Speaking of puzzles, there were a couple that were perplexing, to say the least. Off the top of my head, there was this one puzzle... You come across a room that has a torch on a wall, and flammable crates nearby, and eventually you'll come across a Candlestick, that the description happens to mention it being 'unlit'. Logic would dictate that you'd have to use the candlestick on a torch in order to make the crates explode. Wrong. You have to wander around until you trigger the Stalker, and then, with the candlestick in your possession, walk below the torch, so that Fiona will finally decide to light that candlestick and make the crates explode.
 If that was all there was to the game, it'd be pretty easy, but you'll have to deal with the different stalkers. You will randomly come across them, or sometimes get into a cutscene that'll trigger their apperance. Regardless, Fiona by herself, can only use a weak kick, a tackle(That consumes stamina) or throw special, limited, items that you can find. Your main source of damage will be Hewie, but he too can get hurt, and eventually knocked out. Stalkers also scare Fiona, and if she gets too scared she'll enter 'Panic Mode', which makes her run by herself, and won't let you enter the sub menu to equip or use items, plus, the screen gets very blurry. Combat, is more often than not, the last thing you'll want to do, instead, you'll want to run away and either hide from the Stalker until it goes away, or outrun them through the different rooms in the Mansions. You also have to keep in mind that Fiona has stamina, and eventually she will slow down to a walk, so you have to mind where you are going. To be honest, I only died once or twice to the Stalkers, and only to the third one at that, outrunning the Stalkers was pretty easy.... which means that eventually I came to think of these chases as a bit of a nuisance. I just wanted to finish the damn puzzle, but if a Stalker is close by, you can't use items or trigger switches, which made me more annoyed than anything else. Maybe it was just me, but the chases didn't really scare me, the moments before the chase did, and the fact that they'd sometimes appear before I could solve the puzzle after figuring it out annoyed me more than anything.

 The game looks gorgeous, animation is smooth and character models are gorgeous. The Mansion itself houses a ton of different, creepy areas. There's few enemies, but the first two stalkers and the second-to-last are amazing, amazing in the scary way, I enjoyed their quirks and what not. The other two are alright, but can't match these other three. The music, while not particularly memorable, is scary and fits the mood of the game perfectly, and so do the many different sound effects. Everything just works together to make a very scary game. Oh, and loading times are almost 0, which is amazing.
 I liked Haunting Ground. Survival Horror is not a genre I'm particularly fond of(Which is weird since I love everything horror), but I really grew to love the game. There's a few things I don't agree with, like the fan service, some of the puzzles or the direction the game takes after the second Stalker, but none of those really turned me away.
 8.5 out of 10.