Sunday, July 31, 2016

Review #341: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Mutants in Manhattan

 Sometimes I think people don't 'get' Platinum Games' games.
 Mutants in Manhattan is the latest TMNT game to be released, and it received a somewhat lukewarm reception. Now, I admit that I'm a TMNT fan, but after playing through the game I simply can't agree with some of the criticism levered against the game. It made me think, and realize, that people sometimes don't 'get' Platinum Games' games. Look at all the flak Revengeance got over the lack of a block button, a feature it didn't need, even a few critics didn't seem to 'get' Vanquish, which I felt was pretty dope, even God Hand was the target of some undeserved criticism.

 The game is heavily inspired on the newest IDW comics, which I felt was a brilliant decision. While the designs aren't exactly the same, for example, in these comics the four turtles have different types of arm-guards, yet in the game only Leo has any sort of of arm-guards, however, they managed to give them different belts and their masks have different lengths and shapes, which are beautiful details that set them apart. April's take is different as well, she seems to be a young adult here, while in the comics she is portrayed as a teenager. Basically, this incarnation of the turtles most closely resemble the comics, but it's not set in that universe. The voice cast is entirely different from any other version of the turtles as well, and everyone did a fantastic job as their characters, this might probably be my favorite version of Leo, and I love how they brought back Mirage comics' Raphael's 'Crud!' exclamation. If I haven't made it clear yet, if you love the comic book versions of the characters, you will absolutely adore the presentation, I know I did. This is the version of the turtles I've been waiting for ever since I discovered the comics. These are the turtles we deserve in videogame form. As for the plot itself, it's a simple 'Krang and Shredder have teamed up and are up to no good', it's a very simple set up, that's far from engrossing, but it's all the story a game like this needs. There're cutscenes before and after each level, and I felt they were fantastic, while the story wasn't all that interesting, I loved seeing the turtles interact with the other characters, like Splinter, April, Slash, Bebop, etc.
 The game is... I guess an 'objective-based beat'em up' sums it up. There's 9 'missions', that take place in about 4 different environments, but each time an environment is reused, it's slightly altered. There're the rooftops and the story rooftops, the sewers and the sewers with fast-moving water, the streets and the ruined streets, etc. Each environment is a medium sized stage that can be somewhat freely explored. 'Somewhat' because your objectives are always clearly defined, and while you can find a couple of items and a few collectibles, there aren't tangible rewards for your efforts. Free items are nice, but you can always enter the sewers and buy more from Splinter, and the collectibles are boring covers from the IDW comics. There's no costumes, skills or anything worthwhile to be found. Interestingly, the objectives on each stage are randomized, however, they always revolve around beating up bad guys. Objectives can range from: Beating all the bad guys, defeating all the bad guys without being seen, protecting an object by... defeating all the bad guys, defusing bombs/recovering data in which one or more turtle must hold circle over an object while the others... beat up the bad guys or even taking objects from one point from another... while under barrage from enemies, so a few of the turtles will have to beat up a few villains. It's an interesting idea that do make subsequent playthroughs retain some of the freshness, but at the end of the day all you are really doing is beating up enemies. Which is fine, really, since this is a beat'em up.

 After you finish 5 or 6 missions April will home-in on the boss' location, and you can finally go fight them. Boss fights were my favorite part of the game, they are tough, they are long and they are fun. On Normal they've 7 life bars each, but depending on the difficulty setting the number may increase or decrease. While you have the numerical advantage on these fights, bosses pack quite a punch and their attacks cover very wide areas, so you will have to make the most of the dodge/block/parry systems to pull through. The first 4 bosses are a bit easy, but after you get to Armaggon, they really pick up. I've heard a lot of people claiming that these are 'obscenely hard', but they really aren't. I gave Michelangelo and Donnie support movesets, while I gave a balanced amount of deffensive and ofensive moves on Leo and kept Raph with an exclusively offensive moveset. I played most of the time as Leo, and if you learn how to block, dodge and parry, the battles become exhilarating. The 'life' system works on the player's favor, every time a turtle loses all its health, he retrieves to his shell and has 9-4 seconds(Depending on how many times he reached this state already) for another turtle to revive him, if none makes it in time, they are sent to the lair to eat pizza and recover. As long as at least one turtle remains out of the lair, you don't lose. And assuming that you do lose, there's 3 continues per level, and while you have to start the boss from the start, it's not overly punishing. At least on the normal difficulty setting, the challenge is just right.
 The combat system works like most of Platinum Games', there's a weak and a strong attack for offense, and R2 is used for defensive purposes. Tapping R2 produces a dodge, holding R2 lets you bock, and either tapping or letting go off R2 at the exact moment you get hit will produce a parry. While blocking prevents all damage, holding R2 for too long will make your turtle dizzy and open for attack. If you are playing solo, L2 is used to swap turtles or issue commands to the CPU allies. I had the turtles on 'All out' and they didn't hamper me at all. They could hold their own against normal enemies and bosses, would do an acceptable job covering me if I chose to defuse bombs and reviving me when I lost all my health. Each turtle can equip four different special moves, used by holding one of the shoulder buttons and pressing any of the four face buttons on the controller. They range from offensive attacks, like an area-hitting spinning attack, combo attacks that can be strengthened if another turtle uses the same move close to you, flying kicks, to support moves, like barriers, healing circles, or temporary buffs. I found that equipping Mikey and Donnie with support moves, since their exclusive moves are already leaning towards support, worked really well, and since Leo was my favorite, I gave him a healing circle move, Turtle Time(Slowdown) which I switched to Invincibility after I unlocked hit, and two offensive moves while Raph would support with damage as well.

 There's around 18-20 different special moves that can be equipped and upgraded. Defeating each boss will also unlock new moves for purchase. While special moves looked visually different I don't think there's much incentive for experimentation after you find moves that you like. The thing is, this is not a combo-based game, so it's not like you have juggling moves, or stunning moves, etc, all moves are simply different ways of dealing damage. The damage, area of effect and cooldown on each might be different, but the end result is somewhat the same. You can further customize each turtle by equipping charms on them, which can be enhanced by using different scavenge found after finishing a level. The amount of slots for equipping charms varied depending on the difficulty setting, the higher the difficulty, the more slots you get.
 While some my consider it inconsequential, I think the lack of offline multiplayer is a huge missed opportunity. It's not like the graphics are particularly intensive, the framerate is stuck at 30, and the other turtles fight alongside you at all times, so it's a bit baffling. There's online Co-op, at least, but it's not the same. There's also 'secret bosses', which are actually alternate bosses, on every stage, popular consensus is that triggering them is absolutely random, and getting high scores or playing on higher difficulty settings may, or may not, increase your chance of fighting them. It's not as cool as it sounds, since you simply get the same bosses from other levels, like instead of fighting Bebop on stage 1, you fight Karai, stage 5's boss. but at least you get new cutscenes, and there's an exclusive 'alternate boss' in the form of Super Shredder, which can't be fought normally.

 I liked Mutants in Manhattan a lot, it's not the best TMNT game out there, and it's far from Platinum Games' best efforts, but to call it mediocre is to do it a disservice, but I will agree that it's a game best enjoyed by fans of the franchise, particularly by fans of the comics, since the misguided fans from the terrible 1987 show won't give anything that isn't 'light-hearted' and 'funny' a chance. Reviewers saying stuff like 'go play the Konami arcade games instead' are delusional and misguided by nostalgia, since, if they found this game repetitive, they wouldn't last more than two minutes playing those beat'em ups. For shame, people, for shame.
 7.0 out of 10

Month Overview: July 2016

 Tally:
Earth Defense Force 2025                                              7.0
Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale                8.0
Liberation Maiden                                                          7.0
Kid Icarus - Of Myths and Monsters                              4.5
Silent Hill 2                                                                     8.5
The Legend of Legacy                                                    5.0
Hot Pixel                                                                         6.0
Stella Glow                                                                     8.0
One Piece - Pirate Warriors 3                         8.5

 July was an annoying month because exams, nobody likes exams, but somehow I managed to play a sizeable amount of games. It probably has to do with my should-be-patented microbreak-study system that involves me trying to distance myself from what I just read and then try to see how much I truly remember. Or stuff.


Game of July:
 Pirate Warriors, man. It's probably one of my favorite Warriors/Musou games. Firstly, it looks amazing, it's not the first Musou game to use cell-shaded graphics, Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 for example, but One Piece's incredibly varied and distinct character designs couple with the very colorful cell shading make for one hell of a showpiece that looks unlike any other Warriors games. There's also the tiny details, like Logia users entering their Elemental forms, which look fantastic, and the shading trying to emulate pencil lines? Pure genius.
 Its beauty isn't just skin deep, it's one of the faster paced games in the franchise, movesets are very varied, with different uses( Crowd clearing, Kizuna-gauge builders, boss bashing') so repeating the same move over and over again is not only boring, but not as rewarding. I also liked how characters had very different tools. Luffy was a fantastic crowd clearing character, Sabo, my main squeeze, was more balanced, having a bunch of different uses while Enel was bad at crowd-clearing(At least until you unlocked his second special) but was a beast when dealing with tough enemies, then there was Blackbeard who could place 'traps' around his surrounding, or Nami that could zap enemies after comboing them.
 I could go on and on, but I loved Pirate Warriors 3. As much as I like One Piece's story, and as much as I think they did a good job covering all of it, as condensed as it is, it lacks the... impact? depth? emotion? etc of games like Dynasty Warriors 8. I also wasn't much of a fan of having bosses with three-tiered life bars, it was a bit boring and annoying having to wait for them to get up before I could start damaging them again. Or the Limit Break system... but all these gripes did little to diminish the amount of fun I got out of Pirate Warriors 3.

 Runner-up:
 Silent Hill 2 is something special. I can't stress enough how awe inspiring the amount of care that went into every facet of this game is. How the monster design, how the environment design and how the gameplay was tied around the main character's personality. Admittedly, a couple of the riddles were a bit too tough for me, and while I have no problems with easy games, as a Survival Horror game it could've been a bit more sparing with healing items and bullets, but it's easy to forgive its few shortcomings when you are so engrossed in the game's setting and story.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ninja Turtles Month 2016

 So, this year TMNT Month will be... on August! Ideally, I'll be playing:

 Mutants in Manhattan is the one I wanna play the most, I've read the mediocre reviews et all, and I'll admit I was a bit overhyped about this one, but I don't care, it's TMNT, made by Platinum Games and inspired, on the most part, on the IDW comics. Basically, THE TMNT game I've always wanted.

 I'll be skipping TMNT 1 on the NES entirely and jumping straight to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 - The Arcade Game, since, honestly, TMNT 1 looks too archaic for my tastes. Maybe on TMNT Month 2017. Regardless, I played the Arcade original, but never touched this port, so it might be interesting. Or disappointing. Or both!

 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 - Manhattan Project is the TMNT game I grew up playing bck in the day. I loved, adored it and spent countless hours beating it over and over and over and over again. This is, probably, the reason I love beat'em ups so much.
 Tournament Fighters will mark the end of my TMNT adventure on the NES this year. This was the other TMNT game I grew up with, and another game I spent countless hours replaying. I guess my taste for beat'em ups and fighting games has been cultivated since my wee years thanks to the Ninja Turtles!
 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV -Turtles in Time heralds the beginning of the two SNES games and, once again, I'm familiar with the Arcade original, but everyone considers this one a much improved sequel, so it's high time I gave it a try.
 I did play a little tiny bit of Tournament Fighters on the SNES sometime in my life, but I quickly dismissed it as another terrible SNES Street Fighter 2 clone that were all the rage back in the day. But duty calls, and I will give it another chance, but I'm not expecting to change my mind about it.
 Hyperstone Heist is the Genesis' own TMNT 2(Arcade) port, to rival TMNT IV on the SNES. I don't remember the specifics, but I think this game was a slightly remixed version or something like that? Ah well, all will be made cleared later during August!
 And then we've got the last version of Tournament Fighters. I kinda miss how back in the day three different games could have the same name, on different consoles and be different games. But I digress, I've also played a few seconds of this version and dismissed it as an even worse Street Fighter II clone. While I skipped the SNES/Genesis generation(I went straight from NES to N64!) I've always been a Nintendo fanboy at heart, so I'm pretty sure this one will be the one I like the least. It may stand a chance against Tournament Fighters on the NES, but that one has nostalgia on its side, so we'll see.
 Lastly, although I'm considering making them the first games after Mutant in Manhattan, there're the two Arcade Games. I think it makes sense to play them first since they came out first, but I fear the ports not being 'arcade perfect' my rub me the wrong way. Regardless, as recently as 2 years ago I replayed both of them as part of the PS2 games, and, frankly, they don't hold up to well. I think Konami's beat'em ups have aged the worst, games like The Simpsons The Arcade Game and the X-Men game, largely due to how they feel like reskins of each other. Not only that, but one of the things that matters the most, in my opinion, when it comes to beat'em ups, is making the bashing satisfying, since it's the only thing you'll be doing, but Konami's Arcade beat'em ups lack a gratifying feedback from your attacks, it's as if your characters are punching or slashing air, and everything lacks weight and feels very floaty.
 And mind you, these are games that I played and loved when I was younger and had trouble reaching the Arcade's button panel! But as an aficionado of the genre, Konami's Arcade beat'em ups just don't feel very satisfying, so I'm pretty sure I won't like them too much.



 Ideally, that's the schedule for this year, which will leave: Smash-up, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1(NES), Out of the Shadows and the two-three Gameboy games for the next year. All these games are rather short, so I might be finishing them at a rate of one per day, if not more,

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Review #340: One Piece - Pirate Warriors 3

 Gomu gomu no Musou.
 Pirate Warriors is an interesting mix, being a junction of some of Japan's most beloved franchises, Musou and One Piece, yet franchises that have had a mixed reception over seas. Which is a shame, since Musou/Warriors is one of the most cathartic videogame franchises out there, and One Piece is one of the best shonen manga ever written, one that remains consistent unlike its peers, Bleach and Naruto, alongside the fantastic JoJo.

 The game has three different modes: Legend, Free and Dream. Legend is a 22-stage long campaign that covers the entirety of One Piece, from the East Blue saga to the Punk Hazard saga, alongside a bonus chapter with an alternate take on the Dresrossa arc. One Piece is a massive story, so suffice to say, what's presented here is fairly compressed, they crammed entire arcs into single stages, almost every secondary character got cut, but it's a more or less decent retelling of the whole story, even if it glosses over details. While some things could've been explained better, like Whitebeard's relationship with his men and Ace, I think even people not versed in One Piece lore will be able to follow the story. This mode features some phenomenal cutscenes that showcase key moments, as well as comic-book styled, low budget cutscenes to bridge in the gap between stages. For Warriors games, the campaign is rather short, clocking about 11 hours, but every stage is unique, so in a way, they trimmed off all the excess fat.  Free is Legend mode, but you can pick any character instead of being limited to the Mugiwaras or temporary allies. Lastly there's Dream Mode, with an unlockable Nightmare mode, that is made up of a series of simple Stages free of any kind of story, just you, your army, and the enemy army.
 If you've ever played a Dynasty Warriors game, you know the deal, mash Square(weak attack) interspersed with Triangle(Strong attack) to produce combos and kill thousands upon thousands of enemies. It's a very simple, very repetitive approach, but I find it immensely entertaining. In this game in particular I found myself racking up thousands of kills one every stage, so it might have some of the most densely populated stages in Warriors history. As for this game particulars, it follows Dynasty Warriors Gundam blueprint, having areas that produce enemies indefinitely until you capture them by killing hundreds of enemies while inside said area. There's also a 'Kizuna Rush', by killing enemies without getting hit you'll fill a gauge, once you increase its level it can decrease even if you get hit. The higher the level, the more damage your allies will do when you perform Kizuna attacks, which consist of simply tapping Square or Triangle after you finish your attack string, and it will summon your ally to perform an attack of their own. Filling the gauge's level to its maximum will allow you to enter Kizuna Drive, your attacks will get stronger, and in the case of some characters, they'll change modes(Like Luffy's gear second or Sanji's Diable Jambe), and Kizuna attacks will get even stronger. This mode only lasts for a while, and depending on when you cancel it, if you let it deplete or if you end it with a super attack, is how many levels you'll be set back on the gauge.

 One thing to keep in mind, mostly in Legend Mode, is that the AI needs help constantly. Whenever a 'X is attempting to flee', you must stop everything you are doing and rush to their aid immediately, sans you want to redo the entire, long stage again. It can get annoying having to stop pounding bosses or what have you and having to run across the entire stage just to heal them, no other Warriors game has had such needy allies, and the penalty for losing allies wasn't this steep, unless they were the mission's VIP.
 One thing I didn't particularly like was the upgrading system. Personally defeating enemy generals will reward you with their own unique coins, and this coins are used to increase each character's individual stats. If you only main a few characters, you'll get enough coins to upgrade them without having to go out of your way to grind for them, but if you plan on maxing every character, well, I hope you've a lot of time on your hands. But the real kicker are the Gold, or rare coins, which must be earned by doing specific tasks, usually attached to special missions in Legend Mode. You will have to go out of your way for these, and they are required if you plan on 'Limit Breaking' your character, allowing him or her to go beyond level 50.

 Another thing I didn't really like was how long it took to fully develop a character, it takes a while for a character to earn its full moveset, at around level 30 you'll get most of a character moves, but you'll get your final attacks at level 63, so 'Limit Breaking' is a requirement, which means you'll have to hunt for the gold coins. Mind you, the game isn't impossible if you don't grind for the coins, even Nightmare Mode can be finished with a level 50 character if you're careful, but I felt like they could've done a better job with the leveling and upgrading system.
 Worth mentioning, the game looks fantastic. The cell-shaded, colorful graphics add a ton of life to it. As a matter if fact, I'd call this one of the better looking Warriors games.

 I had a blast with Pirate Warriors 3, it's probably one of the better Warriors games out there. One Piece's zany cast of characters, with their ridiculous attacks and powers lend themselves to a Musou game perfectly. There's a lot to like here, whether you are Warriors fan, a One Piece fan or both. For future installments, I'd like to see a more streamlined upgrading system, if anything, at least have the moveset expand at lower levels, because it's the different attack strings and what you can do with them that make the franchise so good.
 8.5 out of 10

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Review #339: Stella Glow

 Imageepoch's swan song.
 Stella Glow holds the honor of being ImageEpoch's last videogame before their CEO went disappeared and they filed for bankruptcy. It also holds the distinction of being the true successor to the strategy-rpg series Luminous Arc. It features witches, knights and everything that made Luminous Arc what it was, alongside a gorgeous presentation and, probably, the tightest gameplay in the series.

 The story pits you in the role of Alto, a mysterious, amnesiac, teen who was taken in by Lissete's family in the town of Mithra. After coming in contact with Hilda, the Witch of Ruin, and suffering the entire town of Mithra turned to crystal and Lissete awakening as a witch, Alto and Lissete join the 9th Regiment Knights in order to restore Mithra and stop Hilda. The story is pretty generic for anime standards, characters follow many different anime tropes and.... and I felt the story was the game's weakest front, easily. It also borrows a lot of ideas, themes and even character designs from Luminous Arc 2, albeit anime-fied as much as they could, so you'd be forgiven for thinking that this was a remake of sorts. There's little character development or 'shocking twists', you'll see everything coming a mile away. They also deal with certain issues in very anime ways, like instantly forgiving a murderous psychopath who constantly talked about enjoying killing people, but hey, defeat equals friendship in the world of Anime. On the flip side, the game sports gorgeous graphics, and a phenomenal soundtrack.
 The game is divided into ten chapters, and each chapter has two types of phases: Mission and Free Time. During mission phases you can engage in free battles or go to your next destination, while Free Time allows you to talk with your party members and increase their affinity, which unlocks new skills. I'm not entirely satisfied with how it plays out, y'see, Free Time phases are divided into three 'sets', and each set has a different selection of characters for you to pick, so you'll only be able to speak with up to three characters. The problem lies with the fact that you have to 'sacrifice' free time with some characters in order to speak with others. I don't know why they went about it this way, but it's restrictive, and it's a bummer not being able to upgrade mainstays in your party because they share a lot with other party members.

 Speaking of party members, the final party won't be finished 'till Chapter 9, which means that you'll barely get to play with some party members. New Game+ doesn't let you keep your characters either, which is rather disappointing. Especially because all 15 characters have very different roles and styles, Unlike other Strategy RPGs, I found myself experimenting with different party set ups depending on the battle, since some characters were better suited under certain circumstances, which is a huge plus. There's also a certain degree of customization, as you can equip orbs, which confer different abilities, onto every characters' weapons.
 The game plays like most turn-based strategy RPGs. Depending on the units speed is when you, or the enemy, gets to move. During your turn you can move around the environment, which you need to keep in mind, as different characters have different ranges, or even movement types. Most characters will get a reduced walking range when standing on water, while some will float over it, some units can't climb certain heights and others simply teleport ignoring the different terrains or heights. Attacking, either normally or with Special Attacks, must also be planned out, since hitting from the side rises the accuracy, and hitting from the back rises accuracy and increases the damage dealt, plus, special attacks have different Area of Effect, so you have to be careful unless you want to incur in friendly fire! Unique to this game is the Song Gauge. Dealing or receiving damage will fill the 5-level gauge, which can only be used by Witch-type characters and Alto. Witches can use 1 or 2 bars to cast powerful spells, while Alto can use a special ability on a Witch, at the cost of 4-5 bars, in order to cast spells that affect the entire board.

 As cutesy as the game looks, it can get relatively challenging, the last stages in particular are downright brutal. If you know what you are doing, their are certain strategies that can make short work of the bosses, but they rely on you knowing which character's affinity to raise. Grinding free battles for experience points and levels is a fruitless exercise, as there's a rather harsh experience gain penalty on enemies even one level lower than you, a penalty which is removed in New Game Plus. There's a few 'bonus' free battles that offer higher level enemies, but they cost play coins, so I skipped them. I'm not sure if I was just unlucky, but it felt as if any attack with less than 96% accuracy would miss most of the time. I understand that 80-95% chance of hitting means that there's a slight chance of missing, but I missed most of the time. As a matter of fact, I made a suspend save before launching an 80% accuracy attack, and I missed 5 times out of 6. 80% accuracy should mean that it should hit around 4 times out of 6, not 1 out of 6!! Maybe the game just hated me.
 Stella Glow is a neat little game. that sadly fell on the pitfall of being too anime. Neither the story nor the characters have shred of originality to them, there's not as single original character trait, and not a single surprise lying in wait for savvy players. Luckily, as far as gameplay goes, the game is a knockout, battles can take between 30 minutes to an hour, but it doesn't feel that long since they are so much fun. The game is a fitting end to the Luminous Arc series, it may not carry its name, but it certainly possesses its soul.
 8.0 out of 10

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Now Playing: One Piece - Pirate Warriors 3

 What Ken's Rage 2 should've been.
 Unlike other shonen manga/anime properties, like Dragon Ball, Bleach or Naruto, One Piece's videogame record has been pretty decent. There were a few average games like Unlimited World Red or Gear Spirit, but you also had the fantastic Grand Battle series, and the underrated Unlimited Cruise. For whatever reason, I hadn't had the chance to dabble into the Pirate Warriors franchise yet, and boy am I pleasantly surprised.

 Firstly, aesthetically, the game is beautiful and runs at least as well as Dynasty Warriors 8. Character Models are gorgeous and animate beautifully, and the bright, colorful direction they went suits the world of One Piece to a tee and makes it a very appealing game.

 As far as gameplay goes, it's rather fun, as Dynasty Warriors games tend to be, although it seems like the character movesets are rather... small? Maybe I need to level them up a bit more(I've cleared the entire first episode already, and Zoro hit level 15) in order to unlock more moves? Hopefully. I mean, I can do with the amount of moves given, but I think Samurai Warriors 4 spoiled me a bit.

 The last thing I think is worth mentioning, and which I find rather interesting, is that this game feels a lot like Ken's Rage 2, if they had gotten it right. The Story Mode is filled with those nasty manga panel-like cutscenes, but, BUT, for whatever reason, this time they look GOOD. I think the cartoony art-direction makes it avoid the 'Garry's Incident'... incidental feel the realistic looking models from Ken's Rage 2 produced, plus, this time around I can press X as soon as I've read the dialogue and get right into the next line. It doesn't waste my time. And even then, I think in these... 8-9 stages, I've already seen more cutscenes than in the entirety of Ken's Rage 2, and I wish I was kidding about that. Killing many enemies with your Musou Attacks freezes the screen for a few seconds just as it would happen in Ken's Rage 1, which they removed in 2, something I felt subtracted to the whole experience. Funnily enough, these freeze-frames don't really fit the world of One Piece as it did Hokuto no Ken, but man is it satisfying seeing all the havoc you just caused!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Review #338: Hot Pixel

 And on this episode of 'Do not judge a game by its cover' we've got...
 One of the, I think best games on the Gameboy Advance is Warioware Inc., a game which was all about random, simple minigames strung together one after the other. While the premise wasn't original, it was the first time a game like that hit mainstream, and it was a hit. Hot Pixel aims to replicate that success on Sony's first handheld, to a mixed success.

 So, what is the game about? At its most basic, you are given three lives, and minigames will be thrown your way. You'll have to figure out what to do out of a single sentence, like 'Eat Pink', or 'Dodge', and you have to fulfill it under a time limit. Failing a minigame will cost you a life and instantly throw you into another minigame, while winning the game will present you with another minigame. It's simple, it's fast paced and it's a blast.

 The game has a decent variety of modes: Episodes, which are 10 and are the game's main mode, playing games in these episodes will unlock them in the other modes. Instant Action which puts you instantly into a random game playlist, there's also Playlist, where you can customize which games to play and the rules under which will you play: Dynamic or static difficulty, amount of games to win, amount of time to survive playing, etc. There's also 'Xtra Games' which consist of 9 'enhanced' versions of some of the mini games as well as an exclusive 2D shoot'em up. Lastly, there's a Multiplayer Mode, but since nobody owns a PSP anymore, I really couldn't try it.
 While the back of the game's box boasts 'over 200 games!', that's a bit of a lie. Inside the UMD there's only 130 games, the other 70+ must be downloaded from 'hotpxl.com' and get them into your memory stick via cable. And even then, there's a ton of repeated ideas between games. I can't count the number of 'Eat X' type of games, where you must collect something while avoiding another thing, the graphics may change but the gameplay remains the same. There's also a bunch of Breakout/Arkanoid clones thrown in for good measure.

 But really, the game's biggest downfall is its lack of personality. They went for an urban-hip-hop-ish direction, but it's not kept on every game, some went for simple single-pixel graphics and a few others went for an oldschool Atari-esque approach. It lacks the personality and uniformity that WarioWare minigames had, and it suffers for it. It doesn't help that most of the more urban-looking games also look relatively ugly, in contrast to the more caricaturesque games, which look much more appealing. These minigames won't be remembered by how they looked, but by how repetitive in nature they are.
 Altogether, unlocking every game will take you about an hour, and this includes multiple replays of each episode in order to find every game. You could potentially log in more time if you aim to get Silver and Gold Medals in each minigame, but you'll be rewarded with a couple of lame videos. That said, this game isn't meant to be 'finished', so to speak, but to play in different sessions to waste time, and that's where the game's strength lies. Sure, the lack of variety keeps it from being as addictive as Warioware, but the game's premise will keep you hooked for a while, guaranteed.

 I liked Hot Pixel. It leaves a lot to be desired, but there's not as many games of this kind as you'd think, so any alternative is appreciated. It lacks the staying power of Warioware, but it's still a decent game that fulfills its goal: Fast-paced mini-games at a breakneck speed.
 6.0 out of 10

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Now playing: Resident Evil 6

 Michael Bay Edition.
 I don't know why it took me so much time to get to Resident Evil 6, considering Resident Evil 4 is among my favorite games ever, and I loved Resident Evil 5, maybe I was waiting for the inevitable DLC content, that ironically ended up not existing, so I waited. And waited. And waited. But the wait is over,

 It's funny to think that this used to be a Survival Horror franchise, but it's also interesting to see how it changed, it's somewhat like Evil Dead. Evil Dead 1 was pure horror, then Evil Dead 2 became Horror with a few dark humor elements thrown into the mix, while Evil Dead 3 was mostly humor with horror elements. Well, to be honest, and as much as diehard fans refuse to admit it, Resident Evil has always put action first. Resident Evil 2 gave you enough ammo to kill everything in your way, Resident Evil 3 gave you even more ammo plus the option to craft even MORE ammo. Code Veronica was pretty generous with ammo as well, if you could find it. After Resident Evil 1, Grenade Launchers and other heavy weaponry became the norm as well, so... yeah, Resident Evil has always been about the action. Then Resident Evil 4 made it even more actiony, but it still retained the horror elements. And then Resident Evil 5 removed some of the more slower paced scenes from Resident Evil 4, the ones that set the entire horror ambiance, this time around you were put into the brunt of the action from the first moment that Chris stepped out of the jeep. Now Resident Evil 6 adds unnecessary explosions, and helicopter-crashing-into-building scenes worthy of Michael Bay. This time around. the focus is easily on the action, which is not to say that horror has been entirely been done away with, I've been playing Chris' campaign, and I've hurt for ammo, although melee is relatively effective, and the monster designs are pretty gruesome, so, y'know, the horror elements are there, but they take a backseat to the action.

 Anyways, what I liked and didn't like:

 Like:
- Monster design is neat.
- Leon's design. Come on, vests look badass.
- Playing in co-op is always a plus. Always.
- The controls are smooth, I liked all the options, like side or backstepping to the ground, or rolling around while aiming. I also like the melee combat, just mashing R1 produces attacks, which are tied to an stamina bar.

 Didn't like:
- The split screen wastes a lot of screen. It's not unplayable, but it needs some time getting used to.
- I decided to play in the game's vanilla state, and I can see why so many people complained about the camera being too zoomed in, but I didn't really notice it in Split-screen, only when I tried Mercs in single player did it bother me.
- The combat system. I know that I said that I liked it, and I do, but I sorta miss the 'shoot at specific body parts to trigger specific melee attacks' system.
- The A.I. is laughable. I ran across enemies staring at empty air, or running towards walls. It was a bit pathetic to be honest.
- QTEs, QTEs everywhere, all the time, like, come one, they are no fun. I'm tired of mashing buttons or pressing the correct button at the correct time thingies, do 'casual gamers' like these? Because, seeing how hard Capcom tried to appeal to the CoD crowd, this had to be done in order to appeal to them. Regardless, QTEs are bad, and there are a lot of them in here.


 As a whole, I'm pleased with the game.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Review #337: The Legend of Legacy

 If you are tired of handholding in videogames, this is your game.
 There's something that should be known; The Legend of Legacy is the successor to the old 'SaGa' series of JRPG games, that has spanned quite a few entries throughout the years. It seems like they decided to stick close to their guns, which translates into a game the embraces its Nintendo-hard roots, but without rewarding the players with anything of worth.

 The game's story is that there is none. Yes, this is a JRPG with almost no story at all. At the outset you pick a main character from a selection of seven, while they all have more or less the same stats, they have individual weapon and elemental proficiency, hidden away from the players. Regardless, once you pick your hero, you are treated to a seconds-long introduction of their 'quest', and then you are brought into the land of Avalon alongside two other characters. Every now and then, your three characters will spout lines regarding their individual quest, but they don't matter in the overall scheme of things. There's no character development, and the individual stories are inconsequential to the game, you might even forget that each character has a personal goal. If you play JRPGs for the characters or the story, this is not your game.
 The first thing that you will learn, is that the game will explain as little possible as it can. For instance, each weapon type has a ridiculously long set of attacks, and while you do get 'Attack 31' or 'Attack 20', and maybe a short description that maybe tells you, albeit not clearly, if it will also inflict an status effect or a debuff, you won't be told what's the difference between two attacks with the same attack power, and seemingly, equal properties. You also won't be told how the elemental contracts work, you sorta have to figure it out by yourself. As you play the game, you'll obtain three different 'Singing stones', which are crucial to your success. Equipping a character with these will allow him or her to grant either Water, Wind or Fire 'contracts' to the party, which can be taken away by the enemy, or you can take it away from them by casting it again. Being under a contract provides a ton of benefits, either for your party or the enemy, and the game won't tell you what they are, besides letting you cast the magic associated to the contract. For instance, Water will half water damage and grant you a healing buff per turn. Contracts are VERY important, but the game wants you to figure it out by yourself. And while battles are turn based, turns are a bit random as well, since while speed(The 'support' stat) does play a factor in your turn, luck also takes part in the equation.

 Let me digress for a bit, nowadays people complain all the time about how games handhold players all the time, and it wasn't like that back then, yadda yadda. It's true, to an extent, since some games assume its players are idiots, however, games nowadays are ten times as complex as they were back in the day. Compare Final Fantasy 1's rudimentary mechanics to the ton of different systems that run in THIS game. Heck, even the SNES JRPGs were simpler than any RPG during the PS1 era and after. Plus, players seem to forget that they had Nintendo Power and the Nintendo line to aid them back in the day. There's a difference between handholding and telling you how the game works.
 Back to Legend of Legacy and how it works, it's a mess, but a mess that will appeal to fans of the SaGa games. Y'see, almost everything in this game is random, and I hate it. The first thing that you should know, is that in this game level ups are random, and you level up individual stats. After a fight you may get an HP level up. Or maybe an Attack level up. Using skills in battle have the random chance to 'awaken' new skills for that weapon or magic type. Awakenings are particularly hilarious, 'cause you may try to cast a healing spell, but you might awaken 'Heal poison', so in that turn you will attempt to heal poison instead of healing, and it may get you killed. Does that sound fun to you? Individual skills also level up, but these level up the more that you use them, which actually makes sense. Oh, and the amounts of health and SP that you may get from random level ups is, well, random. Does this sound like any kind of fun to anyone? It's annoying. Particularly because the game expects you to grind. You can get by just by killing any enemy that you come across, but bonus bosses, and the last boss to an extent, expect you to have relatively high stats in order to deal with their randomness. They may or may not cast their best attacks twice or thrice in a row. I mentioned how turns are a bit random, but you can level up your 'support' stat to increase your chances to go first. Although, truthfully, it's better if your characters are slow, since the last boss loves to take the water contract from you, and if the turn ends with the contract in his possession, he'll heal for 999 damage, so let him take the contract, and then use your slow character to take the contract away from him.

 And by the by, this ties into your party. Y'see, you are forced to finish the first dungeon with your starting party, but afterwards you'll be able to recruit the remaining four characters if you find them in the main town. The thing is, why should you alter your party, since, the guys you've been using have already accumulated random power ups to their stats and skills? Why handicap yourself? And while harder enemies have more chances to reward you with your random level ups, these characters are still behind your initial characters, and always will be. Another point of contention are the equipment pieces. The weapons and armor sold at the shop are more often than not crap, if you want anything worth a damn it's either: Pray to the RNG and hope good equipment drops from enemies, or pay for ships to sail for items. What items these ships you hire return with are, you guessed it, RANDOM, and to add insult to injury, you must wait between 1 to 5 hours for the ship to return with the spoils. Does anyone think this is fun? Does anyone think that good equipment being so reliant on luck is fun? What?! And even better, if you decide to buy from the shop, you can't compare the items with your currently equipped ones. Pure genius.
 A lot of people seem to praise this game for its 'strategic battles', but that's a lie, all the 'strategy' you need is to keep the Wind and Water contract on your side, have at least one tank protecting the entire party, and have two DPS characters doing the damage, and swapping healing or protecting duties when needed. To be fair, some of the bonus bosses do require a tiny bit more thought process, since it's better to spam the Wind Contract and keep the Battle Field Green in order to reduce the damage from their strongest attacks. As for normal enemies, you'll also want the Water and Wind contract on your side, as well as a tank protecting the party, until you are strong enough to take them down easily. It's funny, because random encounters can be harder than some bosses, since the RNG can screw you up and have three strong enemies spam their party-wide attacks and cream you on the spot. To be fair, the 'Run Away' function works 100% of the time, but can't be used on bosses or on a few surprise encounters, but it has two penalties: A) All enemies respawn and B) You are taken to the entrance of the dungeon. Where's the strategy if you will always need a tank, always need a healer and always need a DPS? Take Etrians Odyssey, for example, in which you can have fun making different parties, with different strategies to take down different monsters. That's strategic. This is restrictive. And random. There's also different 'formation stances', but stances can only be gained by replaying dungeons you've already cleared(After selling their maps). I don't normally retread old ground, but by the time I found this out, I didn't care, stances be damned. Plus, the NPCs that populate the map each time you re-enter it are random, and the stances they can give you are random. This game is a blast.

 Another thing worth mentioning is how the HP system works. After each battle you win, or run away from, your health is fully restored, but your SP will not. If a character 'dies' in battle, he or she will take Red Damage, and if he or she is hit while 'dead', it will incur in more Red Damage. Red Damage affects your maximum health, so once the battle is over, or if you revive them, they'll have a lower health cap. This is mended by resting at the inn, or by using some rare healing items, which can only be used outside of battle. To be honest, I thought the red damage thingie was kinda smart, but on the last dungeons, obstacles on the environments will directly deal red damage to you, which isn't very fun. Once enemies stop granting random level ups at a steady pace, you might want to avoid enemies, but there's so many enemies that it's easy to fall to these red damage traps trying to avoid them. If your entire party dies, or if one character's max HP drops to 0, it's Game Over.
 Oh, the Game Over screen... The most important function in the game, is the Quick Save option, which, apparently, WASN'T FOUND IN THE ORIGINAL JAPANESE RELEASE. This turns this unplayable catastrophe into something playable. Y'see, originally, you could only save at the main town, and dying meant you lost absolutely everything. While the 'Run Away' option is very lenient, you have to remember that the game is FILLED with unexpected boss fights. Wandering too far to a seemingly inconspicuous corner might just trigger a boss fight you aren't ready for. A boss fight you can't run away from. Imagine playing for forty minutes, forty minutes of random level ups, and then losing EVERYTHING because there was no way for you to know that there was a boss fight coming. And the only thing you learnt from all those 40 minutes was 'I shouldn't have gone to that corner'. It wastes your time with absolutely no reward. At least in games like Monster Hunter you gain real experience, you learn how to defeat the enemies. There's no know-how like that to be learned here. And this is where the Quick Save option comes into play, you can save anywhere, while not in a battle, anytime, at no cost whatsoever. Quick save made this unbearable game into a decent one. I made it a habit to save after I got any kind of random level up I cared for, since dying after playing with no level ups meant another chance to get random level ups.

 Another retro-styled issue with the game is how it progresses. Usually, you have to buy a map from the shop, and then you can enter a new area, but later down the line you'll be able to find maps, instead of buying them, by finding exits on previously explored maps. You are incited to explore ever nook and cranny, since you'll chart a map on the lower screen, which can then be sold for money. What makes it 'retro' is that there's more than a couple of times of  'WHAT DO I DO NOW!??!?!' For instance, after getting the Shadow Core, nothing in the game, not even the ever-useful king who repeats 'go explore something!', will tell you that you need to go back to the Ship Graveyard and travel back to where you fought the boss. There's not a single hint guiding you towards this place. I'd rather be spoonfed where to go next than this random, obscure crap.
 Still, despite all my complaining, despite all the baffling random design choices, when the game is at its best, it's a ton of fun. When you are exploring maps for the first time, charting the map, it's fun, the game looks great, and while your mileage may vary on the art decision to have objects, like trees or rocks 'pop up' as you come close to them, the graphics are beautiful, even if a bit underwhelming for what the 3DS can do. The combat too can be fun, once you finally figure out how the contracts work, once you start experimenting with the different attacks, and leveling up your individual attacks, or earning new attacks, can be fun. Can be fun, because when you go for hours on end without gaining new attacks, or getting into the late game without enemy group-wide attacks because the game didn't deem you lucky enough isn't all that fun. The late game is a bit tedious as well, since barring some armored-insectoid bosses in mook clothing, random battles and boss battles can take a bit of time to get through. Some of the boss battles can potentially take up to an hour, an hour of repetitive, unrewarding combat. And hopefully the RNG decides not to screw you over with an Awakening during an action you desperately needed or the boss decides to repeat its best attack.

 In conclusion, The Legend of Legacy is a game that will appeal to a very niche crowd, and that very niche crowd only. It has a very unforgiving first part, when you are figuring out things on your own, a great midpoint, when you finally know what you are doing and battles are fair, and a very tedious endgame where you are trudging through long enemy encounters and somewhat unfair boss fights. Unless you are part of the very small niche that this game appeals to, this game isn't even worth a try.
5.0 out of 10

Friday, July 15, 2016

Review #336: Silent Hill 2

 Silent Hill is the world's best therapy course ever.
 Silent Hill 2 is known as one of the best, if not the best Survival Horror game ever made, it's undeniably one of the most important entries in the genre nonetheless. The game is over 15 years old, and everyone and their grandmothers know the big plot twist by now, and even then... it feels as if it hasn't aged one bit.

 The story follows James Sunderland, who receives a letter from his diseased  wife, telling him to meet her at their 'special place' in Silent Hill. On his trek through the misty, and apparently abandoned, sans monsters, town, James will come across a few individuals who have issues of their own. It's hard to delve into why the story is so good without entering spoiler territory, but there was a lot of detail put into James interactions with these characters, heck, into his interactions with the ways in which he must proceed, that mirrors James psychological state and personality. A lot of care went into designing the monsters and environments of the first four Silent Hill games, heck, even in Silent Hill 0rigins, but this one shines the most in this regard. It's nothing short of awe-inspiring. The voice acting could be considered bad, but once you learn more about these characters, you'll see that it fits them perfectly.
 The game progression can be somewhat divided into two 'phases', firstly you explore the Town of Silent Hill, while using a map that shows you where you should go, but you are free to explore, and you should. While the town is infested with monsters, it's also filled with supplies for you to find, so going out of your way to explore every street and locale pays off in the end. Once you are done exploring and decide to go to your objective, you'll initiate the 'second phase', which is exploring the building of interest. While avoiding enemies on the street is relatively simple, buildings offer dark environments, with stretch corridors, and corners that may hide enemies, alongside a plethora of riddles and puzzles to solve. And that's the basic flow of the game, you 'clear' your objective, and it's back to town for more exploring before going towards your next objective, etc.

 Before starting the game, there's two difficulties to select: Combat and Puzzle. I played the game on the Normal difficulty, for both of them, and I found the 'combat' to be way too easy. I had healing items and hundreds upon hundreds of bullets to spare. I had over 20 healing medikits that I never even touched, heck, I didn't even used the health ampoules, I simply relied on the health drinks and I even had a few of those to spare. The Riddles, however, kinda kicked my butt. I'm not gonna lie, some of those stumped me and I had to go online to get some help.
 Controls are what you'd expect from the genre, tank-controls(Although you can change this on the options menu) and clunky and slow combat. There's a strafing feature, but the couple times that I tried to use it ended up with me taking damage, so I just forgot about it altogether. One major mechanic is the use of the flashlight, without it, James can't interact with some objects, or even pick up some items, since he can't seem them(Even if you, the player, can). But having the flashlight on will also alert enemies of your presence. It's an interesting concept, since you can sneak past some enemies by turning off the flashlight, but you won't be able to use the map in the dark, or even open some doors.

 I played the vanilla PS2 version of Silent Hill 2, but it's missing some content that was added into the Xbox and PC port, and the PS2 Greatest Hits rerelease down the line. What it changes, it adds a new prologue where you play as one of the secondary characters, which lasts between one and two hours, adds a new ending, albeit a 'joke ending', for a total of six, as well as making enemies hit harder. Honestly, I don't think the 'Born from a Wish' prologue nor the joke ending are worth it, but if you can get more content at the same price, why not? Plus, the game lasts about 5:30 hours, probably less if you know what you are doing, so having more stuff to do might not be an unwelcome addition.

 While Silent Hill 4 remains my favorite, the amount of care and detail that went into this game's story is absolutely incredible. The story and characters are memorable, and I'll admit that the game managed to make me jump a couple of times. Silent Hill 2 is a fantastic game, and deserves all the praise it gets.
 8.5 out of 10

Monday, July 11, 2016

Now Playing: The Legend of Legacy

 It really is as bad as they say.
 Wow, this game... where, nay, what to start with?

 I know, what's the one thing I absolutely abhor in RPGs? Randomness. It's what ruined Crisis Core for me. Well, 'unlocking' skills? Random. Leveling up? Random. And you don't level up, you level up stats. Individually. Randomly. I spent like 30 minutes having my party members leveling their Attack and HP, while my main character got nothing, I was actually starting to worry if the main character would get anything. This mechanic is as dumb as it sounds.

 Oh, and there are no savespots outside of town, so if you die, you lose everything. I spent 20-30 minutes grinding, actually having some semblance of fun, when I accidentally triggered a boss fight. Turns out just because it's on the starting area doesn't mean you can tackle him, because he destroyed my entire party in one turn, and I lost aaaalll those random level ups. You've no idea how much fun that is. At least now I get to spend another 30 minutes grinding, hoping to unlock the skills I unlocked and getting my stats back. Randomly. Explain to me how did anybody think this was any kind of fun?

 Quest 64, often ragged upon and treated like a 'bad game', a game that I actually enjoy, got this right. You want more HP? Get hit, even if on purpose. Want more MP? Use magic. Want more strength? Hit the enemies with your staff. You see, whatever you wanted to strengthen, you had to use. It made sense, even if some people found it tedious. This system is tedious and doesn't make any sense, and the randomness makes it stupid and annoying. And no save spots on a dungeon? Seriously? Want to have challenging bosses on early areas? Fair enough, but at least give me a chance to save, at least midway through the dungeon, give me something, dammit. Let's compare this with a modern challenging game, Dark Souls. If you die, you are given the option to get what you lost. There's also checkpoints spread throughout, it's punishing but rewarding at the same time. This game is only punishing, with the added 'random' factor as the cherry on top.

 And there's also not enough information, how is 'Cheap shot' stronger than 'Wild Swing'? Both attacks claim to have an attack power of '2', except that one of them has a higher 'support', whatever that is, than the other.

 And what's the point of having formations if I will have to abuse 'protect' most of the time? Enemies deal obscene amounts of damage, so you need somebody to tank it with guard. Take another challenging game, Etrian's Odyssey.
A) Bosses can be seen on the map, so it's up to you if you want to avoid them, or risk trying to avoid them. This applies to FOEs, but even bosses are clearly marked on the map. So even though
B) You can only save on the town, you are given enough information as if to decide if you want to risk your progress or not. And even if a FOE catches you off-guard, unless your back is against the wall, you can try to escape from the battle.
C) You level up through experience, and upon level up, YOU, the player, decide what to upgrade. There's no randomness, you can have proper character builds deviced by yourself. And, tied to this, we have
D) Character classes, where even the Paladin, the class specialized on tanking, shines. You don't need to tank every battle, because not every enemy is obscenely strong. Formations have more freedom, there's more tactics to be had than 'Have your tank guard the other two, and the other two either attack or heal'.

 See? Those are retro-styled games, but taking into account modern sensibilities. This game is stuck in the past just because. Things were acceptable back then because the standards were different, because we didn't know how good it could get.

 The Legend of Legacy is absolutely terrible. The faux difficulty I could live without if only the level ups weren't random. If I knew that replaying the 30 minutes I lost would get me the same results, I wouldn't half as much. But for all I know, I could spend upwards of an hour without getting as much HP or Attack as I managed, ENTIRELY THROUGH LUCK,  on my main character. This is punishing for all the wrong reasons. The game is terrible, if you want a retro-styled, nintendo-hard RPG, get Etrian's Odyssey. Get The Dark Spire. Get anything but Legend of Legacy.

Mid-Year wrap up

 Sometimes, a dude just wants to write, but he has nothing readily available for him to write about, in which case, why not resort to what I've been doing the past six months? What lingers on my mind, what did I like, what did I hate, why was The Evil Within so good?

  It's incredible just how well Chrono Trigger has aged. It truly was a 'Dream Team' that was brought together to work on this game. While the characters aren't particularly deep, they are memorable, the plot is memorable, and the music, man, oh man, the music! I liked the game a lot before replaying it, but after the fact, I realized that I loved it.
  I remember being piqued by curiosity regarding Danganronpa, I wanted to invest on the entire franchise, but I wasn't too sure, so I opted to play D1 first and then see where it goes. It was fantastic. I mean, I think the gameplay was too convoluted to be any fun, and the sequel got even worse in this regard, but the story was fantastic. It wasn't perfect by any means, but it was engaging and kept me hooked until I finally finished it.
  Devil May Cry 4 is, in a lot of ways, what I would've expected of a HD successor to a game franchise. It was, when stripped to the bone, DMC 3 but prettier. However, the fell short on some fronts. Namely, playing as both Dante and Nero feels fantastic, heck, I'd say that at times it feels even better than DMC 3. But that's as far as the mechanics are concerned, the level design was.... It had some slow-paced sections that really brought the game down, like play with the razor top-spins in the ice palace, or the absolutely terrible dice sections. And, y'know what? I didn't really mind having to play both levels twice, but, BUT what I did mind was how little game was for either Nero and Dante. Sure, it's a blast to play, but there's so little to play in! If we could've at least played both versions of each level with both characters, then at least it would've given us more to play with. It's a shame really.
  DMC 1 has aged very, very gracefully, I think I wasn't able to appreciate it back in the day, as I don't remember caring too much for it. DMC 2 on the other hand, for whatever reason, I loved it... nowadays, while I wouldn't go as far as to call it terrible, as most people do, it was an undeniable step back for the franchise. DMC 3 however, it's so flippin' good. The combo system is phenomenal, pummeling on enemies feels fantastic and there's a lot of different weapons to play with, there's a ton of costumes to unlock, and then there's Vergil who comes equipped with his own style. And unlike DMC 4, you can play the entire game as both characters, and sure, Vergil doesn't get his own story or exclusive levels, but he doesn't need them, his own particular style is all he needs to offer a different experience from Dante.
  Cyber Sleuth was a pleasant surprise. I really liked how much it felt like a Shin Megami Tensei game, since I love that franchise. I've always felt that Digimon had better monster designs than Pokemon, but worse games, well, Cyber Sleuth manages to put Pokemon Y/X/OR/AS to shame, but I remain ever hopeful for Sun and Moon, since they've already had time to play with the 3DS' specs. But I digress, I loved Cyber Sleuth, but they reaaaaaaaaally need to tone down the grinding.
 DmC never had a chance. Never. Most gamers are very abhorrent to change, which is a shame. Look at Marvel and DC comics, they never manage to leave their status quo because of this. Sure, Doc. Ock might take over Peter's body, but you know that it's gonna revert back to Peter, because that's what the mainstream knows, and that's the only audience that they care about. 'Oh noes, the new Iron Man is a black girl!' Well, I'd care if only I didn't know that Tony will be back as Iron Man eventually, and this new lass will be given a new codename. Man, Marvel and DC comics suck. But I digress, and it wouldn't be an original of mine if I didn't, cause that's, like, my staple. And there I go again.
 Anyways, as soon as the new Dante was revealed, the game lost any chance of ever being successful. 'Fans' may argue that it's the 'braindead combat' that turned them away, but I'd argue that most people had already passed their judgment based on Dante's look alone. Fact: Old Dante was a bigger prick than New Dante, at least New Dante didn't get any innocents killed. Fact: The new game is easier than previous games. But it doesn't mean it's bad, 'easy games' are not bad by default, as if being 'easy' is a detriment to a game. And even then, there's multiple unlockable difficulties, like one-hit kills, if you really need to challenge yourself. And need I remind you that the only reason vanilla DMC3 was hard was because of Capcom USA thought it smart to turn 'Normal' into 'Hard'?
 But you can argue time and time again, it won't make a change, 'fans' hate this game, and there's nothing anyone can do about it. And, honestly, it's their loss.
 Megaman Powere Up and Megaman Maverick Hunter X were two amazing remakes. They aren't exact 1:1 remakes with the previous games, although level design was kept relatively faithful, you can tell that the 'physics' aren't the same. Regardless, most of the differences of this ilk are inconsequential to the enjoyment of either game, and in the case of Megaman 1, it makes it even better, damn, Megaman would skate all over the place on his first outing!
 But Megaman X was downright amazing, and Maverick Hunter X follows suit, adding a ton of extras to make the deal even sweeter. Not only do you get a fully animated Ova, Day of Sigma, which I will fully admit to not caring in the slightest about, but you also get Vice as a playable character. Vice's game is really good once it gets going. You see, when you start playing with Vice, he sucks. He is fragile, he has little firepower and the stages feel harder. Heck, I even died on the introduction stage, and I know I wasn't the only one. I almost quit since I couldn't get through Chill Penguin's stage, it was that hard. But I soldiered on, and it turns out that the more you play, the stronger Vice gets, and the more weapons he gets. By the end of the game, Vice is more versatile than X could ever become, and packs firepower to spare. It's so rewarding going from zero to, erm, villain.
 I'm done singing Megaman X's praises, but then there's X2, which managed to be almost as good as the original. As a matter of fact, I think that people who play X2 before X1 will like X2 the better. And after you are done with X2, there's X3, which... isn't quite as good, but it's still a great game on its own right. And then there's Megaman X4, which was all sorts of fantastic, featuring an entirely new, gorgeous spriteset and some of the best bosses Megaman X has ever had. And then you can jump right into X5 and... it really went down hill, didn't it? But at least it's a decent game. You want more? X6 is waiting for you!.... And X6 sucks. It has terrible level design, with a couple of obstacles that are unwinnable by design, or unless you managed to get the proper equipment, which can be lost forever. It features some of the laziest spritework yet seen in the franchise, joined by the worst bosses in the series.
 But at the end of the day, you got four fantastic games, a decent one and only one stinker, that's a knockout on my book!
  Extreme VS Force, you disappointing little game you. Gundam VS Gundam Final Plus on the PSP is one of the finest games you can get on that console, and Extreme VS is one of my favorite games ever. Now, imagine being able to take Extreme VS on the go with me, how amazing would that be? Particularly since these games lend themselves to handhelds pretty well.
 The initial release was a total clunker. You had about a third of the total amount of suits available on Full Boost on the PS3, and only one mode, 'Extreme Force', which while relatively decent, showed that the engine really didn't lend itself to that type of game. And, compared to the previous outing on the PSP, had less characters, less stages and less modes. Absolutely unacceptable. Subsequent patches had added a few more mobile suits, and finally a VS mode, but I think it was a little bit too late. And, while I can now acknowledge it as a great game, I haven't played it as much as I thought I would. While we have over 40 suits now, it still feels bitter when you think that you could be playing with even more characters on the console version.
 Back when I was younger, I decided that I didn't like Survival Horror, but I had at least dabbled into Resident Evil 1 and 3, and much later Code Veronica. Regardless, even though I hadn't played REvil 2, I still wanted to try it out, for whatever masochistic reason, and had already decided that Leon and Claire were my favorite characters of the franchise.
 Well, I finally got to play Resident Evil 2 this year, and it was great. I still like Leon and Claire the best, but at least now I have reasons to do so besides 'they look cool'. The movement is very clunky 'n all, but I really like it, dunno why. Maybe, maybe, eventually, this year, I might try my hands at Resident Evil 1 again, and get Resident Evil 3. Maybe.
 The Evil Within is still my runner for my favorite game of the year, this year. So far, since I discovered that I like survival horror, I prefer Resident Evil's gameplay(Both classic and modern), but prefer Silent Hill's story and monster design. Resident Evil games are fun to play, but Silent Hill games are fun to play through.
 Now, mix Silent Hill's psychological horror with the more organic enemy designs with Resident Evil's now trademark over the shoulder camera and you get The Evil Within. And I love it to bits. Interestingly, the other day I was thinking about it, I couldn't remember anything about the main characters, I didn't even remember that Sebastian was called Sebastian, which shows just how unremarkable they were. But the set pieces? The environments? The monsters? Those I remember very, very clearly. That moment when you finally get through the gate during the early parts of the game, and very organically, you realize that you've awoken dozens of enemies, and by that part it's impossible to have much ammo, so you instinctively choose to run. 10 outta 10 moment right there. What about the set piece with the rotating razor in the middle? I remember dying multiple times there, but it was fun nonetheless. There's also the caves, when you meet locker-head, and he kills himself in order to respawn near you. Awesome. By the end of the game, the horror elements kinda got a bit diluted and it turned into an action game featuring monsters, but it made sense, since the entire city had gone to hell, and now it was killed or be killed..
 The Evil Within is a top notch game, I've been contemplating replaying it every now and then, but then I remind myself of my backlog and how I should be making some progress on those games instead. Regardless, The Evil Within is, so far, my favorite game I've played this year.