Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Month Overview: May 2016

Danganronpa HappyTriggerHavoc                             9.0
Gravity Rush                                                               6.5
Ultimate Marvel VS Capcom 3(Vita)                         8.0

 Not much was played this month. Danganronpa was fantastic, Gravity Rush was alright, UMvC 3 was surprisingly considering how Street Fighter X Tekken's Vita port was a bit shoddy at times. I also started Lords of Arcana which is... it dangles between mediocre and terrible, and right now I'm stuck at the Bahamut fight, and frankly, I only attempted it twice, I simply don't have the drive, since the game is such a drag.

Game of May:
 Danganronpa was SO good that as soon as I finished it I ordered Danganronpa 2 and Ultimate Despair Girls, both which should be arriving this June. The last time I did something like this was with Darksiders, I didn't plan on liking the game THAT much, but as soon as I finished it I bought the sequel. But I digress. Phoenix Wright meets Battle Royale is what this game is, and it's so good. I felt that the trials were a bit too... convoluted, and sometimes it felt like filler, like having to prove that you're not a ghost. Seriously? But the story was so good that it kept me coming back for more and more.
 And the unlockable micromanagement mini-game was relatively entertaining as well.

 I had forgotten how much fun Ultimate Marvel VS Capcom could be, and I think it's in big part due to its simplicity and flashiness. And major props to Capcom for developing such a good port, Street Fighter X Tekken would sometimes drop frames, but UMvC 3 runs silky smooth. And you get everything the Console version had to offer. I still have a few issues pulling of some moves, like L-Trigger snap backs, or the few inputs that require pressing both Launcher and medium attacks, but that's on the Vita itself and not the port's fault.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Review #326: Ultimate Marvel VS Capcom 3(Vita)

 Guess this is a good excuse as any to revisit Marvel VS Capcom 3
 It should be known that I'm a bit of a fighting game aficionado. I follow the competitive scene surrounding fighting games, even if I don't play competitively myself, and I love all fighting games alike, not favoring one company over the other out of fanboyism. Ultimate Marvel VS Capcom 3 was a bit, deservedly, of a controversial release, coming out less than a year after the vanilla release. Opinions may vary, but I thought UMvC 3 was brilliant, and being a fighting game lover, now I've means to have it on the go.

 Ultimate Marvel VS Capcom 3 offers a 48-character sized roster, 50 if you have both DLC characters, which, unless you've bought them previously, can't be obtained now due to licensing issues. The roster is a bit hit or miss, Marvel is well represented having characters from all over their world, albeit prioritizing characters with movies or movies that were on the way, like Rocket Raccoon. Capcom's side however lacks a bit of diversity. Resident Evil gets Chris, Wesker, Nemesis AND Jill(DLC), Devil May Cry gets Dante, Vergil AND Trish, Darkstalkers gets Morrigan, Felicia and... Hsien-Ko...? Seriously? At least Ultimate's newcomers added variety with Phoenix Wright and Frank West, but one can't help but wonder why not cover more series, like Onimusha, Monster Hunter, Power Stone or even Sengoku Basara. Heck, I'd take Regina over Jill in order to represent Dino Crisis! Basically, you mileage will vary on how much some characters deserved a spot on the roster or not. The stages selection is undoubtedly lacking, but they make up in quality.
 So, how does MvC 3 play? You pick a team of three and pit it against another team. You've 6 buttons: Light attack, Medium Attack, Heavy Attack and Pop up being your primary means of offence, and then the shoulder buttons are used to either tag in either partner or call them in for an assist attack. It's simple, fast and works very well. Using all those tools, alongside a bevy of special and super moves performed by inputting different directions on the analog nub or digital pad, you can perform combos to rack up more damage. The game is very beginner friendly, as mashing will result in an spectacle of flashy stuff happening immediately, however, someone who knows what they are doing will easily over power a beginner, but the latter will have fun anyways since simple combos are easy to perform. There's also a few more advanced techniques, like forcing the opponent to switch into a different character, pulling off sequential supers with different characters, or pushing your enemy back while guarding if you're inclined in learning the game. There's no real tutorial on these, and the game doesn't come with an instruction booklet, unlike the console version, so if you want to learn these, you are on you own, but there's more than enough information online.

 This port can be commended for delivering everything the Console version had. There's the online mode, on which I couldn't find any matches, both ranked and unranked, the 'Heroes and Heralds' mode where you try to collect cards, as well as every offline mode: Arcade, the Galactus mini-game, Training and Mission(10 trials per character). There's also a new 'Touch' mode, which is basically an Arcade mode with extra touch controls for easier supers, not very noteworthy. Now then, if there's one pet peeve I have when it comes to fighting games is VS CPU modes. I don't mean Arcade, I mean the ability to fight against any CPU I want at any time. It used to be a no-brainer, but at the time of UMvC 3's release, some games, this included, started forgetting about it. When it comes to portable fighting games, I think that this is more of a necessity, as finding people who own both console and game as well is a bit tougher than bringing a buddy home, and you won't always have access to the Internet. As far as I'm concerned, this is a huge omission in this game.
 Another thing to commend this game for is how smoothly it runs. I didn't come across any form of slowdown whatsoever, and the game looks phenomenal. In order for it to run so well, some concessions had to be made: Stages lack animation, being completely static, and the special effects, such as those of hitting an opponent or projectiles have been turned into oversized pixelated sprites. It might take a bit of time getting used to the latter, and the really huge specials like Thor's tornado or Iron Fist's aura special look laughably bad in comparison to the beautiful 3-D models, but it doesn't get in the way of enjoying the game at all. While the Vita, as most handhelds are, is ill-fitted for fighting games, controls were responsive and tight. The game offers a 'simple' mode, but you should ignore it, or you'll end up with a wrong idea about the game, and end up bored with the repetitive gameplay. Y'see, simple mode makes it so that Light Attack turns into your ONLY combo, Medium attack is used to pull off two, and only two, special moves while Heavy attack will perform Super moves. It's very dull and saps all the creativity and fun out of making your own combos and the fast paced combat.

 Ultimate Marvel VS Capcom 3 on the Vita is a fantastic port of a fantastic game. The controls are not the best due to the Vita itself, but they are manageable, and I feel that the lack of offline VS CPU kinda kills some of the replay value for me. But all in all, they crammed the entire console game into a tiny Vita card, sacrificing very little and keeping everything that matters intact.
 8.0 out of 10

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Now Playing: Lord of Arcana

 Swery, what is this?
 Swery 65 is a director I've come to really like almost exclusively thanks to his fantastic work with Deadly Premonition, a game so stand offish that gives Suda 51 a run for his money. I've also learned that a lot of his previous work is pretty... derivative. Extermination? Clearly inspired by The Thing. Spy Fiction? Metal Gear Solid meets Mission Impossible. Deadly Premonition? Twin Peaks called, they want their town back. But derivative as it may be, his games have been average at worst. And now we have Lord of Arcana.

 Seeing how my progress on Toukiden has slowed down considerably, which I did review, but having spent 60+ hours on it and having a clear grasp on the game as a whole, and playing Marvel's Future Fight on the side, I decided that the only thing that made sense was to start another Monster Hunter clone. And it's pretty weird, and not Swery 65 kind of weird, even though worked as a cowriter and designer on it.

 What's really cool about these kind Hunting games is how, while you do enhance your equipment, what really makes the difference is the player's skill and actual experience tackling the difference beasts. Here, you actually level up and get more hit points. Also, your weapons level up as well, and you get more moves. It's not the most original twist on the formula, but I guess it's kinda interesting.

 As for battles, you kinda engage the monsters on the overworld, and then get transported to a separate arena? It's kinda weird. Getting surprised has a negative effect on your stats, while landing the first hit actually buffs your strength. Can't say I'm a fan of the mechanic. I'm also not liking the overall aesthetics, the game looks relatively blurry and... generic, for lack of a better word. The armor designs are 'eh', the two I've seen anyways. Monster design is pretty bland, and relatively underwhelming. I mean, I've only fought one 'big monster', Agni, and he kinda kicked my ass(He actually killed me once and made me drink about 5 potions), but he was fairly unimpressive. If you switched his magma texture with a zombiefied one, he could've looked straight out of Resident Evil, as a Tyrant of sorts. It's that lame. Not that REvil's Tyrants are necessarily lame, on their context, but on a Monster Hunter clone I expect bigger, more impressive stuff.

 Then there's the combat, which is, once again, fairly unimpressive. You mash Square, stop mashing, hold X and roll around. After playing so much Toukiden, this feels clunky. And I don't even know if you can roll with the other weapons. You can also equip a skill on the triangle button, but you can't combo into it, and the damage is pathetic, so I haven't found a use for it yet. Eventually I'm gonna try other weapons to see if everything is a one button affair. And the cherry on top? QTEs. You actually have to engage in a QTE in order to finish off a boss. And since... at least two years of so, I've started hating QTEs so much that I'm actually scared of playing God of War again, and tarnish the enjoyable memories I have of the series.

 Bottom line: It's not good, but it's not bad either, it simply feels very middle of the road. There's so many other, better, alternatives:
 Monster Hunter, which is waaay more deep than this one, the combat is slower paced, but it's much tighter and feels much better. Also available on the PSP.
 Gods Eater Burst, one of my favorite Monster Hunter Clones, I'd even dare say I like it more than Monster Hunter. Also on PSP.
 Soul Sacrifice, a bit different than the other MH Clones, but they tried something slightly different and it worked. I wasn't the biggest fan of the spell system and even then I'd rather play SS over this.
 Toukiden, it's fantastic.
 So really, why bother with something so mundane, when there's so much better alternatives out there? But then again, these are just my first impressions, based on 1:30 hours of gameplay, and only three missions under my belt(Although I'm fairly sure the game took the time I spent with the demo into account, because those three missions were rather short).

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Review #325: Gravity Rush

 I'm glad it moved on to the PS4.
 Gravity Rush was often touted as the PS Vita's killer ap, so much so that Sony even tried making Kat, the main character, the face of the Vita, and it's an assessment I don't quite agree with.

 Gravity Rush puts you on the heels of Kat, a dark-skinned, gravity manipulating lass that suffers from amnesia, thrust upon a world with towns that float on the sky. The art directions is a bit drab, with towns made up of browns, browns and more browns against green, yellow and red skies. As a whole, it's not entirely uninteresting, but the different 'cities' lack landmarks, or distinctive architecture to make them stand out. The idea of floating towns is not particularly original, but the way you traverse them are what makes it engaging, but I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. As far as the plot of the game goes... it's lacks focus. Things go unexplained, poorly explained or are just forgotten. There's this bad guy, Alias, who is stealing power sources, and you fight him once and... the game forgets about him and his goal. Later on, Kat has a dream where Alias takes off his mask and... we are never told who she saw. Then there's this character, 'The creator' who says created the world and... that's about it. And then you meet ANOTHER creator, and just what the hell is a creator and why is there more than one!? Then there's the bad guys, the Nevi, and in one chapter one is shown trying to 'protect' a human and... the issue is never picked up again. There's also, without spoiling too much, a sort of timeskip that's never explained too well. Yeah, the plot is all over the place.
 The game features a sandbox world comprised of four different 'floating islands' or towns, but there's not a whole lot to do. There's crystals to collect, 16 'travelers' to find(Technically, it's two of them, which are hidden in 16 different places), challenges to find and tackle and the 22 different story missions. And that's pretty much it. Yeah, there's not a lot to do or find, and the rewards for exploring are crystals that can be used to enhance Kat's abilities. Luckily, the game main's mechanic, gravity control, is a blast to use. Once you level up your gauge consumption and shifting speed, you can easily go from town to town without even touching the ground, and the sense of speed and flight make it a total pleasure to just fly around and absorb the sights(as brown and mundane as they can be).

 The controls are a bit of a mixed bag. Firstly, touchscreen functions are mandatory, dodging is done by swiping on the screen, and gravity sliding is done by touch both the lower right and lower left parts of the screen, and then... turning the Vita itself like a steering wheel. Dodging might be annoying, but you can get used to it, sliding is downright uncontrollable. Every time the game implied I should slide, I just floated instead. The R button is used to have Kat float, and then you can aim by moving the Vita around or using the right analog stick, tapping R again will have Kat fly towards the aiming reticule, or you can just hold X to do it faster, and touching any surface will make Kat stick to it. It lacks finesse, but it's not an issue unless you are fighting, but when it comes to exploring, it's a joy to perform. Lastly, holding the circle button will create and Stasis field that let's you shoot objects such as boxes as projectiles.
 Combat is, sadly, one of the game's weakest components. I understand, the game had full 360 movement, so they felt like they had to tie into the combat as well. Enemies are very, very uninspired. The 'Nevi' are blobs of gooey stuff that resemble animals, like swordfishes or frogs. But you can't simply attack them, oh no, they have glowing orbs on their bodies that you must destroy in order to defeat. This means that Kat's on-ground kick is useless on 90% of the enemies, it also means that you are gonna have to use the imprecise floating-and-flying to get a good angle, and then use a gravity kick towards their glowing orbs. Sounds uninspired? It is. It's also repetitive, and most of the time makes you wish you could simply kick them to death.

 Combat? Boring. Art Direction? Well, the characters are alright, Kat and Yunica in particular look fantastic, but the cities lack personality and color. But even then, EVEN THEN, flying around is a blast. And this is why, while most people felt betrayed that Gravity Rush 2 will be a PS4 exclusive, I actually think it's a brilliant move. The reason the town felt so lifeless was, probably, to keep the framerate from chugging. With more buttons on the joystick, the lousy and unnecessary touch controls and motion sensors can be done away with. I actually think that the move to a proper home console will benefit the game greatly, because it shows a lot of potential, and they nailed their core mechanic just right.
 When it comes to Gravity Rush, while I felt a lot of it was rather dull and forgettable, I can't stress enough just how good the core mechanic, gravity shifting, feels. Flying around just for the heck of flying around made me forget how bored I felt when going through some of the more tedious parts of the game(Seriously, that spire you have to climb down in order to find a letter... and they make you go through it twice. TWICE!!), it made me forget just how lame I found the combat and the enemies to be. I've already forgotten about how some of the towns looked, that's how mundane they were, but the flying? That stuck with me. And I'm sure they are gonna make a much better game with Gravity Rush 2.
 6.5 out of 10

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Now Playing: Gravity Rush

 It's gooooood.
 Gravity Rush is really cool. No, seriously. I'm loving the Gravity mechanics, shifting and sticking and zooming forwards is all done with a button and the right analog stick(Or you can move the Vita around, if you are into that). and it feels really good to zip around the town. The combat is a bit.. weaker in that respect, as there's no lock-on(Or none that I could find), and it feels a bit too floaty for my tastes. It's not bad by any means, but it's not optimal. Also, dodging by swiping the screen sucks, just give me a button alternative, goddammit.

 I'm also digging the art direction, Kat looks really good, although my Japan senses tell me they are gonna exploit her in some fanservicey way eventually, mostly due to how the cutscene after getting herself a home and showering panned out. The environments look really nice as well, a bit... lacking in detail, but taken as a whole, they are rather neat, if that makes any sense? As in, the buildings, the background and the setting work really well together to set the ambiance.

 Still, my biggest gripe is how long the game went without giving me a save spot!!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Review #324: Danganronpa - TriggerHappyHavoc

 Danganronpa is a visual novel-styled mystery game. Most of the gameplay involves reading, reading and more reading, although it also involves Phoenix Wright-inspired trials where you get to dispel erroneous statements or lies by figuring it which piece of evidence to use and when.

 The story pits you as Makoto Naegi, the Ultimate Lucky student, who won the right to attend the Dangan Academy through a lottery. This Highschool only collects the Ultimate students, the Ultimate Gambler, the Ultimate Baseball Star, etc. Regardless, Makoto passes out on his first day of school, waking up surrounded by 14 other students, and the doors and windows have been bolted shut. And then Monokuma, a Bear made up of a white side and a black side, pops up, claiming to be the headmaster and giving the students a choice: Either spend their entire life locked inside the building, or kill somebody and get away with it. After, and if, a murder is committed, the students will get the chance to point the killer in a trial, get it right and the killer is executed, get it wrong and everyone else gets executed while the murderer gets to escape the building. It's a very interesting premise, and it's executed fairly well. And while I grew fond of most of the cast, I always wanted the next murder to happen, to see how the story would develop, to find the next creative death scenario et all. Somehow, the game managed to mix over the top, violent executions and murders with entertaining, sometimes lighthearted dialogue and funny situations.
 One thing that immediately pops up is the very unique artstyle. It's a bit... rough, and a bit quirky, but after a while it grows on you, and its quirkiness adds up to the ambiance of the game. The different rooms of the school are designed in 3D, with 3D objects and flat, 2D characters on top. It's an interesting style, not the prettiest, but I think it fits the game perfectly. Interacting with objects sometimes nets you coins, which are also awarded after clearing a trial, and can be used to buy presents for the characters. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

 Most of the game, you'll be told of what to do and where to go. 'I should meet up with everybody at the Dining Hall', 'A new floor has opened up, we should explore it', which means that the story will only advance when you do whatever the game wants you to do. Although occasionally you'll be given 'free time' to spend with the rest of the cast, and you should. Interacting with characters during free time will slowly fill you in on the characters' individual motivations or backstory. Some characters are certainly deeper and more interesting than others, but it's a good way to enrich the cast, plus, getting 'close' to the characters will award you with Skills that can be equipped to make the trials easier.
 Inevitably, murder will happen, and then you'll have to investigate the crime scene in order to gather evidence. The Trial won't start until you've found all the required evidence, so it's impossible to get yourself screwed. And then come the Trials which... surprisingly, were my least liked part about the game. They work a bit like Phoenix Wright's, but are easier in some ways, yet more convoluted in others. There's a ton of... sub modes, so to speak, in a Trial, and you're always under a time limit. I never run out of time, but then again, I only played in Normal. Most of the time, you'll be pointing out lies or mistakes on the characters' accounts, and you are given a number different evidence pieces to use in that particular instance. As a matter of fact, the game will highlight the suspicious parts in orange, so it's just a matter of finding the right orange sentence and using the right evidence, which makes it easier than Phoenix Wright, where you are always carrying a larger amount of evidence and have to figure out the wrong statements by yourself.

 Buuuuuuuuut, you also have to time it. Evidence, in the game, is turned into 'bullets' which must be 'shot' at the statements. Shooting white text, or not hitting the orange text in time will make you miss, and you'll have to wait(You can fast forward it!) while the characters repeat themselves. And then the game adds 'noise', which is made by characters doubts or chatter during the testimony. Noise are purple lines that will block your evidence bullets, but you can shoot them down with the X button, or simply avoid them while shooting your evidence. And then the game introduces absorption, sometimes the evidence bullets you are given will not be enough, so you'll have to absorb an orange statement, and then shoot it against another orange statement.
 Then there's also the 'hangman gambit', where you have to shoot the correct letters to complete a word, because making a normal choice would be too passe. And then there's a rhythm mini game, which is engaged whenever a character refuses to listen to your reasons. And then, after finishing a trial, you have to reassemble the entire crime in a 'fill in the gaps' comic thingie, which I actually liked. I understand that they wanted to make something more interactive than Phoenix Wright, but I thought it was way to convoluted. Most of the time I just wanted to get through the trials in order to continue with the fantastic story.

 The game took me little over 14 hours, but it felt shorter than that... because of how good it was. I wanted more. More murders, more executions, more game! This also means that I'll be getting the sequel ASAP, but that's neither here nor there. Regardless, finishing the game unlocks 'Schoo Life', which is a small management game. It's made up of 50 days, and every week you are given the task of constructing a different Monokuma back up. So each day you get to order characters to collect materials in different places. It can be replayed indefinitely, and stats carry over from playthrough to playthrough. Probably, you won't be able to finish all the concepts the first time around, but it gets progressively easier as you learn what to do and your characters grow more effective at gathering. This mode also lets you complete the 'Free Time' conversations with the cast, as well as having a different, 'what if' ending.
 I loved Danganronpa. Sure, I wasn't too big on the Trials, but the payoff was worth it. It's not a game for everyone, the reading-to-playing ratio favors the former, and as great as I found the story to be, it's also very Japanese, with relatively over-the-top characters that certainly won't appeal to everyone.
 9.0 out of 10

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Now Playing: Danganronpa - TriggerHappyHavoc

 Alright, alright
 I'm running on borrowed time, seeing how I've a test in a few hours and ANOTHER one on Saturday, so I could only put a few minutes into the game. I'll be honest, I've watched a few videos about it, but I never understood much what it was, it seemed like a Phoenix Wrigh-ish game? Ah well.

 The art isn't particularly good, but after a while it grows endearing, I'm also liking the diverse cast of characters, hopefully they aren't as stereotypical as they look as they look at first glance.

 All in all, the few minutes I played, I got interested. So... yeah.