This is going to be a follow-up of sorts to my previous entry. Writing that post was quite cathartic, and putting into words feelings which I had trouble identifying over the past year or so. A month later I realize how down I really was about my fleeting passion for gaming and I knew I would need to bounce back, or my interest would fade further. I was hoping that hosting The Secret of Mana for the community playthrough and playing it on original hardware would light that spark, but to put it simply, it didn't happen that way. Instead, a combination of a few things happened concurrently. I soft-modded a secondhand Nintendo Wii and loaded it with emulators. I did the same thing to my phone. I started playing games wherever I could in an effort to add games to my post in the "Games Beaten" thread to get my count up in January for a big start to the year. So far I've played a lot of handheld games (because they are shorter), and I'll tell you a little about them in a bit. First I want to mention the other project I'm working on that has fired me up a bit when it comes to gaming.
Continue reading On Sharing - A Follow-up
As with most Sony consoles, I purchased my first PSP solely for the purpose of playing the Metal Gear Solid title for the platform. It wasn't Portable Ops though, it was Peace Walker. This means I acquired my PSP pretty late in its life cycle. However, I have played it quite a lot and physical PSP games make up a nice chunk of my overall game collection. I recently added a second PSP to my collection and decided to spend some time with a few games I've never tried before. If I've learned anything from watching MetalJesusRocks on YouTube for years, it's that the PSP is home to many incredible racing games and rpgs. In fact, the first two games here have been mentioned by MJR so many times that once I got back into playing the PSP they were the first games I checked out.
Continue reading PSP Three for One
The baseball season is in full swing and after a few years of my baseball fandom fading away, I've begun following the MLB and my beloved New York Yankees again for the 2016 season. The Yankees stink, but I'm also fortunate enough to live close to one of the nicest minor league parks in the country, that being the Dell Diamond of the Texas Rangers' farm club, the Round Rock Express. So as I rekindle my love for America's pastime, I've decided to take a look at some of the baseball games in my collection throughout the generations. Though I typically don't collect sports games, my game library is peppered with some of the better baseball titles from the past. I am by no means contending these to be the best baseball games from each generation, they are simply the ones I own because I happen to enjoy them quite a bit. Let's play ball!
Continue reading Talkin' Baseball
It's amazing for me to think that I don't like indie games as much as I "should." When I was growing up, I tended to restrict myself to listening only to bands who were on a short list of only the most exalted independent record labels. Everything else was "sold out" or "too trendy." Yeah, I was one of those kids in high school.
You might think given that kind of holier than thou upbringing I'd be heralding the current indie boom in video gaming, but quite frankly, I'm not really feeling it. Don't get me wrong. I am certainly cheering on smaller teams making games that are touching a select amount of players with whom their work resonates. After all, month after month on the RFGPlaycast it seemed I would try to break down the "problems" with modern triple-A video game design, and the indie movement is providing so many answers to my pleas for innovation. Having said that though, every time I try an indie game, I rarely get into it enough to bother finishing it, despite the fact that they tend to be shorter than mainstream titles. There have been a few exceptions like Limbo, but I haven't gotten deep into an indie game in a while.
I recently sat down with The Unfinished Swan and although I can't say I have changed my tune on indie games, I did enjoy it more than most others.
Continue reading The Unfinished Swan
I am on record as proclaiming that Sin & Punishment: Star Successor on the Nintendo Wii to be an "objectively perfect" video game. The excitement and wonder of that game, as well as the motion and scale of the scenery, left me floored after playing it. I thought it would be a long time, if ever, before I found a game that combined the thrilling gameplay, amazing atmosphere, and grand scale of S&P in the same perfect mixture. I haven't had to search long, as I have just finished my first playthrough of Panzer Dragoon Orta for the original XBox.
Continue reading Panzer Dragoon Orta
Once upon a time, I convinced my mother to buy me an Atari Jaguar on clearance for sixty dollars at our local K-B Toys store. I had a nice stack of games with it including some of the 'good' ones like Alien Vs Predator and Checkered Flag. However, two games my sister and I played together for hours on end were Ruiner Pinball and Val d'Isere Skiing and Snowboarding. Ruiner Pinball is a pretty basic pinball game with some great sound effects. I remember Val d'Isere Skiing and Snowboarding to be a pretty good downhill skiing game, and for its time it may have been, but as it turns out, I must have had my nostalgia-colored glasses on.
Continue reading Ski Paradise
I received a copy of LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga on the PS3 for Christmas. it's been on my wishlist in various incarnations on the previous generation for some time, I'd just never gotten around to buying it. Oddly enough my daughter's boyfriend bought it for me, which made me immediately suspicious, but so far there appear to be no strings attached. Or engagement rings.
One of the things that has really irritated me this generation is not just being able to stick a game in the machine and start playing, far too often they're plagued by a huge update before I can even begin, pleasingly LSW:TCS had none of this, nor did it require any installation. Travellers Tales have earned my respect immediately.
The music, as is to be expected, is excellent. For me the sound of the theme music is enough to make the hairs on my neck stand up, it takes me back to the day when my parents took me to see Star Wars (none of this 'A New Hope' rubbish, it was just 'Star Wars') and even hearing it play at the start of every level and chapter it still has that effect. It's just that good.
The sound effects are straight from the movies and I have absolutely no complaints about them; lightsabers hum, blasters shriek, tie fighters squeal, Jawas do whatever Jawas do, Tusken Raiders wave their arms about and do that funny laugh thing, droids say 'Oh no' in a robotic voice just before you shoot them.
Unlockables are present by the ton. For a collector it's a dream, and even after about 30 hours of game time I'm still only just over half way through. Some of them are the usual useless filler, a la big head mode in beat 'em ups, but then there's some genuinely useful stuff that helps, improving fighting abilities, and guiding you to locations of hidden items. I won't spoil the game by revealing what they are, but suffice it to say one of them makes you feel like a real jedi when you use it, none of this Luke Skywalker learning stuff either, proper Yoda in full battle mode.
The levels are big enough to provide a challenge, but not so big that they feel overwhelming, although the ones involving vehicles can be somewhat frustrating as the control scheme is a little odd, I found it far to easy to flip whatever ship I was flying in a 180 and suddenly I was heading heading in a direction contrary to the one I intended. That aside these levels are few and far between, and the pod race in Episode 1 is a heap of fun, I just wish that blasters were enabled in subsequent playthroughs, then Sebulba wouldn't have it so easy.
The fighting aspect leaves me feeling a little disappointed. It's not a massive problem, it's just that I can't aim where I want with a blaster, it's taken care of by the game, frequently shooting harmless bits of scenery when I could really be doing with blowing the crap out of the fully shielded Droideka that's hammering away with it's blasters right next to me. The Jedi and Sith are also pretty ineffectual in large scale battles as they tend to flail around waving their lightsabres as they please and deflecting blaster bolts anywhere but back at the enemy who fired them. As I mentioned one of the unlockables addresses this, and from then on playing one of these is pure awesome.
Each character type has a small range of different abilities; Jedi & Sith can move objects using the force; Gungans can leap really high; Jawas can enter small tunnels; droids can unlock doors. After completeing story mode for a chapter the ability to switch between these types at will makes figuring some of the extras out in the level quite a challenge.
Hidden within each level are 10 minikit cannisters, which you must collect to increase your stash of studs (the LSW:TCS equivalent of money) which you can use to buy extra characters, ships etc, and these contribute towards your brick count for the game. There are 160 bricks to earn in total, earned by collecting minikits, acheiving a certain number of studs in a level, completing the level, and the most onerous: a timed challenge mode where you have to locate 10 cannisters in a different location to the minikit ones. It takes long enough to find all of the minikit cannisters, without dragging it out by timing you to find another 10. I've only attempted a couple of these, and failed on both count., I loathe timed sections in adventure games, they seem such a forced (no pun intended) way of extending what is otherwise a great game. Because of this simple fact I'll probably never complete the game 100%, fortunately as it's the PS3 version and it was released before trophies became mandatory there's no huge incentive to do so, unless of course they release an update that enables them, and then? Well, we'll just have to see.
I love the game. It's LEGO, it's Star Wars, it's a video game. I really don't need much else.
In space no one can hear you scream, unless MJ and Janet are responsible, in which case no one wanted to hear "Scream". Of course that doesn't really help most of us that are stuck in our living rooms on a regular basis playing horror games. I'm pretty sure everyone in my family knows I scream like a little girl thanks to Silent Hill 2. Dead Space isn't really improving things.
Dead Space, designed by EA Redwood Shores, is a new intellectual property from EA, a company that used to be considered the most vile and unoriginal collection of individuals since John Romero's ego took over his soul. With their buying up every single development house known to mankind and pumping out Maddens like it was going out of style they easily qualify as atleast a stereotypical Captain Planet villian. Then they release a string of good new properties that I enjoyed such as Army of Two, no matter how criminally short it was, Crysis, and most importantly Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. Then Activision came along and proved to be worse than Julian Sands as the Warlock and anything EA has mustered for upsetting me. Then EA released Dead Space a week ago.
Continue reading Week Old Reviews: Dead Space
So, here we are. I suppose this is a foreword as to the intent of these articles, which are to review a game, new and old, after about a week of play through. The idea is there for a few reasons.
First; it'd be impossible for me to complete certain types of games I'd like to review, such as roleplaying games in a reasonable amount of time. Especially, and this depends on the game, prefer to play a game and try and unlock all the goodies.
Second; I have a life and if I did try to review everything in any sort of reasonable time period, I'd never get anything done. Ever. Especially with some games boasting hours of gameplay that exceed certain movies titles starring Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte. Meanwhile, I have a job and shit to do.
Third; I'm sure I could give other reasons, but look, mister, I don't have to justify my life choices to you!
The format of these reviews will generally be a pretty simple write up. There won't be a score given, because I find most scores to be trash in gaming magazines. They're always skewed and there's no real standard to compare it to. When you give Metal Gear Solid a 10 and Halo 3 a 10, are you saying they're exactly the same in terms of worth? Scoring is also useless because, lets face it folks, there's no such thing as a perfect game which would be that fictional 10, 100, A+, what have you that you're comparing games to and there never will be. The scores are a comparison to something that will never exist, so why make the comparison? Lastly, I think scores are generally misleading. When I read a review in a magazine nowadays, I'll see a game get all sorts of criticism but end up with a respectable score of a 8.5/85/B+ while a game that had no criticisms received a lower score. Lastly, I think they detract from reviews because the first thing people look for normally is the score and judge it from that alone instead of reading the actual review. If you want a score, go to gamerankings. If you want a review, well feel free to read my thoughts.
A bit about myself; I've been playing games as long as I can remember. My first dedicated console system was a NES I got when I was around 4, but I had been playing my Commodore 64 since I could walk. My first words were probably Load 'Miner49er,8,1. I've been playing games ever since, so I consider myself a fair bit experienced in the area. Some of my favorite games include: God Hand, King of Fighters, Star Ocean 2, Metal Gear Solid as a series, Final Fantasy 6, Fallout 1 and 2, Jagged Alliance, Rocket Knight Adventures, Resident Evil, Guilty Gear XX, the Megaman series and well...this can go on all day.
I consider myself a pretty fair gamer as well. There isn't a genre or type of game I explicitly hate. While it is well known that I'm a big fan of turn based, 2-d, and retro games, I enjoy games of all types and even genres I normally don't buy I have favorites for. A good game is good no matter what genre it is. I'll do my best to cover the major games and if this proves to be popular enough, I'll spring for a 360 so I can say I own every console currently on the market and appease the masses.
So now that's out of the way. I'm not responsible for the length of my rants. Read at your own risk. Or don't. My sense of humor might also hurt your brain at times.
That is all.
Once upon a time, in a galaxy located somewhere in the desolate universe named Cali-Forn I. A. a then, arguably, still talented George Lucas created what was originally supposed to be a Flash Gordan movie, but somehow, people felt that Lucas was too big of a hack, even then, to give him film rights to the franchise so told him to make his own setting. And create it he did. 4 years later, in 1977, came the franchise that made being a nerd more acceptable in the form of Star Wars, the sci fi space opera story of Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress except with more implied incest and Harrison Ford shooting stupid fish men who everyone but me can understand. The nerd world rejoiced and Star Wars became a hit, a classic, and a source of milk money for Lucas.
Since then we've had Star Wars products like you wouldn't believe: lunch Boxes, costumes, toys, hell, my friend's keg was an R2-D2 replica. Crank his top and you get cheap watered down beer. Good times. Continuing this trend of getting money to support his habit of ruining my childhood, the products eventually sifted into video games and here I stand with the six hundredth title in the Star Wars video game lineup: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, or as it will be herein referred as: STFU.
STFU is a game that takes place in between episodes three and four of the movies, which in actual numbers is between the last star wars movie and the first star wars movie. The game attempts to fill in some of the gap between the two films, much to the ire of many fans. You take the role of Darth Vader's secret Jedi apprentice, Galen Marek, who is only known within the game under the moniker of Starkiller; a character who continues in the Lucas tradition of trying to make bad ass out of someone who looks like they'd been pampered all their life. Marek is essentially trained by Vader to be his assassin in eliminating the remaining Jedi until Vader feels fit to overthrow the Emperor and take his parking spot, because I guess the handicap area just isn't cutting it.
The plot sees some twists, which I thought were interesting, if not predictable. However, one thing I wish to say is that plot was actually one of the strongest elements in this game. While sometimes the plot feels a bit thin and experienced sudden inexplicable jumps within the story in cut scenes, I felt that the overall plot was better than any of the newer movies. Starkiller is a fairly likeable, if somewhat under played, character with poor dress sense and the supporting characters are all interesting, if again under played. In fact, that seems to be the first half of the problem with the plot in that while there are a lot of cool characters, but none of them seem really explored too much. For instance, the love interest between Starkiller and his pilot never seems to be explained as to how it develops outside of one cut scene. The two never really seem to spend any time together, but I can see that as understandable in that we're here to play a game, not watch a movie. Out of interest, Darth Vader's character finally comes back into being a good villain instead of anything Hayden Christiansen did with him. The biggest problem with the plot, however, is that it never really feels like you're able to change anything since the canon has already been established as to what's supposed to happen via episode four. There is an exception in that you're allowed to slightly alter the ending with a decision you're able to make within the game, but the end result is ultimately the same.
The game play consists of you taking Starkiller through a variety of very linear missions that essentially amount to: "Go from point A. to point B. through environment F. and kill subject D", while you engage enemies in hack and slash saber play with a slightly stiffer control than Devil May Cry. Controlling Star Killer is easy, and I will say that he is well enough animated and has a variety of moves to unlock, however part of the problem is that you'll never use 90% of these moves unless you just want to be fancy, as a single combo is enough to last you through the game. Infact, it's disadvantageous to use anything but this combo as the electricity benefit that goes along with it stuns your opponents preventing sudden reprisals while you recover. As such, a lot of what should be the awesome fight scenes that occur during the cut scenes boil down to you pressing square square triangle triangle until whatever you're killing is killed and killed good and trust me, there's a lot of stuff that needs to be killed out there as EVERYTHING is trying to kill you, but I'll get into that later.
To aid you in you single handedly combating an army of genetically enhanced super soldiers and fish men assholes who apparently just don't like you being on a planet they happen to be on is one of the tauted features for the game's creation; the ability to use the force in new and unprecedented ways that surely belong behind a bullet point. This amounts to you getting three abilities that can be used in a number of ways: moving objects through the force via force grip and force push and shooting lightning from your fingertips and your giant polish sausage that doubles for a light saber, since I guess a weapon that might actually cut stuff is too hard core for an assassin. So, you have all these new and revolutionary powers at your disposal! Surely these break open the flood games of creativity and give you limitless strategies and improve gaming kind for forever! Not really. Everything that is done here using the force has been done before in an under rated game called PSI-Ops and pretty much anything else that decided to be derivative of it. In fact, anything found in STFU, PSI-Ops did better and more creatively and with far fewer limits to how you could use your powers. Using the force in itself is a problem, mostly due to one of the most glaring flaws in the game. The targeting.
You will find in this game that there are MANY times you'll try and hit something or use something only to find that you're just standing there like a goon, throwing barrels into the wall instead of the giant tin man who is firing rockets into your face like it was going out of style or using your lightning ability on some part of the environment because Starkiller apparently is angry that he was rejected as Dynamo in the Imperial run version of The Running Man. Half the time even when you do have a target that is actually killable, it isn't the one you need to kill. I realize your character is supposed to be an apprentice novice assassin when you first take control of him, but logic dictates you try and kill the asshole putting fist sized holes into you with his flak cannon over the imperial officer that falls over and dies from one hit. Hitting and acquiring specific targets is almost impossible if there's a group of targets and you're just better off diving headfirst into battle and duct taping the left analog stick in the proper direction with hopes your character doesn't decide to try and attack guys that are 10 feet behind him.
Speaking of falling over, you'll find that's something the enemies like to do. They trip over a lot of stupid stuff. You'd think for elite soldiers who don't have shoe laces, they wouldn't fall all over themselves half as much as they do. "What causes this?" you may ask. Another bullet point called Euphoria AI. As advertised, they claim it makes the enemies smart by giving them sub routines that make them wish to preserve their lives and act more realistically. In reality? This makes the Empire's most deadly soldiers blundering morons who fall all over each other a third of the time, stare at walls another third of the time, and lastly pay attention to you and ONLY you for the remainder. You will find that you'll walk into an area that is a huge battle between storm troopers and the native alien species who are duking it out until they see an iota of your existence where everyone suddenly drops what they're doing and goes apeshit crazy in an attempt to club you with their rifles until you have detached retinas.
The AI also really knows how to take advantage of the flaws within the game and exploit them on the level of any fighting game tournament player. Granted, I played the game on hard to prove I'm hardcore like that because the demo was pretty easy, but there are points in the game where the computer takes advantage of things that make it very very frustrating. The third boss in this game will haunt my nightmares of hard bosses, not because he was especially difficult in terms of developing a strategy to defeat, but because of unavoidable cheap hits that because of the difficulty take off massive amounts of your life bar. For example, when you're knocked down on the ground, it takes Starkiller a few seconds to get back up at which point you're defenseless. You might as well just have a big sign on the seat of your pants that says "Insert wide load here", as you will be raped and there is nothing you can do about it. At one point during my attempts to fight this boss, he knocked me down due to an unavoidable counter that he performed. After which he used force push to blast my almost full life bar down to about 15%. There are many times in boss fights that characters have almost entirely unavoidable, unpredictable, or plain unblockable moves that take off half your life bar and if they happen, you might as well just toss your controller down and wait for your game to reload after you die. This isn't just bosses however because there's a number of segments where you are just bombarded with enemies whose families you must have murdered in their sleep as they strive to do nothing but piss you off through cheap unblockable hits, some of which come from off camera so you never knew in the first place to dodge. This is a problem considering your main means of attack is either standing still and throwing things from a distance with your force grip or moving just slightly while you whack people with your big red club to teach them they've been naughty children.
There's also a section of the game that causes some people unforeseen amounts of frustration and it's the section where you have to bring down a star cruiser with the force. The problem here isn't that the section is difficult in itself, it's that the displayed controls are misleading. Instead of indicating that you should be pushing the left analog stick to the left, it appears that you're supposed to be pushing it to 9 O'Clock, so for the first 10 or 15 minutes of doing this segment I was faced with a mystery as to what I was doing wrong exactly which leads to another problem. If you have no clue what you're supposed to be doing, this game is very unforgiving and gives very few clues as to what you're doing wrong.
Overall, the game is mediocre and causes a number of problems for a number of crowds I found. You think that this would be a dream game for die hard star wars fans, as even with all this criticism the game is still worth a play through if you're an action fan and have some patience, however they seem to take issue with the a few issues, such as the apprentice's lightsaber being a foam replica and never really doing much damage to anything in particular or just the overall idea of the plot. On the other hand, action fans may be put off with some of the unfair and bad mechanics within the game as well as the rather shallow fighting. There also isn't very much replayability to the game, because you never can really interact with any of the characters or change the fate of the apprentice. So if you're thinking of getting STFU, give it a rent first, you can probably beat it in a single sitting as it's only about 10 missions long and decide from there as it might just be best to wait till the price has been reduced.
Image courtesy of Playstation.com
I've been a big fan of the Yakuza series since back in the Playstation 2 days. If you've never heard of them, the games put you mostly in the shoes of Kazuma "Kaz" Kiryu as he deals with the trials and tribulations of being a leader in the Tojo Clan of gangsters. Like the Persona series, Yakuza, while localized for American audiences, is baked in Japanese culture. The gameplay, contrary to popular belief is nothing like Grand Theft Auto but more like Shenmue only a thousand times more exciting and fluid. The series has spanned the Playstation 2 through the Playstation 4, and even has a few PSP titles that never made it out of Japan. I feel like I have to stress that for as much as I adore this series, it is certainly not for everyone. Only the first game has English voice acting so if you don't like reading subtitles, see you later! The brawler-style combat engine is not updated enough from game to game so many people have understandably criticized it for becoming stale. The graphics, while colorful and detailed, always feel a little bit dated. If you don't like long cutscenes you also might want to pass. They're not in the same league as the Metal Gear Solid series, but they're certainly in the realm of "put down your controller and watch for a while."
Continue reading Yakuza 5