Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Now Playing: Painkiller - Hell & Damnation

 All pain and no killer.
 Painkiller is one of my favorite games ever. Ever. And they went and screwed it up!

 Where do I begin? Let's start with what you can find out before starting the game: Only thirteen levels. The original release had about 25 levels. This game is, supposedly, a pseudo-remake of Painkiller and its first expansion, Battle out of Hell, which added 10 more levels. Do the math, the game is missing over half of the total stages. And if you want more levels? You gotta buy the DLC packs. SERIOUSLY????

 And then you start up the game... the graphics are hideous. Sure, they're a step up from the original game, but then again, that game is flippin' old. There're a few framerate issues every now and then too, which is inexcusable considering how bad it looks. I can either play the good looking, for its time, original game at a fluid 60 fps or play this new, horrible looking, for its time, remake at 30 fps.

 And they also screwed up the game's eponymous weapon, the Painkiller. Back in the PC original, nothing felt more crunchlingly satisfying than using the razor-sharp shredder Painkiller, but in this game it's like cutting through butter: No feedback, no crunchiness, no oomph.

 At least the game is still Painkiller, and it feels, mostly, like Painkiller.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Month Overview: January 2017

 Tally:
Guilty Gear Xrd -Revelator- 8.0
Disgaea 2 - Cursed Memories 7.5
Blazblue - CentralFiction 8.5
Bushido Blade 8.5
Tobal No.1 7.5
Battle Arena Toshinden 3 6.0
Metal Slug Anthology 8.0
Gekido - Urban Fighters 5.5
Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith 5.0
Catherine 8.5
Twisted Metal - Black 7.5


 That's a ton of games to start off the year! For whatever reason or whim, I decided to start with fighting games. A ton of fighting games. Some were good, some were decent, but none of them really disappointed... Although there were a few disappointments this month, for as fun as Metal Slug games are, this disc is plague with loading times, poor form SNK! And Revenge of the Sith, the game, looked SO good, but it was so average. It looked like one of the best Star Wars games, but it falls short of the visual spectacle it delivers.

 Game of January 2017:
 Catherine, baby! It was high time I played this little game, and it was everything I expected it to be. It's not perfect, and the gameplay is certainly not my cup of tea, but just as with the Danganronpa games, even though I disliked the gameplay, the story itself was SO good that it kept me going.

 Runner-up:
 This is surprising. I almost went with Bushido Blade 1, but as good as that game is, you can't deny that it's a bit lacking when it comes to content. And as much as I liked it, I don't think that it entirely overshadows Bushido Blade 2.... But then there's Blazblue CentralFiction. While character design is otaku-pandering garbage, and the story is convoluted to the point of being nonsensical under the cover of 'deep'.... the gameplay has been refined to a tee.
 There're over 30 characters already, all of them offering at least one unique game mechanic to his or herself, and this is the culmination of every game mechanic that has been piling up since Calamity Trigger, offering so many tools with every single character! CentralFiction delivered where it mattered the most.





Now Playing: Tony Hawk's Proving Ground

 Not my Tony Hawk...
 What the hell is wrong with this game? Upon booting up the game I was greeted with what seemed, and later proved down to be, a superior soundtrack to Project 8, as well as being pleasantly surprised but a better, but still lacking, character creator mode. So far, so good. And then the game starts... and Philly and Lower Philly lack any kind of personality. There's a new 'Aggro Kick' move which is rather awkward, but I think, I think I wound up liking it after I got the hang of it.

 The engine feels different. Again. Characters no longer lean downwards when holding X, which is rather jarring, and pulling off long combos seems easier than ever before, which is a plus in my book. Regardless, the skate parks lack personality, and I was rather miffled by the by-the-numbers goals I was presented with so far. I dunno, I'm not feeling this game.

 The soundtrack is kickass though.

Review #370: Twisted Metal Black

 Yet another twisted romp into the world of Twisted Metal.
 Twisted Metal Black had a lot riding behind it, the original team that developed the first games in the franchise were back, and now they had new hardware to bring their car-combat classic into the world. Even more twisted, darker, eviler and gritty than before, Twisted Metal Black is often considered the best in the franchise, but is it good enough to turn someone like me, who doesn't particularly like the formula, around? No, it's not, but does it try!

 There're quite a few ways to play the game: Story, Endurance(Survival) and Challenge(VS CPUs) modes for Single Player, as well as a few 2P VS and Co-Op deathmatch modes. The real beauty of the game lies in the stories surrounding the 15 members of the cast. 10 of these characters feature their own prologue, mid-scene and epilogue, while the remaining 4 only get an ending. Regardless, every story is sick and twisted which make them oh so enthralling, it makes you want to finish the annoying single player mode in order to get every piece of the story surrounding these sick, sick people.
 Just as with Twisted Metal(2011) and a few other Arcadey arena-combat games, Twisted Metal Black falls into the same pitfall: CPU enemies will ignore each other, for the most part, and just gang up on you. To be fair, it's not as bad as TM(2011) in which CPU wouldn't even scratch each other, but it's still pretty bad. It doesn't help that a lot of the unlockables are hidden in very guide-dang-it places, and some require a degree of finesse that is hard to achieve when you are being constantly bombarded left, right and center. To be honest, I just activated cheats and unlocked stuff at my leisure. I'm not even ashamed of it, the game is unfair to the point of tedium and the unlockables feel like little more than a way to sell guides, so if the game won't respect me, I won't respect it either.

 In the game's defense, combat feels pretty nice and the game runs at a smooth framerate. While I think combat and movement felt a bit tighter and crunchier in the 2011's remake, I think controls, as a whole, are easier to grasp in this game. I just grabbed the joystick and instantly clicked with them, not so much as with 2011. That said, there're a few shortcomings, namely concerning the Special attacks, which are done with slightly complicated, since you have to remember them by heart, directional inputs that are hidden away in the instructions booklet.
 Besides having more vehicles and stories than its successor, the game has better levels, in my opinion, as well. They suffer a bit from the brown-color-palette syndrome, but considering the dark world of Twisted Metal, it kinda works. That aside, the levels are brilliant, so much so that a few were remade in 2011. The only bad level would be the Skyscrapers, since some downward ledges are impossible to see, making it for very treacherous roads, unfairly so.

 Twisted Metal Black is a fantastic game IF you've friends that like the genre. Me? I can tell that a lot of effort was put into the game, and that if you enjoy drawn-out battles that take forever thanks to having to go around the levels over and over again to get more ammo in order to do slightly more damage while your prey escapes to fill its health gauge back up.... Yeah, I really don't like this game. But hey, different strokes for different folk!
 7.5 out of 10

Friday, January 27, 2017

Now Playing: Twisted Metal Black

 At least I got my War of the Monsters Sweet Tooth skin, right? Right?!
 I really don't like Twisted Metal, and after finishing Black with both Sweet Tooth and Junkyard Dog... I still feel the same way. I'm sure there's an audience for these games, mainly people that like car-based combat games and play it with other people. But I don't like Car-based combat games nor do I know people that can stomach it, and even then, I get bored eventually. The problem? Single Player mode is terrible, because all seven CPU opponents ignore each other and focus on you. Fun.

 I also cheated and unlocked everything story mode has. And I'm not even ashamed of it, trying to grab these while getting blasted constantly? I'm not a masochist.

 For what it's worth, there're great things about the game. The dark story and the fantastic levels... but I simply don't like the game. At least I finally got the last War of the Monsters skin that was tied to Twisted Metal Black's save file!

Review #369: Catherine

 Girls, drinks and nightmares, what else would you need?
 Catherine is a horror-esque puzzle game made by the same team that brought us Persona, which usually implies a brilliant soundtrack, believable characters and top-notch atmosphere. And it delivers.

 Vincent Brooks' the game's protagonist, he is irresponsible, laid back and not ready to commit, much to his girlfriend's, Katherine, chagrin. It was a normal day, after his every-day routine of joining his friends for drinks, that he meets Catherine and cheats on his girlfriend... and the nightmares begin. Now begins Vincent ordeals, dealing with his pushy girlfriend, the pushy lover and the deadly nightmares. The story is all kinds of fantastic. Taking place during 8 days or so, every day begins with Vincent waking up after a nightmare, AKA gameplay section, then a few cutscenes of character development, a brief playable interlude at the bar and then another nightmare. The formula doesn't get repetitive due to how good the story-telling is and how engrossing Vincent story is, not to mention how eventually other people get sucked into the nightmare, and you get to follow their stories during the bar and nightmare scenes. It helps that Atlus nailed the game's atmosphere just right, and unexpectedly for a Japanese game, they treat the game's themes with maturity.
 As previously noted, before each nightmare, Vincent will get a brief respite at his favorite bar, The Stray Sheep. These moments are brief, simple and brilliant. Besides interacting with the many different NPCs, which you should, in order to further their personal stories and make sure they survive the nightmares as well, you will also get text messages from Katherine and Catherine, and you are able to answer them in multiple ways, which will affect Vincent's... morality? This can be influenced through other means as well and will change how he behaves in certain cutscenes as well as change the ending. Back to the Stray Sheep, you are able to move around the bar, and while talking to some NPCs, other may leave or enter the joint, which adds a nice little tingle of realism to these sections. Lastly, you can also get hammered on various drinks, getting drunk not only makes you faster during Nightmares, but it also rewards you with alcohol facts! There're a few other thingies, like a record player and an Arcade machine with a 2-D-version of the Nightmare sections, but based around limited moves and solving the challenge. These were probably some of my favorite parts of the game, since they built up the game's world so, so well.

 But then it's time to go back to your house and suffer the Nightmares. This is the meat of the game, in which you must climb a tower of blocks all the way to the top. But you can't take your time, as either lower levels of blocks are constantly falling or you are being followed by a boss. At first, it's simply a matter of pulling and pushing blocks in order to make your way across, but then different types of blocks get introduced: Icy, slippery blocks, Trap blocks, Void Cup-blocks, Spring Blocks and a few others. While it's easy to exploit Retry items, and the 'Undo' feature is pretty generous, the game gets rather brutal at times even in the Normal difficulty setting. I'm not much of a puzzle-game aficionado, so I'm not ashamed to admit that I wasn't much of a fan of these sections. That said, after every stage, each Nightmare being comprised of two-to-four stages each, you'll get to talk with anthropomorphic sheep who soon reveal themselves to be the NPCs from the game's bar section! So even during these you'll get more story bits, and even questions to answer in order to alter Vincent's morality gauge.
 Beating the game unlocks a competitive two player mode, and then there's also the harder, randomized Babel Mode. However, you must earn your entry into the Babel challenges by getting Gold Cups during the story-mode's Nightmares, so... get good.

 Gameplay-wise, Catherine was not my kind of game, but as far as the story is concerned, it's right up my alley. It's a fantastic, original story that keeps you engrossed all the way to the end. So even, even if you are not into puzzle games, the story is more than worth going through the game, featuring mature, serious themes that are displayed in very ingenious ways, mixing Persona's brand of surrealism and fantasy, with more realistic tones. Catherine is fantastic, no two ways about it.
 8.5 out of 10

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Now Playing: Dillon's Rolling Western

 Not impressed.
 I just started Dillon's Rolling Western, and it's kinda boring to say the least. The first part of every day is about gathering resources and building stuff... and it's really boring. Rolling around isn't much fun, it's kinda dull, and thanks to the dumb touchscreen controls, a bit imprecise.

 Then comes the Tower Defense bit, and... it's kinda dull as well. Enemies work like 'random encounters', as in touching them brings you into a battle zone in which you must do battle with several baddies. The touchscreen controls are too imprecise and clunky for my liking, it's easy to accidentally bring your fingers to the edge of the screen, and then makes it impossible to aim your charge.

 All in all... it doesn't seem like a good game.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Review #368: Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

 Revenge of the mediocre licensed movie tie-in videogame.
 Revenge of the Sith the videogame looks really cool, but it really isn't. Watch gameplay footage of the game and you'll be misled thanks to its pretty graphics, smooth animations and fantastic looking combat, because it looks really good, but looks can be deceiving.

 This is a 3D beat'em up/action game that follows the movie of the same name... or rather, it only follows the actiony sequences from the movie, and only those, so if you haven't seen the movie you might get lost and will definitely not be seeing the whole picture, pun intended. You'll play as both Anakin and Obi-Wan, but finishing story missions will unlock bonus missions in which you can play as Yoda, Grievious and a few others. There're also a few co-op endurance-like missions and a surprisingly fun 1 on 1 fighting mode.
 Square and Triangle are your basic attacks, and they can be strung together for various combos, circle is a power blow, while the shoulder buttons are relegated to Force powers(Push, Saber Throw, Jedi mind trick/Sith Lightning) as well as locking onto enemies. Controls are simple, and the combat, while lacking oomph, is fun enough... for the first couple of missions, eventually devolving into a repetitive drag. The game gets boring and repetitive way too soon, and it's a shame because the game is rather short as well!

 I noticed that the game tried really hard to have cool moments, but they aren't very exciting. There're a few turret sections that are downright boring. It doesn't help that the rest of the game consists of mowing down the same few enemy types over and over and over and over again. On the flip-side, Jedi/Sith boss battles are actually rather fun, and this carries over to the game's bonus VS mode. Battling CPUs and Playrers in one on one combat is more fun than it deserves to be!
 And that's Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith: You average, every-day licensed movie tie-in game. It does nothing unique, it's nothing special and you're probably better off playing other Star Wars games, preferably those not directly based off a movie.
 5.0 out of 10

Friday, January 13, 2017

Review #367: Gekido - Urban Fighters

 A whole lot of heart, but not the punch to back it up.
 Oh, Gekido, your heart is in the right place, but... but you just couldn't make the cut. Let me tell you Gekido's tale, a tale about a game that wanted to be the next big beat'em up game, the next Streets of Rage or Final Fight, if you will, a tale that ends in disappointment.

 While the game's instruction manual talks about a kidnapped girl, and paints this grim picture of New Tokyo... there's none of that in the game. Seriously, there's no story, there're no cutscenes, only a handful of pre-battle quips by some enemies. So hopefully you didn't expect to play this game for its engrossing storyline. Luckily there're plenty of modes for you to sink your teeth in. Urban Fighters is the main mode, in which you go from stage to stage beating up baddies to a pulp. Arena is a fighing game mode in which up to four players can do battle in closed-off arenas, not to bad! Shadow Fighter is an Arcade ladder of sorts focusing on fighting. Then there's Survival, once again for the Fighting mode, and an unlockable 'Street Gangs' mode, which I really don't care enough about to unlock, and you'll see why in a bit.
 The game gives you three attack buttons: X, triangle and square produce different kind of attacks, and there're specific button string for each character in order to produce combos. Movesets are rather extensive for a game of this kind, and they may involve pressing up to three buttons at the same time, a movelist menu would've been nice, since you'll just resort to mashing buttons. R2 let's you pick up items and weapons, such as pipes, guns or barrels, L1 jumps and L2 crouches. Pressing all four shoulder buttons at the same time will produce an AoE attack that consumes an orange energy gauge... although you can use it even if it isn't full at the cost of some health. Lastly, there's a blue gauge, Rage, which is unleashed by pressing circle. It's got up to three levels and each level does something different: Level 1 is a special attack, level 2 makes you stronger for a while and level 3 makes you stronger and invincible for a while as well as enhancing your AoE attack. Sounds pretty solid so far, right?

 And then it all falls apart. My biggest pet-peeve with beat'em up games is how hitting enemies feels, you'll be doing a lot of mashing, and killing repetitive hordes of enemies, so it will get repetitive, so it's a necessity to make hitting enemies feel crunchy, feel satisfying. But here it's anything but. Hitting enemies is like hitting air, there's very little audiovisual feedback, which feels very lame. It doesn't help that enemies have a lot of invincibility frames on some of their moves, and sometimes hit detection feels really sloppy, just try playing with Ushi and watch all your moves miss. Enemies are also rather cheap, some will shoot you while they are offscreen, others will hit you as soon as a stage starts, without giving you so much as a chance to do anything. Dogs are the most annoying enemy, since they have huge priority on their grab move, so be careful when approaching them! Lastly, sometimes the controls feel a bit unresponsive, particularly the Rage button, you gotta press it really hard, and I tried my controller with other games, so I know my button was working perfectly!
 The presentation leaves a lot to be desired at both a technical and an artistic levels. While Joe Madureira's art is fantastic, character designs are very generic and forgettable, the only memorable design in the entire game is Tetsuo, and that's because he is a Bruce Lee clone, so he is memorable for all the wrong reasons! The five unlockable characters also feel very... random? Why is Gorilla a playable character? Why is the mummy sub-boss from level 3 playable? Why them over the other generic-looking bosses? Why? They don't have importance on the story, none of them do(Except Angela and Akujin, but I digress), so why did they decide to make those playable? Why? As for the technical aspect of the presentations, the graphics are rather poor, and while the game's cover boasts about the artists involved in the game's soundtrack... it feels as if there're only 2-3 songs in the entire game. What the hell??

 What's really sad is that you can tell that the devs' hearts were in the right place. Every staple of the beat'em up genre is here, the elevators, the enemy dogs, the pipes, the train, everything. They even added an extra fighting mode, and characters have a decent assortment of moves! But the entire game was built around the main mode, Urban Fighters, and it just doesn't work very well. Hitting enemies isn't satisfying, enemies are cheap, stages and characters are plain and forgettable.... It gets a lot of things right, but the fundamentals? That's where the game failed. Gekido can be fun, Gekido can be entertaining... but it will never be what it could have been.
 5.5 out of 10

Review #366: Metal Slug Anthology

 Guns, tanks and loading. A whole lot of loading.
 It's Metal Slug, baby! You know, the Neo-Geo's sweetheart, the 2-D sidescrolling action that has you playing as a soldier mowing down hundreds of soldiers and heavy duty armed vehicles! Present in this anthology are Metal Slug 1, 2, X, 3, 4, 5 and 6, only missing 7 and XX, which had not been released at the time.

 All 7 games play exactly the same way: Equipped with your infinite-ammo pistol, you must go from the left side of the screen to the right, killing and destroying anything and everything that comes your way. You may come across Prisoners of War which, when rescued, will bestow you with rewards, from mere points to limited-ammo weapons, like machineguns, flamethrowers or shotguns.The enemy comes equipped with all manner of destructive vehicles, so it's only fair that you come across vehicles of your own in order to lay waste to the enemy. They are fun, short, arcadey games.
 Playing the games in this collection grants you limited customization on the options, you can change the difficulty, turn auto fire on or off or switch free play with continues. A bit too basic, but it's enough. Beating each game unlocks bonus artwork, which is an OK extra. That said, these games have a couple of shortcomings that are hard to ignore. Most noticeably, loading times, they are very short, but they are everywhere, even on the character select screens! It's absolutely ridiculous as the PS2 should've no trouble running these games, heck, the stand alone Metal Slug releases run much better than these versions! Secondly, while I can understand lacking the home-releases' bonus modes, you can't activate 'Fixed fire' for the vehicles, which is a pain in the butt since you will more often than not self-destruct them accidentally.

 As for the individual games...
 Metal Slug 1 is pretty good when analyzed in a vacuum, but when you compare it with what's to come... it's understandably lacking. You can't pick your character(Player 1 must be Marco and Player 2 must be Tarma), and there's only one vehicle type. This version also adds load times between missions. All in all, this is but an appetizer of things to come.
 6.0

 Metal Slug 2 is a complete enhancement when compared with 1. New weapons, new vehicles, new characters and the addition of transformations! It's a fantastic game that is sadly plagued with slow-down and the new loading times between screen transitions and even when selecting your character.
 8.0

 Metal Slug X is a remixed version of 2 of sorts. The stages have been entirely recolored, enemy placement has been revised, and you will find new or different vehicles in new places. It also fixes the slowdown that was so invasive in Metal Slug 2. But SNK wasn't content with just that, oh no, there're new weapons, like the enemy chaser, new enemies, like the zombie dog, and Super variations of weapons! It's more than just a 'remix' of 2, it's more than a 'fix', it makes Metal Slug 2 completely obsolete. Sadly, this version has the same Loadin Screen issues as the Metal Slug 2.
 8.5
 Metal Slug 3 is probably my favorite of the bunch. This time around, every stage has branching paths and while the end boss is the same, different routes of the same stage can house entirely different enemies and hazards, which is brilliant. It also helps that this game has some of the longest, best and most exciting stages in the franchise, the final stage being a standout. There's also a new zombie transformation, which is as hilarious as it is useful. All in all, this entry doesn't add much new, but what it does, it does superbly. As per usual, this PS2 port adds all sorts of Loading Screens whenever you've to do a screen transition.
 9.0

 Metal Slug 4 was the first game in the series not made by SNK, but by Playmore, and it shows. Tarma and Eri got the boot in order to make room for Trevor and Nadia. There's a new weapon, dual machine guns and, thankfully, vehicles now self destruct if you press R1 instead of shoot+jump, which is so helpful. Besides the two newcomers, which are palette swaps of pre-existing characters, the bosses and a very few amount of new enemies... everything in this game is reused from previous games, heck, the stages look as if they were assembled from pre-existing assets. It feels lifeless, like they weren't even trying and just wanted to pump a new game just because. At least it kept the alternate routes introduced in 3.
6.0

 Metal Slug 5 adds the Slide maneuver, which isn't needed or particularly helpful but is fun to do. It adds nothing new to the formula besides new enemies and stages, which is more than Metal Slug 4 can say for itself. At this point, this is just more of the same, and if Metal Slug wanted to remain relevant, it was gonna need to shake things up.
 7.0
 Metal Slug 6 is the last game featured in the disc, and it's quite good! The Neo-Geo was old by this point, so this game was released on SNK's atomiswave plaque, which allowed for a couple of neat new graphical tricks. Regardless, this game does something that should've been done before: Each character has unique abilities. For example, Tarma can fix vehicles by kicking them, Marco's got the strongest gun, Eri starts with bonus grenades, etc. Brilliant. There're two new characters, Ikari Warriors and King of Fighters alumni Ralf and Clark. They are brilliant new additions, Ralf can withstand one hit as well as perform his vulcan punch, at the cost of having less ammo on weapon pick ups, and Clark can pull of his Argentine Back Breaker.
 Disappointingly, Auto-Fire can't be turned on for this game, so it's back to mashing. At least now you can store up to two special weapons... albeit they are lost upon dying. I didn't seem to come across alternate routes, which is rather sad, and they removed the sliding, which I really liked! The Final Level is kind of a drag as well.
 All that said, this is the only game without intrusive loading screens, which is fantastic, and as a whole, it's a great addition to the franchise and exactly what it needed in order to rejuvenate the series.
 8.0

 The sad thing about this collection is that it's mostly made up of great games, but while entirely playable, this are undeniably sub-par renditions of these classics. Trust me, the loading screens are very short, even if frequent, but you can get used to them, but that still makes them inferior to both their Neo-Geo counterparts as well as the stand alone home releases.
 8.0 out of 10

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Now Playing: Gekido - Urban Fighters

 Meh.
 Gekido is... kinda bad. The intent was there, I'm sure that they meant to make a great beat'em up, but... it simply isn't very good.

 I just finished the game with Travis, and it quickly turned into an endurance run. Dogs can seemingly grab on to you if you approach them, enemies shoot you offscreen, other enemies jump you as soon as the stage starts... And the controls aren't very responsive, at least the special move. Enemies and stages are forgettable as well as the playable characters. The OST is very limited and repetitive, and scoring hits lacks rewarding feedback.

 All that said, the game is kinda fun. Kinda. There're also a ton of different modes, so that's something.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Archile's Grab-bag: Compulsive Buying in 2017 Edition

 It's a new package! Which means more games and more debt!
 Suikoden III: I'm not very familiar with the Suikoden franchise, mostly because it's pretty expensive, but I did play a bit of 3, so I've been meaning to give it another whirl for a while. I'm expecting this one to be good.
 The Hobbit: I played this one all the way to the end on PC. I actually... liked it a fair bit. I must've been rather young, as the consensus is that this game kinda sucks. Regardless, I hope I get to enjoy this one as much as I once did.
 Twisted Metal Black: So I've admitted that I don't like Twisted Metal during my 2017 awards, so why oh why did buy TM Black? The reason is two-fold. A) I used to own this game and B) This game's savefile unlocks a costume on the fantastic War of the Monsters. And you may even add C) It was five bucks cheap.
 Transformers - Devastation: I'm not much of a fan of Transformers, seeing how I grew up with Beast Wars, but this game looked fun. It's made by Platinum, and the gameplay looked very flashy, which is something I can get into.
 Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam(DS):No, I do not mean to play the entire portable Tony Hawk offerings, because I'm pretty sure they are gonna be washed down games at best. But, but, Downhill Jam isn't your average Tony Hawk game, this game seemed, to me, perfect for a on-the-go game, which is why I wanted to get it. But I also wanted the full experience, which is why I also got it on PS2.
 Gekido - Urban Fighters: I used to own this game, and I remember being very hyped about it... but the end result disappointed me. I want to give it another chance, because this game should be right up my alley. I hope I can finally get into this game, I hope I can enjoy it because it seems like my kind of game.
 Tony Hawk's American Wasteland: Another Tony Hawk game! This was the last game on the Ps2 hardware and it introduced Bikes into the mix. I've seen some reviews and it seems reception is mixed: It's either the best or the beginning of the end. I like Underground 2 so much that I think, I think I'm gonna love this one.
 Koudelka: I remember watching this game trailer somehow. I think the game's introduction came bundled as a demo with another game? Regardless, ever since I saw that CG opening I fell in love with Koudelka and have been meaning to play it for a looooong while. I hope it's good, and I hope I can get into the rest of the Shadow Hearts franchise this year.

Review #365: Battle Arena Toshinden 3

 Clunky, wonky, stuffy, stiff... and somehow still fun!
 Enter Toshinden, one of Playstation's first original fighting game series as well as one of the first weapon based 3D fighters. Battle Arena Toshinden 3 is the culmination of Eiji's story, featuring the most characters, stages and mechanics yet!

 The game offers the usual suspects when it comes to modes: Arcade, VS CPU, VS Player, Survival and Practice, which is fair for its era. The Arcade ladder is a bit long, consisting of over 16 battles! At the start of the game you can pick any of 14 fighters, but as you play you will unlock more for a total of 32 characters! To be fair, most of the remaining 16 fighters are clones of the main cast, so they are not wholly original, and a few of these characters look like generic no-personality throw-away designs, like Leon or Tau. Still, there's a ton of characters, and unlocking everyone is sure to take you a while.
 Battling is done with the four face buttons, Square and Triangle are used for weak and strong slashes, while X and triangle do weak and strong kicks. Double tapping up or down, or using L1 and L2, will let you roll into the background, a feature which I found useless most of the time, as block, by holding back on the D-pad, works just fine. As a 3D fighter, combos in this game are performed by juggling your opponent using both attack strings as well as command special moves. I felt like the controls were a bit unresponsive when trying to pull off moves, and it doesn't help that characters feel very stiff when they move, but regardless, it was kinda fun, the game's engine allows for some pretty spiffy combos.

 Above your health bar lies a a small gauge, when filled, by dealing and taking damage, it will begin to blink as it runs out. While it lasts you can pull off Super and Desperation moves. Lastly, you get to 'Soul Bombs' per fight, which act as super moves of sorts by pressing weak slash and weak kick at the same time. Simple and uncomplicated.
 Character models look fine, although, and I can't believe I'm saying this, I think some designs are a bit too colorful. Animations are rather stiff and lack finesse, but you can get used to them. Curiously, you can run the game at either 30 or 60 FPS by going into the Options menu. Playing in 60 FPS will turn the backgrounds into untextured globs of paint... but I can deal with that if it means 60 FPS, that's the way I played the entire game!

 If I were to sum up the game it would calling it a mixed bag. Animations and attacks look stiff and lame, but there're also a few very crunchy, satisfying moves as well. Some character designs look really cool, but others are pathetically generic. You could certainly do much better than Battle Arena Toshinden 3, but you could also do much worse.
 6.0 out of 10

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Now Playing: Battle Arena Toshinden 3

 Yes, another fighting game. Sue me.
 Color me surprised, I expected Toshinden 3 to be terrible, and it kinda isn't! I mean, it's clunky, it's wonky, it's rather stiff... but it's kinda good. I managed to pull some badass looking combos which actually surprised me a bit, it seems like... it seems like it plays better than Toshinden Subaru(4)!

 Basically, as stiff and lame as the game is, it can be kinda fun. Some animations look really good, others don't, some characters are kinda cool, others are terrible... It's a mixed bag. Everything in the game is a mixed bag leaning towards fun. And I'm definitely reusing that line in the review.

 And that's all I've to say up to this point. It has some good things, some bad things and there're a dozen other better fighting games you can get on the PS1... but it's still worth a look for fighting game aficionados.

Review #364: Tobal No.1

 Not gonna be number 1 any time soon...
 Tobal No.1 is yet another original idea from Squaresoft back when they were at their prime. I'm pretty sure it was their first fighting game, and while flawed, it would set up the foundation for the superior Tobal No.2 as well as some elements which were borrowed by Ergheiz.

 The game offers a Tournament Mode, which is actually the game's Arcade Ladder, a VS Player mode, as well as a Practice mode hidden underneath the Options menu. There's another mode, Quest Mode, which you must tackle in order to unlock the 4 bonus fighters. This mode... is not good. It's played in third person while retain the same control from the main fighting mode, which means that it controls like garbage. Turning around is clunky and tedious, the platforming is all kinds of annoying and moving around is imprecise and very, very wonky. It makes for a very vexing time. Bonus points for at least trying, but don't feel too bad, Square would get it right with Tobal No.2 and Ergheiz.
 But fighting is where it's at, and man is it swell! You've a low attack, mid attack and high attack as well as dedicated jump and block buttons. Mixing different directions, as well as the jump or block buttons with the attack buttons will result in all manners of different attacks and combo strings. I felt like there's not much potential for combos, but the movesets are deceptively extensive and every character has his or her own moves. While tearing down the enemy's life bar will KO them, you must also watch out for ring outs, as you can fall off the stage.

 The in-game camera is a bit of an oddity... it doesn't always try to give you a side view of both characters, as sometimes the camera will trail behind for a sort of back camera, or will lean too far to a side. It's not unplayable and it probably won't mess up your moves, but it's certainly weird for a fighting game.
 Props for Akira Toriyama's character designs. These are the most unique characters he has ever designed, and not only are characters different from each other as far as moves go, but also visually. There's a ton of variety, from a chicken man, to a big woman wrestler, to more grounded and generic characters like martial artists Chuji and Gren. It's a very colorful cast, and not something we see nowadays. Animations are also exquisitely smooth, it's quite a treat watching all these characters in action.

 Tobal No. 1 is a more than decent fighting game, but it's a bit lacking. It lacks modes, it could've used a couple more characters, and it's most ambitious mode, Quest Mode, is an annoyance. That said, when it comes down to the fighting mechanics, they are solid if a bit limited, so it's not the best fighter to play competitively. If you can get Tobal No.2 go for it, as it fixes Tobal 1's shortcomings and polishes what already worked well.
 7.5 out of 10

Now Playing: Tobal No.1

 Another fighting game!? Another fighting game.
 Tobal, baby! I used to own the second one, but since it was never released in USA this'll have to do. I don't really care about the two newcomers or the dungeon baddies, so it's alright.

 That said, the game looks surprisingly bad. I mean, it's not a bad looking game, not by any means, but the second one looked like a Nintendo 64 game!... Which I realize doesn't mean much in this day and age, but it's the PS1 we're talking about!

 I've already beaten Arcade Mode with 7/12 characters, and it' pretty good. There's not a whole lot of combo potential, but movesets are deceptively extensive. I also like the character roster, most characters are pretty weird and unique.

 Bottom line is I'm liking Tobal a lot. Now onwards to quest mode!

Review #363: Bushido Blade

 The wind is blowing. A pair of Blades clash once and again. A single body falls. Sometimes both of them.
  I've always been familiar with Bushido Blade 2, since I thought being a fighting game sequel it would be the superior game, but last year I found out that both games are quite different, so I had to give Bushido Blade 1 a try.

 Bushido Blade is not your average fighting game. There're no life bars or energy gauges, and just one hit is enough to finish a match. You pick from 6 characters and 8 different weapons: A katana, a nodachi, a warhammer, a naginata, a saber, a long sword, a broad sword and a rapier. Quite a few of these weapons are actually missing from the sequel, and characters have never really been all that unique among each other, so in a way, this game actually has more variety.
 Control aren't as streamlined as in 2, you've three attack buttons: High, mid and low, as well as a defense button that must be timed alongside the enemy's attack. R1 raises your positions while R2 lowers it, which translates into changing into the three different positions each weapon allows, plus, R1 can be used to climb walls, R2 and then R1 allows you to jump and R2+attack buttons will produce special attacks. It sounds like a handful, and compared to Bushido Blade 2's simplicity it kinda is, but it's easy to get the hang of it. What you will notice is that gameplay is much slower, les flashy and more deliberate in this game. It's not better or worse, it simply is different, you could mash buttons in the previous game and produce some tense blade clashes, here when your blade clashes with another doesn't allow you to immediately attempt another attack, so you must be more careful.

 In the sequel, body blows didn't matter too much unless you were hit on an arm. In this game, unnecessary damage is an actual hindrance, which is awesome. Being hit on your legs will decrease your running speed or sometimes even reduce you to a crawl, which limits your stances and movement. Getting hit on an arm will limit the stances you can switch to. Getting hit anywhere will make your attacks slower. You really don't want to get hit in Bushido Blade 1, because if you survive the hit it will hamper your efficacy.
 Sadly the game is a bit lacking in modes. There's a VS mode, against player only, Slash Mode which pits you against 100 enemies(And lets you unlock a 7th character... if you are good enough), training against a CPU and, finally, Story Mode. There's two endings in Story Mode, the good one is a bit of a secret how to get it, but it involves running. Breaking the code of Bushido(attacking a downed enemy, hitting the on their backs) will cut your run short however.

 Bushido Blade 1 isn't better or worse than Bushido Blade 2, it's just different. While I prefer BB 2's faster paced combat, the importance of body damage in this game makes it a much more interesting affair. And while BB 2 might have more characters, I'd rather have more weapons! All in all, this is an interesting case, as I would suggest getting both as each game offers something different. But for what it's worth, Bushido Blade 2 definitely has more longevity: More modes, more characters and more stages.
 8.5 out of 10

Monday, January 9, 2017

Archile's Grab Bag: 2017 Edition

  New year means new packages which means new games which, apparently, also means a new pair of legs.
 Tobal No. 1: I'm actually familiar with the game's sequel, Tobal No. 2, but seeing how that one wasn't released in USA it would be a bit of a hassle getting it to work. Plus, I didn't really care about the bonus 'Dungeon' fighters or the new default characters. That said, the graphics seem a bit blockier, but oh well, as long as the gameplay is as smooth as it was on the sequel I'll be a happy camper.
 Battle Arena Toshinden 3: I played Toshinden Subaru(4) and it was crap. I also tried one of the PC Toshinden games and it was also crap. But seeing how Toshinden is supposed to be a Playstation classic, I'll try to give it another shot. Not too hopeful about it though.
  Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam: The Tony Hawk game nobody talks about, originally released on the Wii, I opted for traditional PS2 controls. It seemed decent, from what little footage I've seen.
Tony Hawk's Proving Ground: I wasn't wowed by Project 8, but maybe, just maybe, they managed to get Tony Hawk back on track with Proving Ground. I actually liked the new 'punching bystanders' mechanics I saw, so I'm slightly optimistic about it. Slightly.
 Sonic Heroes: I remember being kinda excited about Sonic Heroes back before it was released, since I had grown up as a Nintendo Kid, but jumped ship to the PS2, I hadn't had a chance to play Sonic, which made this my first Sonic game. I think I kinda liked it, although its reception was rather lukewarm and the PS2 version got the most flak!
 Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith: The only Star Wars prequel that was actually good! This game looks very, very promising, to say that I'm very optimistic about it is selling it shortly. I can't wait to give this one a try!
 Metal Slug - Anthology: I'm a bit of a NEO-GEO lover, so of course I'm amiliar with the Metal Slug franchise! This anthology looks to be every Metal Slug fan's wet dream.


 I also got Bushido Blade I but didn't take a picture, regardless, I've already played it for a bit, and it's really good. In some ways, its better than the sequel, in others... not so much.