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_hojo:Woody’s Roundup.06

June 6, 2010

_Well…obviously, there have been things happening in my life since the last roundup. I’m now in a new place of residency. My room is much smaller, but I have many new things to better maximize the space given to me. If I had this stuff in my old room, I’d have had a fuckton of space. Oh well. Once I’m FULLY settled in, I’ll have pics of the new rig up in another post [I actually am settled in, but I’m not really done setting up my room yet. Stuff is still lying around…I haven’t figured out what I’m going to do with a couple of my things yet.] Well…I was settled in during the FF13 post, but now I’m getting back into the blogging…thing. Well, no more than before. Not like I ever kept up a torrid pace of posts. But I do try to make ’em meaty, even if I have to combine single paragraphs about 10 different games to make ’em that way! And now, because you’ve got a friend in me…it’s time for another roundup.

I would've taken a better picture than this...but I didn't take this one because my XBLA Compilation Disc seems to not want to work right now. But still...check out those Fantavision-esque visuals!

_Boom Boom Rocket_A fun little title that’s basically a DDR/Fantavision hybrid. And anything that can be explained as a hybrid of anything with Fantavision has to be good, right? Anyways, it’s a rhythm game and, seriously, it’s DDR with fireworks instead of arrows. Also, as far as I know, you can’t use the dance pad with it. But maybe you can? It’d probably be horrible though. Tons of jackhammer and full spin patterns. Actually, says on Wiki that they patched the game to include peripheral support. Good god. Having never played it on a DDR pad…I’d recommend sticking to the controller.

_One minor gripe I have with the game is the songlist. It’s all remixes of public domain classical music. “Oh boy, I’ve never heard anything like that before!” I know right? Nothing against Beethoven, Wagner or Tchaikovsky or anything, but third rate techno versions of their stuff are kind of “eh” at this point. I realize that licensing music is expensive, but couldn’t they have put in a COUPLE original tracks? I guess I’m just spoiled.

Ditto for this pic, but this gives you a good idea of how how the layout changes and shit, so I don't mind it as much.

_Pac-Man Championship Edition_I didn’t grow up with Pac-Man like a lot of people did, so when playing the classic game, I don’t find the same joy in eating dots and blue ghosts that many others do. No, not even if I have a bow on my head. Something about the whole “Play the same exact stage over and over again until you lose all your lives in an epic quest for High Score!” just doesn’t quite click for me. But THIS…man. If I were to compare Pac-Man Championship Edition to Street Fighter II Championship Edition, then PC-CE : Pac-Man :: SF2-CE : SF1. Yeah, Street Fighter fucking 1. That’s how much this blows the moldy oldies out of the water. The gameplay of “eat dots, avoid ghosts unless you eat a giant dot, then you eat blue ghosts” is there, but the presentation and level design and progression is just top notch. The changing stage layouts and time limits add so much to the formula, it’s amazing that it wasn’t done sooner. Coming from somebody that, as already stated, wasn’t a huge Pac-Man fan, PC-CE gets a huge recommendation for me, unless you’re some crazy Pac-Man purist that says stage layouts changing is for fags.

Protip: Don't do exactly this.

_Left 2 Dead_It’s funny that this game uses the Half-Life 2 engine, because Half-Life 2 isn’t that hard, but this is ballbreakingly difficult (And yes, I know those things have nothing to do with each other). A lot of it comes from the random nature of the zombie distribution. As opposed to almost every other FPS in existence, there are no set encounters. Everything is random. Sure, there are some semi-set encounters, like sometimes you’re guaranteed to fight a tank SOMEWHERE in a stage, but where exactly is random. Or a guaranteed witch SOMEWHERE, but her placement is also random. And parts where there will ALWAYS be a giant horde, but how large that actual horde is is random, and how many special units show up is random too. I mean, the game is hard anyways, but when so much is random like this, the likelihood of the game throwing you a fucking screwball is high, and there WILL be times when you will die simply because you got thrown a FUCKTON of said screwballs in rapid succession. Like “Oh shit, the Tank! WTF, a spitter too? WTF and a smoker?! And a fucking charger?! Fuck you and your random bullshit!”

_The biggest aspect of the game, even though the BS random layout of enemies came to mind first, is what I refer to as “forced co-op.” Any time a game has co-op functionality, and AI take control for their characters when you’re not playing with other people and you’re at a disadvantage because the AI is a fucking moron, that’s “forced co-op.” Stuff like RE5, where the AI will waste far more ammo than any reasonable person should shooting dead corpses, or stand beside you while you’re dying and wait a few seconds before reviving you, maybe just to see you sweat it out a little bit, or maybe both your partner and the zombies are controlled by AI and AI gotta stick together. Or Gears of War 2, where they made AI Dom just as easily killed when downed as the player, meaning that if he felt like being a dumbass for no reason and charging forward to get himself downed, you had no choice but to follow his fucking dumbass to inevitably revive him. Unless you like revert to checkpoints. Maybe that gets you off. (This is a good time to mention that the same now goes for the ALWAYS AI controlled Cole and Baird in Gears 2, as well. And seeing how Gears 2 only has 2 player co-op…ugh…for fuck’s sake.) Anyways, Left 2 Dead is the same kind of thing. If you don’t have 3 friends playing with you, you’ve got 3 AI’s. And while they’re pretty good at shooting things due to being game-engine-breakingly accurate with any weapon they hold, they’re so limited in what they do, they can’t help but be a hindrance. You can’t give them orders and they can’t use or even pick up any of the throwable items. Meaning if the AI feels like using a melee weapon when it’s highly inappropriate…tough shit. He’s dying. You can’t give him a fucking gun or even tell him to pick one up. Come across a med pack and one of your AI partner’s has room for one? Well, he’ll just…hover around it. For fuck’s sake, pick up the god damn thing! Why can’t i tell these bastards what to do? Why the shit WOULDN’T you pick up a med pack if you have room for it? Maybe now would be a good time to have 2 molotovs…well, too bad you’re the only one that will throw ’em. And too bad the AI won’t even pick them up so they can give them to you when you use up whatever is in your “throwable item” slot. Playing the game effectively is so dependent on playing with others, it’s fucking silly. Hell, even the amount of enjoyment you get is relative to the amount of people you play with. I realize that online is popular and all, and while I like playing co-op games, I don’t like being FORCED to play co-op to enjoy a game. And that’s why I use the term “forced co-op.” (FYI, I don’t consider Gears 1 forced co-op, because Dom doesn’t fucking kill himself.)

I'm tempted to say that this is inspired by another game involving skating, but the thought of associating this game with it make me sad.

_Yanya Caballista: City Skater_Oh lord. This…thing…is just an abomination. Maybe the developers were just too close to their own work to be able to step back and objectively look at what they had made halfway through development and say “This shit doesn’t fucking work,” and start over. OK, you might say “That probably wasn’t financially viable,” but if you’ve seen this game in action, you’d know…the budget on this shit couldn’t have been high.

Here’s the gist of it: aliens have invaded and are causing a ruckus in San Fransisco only, for some reason. Skateboarding tricks are the only thing that please them, so a group of young punks take to the streets to skate the aliens away. Yeah…I could have told you that “skating game” is another genre that doesn’t need a plot, kind of like “rhythm game.” Anyways, the plot could be considered charmingly ludicrous if the game itself wasn’t so gut-wrenchingly awful. The controls are about the stiffest thing you could ever imagine anything involving a person on a thing with on wheels being. The only kinds of  turning you can do are “slight lean to the side” and “extreme turn bordering on 90 degrees.” Jumping feels like you’re on the moon with an eye patch on, it’s so floaty and trying to judge where you’re going to land is so shitty. The trick system is broken beyond belief. The best way to describe linking tricks is the compare it to the command shortcuts in Street Fighter 4, and if you’ve ever played SF4, you probably just hung your head down and slowly shook it back and forth thinking about the fact that they not only left them in Super, but didn’t even give you the option to turn them off. Anyways, all of these describe the controls WITHOUT the fucking fingerboard peripheral included in the game, which makes the controls even worse if that’s believable.

S'up Goku Guy from Yanya.

_There it is. In all of its anti-glory. So how you’re supposed to use this fucking thing is you hold the controller sideways and put your right thumb over the Triangle circle [Right thumbstick] and your left thumb over the X circle [Left thumbstick]. Pushing the board up moves you forward, full left or right tilts you in the respective direction, and moving the top part at an angle will turn you. It all sounds reasonable…except it’s fucking horrible. As you might imagine from a piece of plastic so small, simply tilting one end of the board without moving the other is harder in practice than in theory. That combined with the controls being extremely sensitive make trying to actually TURN with this abortion on thumbsticks like passing a kidney stone – difficult, painful, and you’d sooner just tear the fucking thing out, which in this case is easy as it only involves taking the fingerboard off of your controller. But that’s not the only “great” thing about trying to use this godforsaken thing. You jump by pressing down the X circle. Now…the board itself is very smooth with no tread of any kind for your finger to really stick on. So to actually move the fucking thing requires exerting a little bit of pressure down on it, lest your thumbs simply slide around on the damn thing. So…exerting pressure down on the board to move…pressing down on the board to jump…fuck me, did they think any of this shit out in development?

_Now, I could go on about the shitty stage design, the shitty time limits, the fact that the game itself is short and artificially extends itself by re-using levels and by making the stages only beatable through repeatedly playing them and memorizing the layout…but I think I’ll sum up this game by saying that I’d rather wear a noose as a necktie than play this again.

There was a bowling ball when i took this picture. Hooray sprite flicker!

_Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game_I owned this long ago in my time of youth. Then I traded it for an original brick Game Boy, a copy of Qix and Metroid II. Seeing how the acquisition also gave me a console with which to play Pokémon Blue and Pokémon: TCG, I think that it was worth being without TNMT2 for almost a decade.

_As a said youth, I couldn’t beat this game. That’s because I was a dumbass. Well, not exactly. But more that outside of shit like Punch-Out, I didn’t think everything had a set pattern like everything totally does. I gave games too much credit. “They know everything I’m gonna do!” I didn’t realize that they behaved in specific ways. I wouldn’t say I was a dumbass, seeing how even though I didn’t realize this, I was still getting A’s in elementary school and was reading at a higher grade level than the hallway grade level that I walked down to get to class each day. So…I’ll go with ignorant =P

_Having the opportunity to load up the arcade perfect TNMT game on XBLA and play it alongside TMNT2, it’s amazing how different the games are. At the time, you thought “OK, downgrade in graphics, but we got some new stages and the gameplay is in tact!” While the base gameplay (bmup) is the same, the approach you have to take is vastly different. The Attack+Jump move in the NES version isn’t actually attack+jump, but it’s jump quickly followed by attack, and is much harder to do and therefore is far less spammable. Foot soldier’s fists also see a huge priority boost over jump kicks, making those harder to spam as well . Calling them “the same game” back then would be like calling Final Fight and Streets of Rage the same. “Yeah, they’re similar…buuuuuuuutttt…” To wrap it up, sweet game, much easier now than it was then, if you need more of an explanation, then…I don’t know what to say. How do you not know about a TMNT bmup?

_Grandia 2_This was such an improvement over Grandia 1, it’s not even funny. The biggest improvement…the story. Simply put, the characters have more purpose and the story has more direction than the first one did. The soundtrack was good, the battle system was sweet, the VA was improved, and the game did an excellent job of keeping you from getting lost. It’s always clear on where the next destination is, and there’s very little aimless roaming around towns to trigger events. It’s funny that this little blurb is so short, because I liked Grandia II a lot. I think it’s because I did a full review on Grandia 1 and my main gripes were improved, so…there’s not much more to say without simply rehashing things and spoiling plot. So…there.

Such epic graphix animationz.

_Mega Man Legends_This was a rather charmingly fun game. Calling it “Mega Man in 3D” like some people did at the time of release wouldn’t be a very accurate description, though. The gameplay almost reminds me of a mech-sim, which sounds…really strange. But I was thinking about the last boss fight and how I was spamming unlimited buster shots at him while rolling to dodge attacks, and in my head, it seems kind of mech-ish. Only with more auto-targeting.

People have been clammoring for a MML3 in the hopes of next-gen dog kicking. True story.

_What’s funny about MML is that the game really bears no relevance to the MM universe in any way. Even though he’s called “Mega Man” throughout the whole game, the main character isn’t THE Mega Man from the series. Same goes for Roll. There’s no Dr. Light or Dr. Wily. The bosses are all giant machines piloted by people and not equally sized robots with an attack based around a theme. If you replaced the main characters with different skins and names, they could have named the game anything. There’s no platforming in the game. It’s an action RPG/lite-shooter hybrid. Why Mega Man? I dunno. Whatever. Fun game, even with the inevitable “God awful plot triggers” moments present in most early PS1 RPG’s.

Let's assume that this particular squad of jet fighters is known as Team Gemini.

_Gunstar Heroes_There’s a good reason why this game is so highly regarded. It’s like Contra, only with less cheap deaths due to health and stage designs set-up so that when you continue against bosses, you never have to go in with a peashooter. Add in the stylistic cartoonish sprites, a boatload of different weapons to use, diving jump attacks, a kickin’ soundtrack, the M. Bison guy…it’s a really easy game to like. I’ve heard some people call it overrated, but I’ve never heard anybody call it out-and-out bad, and for good reason.

While it doesn't have the jiggle physics of Dragon Quest VIII, Tales of Vesperia does have better still images.

_Tales of Vesperia_My first foray into the Tales series was the Pre-gimped Special Edition Vesperia. Before I even begin to get into Namco-Bandai’s absolute joke in handling this game, let me say that I really enjoyed this game a lot. The battle system, while a bit mash heavy, was a lot of fun. Combining Artes to try and find combos was pretty awesome. I spent a lot of time just trying to find situations where i could chain together combinations of 4 Artes that would all connect, so as far as quality of battle engine in an Action RPG, this definitely gets high marks. Most of the characters are likable, although some of them do far less developing than others, such as Estelle, who never really becomes any less naive throughout the course of your 50+ hour adventure. While “her eyes are opened” a little bit, you’d think a princess whose never really seen the outside world would have her eyes opened more so than they are. Even so, Yuri is a strong protagonist. His counterpart, the NPC-except-for-one-battle Flynn, falls more into the stereotypical idealistic the-world-is-TOTALLY-blac-and-white main character you’d expect to find in a JRPG. Yuri, on the other hand, is more of a realist and right from the start lets you know that he knows that everything is totally drab shades of gray. He doesn’t particularly like fighting, but he appreciates a well fought battle. He’s sarcastic and plays semi-mean spirited jokes on Shithead/Karol in some of the skits.

_The use of optional “skits”  for character and relationship development (a staple of the Tales series, I’m told) was a very good move on the part of the developers. Some people might call the use of character portraits moving their mouths alongside text to develop character a shortcut so as to not animate the characters doing anything during these scenes, but seeing how there are so many skits in the game and that they’re all optional, I can give them a pass on that. They are all voiced, however, so there’s a shitton of VA in the game, although it’s strangely absent during parts of the main quest. I guess having no VA for the random main plot scene is less random than having no VA for 30 or so skits out of a few hundred.

_Now…on to Namco’s treatment of the 360 version of this game. Like I said earlier…it’s a joke. There are some things which I can understand. The JP PS3 version has the entire main plot voiced. As I mentioned, the 360 version is not. OK…audio takes a lot of space. Whatever. I’ll give ’em a pass. But…no fully playable Flynn? There’s no excuse. It’s not like “There was no room to code another playable character.” I have no idea how much space that even takes since I’m no coder, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say that’s why the other character, Patty, was removed (who was obviously planned from the start, as there’s a room that directly references her, and scenes with the full party forming incomplete circles with a single spot open for one other person). But Flynn actually IS usable for a single fight. If you have the key item that lets you change control of characters mid-battle, you can switch to him and use him in battle. He’s in the game. You can open up the menu when you control him and adjust his Arte set-up. He’s fully usable. They just…don’t have him join your party at the end. His battle engine code is wasted space after that. Why? Just to cockblock? What about all the DLC costumes on PSN? There was DLC within a month of release. To compare it to the 360, I played the game 16 months after release, and the only DLC for the game are for items obtainable in game. That’s like if FF7 was released today and they had DLC for things like the Fire Materia. You can also purchase…level ups. Yeah. Want to level up without grinding? Pay 200 MS points. Fuck. And…that’s it. The only downloadable content for the 360 Vesperia are for things that are already obtainable in the game. That’s literally IT. 16 months after release, there wasn’t even a PATCH for the game on start-up. Although it’s not like there’s anything in the game buggy enough to need patching. They couldn’t even be bothered to patch in something like the ability to skip cutscenes. Some people refer to the 360 version as the “Beta” version. I wouldn’t even call it a beta. A beta would imply that they intended on finishing it, and while they did “finish it” on the PS3, I think it gives them too much credit. No…the evidence points to Namco deliberately holding back on it. It’s like when George Lucas released the original theatrical versions of the Star Wars trilogy on DVD in non-restored, non-anamorphic widescreen. Basically “I could’ve…but didn’t feel like it. I’d rather just do the laziest thing possible and sucker as much money out of the people that made this series what it is today.” Beta versions of games are what real companies make to test games. This is more like a “sham.” Honestly, I’m fine with the 360 version as it’s still a lot of fun, but to say their handling of it anything but a mockery would be a lie.

_Mass Effect 2_Enough ranting about a company’s ridiculous business practices and onto a company that can’t help but gloat about how great their own games are and how they’ve reinvented the RPG wheel. See what I did, “reinvented the wheel” because Mass Effect uses the dialog wheel thing?

_ME2 was rather fantastic. But the gameplay was decidedly more 3PS than RPG. Granted, the first ME was kind of 3Ps too, but it felt more like an action RPG that used guns instead of swords. This was basically a stop’n’pop 3rd person shooter with spells in the form of biotic powers. If you watch videos of gameplay, they look similar, but trust me, they feel very different. Outside of that, there have been plenty of improvements. The plot is far more focused this time around, meaning both main story and side-quests. Overall, there are less side-quests to do in ME2 than there were in ME1, but the loyalty side-quests for each character make up for it. Every recruitable character has a loyalty mission, which are all pretty lengthy and have their own mini-plot to them. They all flesh out the character they’re attached too rather well, both moving them forward in development and giving you backstory on them. And in the biggest improvement over ME1, the Mako was removed. Praise whatever deity is appropriate or all of them for this wonderful removal of a gameplay element.

_One gripe I have was the equipment management…I read reviews saying how it was “vastly improved over ME1.” Yes…it is better…because they removed it completely. The only things you really “equip” is your weapon loadout when going off for a mission. So if you call “No equipment system whatsoever” an “improved equipment management system,” then yes, it’s better. Really, I’m only complaining about peoples semantics there, but it DOES bring up a point about the game…there’s very little customization outside of the skills. Sure, you get to use different weapons, but it’s hardly robust. You’ll be rolling through a lot of the game with the standard weapon set. If you don’t download the DLC from the Cerberus Network (a.k.a EA’s Anti-Used Game Protection Network) then the amount of weapons becomes even more not robust. It’s like BioWare spent so much time making this vast, “open ended” game with all these sweet dialog choices that they forgot that some people consider character customization kind of a big aspect of RPG’s. In its current form, ME2 is kind of like Gears of War with a lot of talking and biotics. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed ME2, but I also missed the customization aspects of ME1. Here’s hoping that they can find a good middle ground in ME3.

_And of course, as you probably figured as it’s BioWare, there are plenty of bugs and glitches to be found. My favorite was the love interest not showing up on your lap for cuddling during endgame.

Come here, baby...I'll hold you just the way I know you like it.


_Another day (or month, as seems to be the average interval between posts), another Roundup finishes. Luckily, I tend to not beat ten games a month, so I’ll eventually catch up. Until next time…

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