Thursday, August 17, 2017

Review #455: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2(DS)

 Well... it's an interesting experiment to say the least!
 While far from technical marvels, the Ultimate Alliance saga wasn't something I'd have thought a good fit for the Nintendo DS, yet Activision likes the smell of money and having had one of the largest installbases for a videogame console during its era, porting the game to the DS was a no-brainer. The end result is lackluster... but it's also interesting how they managed to cram the brunt of the game into a tiny DS cart.

 Ultimate Alliance 2 loosely follows the Civil War storyline from the comics, but only for a little while before introducing Nanites and it's zombie-like disease which forces heroes, villains, allies and enemies to work together and stop the infestation. The DS' version of the plot is very flimsy and little time and attention is spent treading each story thread. Heck, one of the home console version's selling points was that each path offered exclusive characters and stages, but in the DS version there's only one unique mission for each path and by the end of the game you'll have the full 15-character roster at your disposal... probably a consequence of having a single save-file and no New Game+. The DS version's noteworthy for being the only one to have the Sentry and She-Hulk as playable characters.
 The game deserves praise for keeping in-tact so much about the console game. You still play as a four-man team of your choosing and go from dungeon to dungeon beating enemies for experience points. The entire control scheme is kept intact: Weak and Strong attacks, a grab attack and the jump all done with the face buttons, press L to block and hold R and press face buttons for the four different abilities. Whereas the console game had four different attack abilities, in the DS version there're 3 attacks and 1 buff. As you'd expect, defeating enemies earns you experience which eventually lets your characters level up. With each level up you earn a single ability point to spend enhancing your four active skills or the two passive skills. Auto-assigning ability points is also set on by default. which sucks so bad, but it can be turned off. Sadly, Equipment/Boosts are gone entirely, so there's no way to customize your four man-squad.

 But not everything's perfect, as you'd expect having your four-man team on-screen is pretty taxing on the poor DS, and once enemies get into the picture... let's just say that the framerate is pretty bad, you'll play the entire game in sub-20 FPS. Since the DS has no analog of any kind, there's no way to turn the camera around, which you can get used to, but it's still pretty sub-optimal. There's also the fact that there's no mini-map of any sort, and while you can access the map by pressing select, it's pretty laggy. Navigation could've been even more annoying, but the devs took this shortcomings in mind, so levels are pretty straightforward, which has the inevitable result of making stages feel bland and repetitive.
 Beating enemies also makes them drop health and mana orbs, just as in previous games, but new, yellow blobs as well that serves to charge a new five-star gauge. You can use this gauge to perform 'fusion attacks'(Which look so bad and choppy on the DS that you don't even know what's going on, but it deals a lot of damage so who cares!) or revive fallen characters. The AI is pretty bad, one too many times I found them using their powers and wasting mana on thin air, and they seem to have trouble following you through doorways. The game's difficulty is pretty spotty as well, this one time I entered a double boss battle and was destroyed in a few seconds flat, tried again and I managed to defeat the same two bosses very easily. Regardless, expect to be reviving allies pretty often, either due to their own idiocy or because the game just decided to become hard for no reason whatsoever.

 Being a DS game, the developers introduced a few tap minigames. The most annoying one being the bomb disarm/computer hacking one, which the game doesn't properly explain how to perform. I had to look online for an explanation, and was happy to find out that I wasn't the only one suffering through the first one. And some bosses will have you tapping the screen too, without any warning beforehand, which is really dumb since I have to pop-out the stylus at a moment's notice. Or use my fat finger, which isn't always precise enough.
 While Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 on the DS isn't very good, I can't help but appreciate how well they managed to translate everything to inferior hardware. A few kinks needed addressing, making the AI allies less dumb, maybe allowing you to move the camera around by holding the L button, like the PSP did, allowing for more nuanced level design, maybe having a mini-map on the lower screen instead of having a needless HUD, and removing the touch-screen mini-games, at leas the ones involving bosses. I mean, the inferior hardware pretty much makes a direct translation impossible, but a lot more could've been done to polish this game.
 4.0 out of 10

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Now Playing: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2(DS)

 You didn't think I'd skip MUA 2, did ya?
 But there's a small caveat... it's the DS version I'll be looking at. Y'see, I've owned MUA 2 on PS3 for a while now and I don't really need to play it again, and since I already remembered MUA 2 as a step down from the first game, I didn't really want to delve into the subpar PS2 version so, instead, I'll be giving MUA 2 on the DS a look.

 Well, I'm midway throughout the first Doom level, and while I like how it already feels like an adaptation of the console game, since they even kept the prologue, the game's lacking in a few key areas. There's no way to move the camera around, which sucks, and there's no mini-map on a game that desperately need one. The framerate is garbage.

 But, BUT I will give kudos to the developers for managing to port the game into such a tiny, weak console. It's a rather impressive feat, even if the end result is a bit meh.

Review #454: Marvel Ultimate Alliance(Playstation 3)

 Finally the final port of MUA!!
 So you know the drill by now, I've already written about the game, twice in fact, so I'll spare me the trouble and only go by the things that make this port different from the Playstation 2 and PSP ports.

 2 bonus characters, Colossus and Moon Knight and... that's it. There're no bonus modes, no bonus comic mission bosses, only Colossus and Moon Knight. Colossus absolutely terrible, weak powers, uninspired moveset and has 1 less skill than your average character, which is pretty lame. On the other hand, Moon Knight is downright fantastic, he goes down in a few hits, but god oh go, his damage output is through the roof, his Nunchuck skill might be the best skill in the game, and his Staff passive ability is fun to play with, although he gets shortchanged too, being the only character who only gets three costumes instead of four. While Moon Knight is easily among my favorite MUA characters, the PSP had more bonus characters altogether, and none were quite as bad as Colossus, so as far as bonus characters goes, the PSP wins this one.
 The HD graphics are leagues above the PS2 and PSP, it almost looks like an entirely different game. Almost. However, the framerate is still pretty bad and at times it can chug almost as hard as the PSP version. Almost. On the flip side, this version has the shortest loading times which is a huge plus considering how long these could get in the PS2 version.

 So... which version is better? None of the ones I played. Seriously, all of them have their ups and downs, the PSP version might have the most content, but is it really worth it? The brunt of the game remains the same and you can easily live without them. Moon Knight and Ronin are fantastic characters, but do you really need them? If I had to, I'd probably give the edge, and only by a very slight margin, to the PS3 thanks to its shorter loading times. But, if you asked me, the best way to play Marvel Ultimate Alliance is... on PC. PC has, by default, the PS2 character roster, but, BUT you can mod it to get even the X360 characters, heck, you can mod X-Men Legends character into it, HECK, modders have created entirely new characters from scratch! If you want the best possible Ultimate Alliance experience, PC is the way to go.
 7.0 out of 10

Monday, August 14, 2017

Review #453: Bloody Roar

 Finally a good fighting game for a change!
 Bloody Roar's a furry's dream come true, in this 1 on 1 3-D fighting game you play as humans that can morph into animals, anything from wolves to moles. It's a lot simpler than your average fighter, going for the mantra of pressin' them buttons to make flashy stuff happen.

 The game has the usual assortment of modes: An Arcade Ladder, VS CPU or Player, Time Attack, Training and Survival. There're 8 different characters, a few that never returned to the franchise like Mitsuko the Boar, Greg the Gorilla and Fox the, erm, Fox. While it's a relatively small character roster, it's pretty much up to the standards of the era, plus, all 8 characters have two different models, human and animal, as well as a few different costumes.
 There's a single punch button and a single kick button, but filling the Beast gauge lets you temporarily transform into your beast form with the circle button, once in beast mode the circle button turns into a third attack button. Beast mode reverts once the Beast gauge reaches to 0, which decreases as you get hit, and then receiving a hard hit, but how much damage you can take in beast mode depends on how much you charged the Beast gauge before pressing circle. Beast form has a few other perks, besides a third attack button, like regenerating some missing health and better juggling ability.

 Attack strings are relatively smooth for the era, making the combat feel fluid and fast. Being a 3-D game you'd expect a side-step, and there is one, but it's turned off by default. The final mechanic is Beast Rave, by pressing Triangle while in Beast form you'll gain more speed, allowing for more combo opportunities, but at the cost of having the beast gauge constantly decreasing. As previously stated, it's not the deepest of fighters, but it's fun, and the simple and few mechanics make it easy to pick up and play.
 While there're no characters to be unlocked, beating the game with the various characters unlocks a ton of different modifiers. No Walls, No lighting, hidden gauge, large arms, plus, you can play with deformed, big-headed characters from the get-go. It's nothing major, but at least it's something.

 While future games in the franchise left this one far behind, Bloody Roar 1 has all the basic elements that made the franchise what it is. Which means that while future games would add a lot of welcome mechanics, this one doesn't feel all that obsolete, add to that the fact that this game features three characters that never made into future games, so there's something of interest for fans of the franchise.
 7.0 out of 10

Now Playing: Marvel Ultimate Alliance(PS3)

 One final time....
 I really overestimated how much I would like the game based on my nostalgia for the game, so here we are, with the third almost identical version of the same game. And I'd lie if I didn't say the game is wearing out on my, I can only take so much of the same punching and mashing game I've been playing since Legends 1, 'cause let's be honest here, the franchise hasn't changed much.

 As for this version, now we get Colossus, Moon Knight and HD graphics. That's pretty much it. By the by, the new HD graphics are pretty nice, particularly the lighting, but man, oh man, is the framerate still pretty bad. Seeing how this isn't a particularly intensive game, partly due to the fact that it's a multigenerational game, I was expecting a smooth 60 fps, but it runs sub 30 most of the time. At least it's got the shortest loading times among all the version I tried.

 As far as Moon Knight and Colossus go, Moon Knight's been proving rather fun, I love his boost which changes his moveset to use the staff. Pretty original and fun to use. Colossus is.... is a surprise as to why he is here. Probably because it was easier to port pre-existing assets. I mean, they did the same thing with the X360's DLC characters: Cyclops and Magneto are understandable, since they're a big part of the X-Men mythos, but Nightcrawler and Sabertooth? Just reusing X-Men Legends II assets. Anyways, Colossus didn't stand out much, but maybe once I get his full moveset my opinion on him will change.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Review #452: Dragon Ball GT - Final Bout

 What is a videogame?
 Dragon Ball GT Final Bout sucks. It's as bad as the show that spawned it, and it just might be the worst game I've ever played since I started the blog. And it has no excuse, Final Bout was the latest in a long string of fighting games based on Dragon Ball, but it's terrible, worse than anything that had come before or after it. And its sole saving grace, the gorgeous, epic intro? The animation's the same, but  the badass Japanese song from the original release was lost in translation, the American localization substituting it with a lame, boring tune.

 Booting up the game presents you with the barest of modes: Battle(CPU or Player), Tournament, Build up and a Training mode hidden inside the options menu. The only mode that beats an explanation is build up, in which you can take a character and fight various fights to level him or her up. If, and only IF this was a good game, this addition would've been brilliant, but this game is as far from being good as it can. The roster selection is pretty bad too, for a game bearing the GT brand it sure loves Z, featuring the likes of Cell, Kid Buu, Frieza, Piccolo, Vegeto, Z Gohan and Z Vegeta, with only Pan, Trunks and Kid Goku representing GT. It went a bit overboard with Gokus too, there're two Kid Gokus(Normal and Super Saiyan), 3 Gokus(Normal(GT), Super Saiyan(GT) and Super Saiyan(Z)) as well as Super Saiyan 4 Goku, and all 4 adult Gokus play the same. There're also three seemingly identical Trunks: Trunks(GT), Super Saiyan Trunks(GT) and Future Trunks. Oh, about half of the cast is hidden behind a code that must be re-entered every single time you boot up the game. Brilliant.
 But a poor roster selection would be salvageable with top-notch gameplay, something this game lacks. Let's start with the simplest of things: Movement, which they managed to ruin. Moving around feels very stiff and slow. You can hold R1 to dash, but characters take about half a second before they start dashing, and if both fighters end up back-to-back, it takes about a second for them to turn around. You know you messed up when moving around, on a flippin' 2-D fighting game feels wrong in every single way. And as far as I could tell, there's absolutely no way to block attacks, because why the hell follow tried and true conventions? I tried to do some research, and X is supposed to be the guard button, but I'll be damned if it worked for me.

 Alright, so the movement is crap, what about the fisticuffs? Square punches, Triangle kicks and circle shoots ki blasts. And combos don't exist. Seriously, landing any sort of attack feels awkward as hell, since any kind of attack makes enemies stagger backwards, with no window of opportunity to link another attack. What's their excuse? it's not like there had been hundreds upon hundreds of fighting games released before it, so what's their goddamned excuse? There're special moves, performed by tapping certain directions and attack buttons, as well as ki-consuming super moves. Super moves can be defended on countered depending on what combination of buttons you press when the opponent performs theirs. Good luck remembering every button combination, because Meteor Combos have their own set.
 Meteor Combos are initiated by pressing R2 towards an opponent, successfully landing the blow will let you follow up with different button combinations. The enemy must guess what attack is coming next and press the appropriate button combination. Either way, Meteor combos don't feel very responsive to button inputs, so get ready to drop them a plenty! Assuming you remember what button combination does what, assuming that, for whatever reason, you care about learning how to play this poor excuse of a 'game'.

 Dragon Ball GT - Final Bout is the worst kind of garbage. Not only is it absolute garbage as a game, not only is it irredeemable with nary a positive quality about it.... It's also rather rare, which makes it rather expensive. It's an expensive piece of garbage, not even worth the price of admission as a curiosity. This is the worst game I've ever played since I started the blog, and it's so bad I hesitate calling it a 'game'.
 0.5 out of 10

Friday, August 11, 2017

Review #451: Marvel Ultimate Alliance(PSP)

 What is this, a game for Ant-man?
 Seeing how this is pretty much the same exact game as the PS2 version, I will simply go over what was added to this version.

 First and foremost, four new characters: Hawkeye, which looks cool, has cool looking moves but is kinda weak. Captain Marvel, who isn't very appealing to look at but has powerful moves, Black Widow, whom I didn't care about, but has a few strong moves an Ronin, which looks badass and has some of the best moves in the game. Is it worth it purchasing the game just for the new characters? Well, Ronin is pretty good and I'd put her on my team... but nope, they're all that worth it, you can do just fine with the other versions of the game. There're also 5 new sub-missions, if you're into that, one of them housing a new boss. Once again, not worth it. Oh, and unlocking Hawkeye is incredibly stupid, forcing you to register online, so just pop the character unlock code and have fun.
 Beating the game unlocks 3 bonus modes: Hardcore, in which once a character dies he is gone for good, Hardcore Squad, in which you're limited to only four characters and once any of them dies they are gone for good and UberHero, in which you can only play as a single character, but a overpowered one. The Hardcore modes might be appealing, but once again, not worth a separate purchase if you already own another version.

 As for the overall game, it's a pretty neat little conversion. The controls have been tweaked and are a bit awkward at first, due to having less buttons than a joystick, but once you get the hang of it you'll be just fine. They did the best they could with the reduced button amount. For instance, since there's no analog stick, moving the camera around consists of holding the L button and pressing Square or Circle, and swapping characters consists of holding L and pressing a direction on the directional pad, while holding R and L lets you block. It's cumbersome in comparison to the home console setup, but it's understandable.
 The game runs pretty well on the PSP, while the overall polygon count is lower, I think the lighting effects are better than on the PS2. The Framerate at its best is smoother than on the PS2, but at its worst it gets a bit choppier. There were a few kinks related to movement, sometimes upon landing from a jump a character would get stuck on the jumping position for a few seconds, this happened every time I had to climb down a rock wall as well. Annoying, yes, but it's not a dealbreaker.

 While I wouldn't suggest getting this version over the others, in spite of the added content, it's a fantastic port of the game that performs almost as well. And truth be told, if you don't mind having to go through hoops for local multiplayer or deal with less optimal controls... it just might be your version of choice!
 7.0 out of 10

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Now Playing: Marvel Ultimate Alliance(PSP)

 Yeah... this might've been a mistake.
 I was so enamored by my Marvel Ultimate Alliance memories that I thought I would love the game all over again, so it mad sense to get the handheld version as well. I mean, a Diablo-clone with Marvel characters and even MORE characters? Count me in. I remembered it like a 8-9/10 game, not a 7.

 Oh well, I just inputted the codes and got meself all four bonus characters, the costumes and the abilities, which I'll be taking all the way through to the end of the game.

 Hawkeye: All his cotumes are decent, but I specially liked the 'Street Clothes', the one I'm using. His skills are fun to use.

 Ronin: All her costumes are fantastic, but I'm going with the second one since I loved the abilities, and her skills are top-notch, they look devastating and feel fun to use.

 Captain Marvel: I didn't care for his appearance, any of them, so I went with the default look. His abilities are alright but nothing caught my eye.

 Black Widow: I actually thought her default appearance was the Winter Soldier('What? A fifth bonus character?! Oh, it's Black Widow....'). Can't say I care about the character either, but I went with the Yelena costumes since it struck my fancy the most. Her skillset is alright, but I'm particularly fond of her first skill, since it feels powerful.

 All in all, as much as I'm liking Roning... the rest of the cast are alright, but nothing to write home about. Even if you love the game you can do without these extra characters. Or you could download the PC mods and add Ronin to your roster.

Review #450: Mortal Kombat Trilogy

 Now I remember why I didn't like classic Mortal Kombat.
 While Mortal Kombat was free of Street Fighter II-style upgrades, it all changed with Mortal Kombat 3. And then Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. And finally, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, a 'dream' game of sorts, compiling every single character from previous games, for a total of 32(Plus 4 bonus 'retro' characters) playable characters. And it sounds like a dream come true.... for Mortal Kombat fans exclusively.

 You boot up the game and... there're only three modes: Arcade Ladder, 2 on 2 and 8 man battle. Don't be tempted to go into anything but Arcade Ladder unless you've got another joystick, else you'll be stuck in the character select screen for all eternity, or until you reset the console, since those two other modes require another player, no ifs or buts. It's a pretty silly design flaw, if you ask me. Even for a fighting game of its time, the mode selection is pretty lacking. The Arcade Mode is an absolute nightmare, since the game becomes unbearably hard pretty early on, with the CPU reading your inputs and reacting with uncanny reflexes to your moves. Which kinda sucks, since unless you've got another joystick lying around, there's no way for you to try to figure out your character since the CPU will pound on you over and over and over and over and over and over again. And there's no moveset anywhere, not even on the instruction booklet, so you're on your own.
 ....but let's assume that you persevered, thanks to unlimited continues, so that not even the cheap Endurance round(2-round battles in which you have to defeat two opponents on a single life bar) could stop you, and you defeat Shao Kahn and... the game freezes. Unless you're playing on an original Playstation 1, this game will have issues. On the PS2 the game will freeze after beating the final boss, it will freeze if you let the timer run out on the Continue screen and the music will stop if you pause the game. It kinda sucks. While the PS1 version has more character than the N64, you also get loading times, which are mercifully short, unless you battle as or against Shang Tsung, but the game lets you pre-pick a couple of transformations, if you so wish, so as not to have the game load mid-match. As for the exclusive retro characters... they suck. They have a few new moves, but performed with pre-existing frames, so they look awful, and their Run animation is just a sped up walk. Lame.

 As for how the game plays, it's your classic Mortal Kombat, two punches and two kicks as well as a block button. Mortal Kombat 3 introduced the run button and dial-up combos. Every character has a few special moves as well as a few unique dial-up combos, which are pre-scripted combos performed by tapping a specific string of buttons. Most MK fans hated those, I'm alright with them, since they help add variety to the characters beside their special moves. The problem with Dial-up combos is that they are way more convenient than most combos a player could come up to, so the name of the game is to learn a couple of those and perform them ad-nauseam. Trilogy introduced a new 'Aggressor' meter, which increases as you deal damage, fill it and you'll temporarily deal extra damage.
 What I will grant the game is that, as much as I hated and still hate, to this very day, digitalized graphics, Trilogy looks pretty baddass. I mean, Liu Kang, Shang Tsung and Johnny Cage actually look cool in the game, everything looks serious, dark, slim and trimmed. Mortal Kombat had never looked this cool, and while the new post-apocalyptic setting might not be to everyone's liking, the stages had never been this intricate or appealing before. I also love having like 7 palette-swapped Ninjas, and them too are the coolest and badassest they've ever been.

 Mortal Kombat Trilogy reminded me of why I didn't like classic Mortal Kombat. Say what you will, but if you remove the violence factor, the game becomes a subpar fighting game. I've no doubt that the game could potentially be fun against another player, but if you're on your own there's no way for you to enjoy the game. The CPU will kick your butt, and will do so so quickly that you won't have time to learn how to play your character or how to experiment with his moveset, and there's no training mode to facilitate that either. Still, for Mortal Kombat fans, this game will re-ignite nostalgia, and the large character roster, encompassing the entire series up to that point, is a huge selling point.
 4.5 out of 10

Review #449: War Gods

 A game that raises a lot of questions. Not good questions, but questions non the less.
 What is an intro? What is a Mode? What is an ending? What is a combo? What is a movelist? Such are the questions that this game raises and doesn't answer. Welcome to War Gods, a fighting game released to test the waters before fully committing to bringing Mortal Kombat into the third dimension. It has blood, it has fatalities and it has terrible pseudo-realistic character designs but it's no Mortal Kombat.

 The game has a set-up involving 10 pieces of an orb that turned 10 humans into gods and blah blah blah, it's not interesting nor does it concern us, for even your reward upon finishing the game is a measly 3-paragraph long ending text. Lame. There're 10 terrible looking characters as well as 2 even worse-looking bosses(Which you can play as by inputting a code) that are the cheapest you'll ever play against. You thought Goro, Shao Kang or even Rugal were bad? You ain't seen nothing yet. The game has a grand total of 1 mode, an Arcade Ladder, or 2 if you count pressing the Start button on a second controller to battle against another player, as well as an options screen. Lamer.
 The game's crowning achievement is looking worse than it plays. Character models look terrible, warp and twist weirdly when doing victory poses and having some of the stiffest animations ever. Each character has a decent, albeit a bit small, assortment of special moves as well as a single 10-hit combo. Producing combos in this game is devoid of any freedom of creativity, so don't expect much out of the engine. And if you want to see a movelist, tough luck, even the game's instruction manual refuses to aid you, so it's gonna take a trip to GameFaqs. Lameeeeeeeeeeeeee.

 As for the game's key mechanics, there's a 3D button that let's you move around freely, which is a bit wonky, Left and Right rolls, which come out a bit too slow, as well as a shove move, by double tapping the block button, that breaks guards... but why would you if grabs deal more damage and come out quicker? There's also a single fatality for each combatant, but they are relatively good looking, surprisingly, most fit the character's respective deity theme pretty well.
 War Gods is pretty bad. Like really, really bad. I don't think I've a single positive thing to say about it... except maybe that it's not broken. Everything works as intended, collision detection is fine and... well, it's not broken. But it's devoid of good, fun mechanics, the overall aesthetics are lame, it lacks fluff to make it worth playing the game after you finished the arcade ladder one.... it doesn't have anything that other games don't do better. I still have a rather soft spot for War Gods in my heart due to nostalgia, but if you take the rose-tinted glasses off there's nothing worth looking at in there.
 3.0 out of 10

Now Playing: War Gods

 Not related to God of War, thank god.
 War Gods is a game I've a bit of Nostalgia for. I remember renting it one day, for the N64, and... liking it. Well, I've always enjoyed fighting games and it's not like the N64 had a lot to choose from! This translates into me having undeserved fuzzy feelings for the game, even though it's pretty much terrible!

 You pop in the disc on the tray, go through the mandatory publisher and developer slides an then... you either Start the game or go to options, because a fighting game doesn't need any other modes. Right? Right?.... Anybody? And, you do start the game, and you quickly learn that everything looks as stilted as it feels. The movement is so unnaturally stiff that it makes for an odd looking game. As a whole, everything feels wonky. It's incredible to think that this served as a proving grounds for Mortal Kombat 4, because it feels nothing like it.... which probably makes sense considering how bad War Gods is.

 Oh well, only 9 characters to go....

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Review #448: Marvel Ultimate Alliance(PS2)

 Not the marvel I remembered.
 Raven Software had a pretty neat thing going with their Marvel-infused Diablo-clone X-Men Legends franchise, and Legends II took a lot of steps in the right direction, so one would expect that they'd follow the same trend with their next enterprise, the much more ambitious Marvel Ultimate Alliance, right? Well, they took some steps in the right direction alright, but they also took a few backwards.

 Dr. Doom, Loki, the Enchantress, Ultron and Baron Mordo have teamed up, probably due to their affinity with the color green, as the Masters of Evil, and their first order of business was taking down SHIELD. Nick Fury issues a call to arms, and over 20 heroes of the Marvel Universe heed the call, teaming up on a 5-act romp to stop the evil doers. The story is pretty tame and bland, but it's alright as an excuse to gather all these villains and heroes from the Marvel universe. The game has more sidequests than before, but the game, as a whole, is about as long as Legends 2(13-15 hours). And if you intend to play it, the sixth generation home consolse and PC versions are the worst, since they have the least amount of characters. PS3 gets Colossus and Moon Knight, X360 has those two as well as other six(Including Dr. Doom and Hulk), PSP gets Ronin, Hawkeye, Captain Marvel and Black Widow, while the newest PS4/XOne ports get all 8 X360 characters
 Plenty has changed since Legends II, I assume in an attempt to streamline the game, but not everything worked as intended. You still take control of a 4-man unit, going from 'dungeon' to 'dungeon', beating enemies, leveling up, learning new abilities and getting loot, and the controls are more or less the same, but a few key elements have been tweaked or removed entirely. Shops are a thing of the past, what little equipment there is you'll find on chests or dropped from bosses, and you can sell them on the spot while on the equip menu. The equipment variety is very small, I'd say even smaller than Legends I's paltry selection, and now characters can only equip a single item, for whatever reason.

 For whatever reason, Auto-leveling and Auto-equipping is set On by default, so unless you turn it off one by one on every single character the moment you start the game, you'll have to deal with
the CPU distributing all skill points when you switch to a new character, which sucks. A lot. Skill points are gone, kinda, stats still increase upon leveling up, but you no longer get bonus points to spend on each. Probably for the best, since let's be real for a minute, in both Legends 1 and 2, 'Body' and 'Focus' were the only stats worth a damn. Still, I would've liked for them to make melee worth it rather than can the stat distribution entirely. Passive Abilities are now tied to costumes, every character gets 4 different costume and each costume has 3 different passive abilities each, these abilities are upgraded with.... money. And if you want to level up a special move but lack the points(you get one on each level up), fret not, you can spend in-game money to level it up, which is kinda odd.
 I'm not done. Health and Mana Potions have been given the axe, instead, now enemies may drop health and mana orbs upon defeat, which can be picked up to restore either. Melee combo strings have been reduced to strictly 3-hit minicombos which is baffling. You can block attacks now though, for whatever that's worth. Reviving characters no longer costs money, but rather.... Time? What the hell? You have to wait four minutes before you can revive a character, which is a very dumbfounding. Since when is wasting a player's time a good idea? But the cherry on top? QTEs made it into the game, because why not?

 Not everything's gone down the crapper though, the core of the game remains the same, so it's still a fun game, just not as fun as it could be nor as fun as Legends II could get. There were a few improvements too, abilities such as Flight and Might no longer cost precious ability points and come by default on characters, and the obstacles requiring specific powers are almost entirely gone, save for a very few optional roads. Xtreme Moves(I guess they are 'Extreme' now since it's no longer an X-Men game?) no longer share an energy pool, which makes it so that you'll want all your characters to learn theirs'.
 I know I've been very critical of the game, but I can't stress this enough: The game is fun to play. It is, there's no denying that. But a lot of the streamlining really hurt the game. Customization is too shallow for my taste, it's a shame they gave up on stat distribution rather than making other stats useful, and making equipment so banal was a bad choice. QTEs were a terrible idea, but they are not too pervasive, luckily, but why they reduced melee combo strings is beyond me.

 Marvel Ultimate Alliance could've been a great thing. The concept is pure genius, and the fact that the game is still fun despite how many steps back it took from X-Men Legends II speaks leagues for the potential behind it and how well they executed the core mechanics.
 7.0 out of 10

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Now Playing: Marvel Ultimate Alliance(PS2)

 Some memories are better off left untouched.
 I Loved this game, with capital L. So much so that after I found out it was actually the third game in the franchise I had to delve into the previous games, well, the one with a PC port anyways. And I still liked this one the best, heck, I've been comparing Legends I and II to what I remembered about this game. And I've been reading through forums and was surprised at how much people preferred Legends II to this one. After giving it a try, I can't blame them.

 Let's start with the good, skills such as Flight and Might now come by default and you no longer need to waste ability points in them. The character roster is pretty good, with four costumes for everyone(except the Silver Surfer).

 Then the mixed, there're no more stat points, stats increase automatically when you level up. I kinda dislike having lost the customization, but let's be real here, there pretty much was a 'correct' way to build characters, Strike was almost useless, Speed didn't matter all that much, so you had to decide how much points to invest in Body and Focus. Potions are a thing of the past, enemies drop health orbs an mana orbs when they die.

 As for the bad... holy framerates. At least it got better once I entered the ship, but what a poor first impression. The combo repertoire has been reduced to 3-hit mini-combos exclusively. Passive abilities have been scrapped, but now every costume has an exclusive 3-passive abilities each. Why the **** is everything set on 'auto' by default? I will equip the equipment and I will distribute ability-points.

 Bottom-line is.... The game is not as good as I remembered it to be, and maybe, just maybe... I might like X-Men Legends 2 a bit better than this one.

Review #447: Dead to Rights - Retribution

 Police brutality at its finest.
 And so came the advent of the PS3 and the X360, and with them a whole slew of HD revivals and reboots, so Namco took their mismanaged franchise Dead to Rights and rebooted it into the world of HD. This era had no room for arcade shooters, so it turned into a slower, cover-based over-the-shoulder shooter while retaining some of the things that made Dead to Rights Dead to Rights. And that sentence sounds amazing.

 Being a reboot of the first game, it also follows the same framing narrative: Jack's, Frank dad gets killed and there'll be hell to pay as cop Jack Slate and his faithful canine companion, Shadow, scourge the city to find the culprit. The game touches upon many of the first games plot devices, but it's made up of 80% new story. And it's a better story, we finally have a female who is more than eye candy, and they added depth to Shadow and Jack's relationship, making it very endearing. Jack is still a prick though, but it's not as bad as he was in Dead to Rights II. But as entertaining as I found the story, it's still a very cheesy, predictable action-cop tropefest, but a fun one.
 The town is filled with crime and evildoers, so it's a pretty good thing that Jack's a pretty good shot. Everything you'd expect out of a post-Resident Evil 4 third person shooter is here, an over the shoulder camera and precision shooting. The health system has been removed, in favor of the era's standard regenerating health. Pressing X will make Jack sprint or stick to the closest surface he can find... which is a bit wonky, since X is usually a context-sensitive button, so dashing straight out of cover will result in Jack sticking right back to the surface, or trying to spring after letting go off a NPC will result in Jack picking him or her right back up. After playing for a while you'll learn to make do, and as far as gameplay goes, it was my only concern.

 Now then, it has the name 'Dead to Rights', so a ton of staples of the franchise you'd expect to be in made it into the game. Jack can disarm enemies, but instead of being an autokill, you'll have to time your shot right, else they counterattack or run away... and enemies can disarm you too, so be careful! You can also grab enemies as meatshields, and while the slo-mo dives are gone, you can now use L1 to use Focus in order to slow down time and maximize your damage output. Focus is increased by many different actions, mostly having to do with how you take down enemies.
 Shadow is more than a tool this time around. Dead to Rights II was pretty bad about it since Shadow would just disappear after you called him in, but now he'll stay by Jack's side at all times. Shadow can be called upon an enemy, to kill him or distract him while Jack deals damage, as a matter of fact, some enemies must be defeated by joint efforts between both. And just as before, Shadow can be sent to retrieve weapons from fallen enemies. But do be careful, as Shadow can be wounded and eventually knocked out, in which case you must get close to him and hold X to revive him. You'll also get to control him directly during various, fun, stealth sections. Most enemies will go down in a single bite, and you'll have to drag bodies in order to make your way through. These sections were surprisingly well made and served for amusing breaks from all the shooting.

 But as faithful as Shadow is, retrieving weapons for Jack, our hero can only carry up to two different guns and you'll eventually run out of ammo... but that's fine, because Jack is one tough mo-fo. Square and Triangle perform weak and strong attacks respectively, while Square is used for blocking or dodging, you can even grapple with enemies. The melee system is well integrated into the game, and it's a reliable way to take down enemies, since Jack's a beefcake that can take a lot of punishment before you need to go back behind cover and regenerate your health. Landing punches feels crunchy and hurtful, which makes engaging in fisticuffs rather fun. Dealing a lot of damage in quick succession will allow Jack to perform a brutal takedown, but there's about 8 of them, so they get repetitive rather quickly.
 I did some researching, since I didn't understand how this game failed to revive the franchise. The word 'generic' was the one that surfaced the most. And how? What other third-person shooter has a competent melee system? No, seriously, as a fighting game enthusiast I love taking things up close and personal, and few third person shooters offer melee options, and those that do, are often throwaway punches or gun-whips, not a full-blown combat system with different combos, grappling, dodging and guard breakers. This is most definitely not your average third person shooter. Plus, what other third person shooter, outside the franchise, has a loyal dog at your side, chewing on throats and retrieving ammo for the hero?

 Before wrapping up, there was a silly little hiccup, that also affected other players(At least on the PS3) when it came to the game's performance. Y'see, every now and then, the game will have micro-freezes. I don't know what caused them, since the game didn't appear to be loading or saving anything, and they last less than a second, but they are quite noticeable. But don't worry, your PS3 isn't about to explode.
 Dead to Rising - Retribution has a reputation that it doesn't deserve. The game is good. Like really, REALLY good. The fighting is fun, the shooting is fun, even the unnecessary dog stealth missions are fun. And I won't hesitate to call it the best in the franchise.
 8.5 out of 10

Monday, August 7, 2017

Now Playing: Dead to Rights - Retribution

 I'll take that retribution for Dead to Rights II alright.
 I fail to understand why Retribution didn't revive the franchise. I'm three chapters in, and the game is a blast. The melee is satisfying and it's also a viable option in combat, the shooting feels satisfying and it works relatively well. Sure, a few things are a bit less than ideal, like dashing and sticking to surfaces being the same button, so that it's hard to start dashing as soon as you stick out of it, but as a whole it works well.

 The story is already leagues and bounds above the first game, I liked how we got to meet Frank before he is killed, I like how it already feels like a cheesy action cop movie, like the first game! The visual style is also fairly neat, I love how most characters are top-heavy beefcakes.

 I mean, I know I've played 20 percent of the game at most, but it's still pretty darn fun. It's a bit less arcadey than before, but it lives up to the original game's premise

Review #446: X-Men Legends II - Rise of Apocalypse

 I'm cool with Iceman now.
 X-Men Legends married the dungeon-crawling action RPG antics of Diablo with the X-Men franchise with a mostly good execution, albeit a few too many time wasting design choices that took a toll on my enjoyment with the game. Legends 2 is a major improvement on almost every single area.

 Apocalypse has risen and he is kidnapping a few key people for his evil purposes. Now, X-Men and The Brotherhood must team up to take down this new villain that threatens to destroy the world. The narrative is a bit simpler than before, and it doesn't have as many interesting turns, but honestly, story is not really what you play this game for. The new draw for the game is that you can play as Brotherhood mutants, but... there's what, four of them? Magneto, Toad, Juggernaut and... Scarlet Witch? Did she count as a Brotherhood member when the game released? It's a bit of a missed opportunity. There's a bunch of characters missing from the previous game(Magma, Jubilee, Emma Frost, Beast, Psylocke...) so the character count is more or less the same as before. To add insult to injury, the console version gets the least amount of characters, PC gets Sabertooth and Pyro(More Brotherhood mutants! What this game needed.) while the PSP gets Cable(Yay), X-Man(OMGDOWANT), Cannonball(Meh) and Dark Phoenix(Why was she necessary?). It's a bit disappointing considering the PSP is a weaker platform and the PC gets what the console game could've used to bolster its diversity.
 Being a dungeon crawler RPG, two things are a must: XP an Loot. The leveling system has been tweaked a bit, so that Focus and Body are no longer the only go-to stats you want to increase as you level up. Strike enhances your melee attacks and Speed your chances to land an attack or dodge one.... but it's still a bit problematic. My 160+ strike character was still dealing poor damage with his fists, so his special attacks were still the best ways to go, which meant... focusing on Focus. I had him learn passive attack-buffing abilities, and it was still not enough. There're more than four special moves for each character, and while holding the R2 button only grants you quick access to four of them, it's pretty easy to swap them on the fly with the directional pad. Previous game only gave you 1 extreme move, two specials(which usually meant a Single Target and AoE for every character) and a buff, but now there's a wide variety of different buffs, team buffs and special moves for each character, which differentiates them even more and allows for more creativity when devising your four-man teams.

 Defeating enemies or destroying object on the environment will sometimes reward you with loot. Every character can equip three different pieces of equipment, and there's a wide slew of it. They come in different rarity and modifiers so that no two pieces of equipment are the same. And it really helps customization, there're armor pieces that grant you things like radiation damage over time on enemies or brand-equipment that buffs a particular characters special moves. It even extends to cosmetics, characters have a ton of different unlockable costumes, albeit not every character has the same amount of costumes. One tiny gripe I had with the inventory though was that it's too easy to accidentally sell an equipped piece of equipment, since the store menu haphazardly throws equipped and non-equipped items on a list, and failure to see the green frame over the item's symbol means accidentally selling that unique item.
 What ruined the previous game for me were the character-specific obstacles(Which turns out weren't so specific, but still, few alternatives) and they are back... but much better implemented. Y'see, this time around, these obstacles usually lead to optional stuff. The obstacles that do stand in the way of your progress, however, usually feature more than one way to deal with them, like pushing heavy object telepathically... an also be done with Magneto's magnetism or any character that has the Might passive ability. In my case, I just brought Jean Grey along and never had any issue, but I heard Magneto works just as well as your obstacle-slave. And even then, assuming you're missing the critical ability needed to progress, you can now call in 4-minute cooldown Blink portals, which let you go back to the HUB, change your team, and return exactly where you first called the portal, easily alleviating the need to go three maps back just to put friggin' Iceman on your team again.

 The game's structure has changed quite a bit too, mimicking Diablo even more. The game is divided into 5 acts, each with its own HUB, missions and submissions. Different areas have portals(Gates) that let you instantly teleport to any other previously discovered portal, even travelling through acts. Finishing the game unlocks new game plus, so you can take your beefed up characters into even higher difficulties for more loot and more experience points. And while 5 acts sounds like a lot, the game feels a bit shorter than the previous one.
 One thing I noticed in the previous game was that AI characters wouldn't use their buff special moves. I didn't care too much, since I only learned Magma's and didn't care much about it... but this game is an entirely different beast, allowing characters to be built exclusively as support, if you so will it, but not once did I notice Scarlet Witch casting her support spells, which kinda sucks since that means that support characters must be played by the player if you want to get the most of them. And a word of warning, apparently there's a nasty no-drop glitch that can happen if you forget to pick up a boss' dropped loot, and another one that causes your game to crash if you over-encumber your stash on the HUB. I didn't come across either, but still.

 While there's a bit more work left before the formula reaches its full potential, X-Men Legends II is a large step-up from the first game. It's a much more enjoyable game since, this time around, it respected the player's time.
 7.5 out of 10

Friday, August 4, 2017

Now Playing: X-Men Legends II - Rise of Apocalypse

 Much better.
 Now this, THIS is what I'm talkin' about! Thanks to the addition of Villains, the character roster has seen some much needed variety, and there're also three bonus characters, one of them being an Avenger cameo. Since I've beaten the game already, I just used the unlock all cheat and had the party I wanted from the get-go. That said, it's a bit sad seeing some characters go, specially since this game could've used more females and Magma was particularly fun to play as.

 About 80% of the game remains the same, except that now it's even more of a Diablo clone, with 5 different acts, savepoints that let you teleport to previously accessed locations and loot with different stats. Characters have more than four abilities, and the specific-character-obstacle-'puzzles' seem, SEEM to be optional now, which is a HUGE plus.

 Bottom line: I've played about an hour already and I'm pretty sure it's a better game. They knew what worked and what didn't, and seem to have souped up what worked and tweaked what didn't.

Review #445: X-Men Legends

 The game that made me hate Iceman.
 So, over 10 years ago someone came up with a brilliant idea: Mix X-men with Diablo. Why someone hadn't come up with said idea is beyond, but it worked, it received three sequels and even DC jumped on the same ship with Justice League Heroes. But as much as I love the franchise, I never had the opportunity to play the first game, the one that started the franchise... and I think I was lucky.

 The story pits Xavier's mutants, the X-Men, against Magneto's Brotherhood of Mutants. The X-men fighting for peace between Humans and Mutants, the Brotherhood of Mutants fighting for dominance over the Homo-sapiens. But it's not all that simple, Kinkaid's brewing a new plan involving the mutant-slayers, the Sentinels. It's an alright story that's faithful to the source material. In between missions you'll be able to explore the X-Mansion, and interestingly, all this is done through the eyes of Magma. While she's not a mandatory character on missions, and the game doesn't revolve around her, it was a brilliant idea to frame the story through the eyes of a not very popular character, so she's as new to the X-Men as most are new to her character.
 X-Men Legends is a Diablo clone, which makes it a dungeon-crawler RPG. You take a team of 4 mutants from a total of 15(Or so the game claims. You can only play as Professor X twice, and it's more of a must rather than a choice). Each character has three special moves(Usually a single target move, a area-of-effect move and a temporary boost) as well as an 'Extreme Attack' that borrows energy from a shared pool of energy rather than Mana. The usual staples of the genre are in too, you will carry Health and Mana potions, enemies drop equipment and cash too. The loot is a bit limited though, there're no modifiers and the variety is fairly small. It can be played simultaneously with another player, which is kinda cool, and the AI takes control of the other 3 or 2 mutants, albeit you can switch characters at the tap of a button. Said AI can be customized a bit, how aggressive you want it to use, when and if you want it to use health potions and which special move you want them to use if you press L2 to have the AI attack your target.

 Every time a character levels up, he earns 1 stat point and 1 ability point(twice for levels ending in 5), stat points can be spent in: Strike(Melee), Agility(Defense), Body(Health) or Focus(Mana)... but you'll soon find out that Melee will never do much damage, and Agility is negligible if you spend your points on body, so even physical fighters are better off spending points in Body and Focus to be able to tank hits and spam their special moves. As for abilities, they can level up their three basic special moves as well as a few passive abilities. The Extreme Move must be earned with these Ability points as well, but since the energy pool is shared... I just had one character learn his and had the rest of the characters spend their ability points on other things.
 While it's a Diablo clone, the combat feels more like a beat'em up. Characters have various attack strings made up of weak and strong hits. You can grab enemies and throw them, or even pick up objects and throw them, and not every character has enough strength to pick up every object! There're also a few puzzles.... that require specific characters. This, THIS absolutely ruined the game for me. When you least expect it, which is more often than not, the game will require you to bring Iceman to build bridges. Or put out fires. See? I was running Cyclops, Wolverine, Magma and Psylocke/Rogue, so I was completely boned. The second Morlock stage is particularly bad, since the save-point, the place where you can swap team members, was three maps away. THREE maps away. Do you know how much time I wasted because I didn't have goddamn Iceman on my team? And the best part about it? After finishing the game I found out that Magma can build bridges.... with her second skill. Would've been nice to know, since you always have to use primary skills to do these 'puzzles'(Which are more like stupid obstacles). And Jean Grey can build bridges too, but I TRIED using her on the first stage and it wouldn't work... though it doesn't surprise me, since even with Iceman, sometimes, if I didn't hit the target just right, the bridge wouldn't be built. Fun.

 There's another map in which you have to use both Jean Grey and Cyclops to finish the 'puzzle', so if you don't fancy either, have fun going back to a save point and losing two character slots. And Cyclops is used to weld doors. Do you even X-men? Cyclops shoots CONCUSSIVE energy, not Heat. This would've been acceptable with broader limitations, like having characters that can lift heavy objects to clear obstacles, or having ANY psychic(Psylocke, Emma) be able to build bridges. But nope, you have very limited choices when it comes to dealing with these stupid excuses for puzzles. Where's the fun in making a team if I can't play as the characters I like?
 The game should last you between 12-20 hours depending on how thorough you are. There's no backtracking and no game plus(Although you can unlock costumes for future playthroughs), which kinda sucks. Take Psylocke, she's unlocked 2/3 into the game, so unless you like replaying Danger Room missions, she'll only see about 5 dungeons worth of gameplay. And since I'm talking about gripes, the AI loves to get in your way. Say, you open a door and there're enemies behind it, they will dash right in-front of you, not letting you go through since now they're stuck getting damaged by enemies. And pray you don't get yourself surrounded by objects, since the AI won't move out of its place to let you through. Don't even let me get started on CPUs you must escort, they may get stuck on doors, or you'll have to go around the place you have to take them over and over again until they realize they have to get INTO the van. Fun.

 X-Men Legends certainly set up the basics for great future games... but as it stands, this game is very, very flawed. I'm sure some design choices sounded good on paper, but they just get in the way of the player's entertainment. I know it's tempting to play as characters that never made it beyond this game, like Jubilee, Emma Frost or Magma... but if you haven't played it before, it's not worth it... unless you like a particular team set-up that doesn't require you going back to a savepoint to sort a stupid obstacle. And that's the sad part, I'm sure that if I had liked Iceman, and thus had had him on my team 24/7, I wouldn't have hated the game so much sometimes. And that's the thing, depending on how you play will change how much enjoyment you'll get out of it.
 6.0 out of 10

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Now Playing: X-Men Legends

 Legendary ripoff.
 I don't know who had the brightest idea to rip off Diablo but with X-men characters, but that guy was a genius! And the one who decided to bring the entire Marvel universe into the mix? Give him a raise! But I'm getting ahead of myself, two games ahead as a matter of fact.

 While I played both X-Men Legends 2 and Marvel Ultimate Alliance on the PC, as well as Ultimate Alliance 2 on the PS3, Legends 1 always eluded me since, by that time I was more of a PC gamer(I know) and my PS2 was kinda dead, so I was stuck with the PC ports of Legends 2 and MUA. But no more!

 I played a teeny tiny little bit, joined up with Cyke and defeated The Blob and... it feels pretty much like every other game in the franchise, which is a good thing... I think.

Review #444: Dead to Rights - Reckoning

 The follow-up we deserved.
 Dead to Rights II was disappointing to say the least, but Namco wasn't done with with Dead to Rights, not yet, and thus, Reckoning made it into the PSP. It brings fast-paced, arcade shooting action at the palm of your hand, and despite the weaker hardware, proves to be the real sequel(Prequel?) to Dead to Rights 1.

 Reckoning is a prequel to the prequel, which means chronologically it takes place before Dead to Rights II. Not that it really matters, these games never cared too much about story, and this is no exception. You only get a few lines of text before the game starts, concerning a hostage. And it seems like the took the piss with this one, as one too many times Jack Slate chases a lead, kills the lead and then complains about the lead being dead. And while Dead to Rights 1 was very cheesy, I think having the kidnapee be a fetished highscool-uniform wearing babe is a bit too much. The entire game is finished in under an hour, which is kinda sad, but it has a multiplayer component... in case you know someone else with a PSP.
 As with previous games, this is an arcade-shooter, meaning that it's nonstop, fast-paced third-person shooting all the way through. Jack retains most abilities from the console games, he can dive and dive in slo-mo, crouch, instakill disarm an enemy or send Shadow to instakill them. It all works better than II since it feels more like Dead to Rights 1. Shadow has his own gauge and cool-down, and well called down upon an enemy initiates a cutscene, thus making him useful again, disarms can be performed at any time, and you can switch to punches at the tap of a button, not that you'll run out of ammo in this game anyways. Fisticuffs are kinda useless to be honest, every single enemy comes armed with guns, so there's absolutely no scenario in which going melee is useful. But hey, at least the option's there, unlike II!

 In DTRII, having to redo entire segments was kinda annoying, but this time around there're checkpoints!... which are useless, since, at least on the normal difficulty setting, the game is rather easy, and loading screens don't last more than 2 seconds either. It's probably this easy to make up for the fact that it's running on a handheld with a single analog stick. I know that they made the most of the hardware, but having to quickly tap R to switch between targets can be rather imprecise at times. Movement is a bit floaty as well, but in a game like this, it doesn't get in your way. At all.
 It seems like I'm not crazy believing that this is the True Dead to Rights II since Reckoning reuses a ton of assets from Dead to Rights II. Entire stages, most enemy models, weapons and even Jack himself come straight out of Dead to Rights II, albeit with a lower polygon count. And, y'know what, it kinda redeems it in my eyes. This is the game it should've been, a fast-paced shooter that doesn't require you to think, but rather, kill as many enemies as you can in as little time as possible while looking as badass as you can.

 This is the game I wanted. This is what I expected out of a sequel(Prequel?) to Dead to Rights. This is a brainless, but highly entertaining, action game on the PSP, probably among the best. It also serves as an apology for botching Dead to Rights II!
 8.0 out of 10

Review #443: Mortal Kombat 4

 'This isn't brutality... it's fatality!', that's a classic!
 Mortal Kombat's case is a strange one. If you ask me, the first game was shallow garbage that only made a name for itself thanks to violence. One needs only look at Mortal Kombat VS DC, probably the worst of the bunch, which took away the violence... and people hated it for it, and not for its glitchy, ugly nature. And thus, I created a mindset that thought all Mortal Kombat games before 9 had been horrible. I was wrong.

 In Mortal Kombat 4 Shao Khan lies defeated, and how long did that last!?, but a new threat comes to Earth, the fallen god Shinnok, so the forces of Earth band together to stop him. The game features 15 characters, 8 returning and 7 new ones, alongside two hidden characters(Goro and Noob Saibot). And you could argue that Quan-chi, Shinnok and Fujin debuted a few days earlier in Mythologies. This game usually gets a lot of flak on the art design, citing Reptile's beginning on his descent towards a more bestial form and how Jarek sucks. But I disagree! I adore the art-style. Every character looks as if built with similar pieces, just look at how many characters have leg protectors or fabric between their legs, but I really like it. Reiko is a pseudo-Ninja clone, but with spikes on his legs and throws Shuriken, this gave us the first 'Frozen Sub-Zero' costume(Which is really cool!), a grey skull-headed Scorpion, and Liu Kang looks badass with a tank-top. I loved the new pseudo-femme Ninja Tanya with her yellow costume, Fujin is among the best new designs, and while I'm not much of a fan of Kai, I love how he is supposed to be another version of Liu-Kang, with vertical fireballs instead of horizontal. As for Jarek, while his moveset is uninspired(It's Kano's!) I love the armored pieces on his legs and arms, as well as the color design. He ain't that bad.
 The game offers an Arcade mode, with CG endings for all 15 basic characters, 2 on 2 fights, Team Battles, Tournament and Endurance(Think Survival) and Practice modes. Arcade features a few variations, you can pick different sized ladders and change the roster of opponents of each by tapping Start up to four times. Practice mode is a bit weird, since you can only change the settings before entering the practice battle, but it's the only place in the game that has a movelist... which is actually a plus since most games of the era forwent movesets entirely.

 Mortal Kombat 4 did away with dial-up combos, and has a more uniform combo system more akin to 2... which means that every single character has the same exact moveset bar special moves. And even then, many characters have similar movesets, so you can probably find analogues to combos, for instance, you could easily replace Tanya's spiral kick with Quan-chi's sliding kick, thus having access to the same combos that required said moves. It's shallow, it's simple and for people looking for depth it's a disappointment.... but I liked it. Landing hits feels really nice, and combos are pretty easy to land, making for a relatively good entry-level fighter.
 Another new addition is weapon combat: each character has a semi unique weapon(A few might look different, but they behave the same. Kinda like a bunch o' characters in the game!) and can pull it out with different button combinations. If hit, the fighter will drop his weapon, and then any fighter can pick it up! A few stages even have a few objects, like decapitated heads or rocks, that can be picked up and thrown for big damage. Side-stepping is a thing now, but it's a bit slow and awkward, so you probably won't be using it much. The rest of Mortal Kombat staples remain, two punches and two kicks, a block button and a run button.

 The game also implements a 'Maximum Damage' mechanic meant to make infinite combos impossible. Basically, if your combo reaches 50% damage, you'll be pushed far from your opponent. This is a bit wonky, since sometimes, if you deal a ton of damage, quickly without stop(Even if it doesn't look like a combo), the game will push you back anyways. Can't say I'm a fan. As for the CD-based version of the game, there's a bit more loading than I would've liked, included micro-loading seconds before a new round begins, which is kinda ridiculous.
 Lastly, running this on a PS2 caused some problems. A few negligible minor audio glitches as well as joystick issues if I turned on vibration. These resolved themselves when playing on a PS3 though. At least, unlike Mortal Kombat Trilogy on the PS2, this won't freeze at the end!

 I liked Mortal Kombat 4, that said, you gotta take it like it is: Style over substance. It's shallow, everything, from character design to gameplay, is very samey, characters can be freely interchanged between each other and you won't have trouble adapting... but I kinda liked it. I mean, it is an oldschool Mortal Kombat game, so of course most characters feel somewhat the same. So, for what it is, it's rather fun.
 6.5 out of 10