I got a Gamecube!
My intention this year was to write a couple of blogs a month, which unfortunately turned into a blog a month, and that quickly turned into me thinking about doing a blog a month. I really need to finish my Top Ten blog at least three people read, and I have written a lot of stuff that I haven't felt comfortable about posting. I need to get back into a regular pattern with something a little smaller, and what better way to do that than talk about a short game on a small console with the most adorable game discs I have ever seen... my brand new-old Gamecube. I have also filled it out some bits and bobs about other stuff I have messed around with.
I could probably talk for hours about how excited I was discovering the Gamecube had tiny discs. ( I have no idea how I have made it to 2014 and didn't know about this.) It was such a huge moment opening up my first GC box the week of E3 that I'm putting it right at the top of my E3 2014 highlights. Also, the Gamecube has a handle!
So what am I writing about in this blog? If you hadn't guessed from the title (And you probably didn't) I'm going to say some things about the first Capcom Five game to be released on the Gamecube: P.N.03. It does say "Product Number" on the front of the box, but I'm not entirely sure if that's referring to the main character, the suit or something else. After playing it I'm not a hundred percent anyone associated with the game really knew themselves to be honest.
Shinji Mikami has his name attached to a bunch of very good games. I hear there are a couple of people out there that like the Resident Evil franchise, Some of them even like the old ones with the wonky controls. One thing to remember though - For all the gems tied to his name we should never ever forget that he is responsible for that terrible Aladdin game on the SNES. In 2002 Capcom decided to pledge their allegiance to the great evil Cubelord by making five original games exclusive to the Nintendo Gamecube. Only four of them were released, and three of them were eventually ported to other systems. The first of the bunch was the poorly received, Mikami directed sexy-dance-shooter-thing P.N.03 in 2003, which was the only game to stay exclusive to that system.
There's no messing about with this game, no flashy intro, no long cutscenes, just our hero Vanessa Z Schneider teleporting in a ball to the surface of a miserable brown planet like some kind of rhythmic Terminator. There's not really anything resembling a tutorial so you have to figure out how to move yourself. For starters, I'm not a game designer, but if I was the last thing I'd put into my fast paced action shooter would be tank controls, and P.N.03's basic movement is incredibly similar to the way Leon moves in Resident Evil 4. Thankfully most of the environments in the game are thin corridors or wide open spaces so it isn't that much of a problem a lot of the time. It also helps that unlike RE4 you don't have to aim your weapon. It automatically locks onto the closest enemy and does a pretty good job of picking the best targets during combat. This is very handy for a game that doesn't let you move and shoot at the same time (Surprise!)
So you run around hitting the fire button which is conveniently the big round button situated in the middle of the other buttons on the controller. Y'know Nintendo were onto something here. They were like "Hey, this button is the main button for all inputs, lets just make it huge" I like that, it's nice. Either that or they messed up the specifications and that's why the Gamecube's D-Pad is so damn tiny. There's no rapid fire when you start the game so like a lot of older Japanese shooters you need to hammer the button down as fast as possible to kill stuff quickly which can be pretty tiring for extended periods of play.
After running around awkwardly trying to kill fast moving robots on a pretty ugly environment you get a Codec call from an anonymous person called The Client. The Client has absolutely nothing important to say ever. They're so unhelpful that in one of your first interactions with them they're like "Oh, you've got super moves, find out about them in the pause menu." It turns out that these seemingly throwaway supermoves which are a collection of rotating lasers, homing shots and laser ripples are incredibly important to the gameplay and can often be the deciding factor in whether you live or die during some bosses. The only other meaningful dealings with The Client are at the end of the game and this one time they commented on me buying some new sunglasses mid mission.
I can't believe it has taken me this long to get to the most important part of the way the game plays. You run around the levels which are split up into tiny sections by destroying or avoiding all of the enemies and then hitting a door that gives you a very brief results screen with bonus points for not taking any damage. The way to avoid damage is by using the triggers to make Vanessa "dance" from side to side. Vanessa is way into dancing, leave the controller alone for a second and she taps her foot and pumps her arm to the beat of the techno music. Apparently she's here to blow up the robots that killed her parents or something, but at times it feels like she's just into some really dangerous dance fitness. The suit she's wearing makes her shoot lasers from her hand, which is pretty cool, keep hitting that button and she weaves and bobs and gyrates her hips to the sound of various uninteresting robots exploding.
The way she moves and dodges enemy attacks, which can at times be hugely damaging if you mess up your timing can either make you feel like some kind of awesome, fluid future robot killer or have you continuously get clipped by enemy attacks or frantically try to rotate on the spot to get a lock on from the robot firing missiles into you from offscreen. I understand why they hadn't transitioned to moving and shooting in Resident Evil 4, but to have it in a game where you need to be pretty mobile is an odd decision. It could work if there were more refined controls for dealing with enemies that are to the sides of you, and some of it can be countered by using the pretty generous jump, but you can only really flip forwards or backwards as trying to jump to the side or on the spot results in you doing a pretty looking, but ultimately useless spin. Considering how fast some of the bosses move (Some of which have names like Mister Giraffe.) it seems crazy how little mobility you have. The super moves can do some serious damage and I tried to cheese my way through all of these fights as quickly as possible due to them usually having single hit kill moves.
Between levels you can use the points you gained during combat to upgrade and buy new suits which have different supermoves and strengths or play a randomly generated trial mode that consists of five missions with 15 rooms to clear. This was obviously included for you to grind points to buy continues and upgrade etc. The suits in the game are so expensive and the trials give such a small amount of points unless you have mastered the combat flawlessly. You can't replay missions so this is the only way to boost yourself if you get stuck. I found myself getting around 30 000 ish points per trial stage when I wanted to buy a suit costing 600 000. Not only do you have to buy the suit but they all start out with base stats so you find yourself grinding and grinding just to get the new suit you bought up to the stats of the previous suit you owned. It's a bad way to pad out an already slim package.
Of the eleven missions here there is almost no variety. You are usually tasked with getting from point A to Point B with about 90% of the game being white rooms like some kind of Portal test chamber. I remember when the first trailers for Vanquish came out a few people would comment on it having similar aesthetics to this game, but there is very little in common between the two other than being fast moving action shooters that favour style and are directed by Shinji Mikami. On the few occasions that the game does mix things up it never really changes a whole lot about the gameplay. On one level you need to avoid slow moving searchlights, but you can just run right through them, the only penalty being that you get to shoot some stuff for more points to spend on upgrades, and another level where you have to run back through a section of the level you have already played while a timer ticks down.
The story has you returning to the same old levels a couple of times. Mostly because The Client is an idiot and opened the wrong door last time you went through the level, and it makes the game feel rushed. No environment is interesting enough to visit twice and the minimal changes they do make don't add a whole lot to the experience. Around the 8th or 9th mission you come across a clone of yourself in a tube. This is the first time your character speaks out loud, like seriously. You get about two lines of dialogue 3/4 of the way into the game. It just so happens to be everyone's favourite female voice actress Jennifer Hale voicing Vanessa. If there's something I have learnt over the last couple of years, it's that Jennifer Hale seems to be bad at doing accents. Play Fuse and listen to her atrocious English accent and here we get an even worse accent. I assume it's meant to be German, but it sounds sorta French... which slips back to American for a single line. It's obvious story was not the focal point here, but come on, that's just lazy. At the end of the game -Spoilers- we get a couple more lines of dialogue where we find out that The Client is a clone? Or you're a clone? Or the one in the jar was the original or something? Everyone's a clone? ummm DANCE BREAK! Yep, that's the story. There's robots, you killed them, someone's a clone. Are you a robot? Is a clone a product? Are you number three? Is the fancy gun-hand dance suit the P.N.03? If so how come there are tons of other suits to buy in the store? Why is she pawing the screen like a cat? Why am I even bothered by this? I'm pretty hungry, what should I have for dinner?
So that's a blog about P.N.03. It feels unfinished, most notably in the story department. Visually it's pretty bland, but the animation on Vanessa is great. This could have been a kind of Sci-Fi Devil May Cry... Hell, it even makes the exact same noise as those games when you pick up green health orbs. I can't tell if they had to rip a bunch of stuff out due to time and/or money, but the ideas behind dancing and dodging are a unique twist on the standard action game. I'm glad I played it though, I've been curious about it since I saw images of it years ago. Maybe this will prompt me to finally play Killer 7 or replay Viewtiful Joe and its sequel... I should probably just finish that HD version of Resident Evil 4. Nah, That'd require plugging in my 360 again.
Other things I have played.
I have played a bunch of games. Here are some thoughts on them
I played through the entirety of Wolfenstein The New Order. I liked it, it's a nice middle ground between running & gunning and the more modern approach. I felt like there was a little too much stealth in the game. I know you can go in guns blazing for the vast majority of the game, but the commanders de-incentivise you doing so, probably a few too many times. I also felt like there wasn't enough crazy weapons and none of the guns felt like they really packed a punch. Why place a level on the moon if you're only going to be on the surface of the moon for a couple of minutes. It's surprising how similar the space section felt to the space mission at the end of Fuse.(Second mention!) The thing I liked best about the game was the storytelling... I never thought I'd be saying that about a Wolfenstein. I really liked the way Blazkowicz muttered to himself with often unconnected thoughts from the past. The music is great.
Which Drove me to trying out The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena. I love the Riddick franchise, especially the second movie. I was prompted to re-watch the movie after a thread on the forums, I forgot to respond to someone about why I loved Chronicles, but I realized that I could probably write a whole essay on why I love that movie. Anyways. Knowing the Riddick games were made by a bunch of former Starbreeze guys that worked on Wolfenstein I wanted to give this a shot. There's a bunch of similarities. The way the storytelling is handled, the way Riddick mutters to himself, and the way long stealth sections are punctuated by extended gunfights. I wish the shooting was better and Butcher Bay has aged very poorly with some really nasty difficulty spikes that overly punish previously sloppy play. I'd heard Dark Athena was the worst game in the package, but I like it a lot more. I have kinda stopped playing it at the point it turned into an all out shooter with poor shooting.
I have also dabbled in some Basara: Samurai Heroes. It's like Capcom's Dynasty Warriors and it's fucking crazy... like CRAZY. I dunno... you kill hundreds of dudes at a time and get 1000 hit combos. Sometimes you fight a man with lightning chainsaws, or a dude that lives in a giant bamboo shoot or a tiger ("TIGER TIME!") or a robot(????) Y'know, a bunch of historically accurate Stuff. I have only finished it with one character and she has a super move where she throws hundreds of muskets into the air, spins around with tommy guns and then fires a bazooka into the air with a hundred rockets... Japan.
I'm nearing the end of Act 2 in Watch Dogs, my fourth PS4 game and it's most definitely the best game I have bought for the system. There's something about going in with low expectations and being pleasantly surprised. My initial feelings were pretty harsh, but as the story and missions with their semi-open structure progressed I warmed considerably to it. It has some of the best cover shooting in any open world and the explosions go boom incredibly nice. I wasn't going into it for the hacking part so the fact it focuses on shooting doesn't bother me, even Aiden and his vigilante voice (Which he puts on when being a shit Batman.) is ok despite his generic genericness. I hate the way the music is handled in the game. I went into the music app and turned off all of the songs I hated. It loops the same seven songs over and over now.
I also played a couple of Saturn games. Gunbird which is a scrolling shooter with witches, gods, bunny rabbits, robots and protagonists with questionable interests, and Treasure's Silhouette Mirage. I have a lot more to say about that and a couple of other Gamecube and PS1 games I have finished, but I'll leave it for another time.
One last thing.
MORTAL KOMBAT!!!!!! I rewatched Mortal Kombat. I don't remember the last time I saw the movie, but this has to be the third-ish time. I think I saw it on VHS after the cinema release, but that was a long, long time ago. MK is a fun movie, back then I remember being disappointed by it, I think I wanted it to be really dark and bloody, but its goofy tone was lost on me. Years later It feels like it the got the tone spot on. All the characters act like you'd expect them too (Bonkers Raiden aside.) and it's full of characters you know and love punching, kicking and getting fatalitied in appropriate ways. It's worth a watch just for the Johnny Cage Vs Scorpion fight. I haven't giggled so hard in quite some time.
Not the entire fight, but it has the bit that matters.
OK. Thats some writing that I did and posted and stuff. I'm most definitely going to try and be more regular with this, it keeps me focussed.Thankyou for reading and be excellent to each other.