Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Favorite Game Franchises.

 So, yeah, why not?

Honorable Mentions:
 Shin Megami Tensei: Probably the best JRPGs around nowadays, everything since and past Nocturne has been pretty much awesome as far as I'm concerned. Digital Devil Saga, SMT III: Nocturne and Persona 4 being among my favorite games of all time! It only just barely didn't make it into the list, but taking into account that I'm in no hurry to play the older games, I just couldn't place above other entries.

 Borderlands: Borderlands 1? Loved it. Borderlands 2? Adored it. These games seem tailor-made to my tastes, I just can't get tired of them. Reason it didn't make it into the list? It's only two games long, and as much as I love the games, the Spin offs and alternate adaptations(like the comics) don't really interest me in the least. Which means, as much as I love the main games, I just can't be arsed to get invested in everything Borderlands(Which probably speaks volumes of just how much I love the gameplay).

 Pursuit Force: Pursuit Force is awesome, it's like a playable over-the-top popcorn action movie. Just like Borderlands, these games also seemed to be tailor made to my tastes. Why didn't it make it? It's only two games long.

 Suda 51: Goichi Suda is my favorite videogame director, and everything he makes, I must play. Reason it didn't make it?... This isn't really a franchise per say, but a long list of games that share many elements and themes, made by the same director.

 Orcs & Elves/Doom RPG/Wolfenstein RPG: ID Software really struck gold with Doom RPG and the eventual Doom RPG 2. Then they branched off into an original series with Orcs and Elves and Orcs & Elves 2, ending with Wolfenstein RPG. These are mobile games, although Orcs & Elves had a fantastic DS port, but they are amazing. Highly addictive, fast paced(For turn based games!) and perfectly suited for on-the-go gaming. I finished every game a thousand of times, and I've yet to get tired of any of them. Why it didn't make it in? I just preferred  the other franchises a tiny bit more!

 Final Fantasy: Man, I've such sweet memories of the franchise. Final Fantasy IV? Great. Final Fantasy VI? Amazing. Final Fantasy VII? Grandiose. I'll admit that not every game in the franchise has aged very well, particularly VIII, but at the time, Final Fantasy meant business. Why didn't it make it into the list? Final Fantasy just ain't what it used to be. Back in the day, reading 'Final Fantasy' in a headline meant rushing to read whatever it said, now a days, I just don't care any more. After Final Fantasy X, it was misstep after misstep. Square has lost its mojo, and now Final Fantasy isn't synonymous of 'fantastic JRPGs' anymore.

THE REAL LIST OF EPICNESS(Or something)
 10) Dragon Ball Z - Yes, this is technically not a videogame franchise, which is why it's at the last spot. But I've never much cared about the series, however, the games? I'm always up for new Dragom Ball games. I've grown accustomed to Goku and his friends gracing almost every console in existence, and I've yet to grow tired of playing as them. Seriously, I could care less about the series, just give me the games.

 9) Mega Man: I admit I haven't played as many Mega Man as I'd like to admit(Off the top of my head: 3, X1 to X7, Soccer, The Power Battles 1, 2 and Wonderswan, Command Mission, Battle Network 1, Legends, the entire Star Force, ZX and Zero Series) but my love for the franchise remains true. I don't know what is it about Mega Man, probably the fact that Rockman 3 was one of the very first videogames I ever played and finished, but I love the blue bomber. As for the spin offs? X is probably my favorite incarnation, the Zero and ZX series were amazing, Star Force, back in the day, was my 'thang', and while I never played the rest of the Battle Network series, when I was younger I was pretty fond of the first one.

 8) Dynasty Warriors: I don't care what people say, Dynasty Warriors is awesome. The games are the evolution of the old 'Beat'em up genre'. Some people call the franchise 'mindless button mashers' as if it was a bad thing. Sometimes, sometimes I like to be a badass chinese warlord and lay waste on hundreds, nay, thousands of enemies, using over the top attacks. And that's what Dynasty Warriors is, a power trip, and it's oh so satisfying. Another common complaint: 'They never change', well, buddy, the amount of changes between installments is far, far larger than the changes between Mega Man games, and you don't see anyone crying about how every Mega Man game is the same, now do you? Then there's the 'Enemies are so stupid and don't attack you'... well, d'oh? If the hundreds, upon hundreds of enemies surrounded you attacked you at the same time, you'd probably lose in a couple of seconds. This is not Dark Souls, YOU are the badass in these games, and enemies must be careful when taking you on. 'Sides, play these games in higher difficulties and you won't be so patronizing any more. Just sayin'.

 7) Wario Land: I love Wario, it probably has to do with the fact that yellow is my favorite color, but it also has to do with the fact that his games are amazing. Wario Land 1 was great, Wario Land 2 was excellent and Wario Land 3 perfected the formula. It received an overhaul with Wario Land 4, but it was just as good. Wario World on the Gamecube was surprisingly good, and Wario Land Shake-it... eh, it wasn't really up to snuff. Regardless, Wario Land games are a decidedly different branch of 'Mario' games, saving princess is for heroes, Wario wants the gold, and he will get the gold. And he is so strong, that in some games, while enemies may be able to alter his appearance, they can't kill him. Wario is a total badass, and so are his games, but seeing how 'Shake It' didn't do very well, the chances for a new game in the franchise are slim.

 6) Ace Attorney: Back when I was younger, I remember going through a phase in which I adored 'Graphic Adventure' games. Games like Monkey Island, King Quest or Day of the Tentacle. I loved the genre, but eventually I grew out of it. Phoenix Wright - Ace Attorney harkens back to those games, and it does it perfectly. Every game is both funny and engaging, the spritework being one of the highlights of the series, watching the culprits freak out is one of the most satisfying things you'll get to watch. There were two spin offs centered around Miles Edgeworth, sadly we only got the first one, but it was every bit as good as the main series, this time playing more like the Adventure games I mentioned before.

 5) Castlevania: When it comes to Castlevania, there's usually two camps of people: Those that like the 2D sidescrolling action games, or Retrovanias, and those that like the Metroid-like adventure-RPGs, Metroidvanias. Me? I like both. There's something about the challenging, methodical and slow paced side scrolling adventures that I just can't resist, while gradually getting stronger, and earning new abilities while exploring a huge Castle is something I just can't get tired of.

4) Darksiders: Alright, so maybe, maaaaaaaybe it's a bit higher than I should've, particularly since it's only a two-game franchise, and that was a deciding factor for not including some games in here. But the fact is, Darksiders 1 is one of my favorite games of all time, and while I didn't think Darksiders 2 was just quite as good as the first one, it was still a phenomenal game in its own right. But what makes this franchise different than say... Borderlands? The fact that I was completely sold on into the lore. I just can't get enough Darksiders. I read the comics, and sought every single little morsel of information I could about any sequel. They owe us two horsemen! If it has 'Darksiders' on its title, I will most probably buy it, which is more than I can say for others.

 3) The Legacy of Kain: I'm a firm believer that 'Gameplay > Story=Graphics', however, The Legacy of Kain puts that to the test. Every game in the series was incredibly ambitious, every game contains a lot of cut content. None of the games were all that they could've been. Heck, I can find faults in every game, mostly which add up to tedium.... And yet the story always kept me going. I can't think of any other franchise with a lore as rich or well thought out as this one(Maybe Warcraft?). None of the games were the best at what they did, all five of them were flawed in one way or another, and yet the game's story was always a major driving force. So what if the platforming was terrible, I was Raziel, and my vengeance would not be denied. So what if the combat grew boring and I was avoiding it as much as I could? I was Kain, and my will would not be denied.

 2) Gundam VS series: It's no secret that I love fighting games, though looking at this list would make you wonder. I also happen to like Arcade-like gameplay, fast-paced, instantly gratifying and based around points. Oh, and I also like Gundam! Now mix all three, and you get the Gundam VS series. My first dip into the series was with Federation VS Zeon, made by Capcom, and it was love at first sight. And while Capcom would abandon the series after VS Seed(Not the exact title), it's a series that only got better with each entry. As far as I'm concerned, Gundam Extreme Vs is as close to perfection as you can get, and here I lie patiently waiting for a console port of Maxi Boost.

 1) Onimusha: I've been talking about games that mixed elements that I really liked, or how they felt tailor made for me. Well, I lied a bit. If one franchise, if ONE franchise had everything a game needed for me to like it, it'd be Onimusha. Lemme mention them:
A) Sword wielding heroes.
B) You can level up equipment, both weapons and armor change, and said changes reflect on the character's model. You can also extend your life bar and magic bar via items, and I like powering up my characters.
C) Color-coded, elemental weapons.
D) The main character has some sort of transformation. I love transforming heroes.
E) Supernatural elements, in the way of monsters and magic.
F) Fast, arcade-like gameplay. You can argue that point, but Onimusha is a fast paced series, as a matter of fact, the combat's main gimmick, 'Issen', is a twitch-based mechanic, pressing Attack just before you get hit will produce an instant kill. And you can chain them. And it's glorious.
G) This may seem superfluous, but if there's one thing I hate, is when combat feels like it amounts to nothing. Games like Zelda, where enemies are just... there. Why do I need to kill them? For money? Money to buy... what? I can get everything I need from bushes! Not in Onimusha, enemies drop souls, the currency used to enhance your equipment. You want to fight enemies, heck, you want to score Issen instant kills so that the rewards are bigger. Combat is rewarding, killing enemies matters.
H) Flippin' Samurai.
 I'll admit that Shin Onimusha did away with some of these things, but it made it up with other features. There was also the 'Blade Warriors' spin off, which apparently, 'fans' loved but... I'm not gonna lie, I hated Blade Warriors, it was a bad Smash Rip-off, but even then, even then, I could play as Samanosuke side by side with Jubei, which was badass. And then there was 'Onimusha Tactics', which most critics labeled as an 'uninspired SRPG', but I actually really, really liked. Some of the characters, like Onimaru and Ageha, were badass, and it's a shame they never managed to make an appearance on the main games.
 At the end of the day, Onimusha is a perfect concoction of a ton of things I really, really like in a video game. Capcom, where's Onimusha 5?

Month Overview: June 2015

 Games finished in June 2015:
Persona 4 - The Golden                                                          10
Persona 4 - Arena Ultimax                                                     7.5
TMNT(PSP)                                                                           1.5
TMNT(GBA)                                                                         8.0
TMNT(GC)                                                                            5.0
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Arcade Attack                     4.0

Eh, it was a rather uneventful moth, chalk it up to me deciding to catch up with my Book backloggery and the final tests of the Semester. Also, decided to give Ninja Turtle Month an early start.


Game of June:
 Persona 4 still got it. Every bit as good as it once was. The new content is mostly fluff, but hey, it's more of Persona 4, so I can't exactly complain!

Runner-up:
 Ubisoft's run with the franchise was, at least disappointing and at most terrible, but if they did one thing right, it was TMNT on the GBA. It's pretty friggin' good, and I wouldn't be surprised if they used it as the foundation for Scott Pilgrim VS the World.

Now Playing: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles(GBA)

 Konami, deliver us from Ubisoft!
 I chose, specifically, to start with Ubisoft's games since I suspected, rightly so, that they'd be the worst of the bunch, and so far, I've been proven right. But now I'm done with Ubisoft's games, so we'll go back in time, back when Konami was still developing the TMNT games. I figure Konami's entries will be the best, so they'll be 'the main dish', taking place in the middle of the Ninja Turtleathon. Man, it's good to be back in Konami's TMNT world!

 I just finished Leonardo's campaign, it was very short, but very good. And I fear that's gonna be the game's theme: Fun, but short.

 I liked the graphics, the Turtles seem to be drawn in a slightly deformed style, with stubby legs, but wide torsos, it took a while to get accustomed, but now I can appreciate it. The animation is nothing to write home about, but it gets the job done. As for the fighting, defeating enemies feels right, but I don't entirely agree with this 'Hold Attack' moves, they aren't very practical... or shouldn't be, but I managed to find some windows of opportunity to abuse it.

 However, there's only one thing, and one thing that I'll complain about, besides the game's apparently short length: Walking turns into a run. Sometimes I just want to walk close to the enemy to initiate a combo... but nope, Leonardo decides to run and turn his next attack into a tackle! Definitely not a good design choice.

 All in all, I'm looking forwards to finishing this one.

Review #243: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Arcade Attack

 And then there was none.
 Arcade Attack could've been something special. A beat'em up, like most of the good TMNT games, taking place in TMNT(2003)'s world, with art inspired by the original comics? Sounds too good to be true, and it was too good to be true. One of the three last games that Ubisoft offered with the TMNT license, and just like 'Smash up' and 'Reshelled', it promised a lot, but wound up being a huge disappointment.

 The game picks up just after Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles(2003)'s 'Back to the Sewers' season ended. Cyber Shredder is up to no good, so the four brothers set-out to destroy him once and for all. While it uses TMNT(2003)'s lore, the game uses beautiful, but very modestly animated, cutscenes made out of art emulating Jim Lee's and Peter Laird's art. While the story is anything but deep, I found the dialogue to be enjoyable and very TMNT-ish, Mirage TMNT-ish rather than the 2003's incarnation. Having good dialogue adds nothing to this game, but I still thought it was worth mentioning.
 Game's a simple beat'em up with barely any depth. You walk to the right, the scrolling locks and you have to defeat every enemy in order to continue. Before each of the 8 stages you can pick any two turtles, the CPU taking over your partner. Something I liked, something that proves that the game had good ideas, but the budget probably got cut down the line(Which is likely what happened to Smash Up as well), is that every turtle has different combos. Mind you, the combat system doesn't allow for juggles, nor anything fancy, but you have hand and weapon attacks, tied to the B and A button, and each turtle has different combos. For example, pressing B A B with Leonardo performs a combo, while Raph's would end at A, and Donatello can't go from B to A. It's proof that they wanted to make turtles different, that they knew what they were doing. Sadly, in the end, while each turtle has different combos, they all play basically the same, even if their stats are different.

 It'd be one thing if the game was simple, but fun, but sadly it ain't. When it comes to beat'em ups, making defeating enemies fun is top priority, since it's the only thing you'll be doing. Sadly, scoring hits in this game doesn't feel good. Connecting hits feel as if you were hitting air, with poor sound effects and animations. Moves lack oomph behind them, if you are gonna make me fight hundreds of enemies, at least make it feel good. Another point of contention is that before each 'enemy wave', the game initiates a 2-3 second long 'cut-scene' in which they walk in. Why they opted to do this is beyond me, but it makes the game drag a bit. This is a repetitive genre by nature, you should avoid wasting the player's time with trivial stuff like that.
 Stages are rather short, but they feel slightly longer than they really are because it's so boring. That said, the game does offer replay value, if you are willing to, in the form of various unlockables. Finishing stages earns you points, which you can then use to buy unlockable modes. Finishing the game in Normal, for example, allows you to buy Survival, Stage Attack and Hard mode. And finishing the game on Hard allows you to buy another mode and another difficulty setting, but I couldn't be arsed to finish the game again, so what those modes are is beyond me. Lastly, you can also play this game with another friend, so that's a plus, if you can coerce someone into playing this.

 The presentation is pretty poor. While the stages look nice, I'll give them that, the character models are terribly simple, and the animation is serviceable at most. Then there's the absolutely gorgeous cutscenes, but I'm willing to bet that if you are not a fan of the comics, you just might find the art a bit... ugly, but for fans, it's quite a treat. On the other hand, the soundtrack was pretty darn good, with music that really got you into the mood for some fisticuffs fighting.

 Ubisoft promised a lot with this game, as well as Reshelled and Smash-up. You can tell that they spent a ton of money in publicity... but for some reason, they didn't spend as much in production values. Arcade Attack has a ton of great ideas: A bevy of unlockables, different movesets for each turtle, getting inspired by the beat'em ups of olde and merging TMNT(2003) with Mirage. It sounds like a winning combination, but everything about the gameplay required a ton of polishing. As it stands, while I can see, I can see the glimmer of the great ideas, the game fails to be fun most of the time. But hey, at least it's not TMNT on the PSP!
 4.0 out of 10

Monday, June 29, 2015

Review #242: TMNT(Gamecube)

 Ubisoft never cared much for the franchise, now did they?
 TMNT was Ubisoft's very first TMNT game after they acquired the rights to the franchise. Hot off the heels of the movie by the same name, TMNT is just your average, run of the mill movie-licensed game that could've been so much more.

 The game follows a slightly version of the movie's story, doing away with secondary characters like Casey, April and Karai. It also alters some events here and there. It's a passable retelling of the movie. The story is told through some hideous comic-book style cut-outs, and a very few clips from the movie. It takes place throughout 16 different stages, hopefully your favorite turtle is either Leonardo or Raphael, since they get the most solo levels, Mikey and Donnie only have a single level each to call their own, and the rest of the levels you play as the whole team... kinda. This is a strictly single player affair, and in the levels in which you can play as every turtle, you can press B to switch between turtles, making the turtle you were using before vanish into thin air. The game takes about 3-4 hours to complete, but there's also 16 unlockable challenge maps, as well as some extras by spending in-game currency.
 TMNT has two major components: Platforming and Fighting. Platforming is not unlike Prince of Persia, you'll jump from wall to wall or to ledges, wallrun across buildings and the such. It looks pretty nice, and the platforming is mostly decent, with the occasional accidental wallrun, which is pretty much a trademark of Ubisoft's games! The road you must follow is pretty linear, although there's a couple of sections that allow for slightly different routes. It's pretty neat that we finally get to do acrobatics across rooftops, which is something seldom seen in TMNT games... however, level design is very uninspired and dull. Every city level is pretty much identical to each other, you'll often wonder if you hadn't already come across certain obstacles. That said, there's a couple of levels that have unique set-pieces, like Mikey's level in which you must jump through giant floats, or a level that ends a top a train, these sparse moments of creativity can be quite fun, if only the rest of the game was as inspired. Now then, each turtle has a unique skill: Raphael can climb through certain walls(That look exactly like every other wall in whichever level they are, but are highlighted by a red light. Brilliant.), Donatello can use his staff to do a vault jump, which you only have to use TWICE in the ENTIRE game, Mikey who can hover with his nunchucks, which are only necessary in his only solo-level and then Leonardo con can... phase through metal bars... Yeah... What's most disappointing about these, is that they could've made from some interesting obstacle courses, but the skill you'll have to use the most is Rapael's, mostly since he has the most solo levels, and Leonardo. Why bother giving each character a unique trait, even if a very lame one, if you are not gonna build levels around exploiting each Turtle's abilities?

 Then there's the fighting, which is pretty much lifeless. Each turtle has the exact same abilities but their normal attack string. I just used Leonardo whenever it was possible since he is fast, strong and his combo covers the biggest area. Each character also has access to the same set of kicks, which break enemies guards, but mashing the normal attack button got me through the game just fine. There's no real depth to the combat, there's a few other abilities, but they are optional  at best and don't offer any possibility for creativity. So, y'know, just mash that X button. Slaying enemies without getting hit will increase your Star gauge, when filled you attacks become one-hit kills for a short while. Then there's dodging and blocking by using the shoulder buttons, team attacks by holding the B button, and a charge attack that works exactly the same for each turtle. Basically, dull and lifeless, like most of the rest of the game. And by the by, on the Nightwatcher levels, they didn't even bother to give him his ball and chain, he just uses the Sais. Amazing. And I didn't even get into the fixed camera angles, which can get in the way of the platforming, or hide enemies.
 The presentation is terrible, character models are simple to a fault, baring any kind of detail. The animation, particularly on the platforming actions, is pretty smooth though. As for the levels... while there's the occasional unique set piece, most of them look pretty bland. But the game as a whole looks blurry, terrible textures and a very washed-out color palette. I'd be hard pressed to be able to differentiate between all the City levels, they look pretty much the same. The music is forgettable, and the voice acting... according to the credits, Nolan North reprises his role as Raphael, but he sounds nothing like he does on the movie, the same holds for the rest of the characters. All in all, the dialogue is passable at best, assuming you don't get tired of hearing the same lines all the friggin' time.

 TMNT for the Gamecube is not terrible, there's fun to be had every now and then, but it's hard to avoid noticing how uninspired and soulless it feels. But hey, at least it's not TMNT on the PSP!
 5.0 out of 10

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Now Playing: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Arcade Attack

 Ah! The last Ubisoft game!
 Well, technically there's also 'Turtles in Time Re-Shelled', but that game got delisted, and since said game never got a physical release.... There's absolutely no way to get that game, legally, now. Yup, digital media is the way to go....

 Regardless, Ubisoft decided that instead of going out with a bang, they'd go out with a whimper. Arcade Attack isn't TMNT on the PSP at least, but it's far from being good. As far as I'm concerned, one of the most important parts about a beat'em up is how hitting enemies feels. It's something hard to describe, but it has to do with animations, sound and even the game physics... and this game fails at it. It feels as if I was hitting air, and the slashes and kicks don't sound like slashes or kicks. If you are gonna have me fight enemy after enemy after enemy with a very limited move pool and with little in the way of styling, you damn better make the pummeling satisfying.

 It does have a few things on its favor though. It picks up from where TMNT(2003) left off, which is a plus in my book(Even if it actually picks up after 'Back to the Sewers', which was kinda disappointing) but using the artstyle and dialogue from the comics. Badass. I also like having two turtles on-screen at all times. Then there's the cover, which isn't particularly 'good', but I just love hand drawn art, and what it lacks in finesse, it makes up in style.

 So there's that. It's not too good, but at least it ain't TMNT on the PSP.

Review #241: TMNT(GBA)

 Things are finally starting to look up!
 TMNT on the Gamecube is, so far anyways, mediocre. TMNT on the PSP was downright terrible. TMNT on the GBA, surprisingly, is all kinds of great.

 TMNT(GBA) follows the plot of the movie, d'oh, this time around it's told through blurry movie stills, alongside some text. It's not best way to tell a story, but it does a slightly, veeery slightly better job at it than TMNT on the PSP. Still, if, for whatever reason, you wanted to make the most of the story, watching the movie is a must. This version of TMNT only has Story Mode, and that's about it, there's no multiplayer of any kind, which is a bit disappointing, as it could've been a blast.
 This version of the game is a 2D Beat'em up that borrows a lot from the gran daddy of all beat'em ups: River City Ransom. There's 7 'Acts', but between acts you are thrown into a small Hub, made up of the Base at the sewer, a couple of streets and a rooftop. In this Hub you can enter the various different stores to buy power ups, healing items or even weapons to start with on the next level, using the money you earned by defeating enemies. There's also a couple of mini-games that you can access at the rooftop. To be fair, the game is rather short, but taking into account that this is a beat'em up, repetitive by nature, it's a good thing that it ends right before it gets boring. And finishing the game unlocks a harder difficulty setting. Oh, not that the game is particularly easy, au contraire, it offers a decent challenge. Enemies are plentiful, can deplete your life bar in just a couple of seconds, love to surround you and can take quite a bit of punishment. You are gonna have to be on the move constantly, simply mashing buttons won't take you anywhere in this game.

 The A button is a jump, while B is relegated to your basic attacks. There's an uppercut by holding up when you press B, or a back kick by tapping back+B and a sweep by pressing A and B together. The shoulder buttons can be used to call your brothers when the gauge at the top right of the screen is filled, by defeating enemies. All four turtles have different stats and different combos, but for the most part, they play the same. Plus, you can pick up weapons from fallen enemies to curb stomp other foes. All in all, it gives you a few more tools than most beat'em ups, beating enemies feels satisfying and rewarding, while being challenging without being cheap. It's pretty darn good!
 The game is just gorgeous, sprites are very stylized, detailed and animated very smoothly, that said, there's a rather small amount of different enemies, must be about 6-8 not counting recolors. Still, it's a very colorful game, and the stages are just as detailed. The music is nothing to write home about, but it fulfills its purpose, so that's alright.

 It's surprising how the version of the game that was released on the-then 'ancient' hardware manages to be better than the others. It's very polished, and you can tell that it was made by people that love the genre. It doesn't reinvent the wheel as far as beat'em ups go, but what it does, it does exceedingly well.
 8.0 out of 10

Now Playing: TMNT(GBA)

 Now we are talkin'!
  Now this, THIS is a game worthy of the TMNT moniker. This is an oldschool Beat'em up that borrows quite a few elements from the legendary River City Ransom. Defeating enemies makes them drop coins, and/or whichever weapon they were carrying, if they were warrying one, which you can then spend after each 'ACT' on food, life-ups, to start the next ACT with a weapon or even increase your stats. I'm still not sure if these stat increases affect every turtle or just the one who bought it, so I refrained from buying any, Raph, 'tis all cool, but I'd rather beef up my Leo.

 As for cons... I got my butt handed to me on the second level, but I think it might be a tad too challenging. Enemies deal a ton of damage, and they are smart enough to surround you! Not only that, but they can tank quite a few amount of hits. That said, the stages themselves are just fine, but bosses seem kinda hard. The first one, Hun, I beat by brute forcing my way through his rockets, if I hadn't had as many lives, I doubt I would've beaten him!

 Still, TMNT on the GBA is awesome.

Review #240: TMNT(PSP)

 Makes me wanna cry.
 A few years ago, TMNT - The Movie was released to a somewhat lukewarm reception. While the critics were mostly negative, the movie did do well, and the high quality of the visuals and animation was undeniable. That said, up to this point in time, Konami had developed each and every Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game, but it was Ubisoft's turn now. And they botched it.

 The game follows the movie's storyline, told throughout movie stills and a few, short movie clips, all of which contain no voiced scenes. It's expected of the player to have seen the movie beforehand, because the game makes a poor job at explaining what's happening and why, but if you watched the movie you'll be able to fill in the gaps. Still, this is not a game where the story plays a big part, so not understanding the story isn't a big deal, and even if you make sense of it, it can't pull this game forward. There's also a Multiplayer Mode, but it being the PSP 'n all... I kinda had no way of trying it out!
 The game is made up of two different components: Platforming sections and Combat sections. The Platforming is the least bad of them both, you move your turtle towards blue sparks, and then you'll see one to three other blue sparks in the distance. Now you must press Square to jump to the spark on the left, Triangle to go towards the one in front of you or Circle to go to the one on the left. You should be timing your button presses in order to go faster, the better you do, the more health you'll recover throughout these segments. Besides the occasional 'that spark was on the left yet I'm supposed to press Triangle?!', these sections are functional... but dull. Really, not much happens during these sections, and they aren't very exciting, which would've made up for how automatic they feel.

 And then there's the fighting... and it's very clunky. Aiming your attacks is tough, the four turtles and the NightWatcher(Raphael with a chain) move all over the place while you press the X button, and there's something very off about the ways your attacks interact with the enemies. Something about it feels very clunky, the animations are ugly, for some reason your turtles stop dead on their tracks for 1 to 2 seconds after finishing an attack string... which can be avoided by abusing the 'Block' button to cancel animations. It's hard to pinpoint exactly why it's so bad, but I think the word 'cheap' fits the bill. It feels as if you were playing a mobile game. Landing hits doesn't feel satisfying, the animations are so rough that it makes the fighting look awkward. And by the by, each Turtle is assigned to a different level, so you can't even pick your poison.
 As for the presentation.... It's a glorified mobile game. Graphics are disgustingly simple, animations are choppy and stiff, there's no voice acting and the music is pretty much forgettable. Level design is repetitive, and the visual design is uninspired. Every city stage, which must take up about 10 of the 15 levels looks about the same. And even worse, the game is rather short, each level easily takes less than 10 minutes to complete.... and yet the game is so boring, so dull, that it feels as if it would never end.

 TMNT on the PSP is terrible. It's uninspired and lifeless, poorly made and with nary a single redeeming quality. This is the kind of game you play if you hate yourself.
 1.5 out of 10

Now Playing: TMNT(PSP)

 It got worse!
 TMNT(GC, PS2, Xbox)? Not very bueno. TMNT(PSP, DS)? Very, very no bueno. I mean... what is this thing? It feels like a cheap mobile cash-in game I kid you not. The presentation is all kinds of bad, so I won't dwell on it, this time around anyways, but the gameplay is bad. BAAAD.

 Gameplay is divided in two segments: Platforming and Combat. The platforming is very dull and boring, it all boils down to walking towards the blinking lights, press X, Square or Circle, depending where the next blinking light is. That's it. The more jumps you nail, the faster your Turtle will jump, sometimes pressing the wrong button will make your Turtle stutter and lose his momentum, and others, rarely, you'll fall to your death. It's not fun, at all. Maybe if they could've nailed some kind of sense of speed, or made some impressive looking platforming segments, this wouldn't have been so bad... but as it stands, it lacks a certain oomph, or spark, to make it fun.

 Then there's the fighting... It's terrible. Movement is wonky, enemies are dumb as rocks, and your attacks flow very poorly. After finishing your combo, for whatever reason your turtle will freeze in place for about two seconds, it feels awful. Although blocking can cancel any actions you are performing, so you can block-cancel the wait time, heck, you can attack faster by block-cancelling your attacks right after they hit. It sounds like it offers depth, but I'm pretty sure they didn't intend for it to be abused this way.

 All in all, a terrible game. Man, am I glad I got the PSP version, the one on the DS plays the same but looks even worse. For shame Ubisoft, for shame.

Now Playing: TMNT(GC)

 Unsurprisingly, no very bueno.
 Licensed games, by nature, aren't very good. TMNT is no exception to the rule. Mind you, it's not bad, it's just dull, lifeless and a little by the numbers.

 What I liked: The animation is pretty smooth, and the platforming is rather good.

 What I didn't like: Graphics are blurry and muddy, which makes stages look kinda ugly, although Mikey's floats stage was pretty good. The combat lacks something, probably has to do with how it's simple to a fault and hitting enemies doesn't feel satisfying. Then there's the terrible cut-scenes using cut outs, up to where I left off, they only used a single clip of Leonardo arriving to New York, which lasted 10 seconds at most. There's no co-op or multiplayer of any sort, on a console TMNT game, that should be punishable by law! And all four turtles, and Night-watcher, are basically the same but their abilities and single attack string, they didn't even bother giving Night-watcher his ball-and-chain, so he just uses his Sai. And the movie's voice actor's don't reprise their roles, surprising, since Nolan is no stranger to videogames, but then again, Ubisoft probably was skimming when it came to expenses.

 At the end of the day, it's just a by-the-numbers licensed game, tight on production values and just passable on most accounts. But then again, I only played 1/4th of the game, so there's time for it to pick up the slack. But I ain't countin' on it.


Ninja Turtle Month 2015 begins

 Because why not?
 I'm not a patient guy, I hate waiting, and since this is kinda my blog, it should reflect on its owner, shouldn't it? Which is why Ninja Turtle Month began a few seconds ago.


 And it begins with Ubisoft's TMNT trilogy.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Review #239: Persona 4 - Arena Ultimax

 For the record, the Japanese title is a thousand times better.
 Persona 4 Arena is back, and it's a huge improvement, in some areas, while also exemplifying Ark System Works terrible DLC practices. There's a lot to like about Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, and a quite a bit to dislike about it.

 First things first, the Story Mode. At a first glance, it's better than Persona 4 Arena's individual Storylines, since all of them contradicted each other, and since it was impossible to know which was the canon route, and instead only offers two routes: Persona 4 Route and Persona 3 Route... and they both contradict each other. Seriously? It would've been much better to have a single storyline, but whatever, which story you like betters is almost entirely dependent on which on which characters you like the most, since the P4 route makes Persona 3 characters almost useless, while the P3 route makes Persona 4 characters almost useless. It's particularly funny how the P3 route centers on Labrys, which didn't even appear in any of the Persona 3 games. As for the story itself, it's a mess, and not because the fans' theories didn't come true, but because the limitations of it being a fighting game and the fact that it's just a poorly written story. For starters, since it's a fighting game, the money couldn't go into making different enemies for you to fight, so you'll spend the entire time fighting 'Shadows' of the playable characters, AKA Evil Clones. It's hard to fault them for it, since it IS a fighting game. But then there's the fact that, just as it happened with Arena, characters have been flanderized to oblivion, these are not the same characters that you fell in love with in Persona 4 or Persona 3, but cartoonish, exaggerated versions of themselves. And without spoiling too much, they continue to devalue the character of Adachi, previously an evil manchild, now he... he actually helps the main characters. What the hell? To add insult to injury, the story once again revolves around Friendship. Just like Persona 4, just like Persona 4 Arena, once again it's all about friendship, and how the bad guy actually wants friends, or how the characters push themselves to their limits for their friends and what not. It's repetitive, and it's the only thing characters EVER talk about it. Needless to say, it's not an enjoyable story. And I'm not holding this against the game, at least it has a Story, but it's a poor attempt at one, and being tied to a franchise probably didn't help.
 But you don't play Fighting games for their story, and if you do, you are doing it wrong. The game also offers: Arcade Mode, Online and Offline Vs, Score attack, Training Mode, Lesson(Tutorial) and individual challenges for each character, all which are pretty self explanatory. Then there's Golden Arena, which is a Survival kind of mode, where you fight about 50 or more opponents, as you raise your character level, which allows you to increase his stats and equip him or her with different passive abilities, it's a neat take on Survival Mode. And then there's the horrible DLC practices. There's five new characters: Sho/Minazuki(Just as with Labrys in the previous game, he gets two slots because why not), Ken Amada, Rise, Junpei and Yukari.... and three other DLC characters, which are already the on disc. Adachi, who comes with his own Story Mode, Marie and Elizabeth, all 5 bucks a pop. And you need to update the game in order to play as them, and even if you don't buy them, all three of them appear on the game's cover, and on the character select screen, trying to break into your wallet. And remember all the glasses DLC from the previous game? While most companies would include the previous game's DLC, ArkSys is above that, you want it? You gotta pay for it. It's specially nasty since opponents in Score Attack mod will use both Glasses DLC and the Color Palette DLCs. Some people have grown conditioned to accept DLC, but as someone who started gaming with an NES, I simply abhor the practice, specially when the game tries to tempt you into paying them more. You want my money, earn it. And it's impossible to shake the feeling that the game is constantly trying to make its way into your wallet. No bueno, ArkSys, no bueno.

 As far as gameplay goes, it plays like Persona 4 Arena but adds onto it. All returning characters have new Autocombos(mash square/weak attack), some even have new attacks, and most characters have alternate 'Shadow' versions of themselves, with different mechanics and a different auto-combo. Shadow-type characters have yellow eyes, and build SP faster, however, they can't awaken, use Bursts(to break out of combos) or Instant Kills. They have access to 'Shadow Fury' allowing them to barrage the enemy with SP skills for free for a short while. They have more HP but deal less damage though. You can now also 'Skill Boost' Special and Super attacks, by using two buttons instead of one, they consume more SP, but deal more damage. Lastly there's a new 'S Hold system', by holding square for a while you can execute specials, supers or even awakened supers... but I just don't see the use for it, it's impossibly impractical and means you can't use your weak attacks for combos, I just can't see what where they thinking with this. All in all, I like the new mechanics, except the Hold S one, and Shadow Types, but I've never been particularly fond of Persona 4's Arena gameplay, comboing seems more... rigid than other ArkSys games, it's just a personal preference though.
 The visual presentation is just as strong as it used to be, it's probably ArkSys' finest 2D animations to date. They also went the extra mile and added alternate headswaps for every character, if you buy the DLC, and Shadow Characters have yellow irises... even if they lose them during certain frames. The soundtrack is rather extensive, borrowing from both Persona 3 and 4, and they picked some of the better tunes. Disappointingly, a lot of the characters are voiced by new voice actors, they don't do a bad job at it, but it's hard to get used to new voices, particularly coming straight out of Persona 4 The Golden. Then there's Adachi, probably because Johnny Yong Bosch also voices Yu in the game, now speaks in a softer tone, which is a bit jarring at first.

 The thing about Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is that if you liked the first game, you will like this one. That said, Persona fans, who are not fans of Fighting games, will most likely end up disappointed with the story, which is the only reason they'd consider delving into the game. As for Persona 4 UA, as a Fighter, only time will tell, but for as much praise as Persona 4 Arena 1 got, it died off pretty fast, and I really don't know how much life Ultimax will have, particularly considering how, personally, I'd rather play any other ArkSys fighter, and I'm pretty sure others share that sentiment.
 7.5 out of 10

Monday, June 8, 2015

Review #238: Persona 4 - Golden

 Because going inside the TV never goes outta style.
 Persona 4 is easily one of my favorite games of all time, behind only Final Fantasy VII. When I heard of 'The Golden' port, I didn't really care about it, it was a Vita game, and I wasn't interested in the console at the time, and I was so satisfied with vanilla P4's excellence, that I didn't really need it. It didn't help that once it was released, there were a couple of mixed opinions regarding the new content. Well, I think The Golden's, or 'Golden' outside Japan, additions are mostly good ones.

 For the uninitiated, Persona 4 is a JRPG unlike others. This game doesn't take place in steampunkish lands, medieval villages or futuristic times... it takes place in modern day Japan(Well, in 2011 to be exact). You play as a mute hero who recently traveled to the country town of Inaba to spend the whole year, who is quickly drawn into a series of murders and kidnappings haunting Inaba. In the midst of it all is the 'Midnight Channel', a channel that appears exclusively during midnight after rainy days, and kidnapped victims begin appearing on it, and the Hero will soon discover that he can enter the TV World. In Persona 4, you must juggle your highschool life, perfecting your talents, forming bonds with people and saving the victims. But I'm getting ahead of myself, as far as the story is concerned, it's pretty much excellent, both the main story as well as the optional Social Links that you can follow. There's about 12 different 'Social Links', surrounding different secondary and tertiary characters, all whom are excellently written and are a joy to follow all the way through the end. While it does follow a few cliched anime tropes, I felt most characters felt pretty real, which really helps invest you into the town of Inaba and the trials and tribulations its inhabitants face.
 Persona 4 is actually slightly more than just a JRPG, it actually holds a ton of 'simulation' mechanics that are excellently tied to the game. The game moves throughout different days, divided in 'Morning' and 'Night' each. During either, you can only do one activity and one activity only, with a couple that actually leave you too tired to do anything during the night. Days are better spend advancing Social Links, which is to say, interacting with secondary or certain tertiary characters, each storyline is a reward in itself, but following each Social Link to the end will grant you access to an 'Ultimate Persona', and in the case of party members, will evolve their Personas into stronger versions. Plus, the higher the level of a Social Link, the more bonus Experience a fused Persona, which will be explained later, will receive upon its creation. You can also opt, but it's better to do it during the night, to try to increase your passive attributes: Courage, Knowledge, Understanding, Expression and Diligence. These 5 stats provide you new options when answering questions, or allow you to interact with characters. Maybe you require a certain level of Understanding in order to interact with a depressed character, or the such, so in order to complete certain Social Links, you might need to raise these.

 But that's only part of the game. In the game, you'll join up with other students to try to thwart the killer behind the kidnappings. Luckily for the cast, whoever appears on the Midnight Channel has until the first foggy day before they are murdered in the TV World. Persona 4 employs a modified 'One More' version of the turn-based combat system modern Shin Megami Tensei games use. There's 7 different damage sources: Physical, Wind, Electric, Fire, Ice, Light and Darkness. Hitting an enemy with their weakness will grant you an extra turn, as well as leaving them in 'down' state, however, this holds true for enemies as well, so if they hit your weaknesses, they get extra turns as well. I always felt that it was a fantastic system, and it works really well. Then there's the Personas, unlike your party members, who have a set Persona, the protagonist can hold many different Personas. You obtain them by chance after defeating enemy encounters, or by fusing Personas in your possession. On the other hand, dungeon design is uninspired to say the least. It's just bland looking corridor after bland  looking corridor, with the rare gimmick floor. To be perfectly honest, at times I had more fun with the 'sim' elements of the game, than the combat itself! Besides, you'll want to limit your visits to the TV World as much as possible in order to max as many Social Links as possible!
 So, what's new in 'Golden'? Quite a bit, albeit most of it is rather superfluous. The first thing that'll come to your attention, is that there's a new, massive gallery that contains all sort of extra content, like official art, advertisements or other miscellaneous videos regarding the franchise. It's pretty neat. Teddie and Chie have new voice-actors, the new Teddies sounds pretty similar to the old one, while Chie... well, she takes a bit of getting used to if you are used to her deeper voice in vanilla P4, even though she isn't bad per se, I think the previous Voice Actress fitted the character better. There's two new Social Links, one related to a new character, and the other related to the mysteries regarding the Midnight Channel. As far as Marie, the new character, is concerned, I didn't really like her, remember how I mentioned how real the other characters felt? Marie is a walking tsundere archetype, with nothing original to her name. She's terrible, but it's not like you are forced to follow her Social Link all the way to the end. The other one... I didn't like either, they tried to make this character a bit more sympathetic, which in my opinion, works against him. Still, once again, it's optional, you can ignore it altogether and the plot will play out just as it did before.

 There's a new ending, if you make certain choices, and a new dungeon, if you complete Marie's Social Link. The dungeon is a bit of a gimmick dungeon, it's fairly uninteresting, but at least it feels different than other dungeons, thanks to its gimmicks. Now there's a fair amount of costumes for each character, which was pretty cool. There's the obligatory new Personas, as well as a third new Ultimate Persona for each party member. Speaking of those, characters and enemies have been rebalanced, some enemies appear on different locations or even have different weaknesses! Also new to the game, are scooters, early in the game you'll be forced to get one, and it allows you to go into the two new areas in the real world, plus, you can invite party members for a ride! Two new activities have been added, catching bugs and gardening, neither take up time, and on certain nights, you can leave the house, there's not a whole lot of stuff to do at night though! The last major addition comes in the form of new 'Events', like skiing, Valentine's day or the trip to the beach, these are pretty entertaining and fit right alongside the rest of the game. And while they are mandatory and take up some days, the game gives you two extra months, so it evens out in the end. Finally, you can now fast forward scenes, and customize the difficulty settings on a New Game+, things like how much Experience Points are earned, which can allow you to to breeze through the game or challenge yourself, the second time around.
 Persona 4 - Golden is every bit as amazing as it once was. It looks and sounds just like the PS2 version, and nothing was cut. Then there's all the new content that only adds to the already-large game. While I was iffy on the two new Social Links, they are entirely optional. even if Marie has some unnecessary scenes whenever you go into The Velvet Room to fuse Personas. Basically, most of the new content I really, really liked. The new events, the new Personas, the Costumes, the Areas... I enjoyed them all, and what little I could've done without is optional. That said, as much as I liked it, I don't think it's worth double dipping if you already own Persona 4.
 10 outta 10.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Archile's Grab Bag: Turtle Month is still a thing Edition

TURTLE MONTH 2015!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  Box box box stuff stuff stuff
 Tearaway - Because it looked awesome. Really.
 Silent Hill: Book of Memories - I know that it's not a Silent Hill game, but I never claimed to be a Silent Hill fan... but I am a dungeon crawler fan, and that is exactly what this game is, which is why I got interested in it!
 Tales of Hearts R - One of the very few VITA RPGs without waifus or some kind of undressing mechanic, and being a Tales fan... I kinda had to get it. I was bummed that the DS version never made it, but if  I knew it meant getting an upgraded port, I wouldn't have minded!
 Toukiden: Kiwami - It looks like a very badass Monster Hunter-type game, right up my alley!
 Soul Sacrifice - I could pretty much copy how I feel about Toukiden for this one. But I'll elaborate on why I got vanilla SS instead of Delta... well, physical release! And yes, I do know that the Chinese release of Delta has an English language option, but that version is a bit tougher to find.
 TMNT(PSP) - While the Movie is a Raphael-fest, it was one of the few post-SNES era TMNT games that I hadn't played, and Turtle Month was coming.... so yeah! Being completely honest about it, this game looks bad... but hey, at least it seems to be better than the DS version(TMNT had three releases: TMNT(PS2, GC, Xbox), TMNT(DS,PSP) and TMNT(GBA)).
 TMNT(GC) - The third version of the TMNT - The Movie - The game thingie, and also the first Ubisoft-pusblished TMNT game, it looks... decentish. I admit, I've never been interested in the Ubisoft-era games(Except maybe Smash-Up, which I bought at release. and was a huge disappointment and the GBA TMNT, which looked great), but since Turtle Month is comin' up... why not!?
  And thus we have the final line up for Turtle Month 2015. Not gonna lie, the only games that look promising are the three Konami games and the Ubisoft-published TMNT(GBA). But a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.