Thursday, April 29, 2010

Expect updates to be a bit more sporadic

While I'd love to be able to produce game reviews at least once every two days I gotta admit that at the moment I'm just swamped with "work". This Playstation 3 I just got is killing me. Actually strike that it's not so much the console as it is Disgaea 3. I got this game knowing exactly what to expect and yet it has still managed to take over. It's hardly anything more than a cutesy front-end for bar-filling and stat-raising and yet I'm addicted to it. Hopefully I'll be able to right this ship eventually and get back to writing about real games but ehhhh I dunno.

Then again I guess it doesn't matter much because I signed up for Google analytics and boy is that a depressing read. My visitor count is the saddest thing since Terms of Endearment. I'm still trying to figure out what to do about that as well so factor in everything else that is important to life and yeah that leaves no time for updates.

Still I imagine there are other things I could be talking about. That whole thing with Bungie and Activision is pretty crazy right? I mean wow who would have thought? Okay yeah I'm no good at this.

Monday, April 26, 2010

X360 Look - Assassin's Creed 2

Back then there was only one thing to do when playing a game and that was to have fun. If you sat down with a game like Pitfall, Asteroids, or practically anything else from that time period there wasn't much else to do aside from going for the high score. These days it's a lot different because while some games still offer scores they also offer storylines, endings, unlockables, achievements(or trophies), and all kinds of other secrets and extras that were designed to keep gamers playing. One of the trials that I go through constantly is being able to see past all of that and determine if a game is worthwhile solely due to the most important facets like game design and playability.

Assassin's Creed 2 features one of the more ambitious stories I've seen in a videogame. It effectively manages multiple layers that offer bits and pieces of what's actually going on over different time periods. The bulk of the game will be spent in Ezio's memory. Ezio was just another young man living during the Renaissance period until betrayal led him to becoming an Assassin. With the help of some friends many people in power will be murdered. The more important story concerns the present day fate of Desmond and the Assassin group. Desmond is being trained to become an assassin via Ezio's memories as he just might be the one man that'll save the day from the Templars. The thing about the Templars is that they've had their hands in just about every incident in history. They're poised to take control of the entirety of the world. There's also the mysteries surrounding the Assassins, Altair from the first game, and well it's probably best I don't go any further for fear of spoilers.

The storyline is our first major carrot. The player is enticed by this major carrot and they will be rewarded with minor carrots as they progress. Many of the secrets of Assasin's Creed 2 are littered throughout the game world. They're hidden in guarded treasure chests, the walls, and sometimes behind a layer of interpretation. The storyline relies quite a bit on conspiracy theories and "facts" hidden out of the public eye. What the player decides to make of it is their call but it does give them something to think about while playing the game.

The game itself is open-world and broken up into various sections like Florence, Venice, and so on. Ezio has supernatural abilities in climbing and jumping and this will help him traverse roof-tops, climb massive towers, and delicately run across narrow rails and boards. Controls are very intuitive as the player merely needs to hold down a couple of buttons to break into a free-run where as long as they can make their next jump they'll be fine. Thanks to the training of others this Assassin also becomes an adept of Stealth. Rather than hide behind walls Ezio prefers to hide in crowds. Somehow a hooded man dressed in a distinct cloak can blend into any gathering of people. While not entirely sensible it is an effective tool for tailing foes while preparing for that perfect moment to strike.

In this world there are hundreds of very minor carrots. These take the form of pick-ups like treasure-chests filled with money, feathers that unlock a couple items, lookout points at the top of tall structures that open up more of the map, and a handful of other carrots. There's always something to pick up in the player's immediate vicinity and there's also no shortage of filler missions they can involve time trials, delivering messages, or killing. There's always something to do even if it hardly seems necessary.

As with exploration the combat in this game isn't difficult to understand. The most important weapon is the hand-blade. It's a simple device as all the player must do is get close enough to the unaware to quickly end their life. Personally I favor going for the air kill. This is done by jumping to an enemy from a higher ground. Accuracy really isn't a factor since as long as the button prompt comes up and there's no obstacle in my way the victim is killed. Assassination is key to resolving most of the missions in this game but when surrounded or the scenario calls for it there's melee combat. Here a number of foes will surround Ezio and politely strike at him one at a time. This proves to be their downfall as our Assassin is more than enough to take them down. Pressing the attack button leads to repeated strikes but these can be parried and possibly countered so the best bet is to evade and counter. The timing for this is exceptionally gracious so all that matters is waiting for the enemy to strike and then doing something that'll destroy them.

There's an unfortunate lack of carrots for fighting effectively in this game. Aside from an achievement or two there are no rewards for being a great fighter and no bonuses for getting through encounters without a scratch. With all of the missions in this game it would have been great to have some sort of leaderboard to track players with the lowest times or highest ranks. The game is also so generous with health-restoring items that it is left up to the player if they really want to challenge themselves by sticking to the weakest armor so that almost any encounter could be fatal with the slightest mistake. Still it makes for a game anyone can get into and it's hard for me to fault it for that.

The extent of this game is down to exploring and killing, and through a combination of the two the storyline can be furthered. Where it all begins to crumble is in the world itself. There's simply no good reason for it to be so large and so repetitive. Many areas of the game are mere copy-pastes of other areas and quite a few of the missions are nothing more than time-wasters. For example in one part of the game Ezio must get a mask so that he can enter a party held by a target. Rather than simply steal the mask he participates in a series of games for one. Worst part is due to corrupt judges Ezio doesn't win the mask so he has to steal it anyway. The villains also show a lack of creativity as almost all of them can't hold their own in a fight. That's to be expected I guess but they also can't manage to think of some way of defending themselves from Ezio aside from surrounding themselves with easily-dispatched guards.

Simply taking away a number of these filler missions would have certainly made the experience a bit better. At the very least they could have just been made optional and rewarded the player with money or better yet exclusive items and weapons that would have been more than enough incentive to take these quests on. Besides it'd give an out for players who just want to see the story to its end. Instead it seems like before any real mission can be accomplished three or four others must be finished first.

So despite all of the carrots I never got around to completing this game. Thanks to the Internet I can circumvent all of the nonsense and grab that major carrot that is the ending. As a bonus I got to read a very handy guide that interprets and explains a lot of the mysteries in the game. In about fifteen minutes I got everything I wanted out of a thirty to forty hour game. I wouldn't call it cheating because really this is such an easy game that it's almost impossible to lose at. In fact almost all of my deaths were due to a vehicle section(yep one of those again). I simply got bored with the game and since I don't particularly care for achievements and I've collected most of the carrots tied to unlockables and secrets I had enough of a reason to spare myself of more pointless murder just to get that last carrot.

All told Assassin's Creed 2 is a fine game for what it is but it definitely could have been about half its length and possibly a quarter of its actual size. Course then there'd be people complaining that the game is too short. I guess the best solution would have been to create more original content rather than just repeating everything over and over but that kind of ambitious thinking won't land me a job anywhere in videogame development. Undoubtedly a third and possibly final Assassin's Creed is in the works but I think this time I'll pass up on all of the carrots cause I've seen enough.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

AA Look - Afterburner Climax

Is there something I'm supposed to say here? Hop in a jet, take to the skies, and destroy hundreds of enemy ships in a ten minute romp that assaults all of your senses at once. Afterburner Climax is definitely a Sega game and AM2 put together a helluva port.

The main game is 13 stages and they run the gamut of open skies, canyons, enemy fortifications, city skylines, and well hardly any of that actually matters. Your only concerns are going to be everything trying to blow you up. Missiles are the biggest threat since they key in on wherever you are. If you stop for a second you'll get blown up, head in one direction for too long and you'll get blown up, just coming out of a barrel roll is a good time to get blown up as well. The first priority in surviving is avoiding those missiles and it's part reflexes and part knowing what's coming. There's other things to avoid as well like walls and enemy machineguns.

You gotta fight back eventually and this game makes it simple. There's the machinegun which is always handy since for the most part you can just hold the button down and forget about it. There's also a stock of rapidly replenishing missiles and you'll go through hundreds of those in the 10 minutes it takes to get through this game. These are of the "fire and forget" variety so just put your cursor on something, hit the fire button, and then get out of the way because you won't get the chance to admire your kill.

Frankly I don't even know why I bother explaining all this. Climax is a ten-minute game and you'll learn everything there is to know in the first thirty seconds. The real question is how can one justify paying $10 for a ten-minute game? Well the easy answer is that most players won't spend just ten minutes on the game. Though I bet in the arcades people ended up spending more than $10 just to reach the end of it. It's an arcade title first and fore-most so there's the whole scoring dealie. Some people aren't into high-scores and that's alright there are other games to play.

Yeah I said it. If you're not interested in playing again and again for a higher score don't bother with this game. There's a handful of optional paths and secret stages to access if you're good enough but they don't provide any insight into the army of "Z" or why there's a nuclear threat. Jaguar Leader and Jaguar 2 aren't going to explain their romantic relationship either no matter what ending you manage to get. Dump the better graphics and the "Climax mode" and you have something straight out of 1987 or in other words you have Afterburner 2.

Even for a ten-minute game Sega puts forth the effort to keep gamers playing for hours. There's the regular arcade mode which is fine and all but players would do well to stick with Score-Attack. The thing about arcade mode is that's the mode for people who like to unlock stuff, not for people who want to get better at the game. Through the arcade mode you'll eventually unlock most of the achievements and a ton of EX options. These allow various changes to arcade mode that well...okay they're all cheats. Extra lives and continues are obvious but they also go as far as to include the ability to enlarge the cursor size so that everything in the general area can be hit by a missile. By the time you finish unlocking all of these options you can play a game of Climax that's impossible to do badly in let alone lose. You stick with that mode and before you know it your ten minute game has turned into a few hours game.

So my advice is if you want to love this game you gotta stick with score-attack. Some purists out there will cry and start blubbering about "oh but that mode gives infinite lives how can I work on my survival skills?" Again there's an easy answer to this because survival ties directly to your score. Afterburner Climax is always moving whether your ship is in one piece or several. Enemies fly in, unleash their payload, and fly off in seconds. Any second where you aren't there to shoot them down is wasted and with about 50 to 100 targets per stage you can easily miss a third of them every time you die. Okay you'll likely miss half of them anyway due to how fast everything is moving but hey you'll get them next time right? That's what replay value is all about. Dying also has the nasty habit of killing whatever combo you've managed to build up and obviously we don't want to die and not losing combos just happens to be a bonus. So all I can say is that maybe the survival-purists should just shut up and stick to score-attack. Oh and I nearly forgot score-attack offers unlockables in the form of medals. Alright maybe they won't give you achievements and they certainly won't make your ship near invincible but if you manage to get them all maybe you yourself will feel a little bit invincible.

Cause to me at least arcade games are about pushing beyond limits. Far too often when I sit down with a console game I find that odds are not impossible and that every situation as a solution that is handed to the player like a glowing lever or a shiny weapon that screams "use me and you win!" As far as those games are concerned since you bought it it's yours and hardly anything is going to keep you from seeing the ending because it's your right as a consumer. With that idea one might as well buy a toaster, it takes about the same effort but at least its more rewarding cause toast is good any time of the day. I don't know about you but if played these console games all the time I'd wake up one morning with the reflexes of a corpse and the brain activity to match. I wouldn't be lacking for stuff to talk about on message-boards at least.

When I manage to beat an arcade game -- that is completing the game without continuing -- I feel that I've actually accomplished something. I managed to beat a game that was designed to be up-front about taking as much money as possible from a player. Maybe my experience wasn't as rich and there's no memorable characters but there's not enough time for that. Improving at an arcade game is one of the few real thrills I get out of videogames. This is something that is unmatched as far as I'm concerned. I don't feel anything from fumbling through checkpoint-fest modern games where the only reason I managed to get to the next stage is because I knew where to move and where to shoot. I certainly don't feel anything (or at least not any longer) from multiplayer games where I spend the majority of my time waiting to respawn because I didn't put forth the three to five hours a day necessary to compete. It's different strokes and all but considering the time investment if I want to get better at games I usually stick with the arcades and sleepwalk through everything else.

So in the end Climax is an arcade game for arcade gamers. If you don't care for unlockables or arcade games don't even consider this game for a second. You'll hate the game, call it "shallow" or something and annoy the piss out of whatever "defense force" in whatever forum you post at. If you like unlockables but hate arcade games well I guess this isn't a bad deal. Heck there's even a couple items to "pimp out your avatar" and last I checked those usually go for like $1 to $4 a pop. You'll at least get a few hours out of this one. For fans of arcade games I think this is a definite recommendation. It's an arcade game by Sega after all and when they put forth the effort they can deliver something quite excellent. Those ten minutes could stretch into however many hours as fans will be trying and trying again to achieve some high-score that'll fill them with pride.

Then again it's all very possible that you might just not like the game. I can understand why and there's nothing I can say to convince anyone otherwise. On the bright side there's always the demo and considering the length of the game it's a very safe bet that if you didn't care for the demo the full game will not change your opinion in the slightest. While I can recognize quality when I see it I don't see myself as a big fan of this game. It is Afterburner 2 in the end and I was never really fond of that game. This one is a bit more approachable and quite a bit more fun but I may as well say that I feel like I bought this more out of support for Sega's arcade ports than for the actual game. I was always a bit more of a Space Harrier fan but Sega has yet to do a good update to that one. Yeah there was Planet Harriers but it's not really the same thing and well it's pretty damn terrible to boot.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hate to say it but uh...Assassin's Creed 2 is eating up all my gaming time.

For all the hype I did about Arcade Appreciation April I gotta say I haven't been following up on it nearly as well as I should have. Rather than spending my free time playing and reviewing these games I've been spending it all with Assassin's Creed 2.

One of the reasons I started this blog is to seek out an explanation as to why I play and enjoy videogames. Somewhere in between all of the bad jokes and ending every other sentence with "whatever" I'm trying to discover something significant about myself. This may sound weird but my very first memory was of a videogame that I played when I was three or four. In fact it seems like a lot of my memories are tied to videogames in some form or another.

Cause really I can't say that I'm enjoying Assassin's Creed 2 because it's a great game. I think I'm most of the way through it and have already noticed enough flaws to keep it from approaching greatness. All of that is irrelevant however because in the end I'm still enjoying myself and at the moment I'd rather play this than some classic Arcade game. I guess I've always had a soft spot for conspiracy theories and mysteries. There's nothing like this in the average arcade game. There's nothing that isn't already known and there's hardly any time to think about the events that transpire. While AC2 is very repetitive it offers enough of the unknown to keep me interested, which I guess says more about having the proper formula than inspired game design.

Could be that the only reason I continue to work on this blog is because it serves as a meta-game. While some gamers have their achievements, their trophies, collections, and what we used to call "playing for a high-score", I play games so that I can write about them. It's kind of funny because this is where the separation between games I enjoy and games I think are great comes in. The games I think are great get recommended on this blog while the games I enjoy are the ones I continue to play. When I stop enjoying a game that's usually when I post a write-up and more than likely indefinitely shelve or sell off said game.

What I probably should be doing is writing about why I no longer enjoy to play these games. If they're so great why do I quit them? Okay yeah it's hard to believe anyone could continue to enjoy a game for such a long period of time but with a number of games even today I still play them. Take Super Mario Brothers 3 for example. I've been playing that game off and on for close to twenty years. I still don't have a write-up posted for it. I'm so familiar with the game that certainly I could come up with something to say about it. If I write something about this game maybe it would compel me to never play it again. On that same note take something like Diablo 2. I'm both disgusted and horrified by the amount of hours I've put into that game and if I ever got around to it I'd say nothing but nasty things about it. By not completing a piece it's possible I'm leaving myself open so that one day I'll get sucked in again and lose another couple hundred hours.

I know that eventually I will stop enjoying Assassin's Creed 2 because after I complete I will have an understanding of many of its mysteries though I'm well aware that more questions will pop up to be answered by the inevitable sequel. Still when this time comes I will say my piece and give the game to my brother or whatever, and that'll be the end of that. Tomorrow Afterburner Climax will hit XBLA and before long I'll have played through it, written about it, and then left it to gather virtual cobwebs while I move on to the next game.

At this point I'm not looking for justification for all the time I've spent with videogames. Any regrets I've had are all in the past now so at this point I'm just looking to do a little self-discovery. I'm pushing 30 now and I really have no idea what causes me to enjoy games. By doing this I can move forward and hopefully produce something worth writing about. No worries though I'm not going to turn this blog into some pretentious fifth-wall nonsense. I'll still play games, give my honest thoughts about them, and that's the end of that. There will be those times where there's a certain title that goes just a bit deeper than "hey this game is good, play it". We'll just see how that goes.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Yep bought some mo' games

I can't help it. It's like I always say: Money not spent is money...well okay just fill in the rest with whatever you want. The important thing is that I'm doing my best to feign relevancy by buying all of the newest and hottest games.

Assassin's Creed 2 - See here's one. This is a record for me because I believe this game isn't even a year old. Between this and Mass Effect 2 I might have what it takes to become a legitimate game reviewer. Now if I could just figure out how to add scores to everything.

A Playstation 3 - Just in case a few of you guys were thinking I was only buying PS3 games because I thought the cases were sexy. Gotta admit though they are pretty nice.

Resistance 1 - Heck they're so nice I decided to buy another PS3 game. It was either this or the sequel and since this was cheaper and a number of people weren't too fond of the other game I figure I'll play it safe for the moment. I needed at least one PS3 launch game to play though I'm still looking for Ridge Racer 7 and possibly Genji 2 as well.

AA - Gunblade NY and LA Machineguns Wii-bound

With the Wii and rail-shooters going together like peanut butter and whatever goes good with that it's only a matter of time until companies get around to porting more of their stuff to the console.

I played Gunblade NY a long time ago and the only thing I remember about it is that the massive gun it used made my arms numb after awhile. For some reason I can't imagine the Wii remote having quite the same effect. Still it's always nice to have ports especially when it comes to games I honestly never expected to see again.

Still wish I could get one of those actual guns from the game though. It's bad enough I couldn't get my very own special ops gun for the Ghost Squad home port, that thing was amazing in the arcades.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Lady Sword Translation is almost complete

This time I'm going to talk about something a little different.

Way way back there was a Japan-only game for the PC-Engine, a system we in other parts of the world know as the Turbografx-16. Lady Sword was its name and it was developed by a company known as Games Express. Never heard of them? They're behind the fighting game known as Strip Fighter 2. Yes that's right Strip Fighter 2. As you can imagine these guys weren't exactly known for their quality games.

To put it bluntly they developed games where you were rewarded with soft-core porn as you progressed. Strip Fighter 2 was nothing more than a shameless piece of garbage that was awful to the point of hilarity. Lady Sword on the other hand...well it's about the same thing. Still it offered some uh... interesting content that was more than just badly rendered 8-bit naked pictures.

The deal with Lady Sword is that it is a first-person dungeon crawler. It's very basic as there's only one party member and battle strategies are limited to fight, defend, do some move that has a 1% chance of success, or run. The goal is to navigate a series of mazes to further the storyline, kill the final boss, and immerse yourself in the bizarre happenings.

The strangest thing about this game is a disembodied female head that appears every now and again to offer advice, chat about the weather, and well honestly I have no idea. At first it's seems like a normal enough thing with all the magic floating heads we're used to in fictional media but after the first stage things change. This floating head starts changing into more grotesque forms, bits of skin fall off, sometimes she's wrapped in bandages, maybe her brain is exposed for no particular reason, oh and she gets new hairstyles. It's quite disturbing and guess what? A couple guys are actually putting forth the effort to translate this insanity and yours truly is going to be one of the first beta-testers who will finally discover just what that bleeding floating head was babbling about.

Chances are good that you don't care about any of this and I don't blame you. I did a google search recently and turned up a couple pages worth of actual content about the game.

The translation page itself.
An angelfire site documenting my playthrough of the game(warning contains language and idiocy)

There's also a couple videos floating around on youtube I think but otherwise that's about the extent of people actually talking about the game. Maybe there's some thread in an obscure forum I missed somewhere but otherwise this is all I could find.

Regardless I'm looking forward to giving this game another run through and hopefully more people will take an interest in it because while it isn't a good game by any stretch of the imagination it is certainly something else.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

AA Look - Final Fight Double Impact

I'm really not sure what to make of this one. This is a compilation of Capcom's beatemup classic Final Fight as well as their action-adventure classic Magic Sword. Sure they're both by Capcom but these two games don't have much in common. I'm not even sure what Double Impact is supposed to mean? It's not a sequel or a remake and the only thing double about this set is you get a second game. Yep this is one of the worst intros I've ever written.

First off let's get the important stuff out of the way. Proper Games did an excellent job porting both titles. The online play uses GGPO and it's superb. Even on my lousy connection I didn't have a single instance of lag in any of my games and the response time is excellent. Why GGPO isn't being used for more arcade ports is almost as astounding as the quality of the online play in this set. The video options are solid though I prefer the "arcade" setup which uses scan-lines. A filter is still applied which is kind of a nuisance but otherwise both games have rarely looked better. The lack of customizable controls is a bummer. They're fine if you're used to using a 360 or PS3 stock pad but if you roll with an arcade stick like me it takes a few minutes to get used to. Yeah it is nitpicking but c'mon, it should be a standard feature in any compilation.

With that out of the way let's talk about what's important to me, my opinion of the games. You may have read my thoughts on both games in the past but this time I'm going to make a fresh start and attempt to drop what I originally thought of them. A lot of the time just because I take a "look" at a game doesn't mean I'm done with it. If companies put forth the effort to re-release a game I figure that the game in question is deserving of another look.

In short let's just say I gave the original Final Fight a lot of criticism it didn't really deserve. I wrote it off with something like "Oh well the later Capcom beatemups are better so skip this." and that's just not fair. Just because sequels or newer games in the same vein doesn't mean the originator is no longer worth playing. Bubble Bobble for example is still a great game despite the countless sequels Taito has done for it and Final Fight is no different. Immediately you've noticed that I just called Final Fight a great game, shame it took me about twenty years to finally say so.

The storyline is classic. Mike Haggar is a former pro-wrestler turned mayor who just wants to clean up his city. Some gang known as the Mad Gear isn't too fond of that so they capture Mike's daughter Jessica. At this point I should mention that one of the things that always bothered me is that in one of the intros it shows Jessica in hr bra. To me this sends the message that Mad Gear did more than merely capture Jessica. I'm not 100% sure what the implication was there but it leads to the same result. Mike calls in Jessica's boyfriend Cody and his friend Guy to help him clean up the city personally. As far as beatemup storylines go this isn't exactly original but who cares? It's the perfect excuse for a few guys to get together and beat hundreds of thugs to death.

One thing that still stands out to me while playing this game is that it is a brutal affair. There's not a lot of blood or anything but the deep bass and the powerful noises from bodies hitting the pavement have so much more impact than a lot of games these days. Even with the technology to make someone explode and throw their guts across the screen most games made today just can't quite get the feel of Final Fight's attention to brutality. The enemy count is also something to behold. Off the top of my head I can't think of any beatemup 2D or otherwise that has quite as many enemies on screen as Final Fight. Okay maybe there's Capcom's own Aliens Vs Predator but even then that was probably just a swarm of aliens and they didn't do much except wait around to get blown up.

In the past I talked about a game called Denjin Makai 2. That is a beatemup with loads of moves and all kinds of tricks to string together killer combos. With Final Fight you don't get any of that. Personally I think it's great as it works so well with this game. The stylish kinds of beatemups can be fun but to me the genre should always emphasize a lot of the technique we usually see in fighters. You have a limited set of moves and the enemy has a limited number of ways to react to them. It's a matter of knowing what move to perform on which enemy which will not only lead you to damage them but to also keep yourself from getting damaged. There are a few moves that can be done neigh-infinitely on an enemy but for the most part they're bugs and besides that they're mostly useless when there's more than one enemy on the screen.

Final Fight works because it makes the most of the necessities. There are only a handful of enemy types and not that many moves to pound them with. The variables to consider are fairly minor aside from weapons like knives, pipes, or swords, or the possibility of rolling barrels. Still with the thirty or so minutes it'll take to get through this game you'll find that every aspect of this game will be properly handled to the best of its ability. In each encounter you have to consider the combination and number of enemies, how much health you have, what weapons are available, and if there's food where is it placed so you know where to be when health gets low. From there you have to decide which moves you can do and go from there, reacting to everything as you see fit. There's nothing in the way of evasive options so unless you know what you're doing you will take a hit.

Last time around I complained that this game didn't use enough telegraphing. Oh it's there alright. Just consider every enemy that's still breathing as an immediate threat. These guys are merciless as they love to surround and if they get even one hit in they can stun you and chip away half or more of your health. You can break out of this with the health-draining special attack and a lot of playthroughs are going to be exactly that. You'll punch people around for a bit, get surrounded, do a special, eventually die, and before you know it you've blown about ten continues to get through this game. It's still one of the tougher beatemups around cause despite the generous amounts of food and the fairly frequent extra lives it doesn't take much to get killed. Succeeding in this game isn't some overnight thing where you read some guides, watch some videos, and then you're one-life-clearing the game. With Final Fight if you can use one less credit in your next plathrough you're making progress. Minimizing damage taken is how you eventually grow to master this game. There's no fancy combos or skillful techniques that you can show off with so all you can do is play smart as well as aggressive in order to get better.

It's still an unfair game all told. The mechanics aren't quite 100%, enemies can hit you while you're on the ground, and the damage-scaling is rather wonky. The best response is to play unfair yourself. There are lots of tricks that can be abused that while they won't earn you your black belt they will keep you alive. Cody's ability with a knife is not something that should go unnoticed for example. He's fast and stabs very quickly, which means he can knock someone down and then just mash away with the knife and there's no way they can counter. Cody also happens to have an infinite though I'm not sure in this version. It's something to the effect of two punches, turn, and then two punches again. This somehow keeps him from going into his attack string that knocks the opponent down, thus leaving them stunned infinitely. Funnily enough this infinite was sort of carried over into one of Cody's super moves from Street Fighter Alpha 3.

Today Final Fight holds up as one of the best in its genre and though for awhile I probably would have loved to say otherwise I can clearly say that this game deserves any and all recognition as a classic. Even after two decades it's great fun and a constant source of challenge.

Unlike Final Fight I've always loved Magic Sword. If you were predicting the ol' switcharoo I hate to disappoint but I still love Magic Sword even now. Okay maybe I don't love it quite as much but I think it's still deserving of it's status as a great arcade game.

Great evil, two guys wanting to fight it, massive tower, souls of allies, and a bunch of monsters die. If you expected anything else out of this storyline just make some stuff up about Freudian metaphors or some nonsense about the great evil actually being good. The goal is in getting to the top which is about fifty stages in length but no worries it shouldn't take much more than half an hour to do so.

Both of the main characters have a weapon they can swing and the ability to run and jump. They also have a health-draining special attack and their weapon charges in power if they can keep from swinging it for a little awhile. What further differentiates these guys is theirs or your choice in allies. All of the allies are stuck behind locked doors throughout the tower and they will add your strength to yours if you pick them up. They're certainly important to have because their range greatly exceeds yours and if need be they can shield you from attacks at the cost of their health.

This game isn't particularly difficult but I think it has more of an understated level of challenge. There's a health meter and it's fairly generous with an almost constant supply of food to be found. Trouble is staying alive isn't as easy as one would think. There's a time limit of sorts in that the player's health is always draining. You can go several stages without taking a hit but there's nothing to be done about the rapid loss of health so when the time comes that you do take a hit you will die because you were down to your last bar. Most of the time you take damage because you were surrounded by enemies. It seems like the perfect time to use your health-draining special but what do you know you don't have enough health to use it.

Surviving this game revolves around food. Unfortunately food unless you're willing to learn how to hoard you're probably not going to beat this game without continuing anytime soon. Yep as opposed to Final Fight where it takes constant playing to master the way to succeed in Magic Sword is through reading up on some tricks. There's a handful of areas where certain enemies are bound to drop food. With the proper power-up the chances of grabbing this food can increase several times over. Since some areas seem to provide near-infinite numbers of these enemies you can expect to collect as much food as long as time persists(there's a second time limit you're very unlikely to see as it's based on the current stage).

That's not to say this game can't be beaten without gorging oneself. This just seems like the safe way out and it'll effect your score since carrying the power-up that increases item drops means not holding the power-up that doubles score. Whether this means allowing for a clear balance or simply getting to the point where one doesn't take damage at all well that's up to them.

In any case this is still an exceptional game despite that it can grow a bit repetitive. With fifty stages I guess this is to be expected but I'm sure something could have been done about fighting the same boss multiple times. The balance of the allies is also all over the place though I guess that it works in favor of replay value as you can take different characters to different areas to see if one works better than the other. It's nice to have a bit of a strategic approach every now and then though with some characters(like the Amazon or Giant with their pitiful range) I wonder what the point is in lugging them around. Still maybe I just need to play the game more to see where they're useful.

All in all it's a strange title to include along with Final Fight as I would have suggested maybe another beatemup or whatevs but eh no matter it's still a solid game that's worth multiple playthroughs and like almost everything in life it's more fun with a friend. So yeah I totally recommend this compilation. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense but two fantastic ports is worth the money I figure.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

AA Look - Taito Legends Volume 1 part 1

To me Taito is the epitome of what makes arcade games memorable. Even if not all of the games they put out are absolute classics they manage to nail aspects of atmosphere and creativity with a lot of unique ideas and some outright bizarre story-telling. It also helps that they have one of the best musical groups in the form of Zuntata composing for all of their games. Empire Interactive put out a compilation of 29 games and while it isn't anywhere close to their complete gameography it's an admirable collection despite a couple faults.

The emulation is fine for what it is but expect some slowdown. It's nothing major but it will cause purists to fly into endless fits of rage. The bigger problem is that buttons can't be configured. This probably wouldn't be a huge deal if a number of games didn't put jump on the square button and fire on the X button. I guess if it's good enough for Empire Interactive it's good enough for the rest of the world..yeah right. Consider it an extra challenge or something.

The thing that bugs me the most is when reviewers point out maybe one or two games on a compilation as anything decent and then write-off the rest of the set as nothing more than nostalgic waste. Videogames aren't about getting hung up on the past since as long as you're playing a game it shouldn't matter where or when it came from. If the game is fun that's all that matters right? So here's what I think of the games in this set.

Battle Shark
Awhile back I paid a visit to a number of arcades and discovered an Ocean Hunter machine. This was a big deal to me as for the longest time I was absolutely enamored with everything about the game. It's a sort-of gun game where you fire torpedoes at dangerous sea-life and then take down the seven mythical beasts of the seven seas. I finally got to play this game after so many years and it sucked! It was clunky, dated, ugly, and nothing that resembled a good game.

Battle Shark is the same thing. Just replace the dangerous sea-life with armies of enemy subs, the 3D graphics with 2D, and all of the bad with good. The player controls a cursor that can fire torpedoes as long as they are in stock. Firing too much leaves the player open to attack as they have to wait for torpedoes to slowly refill. The player must also lead enemies into shots as torpedoes don't hit the enemy instantly. This means firing just ahead of where an enemy is traveling to get the hit.

It’s a dead-end concept but there is still fun to be had thanks to how the torpedo system works and the insane levels of destruction your sub is capable of. Entire carriers can go down in a single hit and even poor humans who are no match can get wiped out. Helicopters and jets will also attack but again one hit will take them out. There are some power-ups but holding onto them is rather tough since they’re gone in a single hit. While you can shoot enemy torpedoes it’s best to destroy the ship before they can fire.

This game relies a lot on atmosphere since everything from the sound effects to the viewpoint is carried over. A helpful voice mentions what direction enemies are coming from but after a bit of damage you’ll find everything is drowned out by a sea of sirens, warnings, and cracked glass to drive home the point that you’re going to die soon. It’s neat sure but a hundred different alarms going off at once will not suddenly make me play any better. Still it’s a neat game and it’s at least better than Ocean Hunter, which is about the only game I can think of that’s in any way similar.

Colony 7
The closest game I can compare this one to is Missile Command. In that game you defended a colony from invading missiles and in this game you defend a colony from invading aliens. With a crosshair in your control all you have to do is blast away all moving objects. That’s really all there is to this game and it doesn’t have Missile Command’s ammo limits that make it such a compelling game. Here you just shoot stuff, maybe you win, maybe you lose, but most likely you won’t even care.

Continental Circus
I don’t know what to say really but I kind of like this game. Though I have to admit I get more fun out of watching the car explode than actually playing. Maybe I just never saw the appeal of F-1 Racing games. The only noteworthy one I can think of is Virtua Racing and even then I only remember it because I spent many hours practicing it for Blockbuster’s videogame championship from way back. I managed to become a store champion thanks in part to that game so by virtue of association I gotta say this game is alright by me.

Electric Yo-Yo
Just because something dull is suddenly electric doesn’t make it cool. If Taito came up with a game named Cyber Yo-Yo I could probably get behind that, as it stands though this is just a game where the player runs around collecting dots. There are some bad guys running or flying around and the Yo-Yo part seems to involve being able to travel very quickly if dots are parallel and some distance away from each other. This is both good and bad since that’s where flying guys are most likely to catch the player. It’s nothing terrible but I don’t ever want to play this game again.

Elevator Action
Last year I talked about Elevator Action Returns. I said something about how it’s one of the greatest arcade games of all time. It’s kind of surprising because the original is so awful. Graphically that’s one thing because it’s never about the graphics and good game design triumphs over all but this game is just not any fun to play.

It’s kind of strange too because the sequel shares a lot of the same basic ideas. All that game did was improve the controls several times over, made the scoring system intuitive and interesting, and most importantly made killing bad guys oh so satisfying. We should be thankful that Taito saw fit to make a sequel because it turned out to be quite phenomenal. The original is still a curiosity at best and time spent on that game would be better spent on the sequel.

You wouldn’t believe how quick I was to write this game off. I started it up and thirty seconds into it I was ready to quit. Fifteen seconds later I was hooked in and enjoying this game. It’s a 2D shooter which is a genre I’ve been kind of spoiled thanks to more recent efforts like anything by Cave but this game still holds up. The level design is very pedestrian as it’s just long horizontal-scrolling stages filled with wave after wave of enemies. The only thing that really differentiates each stage is some kind of trap or condition like falling rocks. The bosses don’t have much of a pattern outside of throwing crap at the player until something sticks.

And yet it’s still a fun game that’ll keep you playing. I think it has something to do with how so much of it is based off of reflexes. Time and time again I’ve been saying that I prefer games where I don’t want to think about what’s coming next and just want to play it by ear as I go along. Exzisus fits this mold as survival is tied to seeing something and then having a couple seconds to act on it.

The weapon system is also kind of neat in that a fully-powered ship is a sight to behold. Not only do I get a choice of lasers or spreadshots I can also get homing missiles and even a cyber bird and a cyber dog. What’s great about these guys is that aside from projectile spitting these animals can also zoom ahead to do great damage and clear enemy bullets. It’s a neat addition I think.

So yeah give this game a shot for at least a minute, I’m certain you’ll like it because while it is old-fashioned it’s definitely quality.

Here’s an interesting one. This game is a 1 on 1 combat game where the hero must stab his way through some nasty dudes (and the occasional lady) to save the day. At the beginning of each stage there’s a short hallway filled with traps, little animals, and all sorts of flying objects. This isn’t much to worry about though because our Gladiator has a sword and a shield. The sword is pretty self-explanatory as the hero can strike high, middle, or low depending on where things are coming from. The shield is similar in that it blocks high, middle, or low but it can only take so much damage before breaking.

These scrolling sections are mostly good for bonus points and the occasional power-up. The real meat of the game is in the fights. Not only must you block your opponent’s attacks but you must also break through their defenses to kill them. While you wear a full suit of armor if the opponent manages to strike you in any spot that area will lose its armor. A second hit in any unarmored area will kill you. The same rules extend to your foe so battles are all about watching movements, paying attention, and learning when to strike. Sure you could hammer away and hope for the best but 98% of all attacks will just end up being blocked by the enemy’s shield.

There are variables to consider as the fighters can still move forward and backward plus a sword power-up can make things interesting if properly used. By collecting pieces of swords the player can gain the use of a magic weapon that if it hits the enemy 14 times without killing them it activates a shield that protects the play from everything for a short time. It’s helpful but if you’re hitting an enemy 14 times to no avail you need more practice.

The attention to detail is rather admirable in such an old game. Defeated foes that are still alive will struggle a bit before the hero moves in to finish them off (best part is that the hero will still go into victory poses before going for the kill). There’s a way to cause the female enemy to lose their armor in a way that’ll expose their breasts. It’s probably not something you want to see (this is a game from the 80s after all) but it’s also fairly difficult to do so don’t expect to just see this accidentally. If it’s any consolation to the offended ladies out there the main character does wear purple underwear. Yeah I don’t know why either. It’s a pretty good game I think. It’s probably not for everyone but what it does it does well.

Great Swordsman
This game…well I just couldn’t get into it. Maybe you’ll have better luck but I didn’t find any enjoyment in it. I didn’t even play it enough to give it a proper description.

Jungle Hunt
This is one of those classic titles that everyone in their late 20s or so seems to remember. You’re some dude out in the Congo trying to rescue your girlfriend. This is done by jumping from vine to vine, swimming with crocodiles, and running up a hill dodging rocks, and then jumping over some natives. These are the kinds of things you do in a lot of other games so these days Jungle Hunt doesn’t do a whole lot to help it stand out.

If you manage to rescue the gal the game starts again on a higher difficulty. This time you play as the gal and you have to contend with new obstacles like monkeys on vines. I figure at this point both main characters just take turns rescuing each other. It’s kind of depressing when you think about it cause apparently they’ll be trapped in the Congo forever or at least until one of them can’t jump high enough to grab a vine or dodge a rock and the other will become cannibal soup.

That’s about the extent of the game really. It’s a nice game to have for historic reasons but these days I’d rather be shooting stuff while swinging a vine or doing super combos on enemies that sort of resemble crocodiles. At least let me stab the dang monkeys with my knife. I hate those stupid jerks.

The New Zealand Story
Here we have a game that for whatever reason Taito decided it should star a kiwi. He’s a cute little guy though his resemblance to an actual kiwi is very questionable. Still he comes equipped with a pretty handy bow & arrow and is tasked with the rescue of all of his friends. This is done by visiting multiple worlds, fighting some bosses, and doing a lot of jumping and flying while avoiding spikes that can be placed anywhere.

Seriously this is one guy I wouldn’t want to mess with. He fires those arrows like nobody’s business and kills anything that tries to be remotely as cute as him. Still he’s of the fragile sort and dies in a single hit. Also while his enemies are just as weak they’re far more numerous and will even appear from magic doors to continually hassle our buddy.

It’s not a particularly difficult game but death comes very easily so carefulness is required above all else. The time limit in each stage is fairly generous and despite the size of each level they’re fairly linear with some providing multiple paths to the end. It can still be a frustrating game though because you might be flying along and out of nowhere a door appears and an enemy jumps out and destroys you without enough of a chance to react. Our hero isn’t exactly great on the maneuverability so if an attack is coming its way it’s going to have a bit of trouble dodging it.

While riding balloons and other flying objects is a nice touch it tends to get old after awhile. Sometimes swimming is involved but again that gets old after awhile. In fact a lot of the game gets repetitive before too long. If only there was some sort of system for scoring bonus points off of regular enemies. At least that would make the flying and platforming sections quite a bit more interesting. As it stands there’s just a bit too much of that scenario style of game design where survival is having the knowledge of what to do in a series of situations rather than relying on skills and reflexes to see it out. Still it’s a decent little piece of work. Once you get adjusted to the controls and learn how to play the game well it becomes a solid and entertaining platformer.

Ninja Kids
Jeeze I have hardly any idea where to begin with this one. Well in a puppet world a bunch of Satanists get together and decide to resurrect…well…Satan. To put this in check some wise master gets his Ninja Kids to do all the dirty work. This colorful bunch will journey through five stages filled to the brim with insane war veterans, hippies/homeless people, zombies, evil ninjas, and a fast food clerk that gets turned into a wolf.

There are people out there that might get offended by some of the stuff in this game. I’m just putting it out there because even though I can’t imagine why they would there are a few things that might bother somebody. It’s all in good fun though as it seems like Taito seems to have made fun of everybody (some of have described this game as resembling South Park as well so think of it as a Japanese videogame take on the cartoon…before it actually existed of course).

The actual game is a hack & slash that we’ve all seen several times before. It’s got a little bit of the Arcade TMNT game, some Golden Axe, and the only real differences are the way each ninja plays. Each of the four characters has their own weapon though personally I tend to favor the red ninja because he uses shuriken. These can fly all the way across the screen so he can play it very safe. Otherwise the ability to do cartwheels in any of four directions is kind of nice. I just wish more enemies did a little bit of telegraphing before they attack.

It’s decent for what it is but you’ll soon discover that the only reason you’re playing through this game is to see what’s coming next. You won’t be spending the time it takes to master this one and be able to complete it without taking damage. I’ve been wrong before though so whatevs. Oh and another thing before I forget. The Taito Legends set only includes the two-player version of this game. This probably wouldn’t be such a big deal if the main menu didn’t display the four-player version of the Ninja Kids cabinet. Thanks a bunch guys.

Operation Wolf
Nothing like a good old-fashioned gun game eh? Grab onto a machine gun and lay waste to enemy soldiers and their vehicles in this shooter. The object is simple. Over the course of six stages you’ll shoot all of the bad guys, not shoot any of the hostages, and help your allies escape from the enemy camp. You’ll burn through the game in about 15 minutes though fair warning a second loop will begin afterwards that puts more enemies on-screen for you to contend with. It won’t be long before you suffer a lethal injury and get a game over by that point.

To make things fair all enemies that are about to fire will flash. This is a great indicator since for the genre it’s hard to keep track of everything going on at once. You get at least some idea of what to prioritize so maybe you’ll take less damage. It’s also a good idea to conserve those rockets as they’re really useful when a couple vehicles are close together.

The one thing that is weird as hell to me is that one of the hostages is a hot bikini blonde. I guess everybody needs a little sex with their violence but c’mon, how in the heck did they end up so deep in enemy territory? Whatever country this game takes place in can’t be much of a tourist attraction. Then again NAM-1975 was even worse in that regard since if you rescued a hot blonde she picked up a machine-gun and helped you blast away the enemy. Yeah I know I’m taking things just a bit too seriously here. It’s nothing amazing but Operation Wolf is a fine game that’ll keep you occupied for at least one play-through.

Operation Thunderbolt
For those who just can’t get enough Taito put out a direct sequel. This time some of the stages are of the forward scrolling variety and there are more vehicles, more rockets, and thus more explosions. It’s a solid update though it is a bit harder because the reload time in-between clips has been lengthened and it seems like more stuff is getting thrown at the player all the time. All in all there’s not much else to say except that this sequel is an improvement in just about every way.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

X360 look - Fallout 3 : Game of the Year Edition

Today I'm feeling a bit courteous so I'll spare everyone the boring intro. Like War the Fallout series is something that never changes and even with Bethesda at the helm the game is all about surviving in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. I've always wondered about that "survival" part. To me if a game is going to emphasize survival they could stand to put a bit of effort into it.

I think an explanation is in order. If I live in a world where all of the food and water is irradiated and I have to somehow eke out a living despite the constant threat of Super Mutants, Raiders, and giant animals why would I wander around worrying about the future? Well I guess that's because I'm not an Android. Without the burdens of humanity like food, water, sleep, and emotion I can focus on the important stuff such as killing everyone, upgrading my stats, and playing dress-up. I say this because the main character of Fallout 3 must be an Android.

In the intro the player navigates the implanted memories of their Android. It's the typical tale of "mother doesn't survive childbirth, father decides to run off and save the world". The details aren't important though expect to hear something about Alpha this and Omega that whenever you manage to run into daddy. In these early stages the player learns how to move around and kill things. In this five minute tutorial they learn everything they need to know to survive in the Wasteland.

After leaving the Vault the Android quickly establishes itself as the most dominant life-form in Washington D.C. The townspeople of nearby Megaton immediately recognize this Replicant as somebody to look out for. Everyone the player talks to will say something to the effect of "I've been waiting for someone to do this and this for me." Now I doubt everyone in the wasteland is lazy as it's a dangerous world out there but is it really impossible to give the impression that our playable Android isn't the only person that can handle everything?

Since constantly referring to our main character as "the Android" gets annoying let's start calling her Jenna. The most important aspect of Jenna is that she is truly the beginning and the end. In her adventures she will meet people who have waited their entire lives for Jenna to determine their fate. One day Jenna might happen upon a prisoner. He is bound with his hands tied behind his back and must have been sitting here for eons. Jenna could kill all of the raiders in the vicinity but this prisoner will sit and wait until she decides to let him go or put a bullet into his skull. When Jenna makes this decision is anyone's guess as she could just as likely ignore him and wander away for several years. No worries though because if she returns she will discover the prisoner still alive, still perfectly content, and still waiting for her to pass judgment.

Though days and nights pass they have no effect on the lives of the people Jenna encounters. They are all waiting for things to happen and if Jenna doesn't show up these things will never come to pass. It's convenient for those who prefer exploration over keeping appointments but nobody even tries to say otherwise whenever Jenna tells them she's busy with something else. Nobody dares to question Jenna because not only will she refuse she can also kill them and toss their corpse around for fun.

Jenna might not be invincible but she's more than any human is capable of. She sustains her life via a diet of the occasional stimpack and a one hour nap will recharge her health as well as mend any crippled limbs. Unlike mere humans Jenna does not fight for survival because it comes unnatural to her. When she encounters hostiles or is just bored she can stop time at any moment to switch weapons/equipment, heal, or aim for a particular spot on an enemy. On its own Fallout 3 plays as well as any sub-standard shooter would and it just doesn't work.

The thing to understand about Fallout 3's lousy combat is that it is tied down by limitations. This game uses Oblivion's engine and while it could be a lot worse it's still nothing that could be considered competent when compared to a game that actually focuses on being a first-person shooter. A lot of fights are clunky and one-dimensional as enemies will either rush the player or shoot at them from afar with seemingly infinite ammo. These generic encounters are the basis for every fight in the game and the few variances wouldn't even amount to the level of a demo of an actual shooter.

The other limitation is since this game is a sequel it must use elements from prior games. While the other Fallouts used an interesting system that was part turn-based and part S-RPG this one just takes one of the most memorable elements and attempts to build combat around it. I can't remember what V.A.T.S. is supposed to stand for but in this game all it amounts to is pausing the action in order to get that perfect shot. Upon choosing an enemy and one of their body parts as a target Jenna will attack for the determined number of times or as many as the quickly recharged AP will allow. There are some advantages to fighting in real-time but not nearly enough for V.A.T.S. to become anything other than abusable.

Both of these unfortunate limitations are compounded by the fact that the system for doing and taking damage just doesn't make any sense. While Jenna can cripple any or all body parts of an enemy(all being arms, legs, torso, and head) the actual effect it has to the extent of the enemy accidentally placing their hand on a hot oven burner. They suffer a temporary setback but they shake it off before long and continue like nothing happened...okay maybe they'll limp a bit too. Jenna is a bit sadistic so the idea of rendering enemies helpless before she decides to put them out of their misery sounds so sweet. In practice however Jenna can't get anyone to the point where all they can do is lie in a crumpled but still breathing heap. Every time she is denied the desperate cries of mercy of the helpless she is annoyed and frustrated at the world she's been designed for. Jenna can also become crippled but the only time it actually seems to happen is when rocket-launcher packing enemies start firing. It seems to be several times more effective when Jenna is crippled than when a human is which is odd to say the least.

None of this really matters since outside of the highest difficulty combat is not something to worry about. The simple fact of the matter is that Jenna is just too powerful for her enemies. This is partly due to a scaling system which ties enemy strength to player level but no matter the numbers Jenna has every advantage. Stim-packs are a chief annoyance as they're plentiful, very cheap, and can be used whenever Jenna feels the need. Worries about ammo and weapons are non-existent as there are always far more than need be of both and even in the earliest stages of the game Jenna is packing an arsenal that would put those pretentious knob-heads in the Brotherhood of Steel to shame. Every setback up to and including death is little more than a minor inconvenience as progress can be saved anywhere and it seems like Jenna can't walk five feet without tripping over a discarded mattress that doubles as a life-restoring bed. Even Japanese-RPG heroes need a full night's sleep to recover from mortal wounds. All Jenna has to do is score a nap on a bed covered in corpses with possibly a urine stain or two and she's golden.

I think this was Bethesda's attempt at making the game "open-ended" in that while casual players can indulge in stim-packs and enjoy the world with constant saves the hardcore will relish every living moment and delete all of their saves if they die. Though if you ask me I'd say that the people who try to play this game the hardcore way are chumps. There are other ways to heal aside from stim-packs but they involve consuming food and drink. It's not so much that nearly everything contains radiation but the HP they actually restore is so pitiful I don't see the point. To heal even the most minor of wounds would require an ice-box of food and that isn't exactly convenient due to weight limits. The radiation might be useful if it could be converted to give superpowers but then I remembered this is a videogame and not a comic book as there it would be believable.

In keeping with the Game of the Year tradition this release of Fallout 3 contains every piece of major DLC on a single disc. It's certainly a nice addition though I gotta say there's a lot of disappointment to match all of the good qualities. To start with Operation Anchorage adds a Virtual Reality mission that drops the RPG elements which means nothing but shooting people. Yeah it's not one of the better packages but it does reward some nice stuff which is pretty game-breaking if gotten towards the beginning of a new game. The Pitt is a definite improvement though it quickly ruins the idea of being a slave trapped in a completely hostile land. This is more of a tour guide through the hell that has become of Pittsburgh and fresh corpses in every house has become so old-fashioned. Broken Steel tacks on a conclusion to the main story but you have to get through that which probably isn't happening for me anytime soon. Point Lookout is a pretty massive area and provides a very memorable moment in its main quest line, I'm only annoyed by the lack of good weapons and equipment. Mothership Zeta is probably the last quest anyone should do as the rewards include some pretty insane weaponry and at times I wonder if its even worth suffering through when it's nothing but hallways of aliens to zap. All in all it's better to go with this set than without.

With all of that out of the way let's talk about what I love about this game. First let's get back to Jenna. What makes Jenna such a great character is her complete lack of empathy for those around her. This game judges Jenna's actions via karma. As we all know karma is meaningless nonsense that we tend to confuse with coincidence or even irony. Whatever happens happens and the actions we make in life are not guided by mystical forces. In Fallout 3 nobody really cares about your karma. You blow up a town, shoot through dozens of innocent people, you'll still hear "welcome!" and "enjoy your stay!" whenever you visit a new place. So in Jenna's case she just killed the town sheriff and nobody bats an eye. Jenna just removed the sheriff's head and is parading around town holding it and everyone is still talking to her like nothing is happening. You might chalk this up as faults with the A.I. but I see it as recognition as Jenna's status as a divine being. Oh no she's not just any Replicant she's a Goddess and whenever she passes judgment upon someone aside from some exceptions nobody will dare to cross her.

It could be that Jenna's lack of compassion is a direct response to this game failing to provide any characters worth caring about. I'm not an emotion-less person. In fact I'd say that I can be brought to tears fairly easily. I cried through Terms of Endearment, I teared up at Wall-E, I was moved by books like East of Eden, hell I was even touched by some of the scenes in freaking Tales of Vesperia. I am not a robot but since Fallout 3's cast is so mundane and under-developed I don't feel anything when they meet their bitter end, especially when it's by Jenna's hands. see I like doing a little Replicant test. It's sort of like how in Blade Runner Decker would ask possible Replicants whether or not they'd eat a dead baby while checking their pupils or something. Actually nevermind all that Jenna just shoots someone until either they die or they fall unconscious. This is a pretty solid test when you consider that the guy who guards the bridge to Rivet City is actually a Replicant. Okay sure without him you might not be able to cross the bridge to progress the story but that's a minor detail. Off the top of my head I believe Jenna's father and even a couple of his associates are also Replicants.

I'll admit that at first I was a little bugged out by this. At one point Jenna got sick of her father's inane babbling and put an unheard of number of bullets into his body. While this did not have the effect she desired it was amusing hearing James say "Well aren't we clumsy today." in response. While knocked out Jenna is free to pick up their bodies and toss them off ledges which is always nice. Unfortunately for plot reasons some of the mecha decide to become real boys or girls so they can be effectively killed off.

For all that James likes to quote Revelations I wonder why he never bothered to quote Gigolo Joe from the movie A.I. : "They made us too smart, too quick, and too many. We are suffering for the mistakes they made because when the end comes, all that will be left is us." When you think about it it kind of makes sense cause after all the reason Fallout's world is the mess that it is is due to humans and Jenna, James, and all of their mecha-friends are stuck with clean-up duty. While the real explanation is that Bethesda didn't want any ways for the player to screw themselves out of completing the main story I think my "they're all Replicants" version is just a bit more imaginative and a lot more fun.

Then again maybe it just ties in with my ideal Fallout 3 play-through because I will not stop until Jenna has ended the lives of every human she meets. The children? Well I don't know what to do about them. I'm not sure the game does either as they're scared to admit where babies come from let alone admit that at one time children were just as vulnerable to the effects of murder as adults.

So maybe what I love about the game isn't quite what the developers intended. The combat which is such a big part of the game just makes me want to write nasty things about it and the cast of characters are more interesting when they're dead rather than alive but hey who cares about all that? I can carry dismembered corpses around while on-lookers make completely inappropriate comments. I also completely forgot to mention that I can do all this while Jenna is wearing a nightie.

Friday, April 9, 2010

AA look - Bubble Bobble

The puzzle platformer genre is all about the following:

-Cute main characters
-Using some kind of weapon or ability to turn enemies into gems, food, or other kinds of goodies.
-Tons of levels
-Some method of destroying multiple enemies at once for big bonuses

Today I'm going to look at a classic in the genre. While Taito's Bubble Bobble wasn't their first foray in the genre it is their most popular and its influence brought us the likes of Snow Brothers as well as other games in the genre.

This magical journey to rescue the player's family runs 100 stages in length. It's a tall order but there are a few shortcuts along the way. It's best not to worry about reaching the end anyway because you'll be too focused on the old adage of survival and scoring. Each of these stages is arranged differently in terms of walls and platforms and set numbers & types of enemies will appear. Destroy all of them to reach the next stage.

Before we can go any further let's look at the heroes Bub & Bob. They can jump and move around but their most important quality is obviously their ability to spit bubbles. These bubbles are magic in that not only can they capture enemies but they are also strong enough to support a small dinosaur in case they need to reach a higher platform. Other bubbles float on-screen and they can harness the power of fire, lightning, or water. It's uncertain how bubbles manage to hold all this stuff but it's a magical world so whatever. All player bubbles that catch the enemy will capture them. Captured enemies can then be destroyed but if the player grabs multiple enemies and causes a chain reaction the points will increase several times over.

At the beginning of each stage the player will arrive before the enemy. This is important because it gives the player a couple seconds to figure out the enemy placement and what they're going to do next. In this game a lot of the success is going to come from forming a plan that'll lead to rounding up all of the foes while keeping the player from harm. Most stages should only take about 10 seconds to finish. If you take any longer it's probably because you're stuck in a hole somewhere or have died. Besides a ghost will appear around 15 to 20 seconds into the stage so it's not wise to goof around.

To keep things from being too predictable a number of magical items will appear in each stage. One is usually just some sort of food that grants bonus points while the other is usually something special like a power-up. These power-ups can make the player faster and give them the ability to blow faster bubbles with longer range. One should also look out for special items that can clear the screen of enemies in a myriad of ways. Umbrellas allow the player to skip a few stages while magic potions can lead to bonus rounds. Lettered bubbles that spell EXTEND will show up in pairs and if you collect all of them that'll lead to 1up and a free pass to the next stage. There's all these ways to skip stages but it can be at the expense of points. There are also a handful of secret areas that can only be accessed if you know about them and don't die.

It's a predictable game in that no matter the combination of enemies and stage design those first couple seconds where a plan of attack is formulated remain essential to succeeding. Once everything starts moving the game becomes a bit more difficult but thankfully there's a feature that'll help to keep the player alive. Bubbles are about the size of the player and in a pinch they can destroy an enemy even if they're practically on top of the player. It's a great idea because it allows the player some chance of survival. Enemies will also look both ways before jumping to a higher platform. This is handy for not being caught unawares.

Still when the extra lives dry up the toll of taking on 100 stages will eventually wear the player down. I've been playing this game off and on for close to twenty years and my record is only stage 33. It's a very different game compared to the NES version as that one had unlimited continues and passwords. Like I said before though getting to the end doesn't really matter. Sure you saved the day but by the end you'll be more impressed by by the fact that you reached the end than by any sort of "Congratulations" the game will give you.

Regardless of where you stand on the genre, the Bubble Bobble series, or just this game it's worth checking this one out. Not only is it an influential game it is also enjoyable even today, something I definitely can't say about some other "classic" arcade games.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

XBLA look - Geometry Wars : Retro Evolved 2

As of this moment a handful of XBLA titles are for sale. One game in particular is Geometry Wars 2 and it can be had for only 400 points. I picked this game up and while I might have saved $5 the one thing that runs through my mind while playing it is "Damn...I've been missing out."

The premise is simple. You take control of a ship that is capable of shooting and moving in any direction. There are other shapes that come in many colors and they take on varying patterns. Some chase you down, some float idly, and they all kill upon collision. The goal is to score and survive.

The scoring part is easy. Everything you destroy drops geoms. This adds to a multiplier and sky's the limit as long as you can stay alive. All of the challenge is in this part of the game as that overwhelming sensation is sudden and most games will last a few minutes.

You start off in a mode with a 3 minute time limit. Consider this a tutorial as enemies will spawn in and you will take out as much as possible. Lives are infinite but death costs you time and everything on-screen disappears(including uncollected geoms). After playing this a few times you'll move on to...

...King. Here things are changed up quite a bit as you can only fire when inside of circular zones. Enemies can't touch you while in the zone but to keep you moving zones disappear and reappear. You'll find that in this mode enemies love to crowd around whatever zone you're occupying so often-times the only way to survive is to create a hole just large enough for a tiny ship to slip past. It's here your ability in this game starts to take shape as you learn path-finding and focus. Simply firing away at any moving object will lead to your swift death. As opposed to the last mode this one sticks you with one life. Be sure to make the most of it. After some time passes you're free to take on...

...Evolved. This is essentially the original mode from the first Geometry Wars. Lives are limited but at least you get a few to start out with as well as extras whenever you achieve a certain amount of points. It's here you start to develop a better understanding of the basics of the game as well as tactics that'll help you last longer as well as score more points in a shorter amount of time. The ranking system in this game uses a variety of factors to determine the numbers and aggressiveness of the enemies. This is important to note because the game does an admiral job of keeping up with your skill level even when you start a new game. After a little while you'll unlock Pacifism though you might not want to try it yet. All the same everytime you die and get kicked back to mode select you'll find the latest mode you unlocked selected so might as well give it a go.

Pacifism is all about using gates. You might have used these to reflect shots in other modes but here they're used solely for passing through. Every time you pass through a gate you cause a small explosion that destroys nearby enemies. Since you can't fire your weapon your only hope is to keep passing through gates while avoiding the swarm of homing shapes. Aside from learning how the gates work you develop your maneuverability, since even with a weapon available steering your craft past what you're not destroying is an essential tactic.

Waves is all about these particular orange enemy shapes. Their only pattern is that they move back and forth from wherever they spawn to whichever direction they're facing. In this case they can come from any side of the play-field. This mode is called waves because these shapes act in formation as they spawn in long lines. While the play-field in this game never changes shape or takes on new properties it is still a fundamental part and learning it is imperative. It's here you'll appreciate the sound effects that tell when enemies are spawning as well as what kind they are. Accuracy is also beneficial since oft-times the only thing keeping you alive is your ability to cause breaks in the waves, which is taking out one or two enemies so you have enough room to slip past.

Finally there is Sequence. This is the review portion of the game where everything you've learned is put to the test over the course of twenty stages. This means that every enemy and every situation they're capable of creating is thrown at you. If you can see this one through to the end...well...that doesn't really mean anything. You can go back to any of the other five modes and work for a higher score and believe me you'll do it whether you care for that sort of thing or not.

One of the great ideas of this game is how it handles your Xboxlive friends list. For every mode there's a leaderboard and whenever you start a game you'll see the highscore of the person one place ahead of you. Beat that score and the board moves to the next one, and so on and so forth. It doesn't sound like much but when you're short a few hundred thousand even if it's a guy you haven't seen for years you'll want to take down his score because until you beat it it'll be there seemingly taunting you. You're used to hearing about people better than you but in this game all of it is staring you right in the face.

But don't worry this isn't the kind of game where you have to sit around for days and nights of constant playing just to get anywhere. You'll probably do it anyway because the game is just that good but seriously I'd say you'd do quite alright with 30 minutes a day. Most of these modes can be played for as long as you can stay alive but even then that's a few minutes on average. For thirty minutes you can play any combination of modes multiple times. As long as you beat one friend's score in any of the modes you're making a bit of progress.

With these 30 minute sessions you can prepare accordingly with the perfect drink, a comfortable chair, and the right temperature in the house. None of that will really matter though because you won't find the time to touch that drink, you'll use maybe a portion of that actual chair, and regardless of the temperature you'll be sweating profusely after awhile. No matter what just call it a day when those thirty minutes are up. You won't be beating any scores in the state you're in anyway.

This is the kind of game you hold on to so your thousands of MMORPG hours won't render your thumbs into useless stumps and it'll resuscitate your brain after its all but melted after the most horrid of video-game storylines. With just a little bit of time you can get the kind of fix that you need that hundreds of older arcade games couldn't give you. Bizarre Creations nails everything that's great about the twin-stick shooter genre and its perfectly designed for even the most casual of gamers. To think it took me this long to realize the brilliance of this game. I'm really ashamed of myself.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

AA Look - Castle of Shikigami 3

If you're the kind of person who hates the fourth wall this is the game for you. Shikigami 3 breaks the fourth wall at every opportunity with it's absolutely nonsensical storyline and a cast of characters more concerned about everything going on on the other side of the TV screen. Just to give an idea the first boss frequently complains when certain characters are used. One character has a friend he summons for his "shiki attack". The boss says something to the effect of "You can't do that! This is the one-player mode!"

So yeah if you're the kind of person who determines replay value through cutscenes, in-jokes, and a host of anime stereotypes arguing with each other this is your game. If you want a decent 2D shooter this might be your game as well. It's five stages broken into three acts apiece and all of them end with a multi-form boss. The level designs are very plain but that matters little when the focus is on staying close to bullets and mastering the shiki attack to get massive amounts of points.

This is one of those games where buzzing, scratching, or whatever the heck people call it is implemented. If bullets are close by the player's regular weapon doubles in power and depending on their proximity when a shiki attack is performed a hefty multiplier can be attained. Shiki attacks are special weapons and all of the characters have two to choose from. Some are much easier to use than others while some are best for only a handful of situations. The weaknesses must be made up for by the skill of the player or else all is lost.

Once you get a grasp of the basics the level design is really quite easy to figure out. Enemies of varying shapes and sizes appear and get destroyed. The bosses provide a good balance between large objects and human-like foes with lots of moving around. Unfortunately there's a bit of a balance issue in that the final boss of the fourth stage happens to be the hardest in the game. Still at least on the default setting and depending on the character this isn't that hard of a game. Course one has to wonder why the character balance is all over the place. Some characters require a bit of skill to use effectively while others function perfectly if all the player did was fall asleep on the fire button.

Still it's all in fun as this is the kind of shooter that doesn't take itself or the genre seriously and still manages to be pretty entertaining. It's also dirt-cheap which isn't exactly common when it comes to the genre and you could always do worse.

AA Look - Mushihime-sama Futari

So maybe you bought Raiden Fighters Aces. That was a fantastic deal eh? You got three great games for $20 or less. Maybe you followed up with Raiden IV. Sure it was $40 but at least it came with a soundtrack. Now did you buy Mushihime Futari? That one runs close to $80 and it doesn't even include a DLC-only mode. It's rough isn't it? The 2D shooter genre is an expensive one as it's heavily niche and features a lot of titles that won't ever release in the rest of the world. Still with Aksys picking up Deathsmiles there's hope for the genre gaining a wider acceptance and a chance at becoming more accessible for gamers who won't pay import prices.

But who cares about all of that? Today it's all about Mushihime-sama Futari. There's a story buried somewhere in this game and I think it's about a 17 year old girl pissing off the ugliest queen in videogames. I guess it's because this girl killed the queen's son in the first Mushihime or something. Again just like the fate of the 2D shooter genre none of this actually matters. Just hop on your giant bug or dragon, stay away from the purple stuff, and make thousands of evil animals explode.

Over the course of five stages the player will take control of four possible characters. Actually strike that there are two characters. Reco is your garden-variety top-heavy heroine with some very questionable attire and Palm is some kid. Both characters have a Normal and Abnormal weapon setting. What this does is it effects the power of their shot & laser attacks. There are also different ship speeds associated with Reco and Palm so both play-styles are catered to.

The hook of Futari's scoring system is that the player must rely on both the shot and the laser. The shot is better for spread attacks that hit lots of enemies at once while the laser's focused power can make short work of bosses. Thing is no matter the situation the player can't focus on one exclusive and expect a great score. In fact this game uses a rather arbitrary system in that depending on how many medals the player has collected they must use either the shot or laser when destroying an enemy to get lots of large medals as opposed to a few smaller ones.

There are other factors to consider like how close the player is to an enemy when they're destroyed but that's pretty much the extent of it. Grabbing all these medals creates this huge multiplier which doesn't seem like much at first but by the final stage you're usually doing double of whatever score you got in the last four stages. That is provided of course that you didn't die or use any bombs.

The typical use for bombs in 2D shooters is to escape from a bad situation. Sometimes they're used to attain better scores but for the average Cave shooter the bomb is a psychological tool that is used against you. The thing is when the difference between life and death is less than a millimeter why use a bomb when moving ever so slightly can just as easily save one's life? Cave puts this thought-process to the test quite often as the bullet-speed in this game is very fast and can lead to a lot of panic-bombing, which keeps you safe but ruins your score. To further enhance risk-taking a number of enemies can clear the screen of bullets when destroyed. Cleared-bullets reward the player with more medals so naturally it's best to allow as many bullets on-screen as possible before finishing off that particular enemy.

It seems like a lot to absorb at first but this is actually one of the easier Cave shooters to figure out when it comes to scoring mechanics. It also helps that the first two stages are essentially one very long tutorial to help players figure out all of the basics. This tends to work against the game as a whole however since on subsequent playthroughs the player is likely to get tired of repeating stages they've already mastered. To be fair there are multiple difficulty settings but for best results players shouldn't even consider the later ones until they've at least managed to beat the Original setting.

Another unfortunate aspect of this game is that pretty much the best part of the game is stage 5. It's here where all that medal-collecting pays off and it's just wave after wave of intense enemy fire and surviving the most improbable of odds. At multiple points in this stage I start to feel kind of invincible as I effortlessly dance through bullets that I can see for maybe a fraction of a second before they disappear off-screen. Couple this with a rapidly rising score and a cap off with a pretty legendary final boss and it becomes one of the best stages to ever grace a 2D shooter. It's a real shame that the rest of the game doesn't reach this level but I guess that's just how build-up is supposed to work. It would be extremely jarring to jump into a game and suddenly it's as intense as the final stage.

Still that's just one setting. Aside from the Original the game also features a Maniac and an Ultra setting. Maniac institutes some gauge that rewards more points when kept filled but what any player will notice right off the bat is that enemy firepower has tripled. It's nothing too terrible for veterans and strangely it can be a bit easier than Original at times due to additional slowdown and other factors. Ultra on the other hand is just plain yikes. When the player selects this mode it actually warns the player that they will most likely lose before they even reach the first boss. Seconds into this mode the player will already feel overwhelmed as even formerly inanimate objects will turn the screen different shades of purple death. It's basically a hardcore mode for a hardcore genre as it's purely designed for masochists and no-one else.

To take off some of the sting of what is essentially $80 for one game Cave saw fit to include an X360 exclusive mode. This Arranged version is a much different beast compared to the regular game. It's the essentially the same game but with elements of Mars Matrix. In this mode players take control of both Reco and Palm and swap between them at will. The in-active character forms a shield that slows down all bullets in the vicinity. These bullets can then be turned around and fired back at the enemy for immense points. This isn't free however as it will drain the active character's shield rating. Thus it's necessary to swap characters in order to build up shields. Despite all this this mode is very easy and even gamers new to the genre won't have any trouble beating this mode on Original or even Maniac without continuing....Ultra not so much but that's expected. Part of this easiness is due to the fact that as long as a player has a bomb they'll use that instead of dying when hit by an enemy bullet. Since players assume control of both characters that means six bombs instead of three so that makes 18 lives instead of just three. This is the kind of mode where you focus on score above all else cause there's not much if any satisfaction to survival.

Speaking of there's also Novice mode. This is some sort of "baby's first 1CC" mode where you'd have to do some pretty impressive playing in order to actually lose. Playing Ultra mode on Novice is actually kind of pleasant at least but otherwise this is only good for learning enemy layouts and making you feel better about yourself after being humbled by one of the real modes.

For an extra $15 you can get the Black Label version of Futari. This is a common practice among Cave shooters. The Black Label is a revamped version that typically includes various changes to the core game, some changed graphics(like different times of day for the stages), and some new challenges for masters of the original. Futari BL continues this tradition with three new settings. Original is back and it's actually more manageable than Vanilla Futari. There's more in terms of enemy firepower but the two playable characters get a very noticeable boost in firepower(at the cost of having a choice between Normal and Abnormal). This version also introduces a much more severe punishment for using bombs. In fact given the choice you're better off dying because it costs less medals. Still it makes for an easier game if you're willing to sacrifice your score.

Black Label also includes a Maniac as well as a God setting. Yep cause Ultra wasn't enough now you need the skills of a God in order to complete this mode. It's probably not quite as bad as Ultra but for 99% of gamers they wouldn't be able to tell the difference. I for one can't blame them because when all I see is an ocean of death I tend not to notice that there might be a couple more openings to get through. As an added bonus there's an exclusive final boss that just might be the hardest thing Cave has ever developed. Outside of the replays however you'll probably never see her.

There are a handful of issues I have with this game that extend beyond the stages. The character balance just isn't very good. Each character has different strengths for their shot and laser but Abnormal Reco and Normal Palm are just too weak to be worth using. What's also annoying is that while I don't mind having to switch weapons depending on # of medals only Black Label actually does an audio indicator of when the player should switch. In the regular game the player has to pay attention every now and again for the counter at the top of the screen to change color. This is nitpicking I guess because if the player is going for score they're more likely to stay towards the top of the screen anyway because enemies drop more valuable medals when the player is close to them when they die.

The bosses in Futari also represent the sort of thing I wish 2D shooters could pull away from. They're impressive and all but being forced to memorize patterns while hammering at away at large object just isn't appealing to me. I've always wondered why more shooters haven't taken a more dynamic approach to boss fights. It's always something like the screen clearing of enemies and then the warning pops up about a giant whatever. Afterwards it's this big multi-form affair and well I just find it kind of tiring. I've noticed a number of Toaplan games(like Fire Shark and Twin Cobra) actually had the bosses just sort of show up announced. In fact they managed to co-exist with regular enemies quite well and their bullet patterns weren't as extreme as they typical are. It seems like the bosses of those days have become the larger enemies of shooters made today. They have the same characteristics like size in relation to nearby enemies. I just wish something more creative was done with the finale to each stage. Then again I'm probably just saying all this because 2D shooter bosses have always been my weakness.

Still this game is nothing short of amazing. The speed and intensity of enemy fire puts me into the zone like no other game. At times the bullets just seem to stop and I move around them like they weren't even there. It's these moments that I treasure the most out of playing any game. I feel like I'm about to step into the next plane of evolution but only my eyes and hands are ready for that moment. Then when that moment ends the rest of me catches up and is just exhausted by the entirety of it. There have been playthroughs of Futari where I couldn't even function afterwards. I'd have to take a cold shower afterwards just to compose myself. I can't even get this feeling from the other Cave shooters I've played let alone any other game from any other genre. It's unfortunate that those moments tend to come to a screeching halt when the boss arrives but it's probably for the best cause my heart might not be able to take it.

It's this feeling that justifies the price I paid to get this game. In hindsight it's a small price to pay for the chance to feel alive and it's still cheaper than skydiving (though with my fear of heights I'd probably just have panic attacks if I attempted that). I can't promise that it'll have the same effect on any other gamer but at worst Futari is still a great shooter.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

AA Look - Pacman & Ms Pacman

Everyone knows the deal with Pacman so I'll skip straight to the juicy stuff. I hate the original Pacman game. Seriously it's up there with Space Invaders as the top classic arcade game that I absolutely can't stand. The concept is fine and it has some good ideas but the game itself simply isn't any fun.

I guess the biggest problem lies with Pac-man's lack of speed. I find this rather curious because there have been a number of "official" hacks of Pacman that changed Pac's speed to being almost twice as fast. For some reason Namco doesn't recognize these versions so we're stuck with what I guess is the original setting. I for one never grew up with this. I was around back in the 2600 days and I even remember playing that abysmal Pacman port. All of my remotely positive memories of the game were spent in bars, laundromats, and well anywhere there happened to be a machine along with nothing better to do. Pacman has never been the kind of game I would seek out an actually play, especially in lieu of anything else.

So given the choice between playing Namco's official version of Pacman or anything else I usually stuck with the latter. However with this being Arcade Appreciation and all I think I owe some credit. To me the greatest breakthrough of Pacman is in its complete lack of context. Videogames are never about making sense and the more we apply real world rules to them the less fun they become. Pacman is a curious design. It's not an animal, a plant, and probably not even a man. There's no classification for such a being let alone an explanation for why its in a maze or why it feels the need to gobble pellets until death. The ghosts are also truly unique. Are they ghosts of something? Maybe they're just sheets with eyes or something truly sinister that Pacman was completely in the right for swallowing. While there have been countless games (and even a cartoon) that have explored Pacman's world and shed new light the game itself refuses to do things that would make sense.

In doing so Pacman creates a new kind of sense. This is the kind of sense we apply to all videogames. The rules are determined entirely by the game itself and aren't influenced by what we consider the real world. This videogame logic creates sense out of the nonsensical. You pick up a game like Bubble Bobble. In that game cutesy dinosaurs blow bubbles that trap enemies. These enemies are then popped and crumble to the ground where they turn into a variety of foods worth differing amounts of points. Obviously we don't expect the same results in the real world if such a situation were to occur but when we view it in the game it makes perfect sense. Through the usage of imagination we have discovered countless ways of creating rules for every game that defy all common ideas of logic.

I still hate playing Pacman though so even with this respect I can't bear more than ten minutes of it. Still everything was in place to create a sequel that improves on every aspect of the original. Ms. Pacman provided more than just some make-up and a bow, this game also showed some variety in the maze designs, better programmed ghosts, and most importantly an improved sense of challenge which makes it a more balanced game. Course all the time I spent with this game has been tainted by the fact that Namco refuses to consider the version I most often played in the arcades the official one. The lack of speed is once again a factor but at least here I can sort of get where they're coming from. The extra speed allows for a game based more around reflexes(which I've always preferred for any game) while the decreased speed requires a bit more understanding of the ghost's patterns as well as a bit of strategy. This makes one wonder why Namco didn't just provide for both styles of play with both versions selectable from an options menu but that's their call.

Another interesting aspect of this sequel is that as opposed to the original the fruit in this game actually moves. This is an impressive usage of progression as it builds upon everything with new ideas as well as tweaks to older ones. To give another example after defeating a boss in a 2D shooter whatever enemy firepower that was on the screen was still there for the player to avoid. Later on this firepower dissipated with the death of the boss. Eventually players would get rewarded with bonus points if they destroyed the boss when they had a lot of bullets flying around. It all boils down to finding new ways to challenge the player. With this system of progression the additional twists can lead to more points if the player uses them properly. Even with all of the features of games today it's important that they offer new and fresh challenges so the player never feels like they've played the game before. It's a daunting task certainly with all of the similar genres and styles of play but all of the best developers manage to work with it and continually develop fresh and exciting games.

So even though in the end I couldn't care less about either of these games they do have their importance and if it wasn't for them I wouldn't have Raimais and Pacman Championship Edition.