Friday, August 5, 2011

NEWS: No Update This Week

Due to unforeseen circumstances stemming from my own clumsiness (tripping over my laptop's power cord, causing the thing to fall off the table), my computer is nearly unuseable for now. I should be able to diagnose and solve the problem in a few days, but until then, I can't do very much. And I was going to review a PC game this week, so that plan has flown out the window.
See you next week!


Friday, July 29, 2011

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Platform: GameCube
Genre: Action-Adventure
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release: 24 March 2003
Rating: Everyone
Price: $20

While most people name Ocarina of Time as their favorite in the The Legend of Zelda series, I personally name The Wind Waker. It took the excellent gameplay of Ocarina and brought it into a new setting with a very different feel to it. While many people complained about the supposedly "kiddy" cel-shaded graphics of the game at the time, they have aged very well, and it remains rather beautiful to this day.
As for the gameplay, it's a Zelda game, so if you've played any of the other 3D games in the series, Wind Waker is pretty much the same. The twist this time is that you need to use the eponymous Wind Waker, a baton that lets you control the weather, so that you can sail from island to island. While many people complained that the sailing was boring and monotonous, I found it rather relaxing, and the simple challenge of navigation provides a nice break from the standard dungeon-crawling. As for the dungeons, enemies are a bit weaker than usual in this game, but the dungeons themselves are larger and more complex, so it evens out. There are also a lot of side-quests (almost every one of the numerous islands has at least one), so there's a lot of game in this game. It plays very well, and that's really the most important piece.
The story is simple as video games go: hero wants to rescue his kidnapped sister, and ends up wrapped up in the traditional save-the-world quest. The setting is a series of islands within the "Great Sea," which is refreshing, as this is only the second time the Zelda series has left the traditional setting of Hyrule.
There's one other thing I need to bring up: don't be fooled by the cartoony visuals and lighthearted feel. When you think about it, this is one of the darkest installments in the series. (WARNING: If you don't want spoilers, even minor ones, then please skip this next paragraph.) About halfway through the game, it is revealed that the series recurring villain, Ganondorf, actually won the last time he attacked the kingdom of Hyrule, and in a last-ditch effort to stop him, the gods flooded it all. That's right: the ocean that you've been sailing? It's the post-apocalyptic kingdom of the previous games. Now that is pretty dark.
The Wind Waker is an exemplary installment in the really damned good The Legend of Zelda series, and $20 at GameStop is a pretty good deal for anyone who hasn't played it already.
Play, save, and enjoy. See you next week.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Neverwinter Nights 2: Platinum

Platform: PC (Windows)
Genre: RPG
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher: Atari
Release: 31 October 2006
Rating: Teen
Price $20

Neverwinter Nights is a game that is often fondly remembered, but which, to be honest, has not aged well. It was a hit-or-miss translation of the Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition rule-set to PC format, and the party system (what little there was) left a lot to be desired.
Neverwinter Nights 2 is, gameplay-wise, everything that Neverwinter Nights wanted to be. It is a near-perfect transfer of the D&D 3.5 rules, and it has a rather well-implemented party system that feels a lot like Knights of the Old Republic.
At the time of its release, NWN2's visuals were stunning, but only if you had a high-end computer. The necessary specs are far easier to achieve with modern PCs, so the visuals, while slightly aged, are still very nice to look at.
The plot is very much a storm of cliches: You're an ordinary person growing up in a tiny village, but when the village is attacked, you need to take the magical silver shard that they were after and take it to the eponymous city of Neverwinter so you can get another shard from your uncle and we've all seen this sort of thing before. What makes the story interesting is that the writers seemed to know how cliche it was, so they took every opportunity to poke fun at themselves for it.
Of course, the most important part of any story is its characters, and this game certainly delivers on that front. You will gather the standard Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, but they're all surprisingly well-developed and interesting.
Instead of the kind of "Morality" system that's common to modern RPGs, Neverwinter Nights 2 opts for an "Influence" system instead. Based on your actions, you may curry either favor or scorn from various members of your party, and their actions are determined by how much they like you. This will mainly affect dialogue, but it can affect gameplay as well (having high influence with Neeshka can get her to poison a certain foe, making that boss fight easier, for example). Some allies may even leave the group if they dislike you enough.
The main complaint that I can draw against Neverwinter Nights 2 is the sheer number of game-breaking bugs that it contained upon release. In the years since, most of them have been patched, but not all of them. It's not enough to be a deal-breaker anymore, however.
The Steam-exclusive "Platinum" release also contains both expansions to the game: Mask of the Betrayer and Storm of Zehir. Both of them are excellent and well worth your time once you've completed the main campaign. As a whole, the Platinum version is a great investment if you like Dungeons & Dragons or RPGs. There's a lot of game here, and since it comes with the tools to build your own adventures, there's the fan-made content as well.
You can get Neverwinter Nights 2: Platinum on Steam for $20.
Play, save, and enjoy. See you next week.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

/Rant: Capcom and MegaMan Legends 3

Capcom, you're all a bunch of assholes. And it's not even like canceling Legends 3 was your first mistake either. No, you've been in a downward spiral for a while now, haven't you? First was the departure of Keiji Inafune, then came the Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D debacle, and now this? We've been waiting for Legends 3 since 2000! That's a little over a decade since you ended the thing on a cliffhanger. Is a resolution too much to ask? Apparently so.
Capcom, as of right now, you've lost my support entirely. If I buy any Capcom game from this moment onward, it will be secondhand, so that I'm not giving you bastards any of my money. Because frankly, you don't deserve it. You don't deserve your fans. You don't deserve any business any more.
Remember when I reviewed Devil May Cry 4 a while back and encouraged everyone to buy it? Well, now I redact that statement. Everyone, either buy it secondhand, or don't buy it at all. Either way, don't give these jerks at Capcom your hard-earned money.
Though I have come up with four things that you can do, Capcom, to start repairing your relationship with your fans. And none of them are particularly difficult. Sound good? Alright then:

Method #1: Release MegaMan Legends 3
For those unaware, MegaMan Legends 2 was released back in the year 2000, and while it never sold too well, it became a fan favorite, and its characters have appeared in nearly every Capcom vs. Whatever crossover since. Yet they consistently denied us a sequel for years. But then, it was announced that 3 was in development, and to look forward to it on the Nintendo 3DS! But that all changed yesterday when the project was unceremoniously dumped without any warning whatsoever. Why? What reason could there be to deny us this? There isn't any. It's impossible to justify teasing us like this, Capcom. So just finish this damned game and all will be well.

Method #2: Make a proper Darkstalkers sequel
Remember Darkstalkers, Capcom? Your cult-classic fighting game franchise whose characters still make cameos in your games today? Well, the last one came out in 1998. Since Darkstalkers 3, we haven't seen hide nor hair of this franchise, excepting a remake for the PSP. You've been ignoring Darkstalkers' sizable fanbase for far too long. So give us a sequel, and all will be well.

Method #3: Calm down with the fighting game upgrades
This is actually the easiest of the four methods. Stop releasing updated versions of your fighting games every few months! It's pointless, and all it means is that people have to either shell out full price for a newer version of the same game, or wait several years for the updates to end before they shell out. Street Fighter II, the most successful Capcom fighting game, got no fewer than eleven different versions over the years. Eleven different versions of one game. And four of those were all in the same year! What. The. Hell. Even Street Fighter IV, which hasn't been out for very long, has been released three times. And we're also getting a new version of Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Sure, make all these expansion packs and cancel everything else. Nice move, Capcom. If you can restrain yourself to releasing each game just once, and if you feel you need to update it, make it fairly-priced DLC or something, then all will be well.

Method #4: Localize Ace Attorney Investigations 2
You remember how popular the Ace Attorney series is in the US, right, Capcom? It has a pretty large following, all things considered. You took a chance on the series when it first started, and it paid off, remember? So why the hell did you decide not to localize Investigations 2? Like canceling MegaMan Legends 3, there was no reason whatsoever for it. Plus, you also refused to translate the upcoming Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney crossover, leaving that to Level 5 (who plan to do so). Is this a new pattern? Are you going to stop bringing this series over here? If so, then you can go to hell for all I care. But if you can bring over Ace Attorney Investigations 2, and all the future games in the series, then all will be well.

There we go, Capcom. Four ways to fix all of this, and three of them can actually be profitable for you guys. So why haven't you already done this? Get to it! Go! Until you do, then I encourage everyone who reads this to stop giving your money to Capcom.
Thank you and goodnight.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor

Platform: DS
Genre: Strategy/RPG
Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus
Release: 23 June 2009
Rating: Teen
Price: $18

The Shin Megami Tensei metaseries* has had some of the best RPGs I've ever played, encompassing Digital Devil Saga, Persona, Strange Journey, DemiKids, Devil Summoner, and many, many more. It's a long, and venerated series on par with giants like Final Fantasy (some would even say it's better). While (like the aforementioned Final Fantasy) most of the SMT games are separate from one another, they do share many common themes and gameplay elements. Most of them are fusions of disparate genres, the spell names remain mostly consistent, and almost all of them involve making contracts with demons to fight with you. They also tend to be brutally difficult, but what do you expect from Atlus?
Moving on to Devil Survivor. It's good. The game is a fusion of traditional turn-based RPG and turn-based strategy RPG. Think of it as Final Fantasy Tactics meets Dragon Quest. Essentially, battles start on an isometric grid, but when an attack is executed, it switches into a first-person perspective for a single round of RPG combat, before returning to the grid. This may sound a bit roundabout, but there's no denying that it works to give Devil Survivor a surprising amount of depth.
Even the character-growth mechanics are deep and interesting. Your human characters gain new spells via the "Skill Crack" system, wherein you steal techniques from your defeated foes MegaMan-style. And you can get new demon allies by either buying their services at auction, or by fusing two demons to create a single stronger one (another staple of the SMT games).
As for the plot, demons have overrun Tokyo, and the military has issued a lockdown: no one can enter, or leave. In order to survive, you need to ally yourself with various demons, and other people trapped in the city. The story is rather non-linear. While the basic plot remains the same from playthrough to playthrough, which of the five endings you can get, as well as which characters survive to the end, is all dependent on the choices you make. Be careful though, as everything you do eats up a little bit of your time, and you only have seven days.
While Devil Survivor is rather short, that's actually a point in its favor. There are five vastly different endings (which I won't spoil here), and the game actively wants you to see them all, each one unlocking new powerful demons that you can obtain for your next playthrough.
It's heavy on the grind and the difficulty, and may be a little too complex for a newcomer, for strategy or RPG aficionados, but I highly recommend Devil Survivor. There's also the updated rerelease on the 3DS coming out soon, so if you'd rather spring for that version... Regardless, a used copy of this one from GameStop will come in at $18.
Play, save, and enjoy. See you next week.


*A series which contains many smaller series within it.

Friday, July 8, 2011


Platform: PC
Genre: Puzzle
Developer: Valve Corporation
Publisher: Valve Corporation
Release: 9 October 2007
Rating: Teen
Price: $10

I personally find it astonishing that there are still people who haven't played this amazing game, which is why I am taking the time to review it. Given its memetic status, you have almost certainly heard of it if you've had any contact with the internet whatsoever in the past three years.
Portal is a difficult game to classify. While it uses a first-pirson perspective, and the engine of a first-person shooter, there is very little combat, and your main tool is a gun that creates wormholes (up to two at a time). Whatever goes in one comes out the other, be it enemies, items, or even you. While this isn't your only tool (you will also use boxes and switches), it is a unique mechanic that you will have to master in order to reach the end of the game and the frankly amazing final boss (which I will not spoil here).
As for the plot, there really isn't a lot. Portal is set in the Half-Life universe, though it has nothing to do with the Half-Life games. You are Chell, a silent test subject in the Aperture Science Laboratiores, where the insane Artificial Intelligence known as GLaDOS guides you through the test chambers (while simultaneously trying to get you killed).
There really isn't anything else I can say about Portal. There really isn't much to it. My one complaint is that it's really short, only about three hours long. But you're only paying $10 for it on Steam, so it's not that big a problem. (There's also a sequel now, but it's best to play this one first.) Regardless, if you're one of the few people out there who hasn't yet played Portal, play Portal, and you will see why the internet was so obsessed with it when it first came out.
Play, save, and enjoy. See you next week.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle

Platform: Wii
Genre: Action
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release: 26 January 2010
Rating: Mature
Price: $12-13

Goichi Suda is the foremost auteur game developer of today. The man is an insane genius, known for occasionally sacrificing fun for the art. While this is not usually the way to go, I have to accept that with Suda, it's certainly worth it to see just what goes through his head. No More Heroes and its sequel can be considered the first time that he was able to find a good balance between the art and the fun. And yes, they are awesome for it.
The first No More Heroes told the story of one Travis Touchdown, a complete nerd who managed to somehow become the eleventh-best hitman in the country. So he decided to take out the ten above him, aiming for the top. Despite being about assassination, the game managed to be hilarious, parodying everything from sandbox video games to anime to life in America. It also constantly poked fun at games that rely on sex or gore to sell, by taking both to a ridiculous level (enemies die with about three gallons of blood spurting out, and sexual innuendo can be found in nearly every line). It was a ton of fun, but way too short, and with a lot of repetitive grind.
No More Heroes 2 removes nearly all of the grind in addition to increasing the length of the game, remedying both issues. It also tweaked many aspects of the combat, making it feel a bit more fluid overall. On the flip-side, while keeping the sense of offbeat humor, it took a turn down gritty and dark, which makes the tone rather inconsistent. When Travis' best friend is murdered, he vows revenge against his killer, and has to climb the ranks again (this time from #51) to get to him. While still not perfect by any means (the two missions played as ally Shinobu include some very awkward platforming), NMH2 is altogether a brilliant example of the hack-and-slash genre, with colorful and cartoony visuals (which purposefully clash with the game's theme), an interesting story, well-executed boss fights, and altogether fun gameplay that manages to use the Wii's control scheme rather well. Check it out if you can. It'll cost $13 for a new copy, or $12 used.
Play, save, and enjoy. See you next week.