So, hey another post from me about DOA right? I know, surprising right? I recently read an article by one Vincent Ingenito of IGN. His article "Dead or Alive 5 gets serious" basically gave me the idea to write this. A quote from the article:
"Now, I would never try to argue that DOA is deeper or more competitively viable than its iron-fisted cousin, but its fluidity, speed, and responsive controls have always made it my 3D fighter of choice."
This more or less describes my sentiment for the series. I've always felt that Dead or Alive never gets the respect it deserves. Sure there is fanservice and the breast physics in the last game looked like gerbils trying to escape a water balloon but it seems Dead or Alive gets picked on for this when well....
They are hardly alone. The only difference about DOA is they are up front and honest about it. You know from the get go what your getting into and even if you find large breasts swinging at pendulous angles distasteful or even sexist at least you have to respect their honesty about it. That being said Dead or Alive 5 still doesn't shy away from that no, the pre-order bikinis are in full force in the collectors edition. What has changed is you have to actively buy into the fan service part of the game. Whats more breast sizes while not "realistic" have been toned down as well as more realistic breast physics that react to what kind of clothes the girl is wearing instead of just looking like the aforementioned gerbil in the water balloon.
The game has always been heavily anime inspired in their character designs but no more. Redesigned faces have lead to the girls (and guys) having more distinct and realistic faces. Not only have the faces been overhauled but the levels as well some of the scenery in the game is beautiful from fighting on a rooftop of a skyscraper in construction in the heart of the city to fighting in a beautiful japanese garden complete with cherry blossoms the scenery is varied and beautiful. And its not just for looks either one of the other big series trademarks have always been elaborate stages with breakable walls and secret areas leading to expansive fights with ever changing scenery.
The slogan of DOA 5 is "I'm a Fighter" which has been prominently displayed on almost all of the promotional material. Its a rallying cry for fans and a promise to outsiders who have never enjoyed the series. Dead or Alive is about the fighting. The second major issue that people always seem to have with Dead or Alive is that they feel its too "mashy" and casual. You wouldn't be wrong either Dead or Alive has always had a general appeal to newcomers the pool is fairly shallow. Hit a few buttons and Ayane is twirling around and doing fancy manuvers with out much input at all. The new Team Ninja is trying to change all of that to hit that broader appeal between casual players and the interest of the more serious FGC crowd. Few games have ever done both. The addition of a few new systems along with input directly from fans and pro players alike might just tip the scales in DOA 5's favor though. The biggest and most obvious change is the "Power Blow"
The power blow is a charge move designed to turn the momentum of a fight on a dime. After unleashing the attack a series of automated hits unleash dealing a ton of damage as well as giving you the change to target where the final strike will send your hapless opponent. In the alpha build of the game the Power Blow could be used at will any time in the fight. Fans instantly cried out to Team Ninja to change this and the move was tweaked and balanced accordingly. In the final build of the game once you are under 50% health you can attempt a power blow move. There is still one issue...the windup on the moves is humongous and leaves you extremely vulnerable. This was the next issue Team Ninja had to solve. Pro players would never use this it still felt like a gimmick that was strung on to a feature list and not a important part of the game play. Enter critical bursts. Critical bursts are the second major revision to the combat of Dead or Alive 5 specific hits on some combos will initate a critical burst putting your opponent into a completely vulnerable state. This is different from being in a critical stun state. Critical stuns allow for players to still counter using holds making the guaranteed damage of a critical burst a game changer. The stun state allows for JUST enough time for a power blow to be pulled off. This makes power blows actually viable in real play. Its the same fight changer that combing into a ultra in street fighter 4 can be.
Dead or Alive 5 has its work cut out for it. Its releasing in a month where Borderlands 2 is coming out as well as the more direct competition of Tekken Tag Tournement 2. Its going to be a rough fight both are great games Dead or Alive still has a bit of a juvinile image to shed. I think they are on the right path. I'll be honest I was extremely skeptical for a long time about this game. Metroid Other M was a pretty botched effort as well as Ninja Gaiden 3. The new Team Ninja is full of young and new talent so they made a few mis-steps. Its hard to win someones trust back when the price of admission to the show is $60. Everything I've seen regarding DOA 5 including my hands-on play time with the Alpha build felt great. The game looks amazing the fidelity of the character models is actually pretty stunning. This seems like a project that the learning from the previous failures was applied too. Just like the name sake of the game the reputation of Team Ninja might just be dead or alive with fans if this doesn't go over well. It seems though that they have build a ground swell of trust. One company that has faith in Team Ninja is none other than SEGA. If I told you at the launch of Dead or Alive 4 that the sequel would feature Virtua Fighter characters I would have been laughed at and mocked. And rightly so, as Virtua Fighter is considered to be one of the most dense and technical fighters period in the world. Akira Yuki's moveset is considered to be one of the most complex movesets in all of fighting games. On one hand lets face it... SEGA is hurting for money so that was most likely a huge part of this deal but whats more Virtua Fighter is a brand that matters to SEGA. In Japan Virtua Fighter is a major major part still to this day of the arcade scene in Japan. This isn't just about money for SEGA its about trusting their brand with another company. Its a company that has faith in Team Ninja's ability to deliver this as a quality product.
Even if you don't buy DOA 5 I hope you try DOA 5. Its a game with a lot to prove and it won't be earth shattering it won't win any GOTY awards. I'm sure Persona 4:Arena or Tekken Tag Tournament 2 have a better chance at being the next FGC darling than DOA 5 but at its core what Dead or Alive is all about is fun. Its the reason I adore the series. Its fun to shit talk friends while playing some local play. Its fun playing arcade mode and seeing all of the absurd ending movies. Its a fighter that isn't intimidating like so many can be. Its about just not giving a damn and not taking games so seriously. Sometimes, mashing buttons is all you need to feel like your having a good time. However hopefully with the new additions a more dedicated scene might pop up. Its the ever yearning question in game design. How do you appeal to the masses and at the same time appeal the core audience? Dead or Alive 5 might not have all the answers to those questions but at least it's trying. And dammit I'm a fighter. How about you?
So, Its a good 6 months into 2012 which means were about at the halfway point of the year. The summer solstice is soon and soon we'll be heading to into the fall which means a torrent of good games after the absolute famine that is the summer months. So, if anyone cares to actually read here is the 5 games I've enjoyed so far the most this year. In no particular order.....
The direct sequel to 2010's Final Fantasy XIII which was a very polarizing game to say the least. It improved on many aspects of the game. One of the irritations of the first game saw you reaching a game over screen any time your leader character died regardless of the situation. It was a poor choice for an other wise at least in my mind awesome game and was fixed the sequel along with a host of other minor tweaks. Replacing the third party member with monsters that you can swap in and out and collect and combine and raise left the game with many obvious pokemon undertones that made it an addicting addition to the game. Overall one of my favorite things to come out this year. The ending was a bit crazy and I have yet to download the "Lighting" DLC pack which apparently explains a good bit more of story. I wouldn't mind seeing a FFXIII-3 to be honest as I'm really digging this story but.... even the FF fanboy in me knows that would be pushing it. Still, amazing game, amazing music. Loved my 80 hours with it.
BIG BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Okay, now that I have the obligatory craziness out of the way let me say this is such a gem in the rough. I bought this game solely on the notion that famed Yakuza director Toshihiro Nagoshi worked on it. I'm a huge fan of the Yakuza series after stumbling upon it in the series PS3 debut with Yakuza 3. Also, it just seemed well.. different from your usual take on the 3rd person shooter. Upon booting the game up it instantly feels like a horrible gears of war clone. If you stick out the pretty mundane first level though your in for a real treat. The game really opens up once you get your full squad at your disposal. Also, after a few upgrades your weapons start to feel pretty good as well. Bullets rip and tear protective covering off of enemy robots making shrapnel fly everywhere. You get a real tactile sense your actually blowing robots apart. The story gets really insane really quickly. And oddly enough the seemingly generic characters at the start of the game really all develop personalities that I really enjoyed being around. I mean... who could not love this face....
Ever since Gamescom 2011 where it debut its trailer ive been championing this game left and right. I've been forever a Suda 51 fan. Even if his games are not always mechanically the most fun games you can't ever accuse him of being boring. Suda's style really shines through in the game as well. Its like a 80's teen romance comedy mashed together with 70's horror grindhouse into one tasty confection. One of my main worries all along with this game was well.. the combat. And out of the gate the combat does seem a bit stilted and awful but as I found myself leveling up I also found myself enjoying the game more and more. Juliet and Nick play off each other in such grandiose fashion that it had me consantly cracking up. And oh...my...god. Soundtrack of the year folks. From expertly timed licensed music usage to fantastic original pieces from Akira Yamaoka of Silent Hill fame this game is and aural feast for the ears. Pac-Man fever is in this game people. Do I need to say more? What the hell is better in life than killing zombies while getting told by Buckner and Garcia about cramming quarters in Pac-Man arcade machines. Nothing I say. Nothing.
So this happened earlier in the year. I played a car combat game. Not only did I "play" a car combat game in 2011 but I played a car combat game for well over 70 hours and enjoyed every minute of it... well... minus the minutes I was searching for games or getting kicked out of games due to poor netcode or well.... okay.. the game had its share of problems and David Jaffe would be the first to own up to those problems. Whats more though is the story mode is actually really worth a shit. Sure , Twisted metal doesn't have the lore of a Mass Effect or a Fallout but watching sweet tooth get pissed and murder people is fucking fun. And fuck... I got to play online with The Giantbomb guys during TNT and whooped their asses a few times and even got to chill and play some matches with Jaffe too which was damn awesome. Jaffe had constantly preached that he wanted the CARS to be the characters in this game and have personality and individual traits. I think its something that they pulled off for the most part. Fast cars like kamakaize are really good at capturing leaders in Nuke while some characters like Mr. Grimm are Glass Cannons who are able to wipe the floor with people while always being perilously close to their own death. Its a fun balance and it actually makes you think a bit about who you choose and why.
So, I've beaten this game 2 times working on a 3rd. I currently have 150 hours in it. Its one of my favorite games of the year and I quite nearly passed it by. One of my buddies kept hounding me and hounding me "Hey, dude play the Dragon's Dogma Demo I think you'll like it!" So, after being hassled for awhile I decided what the hell. All it took was playing that griffon battle one time. I'm honestly still shocked at how damn good this game is. For all of the flaws the game has like ample screen tearing, flat textures and even bad frame rate can't keep this game's combat from being just damned fun. Each time you level up a vocation its genuinely exciting to get back from your journey to see what neat new skills you unlocked to use. The pawn system is also a stroke of genious. Its a lot of fun to go and hire your friends pawns for battle and even more awesome when your pawn comes back from an adventure in another world full of presents that the person gave you. I'm sitting on stupid amounts of Rift Crystals right now and I'm still like a proud parent every time Risty my pawn comes back with a high approval rating. I've done some of the same mundane quests now over 3 times as I'm on my 3rd playthrough of the game and yet it doesn't matter to me. The fun is in the combat. Seeing your characters improve finding new and exciting armor and weapons. And yes people regardless of what Patrick was saying on the Bombcast there IS loot hell one poster on Gamefaqs Dragon's Dogma message board even made a detailed list of drop percentages for chests in the game. By far one of my favorite things this year and to think I almost passed it up because of initial bad reports about the game.
So I've spent only a few hours with Final Fantasy XIII-2 however the surface improvements are already popping up in a number of ways. First thing I noticed was the game now auto-saves in specific spots which is great. Also the ability to pause the game and save anywhere is available which is a great addition although should have already been a thing in the previous game seeing as thats well... modern game design.
The combat seems largely unchanged although the ability to "tune" Paradigms exists now. "Tuning" paradigms allows you to indirectly influence what your AI partners will do in the role you've selected for them for a paradigm. For instance...you can have magic casters focus on AOE attacks or make them focus fire on a single enemy. A tool that might end up being helpful in later battles. The graphics are still fairly stunning although the frame rate does seem to be hovering in the high 20's (I'm playing the PS3 version). Still, not a deal breaker.
The other major change I've noticed right off the get go is the Crystarium System is slightly changed. No longer do each role have its own Crystarium "timeline" of sorts. You have a specific cost for the next section of the crystarium and you choose which role you want to upgrade. This means that the crystarium is even more linear and you don't get to choose your abilities. On the bright side this could influence people to make distinct "builds" of characters instead of just willy nilly dumping into everything.
Have not gotten to the monster section of the game yet. Still very very early on. I'll post further updates and possibly a review in the future. Now back to the land of androgyny!
May 7th 2009 a day that many will remember as the day Duke Nukem almost died. After 12 years of highs and lows the news that 3D Realms and Duke Nukem Forever were in dire trouble trickled across the Internet. Many met the news by succumbing to the gnawing feelings of apathy that had every so slowly built up after heartbreak after heartbreak.
The faithful few Duke fans left lamented the death of their hero and his fall from grace. Seemingly being labeled as forever as the joke of the video game industry. No matter what side of the coin you were on that day it seemed as if Duke was gone forever. Fast forward to May 2011 and since then Gearbox Software helmed by Randy Pitchford coming of the outstanding success of Borderlands snatches up the Duke franchise and as of this writing the game has gone gold and we are exactly 17 days away from an actual retail release.
So whats the whole point of this diatribe you say? Well, lately I’ve heard numerous people both in the press and amongst the unwashed masses of gamers themselves making off the cuff remarks on how Duke Nukem Forever is going to be horrible.Don’t get me wrong everyone has a definite right to have an opinion. In this case however I just feel that people are barking about something that they would have hated regardless. Gearbox has been pretty transparent that they are finishing Duke Nukem Forever for exactly two reasons.
The largest of the reasons being all the hard working men and women that worked at 3D realms that worked on this game for so long. Randy Pitchford of Gearbox got his start at none other than 3D realms and Duke 3D was in fact his first project. It goes without saying that for many there are seemingly deep emotional ties to the Duke franchise.
I’ve heard phrases like “this game is so 1999” being used in conjunction with describing the games design. And quite honestly... they are right. Duke Nukem Forever is a 2011 game with the soul of a 1999 game. This fact alone is what makes the game so seemingly polarizing. I’m sure many will look at the game as being archaic and badly designed. Especially after coming off of games like Call of Duty Black ops and Halo Reach both games that are good in their own rights.
Duke however isn’t from that ilk of game. Modern shooters strive to be big budget and cinematic and have progression in multiplayer and huge set peices and the biggest baddest graphic engines. Duke however is about the game. Oddly enough, 1999 was the first time I got my hands on Duke Nukem and I was 14yrs old. Now yes, looking back at 14 I really shouldn’t have been playing Duke and it wasn’t from lack of my mother trying to stop me from playing it either.
Regardless, I was fascinated by the game. It was’nt the first FPS game I had played those honors go to Goldeneye 007. However, it was the first FPS game captured my attention so readily. A good portion of what attracted my 14yr old mind to the game is the obvious gratuitous boobs and violence. I never proper owned a copy of the game and honestly never even played the PC version as I was only ever able to play the N64 version of the game. I had wondered for years afterward if my attraction and fond memories for the game were simply as shallow as the violence and the overt sexuality the game pushes.
Luckily Microsoft released Duke Nukem 3D on XBLA a wonderfully adapted PC port that seemingly kept the original PC game in tact. About this same time i was shelved in bed for about a week as I was recovering from a surgery to repair a hernia. I was excited to try the game out again and see if my childhood fascination with the game held up a good 9 years later.
I suprisingly tore into the game with a intense vigor with a smile on my face eager to get to the next level. What hit me in the days to come is exactly why I like Duke Nukem and why the game has stuck with me as a seminal game.I think first and foremost the level design is what really sets Duke Nukem over the top for me. Unlike modern shooters that keep pushing you forward to see “the next big set peice” many FPS games of this era like Duke and Doom before it were surprisingly as much about exploration as they were shooting baddies.Having a huge playground with tons of secrets to explore was always one of the joys of the shooters of the era. I remember watching my cousin play the game and showing me secret doors and switches that I would have never found otherwise. The back and forth of finding secrets and sharing them was a staple of gaming at that time.
No matter if it was impressing your friends in Mortal Kombat with the secret fatality you found or finding a secret room in Duke Nukem the community mind share of the local gaming scene was a fun thing to be part of.The other part of Duke Nukem that I find holds up for me at least that separates it from Doom and other games of that generation that had similar exploration parts is that Duke Nukem was and still is funny.
The literal take of some of the jokes like mutant pigs that just happen to be “cops” were honestly pretty funny. Duke himself is a parody unto a parody of every 80’s action star conglomerated into a single person. His lines are intentionally cheesy and completely and overtly ripped from other movies. Being so mired in 80’s and 90’s movies like Army of Darkness,They Live and Die Hard among others its obvious that Duke’s largest fan base most likely wasn’t born anytime after 1990.
In the 15 years since Duke 3D was released game design has obviously and significantly progressed and for the better. Among the shuffle into true 3D and the arms race to have the most realistic graphics with the most features I think some of the elegant parts of video games were lost. Games that are not afraid to be nothing more than just a game. Epic games alongside People Can Fly recently released Bulletstorm to much fan fare. Now while I don’t know if the guys at Epic or PCF are Duke fans I can say I think they felt much the same about the state of games. Bulletstorm was a fantastic game and while it still has many of the modern game tropes it also felt like a distinct callback to games like Duke Nukem that were’nt afraid to be silly and fun for the sake of being fun.
The obvious reality is that games are never going to be the way they used to be. That's quite alright in my book. All mediums progress and grow and change is good. And since we’ve spent the last 15 years playing games like Halo, Call of Duty, Rainbow Six and others its no surprise that a game like Duke Nukem feels lost in time. I can’t speak for every Duke fan out there but I can say that I don’t expect Duke Nukem Forever to go toe to toe with the other big games this year. Hell, I don’t expect it to even sell all that well.
I’m just glad that this game exists, period. If all I get is a 5-8hr journey down memory lane this time in splendid HD I’ll be pretty content. Duke Nukem Forever is the embodiment of 1999 game design and thats all it really needs to be. A quick hello to the yesteryear of what games used to be. All the fanfare glitz and glamor will be gone as soon as the salvo of big hitters start banging down the proverbial floodgates. I will be glad I had my time with Duke. He is like the friend I drifted away from. Sure, we might not have much in common anymore and we don’t hang out but its good to say hello to an old friend that you used to know.
And that's why Duke Nukem Forever (probably) isn’t for you. You might have just moved on or you might have just never been around when Duke was and that's okay. For us that do well, we’re all ready to kick ass and chew bubblegum and well... you know the rest or maybe you don’t and that's okay.