Sunday, October 18, 2015

Review #258: Animal Crossing Wild World

 Can't say I didn't try!
 I tried, I did. I wanted to like it, I really, really did... but I just found it so dull, so ironically lifeless for a 'slice of life' game. I don't doubt that there's an audience for this game, the amount of sequels it's gotten is a testament of that, but.... I'm just not part of that audience, I find the game painfully dull and boring, and I'll elaborate a bit on why.

 Just as in the Gamecube iteration, you arrive on a town inhabited by anthropomorphic animals, and while you are given a house to live in... you are expected to pay for it, at your leisure. So that's your first goal, implying that the game has goals, which it doesn't, to pay off the house, and in doing so, you'll be able to expand your house. And why would you want to? Easy, in order to fit more furniture inside! Each town is randomly generated each time you begin a new file, and so does every animal that inhabits your town, although new ones will arrive and others will leave after a while.
 On the outset, it seems like there's a lot to do. You can talk to the different inhabitants and do them favors, like fetching them something from another neighbor or some kind of insect, and they'll repay you with money, furniture or clothes. You can also chop down trees, plant trees or flowers, fish, collect bugs, dig for fossils or collect fallen fruit from trees, and you can either sell all your junk for money or donate pertinent items to the museum, if you are into that. If this sounds fun to you, more power to you... I just couldn't get into the game. At all. Maybe I make it sound more boring than it really is, but it felt boring to me. To add insult to injury, the classic NES games that were unlockable in the Gamecube version are gone.

 The framerate has also dipped into 30, if not lower. If you haven't played the Gamecube game, you probably won't be bothered by it, but it's hard not to notice, not that FPS matters in a game like this. And while the game allows you to create up to four characters, like the previous iteration, all four players must live on the same house this time around, so if many players share one cartridge it could lead to some domestic disputes over furniture decoration! On the plus side, the game is no longer divided in a grid, but rather it's one continuous cylindrical world.
 What's there left for me to say that I haven't said yet? I didn't like Animal Crossing Wild World, as a matter of fact, I liked it even less than the Gamecube version. Now there, I'm not saying that it's a bad game, it clearly isn't, but it's not a game that can hold my interest, I'm most definitely not part of the target audience of the franchise.
 4.0 out of 10

Monday, October 12, 2015

Review #257: 3D Classics - Kirby's Adventure

 Kirby sucks. Really, he does! It's like his most proficient skill!
 What do you need to know about Kirby's Adventure? This is an enhanced port of the NES classic, a 2-D platforming game in which you play as Kirby, inhaling enemies and stealing their powers, or spitting them out as projectiles.

 The game is divided in 7 different worlds, with about 6 stages each, and a couple of mini-games as well. Kirby's Adventure is a very simple affair, sans the final boss, you can just brute force your way through bosses by using the different powers, or just use their projectiles against them. There's only a very few puzzles, that usually lead to extras in the way of mini-games on the over-world, in order to earn more lives or easy access to different powers. Surprisingly for NES standards, Kirby is a very easy game, with simple puzzles.

 Since this is an enhanced port, there are some bells and whistles that make it stand out from the NES original. Most importantly, the 3D effect. Not gonna lie, it looks really good. It's not a necessity, but it's one of the few games in which I enjoyed using 3-D. The graphics look incredibly crispy as well, with no sprite flickering or slowdown, unlike the NES original. This comes at a cost... the Screen is rather small, since they opted to maintain the game's original ratio. There was little to be done without resorting to redoing the entire game, or stretching everything which would've looked rather ugly, so you really can't blame them for it. Still, it bears mentioning that everything looks tiny.
 That said, this 'enhanced port' is a rather hard sell, for me anyways. You see, it's not that Kirby's Adventure has aged particularly bad, not at all, it's still a fun little adventure, but.... There's the GBA remake of this game, which blows this one out of the water. It looks better, it has more and better mini-games, it has extra modes like a playable Meta-Knight, it looks gorgeous, it has more powers and expanded movesets. Basically, it's the NES classic times eleven, and as crisp and this port looks, as nice as the 3D effect is... it can't hold a candle to the GBA remake.

 It's true, Kirby's Adventure should be judged by its own merits, but I can't just deny the remake's existence. The enhanced performance and 3D effect look really nice, but does it beat playing the NES original on a TV screen? I'm not sure. Is there a point to going back to this game being able to play the GBA remake? I don't think so. While not a bad game or port, there are better ways to play this game.
 5.0 out of 10

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Review #256: J-Stars Victory VS+

 When worlds collide.
 Unless you've been living under a rock, you're probably familiar with names such as 'Dragon Ball', 'Naruto' or 'Yu Yu Hakusho'. And if you are a fan these anime, you've probably thought about who'd win in a fight between different franchises. J-Stars Victory VS+ aims to gather the most popular heroes and villains from among Shonen Jump's finest, and have them duke it out, until there's only one left standing.... or two.

 This is a 3-D arena Fighter, y'know those behind-the back camera fighting games like Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm, in which up to four fighters, although being part of either two teams so no free for alls, are pitted against each other. The game is simple to a fault, you've got weak attack that link into a simple combo, as well as strong attacks that can be alternated with weak attacks. Each character also has access to signature moves, used with the circle button that are tied to an energy gauge, plus, you can also pick a third character to act as 'support', to be called at the press of a button. Lastly, there's a gauge on the top of the screen that swings between your team and the other, filling it allows you to 'Burst', buffing you and allowing you to use your Ultimate Techniques, for a short while anyways. The objective of each battle is to defeat the enemy two-three times in order to win, and no, there's no 'sudden death', or way to alter the spawn limit, this is the only way the game can be played.
 My problem stems from the fact that combat is too simple, without any nuance. There's no cancels or fancy ways to link normals into specials, and after downing an enemy, or getting thrown to the ground yourself, they are granted a period of invincibility, so you'll most probably retreat until you can harm them again, which I felt was a bit dull. What's worse, initiating a burst engages an unskippable cutscene that lasts about 5 seconds, every single time, and ultimate moves also come with their own, unskippable, cutscene. It all adds up to making the flow of the game feeling very slow. As an added 'bonus' to the PS3 american version, every now and then the game might freeze for a millisecond or so, a problem not present on the PS4 version. It may happen once in a fight or so, but it can be a bit jarring. On the game's defense, I've seen a lot of people claim that all characters are controlled the same... which is downright wrong. Firstly, different characters have different ways of dodging attacks, for instance, Luffy gets a fast roll while Ichigo's sidestep has a ton of start-up, and since I'm talking about movement, some characters get double jumps, while others get delayable single jumps. As for how characters play, take for instance Luffy, he is one of the very few characters who can use specials after normal attacks, and he can charge some of these, or follow them up with other 'specials'. Then there's Ace, who's three specials are projectiles, and while his Ultimate is a projectile as way, Toriko's Ultimate is a close ranged attack, or Ichigo's Ultimate, which is a projectile and whether it hits or not, ends with Ichigo dying. Characters are much more different than people give them credit for, and you'll have to play them in different ways to make the most of them. Not that the game is little more than a button masher, but still!

 As far as modes go, there's: J Adventure, which is made up of four 'arcs'... which are almost exactly the same, what varies would be the initial playable characters. It's an interesting mode still, while the story is dumb, you move throughout a map, on your ship, and go to different towns and accept sidequests and what not. Mind you, everything in the game is resolved by fighting, but at least they tried. That said, this mode is fairly slow, sometimes avoiding other ships(Which are fights in disguise!) is impossible, since the camera is zoomed in too close to your own ship. Another problem is that this mode is note very rewarding. It's probably the fastest way to make money and level up the store(More on this later), but it would've been nice to have a reason to play this mode. Maybe exclusive optional colors? I dunno. Arcade Mode, which is home to challenging themed fights, Victory Road, which is, you guessed it, made up of different themed fights, albeit not as challenging and with optional goals for extra cash. Then there's Free Battle, which is self-explanatory, and Online, as well as a 'Deck' making mode, in which you use cards to raise and lower your stats, if you choose to equip it before a fight.
 The game offers 39 playable characters, as well as 13 'support' characters. The support characters are a cop-out to represent more series with less work, since all they serve is to be called for assistance during battles. I'd much preferred not having these in, since battle characters can be used as support characters as well, maybe have 2 or 3 more playable characters instead of these thirteen unplayable ones. As far as representation goes, it's a bit uneven. The popular series got up to three representatives, like Goku/Vegeta/Frieza or Naruto/Sasuke/Madara, while a few others got only two Ichigo/Aizen(Which Rukia as support), Kenshin/Shishio and Kenshiro/Raoh. Then there's One Piece, the only series with four representatives, and poorly selected as well. Luffy had to go in, but instead of getting the 'best friend'/'rival' character, which would have sufficed with Zoro, we get... Ace. And for the enemy, instead of getting an iconic villain, like Crocodile, we get... Akainu. It makes sense, in a way, since Ace's Rescue arc was popular at the time the game was being developed, but why is Boa Hancock in the game?! They wanted more playable female characters? Fair enough, then why not Nami or Robin, who are waaaaay more important than Boa? But I digress, at the end of the day I felt that the character roster was decent, and I'm sure that it won't completely satisfy anyone. On another note, while the game celebrates Shonen Jump, the magazine, the game uses the Anime designs! You get Anime Seiya, with his ridiculous helmet, Anime Jonathan and Joseph Joestar, and anime Kenshin, with his purple clothes instead of blue. Although hilariously enough, Raoh looks like a mix of Raoh Den anime and his blonde manga incarnation.

 I do like how you have to unlock most characters, since at least I find it fun. Buuuut, the way the store works is very weird. There's three gauges, Red, Yellow and Blue, and you have to level up each in order to buy stuff. You see, the Blue gauge represents how many characters you can buy, so each time you fill this gauge, you get five slots, which means you can buy five new characters. So even if you have the money, until you level up this gauge, you can't buy more, which I found completely stupid, and a dumb way to pad the game. As far as I could tell, the Red and Yellow gauges affects tertiary items on the shop, the ones that are used in J-Adventure, so they are of no real consequence. It would've been nice to have more stuff to buy, like maybe alternate colors, of which there are none, or even some sort of art, but alas, there's not much in the way of extras.
 Graphically, the game looks beautiful. While characters look very anime-ish, they didn't use a cellshaded filter, which is surprising but not unwelcome. Character models are very detailed, and the animation is pretty good, for the most part, since a few characters, like Seiya, have some very weird running animations. Special mention goes to the environments, which are highly destructible. Unsurprisingly, however, the music is rather forgettable, but the opening is pretty dope. The game only features Japanese voices, and I wouldn't have it any other way for this kind of game.

 J-Stars Victory VS+ is good, for what it attempts to do. I'm afraid people looking for a deep game will be at a loss with this one, but anime fans will get what they want out of it. While for any other fighting game a 39 character roster would've been more than enough, for, but for a game celebrating Shonen Jump, it comes out a bit short. This is the thing, lately I've been a bit disenchanted with anime, so for someone like me the game, while decent, soon lost it's novelty and I wound up with a decent but shallow fighting game.
 6.0 out of 10