Archive for the ‘2011’ Category

E3 2011 Performance Review: Operation Raccoon City shoots, then shoots some more

June 15, 2011

Honor your favorite series by hunting down and killing its main character!

Looks like Resident Evil‘s gone the way of Kingdom Hearts. With the future of its main numbered series of games in question, Capcom took the franchise on the “spin-off” and “spin-off on handhelds” route while the brass flounders about with what they need to do to make Resident Evil 6 a success. I offer one tip: Don’t make it like Operation Raccoon City.

At least don’t make it like its single-player mode. Or cooperative campaign. Or whatever it was I played at the Sony booth. It was called “cooperative campaign”, but I could’ve sworn I was just playing by myself. There was nothing cooperative about it, despite a few human beings playing the same game (maybe?) next to me. No team-up attacks, no recovering each other, no helping each other out in any sort of way at all. But then if we did all that we’d be playing a lousier version of Left 4 Dead then, wouldn’t we?

So, what makes it lousy? It feels just like we feared it would: SOCOM with zombies. The exact same controls, the exact same layout, even the exact samey-same way levels are laid out. Hide behind chest-high barricades, shoot braindead zombies, occasionally toss a grenade out or change weapons once in a while. The same cookie cutter template that was prevalent all over E3 this year. Is this the only way to revitalize a flagging franchise? Farm it out to the West and turn it into a shooter?

Resident Evil fans may be happy to play a SOCOM mod of their favorite series, that is, if they’re fooled easily by nostalgic throwbacks like a word-for-word recreation of the intro from Resident Evil 2 and a guest appearance from Kendo’s gun shop. Hunters and Lickers return, too. That’s cool and all if you like nostalgia-mining, but then the camera pulls back and there you are controlling some new faceless jerk no one cares about, who spouts macho curse words out in true cliched modern shooter fashion. Nothing feels very Resident Evil about that, and unless it comes from Marcus Fenix or Cole Train, I’m damn tired of it.

Maybe I’m burned so badly because this was the number one game I was looking forward to most at this year’s show. Maybe I just played the wrong demo. There was no “co-op” to be found in this co-op mode. Capcom’s booth had a different demo, a competitive multiplayer mode complete with an announcer shouting out the play-by-play. I didn’t play that one, but I doubt I would have really garnered that different an experience from it. Or maybe that really is the mode to play! It’s not like I ever touched Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood‘s single-player, and I love that game. So, I’ll try and keep a more open mind about this, but the fact that I knew exactly what Operation Raccoon City was going to be before even touching it left me disappointed, and maybe even a little disturbed. Am I that jaded or have games become that predictable?

E3 2011 Performance Review: Ninja Gaiden III babies it up

June 14, 2011

Ninja Gaiden, now namby-pambier

I can’t believe it.

What happens after Tomonobu Itagaki leaves Team Ninja?

They turn Ninja Gaiden into a casualized button-masher. A rep assured me they would keep the bone-crushing difficulty of the previous games, though the E3 demo indicated otherwise. Throughout the short one-level demonstration I button mashed my through each enemy easily. In previous games I would’ve been decimated immediately. Beating the previous games, even playing through half of them, was a badge honor. They were like playing fighting games, with each button press made a deliberate, conscious strategy. They (and the original 8-bit trilogy) were games to conquer. Instead I casually strolled my way through the entire level of this, mashing the Square button for each and every minute. The game even took control away from me to have Ryu Hayabusa perform scripted kills at random times. If I initiated those automatic attacks then I have no idea how I did so.

On top of that, QTE prompts were sprinkled randomly throughout each enemy encounter to keep things “fresh.” Quick Time Events in Ninja Gaiden. My god, have we come to this?

The only time that presented any semblance of difficulty was when the level got shrouded in fog and I couldn’t see an inch in front of Ryu’s face. Difficulty by visual obstruction, nice. That’s good when a game pulls pages from the Superman 64 playbook.

I managed to die once at the end-of-demo boss, a spidery mech with big glowing obvious metal legs to chop off. It did a big electro-shock wave thing that killed me. After that I just ran away each time it did that one move, ran back and button-mashed my way to victory.

Tell me this just a demo, and “it’s not representative of the final product.” Tell me Team Ninja just lowered the difficulty to ridiculous depths for the journalist crowd. Tell me Team Ninja had nothing to do with Metroid: Other M. Otherwise, I guess that’s yet another legacy franchise down for the count.

E3 2011 Performance Review: Kirby Wii delights, but also worries \:0

June 13, 2011

THE SWORD OF WADDLE DOO'S BANE, THE ULTRA SWORD

Kirby, Nintendo’s cute ball of murderous pink fluff, returns in a more traditional take than last year’s Epic Yarn. Less yarn, more difficulty and more friends find their way into Kirby Wii, a fun four-player action platformer that hews closer to Kirby Superstar and New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

Though I only played with two other people for the demo, players can select Kirby, King DeDeDe, Metaknight and/or Waddle Dee. I played as Kirby, who seemingly has an advantage over the other players, since the little fella can vacuum up baddies and absorb their powers, adding more options to his arsenal, which the other fellows are stuck with their innate abilities (MetaKnight always has a sword). He also had a more important role to play as he was the sole character who could suck up obstacles and shoot them out of the way, and even summon a giant sword to chop away obstacles that got in all of our way at several spots in the demo level. Since Kirby’s the one hoisting all the weight, sucking down enemies and things and clearing paths, does that make the other characters — and players — feel inadequate? I felt kind of bad for my human partners, who just sort of flailed about as I did most of the “work.”

Especially so during the boss fight, where I was only one granted a valuable bomb ability. I chucked bombs at the boss, who floated mid-air out of reach of everyone else, and everyone else croaked. I was the only left to claim victory. And yes, the adorable Kirby victory dance is back, as are hitching rides on friends’ backs and “kissing” each other to share recently-grabbed health items, just like in Kirby Superstar. It feels so much like the classic SNES title, it’s a wonder they didn’t just call it Kirby Superstar 2.

So, yes, a good time was had (finally!), but I do worry that players who don’t pick Kirby might get left out of a lot of the fun.

E3 2011 Performance Review: Final Fantasy XIII-2 doesn’t inspire hope

June 12, 2011

Abandon all HOPE

At first glance, I wasn’t even aware I was looking at Final Fantasy XIII-2. The incredibly bland character design of Serah and Noel, the new character who tags along with Lightning’s sister, made me think I was looking at some B-tier Tales game, not a AAA Final Fantasy title. But it ain’t the’ 90s anymore, so Final Fantasy probably belongs with the rest of the second stringers at this point. I doubt XIII-2, which now has More Stuff to Do than its predecessor, will change that.

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The Big Fat Bloated 3rd Birthday Audio Review + Now With Video!

April 13, 2011

My brothers and I got together last weekend to talk about something that’s been on our minds: The 3rd Birthday, the Parasite Eve series and what Square has been up to in general lately.

It was our first night together since Christmastime, so we were excited as hell to talk about this, and well, we started recording around 10 at night and we stopped around 2 in the morning.

So. We talk a lot! About a lot of things!

We cover the game with a fine-tooth comb from beginning to end, with plenty of (non-boring) tangents related to many other games (Resident Evil, Mass Effect, Illusion of Gaia, etc.) and ideas (sci-fi and art, etc.).

I was worried it’d be a rambling mess, but it’s kind of organic and coherent! Give it a listen why don’t you!

It’s in MP3 format, split apart into four segments (remaining two coming in the next few days) for palatable listening.

Part One.
Some Parasite Eve 1 talk and a lot about 3rd Birthday‘s premise and setting.

Spoiler Level: Low

Part Two.
All the gameplay and the entire plot up to the ending dissected.

Spoiler Level: HUUUGE

Part Three.
The entire ending under the microscope.

Spoiler Level: Monumental, and not just for The 3rd Birthday. PE1, PE2 and even Chrono Cross get spoiled.

Part Four.
Final thoughts, a lot of talk about recent and past (and future) Square games.

Spoiler Level: Minimal.

Hit the jump for “BEST OF…” video clips.

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(Performance Review) Kid Icarus: Uprising – Wings of Wax

January 25, 2011

SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT

Nintendo touts Kid Icarus Uprising as the “glorious return” of Pit  in “spectacular 3D.” Designed by Masahiro Sakurai, creator of the Kirby and Super Smash Bros. franchises, it’s a blend of aerial and ground-based shooting “built on elegantly intuitive and streamlined play control.”

Whoa. Wait, no.

Uprising has the finest pedigree in Sakurai, the best graphics so far seen on the 3DS, fantastic art design and fun voice acting, but none of that is going to save this highly-anticipated title until someone changes the controls. Trying to hold the 3DS with the left hand, aim with the stylus in the right hand, move with the thumb pad (left thumb) and shoot with the left shoulder button (left index finger) is an ergonomic nightmare. Trying to do all that and pay attention to what’s going onscreen at the same time is video game equivalent of spinning plates while playing Twister.

To get a sense of what Uprising‘s controls are like, it’s the same basic set-up used by Metroid Prime Hunters for the original DS. It was a terrible control set-up then, too, unless you really like hand cramps. It’s possible toslightly alleviate the awkwardness by placing the system flat on a table or against your leg, but then there’s no alleviating questionable game design.

Stupid sexy Medusa

In each demo level, Pit takes to the skies in a Sin & Punishment-style on-rails shooter, then lands on the ground, switching into a bland, sluggish brawler mode. Both styles of play feel weightless, even when Pit drags his feet across the ground. Control problems persist in the earthbound mode since the only way to control the stubborn camera, and Pit at the same time, is by flicking the stylus all over the place. Awkward as hell. Dodging and running by double-tapping the thumb pad in the desired direction — also awkward . Killing enemies to unlock doors, the most basic of video gamey objectives, was all that part of the game offered anyway. I hope, hope, hope this game is deeper than that.

Listen, weird control styles don’t deter me from playing good video games. Monster Hunter is one of my favorite games on the PSP, and the best way to control that game is to use what players somewhat affectionately call “the claw” — arrange the thumb on the analog nub, and index finger on the D-pad, to control the camera. It sounds awkward, it looks awkward, but it works well.

Kid Icarus Uprising doesn’t, and I’m not even sure if it’s a good video game. It feels shallow. I don’t know what can be done about that, but the controls can be fixed easily by including different control options, ones that don’t need the stylus. There’s plenty of time to do so. Besides, more options are good! It’s the way of the world now.

Or, I guess I’ll opt to play something else.

P.S. I went this whole time and never mentioned the 3D. Well, it’s blurry. It never focused for me. Switching it off gave me a great-looking game — lasers shooting at Pit from all directions were a brief thrill — so it was no loss. But shouldn’t the 3D in a first-party Nintendo 3DS game work? Plenty of time to iron out those kinks, Nintendo.

(Performance Review) First Batch of Nintendo 3DS Games – Baby, They Ain’t Done Yet!

January 23, 2011

During Nintendo’s Nintendo 3DS showcase last week, I had opportunity to get playtime with many of the handheld’s upcoming titles. Here are a few early impressions.

HAY LSN
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
I rushed to play this one first. It’s the same game you played in 1998, with far better graphics and an improved control set-up. Using the 3DS’ thumb pad to move Link around the playfield feels really good, way better than the N64’s dust-making plastic stick (and no one’s going to miss the blurry, ugly graphics of the N64 original, either). Ocarina 3D‘s visuals impress with smoother, sharper and more detailed textures. In 3D, Kokiri Village and the Deku Tree look fantastic, with particle effects flitting about in the air, but I did switch off the 3D effects so I could concentrate on winning the Gohma boss battle. Aiming the slingshot and looking around using the gyro scope is cool, and it works, though I preferred just using the thumb pad in the end. Thank god for options. Too bad there’s no release date for it yet.

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