_hojo:Woody’s Roundup.05March 15, 2010
_Phew…we’re getting there…is there even anything for me to add here that’s happened since last time? My life is so uneventful. Well…that’s not true…but it’s uneventful in the fact that nothing happens that I’d feel comfortable talking about it here. Though I suppose that might be a little bit of an insight into my life, cryptic though it may be? Nah, that’s bullshit. Perhaps…I’ll step a little bit into my musical tastes as of late? As black and white as possible, I’m usually in one of two moods: up or down. When I’m feeling down, I like listening to down music, and vice versa. My “down” albums of choice of late have been Alice in Chains’ self-titled album and Brand New’s “The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me.” My “up” albums have been the Beach Boys “The Sounds of Summer” and Spinnerette’s self-titled album. And when I’m in the mood for a little bit of both, the entire Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex soundtrack collection has been working pretty well. Maybe that’ll give you a little more insight on the inner working’s of Hojo? Or maybe not. In any case, it’ll just have to do. Deal with it. Now…the boot fits. Time for a roundup.
_World of Goo_I downloaded this last October, during the 1st anniversary “Name your price” thingamajig. 1 cent for a critically hailed puzzle game? I took the bait. And what delicious bait it was. World of Goo is a physics based puzzler comprised of many stages, in which the goal of each one is almost always the same: use balls of goo to form a structure to get from point A to point B. This starts out harmless enough, but by the time you reach the end, the levels get increasingly more devious, sometimes bordering on cruel. But that’s half the fun, isn’t it?
As you make your way through the game, you’ll stumble across signs on each level. At the beginning, the signs serve as the tutorial, and later, they serve as the storytelling device. Yup…somebody dropped a plot in my physics-based puzzle game. But it’s actually kind of interesting. It’s all very silly and enjoyable, and even so, since it’s all told via optional clickable signs, you can skip a lot of it if you so choose. Reminds me of Braid in that regard, with the “What are these books? I’m running past this bullshit!” Although the Braid plot was kind of really WTF out there stuff and World of Goo was not as much…but still a bit out there…and a little morbid too, considering the style of the game. All I know is that when I was finished…I felt bad for only paying a cent for World of Goo. It was very much worth more.
_Dynamite Headdy_Ah, yes…an oddity of the Treasure line-up, to be sure. Where they have games like Gunstar Heroes and Ikaruga that many people seem to have played and look back fondly on, and then games like McDonald’s Treasure Land Adventure and Silpheed: The Lost Planet that make you go “…that was Treasure?” Dynamite Headdy seems to fall under a different category. A category of “Oh yeah…Treasure made that didn’t they? I wasn’t really interested.” I guess controlling unnameable creatures with dis-attachable heads as a means of attack/maneuvering just isn’t a hot seller with the 18-32 male demographic that all gamers are, eh? Back to the drawing board, Treasure!
Anyways, Dynamite Headdy is a pretty good platformer that is pretty impressive graphically too (for the time). It takes advantage of the one thing that I remember the Genesis having over the SNES, that being those sweet faux-3D graphics. All of the balls in Vectorman, the effects in Adventures of Batman and Robin, and now there’s 3-1 in Dynamite Headdy, although to a lesser extent than the last two. I don’t know if it was just different processing capabilities on the Genesis, the people working on the Genesis doing slick sprite work, or maybe the super secret POWER OF BLAST PROCESSING (this is TOTALLY IT, by the way) but while Mode7 is remembered by more people nowadays, and enabled awesome games like F-Zero and Mario Kart to even exist, thus making it superior in the gameplay department, the Genesis’ faux-3D was far more aesthetically pleasing. I mean, going back today and looking at the tracks in F-Zero, or the mine cart section of Final Fantasy 6/3…oi, they are not the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen. But seeing Vectorman in action, or the boss battle with the Mad Hatter in Batman and Robin…those still manage to impress, even now.
Putting all that aside, Dynamite Headdy was a damn fun game, but I’m glad I played it on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection, because the US version is A) harder than the JP version and B) has no continues to boot. What is it with Japan and making games harder when they localize stuff? Do they hate US gamers? Do they just want us to hate their games so we stop buying them, thus making it so they no longer have to cater to us when developing games or bother localizing anything they make? Actually, is it even the Japanese that make the games harder during localization? Maybe it’s the US publishers who are to blame. Regardless of who’s at fault, the question still stands: who the fuck thinks we want games to be abnormally difficult and that that makes them infinitely more enjoyable? I mean, I don’t want a cakewalk, but I don’t want a game to walk out of my console and kick me in the balls on the default difficulty.
Short version: get SUGC, play Dynamite Headdy, save state at the beginning of each stage to simulate continues, have fun.
_Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria_Excellent game, one of Square-Enix’s strongest games on the PS2, and easily the best tri-Ace game I’ve played. Although, I’ve only played this, Star Ocean: Till the End of Time and Infinite Undiscovery, so that’s not too much to go by, is it? As to avoid spoilers, I’ll simply say that I liked the plot. The battle system was pretty neat, although I’d imagine that you could probably make it look a lot prettier than I made it look. I pretty much dashed all over the place, then mashed all over every enemy and quad Soul Crushed them. I apologize, as I”m doing a piss-poor job of describing the gameplay right now, especially considering how much I enjoyed it.
At least I’ll be able to describe the dungeon aspect of it well, as it’s not really complex. If there’s one thing I love in RPG’s, it’s puzzle based dungeons. If there’s another thing I love in RPG’s, it’s being able to solve puzzles in said dungeons without having to worry about random battles because the enemies are displayed on the screen. Enter Valkyrie Profile 2! Well…VP2 isn’t SUPER heavy on the puzzles if you want to just get to the end of the dungeons, but it sure as shit is if you want to get all the treasures in them. And who can resist the allure of those treasure chests in plain sight like that? The puzzles revolve around a little projectile your main character, Alicia, fires, called photons. When they hits enemies or certain other thingamajigs, they’ll turn into crystals for a certain period of time. You can stand on these crystals and jump off of them, or hit them with another photon and instantly switch places with them. And just so you know, dungeons take place in the 2 dimensional realm, so this isn’t as annoying as it sounds. Add in the reflective properties of the photons, and having to crystallize multiple enemies or enemy spirits, and the puzzles can get very tricky. You want to keep me interested in you, RPG? Put puzzles and actions in your fucking dungeons! Case in point: there’s no way I’d have gotten through shitty Wild ARMs 4 otherwise.
_Pikmin_Looking back on this game, all I can think about is how much I enjoyed it until the end boss. Everything was fun and games, and then they introduce an end boss that plays unlike anything else in the game with a retarded pattern. He sucked. All I remember him doing at the end was just jumping into the air nonstop giving me no time to attack. Awesome. Go fuck yourself. Everything else I liked. And from playing the game, I definitely could tell that the removal of a time limit of any kind probably would detract from the game. Seeing as how the game is rather simple as a puzzle/strategy game, the removal of a time limit would thus take away any difficulty, and a lot of the fun was in seeing how much you could do in a single day. But the most fun I had with Pikmin…was loading up Super Smash Bros. Melee and getting my Captain Olimar trophy to complete my trophy collection. Boy, I love the way Nintendo has us buy multiple products to unlock all the features of a single game. They sure do care about their fans [money].
_Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts_Here’s a game notorious for its cruel difficulty, but surprisingly, I had less trouble with it than I anticipated. Once I got the hang of the “lol no adjusting in midair” jump mechanics, I found that it wasn’t as daunting of a task as many make it out to be. There are “limited” continues, sure, but the game hands them out so liberally, you’ll hardly notice unless you lose all your lives without killing anything or getting a single bag of money. There are a lot of tricks to beating this game, though, and learning them all is the trick to doing it as painlessly as possible. First off, you must know that the bow and arrow is your friend. It’s far and away the best weapon in the game, all the time, in every situation, for every and all opportunities, no questions asked, no exceptions, get it ASAP, never get anything else ever. 2nd off every weapon except the bow and arrow is horrible unless you have green armor, but if you get Green Armor without the bow, you’re probably gonna get hit pretty quickly and lose it, so it’s a moot point. 3rd, once you get the green armor, never ever ever ever get hit. If you do, just sit in a corner and cry. Or pray that you’re lucky enough to find more armor quickly. 4th, seeing how everybody already knows about the infamous 2nd loop, when the stupid bitch tells you to go find her bracelet, don’t get it ASAP. Keep the bow and arrow. It makes getting back to the last stage easier. Just wait until you get back to the last stage, and get the bracelet then. Yes, it’s a bit of a pain in the ass to get a bracelet to appear on the last stage, but it’s even MORE of a pain in the ass to go through all the previous stages with the shitty bracelet. So…that’s my thoughts on the game. Yes, my thoughts on the game is actually mini-walkthrough on how great the bow and arrow is.
…if you actually want to know what I thought about SGnG…it’s pretty fun, the bow and arrow makes it a lot less painless than people make the game out to be, though it’s still hard, especially having to bracelet the last stage, and the final boss is a joke. The only thing that would make him difficult would be if you had to use the torch against him, but since you’re forced to use the Bracelet, it’s impossible to use the torch, making him fucking easy.
_Saturday Night Slam Masters_I wish I could find more SNES games for 99 cents. Seriously. Granted, is Saturday Night Slam Masters an A+ title? No. But is it awful? Also no. It’s not even a sports title. Hell, even some sports titles run you more than 99 cents, which is shocking. Well, onto the game. It’s an arcade port of a Capcom game…wanna guess how cheap the computer is? I hope you said “Not at all” so I can slap you in the face at laugh at you. As great as it would be to try and body slam the CPU, it’s a crap shoot trying to grapple them, so your best bet is to just use a large character and cheese out everybody with long range slaps. Preferably Haggar and spinning lariats. This is more a game I bought due to nostalgia more than it being good. Can’t say I recommend it. If you need a SNES wrestling game, you’re better off buying WWF Royal Rumble. But this does take me back.
_Mirror’s Edge_Whew…this was a doozy of a game. You want something new done in the first person genre? Here you go. Most people think of first person games and their mind will immediately jump to “shooter.” The next genre might be “action RPG.” But…platformer? The thought of first person platforming harks back to thoughts of jumping around on pipes and boxes and indescribable horrors on Xen in Half-life, or any other god forsaken platforming experience in any other FPS we’ve played in the past. But…those were FPS’s with platforming shoveled in. This…is a first person game built around platforming. Built around running and movement. The stuff that you asked yourself whenever you missed jumps in every other FPS like “why the fuck don’t you just GRAB THE FUCKING LEDGE AND PULL YOURSELF UP?!” happens in Mirror’s Edge. That’s what it’s built for. The controls can seem complex at first, but after a while, they became second nature. Everything just flowed effortlessly. When doing time trials, what used to be simple paths soon become puzzles. “How can I do this better? Can I do this maneuver there? What path am I missing?” A first person game inspired by parkour, it’s a truly unique experience that I highly recommend trying at least once. There’s nothing else like it available right now.
Again, ME is NOT an FPS. If you do try it, DON’T go in to it expecting it to play like an FPS. It will only end in disappointment.
_Shadow Complex_I’m sure you’ve all heard the comparisons by now: “It’s like a modern day Super Metroid.” Well…as much as I’d like to give you my opinions on the game without making the comparison, it’s pretty much true. The weapon upgrades, the acquisition of rockets, grenades, and foam and the backtracking you’ll need to do to open up previously passed doors which were locked and now openable with your newly acquired weapons, finding hidden capsules to increase the capacity of said weapons, your health being displayed via boxes that represent 100 units of health each, a map that looks like this, a sprint that is eventually upgraded to the point where you can dash through certain walls and enemies, killing them instantly…if it wasn’t for the fact that Super Metroid was made 15 years ago and has gotten all of ONE 2D sequels in that time frame, Shadow Complex would seem like a blatant rip-off. But since we’ve been deprived for so long, it ends up coming across as ” a fresh Super Metroid for a new generation with cut-scenes and terrorists.” And while the game might borrow/bite off of Super Metroid really, really, really hard, that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.
There are a few cons off the top of my head. The game plays in a kind of semi-3D. You move around purely in the 2D plane, but enemies do appear on the Z-axis. When you aim up and down, your character kind of aims automatically into the foreground or background at them. Most of the time, it works pretty well. In large, open environments, aiming at people on the Z-axis is relatively painless. But when people are in the background down long, narrow hallways…aiming on the Z-axis gets…really, really awful. It’s the kind of thing that when you first aim early on, you say “That’s kind of strange, but it’s not too bad,” and you get used to it, and if with clever environment design, the limitations of the aiming could have gone virtually unnoticed all game. But, alas…it’s noticeable in quite a few areas. Thankfully, it never springs up in any boss areas. The other thing that comes to mind is one point of the level design. If you look on the map, the purple area on the far right becomes pretty much completely inaccessible at the end of the game. The final boss is an automatic trigger on the top section of the map directly above the purple section, and when the yellow part is flooded, you can’t go through it to get to the purple section, effectively cutting the entire part off. For a Super Metroid clone, and Super Metroid being a game built around exploration, collecting and backtracking, to have such a large portion of the map be made inaccessible at the end of the game just seems like a huge oversight and downright silly.
But those are really the only cons that stick out for me, and they really don’t make up a very large portion of the game, and when a pros and cons list looks like this…
- Super Metroid
- Occasional aiming issues
- Parts of the map can become inaccessible during endgame
…I’d say that the Pros outweigh the Cons by a lot, wouldn’t you? ;-D
_Doom 3_About 5 years late, but I was all up on the hype train! …ok, not really, but man, remember when was coming out? Everybody was shitting themselves with anticipation. “Oh man, look at those lighting effects, this is just gonna be incredible!” It’s funny, thinking back at how big a deal lighting effects once were. Games like Doom 3 and Splinter Cell were hyped up big time as having mind blowing real-time lighting and shadows, and these days, even budget titles have decent lighting effects. Granted, they’re still nothing compared to what’s in either of those games, even now, but if you step back and imagine seeing the games we get now coming out 5 years ago…we’d shit bricks at the lighting effects. Now, physics are the big thing. “Oh man, the physics engine they’re working on is whoooooaaaaa.” Anyways…while playing Doom 3, I couldn’t help but think 2 things…how it felt so dated but at the same time wasn’t enough like the old Doom games. It sounds weird, so I’ll break it down…
The whole “stage progression” thing felt…really old. Going through 40-odd stages in an FPS…like, killing a handful of enemies in a couple corridors and hallways, finishing a stage, then sitting through a long loading screen and starting a new stage…this game came out in 2004. By then, Half-life and Halo had already dropped in 1998 and 2001, respectively. Both of those games had impacts which are still being felt in first and third person shooters being released even now. Matter at hand…in Halo, you have 10 long levels, with minimal loading times during each stage. In Half-life, you have about 17 chapters, all of which flow into one another with no interruptions, even by cutscenes. It plays like one giant stage. These are the two most common game models you’ll find in these types of games now. The game length might be the same regardless of the structure, but the stages feel meaty. It’s easy to remember what happened in a stage because they each have their own graphical style. If you break it all into bite size chunks, it all becomes blurs and forgettable. “Remember the stage where you fought that boss?” “Uhhhhhh…was that stage 32? Or 33? Fuck me, I don’t know.” But you know what I do remember? I remember gravity gunning razorblades at people in Ravenholm. I remember Assaulting the Control Room in scorpion tanks. I remember sneaking around the tall grass in All Ghillied Up. I remember some stuff in Doom 3…but I don’t remember where I did jack shit. Even a game like Goldeneye that a lot of us have fond memories of…that had a fuckton of stages, and not all of them have the most descriptive names. “Oh man, remember Depot?” “I loved Surface!” Hell, I had to look up the names of those stages when writing this and re-reading them in the final draft of this post, I’m having a hard time remembering what the fuck stages Depot and Surface were. They don’t put a fuckton of stages in FPS’s anymore, and for pretty good reason. It’s not a good thing if you don’t really remember anything you did in a game right after you’ve played it. It doesn’t speak much for the game design.
Now…as far as not feeling enough like the old Doom games…you have these small stages, with imps and guys spawning out of nowhere because that’s totally awesome game design and not something that a decade’s worth of first person shooters hadn’t taught us wasn’t necessary to make a fun game…well, before I get into anything else, let’s start with the beginning of the game. The game starts off with you arriving on Mars and being told to go find a scientist. You then walk through a bunch of hallways for a couple minutes, doing nothing and can talk to people while looking for this scientist. Man…that’s pure Doom right there. Seriously, did nobody have the balls to say within 5 minutes of starting up Doom 3 during testing to say “This is not Doom.”? Maybe id wanted to try to put more substance into Doom 3? A novel idea, perhaps…but seeing how the stages are so short anyways, using up considerable chunks of time in them with PDA’s containing a bunch of text along with some people talking and cutscenes just make the stages seem boring and uneventful, like “I spent less than half of my time in that last stage fighting enemies.” That’s totally the spirit of Doom, right? Games like Shadow of the Colossus can get away with having no enemies in a world…because when you do find one, it’s a huge, epic encounter that makes you go “Holy shit.” RPG’s can get away with having people blab at you or assaulting you with text because the stories are far more interesting far more often. I’m not sure who was picking up Doom 3 under the impression that they were gonna get some awesome plot, and I’m not sure who at id was under the impression that they were great storytellers. I’m not sure what was going on here. It’s a reboot of a franchise whose first game in the series has an in-game plot synopsis that takes up all of one paragraph. The original Doom games are frantic, mindless FPS’s with no plot outside of “Armies of hell are bad. Kill them.” And yet here’s Doom 3, hanging out with a bunch of bullshit. If you’re gonna try to give me plot, try to have a good one…or at least design your game well enough to make me not care that it’s bad.
_SEGA Superstars Tennis_I loved Virtua Tennis. I loved Tennis 2K2 more. I liked Top Spin less than those, but it was still fun. Mario Tennis I liked less than those, but it was also fun, although I haven’t played a whole lot of it. Funny enough, with the exception of the super shots and gimmicky courts on Mario Tennis, MT game plays shockingly similar to all the others. This lies in the fact that there really isn’t a way to properly simulate actual tennis in a video game format. If there is, it would be using Wii-mote functions, and if it really actually came anywhere close to actual tennis, it would be far too difficult to be any fun, and by the time you got any good at it, you’d be good enough to go play actual tennis. You probably wouldn’t be in good enough SHAPE to play tennis, but that’s another story. So…what’s all this have to do with SEGA Superstars Tennis? Well…pretty much that it plays like most any other competent tennis game. Think Mario Tennis with a Sega theme and without stage gimmicks, and there you go.
Now, compared to other tennis games I’ve played a lot throughout the years, the gameplay here is nowhere near as polished. It’s obvious that they were going for a pick-up and play style due to the fact that only 2 face buttons are used during gameplay, but here’s what baffles me. The two face button control top spin shots and slices. Those are the two face buttons. OK…but, there are also lobs and drop shots in the game. I knew they were there, because the CPU did them to me, but I couldn’t do them. Try as I might, no button on the controller let me do a lob or a drop shot. Then I look in the instruction booklet and found out how to do them. To preform them, you to press one button, then quickly press the other. That was their solution on how to put lobs and drop shots in the game. It wasn’t “map it to one of the unused face buttons,” it was “Press one of the already used buttons, then the other one in quick succession.” Man…just writing it down makes me feel dumber. Granted, I suppose I should have read the instruction booklet first to find out the controls, but seeing how every other tennis game I’ve played that had 4 shots in it had them mapped to the 4 available face buttons on the controller, after pressing Y and B and having nothing happen, I just figured “Well, I guess I’ve only got my normal top spin and slice shots to work with.” I just figured 4 shots=4 face buttons. Nope. Ugh. Why you would have 4 commands for any game and 2 unused buttons is simply beyond me. The other big issue comes during net play, where the controls sometimes become unresponsive. If I had to guess, it’s due to the game engine being programmed to only begin a back-swing or attempt a hit on the ball when the ball is on your side of the court, so when you’re standing right at net, you can see how this can become quite a problem. But the unreliability of the controls at net takes away a big part of the strategic part of the game. All in all, it’s an OK tennis game, certainly not bad by any means, but it certainly could’ve used more polish in the gameplay department.
Where the game truly shined, however, was in the presentation. There are 16 characters from 8 franchises, and even more franchises are represented in stages and mini-games, many of which have never been seen on a current-gen console. Seeing Gillius Thunderhead from Golden Axe show up in full-on green, performing rolls to hit tennis balls just out of reach just tugs at the old nostalgia strings. There are almost endless amounts of character cameos on every playable stage, and there are just so many different SEGA franchises making appearances here, it’s just batshit crazy. Sending ChuChu’s off in rockets, hearing the announcer say “Welcome to the Fantasy Zone!”…hell, even seeing a 3D version of Alex Kidd, a character whose only game I ever played was Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, which is horrible, but I know he hasn’t appeared in a game in nearly 2 decades, and he somehow managed to bring brought a grin to my face. After having played this and, in the past week Sonic and SEGA All-Stars Racing, it’s amazing that Sumo Digital over the past 2 years have developed more games capturing the spirit of old-school, classic Sega games than Sega themselves have made in the past…I don’t even know how long. Now, do I think they’d be able to make a good Sonic game? Or Golden Axe? Or Streets of Rage? No idea. Maybe? They’ve shown that they definitely know the source material and are good at staying true to it. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’d know how to make a platformer or hack’n’slash or bmup…but I’d like to see them try at least once =D
_Ahhh…checking my “recent changes” on my Backloggery page, SEGA Tennis was done this year…EARLY this year, but at least we’re in 2010 on my game thoughts =P And holy fuck, that’s a lot of words. The last Roundup was 2700+, this one clocked in at almost 5000. Oi…well, until next time…