Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Memorable Melodies: Main Title from Banjo Kazooie


Song: Main Title (Banjo and Kazooie Theme)
Game: Banjo Kazooie
Composer: Grant Kirkhope

I felt bad that I didn't include much talk about Rare Replay in the August edition of Game Time, so here's some Rare goodness. This week it's all about the introduction of Banjo Kazooie.

There's something about Rare games that's magical and fun. It's hard to describe, but their games are full of a whimsy that most other developers can't even come close to. A large part of that comes from the art style and music. As we saw a few weeks ago Dave Wise is an excellent composer, but Rare also likes to hire Grant Kirkhope for many of their projects. 

Kirkhope has a very unique style, which is very easily discernible. What I like about the intro to Banjo Kazooie is that it shows all the signature Kirkhope instruments.. His style has a whole lot of banjo. xylophone, and any woodwind instrument you can think of. I mean seriously, Mumbo busts out a Saxophone! 

While I like almost all the music in Banjo Kazooie, this intro theme in particular strikes an emotional chord with me. It takes me back to the days of video game rental stores and my fascination with everything on the Nintendo 64. Sadly, both of those things are gone now, but that's the time this song reminds me of. Even better, this song personifies Rare to me. It has style and whimsy you won't find anywhere else. 

Game Time - August 2015

As August and Summer draw to a close I still have a few games left to talk about. Even though I was visiting various cottages and playing Ultra Street Fighter 4 at Summer Jam 9, I actually found time to play various video games. Most of which were new!

One such game that I won't be talking about much here is the Rare Replay Collection for Xbox One. It collects 30 Rare developed games from the past 30 years. Obviously games like Donkey Kong Country can't be featured, but fan favorites such as Viva Pinata, and Banjo Kazooie do. All I want to say about this is that all companies releasing a game collection in the future should take note. This is how you collect games into a package!

As for brand new releases I picked up LBX or Little Battlers Experience for the 3DS. It's a robot fighting game from Level 5, the makers of Inazuma Eleven. It has as much charm and content as most other Level 5 games.

Next up we have yhe game I wish I didn't pay $60 dollars for, but had to have, One Piece Pirate Warriors 3. It's Dynasty Warriors, but with One Piece characters...for the third time!

Last but certainly not least I finally got around to playing Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. It's not new, but I did break the seal on my disc copy. That makes it new, I guess? I had to prep for the true Metal Gear Solid V, so it was going to happen sooner or later. Speaking of MGSV I'm in the process of playing through it right now and I need to get back to it.

It's game time!

LBX: Little Battlers Experience

For some reason Level 5 decided that they wanted most of their franchises to be pan-media. They started with Inazuma Eleven and have continued on to LBX and Yokai Watch, Inazuma just had a game and an anime, while LBX and Yokai watch have expanded into the toy realm as well. With all of their franchises the games come first. However, in the case of all of these franchises they take a while to see the light of day outside of Japan. For example, there are three LBX games in Japan and the first one is only just coming out here now when it was first released in 2011.

In Japan the success of these games leads into an anime, while here in the U.S. it was the opposite. LBX was dubbed and shown on Nickelodeon. It was actually quite popular, despite the fact that half of the episodes were cut out for audiences outside of Japan. That's right. This game about battling tiny robots was too violent and professed ideas not suitable for American children! To be honest it is kind of crazy some of the stuff that takes place in this game. No joke, I had to stop a tiny robot from assassinating a prime minister, None of this makes sense without context though, so let me give you some.

Now that the cardboard is reinforced no one will get hurt!


Tiny robot toys called LBX were released to the public, but their battles proved to be too dangerous. After some kids got hurt they were banned. After a few years someone invented a super strong cardboard box for the robots to battle in. I can't make this up, it's called reinforced cardboard! Even though they're still super dangerous outside of the cardboard, because you can use them to kill people... Anyways, now kids love controlling these hot toys with their phones.

The gameplay is relatively simple. You control your customized robot in battle in third person. It can hold two weapons that each have a basic attack. Each time you attack it costs stamina. Running and jumping also decrease stamina. The game is essentially all about stamina management. If you run out you're left vulnerable and your attack decreases. After a few seconds it recharges, but the battles in LBX tend to last only 20 or 30 seconds. Every second and point of damage is crucial.

All the kids love a good LBX battle!

I'm not necessarily the biggest fan of the gameplay, but it's not bad, My enjoyment comes from collecting the hundreds of robot parts and weapons. I've always liked any game where you can customize robots for battle. Custom Robo and Gotcha Force on the Gamecube are two excellent examples of this. While I like those games better LBX definitely has an interesting story to back it up. I'm almost done with the story, so I'll wait to make a final judgement until the end.

One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3

I don't want to type a lot about this game. It's the same as Pirate Warriors 2, but with ten new additional characters. You mash square and triangle in order to decimate hordes of enemies. I enjoy it, but it's not for everyone. As opposed to basic gameplay I'll talk about the new systems they implemented.

In the previous game you equipped coins in order to increase your stats. Now you can spend coins permanently to upgrade your stats. This works out a lot better, because you don't have to mess around with changing out coins. You get coins by completing various missions, and each time you defeat officers in battle. If you defeat an officer with a special attack you get even more coins.

These are all the playable characters!

The other main change is the Kizuna Rush system. Each map you will be given specific partner characters who you can freely switch between. As you fight the bar next to the partner will fill up across three levels. At level 1 you will be able to push either square or triangle after you end a combo to have the partner attack as well. If the partner kills enemies they will be counted as ! kills. What sucks is that ! kills are one of the three things you're graded on each level and I've only ever gotten it to S rank one time.

Once the kizuna gauge is filled you can push R2 to power up. This will make your character stronger for a limited time. You can push circle to unleash a special from both characters. You can also chain Kizuna specials up to 3 times. So if you enter the powered up R2 state with two characters, the third time you do it and execute a special everyone used so far will attack in unison with you. It's super powerful.

Gotta destroy all the enemies!

Pirate Warriors is a lot different, but mostly the same. I like when they try to make refinements to the generic gameplay and test out new mechanics. It's always hard to try new things, so they get a kudos for trying.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

When I saw a disc based copy of Ground Zeroes on amazon for $5 dollars I jumped right on it. It's been sitting on my shelf for approximately six months now. I decided to pop it in on August 31st, because I wanted to prepare for the release of the true Metal Gear Solid V the following day. After playing Ground Zeroes I now agree with everyone who said it was an overblown tech demo, because it is. It took me an hour to complete, and only had story in the beginning and end.

As a Metal Gear game it was kind of disappointing, but as an open world stealth playground it was amazing. It makes sense that this is how Metal Gear would transition to the new generation of consoles, but I can imagine it won't sit well with most fans.

It's a sneaking mission.

My issue with a lot of stealth games is that once you're caught you're completely screwed. With the new non-terrible controls in Ground Zeroes it's easy to gun down everyone once you're caught. Sure you won't get a very high score, but at least you'll complete the mission. Even better is that you have a lot of options. There are tons of ways to approach any given scenario. It's fun to figure out a plan and then execute on it, but the scale is just too small.

I don't really have much to say about Ground Zeroes to be honest. It's a fun sandbox with almost no content. Sure you can do side missions, but it all takes place on the same military base. It's more or less a proof of concept for the full game. I actually would have been angry if I paid $30 for it. After playing MGSV proper I can say that the scale of the game is much larger than anything Ground Zeroes had to offer,

Metal Gear!?

I don't know what to think about Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain yet/ I do know that it has started off September with a bang though. It certainly doesn't have as much story as the previous entries in the franchise, but so far the gameplay makes up for it. I really liked MGS 1-4, but I was not a huge fan of the controls. Most of the time I felt like I was struggling with the controls to make it to the next story beat.

That said, I'm going to keep playing V to see what happens in it. Maybe the open world stealth will wear thin, but it definitely hasn't happened yet. Next Friday I'll be picking up Super Mario Maker for Wii-U as well, and on the 29th we'll all get to witness the magic of Persona 4 characters dancing.

The games are going to start coming fast and furious, which means that I need to get playing! See you guys next time!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Memorable Melodies: Ring a Bell from Tales of Vesperia

English

Japanese

Song: Ring a Bell (Kane o Narashite)
Game: Tales of Vesperia
Artist: Bonnie Pink

Tales of Symphonia was the first Tales game I played to completion. I had dabbled with other games in the action RPG franchise, but never really got hooked. For years I sang the praises of Symphonia, but somehow managed to skip over the excellence that was Tales of Vesperia, most likely due to the fact that I didn't have an Xbox 360. After playing one of the new entries in the franchise, Tales of Xillia, I decided to go back to Vesperia and tried it out. I instantly fell in love, and I can say that without a doubt Vesperia is my favorite Tales game.

We're not here to talk about my favorite Tales game though. We're here to talk about the hot jam Ring a Bell that appears in the opening of Vesperia. When you first boot the game Ring a Bell is playing over an anime cutscene. The scene introduces you to the world and characters of Vesperia, and gets you pumped up for the experience to follow. Very rarely do I let scenes like this play every time I boot a game, but with Vesperia I just had to see it through each and every time. Bonnie Pink knows how to set a tone!

Bonnie Pink is a Japanese musical artist, and she sings both the Japanese and English versions of the song. They are obviously the same aside from language, which is why I have both embedded above. Normally I think that songs written in Japanese sound better that way, but she pulls it off in English very well. You can judge which one is better for yourself.

Ring a Bell is a song I turn to when I need to simultaneously pumped up and inspired. I think part of my feelings toward the song come from the accompanying anime cutscene. Rapide is such a badass. Who doesn't love a scarred up dog who fights with a knife in his mouth?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Memorable Melodies: Klomp's Romp from Donkey Kong Country 2


Song: Klomp's Romp
Game: Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest
Composer: Dave Wise


Welcome to the first in a new weekly series called Memorable Melodies. As you may have surmised from the title I will be sharing my most favorite and memorable video game jams with you. People like to get caught up in the gameplay and plot when playing a video game, but sometimes it's just as fun to sit back and enjoy the music.

Man, let me tell you, I enjoy me some Klomp's Romp from Donkey Kong Country 2. There's always been something about pirates that has grabbed my interest. I can't tell you if it's their lust for treasure, free roaming spirit, or their sick pirate shanties. All I know is that when I think about pirates I tend to get pumped up. DKC 2 is all about pirates! That's the main reason I like the song so much, and it's certainly a tune I will always remember.

The song plays in the very first level of the game, and it perfectly sets the stage for what is to come. It starts off with just the sound of an old pirate ship creaking as the waves carry it along. Then, after a few moments a delightful little sea shanty comes in to accompany the sound of the waves. I like to whistle, and still often find myself whistling to this every so often. In fact, I'm whistling the song right now as I type this. It's just too catchy not to! It perfectly captures the games signature essence, which contains pirates, adventure, and conquest. Dave Wise is a top notch composer, so expect to see more of his work here in the future.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Game Time - July 2015

We're less than a month away from video game releases blowing up again, so in the meantime I've been playing some odd games. In fact, two out of the three are Japanese. One is a new release for July, and the other is one I've wanted to play for years now.

Oh yeah, I also played Godzilla on the PS4. It's not very good, but I think it's kind of fun. Check out a bunch of videos of it on my YouTube channel if you're interested.

It's been a weird month, so let's get right into it. It's game time.

N++

I played a bit of N+ on the PSP, but that was before I had gotten into twitch platformers. What I mean by that is that platforming games like N++ have become much more common since I was in high school. Games like Super Meat Boy have since come along to make the sub-genre much more appealing. I'm not saying that N+ wasn't appealing, but I just wasn't prepared for it's demanding jumps and precise timing. I've always liked platformers, but never been super interested in getting infuriated by intense difficulty. I think what Super Meat Boy prepared me for this type of game by giving me fluid controls. That way you know the game is hard, but fair. When you mess up it's your fault and not an unfair thing done by the game. N++ is the exact same.

What's cool about N++ and its predecessors is that the level layouts are very simple. They're something that I'd expect to see in a very basic flash game. Most of them are inside a small shape with only one or two jumps, but as you go it ramps up quite nicely. On average a course only lasts ten or twenty seconds, so the pace is breakneck. You play as a ninja who apparently loves gold. So your goal is to make it through each course and collect as much gold as possible, as fast as possible. The gold starts off easy, but now that I'm further along I hardly ever collect any gold, because it's set up to make you die.

This is one of the easier stages

Like Super Meat Boy, N++ doesn't want you to stop for a second. Once you die, you're right back at the beginning of the stage to try again. There is almost no break/ I think there's a setting you can change to have it take longer, but I don't know why you'd want that. The thing that makes or breaks these types of games for me is the control, and N++ has excellent control. The Ninja floats through the air with a solid weight to him, and gains tons of momentum on ramps. There's a great sense of speed.

I brought the game over to a friends house this past week to try out the multiplayer race mode. We ended up having a great time. You can have up to four players racing to the exit, with increasing difficulty. You have infinite lives until one player reaches the finish line. After that the other players only have their current life to finish. To make things more interesting whenever a player finished they get to control a missile in order to try and kill the other players. It's interesting that race mode has its own unique levels and there are a ton of them.

How do you even get all that gold?

N++ is fun, and even though it's tough I haven't found myself getting frustrated. As you play you unlock more levels, and color schemes for the game. It starts as black and gray, but you can get a whole bunch more. Some of them are cool, but a lot of them are too crazy for my eyes to handle. On a lot of them it becomes too hard for me to keep track of the ninja. There are a whole bunch to unlock though, but I doubt I'm good enough to get them all. I'm going to try my best though, so we'll see.

Taiko No Tatsujin: V Version (Taiko Drum Master)

I'm a big fan of rhythm games, in case you didn't know that. Much to my dismay very few new ones come to the U.S. and if they do they're far and few between. Due to this fact I get upset when I see how many games in this genre come out in Japan that I'm not able to play. Sure, Persona 4 Dancing All Night is coming out this fall, but I decided I wanted to play a new rhythm game this summer! In order to do that I pre-ordered Taiko No Tatsujin: V Version, or as it's known as in English, Taiko Drum Master V Version.

I actually have a U.S. Taiko Drum Master release on PS2 that came with a sweet drum peripheral. You had to use the drum sticks that came with it to hit on the left or right side of the head, and hit the sides for rim taps. It worked quite well, but I never got very good at it. These games are the same in Japanese arcades, which I hope that someday I'll be able to try out. Newer games in the franchise, like this one on the Vita obviously use the buttons. Like other rhythm games a note highway appears on screen where blue and red smiling drum heads appear on screen. When they reach the white circle at the end of the screen you need to press the proper buttons. Red buttons are head hits, while blue are rim taps. If it's a big blue or red icon, then you need to hit two head buttons at the same time, or two rim buttons. There are various button layouts you can use. The one I prefer has head hits on the face buttons and the d-pad, while rim hits are set to L and R.

The songs start easy like this, but get much more difficult.

As you may have guessed since I imported the game it isn't in English, but that doesn't usually matter for rhythm games, because you just have to push the buttons at the right time. Playing the actual game is no issue at all, but I did have some issues with the newly introduced RPG mode. Since I can't read Japanese I'll try to explain the plot to the best of my ability. You play as one of two living Taiko drums. The two read a book and get transported into a musical world that is being overtaken by evil. In the town they're transported to they meet a young girl who is fighting to save the land. They team up and begin to beat down monsters, This is all I've got. I did beat it, but there are villains who are introduced and other characters who I have no idea about. It actually has a lot of dialogue. That's not the part that caused an issue though.

In the RPG mode you play songs to complete quests. Upon completing quests you get items, which you can activate while playing songs. The weapons I could figure out. They had elemental icons, and stats that were easily discernible. You could also equip special attacks, and healing items and those I have absolutely no idea about! For example in my playthough I unlocked Lili, and Kazuya accessories. Yes, characters from Tekken. I found out that using them as my special attack will do damage. Those were the only ones I figured out. I got at least 40 other ones that seemed to have to effect. The Tekken characters made it easy to win quests involving monsters, but are not so much help on quests where you need to play so many notes in a row. It's hard to gauge, but I still managed to complete the game.

See, I have no idea what this special is doing!

There are still a ton of sidequests I can do, but I think I've reached me skill ceiling. There are four difficulty levels in the game, which are easy, normal, hard, and oni. I can trounce songs on easy and normal. Hard is a mixed bag. Some stages are fine, but others are nigh impossible for me. Then there's oni, which my mind can't even begin to comprehend! The notes come out so fast I can't keep up and my fingers certainly can not move that quickly. The main issue is that the game wants the equivalent of drum rolls, which require you to push the buttons super rapidly in succession. I can't do it to save my life if there are more than three hits involved.

It's a super fun rhythm game with an extreme variety of music. There are songs from a lot of Namco Bandai games and a few Sega ones. I really like all the J-pop though. It's all super upbeat and very catchy. There's a lot of vovaloid stuff like Hatsune Miku as well, which may be my least favorite songs in the game. It has a total of 88 songs in it and a bunch more as DLC. While the Vita isn't region locked for games, DLC is. So I can't access any of the free DLC I got for pre-ordering the game, which kind of sucks. I'm still having a lot of fun though.

Phantasy Star Online 2

Phantasy Star Online 2 was supposed to get a U.S. release. It was never outright cancelled, but it's been years since Sega has said anything about it, so we can assume that it will never receive a release in this country! To make matters even worse an English translation of the game was released in Asian territories, but U.S. IP addresses are blocked. Much to my dismay that IP ban was let down for a few days. It was long enough for one of my friends to convince me to play it and get hopelessly addicted to it before the servers were fixed and I was banned once again. The Japanese version is much farther along than the Asian version, but obviously not in English. Well, not in an official capacity anyways. There is a very dedicated group of individuals who run a proxy and translate as much of the game as they can. So now I'm a level 40 RaCast in the Japanese version of PSO2!

Let's back up a bit though and give some context. When I was twelve I saw Phantasy Star Online advertised in a Nintendo Power magazine for the Gamecube. It looked cool and I wanted it. There were also a few other games I wanted around that same time. On my thirteenth Birthday we celebrated my brother's baptism and my birthday with a party. I convinced my brother he really wanted PSO so he could get it as a gift and I could play it. It worked and I still own that copy to this day. I don't even think he knows it's his game.

Man, robots in the PSO universe look so dope.

So what is PSO you ask? Well, it's a pseudo mmo that's more of a loot driven action RPG. At one point it was online, and still technically is. You can play the PC version for free on a private server, which I did for a long time during high school with some friends. I don't know what it is about PSO that draws me to it, but I just can't get enough of it. You essentially play as a mercenary who is hired to get rid of monsters in order to make planets inhabitable. You have an attack that if timed perfectly can be made into a three hit combo. There are swords, lances, dual pistols, rifles, rocket launchers, wands, magic, and much more. There are various classes you can play as and each have a very different style. The main component to the game is collecting sweet loot to improve your character. With your loot you travel through various areas and defeat enemies on a quest for greatness.

PSO2 is very similar, but takes some aspects of the game that came before it Phantasy Star Universe. PSU was a very short lived game that didn't receive as much love as PSO. It took the same basic concept and added special moves called Photon Arts to the equation. PSU was still active my first semester of college and I played it a little bit. As far as I know there are no private servers for that game.

Monsters can get to be pretty big.

Now we're here in the year 2015 and I'm playing a sequel to my beloved PSO. It's largely the same as the original, but now there are many more MMO like elements, because it's a free to play game. You can pay monthly if you want in  order to get special access to things, but it's not required. It's still the same type of action RPG loot grind goodness I crave. Oh yeah you can also still feed your mag, which is a little robot that follows you around and boosts your stats. I love pet things like that in video games!

The best part about PSO and PSO2 is that you can easily get together with your friends and complete a quest while having a good time. It doesn't take a huge time investment, and it's fun. You can do a quest real quick with a friend, or just do the entire game by yourself. There are quests in PSO2 meant for larger groups of people, but you don't have to do them in the regular progression of the game. I've been playing it a lot as my favorite class the ranger. I go around and blast people with my sweet rocket launcher and it's a whole lot of fun. I'm thinking about doing a feature about my adventures in PSO2, but we'll have to wait and see.

30 minutes left

As I'm typing this it is 11:30 PM August 3rd, which means that Galak-Z will unlock on PlayStation 4 in 30 minutes. You can bet that I'll be writing about it in the August edition of Game Time. My hype for this space shooter is unreal. Then tomorrow the Rare Replay collection for Xbox One will show up, and on the 20th Little Battlers Experience for the 3DS will show up.

I'm getting some pretty solid games in August and I'm very excited to play them all. Watch out for all of this and more in the August edition of Game Time!

Game Time With Manny: Status Update

Hello everyone who consumes any kind of media I put on the Internet,

It's been five or six months since I posted a general update, so I feel like that time is upon me again. I let you guys know that I'm tweeting much more often, I continue to stream on Twitch, I upload videos to YouTube, have a Google+ page, and record podcasts. I've been trying my best to update everything as much as possible, but as always some things fall to the wayside. This isn't intentional, but I only have so much free time to dedicate to all this stuff.

Yes, I stream Inazuma Eleven every Wednesday, and I stream Thursday Throwback every Thursday. These are two things you can count on every week (With very few exceptions). You can also count on me posting a new edition of Game Time to the blog every month. Yes, sometimes it's a few days after the month is over, but I do get it done. For instance, I haven't posted anything for July yet, because it will be going up in an hour or so. It's almost done I just have one final game section I'm working on. So these things you can always count on me having up.

As for everything else I'm all over the place and I apologize. I started off the podcast train pretty strong, but fell off hard. I then tried to get back on the train, and only did two episodes before falling off again. When recording episodes 6 and 7 of the podcast I had every intention of making a new podcast every two weeks. That's realistically not going to happen, especially if I want them to be an in depth discussion. So in order to make them less sporadic I've decided to give myself a schedule of one podcast a month. This gives me time to actually record something, and give you a reasonable time frame to expect it in. So you can expect a new podcast before August is over.

Then there's Party Game Sundays. There was a time when we would actually play a party game every Sunday. That time has passed. We still do play games on Sundays, but they tend to be good local multiplayer games now. I have a ton of games to write about that we've played I just haven't gotten around to it. This coming Sunday I will be putting up the first one. So since we stopped playing party games I wondered if I should even keep doing the feature. I have decided to keep it along with the name, but won't promise something every Sunday. It will definitely be happening a few times a month though.

The main thing I regret is not typing enough on the blog. This all started as a gaming blog and then I branched out. Posting on here only once a month is too infrequent. So along with Party Game Sundays making a semi-regular return I was thinking of doing a weekly feature about game music I am fond of. I still need to think of a good name, but it would be generally easy for me to write up a bunch of short things about music and have them auto post once a week.

As for YouTube I am of the same mindset I was before. I like uncut video. That's why I post all of the Twitch archives on my channel. Within the past few weeks I came up with a new series called Scrubbin' it Up, in which I play various fighting games online. Right now there is only one episode up and it's me playing Godzilla on the PS4. I was planning on doing some with the Street Fighter V beta, but that plan was ruined. So yes, I am still going to update the series, but it will be starting next week (or soon after) and then going every other week.

So let's review what's going on with bullet points.


  • Inazuma Eleven Streams every Wednesday
  • Thursday Throwback stream every Thursday
  • Podcast once a month
  • New edition of Game Time on the blog every month
  • Party Game Sundays on the blog every other week
  • A new musical related blog feature every week (Starting soon)
  • Scrubbin' it Up an online fighting game video series on YouTube every other week
I like doing all of this stuff, but over the past year I've found that free time is at a premium and I can't do everything I want to. So thank you to everyone who reads the blog, watches my videos, and listens to the podcast. I appreciate each and every one of you. 


Sunday, July 5, 2015

Game Time - June 2015

E3 has come and gone once again, and many announcements were left in its wake. Like every year most of the really cool announcements won't become anything resembling a retail product for at least a year. E3 is the time of future hype, but doesn't necessarily do a lot for me now. If you didn't catch any of E3, or want to hear my thoughts I made a hot podcast! You can check it out here, or subscribe to Game Time With Manny on ITunes.

Sadly we live in the present. Due to that fact I've had to settle for playing the currently released products on the market. I mostly played The Witcher 3 this month, and ended up completing it the day Batman: Arkham Knight was released. I absolutely loved it and am very much looking forward to the expansions. I spoke a lot about that game in last months edition. This month it's all about the Batman. Much to the surprise of absolutely no one, the game is quite good!

The only other game I really put any appreciable amount of time into this month was Halo: The Master Chief Collection. While watching the Halo 5 demo during E3 I realized I had never played a Halo games campaign before. I have now completed the first game, and am close to the end of the second. I can see why people like the series, but don't really understand how it blew up so big.

It's Game Time!

Batman: Arkham Knight

For some reason I didn't play Arkham Asylum right when it came out, but I will never forget when I did play it. The Christmas after it came out my parents bought me an HD TV for my college dorm room. One of my friends had let me borrow the game to play over Christmas break, so Arkham Asylum ended up being the first game I ever played in HD. I wasn't expecting a lot from the game, but ended up playing it in three sittings. It would have been two, but I went to see a movie right before fighting the final boss. Arkham Asylum did so much so well. It more or less invented modern melee combat, and proved that even licensed games can be amazing when the developer does it right. It's crazy to think about how almost every single game with melee combat uses the free-flow combo system introduced in Arkham Asylum. The sequel Arkham city lost a lot of the charm its predecessor had on me. While it was cool to have a large open world to explore I missed the confined corridors of the Asylum. I skipped Arkham Origins and went right for Arkham Knight. It keeps the open world of the previous two games, but for some reason I like it a lot more.

The open world in Arkham Knight is the whole of Gotham, where Arkham City was a condemned part of the city used to hold criminals. While it was cool it just didn't feel right. The Batmobile adds to my enjoyment of the open world as well. Even though it's faster to fly around and grapple building with Batman I enjoy sliding around the streets, because the car feels so powerful. It helps that it can turn into a tank. I'm willing to say that I actually enjoyed the Batmobile segments of the game, which were pretty frequent in the beginning, but taper off towards the end. My opinion seems to be at odds with most other people though, because all I see is non-stop complaining about the Batmobile and all of it's tank fighting battles. Listen, the Batmobile is cool. At first it's kind of squirrely, but once I figured out how to drift properly I thought it was just fine. The combat scenarios are easy to maneuver in as well, because when it's a tank it can strafe with no issue. It has a powerful cannon and most enemies die in a hit. I can see the sequences getting annoying eventually, but the game isn't super long to begin with so it didn't have much time to wear out its welcome.

The Arkham Knight is a brutal villain.

As for the rest of the game it's standard Batman fare. The city has been evacuated because Scarecrow has threatened to release his fear gas on the city. This means that all the streets are free of civilians and filled with thugs to beat down on. You do still beat down on tons of thugs with the patented free-flow combat, so don't freak out about the Batmobile. I can't really talk about the plot a whole lot, because there are so many good character moments that happen in the game. For starters Batman gets hit with some fear gas early on and it has some pretty amazing side effects. There's also the new villain in play aptly named the Arkham Knight who is more or less a robot looking Batman. He has a grudge and desperately wants Batman dead. I was very excited to find out who he was, and the reveal did not disappoint.

I really liked the game, but still don't think it was as good as the original. Arkham Knight is still easily my second favorite though. There was just something missing from Arkham City for me, and from what I hear Origins wasn't a whole lot better. I truly hope that this is the last Batman game that Rocksteady makes. They keep referring to it as the end of a trilogy, but we all know that if Warner Brothers makes enough money they'll run the franchise to the ground. The ending to the game isn't conducive to another game, but in general I think that Rocksteady should be allowed to put their talent to work on a new franchise.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

After everything was said and done on the first day of E3 I took a trip to the local Gamestop. While there I picked up a second Xbox One controller, and a used copy of the Master Chief Collection. Halo 5 looks like it has a solid plot for its campaign, and since I have an Xbox One I figured I might as well find out what all the fuss is about with the previous games in the series. Yes, like everyone, I played my fair share of Halo multiplayer. However, I never owned an Xbox, or Xbox 360 of my own, so I've never really sat down to play through a Halo story. I have now done that co-op and don't really get how Halo got to be as popular as it is. I realize that the main appeal came and still comes from the multiplayer, but I'm talking purely about the single player story here.

The plot of the original Halo is lame. That's really the only way I can describe it. You play as Master Chief, but you don't really know anything about him. We know he's a Spartan, he's got an AI companion named Cortana, and he has to kill the Covenant. The plot is not very well explained, and then when the flood is introduced it gets even worse. The Covenant accidentally released a race of what seems to be a plant-like parasites that take over dead bodies. This is where the Halos come in. An ancient race of aliens created them to wipe out all life in the galaxy, because apparently that's the only way to stop the Flood from growing. That seems like a terrible plan and obviously Master Chief doesn't want to do that. Things get kind of real, and you end up destroying the Halo. Turns out there are more Halos, and they need to be destroyed too. That's where Halo 2, and 3 come in!

Man, the Arbiter is so dope!

So, the plot in Halo is very generic. You control a super human soldier who is on a quest to stop the annihilation of the entire galaxy. It's been done before. It's even worse that I hate the Flood with a fiery passion. They're not challenging enemies, they're bullet sponges. All they do is run at you while you pump round after round into them! It's not fun! Halo 2 at least mixes it up quite a bit. You still fight the Flood, but you can kill them instantly and easily with a single sword swipe. That brings me to Halo 2, which I think is infinitely better than the original.

From the jump it's very clear that Halo 2 had a much larger budget than the first game. It looks worlds better, and plays even better than it looks. It starts with a full CG cinematic, which the first game definitely had none of. My favorite part is that you get to play as a member of the Covenant who is known as the Arbiter. He's pretty cool and starts off with an energy blade. The energy blade is by far my favorite weapon and does work on the Flood. I'm somewhere near the end and the story is taking a turn for the weird. Recently Master Chief and the Arbiter spoke with a horrific plant monster. The world is actually being developed quite a bit and I'm much more invested in the story now. I know that it ends on a terrible cliffhanger that everyone hates, but it's okay because I can just go right to Halo 3 when I'm done.

Summer Drought 

There's always a point in the summer when all major retail releases dry up. We have reached that point. Do not fear though, because I'm getting at least two games this month and they're both incredibly weird. The first is the new Godzilla game for PS4, which looks like it will be a stupid fun time. The second is a hot import release for the Vita, because I can't resist a good rhythm game. Taiko Drum Master V should be a fun one, but what sucks is I don't think it's compatible with the Vita TV so I won't be able to stream myself with a stupid smile on my face.

As always I'll be streaming Inazuma Eleven on Wednesdays, and random old fighting games on Thursdays. I look forward to talking to you all again next month! Peace out!