Monday, February 29, 2016

Month Overview: February 2016

 Tally:
Mega Man Anniversary Collection                       8.0
Megaman X Collection                                         9.0
Megaman X 7                                                        4.5
Megaman X 8                                                       7.0
Megaman - Maverick Hunter X                            9.0
Megaman Powered Up                                          8.5
Clock Tower 3                                                       7.0
Nightshade                                                             8.5
Extermination                                                        6.5
Naruto Shippuden - Ultimate Ninja 4                    5.0
Chocobo Racing                                                     6.5
Short Peace - Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day     8.0
The Evil Within                                                      9.5
Katamari Forever                                                    8.0
Vitamin Z                                                                5.0
Tomb Raider                                                           8.0
Super Mario Bros. 3                                                9.0
Samurai Champloo - Sidetracked                            3.5
The Legend of Zelda - Ocarina of Time 3D            8.5
Resident Evil 2                                                         8.5
Custom Robo Arena                                                 6.0

 Holy chiplote, I've no idea how I managed to cram so many games, seeing how I was busy, both by studies and holiday-life. My daily literature did suffer a bit though...
 Ah well, I played a ton of survival horror games this month, and I actually liked them! Megaman too, I finally got through most of the games. And for the first time ever, a Suda 51 game let me down

 Game of February 2016:
 I fell in love with this game. It was a blast from beginning to end, and I just couldn't stop playing it. This is what I feel survival horror should be. There's item management if you really want to make it through, but it doesn't limit the player with cheap fixed camera angles or stiff controls. Everything is up to your skill as well as to how you manage to make the most of your ammo and healing items. That said, if you play your cards right, it's very possible to make it to the latter chapters with ammo to spare, but the shooting mechanics feel so good that I didn't even care.

 Runner-up:
 I... I just couldn't decide. On one hand, Megaman X is phenomenal, it's amazing, and guess what, X collection includes X2 and X3, which are really good, as well as X4 which is just as good as X. There's also X5 which is good and.... just ignore X6. But then there's Maverick Hunter X, the remake hits all the right notes, and for what little it got wrong, it got so much right to counterbalance it. And the new Vile Mode is a blast and offers an alternate way to play same ol' fantastic Megaman X. Technically, X Collection 'should' win since it offers the same quality, but it also offers quantity, but you just can't write off Maverick Hunter X, which is the perfect example of a remake done right.
 So instead of choosing between them, I picked both of them. It's my blog, I can cheat if I want to.

Review #303: Custom Robo Arena

 Pokemon with robots. Wait, Robopon?!
 Y'know, Custom Robo makes me sad. It makes me sad how underutilized the franchise is. There's been 5 games in the franchise already, of which we only got two localized overseas, and even then, this was the last game they released. It's not like the game is fantastic, far from it, but it has untapped potential.

 The Story... the story is the game's only mode if you don't have anybody else to play offline VS with, although there once was online battles, but it went away alongside the Nintendo DS servers. So, the story mode... it's a total drag. It starts with you getting your own Robopon, and one thing leads to another, and you join a Custom Robo battler team. And everyone admires how good you are even though you just started. There's also this girl that's supposed to be 'the best support ever' and, supposedly, she helps you a lot, though in-game she does jack all. It's a very generic anime story , heck, the 2-D cut outs, for when special NPCs talk, are downright terrible, they look as if they had been drawn at the last minute with little to no effort. And it's so slow paced, so repetitive(The game is divided on 'days', and every day starts with you going to breakfast and ends with you going to dinner with your family, and they repeat the same lines when the scenes end), sometimes you'll ever wonder why they say 'I'll stay here and show X the place, you go on ahead', only for these characters to arrive as soon as you get to where you had to go. What was the point? Immersion? The script is so lame it adds nothing to the game. And characters are very anime, but anime for kids, most characters have this one trait that defines their entire personality.... which makes it surprising how dark the story can get, dealing with themes of revenge, murder and even 'using your friends', makes me wonder just who they were aiming for with the script. Adults will grow bored, fast, and kids won't even care.
 Alright, so everything regarding the story mode is dull, it's the opposite as far as battle are concerned. While the Story Mode is completely 2D, battles are full 3D, in which you must annihilate the opposing robot. You do this by... customizing your robo. Custom Robos are made up of six pieces: A Body, which defines the type of melee charge attack. a gun, a missile launcher, a grenade pod and legs that affect how you'll move around. While you get full 3D movement, your robot automatically aims at the opponent, no matter how far you are, so you can just shoot your projectiles at a distance. Keep in mind that missile actually have to be aimed, by holding the R button, while grenades alter their course depending on how you move the analog stick(Or directions on the digital pad if you are using a Nintendo DS). Movement around the arena can be done by either running, d'oh, or jumping and air-dashes. Depending on which leg parts you are using you might get more aerial dashes. Lastly there's the melee charge attack, that makes you invulnerable while you charge ahead, making it a viable move to protect yourself from incoming projectiles, if you time it right. I found combat to be rather fun, even if the CPU has somewhat inhuman reflexes. There's over 30 different robot bodies and over 40 of each type of weapon, although not as many leg parts. And no set-up felt particularly stronger than the others, so I think it's safe to say that it's relatively balanced.

 But do you know what really, really sucks? You start battling with the Ray Mark II, which is a really cool robot. And then they start teasing you with the 'Ray Mk III', so you start looking forwards to this robo. And then you get it early in the game, and it SUCKS! Sure, it's slightly stronger and sturdier than the Mk. II, but it's also slightly weaker and has a worse charge attack. It will throw you off if you made your strategy about closing in to mash that charge attack. Luckily, by the time you unlock 'Grudge Matches', the open-ended post-game, you can get it back. And it feels so good.
 The Grudge Matches are really interesting, you can fight against many NPCs, as well as unique NPCs, over and over again, as well as collect secret Robos and.... extra powerful 'illegal' parts. The one problem I had with the post game is that you'll require a ton of money, which translates into a lot of grinding. You've no idea just how much grinding you'll have to do, with about 6 robots costing $500 each(That's a lot in this game). And a grudge match with a prerequisite of giving her $500... and illegal parts costing about $300 each. Then there's the many grudge matches with prerequisites of owning(buying) a certain amount of parts... it's gonna take a while and not for the right reasons.

 This game was made when people were still going ga-ga over the touchscreen, so of course they had to tack on some touching mechanics to it. This time around your Robo will get dirty as you use it and it takes damage, and if you don't clean it, it's performance will suffer. Cleaning is done by rubbing all of its individual parts(Head, Chest, Forearms, arms, legs, feet, crotch(Yes) and Pod). At first its cute, but it grows old. Supposedly you can find better, consumable, cleaning clothes that make it faster, but I didn't find any, and even then, it's not like they would prevent it from getting dirty.
 The thing about Custom Robo, is that as good as the battles and how fun customizing your robo is, the story mode is a real drag. And it's not like you can avoid it, even if you found another person to play with, you have to go through the story mode to find the different robos and pieces. Mind you, the Story Mode isn't all that bad, it simply is very boring. But if you are willing to endure it, you'll find a little rough gem of a game that Nintendo just isn't exploiting enough.
 6.0 out of 10

Review #302 - Resident Evil - Code Veronica X

 You are still alive!?
 Did you know? Resident Evil Code Veronica was supposed to be the third entry, but, supposedly, due to some contract thingie with Sony, Nemesis went to become the third game. But Code Veronica holds the distinction of being the first one to hit then-next-gen, so good bye pre-rendered backgrounds, and hello beautiful 3D. Fixed camera angles are back though.

 The story follows Claire, who is still looking for her brother Chris. She ends up a prisoner on an Island that holds deep ties with Umbrella Corporation, those that started the T-Virus outbreak that turned people into zombies. And then midway through the game, you end up as Chris, who has to finish what Claire started. Y'know the deal, cheesy dialogue, simple but serviceable premise. Alfred is one of the new main villains, and he is a rather interesting homage to certain horror movie icon, and then there's Steve. Steve is the worst thing to ever happen to the Resident Evil series. THE WORST THING. Sure, his voice and the delivery is terrible, but that's not even half of the problem, the problem lies in how he is portrayed. His lines are HORRIBLE, and his actions are cringe-worthy. And you can tell how hard Capcom tried to make him look cool, and to force this sad excuse of a character to become Claire's love interest. But he sucks, he is terrible and he is unbearable. Every scene he is in, he ruins it completely.
 This is pure Resident Evil, but times 10. The puzzles are more complex, the environments are larger, enemies deadlier and the game itself is longer. And the game is plays just like the others, run around a maze-like environment searching for items to use elsewhere and advance, while avoiding or shooting your way through hordes of zombies and other nasties. All that while managing your very limited inventory space, so you better think carefully about which weapons, or ammo, to bring. Personally I felt like level design was very lackluster. Environments are huge, and there's a ton of necessary key items as well as weapon and healing items that you will need to survive, but you simply can't carry enough, and the chests in which you can store items are very rare this time around. This makes the beginning of the game an absolute nightmare, particularly if you choose the 'wrong' fork of the road, which could have you going a loooooooong time, coming around enemies and items that you just can't carry. Locations are also far larger than previous games, which means that backtracking is particularly nasty this time around, and you'll be doing a lot of it. Oh, and there's plenty of rooms upon which enemies will be replaced after certain plot points. It's not a stretch to say that this is probably the hardest Resident Evil game, at least on default difficulty settings. And I kinda have mixed feelings about it, on one hand I liked how hard it was when compared to previous games, but on the other hand, having so few save points and store rooms feels rather cheap.

 Did I say hardest game? I think that it could also be the easiest. Y'see, I tried to play this game as if it was like previous games, and the game will punish you for it. Remember that useless knife from REvil 1-3? It's REALLY good against zombies and dog zombies. As in REALLY good. And if you mash buttons fast enough, you just might push a zombie before it lands a bite on you. And did you know? I finished the game without touching the Magnum, The Grenade Launcher(Or any of its various ammo types) and the Submachine guns. I didn't even touch them. And I had over 150 bullets and 40 shotgun shells to spare. You see, ammo is very plentiful on this game, and I might even say that there's enough ammo to kill everything you see, judging from how much left overs I had. I struggled so hard on Claire's chapter, but when I got to Chris I started unloading all my ammo(Since I had 300 handgun bullets) and regularly alternated with the shotgun(Non-zombie enemies this time around are very dangerous), so I had a much easier time with Chris. Heck even item management is more lenient when you begin Chris' chapter, since his environments are smaller. So you see, I'm pretty sure that if you don't hog ammo, you will have a much, much easier time with the game than I did.
 That said, there're a few things that I just can't forgive. For instance, there's a ton of ways in which you can screw yourself over. Early in the game there's a special... container on which you can deposit items. Since inventory space is so valuable, and you'll be coming across so much stuff, it might be tempting to leave stuff in there. Anything that you left in there, you won't be able to retrieve when you play as Chris. So hopefully you kept that seemingly useless 'empty fire extinguisher', otherwise you won't get the Magnum(Not that I actually used it anyways). And where you worried about a boss battle coming up, so you equipped Claire with your best weapons and all your ammo before leaving the Antartic base? Well, you are screwed, as Chris won't be seeing those items until much, much later onto his chapter. At least I remembered the 'cut-off' point from when I first played the game, but guess what, and I don't care that this is a slight spoiler as it's better to be warned, when you free Claire with a knife, you go back to playing as her. Well, hopefully Chris was carrying some kind of powerful weapon and had healing items, because you only play as Claire a little while before Chris is thrust onto a boss battle. A BOSS BATTLE. Thank god by that time I was carrying the Shotgun and its ammo with me. Oh, and remember not to equip anything on Claire, as that's the last time you'll be playing as her, and she took out my goddamn Bowgun, since I thought she might need it. And hopefully you'll have spare healing items, as Claire will need them to survive her event. Basically, there's a ton of ways you can screw yourself over. My advice: Keep many savefiles. I had up to four(Although by the time I was playing as Chris, I only kept two).

 There's a few other gripes I had, like the ones I had with previous games about fixed camera angles. It's not 'scary' not to be able to see in front of my character, I should be able to see what him/her is seeing. And this time around enemies can climb stairs, but guess what, if an enemy is climbing one, you can't use it. Picture my surprise when I was trying to evade some zombies(I hadn't figured that the game actually expected me to use my guns by this time), and I couldn't descend a flight of stairs! Turns out the fixed camera angle wouldn't let me see that a Zombie was slowly going up the stairs. And I tried to use them immediately after it climbed, but I couldn't... a second zombie was climbing them. Fun times, fun, fun times. Thanks, fixed camera angles! The auto-aim can be a pain in the butt as well, the game prioritizes enemies standing close to you, so even if a zombie just started dashing, it will aim towards the one that is closer, even though its not an immediate threat. Sometimes it will even aim 'through a corner' of a wall, so that your shots actually hit the wall, while another zombie rushes from behind. And you let go of 'aim mode', rotate towards the incoming enemy, tap aim again and.... again it turns you onto the enemy that posses no threat at the moment. It can be pretty annoying sometimes.
 Finishing the game unlocks 'Battle Mode' a score-based survival kind of mode. It's kinda fun since you get infinite ammo and can unlock a few extra characters, that translate into different weapon loadouts. It's a rather fun extra, but nothing to write home about.

 When it comes down to it, I liked Resident Evil Code Veronica, it's pretty fun... despite some of its most glaring flaws which makes it rather hard to recommend to people dabbling onto Survival Horror for the first time. My advice is not to be ashamed to find some kind of guide or something and make note of the 'character-switch' sections, you really don't want to screw yourself over. Also, keep multiple save files!
 7.5 out of 10

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Review #301 - Resident Evil 2

 'Game Over'
 Resident Evil 2 is considered by many to be the game in the franchise, and its the game that marked Hideki Kamiya's debut as a videogame director. It's bigger, looks better, SOUNDS better, more action packed, more intricate and longer than Resident Evil 1, making it the prime of example of what a sequel should be.

 The action takes place on the streets of Raccoon City, where Claire Redfield, looking for her brother Chris, comes across Leon, a cop on his first day at the job, while zombies assault them both. It's not long before they get separated... and then reunited. And then separated again.... While both Claire and Leon go their separate paths, they do collaborate via radio. There's two ways to play the game, Claire A/Leon B or Leon A/Claire B, but it's not as interesting as it sounds. While Leon and Claire meet a different supporting cast, most of their puzzles are the same, it's just the location of a few items that changes. And while scenarios are called 'A' and 'B', they are basically the same, but scenario B is a bit tougher with even more zombies, sometimes even substituted by tougher enemies, and the addition of new bosses, including one that reappears every now and then to annoy you. Basically, you get two play 4 variations of the same thing. There's a few other differences between Claire and Leon, like the weapons they find. Leon gets better all-around weapons, with a gun that holds more bullets, the ever-useful Shotgun and the extremely powerful Magnum... and he even gets to upgrade them! And there's a few segments in which you get to play as an alternate character, Leon's has a gun to defend herself. Meanwhile, Claire gets a gun that holds 13 bullets top, can't be enhanced, and the very situational bowgun that can't hold a candle to the shotgun.... but she also gets the Grenade Launcher, which is extremely powerful, covers a wide area and is very versatile thanks to three ammo types, but the alternate playable character on her route can't even defend herself, and without spoiling too much, you even have to babysit her, run too fast and she'll stop dead on her tracks, and if she falls too far behind you won't be able to enter a different area. All in all, Claire's scenarios are definitely harder.
 The most important thing in Resident Evil is item management. Ammo and healing items are hard to come by, and your small inventory forces you to carry only the bare essentials, you really don't want to enter a new room, after skillfully avoiding enemies without getting hurt or wasting ammo, only to find out that you can't carry all the key items it houses, forcing you to do the whole trip again. I'd hesitate to call them 'puzzles', since they are very easy, but most of the time you'll be exploring mazelike environments, searching for items to activate mechanisms or the such someplace else. Strewn throughout the game are special chests, on which you can deposit your items, and magically retrieve them from any other such chest, as well as Typewriters, which at the cost of one ink ribbon, can be used to save your game.

 Savespots are rather uncommon, so dying hurts a bit, since it potentially means redoing minutes, upon minutes of gameplay. But there's a slight advantage to dying, now you should be familiar with what you have to do, and where the enemies are, so it's easy to learn and do things better the second time around. Now you know if going towards that dead end is worth it, maybe going through three zombies to get a healing item you don't need isn't really worth it. And that's the beauty of how the game works, you'll learn the environment, you'll learn to lure zombies, and run past them, without wasting a single bullet on them, so dying isn't all that bad, most of the time anyways.
 Unsurprisingly the game uses the two staples of the genre that the franchise itself cemented: Fixed camera angles and tank-like controls. People say that these create tension and add to the 'helplessness' feeling. I say it's hogwash. Fixed camera angles are downright annoying, you can hear the enemies, but even if you know that there's danger ahead, it's not unusual to get hit from an enemy just around the corner, a zone that the fixed camera angle just doesn't cover. If there are many enemies, you just might find out that all your dodging was for naught, as there's three zombies right in front of you. It's not fun, it doesn't make me feel 'tense' or 'scared', it only annoys me. And it's not like the game can't be scary on its own, the game caught me once without a jumpscare, by just having a Licker appearing on a window. And even though PS1 graphics are dated, they managed to make the monsters look gruesome and disgusting, which is just amazing. As for the tank-controls, I don't really mind them or find them annoying, but trust me, sometimes you'll wish you'd be able to turn faster.

 I found Resident Evil 2 to be immensely entertaining. But as fun as it is, and I do recommend doing an entire A/B run, since there's different bosses and a few new areas, unless you really, REALLY like the game, doing the alternate A/B run back to back isn't really worth it. It's the same game, two more times. That said, for future playthroughs, it adds replayability, so it's not a bad feature per se.
 8.5 out of 10

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Review #300: The Legend of Zelda - Ocarina of Time 3D

 And so I've hit 300!
 If you fancy yourself a gamer, you have heard about The Legend of Zelda - Ocarina of Time, often touted as the best game of all time. Personally, I only considered it as such before I discovered Final Fantasy VII. And later Chrono Cross. And then Disgaea, and even later, Half Life 2, and so on. Which is the reason I consider it the most overrated game of all time bar none. Personal feelings aside, it's time to give Ocarina of Time another go.

 As the story goes, you play as Link, the only boy without a fairy on the hidden village of Kokiri. But don't worry about our young hero, at the start of the game a fairy, named Navi, comes to him, and will become his partner throughout the entire adventure. The game biggest draw is tied to the game's namesake, the Ocarina of Time, as Link will be able to travel about seven years into the future. There's some stuff that can only be done in the past, and some that can only be done in the future, and a few times you'll have to travel back and forth. Now then, story has never been Zelda's strongest suit, and the same holds true here. There're a bunch of flavorless speeches and monologues thrown throughout the game, which are fairly boring and dull and can't be skipped. And even worse, every now and then Navi will warn you about stuff, y'know, like telling you that the shiny orange liquidy  thing in front of you is lava. The Shadow Temple is particularly annoying, I really didn't need all those unavoidable pop ups. I know what I have to do, dammit. And even if I didn't, it would be easy to figure out.
 If you've played the original, the first thing you'll notice is just how beautiful the game looks. The game runs at a much faster, steadier framerate as well. If you've played the original as much as I did back in the day, you'll also notice that some things feel a bit... off. Stuff like walking sideways, now Link kinda tilts his body to the side as well. The Hovering Boots as well seemed to 'trip' or rather, slide, in ways that the original didn't. It's hard to put in words, but I fell to my death a few times on the Shadow Temple due to this. It's mostly minutiae, but I think it's worth mentioning. And it doesn't make it a better, or worse, game, just, y'know, a curiosity.

 In Ocarina of Time you'll be doing a ton of adventuring. The land of Hyrule is yours to explore, and it has a fair amount of secrets to be found. But you'll need tools to find them, and most of them are found inside the many dungeons. Dungeons are where most of the action happens, you'll solve various puzzles, obtain key to open locked doors and advance, find a weapon/tool and defeat its boss, usually having to use your new found weapon. It's a fairly simple formula, really. It has to be noted that the puzzles are rather simple, and even though I know it's unfair, they don't stack up to the puzzles that would eventually be seen in future installments. I'll also admit that I played the original game oh so many times, that I wasn't really discovering the solutions, but rather remembering them. I still had to do a few rounds around the forest temple, but the rest? I cleared fairly fast. Heck, even as a kid I considered the Water Temple to be overrated in how annoying it was, and now it's made even simpler thanks to how Boots work. That said, the base game took me 20 hours to almost complete it(Only missing some Skultulas, and the Fishing-mini game heart piece. Is it me, or is it harder to fish now??), although I distinctly remember clocking over 40 when I was younger, so maybe the fact that I knew what to do most of the time had something to do with it.
 But beating the game unlocks Master Quest. Not only do dungeons get entirely different puzzles, the entire game has been mirrored, and Link takes double damage now. New to this version are Hint Stones, found near Link's home and inside the Temple of Time, I never used them, since I didn't need them, but apparently they give video-hints on what to do next. This version also lets you challenge bosses again by going to Link's bed. There's also gyroscopic aiming controls, which you can turn off. But the thing that matters the most, item loadout, has been entirely revised. Previously you could set 3 items to the C-Buttons. Now you can set only two items to the X and Y button... but there's two new touch-pad buttons to equip another two, and the Ocarina gets its own slot while boots are now classified as items, so equipping and unequipping them is hassle-free.

 While the first few parts of the game, namely Young Link, is fairly linear, as soon as you get the boomerang, from the third dungeon, you'll be capable of accessing a few of the sidequest collectibles. But the game truly opens up as soon as you grow up. With just the Hookshot, a grappling hook item, you can now access a ton of different areas and collect a ton of items. There're still things to be done in order, you can't enter the Shadow Temple until you clear the Water Temple, and while you could attempt the Spirit Temple, you might need the 'Lens of Truth' item. There's a bunch of stuff to collect on your spare time as well. 36 heart pieces, 100 Golden Skulltutlas(The prize for getting all 100 sucks, but you get a heart piece at 50), get the Biggoron Sword, collect all four bottles, etc. And getting some of these involve sub-sub quests as well. The fourth empty bottle, for instance, requires defeating all 10 Big Poes. There's definitely plenty to do here, and then there's the Master Quest which even changes the location of some of the Heart Pieces!
 Movement and control is pretty simple, but polished. Something that was a big novelty back in the day was how Link would automatically jump if you ran towards an edge, which works really well. Combat is relegated to slashing and blocking, but most of the time you'll be waiting for an enemy to drop its guard so that you can use the powerful jumping slash. Or you could aid yourself by using the subweapons, like bombs or arrows, and if you are savvy enough, the Hookshot(Or Boomerang, for Young Link) to stun enemies. Another then-big novelty was the Z-Targeting, now L Targeting, which changed games forever. It's not perfect, when compared to how future games would do it, but it works very well here. The only instances in which it might annoy you is when swapping targets, which requires tapping the button multiple times, or when you need to use the L button to put the camera behind your back, if there's an enemy nearby it will prioritize targeting it over moving the camera, which can get really annoying depending on the situation.

 While the puzzles on the dungeons are relatively simple, sometimes you might have a hard time figuring out where to go, which is why I'd say that the dungeons are the hardest part of the game, since bosses are push-overs. The problem isn't that you have to use whichever weapon you found on the dungeon, the problem lies on just how easy they are. Take the Spirit Temple's boss, ideally the last temple boss you'll fight before heading out toward the real last boss. The only thing she does is throw elemental beams at you, and the only thing you have to do is raise your shield. It's not even hard to avoid, or rather catch(This shield absorbs her beams).
 Back in the day, I thought the game was overblown. It was good, just not THAT good as far as I was concerned. Nowadays, I'd say the same thing. The game is a blast to play, there's a ton to do and find, and it does feel like an adventure. It helps that there's a lot of variety, the run-of-the-mill town, the water town, the mountain town, and their people! You've the kids from Kokiri Forest that can't grown up, the amphibian Zoras and the adorable Gorons, and then there's the fact that each dungeon has a different theme, with puzzles tied to the weapon that you'll eventually find, so it gives dungeons their own identity and flavor. While combat is simple, this is an adventure game, combat is not the focus, so for what the combat is meant to be, it's more than fine. You are not meant to pull flashy combos, or figure out enemy patterns, so that you can perfectly time your attacks, oh no, it's just about figuring out just how to use your new weapon against them(Except the Shadow Temple's boss...).

 But if so, what holds the game back, in my opinion? Well, for instance, ever since I discovered RPGs, I've never been a fan of games in which combat has no 'meaning',so to speak. In an action game, you usually have to fight enemies in order to proceed, unless you want to die. On a proper RPG, you are rewarded with money. Here Combat is just... there. You have to defeat enemies because the brain-busting 'puzzle' is to defeat every enemy in the room. Or because you need money, but there're better alternatives. So why do I want to actually fight? It never feels rewarding. And I don't usually care about stories in games(I mean, just look at how many times I've written 'But you don't play X for its story'), if you are gonna have these long monologues, and speeches about the creation of the world and what not... make them interesting! Not that it doesn't have its moments, finding the name of that one Goron in the future and why he was named like that? That made me crack a smile. And you know what, even though having four slots to set items on, going back and forth to equip or unequip items sometimes felt like a chore. The two touchpad slots are perfect for toggle items, like boots or the lens of truth, but throwing bombs with them? Using the Bow? The hookshot? Trust me, those you'll want to use with proper buttons. Still, at times, in order to reduce the amount of times I went back to the Item menus, I had to settle with using the hammer or bombs with the touch pad, and while not unwieldy, it wasn't as comfortable as using the buttons.
 8.5 out of 10

Monday, February 22, 2016

Review #299: Aquapazza - Aquaplus Dream Match

 Not for everyone.
 I'm gonna cut straight to the chase before I get into the nitty gritty: There's a very specific audience, or niche, for this game, a niche I don't fall into, which is something to keep in mind before playing this game. Do you enjoy modern anime culture-- the one filled with waifus and moe? Then you might get into this game more than I did, but even then, this game is unlike other Anime fighting games, like Blazblue or Arcana Heart, this game is fairly slow, with little in the way of aerial approaches or combos, but a heavier emphasis on footsies.

 On the outset, the game offers two different story modes, each one netting you a different ending for each character(Eat that, Street Fighter V). They follow the same structure though, 8 matches, fight Multi the robot girl at the middle(4th fight), your rival at the seventh, etc, but the dialogue is different, as well as the ending, as previously mentioned. As for the story... I couldn't get into it. This game is as anime as it gets, no surprise there seeing how it takes characters from Aquaplus' visual novels. Most of the girls have a one-track mind for their 'beloved' or 'goshuyin-sama', some may call 'hag' another one, which will enrage her, also the flat chested girl will comment on another gal's breasts. Heck, she even answers 'Why do you bring my breasts into this?', and let me answer you with 'What where you expecting, respect? This is a Japanese game!'. Every lass, which make up 10 of the 13 playable characters, acts in very moe way, with high pitched voices and talking about insipid stuff. If you are into the whole anime-moe-waifu culture, you might get your kicks out of them, I simply drifted between uninterested and downright bored.
 Then there's Score Attack, where you go through a gauntlet aiming to score the most points possible, Online matches, Offline VS CPU or VS Player and finally, Training Mode. It's a decent selection of modes, which is more than Street Fighter V can say. As for the character roster, there's 13 playable characters and 13 support characters. Only 3 of the 26 characters are guys, which I actually liked since in most fighters either it's the other way around or it's limited to only girls. Most characters come from the ToHeart franchise and Utawarerumono. I actually like Utawarerumono(The anime based on the Visual Novel), and you get four characters, arguably the four coolest. As a matter of fact, I'd argue that there were cooler characters than Oboro, but they made Oboro look cool in-game. Worth mentioning, movesets felt very limited, there's about 3 special moves per character, and the amount of supers varied between each, plus, six normal attacks(Weak, Medium, Strong) standing, crouching and jumping. There's not a whole lot of tools to use. That said, characters are fairly unique between each other, albeit there's nothing you haven't seen on other fighting games. Heck, Hakuowlo actually borrowed Geese Howard's counter! And I really liked how the red-haired schoolgirl was the game's grappler.

 The game does little to stand out when it comes to mechanics. You pick from 13 playable characters, and then from 13(And a hidden variation of one of them, for a total of 14) support characters. Support Characters have about two moves, and all 13 of them have different attacks, properties and uses, so you could potentially pick 13 variations for a single playable character. One thing I gotta give them props for is how different characters feel from each other, down to how they dash or sidestep. Some run, some do a jumping step, some do a vertically ascending dash, etc. There's a few borrowed blocking mechanics(Think... Marvel VS Capcom 3's Advancing Guard), and something they called 'mood', which is basically Guilty Gear or Blazblue's penalty system for players that play passively. As you can see, the story: Unoriginal. Characters? Stereotypical. Mechanics? Not a single original bone. And this is why I said that the game does little to stand out.
 Unlike most anime fighters, the aerial game is very weak here. Few characters(Only one comes to mind as a matter of fact) has an air dash, a very few have double jump, and there's not a whole lot you can do on the air. That said, it's fairly easy to combo onto a falling character, from the ground. Still, this game expects you to play a footsie game, but as I mentioned previously, I felt that movesets were rather limited, so it's not like there's many ways to approach or poke, and approaching from the air didn't seem very effective, as far as I could tell. And I could very easily be wrong, as I took it very casually.

 Seeing characters I liked from a show I loved back in the day, Utawarerumono, was certainly a treat, but this game certainly isn't for me. It's not a bad game, but it's one that very by the numbers, and the anime-waifu-moe-visual novel appeal just doesn't do it for me. That said, there's nothing really 'wrong' with it, what it does, it does relatively good. I know there's an audience for this game, sadly I'm not part of it.
 6.0 out of 10

Sunday, February 21, 2016

About Review #300

  So, umm... here's what I'm playing at the moment.
 So, Aquapazza is gonna be review #299, that's already decided and set on stone. I've taken a bit of a break from Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate after logging over 40 hours into it, I haven't even finished the vanilla campaign yet, but the game is fun. Earth Defense Force 2025 is on hiatus, since I'm doing a co-op campaign run with my sister, it might be a while until we finish it. Dragon's Dogma... I dunno why or how but I stopped playing it, but I will resume play after a while.

 As for TMNT 2, yes, I admit I didn't finish it, but I'm close to the end! The thing is, it didn't matter how much more I played it(Those two last levels), I hated the game, and nothing those two levels could've done would've changed that. I played over 90% of the game, I was sure of my opinion on it. But I will finish it someday, that much I promise. Then there's Dungeon Explorer, a game I simply lost interest on. It's so.... dull, lifeless, boring... I might attempt to finish it later sometime down the line. Maybe.

 Rune Factory Frontier I actually resumed play last year, but hit a roadblock upon the third boss. I aim to finish it someday. I dunno if its worth a review, since it's been so long since I got into it and actually learned how it worked. And then there's Demon's Souls which has been on a four year hiatus, some day though....

 But what really matters is Review #300. I've been somewhat rushing through games, at the expense of my daily literature, in order to make it to #300.  I wanted to make it special, so it had to be a special game. For a while I thought about making it Borderlands - The Presequel, since I'm getting the Triple pack soon, and since I adore the Borderlands franchise, it made sense. Then I considered Final Fantasy VII, my favorite game of all time, and although I wrote about it early in the blog's life, I was terrible(Even more than now) at writing, at it didn't do the game justice. I wouldn't be able to do the game justice now either way, but it'd be a better piece.

 But then I remembered that there's a certain game on my backlog that holds a certain special place in my heart, even if I don't talk about it very much. The Legend of Zelda - Ocarina of Time 3D.

 Lemme tell you about my life as a gamer. I've been gaming ever since I've memory and a sense of self. It all started with a Chinese knock off NES called the 'Family'. I played Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong(And DK Jr and 3 as well!), Megaman(Which I played as Rockman!!), Bomberman, Milk and Nuts and even bootleg versions of Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and the infamous Somario. Eventually I would upgrade to a proper NES, and I have clear memories of Super Mario Bros. 3 being the first game I played on it! I would skip the SNES, sadly, but I got the N64.

 Mind you, I hadn't played a single Zelda game ever, but at this time I started buying videogame magazines. Xpert Gamer, EGM, GamePro and a Mexican magazine, 'Club Nintendo'. I learned about this upcoming game, 'The Legend of Zelda - Ocarina of Time'. I don't know why, but these magazines managed to hype me up for this game. Mind you, I had never ever played a Zelda game before, and yet, I needed to play this game. I'd tell my father all about it. And one fateful day, we went out to eat, and me being somebody that just can't sit still, would often times go out of the restaurant, while the food was being done, for a walk. Well, this fateful day I entered a store and lo and behold, THE LEGEND OF ZELDA - OCARINA OF TIME was sitting there. I went running back to the restaurant "DAD, DAD, OCARINA OF TIME. THEY HAVE IT. IT'S THERE!', he actually took me back into the store and he bought it for me. I loved Ocarina of Time. And since I was young, I was like those people on the Internet that can't stand other people's opinions. 'THEY ONLY GAVE OCARINA OF TIME 98/100?! WTF, IT'S A PERFECT 100!'.... gosh, I can't believe I just admitted to being one of those idiots. But it's all in the past now. I've learned to accept that even if other people consider Quest 64 trash, it can still be one of my most beloved games. And people might love Xenoverse, but I hate it, and that's just fine as well.

 Anyways, eventually I'd meet Final Fantasy VII(PC Port baby!) and my eyes were opened to the existence of this fantastic little gem that I felt was waaay superior to Ocarina of Time. It's one of the reasons I abandoned Nintendo once the Gamecube hit and opted for the PS2. That and Tekken. Regardless, throughout the years my opinion on Ocarina of Time has always been that it's a good game, but incredibly overrated....

 ...But maybe I need to give it a second chance, with better graphics and a better interface, on the 3DS. That and the fact that I was an idiot and sold all my N64 games in order to get a Ps3, which I regret every single day of my life, so unless I want to play an emulated version, the 3DS it is. And this is why I want Ocarina of Time 3D to be my review #300. Because it's a game that meant a lot to me once. Because it's a game that even if I don't consider to be as amazing as most other people, it still has a spot on my heart.
 So here's to you, Ocarina of Time. Here's to playing more games. And here's to making Final Fantasy VII my review #500!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Review #298: Samurai Champloo - Sidetracked

 Suda 51's worst game?
 It's no secret that I consider Goichi Suda my favorite videogame director. He's got an impossibly unique writing style, and does things with videogames nobody else would dare to. His games have an almost David Lynch-like weirdness and surrealism to them, that I just adore. That said, they tend to be technically clunky, a bit rough around the edges, but they make up for it by having both style and substance, usually hiding a surprising amount of depth behind their rather simple mechanics. Samurai Champloo Sidetracked is clunky, with a ton of style but nothing of substance, and it pains me having to write this about a game from my favorite developer.

 The game follows an entirely original story, that takes place sometime before the anime's end. You can either play as Mugen or Jin, and they follow different, but connected, storylines. Mugen deals with the enigmatic new character, Worso, directly, while having to deal with a witch's poison, while Jin meets Worso's sister and her attendant. The story feels very Samurai Champloo-ish, even if it veers into the supernatural... although the anime did acknowledge 'ki', so it's not all that out of place, but what's even better, it also reeks of Suda 51. From the screen transitions, to the dialogue(Even Jin breaks the 4th wall once!), to how enemies disappear when killed, to the weird characters(Talking Yakuza Monkeys with colored hairdos!) it's all very Suda 51, and it's amazing. Both Jin and Mugen have different stages and bosses, eight chapters each, and finishing the game with either unlocks Worso as a playable character, with 4 chapters to his story. It should be said that character models are a bit... off, and it doesn't help that the game only offers English voices, which are fine on their own, but they don't match the mouth movements at all, so it comes off as very off putting.
 Gameplay is when things start falling apart. Mugen and Worso play a bit similarly, but Jin is fairly different from both of them. There's weak attacks and strong attacks that can be used after certain weak attacks, and while Worso and Mugen jump with the X button, Jin enters an alternate stance. You can buy different weapons and 'tracks' inside shops, these tracks not only alter the sound that's playing, but also how your character attacks and even when you can end a combo with a strong attack, and sometimes they come with side effects, like boosting defense. You can only bring two tracks with you, and can only equip them at stores. Successfully landing many attacks, without being hit, rises Tension, and once maxed your combo strings increase, which vary from track to track, and performing a certain attack string, shown on screen, will make you enter Hyper Mode for a short while, which makes you faster and stronger. There's two different forms of counters as well, pressing an attack button without being hit will do a weak counter, while pressing circle will let you use an even stronger counterattack, but it's riskier since circle does nothing for Mugen or Worso, but makes Jin dash forward, putting them in harm's way. Lastly, after maxing tension, you might come across enemies with stars on their heads, killing them will let you enter 'trance mode', where you have to kill 100 enemies before being hit 3 times, in order to receive rewards. Trance Mode is very stylish, but it's also a drag. Later in the game you'll try to avoid entering Trance Mode since it's so damn boring, and wastes so much time.

 And the game loves to waste your time. Most of the time, enemies respawn infinitely and constantly, which is just annoying. So you'd think to yourself 'I'll just avoid them once I get bored of cutting them down', which would be viable, if only there weren't tollbooths. Tollbooths are the game's way of forcing you to kill enemies, but these don't charge you money, which is rather plentiful, but instead require Kobans. Kobans fall at random from killing enemies, so it might take you anywhere from a few minutes to more than half an hour to get the Kobans you need. What were they thinking? D'you know what the solution for this was? HAVING A FIXED NUMBER OF ENEMIES PER STAGE, LIKE ANY OTHER NORMAL ACTION GAME. The last level for both Jin and Mugen is an absolute nightmare, it's long, repetitive, poorly designed and filled with tollbooths. Oh, and I didn't mention it, but you can only save your game upon finishing a chapter! There was this one time, during the last stage, that I spent 30 minutes wandering aimlessly killing enemies because the goddamn Koban didn't want to fall. Fun times.
 Then there's the subweapons, you can carry up to two of them, but they will break if you use them too much, and only the rare 'herb' item will repair them mid level. And if they break, you have to pay a fee to repair them at a shop. The best part about these weapons, is that they are sometimes stronger than you basic weapon, but they have different durability levels... of course the game doesn't tell you how strong or durable a weapon is, so you have to find out by yourself. And the load times, hot damn, they might not be long, but they are very frequent. Some bosses have various cutscenes mid battle, and it has to load each and every one of them, which really takes you out of the game. And if you access a shop from a level, instead of from the town, the load time will be rather long. And the camera, jesus christ, the camera is terrible, because there're fixed camera angles. Basically, you'll have to use the map on the lower right of the screen(Or press R2 to make it appear) in order to navigate levels. It's not unusual to get hit by enemies hidden by the camera.

 But what surprises me the most is how many positive reviews this game got. Maybe this was acceptable at the time of its release? I dunno, but I swear to god, I couldn't enjoy this game at all. I tried, I wanted to, specially since it was made by my favorite developer, who both wrote and directed this game! That said, for a Suda 51 fan, I'd say it's worth a look. You will find the game has a lot in common with No More Heroes, heck, I'd say this game feels like a sort of a prototype of No More Heroes, but fans of Samurai Champloo'd do better to altogether skip this game. It might feel like an episode from the show, but it's not even half as fun to play as it is to watch an episode of the series.
 3.5 out of 10

Review #297: Super Mario Bros. 3(Virtual Console)

 Still has it.
 Back when I was younger, there were two Mario games I played(3 if you count Super Mario World), Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3. I grew up with Mario, I adored Mario, and for the longest time I considered 3 the best Mario game. As I grew older, I started consider Mario Bros 1 the more 'timeless' one, but 3 the better game.... but I think my views have changed a bit since then.

 Super Mario Bros. 3 features the debut of the Koopalings, Bowser's seven kids, who steal the magic rods and transform 7 kings into animals. It's up to Mario to rescue the poor kings... and eventually Princess Peach as well. The game is divided into 8 different worlds of different themes of varying lengths each. For the first time in Mario history, there's an 'overworld' of sorts where you walk over the levels you want to play. On this overworld you may also come across minigames that will grant Mario power-ups. But these power ups can be stored for later use! As for power ups, there's the Mushroom, which makes Mario taller and grants him an extra hit, the return of the Fire Flower, which grants Mario projectile attacks, the new Leaf that grants temporary flight and a close range attack by sweeping a tail, the Tanooki suit, a beefed up Leaf that also lets Mario transform into an invulnerable statue, the Frog suit, which is useless on land, as a matter of fact, it encumbers movement... but turns water stages into a cakewalk and, lastly, the Hammer Bros. suit, the rarest power up in the game, that grants Mario projectile attacks and cover while ducking. There's also a plethora of items that affect the overworld, you can use the Cloud item to bypass a stage, the flute item to warp to a different world, etc.
 This is 3D platforming at its finest. Levels go from foolproof easy to very, very challenging. That said, I don't think levels are properly spread out. While World 8 is definitely the hardest, World 4(Giant World) is one of the easiest worlds in the game, and is number 4. That said, Mario's movement is spot-on, with tight, responsive controls. When you die, it never feels as if it wasn't your fault and your fault only(Although I bet DarksydePhil would find a way to blame it on the game). Some obstacles may seem impossible, but they simply require proper timing to get across, and man, can the timing get strict. At least, since you can carry power ups with you, you can sorta give yourself extra 'hits' if a level proves to tough, or skip it altogether with the Cloud item. That said, there were a few gimmick levels, labyrinthine at that, that I didn't enjoy very much. They felt more of a hassle than anything else, I go to Mario for platforming, not pseudo-puzzles.

 One thing I will say, is that I missed this limited color palette. Don't get me wrong. subsequent ports(SNES via All-Star Mario, GBA via Mario Advance 4, Wii via Mario Anniversary) feature more colorful. better graphics... but maybe it's because I grew up with these, but I simply enjoy this graphics more, and I usually prefer SNES-style spritework to NES'. Speaking of ports, these have extra features that this version doesn't have, like the GBA port that lets you replay any level that you want at any time, after finishing the game. There's also NO saving, but luckily the 3DS allows you to create 'savestates', so that's not an issue.

 Super Mario Bros 3 is still a phenomenal game, an example of what 2D platforming should be. This playthrough made me realize that I enjoy Super Mario Bros. 1 a bit more, but I think it has to do with that game's simplicity. There's a lot to do in this Mario adventure, a lot of variety and a lot of ways to get to the end. It's a piece of videogame history that deserves to be, at least, tried.
 9.0 out of 10

Friday, February 19, 2016

Review #296: Tomb Raider(2013)

 's fine, 's fine.
 And now it's Tomb Raider's reboot turn at my hands. By the by, I find it hilarious that this game took a huge cue from Uncharted... since Uncharted borrowed a lot from Tomb Raider back when it was released! It went full circle!

 How to tackle the story? It's a bit of a mess... Lessee, the supporting cast is cliched, stereotypical, bland and predictable. You've the fat 'native' guy that believes in supernatural stuff from the get go, the short tempered black woman(They went there), the guy that's totally not suspicious and totally not a coward and totally not putting a front for the cameras even though he behaves like a character from a cartoon show with all his mysterious pauses while he speaks, etc. You'll be able to predict the fate of most characters, because they are just that uninspired. Then there're some truly jarring moments, like when Lara is administered CPR when... she totally didn't need CPR but somehow it saves her, or how she decides that the best way to deal with impalement is to... just remove the arrow there and then, which would've caused tons of bleeding and internal damage. It's also a bit inconsistent, Lara just shrugs off said impalement, and gets beat up(While the wound is still fresh) and... just walks it off. But later on, she receives some blunt hits, and now suddenly she needs first aid(Which is conveniently nearby). There's a lot of contradictions between what you are supposed to do in game, and what the cutscenes portray. For instance, Lara cries when she has to kill an animal to survive. SHE CRIES. But then you are allowed to freely hunt any animal you want, not for food but for sport, and you are rewarded for it. And she's supposedly scared and a bit of a wreck since she has to kill... yet you are killing enemies by the hundreds as if nothing. The game even rewards you for finishing them off in special ways, 'Headshot', 'Axe finisher', etc. So much for making such a big deal of her first kill. And there's a lot of cutscene incompetence as well, sometimes Lara seems to forget that she has taken care tens of enemies at the same time, yet she is easily captured by a few. There's this moment where she has a clear, easy shot against the big bad and yet... lets everything unfold, because why not. Or she does really silly stuff that gets her in danger. You are a badass as you slay enemies as if nothing, yet when the cutscenes start, Lara suddenly turns into a foolish weakling. As for Lara herself, I don't agree with the direction they took her in, wanting to make her more vulnerable and wanting to make the player want to protect her, but, BUT, the new Lara is very likeable, and you just root for her. But I still don't agree with them doing it to Lara. Even Young Lara, back in the PS1 days, was much more of an adventurer than this one.
 You'll be surprised to learn that this game is a Metroidvania. Kinda. The game never forced me to backtrack, but most of the time you are free to backtrack(You can 'fast travel' from specific 'Camps' on each area) and search for collectibles with your new upgrades and tools. I do wish that there were more of these camps, or at least allow Fast Travel from any camp, since the map isn't very clear at times, and some areas are rather large, so just for convenience's sake, it would've been nice. They also took a page from Batman with 'Survival Vision', by tapping L2 the environment will turn grey, and both enemies and interactibles will be highlighted. Speaking of collectibles, there's a ton of them, plus, 'goals'(Like setting X amount of banners on fire) and a few Tombs to explore. Tombs consist of one-puzzle 'challenges' that rewards you with a fair amount of XP, scavenge and a map that shows all the collectibles in the area.

 But when you are not exploring, you'll be shooting your way through, and combat works pretty smoothly. Lara will automatically duck besides any object higher than her waist, and you pop out by simply holding L1(Aiming). It works very well and doesn't make Lara stick to the surfaces, which allows for more movement when it comes to evading. There's four weapons in the game, Bow, Gun, Shotgun and an Automatic Rifle. Truth be told, I spent 90% of the game with the bow, it's easy to use, lethal, you'll recover more ammo than the one you use, and by the end of the game enemies come with armor... but the bow can be upgraded to ignore this armor. That said, sometimes it's a bit slow, so I did alternate between shotgun and bow on some of the latter shoot-outs. Lara can also use her climbing axe, once she finds it, for melee attacks, which were fairly fun to pull off.
 One aspect I really liked about the game was all the upgrading. By defeating enemies, or hunting animals, or finding a few collectibles, you'll earn experience points, and upon leveling up you can acquire different perks. From more damage resistance, carrying more ammo, to having Survival Instinct highlight collectibles as well. But it doesn't end there, you will also come across crates, as well as searching enemy bodies, for scavenge, which is then used to upgrade your weapons! The upgrades actually change how your weapons look, and randomly, you may come across 'upgrade parts' that will upgrade the weapon, change the entire look of the weapon, and enable purchasing even more upgrades.

 One thing I did not appreciate, however, were the many, many QTEs. QTEs to kill enemies, QTEs to hold onto ledges, QTEs to avoid rocks... the entire first half hour of the game is filled with these, and gave me a fairly bad first impression. Their frequency does lessen, somewhat, as you advance through the game though. There's also bugs, I came across two. The Rope Ascend Bug, that is almost gamebreaking, if only there wasn't another bug you can exploit to proceed forwards! Then another one during an elevator section, where you are to break some jammers, the game allowed me to break one of them when I shouldn't, and while the floor didn't break, as it should've, it let me kill myself and upon reloading, the way was cleared.
 This game has been compared to Uncharted, and it's... somewhat deserved. There's a fair amount of scripted sequences throughout the game, or stuff breaking as Lara 'parkours' over it. From highlighted climbables in yellow or white! But when it comes down to it, the game is its own beast. The cover-based shooting is completely different, the Metroidvania approach is different, etc. Inspired by? Definitely. A ripoff? Not even close.

 Tomb Raider is a pretty fun game, even though I don't agree with the new direction they took Lara in, Lara as in the character, as for the game itself, I did enjoy this new direction, but then again, I do love Metroidvanias....
 8.0 out of 10

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Now Playing: Tomb Raider

 More like QTE Raider, am I right?
 So, where to start.... Hmmm, I know. At first, I wasn't really feeling the game. I hate the new direction they went with Lara, how they wanted to make her 'vulnerable' and wanted you to want to 'care' for her... which came across as slightly sexist and misdirected. You don't usually see male characters go THIS 'vulnerable', even on their origin story. And it's even worse if you grew up with Tomb Raider, even her Last Revelations younger form had more of a... drive towards action than this Lara. It didn't help that I hated the first parts of the game, where everything was a QTE. QTE to dodge rocks, QTE not to fall, QTE to push back the assailant, etc. It was particularly bad when the game teaches you 'If Lara doesn't hold with both hands from an edge, you have to tap square', only to have her fall during a scripted scene. DON'T TEACH ME SOMETHING ONLY TO BREAK THE 'RULES' MINUTES AFTER THE FACT, GODDAMN IT.

 But then you get the bow. And then the axe. Then you get to explore, and the game became fun. It's sort of like a Metroidvania, you will find collectibles, or even routes, out of reach, due to a certain obstacle. Later you'll find a tool that will be able to deal with the obstacle, so you can backtrack, etc etc. It also breaks its attempt at 'realism'(And man, is the game gruesome) by letting you fast travel from camp to camp, but at least its convenient. Oh, and the game isn't nearly as Uncharted-y as people make it out to be.

 What I didn't like:
 - QTEs up the wazoo.
- The new direction they took Lara in.

 What I did like:
- The Metroidvania like gameplay.
- The skills and upgrade system.

So, about the Borderlands 1.08 update...

 It received an update...
 ...and everyone's been talking about how it has fixed everything. Well, I decided to put it to the test. I launched the game, started at Scarlet's DLC, which I stopped mid-way since I was tired of all the freezes. Well, the Framerate is definitely much better. But that's not enough for me, I had to truly test the game, so I went to Lynchwood, the glitchiest part of the game, and.... 10 minutes later the game froze. I kid you not, I got 10 minutes of gameplay out of the game before it froze on me.

 To put it bluntly, the framerate is indeed better, but the freezes are still there, and these break the game. The fact that you can't get more than 10 minutes out of game time before a freeze is unacceptable. The game is still broken.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Review #295: Vitamin Z

 Not to be confused with the Japanese dating sim.
 Vitamin Z on Playstation Vita is a free to play game I've been playing on and off since last year, and I think it deserves me talking about it, seeing how much time I've spent on it.

 You play as this cutesy scientist girl, who must defend herself from wave after wave of mutant vegetables. This is a 'Defense game', in this case your character is firmly stuck to the center of the screen, and you use the analog sticks to direct her firing. Normal shots are done automatically, but the more enemies you kill, the more Heat you generate which allows you to use your special shots. There's also a Stomp attack that pushes all surrounding enemies back, but this is governed by some kind of invisible cooldown period. I say 'invisible', because sometimes the game won't let me use the stomp, even though I haven't even used it yet on a playthrough. It always bugged me, since I just can't figure out when I can or can't use it, I used to think that it had to do with the color of the platform, or that it reloaded when steam came up, but... doesn't seem to be that way.
 The more enemies you kill before dying, the more money you'll earn which you can then spend on all types of upgrades. From health upgrades, to damage upgrades, to unlocking possible power ups like Spread Shot or Ice beam. Frankly, I thought the differences these upgrades did was negligible, I never really felt much stronger or sturdier than before. Also, scrolling through the store is done with the touchscreen, but sometimes it seems to get stuck, which makes it annoying to go through. If you can't be arsed to earn the money, you could always buy the microtransactions. Seeing how the game is free to play, and everything can be earned in-game, I don't really have any complaints about them.

 The review would've ended there and then, but I just booted out the game(To check out what the Microtransactions offered) and... it turns out it didn't save my progress from the last time I played. I don't know why it didn't save, but it's mighty annoying, since I'm missing the last two fire power upgrades!

 Vitamin Z is not a very good game, but damn if it isn't addictive. I've played this game more than I like to admit, and hey, it's completely free!
 4.5 out of 10

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Review #294: Katamari Forever

 What the hell, Namco...?
 I like the Katamari franchise, they are quirky, fun games that can be enjoyed by anyone. But as creative as the premise is, why is it that Namco always fails to put the same amount of originality into the sequels? The fact that the original creator jumped ship after the second one might be the reason...

 The story this time around involves the King of all Cosmos losing his memories, while the Prince and his Cousins build a RoboKing and... stuff happens. Story has never been an important part of the Katamari games, but they've always offered funny cutscenes, specially the Vita storyline, but this game just didn't make it for me. I don't remember even cracking a smile during the cutscenes. Again, this didn't affect my overall enjoyment of the game, since the story is always fluff, but still...
 For the uninitiated, in the Katamari games you play as the Prince, or as a cousin if unlocked(They all have the same abilities), as you roll a ball around different environments. This ball, the Katamari, has the special property that rolls up onto it anything it rolls over smaller than itself, and slowly grows in size. Basically, roll up small stuff in order to increase the size and then roll up bigger stuff. Some levels, my favorite ones, have you starting from the bottom, rolling up mice and nickels, before eventually going around grabbing entire pieces of land. It's fantastic. This time around levels are divided into two 'branches', the Roboking and the King of all Cosmos. Usually the RoboKing has the more straightforward levels, 'make the biggest Katamari you can', while the King gets more gimicky levels, like 'Roll up hot stuff', or 'grab the biggest Bear or Cow you can'. Oh, and I should mention this game doesn't take itself seriously, at all. Everything is done in a very cartoony style, and you'll see all kinds of weird characters doing weird stuff, or even stuff in weird places, like cats underwater!

 This game will either be the best Katamari game you play, or the worst. Before I get into the meaty stuff, I'd like to delve into some of its features. Firstly, you can unlock different graphical styles for when you replay levels. There's Sepia, Wood, Comic(Cell Shaded/traditional) and New, which looks as if everything has been painted by hand, which is beautiful. It's a neat addition, but you can only switch styles when replaying a level, and only on Modes that you've already played that level in. Modes are another addition, almost every level has 4 variations: Forever, which is the standard, that lets you jump(Which, unlike the awesome stretch ability from the Vita game. is fairly useless and unwieldy) and grab power ups(There's up to two per level, they either instantly attract all nearby stuff to your Katamari or makes nearby stuff attract to your Katamari as you roll around for a short while), there's Drive Mode, which is Forever but sped-up, Eternal, which lets you play a level without any kind of time limit and finally Classic, which removes the Jump ability and the power ups. This is a great addition, since it adds variety, buuuuuuut, the conditions for unlocking Eternal and Classic variations for each level are unknown to this day, seems to have to do with how much you replay a level and how you score. I've read that some people replayed a level up to 24 times before they unlocked one of these modes. Plus, the game doesn't tell you if you can unlock Eternal on a level(Since not every level has Eternal), which is a bit of an oversight.
 Had I not foreshadowed it before, so far everything sounds really cool. Multiple graphical filters as well as modes? Sounds like the best Katamari game, and it could be. It could. The problem is that this game is the ultimate example of everything that's wrong with the Katamari series: Originality, or lack there of. The game has 34 levels, which sounds like a ton, until you realize that only 3 of these levels are entirely new.  About 14 of them come from We Love Katamari, another 14 from Beautiful Katamari and the rest from the first game. Almost every unlockable customization item is recycled from previous games, and there's only two new cousins. So you see, if you've played both We Love Katamari as well as Beautiful Katamari, you've basically played most of this game already. Now, in my case, I haven't played We Love Katamari(Yet) or Beautiful Katamari(Since I don't own a 360), so most levels were new(Except the ones from Katamari Damacy and, well, the levels that the Vita Katamari game would use in the future) to me. But that's me. I got a ton of new levels, cousins I hadn't seen before, a ton of modes and even graphical filters, which makes it the best Katamari game I've played yet. But that's my case, if you've been following the franchise, there's almost nothing new for you here, and there's no real reason for you to invest on this one.

 All that said, the game still has the same issues it has had ever since I can remember: A rather low draw distance and some framerate issues. On weaker consoles, this was understandable, but why is this still happening on the PS3? Sure, there's a lot of stuff on the screen at the same time, but everything is so simple that it shouldn't be taxing the system so much. For what it's worth, the framerate issues are fairly unusual, and the draw distance seems to grow as... well, as your Katamari grows in size. It seems that when the Katamari is smaller, the draw distance is smaller as well, so you'll see a lot of stuff just pop into view as you move forwards.

 Katamari Forever is a hard game for me to score. I loved the game to bits, I really did, but it's hard to ignore the fact that most of this game is recycled content. So you see, if you want to get into the series, I'd say that this is the game to get. If you've played either We Love Katamari or Beautiful Katamari, then it's a tougher sell, as you've played half of the levels already, but maybe the new filters and additional levels can make it worth it. If you've played both, just skip this one.
 8.0 out of 10

Monday, February 15, 2016

Review #293: The Evil Within

 Survival Horror is(was) back. Kinda.
 Shinji Mikami's at it again, after the action-shooter Shadows of the Dead, he decided to go back to Survival Horror. Kinda. I'm not gonna beat around the bush, this is what Survival Horror is in modern gaming, for reference, it's a little bit more Survival-y and a little bit less Action-y than Resident Evil 4.

 The game follows Sebastian Castellanos, a detective, who after answering a call for help, arrives, alongside his partner Joseph(whom I like to call Broseph) and rookie cop Juli Kidman, to a hospital where everyone's been killed. Things soon turn to worse, as the world comes crashing down, and Sebastian keeps getting thrust into different places and maybe... eras? There's an explanation as to why everything, from locations to weapons, seem to come from an anachronistic stew and why there's ammunition everywhere, but I'd rather let the game explain it. As for your teammates, you'll get to interact with Broseph a whole lot, and I grew rather fond of, while Juli is just there to be rescued a couple of times and then disappear.... which is probably why she had two DLC starring her. Mind you, the DLCs explain a couple of things that go unexplained in the main game, which is just no cool at all. Still, I found the game to be perfectly enjoyable by itself.
 The more I played the more I thought 'THIS is, probably, what Mikami wanted to do when he made Resident Evil 4'. The game plays from a third-person perspective, but interestingly, aiming turns it into a quasi-first person camera. It's an interesting approach, and one that works very well, I'd say it's even better than REvil 4. As a matter of fact, Sebastian can move while aiming, so suck on that Leon. There's also stealth in the game, which works rather well and is a must if you want to conserve Ammo, and boy, do you want to conserve ammo. While in REvil 4 ammo would drop pretty frequently, and usually ammo pertaining to the weapon you are using, ammo is very scarce in the game, particularly in the first few chapters. It's not unusual to run out of ammo for your preferred weapons, although I'll admit that I was never left completely defenseless. Another thing to note, is that the ammo you can carry is limited as well. Oh, and enemies hate staying dead, there's only two ways to know for sure that they won't get back up again: Either if they drop something(Ammo, Green Gel, etc) or by burning them by using matches.

 Green Gel is a currency that you can use in the Safe Houses to upgrade Sebastian. You can upgrade things like: Stamina(For sprinting), health, effectiveness of healing items, how much ammo you can carry as well as your weapons. Green Gel is not all that rare,  but you'll want to think carefully about what you want to upgrade. If you ask me, invest on how much ammo you can carry for the revolver and shotgun, as well as how many Syrenges you can carry first. There's also a ton of traps on every level, and their use is twofold. You can disarm them and convert them into ammo for the crossbow, which is what I did, or use them against your enemies! Frankly, I was pretty adept at pistol headshots, and I cared too much about ammo, so I just disarmed every single trap I saw.
 The game is divided into 15 chapters, and each chapter takes place in a different location. There's no backtracking, and puzzles are rather few. Most of the time is about going forward, rather than staying on the same place for too much time. There's exceptions, like the fantastic level based on Resident Evil's mansion, in which you must find stuff to activate stuff and solve puzzles in order to progress. Still, while there're more survival horror elements than say Resident Evil 4, the focus is still on action. Sure, sometimes it's better to avoid enemies rather than waste bullets, and sure, there are a few puzzles here and there, but shooting your way through is always a viable option. As far as difficulty goes, I thought it was just fine. I played on Normal(Survival) and accumulated 83 deaths, but I didn't think it was too tough, besides a couple of cheap deaths and instakills. Yes, there's a ton of stuff, mostly bosses or boss-like enemies that have instakill attacks, and they are not fun, not fun at all. While there are very few 'Safe Houses' to save your game, there's a moderate amount of checkpoints as well, although the placement isn't the... kindest. If you die, get ready to replay some rather tough sections every now and then, but hey, you'll do better upon continuing, since now you'll know what's coming! Anyways, back to the difficulty setting, I thought Survival was just fine, but apparently a lot of people thought the game was rather hard even on its easier difficulty, so a new patch has actually made 'Easy', well, easier.

 Something that annoyed a lot of people, although I didn't care for it, was that the entire game is played on letter box mode(Meaning, black bars above and below the screen). Supposedly it was done for cinematic effect, but... I didn't mind it. I got into the game every time I played, so I honestly never even noticed them. That said, supposedly the new patch allows you to turn them off, but then again, I don't usually download patches. What I did notice however, was that on a few, select occasions, the camera gets a bit too close to Sebastian's back. It happens only in places where there're no enemies, but as someone who likes to explore for items, it annoyed me a few times, since I wanted to see more of my surroundings. There's tons of texture pop-in as well, both in cutscenes and in gameplay, which is impossible not to notice. Once again, it didn't affect me in any way, but from what I've heard, it annoys a few. Lastly, loading times are a bit too long. About 10 seconds(Which sounds like little, but trust me, it's a lot) when loading a chapter it doesn't matter, since its the only loading screen you'll see in a chapter.... but if you die, you'll have to go through it again. And as I mentioned previously, there's a couple of very cheap deaths that you can't see coming(Or have little time to react), as well as finding out firsthand which enemies can instakill you and how, so... get ready to wait. A lot.
 I loved The Evil Within, it's a fantastic game. While I wouldn't call it a 'return' to Survival Horror, I'd call it more like a... 'rebirth'. Unlike games from the past, it's not about encumbering the player with stiff controls and movement, rather, control is excellent, aiming is simple and what not, so the difficulty is not 'artificial' so to speak. You have to make the most of what you are given, because ammo and healing items are scarce. That means knowing when to fight and when to run, and how to fight. Maybe you'd rather waste a match instead of bullets, so hit'em in the knees and burn them, Even better, run around, group'em together and blast their knees with a shotgun shell, and then burn them all together with a single match. Because of that, even people who were turned off by REvil 4 might want to give it a try. While the game plays very similarly, this game has a lot more survival horror elements to it.
 9.5 out of 10