Tuesday, February 22, 2011

PS3 Look - Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2

Remember the last time I talked about Ninja Gaiden 2? All I can recall of it is infinitely spawning exploding jellyfish. There were also other things like billions of exploding projectiles all over Ryu like chickenpox and some of the worst uses of water ever in an action game. I said everything I could just short of breaking the unwritten rule by cursing up a storm. Now you're reading this and you are all but certain that I am clearly insane. I'm blaming the Internet for this one. I was pretty content never playing Ninja Gaiden 2 ever again but all these people are saying "Sigma 2 is better because it fixes all the stupid stuff but Vanilla 2 is better because it's more challenging and rewarding." Curiosity gets the better of me as it is wont to do and I played through Sigma 2.

The story hasn't changed at all. Ryu has to do some globe-trotting to try and fail to stop a bunch of greater fiends from summoning the greatest fiend. I guess I wasn't trying hard enough because I couldn't skip any of the cut-scenes. Thus I was forced to endure footage of a woman bathing in blood, another woman being a pathetic damsel in distress, and Ryu telling all of the girls to stay in the kitchen where they belong. The only difference in this version is that Rachel, Momoji, and Ayane have their own stages where they kill demons because that is what people like to see in videogames.

Momoji is the young Acolyte who Ryu trains in the DS Ninja Gaiden game. Her outfit is at least somewhat sensible. Ayane is probably more recognizable from her work in Dead or Alive but nevertheless she's here to assist Ryu in matters of Ninja concern. Rachel is from the first Ninja Gaiden and she's still dressed in tight leather because I dunno maybe she just likes the way it feels. Upon completion of their respective side-stories the ladies become playable in the Team-Missions mode.

Team-mission mode is suitably named as the player can team up with another player or the computer to take part in all sorts of missions. The goal is to kill everyone and score a lot of points. Really there isn't anything else to it aside from a unique combination spell and the fact that if one player dies the other has to revive him or her to keep the battle going. It's a really good addition although since the missions take place in various locations in the game it becomes a real pain in larger stages. While it is true that Sigma 2 cuts back on the projectiles that doesn't stop enemies from sniping away at the heroes from miles away if given the opportunity.

It's rather strange how Sigma 2 turned out the way it did. Almost all of the issues I had with the original game have been rectified in some way. Unfortunately this doesn't mean that I love the game now or anything of the sort. When problems get fixed all this usually does is lead to new problems or it gives me the opportunity to look at other aspects of the game that are problematic. Some would argue that this is unfair to game developers but who cares what they think? Eventually they'll get it right in a future game or die off. Sometimes they die off anyway even when it isn't their fault and that truly sucks.

Anyway let's start off with water. Yes it is fantastic that the jellyfish are gone and Ryu isn't picking fights with snake-demons that effortlessly glide on water. So what happens then? Well...at least in the normal setting apparently nothing at all. Venice is one stage I despise due to all of the water-based fighting so Sigma 2 cuts it all out and replaces it with nothing. Suddenly we have a break in the pacing as after some battles with dozens of werewolves Ryu decides to take a leisurely swim through the canals for awhile. It's times like this that I wish the Master Werewolf Volvo or Vulgus or Vargas or whoever was an ice fiend and he turned Venice into a Winter Wonderland. At least we'd probably get some neat ice-based enemies out of the deal. These breaks in the pacing continue in other parts of the game, either featuring a lack of enemies or the enemies are replaced by more ghost-fish. Seriously?

To make up for the jarring changes in pacing all of the puzzle-elements in Sigma 2 are gone. Now when I say puzzle-elements I'm also referring to all those times where Ryu needs to grab a key or hit a switch to continue. This makes the game-world feel rather lifeless. It feels almost like Ryu has already done everything in the past but somehow he got tricked into fighting everyone again so he has to retrace his steps. All the same it's an acceptable solution but I would have preferred more fights. At least there's the team-mission mode and harder difficulties for that sort of thing.

This game throws in a number of new enemies and replaces some fights with new bosses and other fun stuff. Some bosses like the horrendous Water Dragon also saw changes. I guess I should be happy about these changes but they highlight a lack of ambition going on throughout the game. When doing a sequel or a revision it's not enough to merely fix what was wrong but to expand upon and push the game even further. All of the new bosses feel like more of the same while the changes to existing bosses make them slightly less interesting. They are several times more consistent in their design but somehow I get the feeling if the time was spent to make them actually work in the original version they could really be exceptional. Also one of the new bosses is a rampaging Statue of Liberty. It's far less cool than it sounds and the fight feels too much like the Colossus from God of War 2.

Obviously I have to say something about the lack of blood as well. I'm an unapologetic gore-hound so of course I'm peeved about the lack of crimson-action in this game. It really makes the cut-scenes look ridiculous when everything is getting slaughtered but there's not a drop of blood to be seen let alone the decapitations and other fun stuff. Purple mist is a poor substitute since a lot of the time it's hard to tell if something is missing a limb and thus can be finished off. Plus I have to look at it from an artist's point of view. Way back when I was in community college I did a presentation on Paul Verhoeven. You may remember him as the director of Robocop, Total Recall, and Starship Troopers. Needless to say the presentation itself had a lot to do with Paul's usage of violence in film. With blood he can make vivid images that affect the audience in multiple ways. If he wanted to shock the audience he could use a specific amount of gore at just the right moment, or if he wants to do something humorous he goes for comical amounts of spilled blood. Most of all however Paul uses blood to help tell his stories. Without the blood in Ninja Gaiden 2 there are no stories to tell. All the battles tend to leave behind are corpses, that's hardly any proof of evidence that a battle ever happened. Though Ryu has wrought untold levels of destruction upon his foes he is effectively without his paintbrush that would record these deeds for all time.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that while I hate Ninja Gaiden 2 at least I can admit it drives some emotion out of me. All I get from Sigma 2 is...indifference. I played through the game with hardly any issues and while some things could have been handled better I just didn't really care if they mattered or not. There is neither frustration nor satisfaction, just this feeling that if I keep doing what I'm doing eventually it'll end and I can move on.

I don't feel right calling one game better than the other because to do that I'd have to play through them on the hardest settings, master them, and analyze every little detail. My life simply isn't long enough and I enjoy it just a bit too much to shorten it drastically on these games. Still this game can be a lot of fun when things come together and there's not much else out there if you're looking for a cooperative action game. All in all while the game makes me feel empty inside I recommend it.

Game Rating 3.5 out of 5
My Rating 2 out of 5

Muchi Muchi Pork / Pink Sweets Bundle has shipped!

Now all I can do is wait.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

X360 Look - Lost Planet 2

I have my reasons for not picking up games at launch. Most of the time they're just too freaking expensive and the price drops by half in about a month anyway. The case with Lost Planet 2 was...well, I read some of the early reviews and figured the game wasn't worth the hassle. I liked the idea of a focus on cooperative-play to get through the campaign but it wasn't a $60 like. I also had to take into account that at the time my internet connection was terrible.

So fast forward to just short of now and I gotta say, Lost Planet 2 is really underrated. It is sort of like the culmination of many games Capcom has done in the past. The Lost Planet sequel has a bit of Spawn: In the Demon's Hand, a sprinkle of Powerstone 2, some Monster Hunter, and bits and pieces of every cooperative-based game Capcom has ever put out. It's got everything I could ever want in a game from guns to women in tiny outfits to spending ridiculous amounts of time unlocking junk.

The story is something best left forgotten and ignored. I think the only cutscenes I didn't skip were the funny ones where my character who was obviously a woman had the voice of a man. There are also some QTE cutscenes which I have no idea why they're included. I don't think I ever failed one and if I did I wasn't punished for it. Regardless the campaign is all about blasting humans, mechs, or akrids.

The humans are still jerks as they're always fighting each other over fossil fuels, territory, and technology. A good bit of the campaign involves entering enemy bases and tearing up their stuff. The only real worry about these guys is getting outnumbered and cornered(although snipers are a pain in the keister as well). All too often these soft and fleshy humans find comfort inside a mech. Taking these abominations down involves some powerful weapons or a mech of your own. Although if you happen to have a plasma gun you can just knock the pilot out and steal his ride. The akrid aren't gone just because some pretty-boy and his dorky buds stopped a blizzard. They're still out and looking to protect their planet from all those dirty colonizers. Akrid have also dabbled in evolution and it's expected that some massive beasts will stand between you and uh...well I have no idea what anyone is fighting for.

Oh that's right. Everyone is fighting for career points and money. Like almost every other game made in the present the primary goal in playing any game is the constant pursuit of upgrades and larger numbers. Each of the five human factions are playable so whether you're a Femme Fatale from Florida, a NEVEC Lackey from Quebec, or just some hombre with a stereotypical accent, it's guaranteed that 98 levels of experience stand between you and all those fancy customization options and unique weapons. Weapons, special-abilities, character-actions, and names are also handled by a slot-machine.

In what could be considered one of the worst ideas Capcom ever had, almost all upgrades in Lost Planet 2 are doled out via random chance. More often than not your rewards for saving the world are a bunch of silly names you can give yourself like "Dog Lover" and "Tech Romancer". The animations are at least amusing as you can break into one of those Russian dances at every opportunity. This game is totally not recommended for fans of achievements as it'll likely take hundreds of hours to get all of them.

Oh and competitive-multiplayer fans? I'll be the first to admit you guys are a weird bunch. Spending 10 minutes at a time being shot in the head by gamers worldwide is not my idea of a good time. If you really want to give this game a go competitively do know that 90% of the players have all but mastered the MP and they're either on your team or punching your clock. For me, playing competitively is out of the question as there is so much to unlock and if I end up with more deaths than kills that means I'm getting next to no points. There is still a pretty respectable number of people playing this game but it's still a rough shooter to learn.

There really is nothing better than being jumped by someone and being unable to react as they slowly chew me apart with a machine-gun. Constant grenade-usage is also expected and God help whoever doesn't have some killer weapon like a good mech. Map-control is a major aspect of this game and a lot of the time all it takes is the right tools in the right hands and the opposition has no chance. I won't even bring the non-team elimination mode into this because anyone who bothers playing it is insane. The average elimination match starts with you dying very quickly. It then leads to getting spawn-killed for the rest of the match. The game offers a short period of invulnerability so respawned players can get away but it doesn't mean much when they get cut down shortly afterwards by somebody better equipped and positioned.

Thankfully cooperative mode is where it's at and is pretty much the major reason to get this game. There have been horror stories in the past about a particular mission that takes place on a train but from what I've played it isn't bad at all. This game is best tackled with at least one semi-competent friend. Everyone tends to have their own collection of weapons they use and tactics for completing each chapter of the game. As long as players can handle their own the game is quite entertaining and long nights of constant play are guaranteed. There's at least some depth to the whole affair as while the skill rankings don't mean much of anything it's still a good idea to perform various tasks in each Chapter to raise the "GJ" rating.

The difficulty level tends to be all over the place. There's not too much in the way of challenge although there are times where the player seems ill-equipped to deal with a particular boss or the enemy soldiers are suddenly able to snipe a wing off of a moving fly from fifty miles away. I'm also really not sure just what in the heck the last boss was supposed to be. The last portion of the original Lost Planet didn't have much in the way of fans but at least it was different. In this game I'm not even sure if I'm supposed to care. Then again I guess if I bothered to watch a cutscene or two I'd probably have understood.

Really though what it all comes down to is that I have a game I can rely on for that good feeling I get from levelups. The rest of the stuff is just window-dressing at this point. It feels like we're at the point where the actual game is about getting those numbers raised and everything we do to get there has become the meta-game. Fans of achievements have been there for awhile considering the games they play solely for the gamerscore. As far as myself is concerned I guess I'm just waiting for that perfect game where I can play dress-up, level-up a bunch of stats that may or may not mean anything, and possibly do something vaguely videogame-related like shoot an alien or buy a tunic. So far I'd say Lost Planet 2 has gotten a lot closer than all of the other similar games I've played and that's an admirable feat. If this keeps up I might eventually start to forget the differences between a good and a bad game. Lost Planet 2 is definitely good and could probably be even better if the competitive multiplayer wasn't a bad joke. It has the identity, a better grasp on its concept than its predecessor, and it's just a fun game for shooting the crap with friends.

Still I think I need to focus on some games that aren't going to reward me with garbage just because I play them for a long time.

Game Rating - 3 out of 5
My Rating - 5 out of 5

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

X360 Look - Resident Evil 5

For once I'm going to cut back on the pretension and tell it like it is. I don't hold Resident Evil 4 at a level of esteem unreachable by almost all videogames. I enjoyed the game enough to give it two playthroughs on both the Playstation 2 and the Wii but I can't remember much of anything about them. I look at Resident Evil 4 the same way I look at part 5, as just another videogame. Nobody wants to read about that garbage though. Resident Evil 5 exists to be constantly and unfavorably compared to its predecessor until the end of time. Yes aspects of RE5 feel kind of phoned-in and at times an original set-piece or even a sense of humor would have done wonders but otherwise I don't see the point in continuing with this comparison.

In fact let's go a bit further and zip through all of the nonsense that brings Resident Evil 5 down. The story is the kind of absolute pap where the only things the cutscenes can do to keep the player's interest is to make sure something "cool" happens every time or there's a QTE. The bosses tend to be giant targets with a lot of QTE prompts to mash through and absolutely little in the way of inspired design. There are also vehicle sections and you all know how I feel about those. The campaign is essentially a grind where until somebody handed me one of those cheat eggs that can be re-sold an infinite number of times I had to suffer through a lot of mediocre filler.

Breaking it down a bit further we have the campaign which is about as exciting as reading the phone-book. There are never any worries about limited resources and even the toughest-looking foe is weak since its movements have to be adjusted to account for the player-character's lack of mobility. I suspect the only real challenge in the game is going to come from playing the hardest difficulty, where I assume anything can leave the player in critical health with a single hit. It's too bad because it feels like that's all the game really can do to make things harder. It's not good design in the slightest but the campaign really feels like all potential was exhausted early on and everyone just goes through the motions until the credits roll. I won't even mention the story because I skipped all of the cutscenes I could.

Mercenaries mode on the other hand, this is what the entire game should have been. If anything the campaign feels like some overlong tutorial that runs the player through all of the basics and helps them get adjusted to the mechanics of movement and shooting. It's here where all of the good qualities of the game shine. The pacing for combat is exceptionally well-done and the cooperative system works wonderfully when two competent players team-up. In this mode mistakes have more weight to them and handling resources becomes imperative to not only surviving but to also get a great score/rank.

A better version of Resident Evil 5 would have come up with some way of rolling other aspects of the campaign into the mercenaries mode. Take for example the boss-fights. On their own they just aren't any good as they seem more adept to repeating attacks that must be QTE-dodged rather than showing any inspiration. Having a Mercenaries stage where Wesker is stalking the players while they deal with the other enemies could have been pretty awesome. What we got might have sounded good on paper but in the game itself it's overly stiff, not practical, and again just not challenging in the slightest. This could also work with something like the Irving battle. Instead of just sitting on top of a mounted gun waiting for something to happen the players could be assaulted from all sides as Majini storm the ship.

Still with the campaign as it is I can't strongly recommend Resident Evil 5. Where its controls and style may have given the game its identity in the past now it just seems like it's holding everything back. Simply changing the system to account for those who would like to move while shooting most likely wouldn't lead to any improvement. It seems like what's really missing is a better campaign and with enough creativity there are any number of ways to fix that. However thanks to the Mercenaries mode the controls and overall design of the game cease to be an issue and it really makes the game come together. The core of Resident Evil 5 is great but it's wrapped up by a lousy first impression and you can't access mercenaries mode without beating the campaign. Still if you're willing to throw away ten hours or so on something you'll only remember when asked about why you hate the game then give it a go. Just don't bash the game too much without at least giving mercenaries mode a look.

Game rating - 3 out of 5
My rating - 3 out of 5

Saturday, February 5, 2011

My love for game purchases is unboundedededed.

What Namco is doing to Ridge Racer is just absolutely tragic. In order to curb my depression somewhat I went shopping and grabbed a couple games.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 - I hated the first Ninja Gaiden 2 didn't I? Hmm..maybe this wasn't the best idea. On the bright side I can use the six-axis controls to shake the female character's breasts around...Lord...this wasn't a good idea at all was it?

Grandia X-treme - Honestly I thought I'd never find a copy of this game, especially for less than $10. From what I hear regarding this game is that everything except the story is totally sweet.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What I've been doing lately.

Currently I'm doing reviews for two different videogame sites.

Pwnem.com - This site is structured similar to the average videogame forum but the reviews are taken seriously and I've already reviewed a couple games.

Extraguy - Here we have another site that reviews games of all kinds though currently I'm just doing reviews of XBL Indie titles.

There's also my work at XBLAratings though lately it feels like I only seem to review awful games for that site. Still it's fun as the games I usually play are simply too good for me to really rip into them.

I haven't forgotten about this blog of course as I have a handful of games that I plan on looking at in the future.

So uh..that's it really.