Thursday, July 31, 2014

Game Time - July 2014

July was an insanely good month for gaming. It somehow turned into ridiculous anime game month even though I didn't mean for it to.

I started off by playing Dynasty Warriors Gundam Reborn for an unhealthy amount of time. It came out on the 1st, so I was able to start the month off with a real banger. I blew up over 100,000 robots and it was glorious! The games in the Dynasty Warriors Gundam series will forever hold a special place in my heart. There's something magical about decimating thousands of robots with little to no resistance.

After I started winding down from my Dynasty Warriors Gundam high I played a bit of One Piece Unlimited World Red. I intended to play it more than the two times I did, but became distracted by what is now one of my favorite franchises of all time.

I don't remember when in the month it was, but I decided to check the E-shop on the 3DS. That was when I noticed that Inazuma Eleven was on sale because of the world cup. It was only $10 and I had been wanting to try it for a long time. I don't really like soccer, but I am way into anime and games with RPG elements. I promptly downloaded it and ended up playing it for hours. I now have a new obsession that consumes most of my waking thought...

Dynasty Warriors Gundam Reborn

I don't know that there's a whole lot I can Say about this game. It's another Dynasty Warriors Gundam game. It's the fourth one to be exact. You play as Gundam pilot controlling a Gundam. You walk around a map and push square about a billion times and all the enemy robots around you blow up. It's great! If you don't know anything about the series I wrote up something about the previous game, which you can check out here.

So while I don't really need to describe its appeal I should talk about what's different with it. Obviously there are new Gundams and pilots, but the game itself is actually a bit different as well. The main difference comes with the way you upgrade the Gundams themselves. In the third game you just got blueprints after a battle. In this you still get blueprints, but now they're for specific parts like arms, legs, torso, and head. You can combine them in order to make complete blueprints with all the parts. The combining is actually kind of confusing and I'm still not quite used to it. Each body part can only have two stat boosts, so you need to be careful when combining or you'll often end up making your Gundam worse than it previously was.

This image perfectly captures the spirit of Dynasty Warriors Gundam Reborn.

The way you unlock characters and Gundams is a bit different as well. The game uses a card based system. There is a list of cards in the game and they all have an objective on them. So for example some cards may say you need to beat a specific mission in order to unlock the card. Once you do that you'll gain the card and whatever benefits come from it. This means you'll often need to go to the card list to see what you need to be doing. Some of the stuff is insane, so I don't know if I'll ever be able to 100% this game like I did the last one. To get all the cards you have to be every Gundam and Mobile suit in the game at least five times and blow up at least 2,000 enemies with each, which is bananas. There are so many more Gundams in this game than the previous entry, which was already an insanely large roster.

I'm impressed that Tecmo Koei somehow makes each game in this franchise bigger and better than the last. I was a bit disappointed they didn't dub this game into English though. One of my favorite things to do was make fun of the English voice acting, but this time I just have to settle for reading the corny lines. I'm just glad that they're still putting these games out in the U.S. at all, because I can't imagine they sell extremely well. Hopefully in a year or two I'll be able to once again tell you about my Dynasty Warriors Gundam exploits with a brand new game.


One Piece Unlimited World Red

I played Unlimited World Red twice, but they were two four hour sessions. I got a pretty good feel for what the game is and I like it. Initially when I heard about it people were describing it as a One Piece themed version of Monster Hunter. This isn't entirely accurate, but it's not super far off. It does have a lot of Monster Hunter Elements embedded in it. You do fight large bosses, some of which are creatures, but it's not the focal point of the game.

Most of the time you're wandering around various environments seen in the show. You'll be taken to such locales as Albasta, and Marineford. If you're a fan of the show you'll recognize everything, if not then you wouldn't be playing this game anyways. It's in the original Japanese with subtitles, so Namco Bandai clearly knows the audience that they're targeting with this release.

If you can name these four characters you'll probably want to buy this game.

In each locale you'll be collecting materials much like in Monster Hunter. You do this by breaking boxes, and hitting trees. You can also catch bugs and fish. The locales are generally wide open and you'll fight a bunch of smaller enemies as you traverse through them. The combat is akin to Dynasty Warriors where you do basic attack combos by pushing square and triangle. You also have special moves, which can be used to do things to the environment as well. In fact, the entire game seems kind of like it's just Dynasty Warriors where the enemies take more hits and you collect a bunch of items for crafting like in Monster Hunter.

The reason you're collecting stuff is so that you can make expand the hub town. You'll need various things in order to construct buildings and upgrade them. Buildings will give you access to new things to do, such as shop, play mini-games, and take on quests. The quests are very similar to Monster Hunter in that you have a rank, which will increase the more you do. There's even a restaurant, which grants stat bonuses through the combining of various foods.

The game is all about making this town better.

The plot is unique to the game. A pirate named Red is messing with Luffy and the crew. He is able to pull from their memories and bring their thoughts into physical space. Due to this ability most of what I played so far involves the Straw Hat crew reliving some of the more memorable fights from the anime. It seems like an excuse to put all the old enemies in the game while still technically having a "new" story.

I bought this game for two reasons. The first being that I am a die-hard One Piece fan. The second was so that I could play multiplayer with a friend. It turns out that the only multiplayer in the PS3 version is local, so I won't be doing any of that. I probably should have gotten the Vita or 3DS version of the game if I had known. I do still enjoy the game though. It's interesting, because it doesn't seem like a generic cash grab, which most anime games tend to be. It's trying to do something unique and while it doesn't entirely succeed it's still super interesting. If you're a One Piece fan you should definitely pick it up!

Inazuma Eleven

There was a time a few years ago when I started looking into the Inazuma Eleven franchise. It sounded super appealing to me. A game about a middle school soccer team in Japan who essentially have superhuman abilities. It even had RPG elements to boot! I thought it looked pretty cool, but much to my dismay the game had only been Released in Japan, and Europe. Since the first 2 games were on DS I could have imported them, but the price was a little more than I wanted to pay for a complete unknown.

Fast forward to a few weekends ago when I happened upon the original game for ten dollars on the 3DS eshop. Earlier this year Level 5 finally decided it was time to give the franchise a run in America. In order to do so they put an enhanced version of Inazuma Eleven on the eshop for $20. When I happened upon it the World Cup was going on, so it was only $10. I knew that I had to buy it. What I didn't expect was for the game to consume my every waking thought.

Welcome to my new obsession!

The first night I played the game I only intended to try it out, but I ended up playing for six hours straight. Something about it hooked me immediately and it still hasn't let me go. What's crazy is that I don't really like soccer. However, when you take soccer and basically make it an anime I'm apparently all for it. Real soccer players can't call exploding penguins out of the ground, or make a soccer ball burst into flames because they kicked it so hard!

So what is Inazuma Eleven? I'm glad you asked! It's a soccer RPG developed by Level 5. There are now 6 games in the series, and an anime that follows the plot line of the games. All 6 are out in Japan, 4 of them are released in Europe, and there's just the original here in the United States. In the game you play as the Raimon Middle School soccer club. At first they're terrible and the club is in danger of being disbanded, but through a series of coincidences and hard work they turn everything around and end up thwarting and evil plan that threatens to ruin the soccer that they love so much!

I know this probably sounds like I'm messing around, but I'm not. I legitimately love this series. There are two kinds of soccer matches in the game. There are standard 11 on 11 matches, and then there are the 4 vs. 4 random battles. Yes, there are random soccer battles in this game! Yes, that is the best thing ever! You control your players with the DS stylus. Drawing lines from them will make them move and tapping the screen will make them pass the ball. Sounds pretty basic right? Well then you add in special moves. When your player comes into contact with an opposing player the game pauses and gives you some choices. If you have the ball you can either dodge, charge, or use a special move. Dodging will have a low success rate, while charging will have a higher success rate, but you're more likely to foul. Alternatively you could use a ridiculous special move that consumes TP, which is essentially this game's magic. The same thing happens if you're going against someone with the ball, but it changes to tackle and slide tackle. You can also do special shots!

HIS LEG CATCHES ON FIRE AND IT'S AWESOME!

As you play your team levels up and learns skills, and it's just the most magical time ever. To make it even better there's a Pokemon-like quality to the game. There are over 1,000 players you can recruit and they even have elements associated with them. Each played is either Fire, Wind, Wood, or Air and that determines what type of players they're strong against. The whole system was basically made for me, and the fact that it's all so over the top and filled with crazy characters makes it even better. Right now I probably sound like a mad man, and I feel like I'm just typing stream of consciousness like some kind of lunatic. I haven't enjoyed a game this much in a very long time. It's like someone made this series specifically for me.

Now as I said the first game is the only one that has been released here in the U.S. Lucky for me the second game was for DS, which was not region locked. I imported the 2nd game and have already played that for over 50 hours as well.

So Much More Inazuma Eleven

The third game in the series came out last year in Europe. While it was released for the DS in Japan it was sadly released for the 3DS in Europe. Much to my dismay the 3DS is region locked, so I had to import a European 3DS. Yes, that's right. I imported a 3DS from England so I could play the remaining 2 English Inazuma Eleven games I have yet to consume. In fact for the past few days I've been playing Inazuma Eleven 3 on my hot new European 3DS.

As we speak the first game in the Inazuma Eleven Go series (The 4th game overall) is en route to my house from jolly old England. Yes, I have played over 100 hours of this series over the course of 3 weeks. Yes, I have spend over $400 dollars purchasing these games and a 3DS. I regret absolutely none of it. I can't get enough of this series, and if my insane madman-like lunacy wasn't enough for you this week you can look forward to some other Inazuma Eleven related content in the coming weeks. I'm going to keep playing these games and it doesn't look like I'm going to be done any time soon.

In terms of other video games I'll be playing Tales of Xillia 2 when it launches halfway through August, and I'll also be getting the re-release of Disgaea 4 on the Vita, so that my Vita can finally get some love. I'll be back at the end of August to regale you with tales of those games and even more Inazuma Eleven!

     -Manny

Party Game Sundays: Movie Games

This makes no sense...

The concept of this game still makes no sense to me. It's called Movie Games. The box claims that you act out movie scenes. In my mind that means that you act out movie scenes. However, what the game means is that you play the most mediocre themes mini-games every conceived. Now, I'm not getting angry here, I'm just very confused. Why wasn't this just released as a themed mini-game collection instead of being called Movie Games? As far as I could tell there was absolutely nothing that let me know that these mini-games were the sets of movies. 

Yous start off by picking one of the five themes the game has to offer. They are pirate, prehistoric, alien, haunted house, and space station. Each theme has four mini-games in it, but the last one is locked until you beat 15 mini-games altogether. We ended up playing them all, and I can't really remember a whole lot about them to be quite honest. 

Dancing skeletons are cool I guess.

The game started off okay, with a few unique mini-games. They weren't anything special, but they were competent. Where it really started to rub me the wrong way was when I realized that there were really only like 3 or 4 mini-games that were being slightly changed and re-skinned. One was a match 3 puzzle game, another involved dancing to the beat, and there was also one where you needed to shoot gems. Those are the only things I remember. In the haunted house skeletons danced and that was pretty cool I guess. They control fairly well, but go on for way too long. The dancing ones in particular felt like they went on forever.

Before each mini-game a brief synopsis of a plot was given, which is where I assume the movie element comes in. In the space station they introduced someone named Dr. Notsogood, which is a great name. That was the thing that stood out to me the most about this game. When I remember a name from a throwaway plot synopsis more than the actual game itself you definitely have a problem. Movie Games wasn't bad by any stretch, it was just super mediocre and completely forgettable. If you asked me about this game in a year I bet I wouldn't remember anything about it.

     -Manny

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dark Souls 2: Darker, But With Less Soul



I've been putting off writing about Dark Souls 2 for far too long. Now that the first DLC has been released I feel like today is as good a day as any to finally get all these Dark Souls 2 thoughts off my chest. The reason that I'm not playing the DLC right now is that I'm kind of worried about it. 

I loved Dark Souls. It was an experience that is still fresh in my mind months after playing it. Since Dark Souls 2 came out so soon after I finished the original I was looking forward to it with anticipation. The fact that I'd be able to go through the new game with a sense of discovery was something I was super excited about. Discovering everything with the entire world at the same time was a really cool experience. The issue is that I can barely remember any of it. In order to understand that I had to leave myself to ruminate on the experience for a few months.

Leading up to the game's release info about the new and differing mechanics were being trickled out. Word on the street was that the game was a lot harder, which it was in the beginning. By the end I was walking through the game with little to no issue. 

Darker?

Many people play the Souls series for the challenge it provides. While I liked the challenge in Dark Souls, it was never really my main draw. Yes, I did feel good about myself when I overcame a challenge. I'm just not a huge fan of games being hard for the sake of being hard. Dark Souls was punishing, but it was often my fault if I died. I'm not in the majority with my thoughts though, so people obviously wanted the game to be more challenging.

Initially I found the game to be much harder. The main contributor to that is that when you die, you lose a percentage of your max health. So now you lose all of your souls, and have less health upon death. You can still reclaim your souls, but it's not quite as easy to reclaim your lost health. In order to do that you need to use a consumable effigy. Early on these items are very scarce, so I found myself often walking around with around half my max health. The early game difficulty is exacerbated by the lack of healing available to you. At first you only have consumable healing gems of varying sizes, which are also far and few between for a while.

The creepy old witches give your your first effigy.

Eventually though you get your very own Estus flask, which you can upgrade until you have 11. Unlike the previous entry you don't have to kindle each bonfire. Your upgrades are permanent, and like the previous game the flasks refill at each bonfire. Dark Souls 2 has far more bonfires and areas than its predecessor, so refilling is never a difficult task. It also helps that you can fast travel between all bonfires you've come across right from the start of the game. This had to be added, since you can no longer level up from any bonfire. You need to talk to the cloaked woman near the bonfire in the game's hub city Majula. 

Another change is that weapons degrade much faster. This would make the game more challenging if they didn't get fully restored at every bonfire. If your weapon does end up breaking you'll need to repair it at a blacksmith, but it never costs a whole lot. Your rings can break now as well, and those do actually cost a lot to repair, because most of the time their effects are amazing. They did however, make it so you can wear four rings now, which will net some pretty insane stat boosts. One ring in particular, the cling ring, makes it so you can't drop below 75% max health from death. Needless to say that's a pretty good one to have. 

There are so many more bonfires now.

Leveling in Dark Souls 2 comes much faster as well. By the end of the game I was a way higher level than I was at the end of the original. Granted, the stats are changed up a bit to compensate for the greater amount of souls available, but there was a point where I started to feel overpowered. In this game I took up the slower moving great sword, and sometimes I would also have a shield to block. A lot of people say that this makes the game easy, but I don't believe in sacrificing my enjoyment of a game in order to make it more difficult.

The thing that really made the game harder at first though was the difference in movement. I'm not a huge fan of the movement in Dark Souls 2. To me it feels way less sensitive. You really have to push the stick in order to get moving, where as in the original you could lightly touch the stick and creep along. It made the player character in the original feel much heavier, whereas the character movement in Dark Souls 2 feels kind of light and floaty. This much is just personal preference, but it definitely took me a while to get used to. If you don't know how your character is going to move, it's a huge issue when you need to make precise dodges and attacks.

This was basically me the entire game.

Dark Souls 2 is much different, but it's also largely the same. It's the same franchise that people have come to love, with some differentiating features in order to make it more difficult. It was harder for me at first, but by the end I was crushing everything I came across pretty decisively. There was certainly no Ornstein and Smough moment of sheer frustration in this game. At most I got stuck on a boss for three or four tries.

Much Less Soul

Before I get into this section I want to say that I enjoyed my time with Dark Souls 2. It was a well crafted sequel that was very much meant for fans of the series. They tried to do all the right things and a lot of them worked in favor of the gameplay. So now I'm going to get into exactly why I liked Dark Souls 2 way less than its predecessor. I'm willing to admit that the gameplay is improved overall, but the way the world design was nowhere near on par with the original.

I have come to terms with the fact that I didn't like Demon's Souls, because of its level based structure. I did however, fall in love with Dark Souls because of its open world nature. The entire world was connected in a logical way, and it was even connected in physical space to boot! I loved the fact that you could turn a corner in a new area and find yourself in an area that you had visited hours before. It was truly a well planned out world that felt like so much time had been out into it. I don't want to say that Dark Souls 2 was less thought out, but it certainly was not as well designed from a world building perspective.

This map is not possible if you go by the way everything is laid out in the game.

The town Majula acts as a central hub, much as the Firelink Shrine acted as a hub in the first game. From Firelink you could go to one of a few areas, which were all interconnected. From Majula you can also choose to go to a few areas, but none of them are connected at all. Instead of being a huge interconnected world Dark Souls 2 consists of several spokes that all come to a close in a dead-end. There's nothing less appealing to me than coming across a dead-end in what is essentially an open world game. My issue goes much deeper than that though. In the original you could see everything in the world. You'd be on a mountain top and be able to see other explorable areas. This is not the case in Dark Souls 2, and it bothers me because of how completely different each area is. Yes, it's cool to have a ton of different terrain types, but when you can't see the fiery volcano that's insanely large from anywhere else in the world it really breaks the experience for me. 

The physical world isn't the only issue I had either. Let's take the bosses for example. There are a ton of them, but if you asked me to recall any of them I'd only be able to think of a select few. In the original Dark Souls whenever you came across a boss it was a crazy encounter and each one felt unique. In Dark Souls 2 there may actually be too many bosses and far too many are humanoid. It's like someone saw how much people liked fighting Artorias in the first game and decided to do throw a ton of humanoids in. If they were all interesting it wouldn't be an issue, but many of them are very straightforward fights. There were a few cool ones though like the fight with a giant spider for example. 

Hmmm why can't you see this insane lava wasteland from anywhere?

I know I'm in the minority, but I really like the story of Dark Souls. Finding out about each individual character and boss was interesting. The world was very well built and had a ton of backstory. I feel like a tool saying that Dark Souls 2 isn't as well built, but it definitely seems to be lacking something that the original had. I had barely any idea what was going on with the plot of Dark Souls 2, and I was actively looking for it a majority of the time. Maybe it's something I needed to dig deeper for, but the fact that you just suddenly kind of appear in a new world isn't exactly the best plot setup.

 Perhaps it's the fact that Miyazaki didn't have a direct development role, or maybe my experience with the original game is something that can't be replicated. I just can't help but feel that some of the magic of the first game has dissipated in the second.

On to the DLC

With all of this being said I can't wait to try out the DLC. It will be coming in three episodes, all of which involve looking for crowns. Maybe this will have the interesting story I was looking for in the game, or maybe it will at least fill out a lot of the gaps. At the very least it will be interesting to see if I can get right back into the way the movement works, or if I'll have to get used to the way everything works again. I liked the game, but I just can't help but feel like it could have been so much more.  

Dark Souls 2 was a fun experience. I enjoyed it while I was playing it, but that experience has almost completely faded from my mind at this point, which is extremely disappointing to me. I could still tell you about the story of the original game. If you set me down in the world of the original I could still give you directions and tell you exactly what you need to do. I could tell you where bosses are, and what strategies worked for me. It's an experience that is solidified in my mind, which rarely happens anymore. I just wish Dark Souls 2 could have replicated that. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Party Game Sundays: Watching EVO

I haven't written one of these in the two weeks since I've been back and for very good reason. The first week I skipped we played Birthday Party Bash as a belated celebration for my Birthday, after which we played Scattegories. The week after we were feeling rather lazy, so after eating ourselves to the brink of destruction we decided to watch videos of competitive Beyblade players, and some super hot advanced techniques. For those that don't know Beyblades is an anime where characters fight with spinning tops. There are toys of the tops, which people apparently get super into. It's super funny.


That brings us up to this past Sunday, where we would have played some games, but EVO was happening. I love watching competitive fighting game play, and EVO is the tournament to end all tournaments. I don't like using the analogy, but it's basically the Superbowl of fighting games. So inevitably Noukeo and I forced Landers, who doesn't know anything about fighting games, to watch the EVO finals. It was actually quite an educational experience. Landers asked a whole lot of questions and we tried to tell him as much about what was going on as possible. We specifically watched Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and Ultra Street Fighter 4. If you've never played Marvel before it is basically incomprehensible flashing, so we had to explain a whole lot about that. Street Fighter on the other hand is two people beating down on each other much slowly, so he had a pretty firm grasp on it.

When my brother started getting way into fighting games about five years ago he started watching streams of tournaments all the time. This made it so that I also ended up watching a lot of tournaments, and quickly got to know all the prominent players of both Street Fighter and Marvel. It's one thing to watch a tournament online, but it's completely different to go to an actual tournament. Philadelphia, PA is a few hours away from where we live, so we go to quite a few tournaments there. It's surreal to see all the players who you respect playing in person. What's really nuts is how loud everything is. When people cheer it's earth shattering. When something amazing happens the whole room erupts and it's deafening. That's one of the reasons I love watching EVO, because it's on a whole different scale. When you can hear the crowd super loud on the stream, it's probably out of control in the actual venue.

Thousands of people show up to EVO every year.

I'm personally super terrible at fighting games, but I understand what I should be doing in order to do well. So when I watch competitive play I can tell what's super lame and what's going to bring the hype. Since I know the players it's easy for me to latch on to who I want to win a match and it gets me way more invested in it. Even when we go to tournaments I just watch, but it's incredibly fun for me. I scream fairly loud when things get crazy and watching EVO is absolutely no different.

When we were with Landers watching the finals nothing particularly bananas happened, but I still got a little amped up. In Marvel the only thing I want to happen is for Chris G to lose. I've got nothing against the guy, but he always wins with what I find to be a boring strategy. He uses the succubus Morrigan to fill the screen with colorful projectiles in order to lame out the opponent. Much to my pleasure he did end up losing to Justin Wong, who is arguably the best fighting game player in America. Watching Justin win is always entertaining, because he's just so damn good at everything. You can't dislike him. I always want my boy IFC Yipes to win, but he never gets far enough for me to cheer him on anymore. I had to settle for Justin winning, which is always a fine alternative.

I was so happy Justin won. He jumped onto the ground and rolled around for a bit.

Street Fighter was much more hype for me, because I didn't really know what was going to happen. Unlike Marvel, Japanese players actually do well in Street Fighter, so there were a bunch of them in the top 8. There were however two American players and a French player in the mix as well. One of the American players SnakeEyez is incredible. He's been doing super well for the last year or so and his play is only getting better. He didn't win, but he did have some amazing matches. The day before Party Game Sundays he had a ridiculous match where he won at the last second against a previous EVO champ. Take a look at the video below. As you watch the end imagine me losing my shit in unison with my brother, who was on a different floor of the house.



I bet that most people who watch this video with no context will think I'm crazy, which is how I feel when I watch most sports. For some reason fighting games are just exciting to me. When watching I yell, scream, and occasionally want to cry. Sometimes I feel like I'm alone in this excitement, but after going to tournaments in person, I know that I'll never be alone in my hype.

If you don't know anything about EVO or fighting games you should just search for some EVO videos on YouTube to see some people lose their minds over a video game fight. Next week I promise we'll play something new. I just had to watch EVO, or I would have missed the hype!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Tomodachi Screenshot Madness

I've taken so many pictures playing Tomodachi Life and I don't even know why. Most of them are totally nuts, so I thought I'd share them.

Enjoy!

Yup, that;s a man in a dog suit playing with a baby.

Ellen Page and Professor Oak from Pokemon got married!

They wanted to take my picture. I wasn't ready...

Just chillin' with a music box.

This is 100% accurate.

It looks like Professor Oak took his shirt off.

Mhmmm.

This Mii is so well made.

Rap battles are the best thing in the game.

BOOM ROASTED!

Woooooo!

Dayuuuuum.

Let's all lay on the floor. Why not?

Nothing beats the taste of grilled meat.

This pretty much explains itself.

Freeze frame!

My friend Calvin and Bayonetta got married. He was not pleased.

This is what happens if you desperately ask someone out.

If you give them stuff they'll use it. In this case it's a punching bag.

That's my favorite game!

That's the ugliest baby I've ever seen.

I'm always impressed.

These are all super weird, but now that the game has gone on for longer it's getting even weirder. For some reason I'm still playing this game, so I might make another one of these in a week or so. I don't ever want to forget the craziness that is Tomodachi Life.

     -Manny

Game Time - June 2014

This month was a bit odd in comparison to my normal gaming habits. That's mostly due to the fact that I was on vacation for ten days. I played a bunch of stuff heavily before and after the trip, but didn't really play anything during. Well, that's not exactly true. I did play Super Mario Kart, and Donkey Kong Country. Turns out Donkey Kong Country is just as ridiculously hard today as it was when I was ten.

Prior to leaving I purchased Murdered Soul Suspect and played that for a few hours. I don't think it's nearly as bad as it's been made out to be, but it's definitely not anything spectacular. I also made sure to pick up the inexplicably localized Tomodachi Life for the 3DS. It's kind of like Nintendo's weird Mii-centric version of The Sims. It's not so much a game as it is a thing you watch to see what crazy shenanigans happen.

When I returned home I began purchasing games from the summer Steam sale. It's hard not to when everything is between five and ten dollars. The game I made the most use of though was Rogue Legacy. I've been wanting to play it for a long time, but had never really gotten around to playing it. I've also been dabbling in Ultra Street Fighter IV, but there's not much to say about that one. I still suck at fighting games.

It's been a weird disjointed month in terms of what I've been playing, but that's generally how early summer is. Normally nothing at all comes out. Luckily I have a bunch to talk about, so let's get down to it. It's game time.

Murdered Soul Suspect 

Last year I remember hearing about this game during pre-E3 coverage. It was described as a game where you play as a ghost who is trying to solve their own murder. The concept sounded alright with me, so I decided to keep an eye on it. After months of seeing nothing I began looking for any kind of information on the game. I ended up coming across a video that showcased the first twenty or so minutes of the game and decided to pre-order it. What they showed in the video looked like an adventure game, which I enjoy quite a bit. The fact that I had to go looking for any information on the game is never a very good sign though. It seems that Square-Enix decided fairly early on that the game wasn't going to be very good, because they put almost no advertising behind it.

Normally when a publisher decides to send a game out to die it's terrible. What's weird about Murdered is that it's not a terrible game, it's just a little rough around the edges. What really did the game no favors were the people who got  their hands on it early and thought it was terrible, which is something I don't understand. Telltale has been throwing out adventure games for the past few years now and everyone seems to be fine with those. Murdered is essentially a Telltale adventure game with better controls, a higher budget, and ghost themed mechanics. You can walk through most walls, possess people to see through their eyes, and mess with electronics. Sure, Telltale games are five dollars a piece, while this one was fifty at launch, but that doesn't make the gameplay any different.

This is Ronan, he got shot a lot.

You play as a cop named Ronan from Salem Massachusetts, who gets killed in the opening scene of the game. Ronan becomes a ghost, and decides to hunt down the man who killed him, the Bell Killer. The dude is a serial murderer, who the cops have been investigating for a very long time. Ronan has to learn how to utilize his new ghostly form in order to solve his own murder.

When you're first given leave to walk around the world it's super jarring. All of the models and objects have no collision, so Ronan can walk right through everything and everyone. In order to curb this madness a little bit they don't let you walk through the outsides of buildings. Apparently the residents of Salem are super paranoid about ghosts getting into their homes, so they have people come and bless the walls or some weird thing. So in order to get into buildings you have to wait for the right opportunity. Once inside a building it takes a bit to get used to, because once again you can walk through everything, including the inner walls. It makes it a bit hard to get your bearings.

Investigating is sometimes a little too easy.

In order to investigate you'll have to do all kinds of ghostly trick. The most commonly used trick is possession. You can go inside individuals to listen to their thoughts, and influence their thoughts. This is commonly done to have people move objects, because being a ghost you can't move anything. A lot of the time clues and collectibles will be out in the open. You can go into ghost vision mode and have all the objects around highlighted for you, which is super handy.

The one blemish on what is otherwise a fine game is the combat. I'm of the mind that there shouldn't be any combat in adventure games, but I guess they thought a full retail product needed it. It's technically not even combat, it's more like a stealth quick-time event. You have to sneak up behind the ghosts and hold the correct button to kill them. If they see you, then you die and load from the last checkpoint. This is the only real challenge in the game, because it clearly wasn't built for it. Everything else is basically handed to you with infinite tries.

One hit deaths are the worst.

The game is interesting, but I can't help but feel like it could have been so much more. I don't know if their funding was cut short or if they just didn't have enough time to make it into something more. It's fairly obvious that this game had quite a troublesome development. It's shame that Airtight Games, the studio that made the game, was closed just a week after it's release. The team definitely had some talent and could have made something super cool.

Tomodachi Life

Months ago I followed the release of Tomodachi Life in Japan. I watched tons of videos and live streams, just to try and understand what the madness that Nintendo had put into the world. Now that I've played quite a bit of the game myself I still don't fully understand any of it. All I know is that it's one of the weirdest "games" I've ever played. I put game in quotes, because I don't really know if this is a game or not. There's not really a whole lot of playing going on. All you do is wait for crazy things to happen.

Tomodachi means friend in Japan, so the title of the game is roughly friend life. The title does a fine job of explaining what the game is all about. What you do is take Miis from your 3DS system and make them live in an apartment on an island. The idea is that you'll add your friends to see what they'll do. In my case I added a bunch of my friends and celebrities. That way there's a chance my Mii can get married to Katy Perry.

I don't even know what to say.

To start off you add in your own personal Mii. From that point on all the Mii's refer to you personally as the lookalike of that Mii. You as the player are seen as some omniscient god who rains food and clothes from the sky in order to keep the islanders happy.That's essentially what you do. The Miis you add will have problems, which you need to solve. They'll have a scribble over their head and that's how you know they need help. Sometimes they'll want food, or clothing. Other times they'll want you to tell them what to say when they feel certain emotions.

Oh yeah, they talk, which is super creepy and awesome. All of the text onscreen will be spoken by your Miis. It sounds like a speak and spell, but with different annunciation and pitch depending on what you set for the Mii. You also set their personality, which will determine what types of things they like and who they'll want to be friends with.

Even my Mii knows that free pizza is the best.

All the fun of Tomodachi Life comes from seeing what the Miis do. The game has all kinds of events like Rap Battles for you to view, but random things can happen to. Miis will fall in love, but when going to confess someone else might show up to steal their thunder. They can get married, and have babies. They'll hang out with each other and do the weirdest things. You can make them perform songs and dances, which are pretty funny too. When I think about things that are Japanese, Tomodachi life oozes all of it. Its humor is super weird and everything about it is just off-putting enough for it to be hilarious. One thing the game does is let you take pictures at any time, so I've accumulated quite a bit. If you want, you can view them all in my separate Tomodachi Life screenshots post. It's a super funny game, that for not being a real "game" is pretty fun.

Rogue Legacy

Back when the PS4 was announced Sony said that Rogue Legacy was coming to the platform. Now it's halfway through 2014 and it's still not there! I decided that I had waited long enough and purchased it for a whopping three dollars during the Steam sale. In fact I bought a bunch of indie games that are still supposed to come to the PS4, because they were super cheap. I never used to do this, because my laptop sucked and had a propensity for overheating. Now I have a new laptop that's not super hot, but it can play indie titles just fine.

Rogue Legacy has you exploring a castle filled with monsters. It's a rogue-like, so once your character dies they're dead for good. However, in Rogue Legacy their legacy lives on in their children. Upon dying you'll be whisked away to the character select screen where you can pick one of three descendants to be. They'll be different classes, who have differing traits. Some of the traits will be good, like they can't be knocked back. Others will be bad, like they are far-sighted which makes the screen all blurry. Getting attached to your character is not recommended, because you'll be dying quite a bit and you're supposed to be.

In order to beat bosses like this you'll need to power up.

In order to advance you'll actually need to die. When in the castle you'll be collecting gold, which can be used after you die in order to buy new classes, stat upgrades, and other bonuses. Once you re-enter the castle you'll lose all or at least most of your gold as a fee for entering. Your goal in the castle is to defeat the four bosses and make it into the throne room, which is no easy task. In order to do so you'll need to collect a whole butt-load of money. In order to make it more challenging the whole castle is randomized, so it will never be the same twice. You can pay gold in order to visit the same castle again, but it's a hefty sum.

Once you die, you can get back into the game super quick, which makes it very addicting. I found myself saying "one more run" many times, but would end up going for ten or fifteen. It helps that the controls feel good. I was playing with a dualshock 4 plugged in and it picked it up right away. I like the game enough that I might actually buy it again if it ever does truly come out on the PS4.

All Gundam All the Time

On July 1st, Dynasty Warriors Gundam Reborn was released. Being the fourth entry in the series you'd think that I'd be sick of playing what is essentially the exact same game with more Gundams, but you'd be wrong. I still unconditionally love the series, despite hating myself for it. I am actively taking a break from playing it right now, which is good, because I've been having 9 or more hour play sessions. You can look forward to hearing about how much I love it next month!

I can't promise I'll play anything other than Dynasty Warriors Gundam Reborn, bit I'll at least be buying the new One Piece game, Unlimited World Red. Maybe this will just be my terrible/awesome anime game month. I can't really think of anything else that's being released this month. It seems like everyone decided that they wanted to keep July a barren month, but make sure that August would be bountiful.

Well, I really need to get back to mashing the square button for hours on end, so I'll see you all next month.

     -Manny

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Party Game Sundays: Mario Kart 8


Yes, it's been quite a while since I've written an installment of Party Game Sundays. I think I've missed three now, but I'm not too positive on that. The main reason I haven't written anything is because for two of the three weeks we've played the same two games. One of those games being the hot new Wii-U exclusive Mario Kart 8. I'm actually on a vacation right now, but I have a bit of time to myself, so I might as well tell you all about it right now.

Mario Kart 8 came out on Friday, May 30th. Much like Sportsfriends I wanted to play it immediately, so Noukeo and I went to Landers' as soon as humanly possible. In a few hours time we unlocked every character, and it was super fun the entire time. 

Dear Nintendo, baby characters are terrible. Please stop adding them to your games.

I wish that I could tell you that Mario Kart 8 is a revolutionary title that's going to change the course of the Wii-U, but I can't. It's another Mario Kart game. While I think it's a damn good Mario Kart game it's still the same thing you've played for years, but this time it looks much prettier. For a lot of people, like me, that's enough. What's weird is that I actually got to play Mario Kart 8 at a Best Buy last summer. Nintendo was doing there weird demo tour, and Noukeo and I went to play Mario Kart. Much as I had expected, it was some Mario Kart-ass Mario Kart.

What makes Mario kart 8 different is that your car can ride along walls, and go upside down. The karts and bikes can do so by transforming quickly mid-race. The wheels turn into some kind of crazy anti-gravity discs. This allows for the new courses to get all kinds of crazy. In one of my favorite courses you're literally driving straight up a waterfall. The retro courses also incorporate the anti-gravity mechanics in ways that make the old feel new once again. It helps that Mario kart 8 retains some of the new features of 7, like being able to drive underwater and glide through the air. 

The anti-gravity aspect of the game makes the courses super interesting.

One thing I immediately about this Mario Kart is that it's harder to control. In the Wii version, I often drove automatic, because I didn't want to have to deal with all the power sliding shenanigans. In Mario Kart 8 there is no choice, so you have to power slide if you want to do well. Without power sliding it seems like most karts have little to no turning ability. It takes a while to get used to, but now I'm able to drift around corners like a pro. 

As you may have seen from footage of this hot new Mario kart product it looks incredible. Nintendo continues to use art direction to their advantage to somehow have their games look better than everything on higher spec platforms. Never before has Mario's mustache looked so incredible. The game doesn't look quite as amazing in multiplayer though, because they need to keep the frame rate up. It's still fun as all hell to play with friends though.

This is a hot highlight reel I uploaded. I was Rosalina.

Normally Nintendo seems as if they're painfully out of touch with what most people want or look for in video games, but in this game they actually did some really cool stuff. At the end of each race you can watch a sweet highlight reel of all the best moments from the race. You can even watch the entire race if you want, but that's just crazy. What's really crazy is that you can upload the 30-60 second highlight reels straight to Youtube for everyone's viewing pleasure. It's not the most exciting thing ever, but I feel like it shows that Nintendo is trying to get more in touch with what everyone in the modern world is doing. Another part of that is that the online multiplayer in this game works competently, which is pretty shocking to me. 

Describing Nintendo games, especially iconic ones like Mario Kart is getting increasingly weird for me. I love them, but they've been largely the same. It's easy to see that Nintendo is trying to change things up, but they're doing it incrementally. All I know is that Mario Kart 8 is a super fun game. If the Wii-U keeps getting titles like this it might actually be worth owning at some point in the future!