How to make Street Fighter IV even more awesome.

Add Juli.

No, seriously.  I can't be the only one that liked her in Alpha 3.

Actually, speaking of Alpha 3, Capcom should bring back Karin, too.  Both of those characters are infinitely better than C. Viper, who I only tolerated playing long enough to unlock Cammy.  And they pretty much blow Rufus and El Fuerte out of the water.

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Friday the 13th: There's a new film, so what about a new game?

I honestly don't watch that much TV, so it came as a bit of a surprise when I learned just this week that Paramount was about to release a new Friday the 13th film that would reboot the franchise.  Morbidly curious if nothing else, I went to the theater on its opening night to check it out and came away mildly pleased.  Though Jason's victims are still pulled from the same trite cliches that they've always come from, it takes a back-to-basics approach by calling back to the first three films in the original series.  It's not a good film in general, but it is a high point for the Friday the 13th series.

Back in the '80s, when Jason was first running around Crystal Lake and slaughtering camp counselors, he also got an NES game courtesy of LJN (the last Acclaim label anyone would want association with).  This game was...special:



But what if a Friday the 13th game were made today?  Not an LJN-style cash-in shitfest, but a game where the developers actually made an effort?  Certainly, the elements to make a good survival horror game are there, and it wouldn't be out of place next to games like Clock Tower 3, which was essentially a slasher film in video game form.  It would also fit fairly well into the sort of game structure of Siren, with different chapters featuring different playable would-be victims.  Despite the repetitive and simplistic nature of the films, there's actually a lot of potential for making a pretty good game.  If you were asked to make a Friday the 13th game, how would you design it?
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Jeff and Ryan suck at (mocking) Castlevania Judgment.

The title pretty much says it all, really.

Well, no, maybe not, but they sure didn't even give it a shot.

I'm not going to defend the game (not even because I wracked up a ridiculous number of points by editing the Castlevania Judgment page) because no, it's not a great game.  Not that I ever expected it to be when I bought it.  (Yes, I bought it.  Day one, as a matter of fact.)  What I was hoping for when I bought it was not the Next Great Castlevania Game, but a simple brawler made by the Castlevania team where they allowed themselves to get goofy with the characters.  And that's what I got, more or less.  It's brainless, but it's about what I expected, and I have fun with it.

To put it another way, I would have been retarded to expect Street Fighter-level fighting game quality out of it, and doubly retarded to expect a more traditional Castlevania game when it's obviously a non-canonical one-off.  That being said, Jeff and Ryan are more than entitled to their views on the game and are free to say what they want about it.

Now, as for Jeff and Ryan's video, it's not that they obviously made the video to poke fun at the game that I have a problem with, but more or less the fact that they attacked it with all of the ferocity of a sloth with Mononucleosis.  They both felt nothing but total disinterest toward the game.  It was like they played it to make fun of it out of some sort of obligation.

I guess my point is that if Jeff and Ryan want to continue making attempts at making game videos that are the reviewer's equivalent of Mystery Science Theater 3000, they should remember that for all of the jokes and vitriol that the MST3K characters slung at the movies they watched, they at least put effort and even heart into it to make it entertaining.  The series wouldn't have grown beyond its cable access roots if they went after The Crawling Eye with the apathy they showed Castlevania Judgment.


Bob's Game reaches its climax.

Out of curiosity, I logged onto the Bob's Game website to see if Bob was either showing signs of regained sanity or slipping further away.  What I found was that the entire website has been taken down and an insane rant put up in its place.

In case the rant itself should be taken down, here are its contents:



Uh...yeah.  It doesn't look like Bob is getting any better, but if this keeps up, it won't be long until Bob's Game is truly over.

But, as much of a social experiment as he's turned himself into, I do feel sorry for the guy.  He obviously needs help, and I hope that he's able to get it before it's too late for him.


Games of 2009?

Hmm.  I guess I haven't thought about 2009 too much yet, but there are a few games:

Mad World
Fire Emblem:  Shadow Dragon
Sin & Punishment 2
Dragon Quest IX
Street Fighter IV

And I'm not sure what else at the moment.

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My Best & Worst of 2008

With 2008 almost over, I figure that now is as good a time as any to summarize my thoughts on the year in games by rolling out my own "Best & Worst of" list for the year.  Keep in mind that I'm only going by what I played this year, but if you don't agree, you can always write your own.  Now, on with the show.

Biggest Disappointment of the Year (Hardware):  The Xbox 360 

That Xtreme coat of paint doesn't make me want to play your 360 more, dude.
Yeah...lets just get this big one out of the way first.  The Xbox 360 had a lot of high quality games on it this year.  The problem was that the vast majority of them were games I'm not interested in, and those that I was interested I could have played on the PS3.  One thing to note is that I am a JRPG fan at heart, but even with titles like Lost Odyssey and Infinite Undiscovery, I still ended up gravitating toward RPGs available for other platforms.  (More on those later.)

Perhaps it's part of my paranoia regarding the 360.  I've already sent it in for repairs to Microsoft once in 2007, a mere month after I had bought it.  Even if there is a game I want to play, I'm nervous that the thing is going to give me the RROD the next time I turn it on, and I'm pretty much at the point where I've decided to get the PS3 version of any multiplatform release from here on out.  Whatever the case, I can count the number of 360 games I've purchased this year on one hand without using all of the fingers:

Yep, just those three.  I mean, between all of the great games on the PS3, Wii, DS, PSP, and even the PS2, my 360 has pretty much sat on the shelf collecting dust when I haven't been using it as my personal Koei Hack n' Slash Machine.  I guess one more thing to note is that my 360 is not hooked up to Live.  One reason being that I'm not really willing to shell out for the 360 wireless adaptor when the other consoles have Wi-Fi built in, and for all of its benefits, I'm not shelling money out for XBL Gold.  Sorry, not happening.

Biggest Disappointment of the Year (Software):  Operation Darkness (Xbox 360) 

Operation Darkness sounded like a sure thing in concept.  I have in general come to loathe games set in World War II, but I love strategy RPGs, and hearing about a strategy RPG set in WWII that involves vampires, werewolves, and zombies in addition to Nazis sounded like just the sort of World War II game that I would like.

Oh god, was I ever wrong.

Operation Darkness fails miserably at one basic, but crucial aspect that even the most mediocre of strategy RPGs are able to do at least moderately well.  The camera is, in short, garbage.  During the player's turn, it's zoomed in too close to the active unit to be of use, so the player has to manually pull it out and rotate it to look around the battlefield.  Only the maps are in general far, far too large, so good luck trying to find any enemies within range.  When it's the enemy's turn, the camera cuts to a more cinematic viewpoint, which might look nice, but it fails to convey which enemy unit is moving, where they're moving to, or even which generic Nazi grunt out of the quartet clustered together is the one shooting at your unit.  Combine this with other more general gameplay failures, like the inability to take a move back if you send a unit to the wrong space, and you have yourself Just Another Shitty World War II Game.

Thankfully, Valkyria Chronicles has made all right with the world.

Best Hardware of the Year:  Nintendo DS

To sum up my thoughts on the DS this year:  Yes.  Yes!  YES!  YES!!!  OH GOD YES!!!!

The DS is where a lot of my RPG time has gone this year.  Although some of my favorite games on the platform this year were actually remakes, that shouldn't be held against it as those remakes (Final Fantasy IV and Chrono Trigger) were of the highest quality and delivered exactly what I wanted out of each.  Add in a collection of new original titles that have just as much quality behind them, and suddenly the DS has quite possibly the single-best line up of new titles for any platform this year.

Funniest Game of 2008:  No More Heroes  (Wii)

No More Heroes comes out of the gate with an incredible amount of style, mixing satire, toilet humor, and a general sense of goofiness all into an entertaining action game that's also fun to play.  It mixes a Metal Gear Solid sense of self-aware goofiness with eccentric characters, ridiculous situations, even more ridiculous plot twists, and never once does it feel like the developers were trying to force it.  And since the game is such a blast to play, the humor remains fresh from start to finish.

Best Soundtrack  (Original and Compilation):  Super Smash Bros. Brawl  (Wii)

Man, this one isn't even a contest.  Super Smash Bros. Brawl easily has the best soundtrack of the year, mixing well-done original pieces with songs from throughout Nintendo's past.  Some were remixed, some were taken direct from their original games, but the sheer size and quality of the soundtrack is the game's best audio feature.

Best New Character:  Travis Touchdown

Travis Touchdown may have a name that sounds absurd, but in the world of No More Heroes, it's par for the course.  This twenty-seven-year-old anime otaku and Mexican wrestling fanatic lives in a dingy hotel room, is chronically late returning his video rentals, and dreams of scoring with a hot chick.  He also won a functional beam katana in an online auction, aspires to be the #1 assassin in the world, has a sweet motorcycle, and takes shit from absolutely no one.  No other new character debuted with as much style or personality this year.

Best Downloadable Game:  Mega Man 9  (WiiWare, PSN, XBLA)

Dr. Wily finally considers gender equality in his bid for global domination.
The NES Mega Man titles were a part of my childhood.  Mega Man II and Mega Man III in particular were my favorites, so I was intrigued when Capcom announced that they were working on Mega Man 9, a brand new original series Mega Man game that would not only use the art style of the 8-bit titles, but emulate the experience of playing the game on an NES, right down to the flickering sprites.  What we got was exactly what I wanted.  The way the game looks and plays matches the style of the old games perfectly, right down to that wonderfully simple story where Dr. Light is framed (because it doesn't take a genius to realize it's Dr. Wily up to his good old tricks again).

Thank you, Capcom, for giving me a piece of my childhood back.

Best Guilty Pleasure:  Castlevania Judgment (Wii)

Closer to Ayami Kojima's design of Simon than you might think.
Am I supposed to not like this game for some reason?  Because the thing is, I actually think it's fun.  It's not a SUPER AWESOME AAA FIVE STAR BRUCKHEIMER EXPLOSION OF SWEETNESS +1, but I've grown tired of the all-or-nothing mentality where a game is either worth playing because it's one of the best games of the year, or it's a piece of shit.

This is not a defense of Castlevania Judgment's quality.  The game definitely has issues, chiefly among them a wonky camera, but I've seen much worse (see:  Operation Darkness).  I never went in to it expecting a quote-unquote "great fighting game."  What I was looking for, and what I received, was an okay brawler that is basically the Castlevania team's way of cutting loose and having some fun with the characters.  Takeshi Obata's character designs seem to be a love-it-or-hate-it affair, but I actually like them, and they've spawned some entertaining conversations with a more fashion conscious friend of mine who gave some hilarious commentary.  The game also supports a pretty well-done online mode for a Wii title.  Would I recommend this game to just anyone?  No, but for $50, I've played far worse titles.  For me, the game is fun.  Simple as that.

Best Good Game That I Didn't Like:  Fallout 3  (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)

I actually liked the reward for disarming the bomb more than detonating it.
On the flipside, there's Fallout 3.  I can recognize why the game has gotten all of the accolades that it has, but after playing about thirty hours or so of the PS3 version, I just couldn't bring myself to care any longer.  I love the character creation system, and I love some of the choices that the game presents, but at the end of the day, I pretty much don't like the game for some of the reasons that turned me off toward Oblivion.  I like RPGs with a greater sense of narrative and linearity.  The main narrative of Fallout 3 just couldn't keep me hooked, and the open nature of the world felt stringent and artificial.  It didn't help that the PS3 version I played launched as the redheaded stepchild of the multiplatform release, with a freezing bug during the G.O.A.T. and several other annoyances.  Technical issues aside, the game is an achievement certainly, but it's also a reminder of why I'm not a fan of western RPGs.

Best Rerelease:  Shin Megami Tensei:  Persona 3 FES  (PS2)

You couldn't see this in the original version.
The original version of Persona 3 released in 2007 was my favorite game of the year.  A dungeon crawler intertwined with a fresh, touching relationship simulation aspect and surprisingly real teenagers that actually behave like teenagers, Persona 3 hit every note perfectly.  An expansion disc dubbed FES was released for the game in Japan, but rather than release the expansion in the U.S., Atlus went ahead and rereleased Persona 3 with all of the FES content included, ranging from new events, Personae, and bonus costumes in the main game to an all-new story that takes place after the conclusion of the original game.  Persona 3 FES is the definitive version of an already excellent game.

Best PSP Game:  Crisis Core:  Final Fantasy VII

Give it up, fanboys. Her name is Aerith.
If there's one piece of hardware I've bought fewer games for than the 360 this year, it's the PSP.  Then again, my expectations for the PSP this year weren't exactly that great because, well, the DS pretty much just exploded with quality this year, so in a straight-up competition between just the handhelds, it would lose regardless.  That being said, Crisis Core is a quality game despite it being yet another example of Square Enix milking Final Fantasy VII for all it's worth.  The combat system is basic, but fun, and the storyline does a great job of fleshing out a character that we only knew in Final Fantasy VII through Cloud's garbled memories.

Best 360 Game:  Dynasty Warriors 6

No, seriously. I didn't play that many 360 games this year.
Wait, you say, this is a multiplatform Dynasty Warriors game.  How can this be the best 360 game of the year?  Well, yeah, the number of 360 games I've played this year was staggeringly minimal.  However, I am a die-hard fan of the Warriors franchise, and Dynasty Warriors 6 is a nice fresh reboot with a brand new engine and redesigned characters.  The more powerful hardware also makes the swarms of enemies that much larger, providing that much more fodder to cut through.  Just what the doctor ordered.

Best PS3 Game:  Metal Gear Solid 4:  Guns of the Patriots

Metal Gear Solid 4 is the game that sold me on finally getting a PS3.  I picked up the MGS4 console bundle about halfway through the year, and I am glad I did, because it gave me the chance to play one of the best games of the year.  Although I was, and still am, a fan of the classic Metal Gear top-down view, the gameplay tweaks made for MGS4 work in the game's favor.  It's a blast to play, with multiple difficulty levels for people of all skill levels, a high degree of customization with the number of available weapons, and boss fights that make callbacks to some of the best bosses of the series while still providing fresh, interesting challenges.  And for what faults the storyline stumbles over in wrapping things up, Kojima and company have to be given credit for doing an otherwise incredible job of tying up every single loose end to give Snake's story true closure.  No post-credits twists.  No surprises that will leave you wondering about the next sequel.  Snake is given the send-off that he deserves, which is quite possibly the game's greatest achievement of all.

Best PS2 Game:  Shin Megami Tensei:  Persona 4

This may be the final year that any truly worthwhile games are released on the PS2 for the holiday season, but if that's the case, Atlus is sending the console off with a bang.  Persona 4 improves upon every aspect of gameplay introduced in Persona 3 on both the dungeon exploration/combat side and on the school/relationship simulation side.  Once again, the storyline and characters are top notch, with an excellent soundtrack and a fun world, or in this case, small town, to explore.  This game is the reason my PS2 is still hooked up the the TV, just as Persona 3 was the reason I ran out and bought a slim PS2 the moment my original-model console finally gave out last year.

Best  Wii Game:  No More Heroes

He's heating up....HE'S ON FIRE!
In a year when titles like Wii Fit and Wii Music were making headlines, Nintendo's console still had plenty of quality core games to choose from.  A number of them were first-party titles like Mario Kart Wii and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but when it comes down to it, the best Wii title this year is Suda 51's No More Heroes.  Though the game isn't without its faults, and is very much a case of style over substance, the substance that is there is a fun experience.  No More Heroes does a better job than any Wii action title of mixing motion controls and button inputs to create an entertaining combat system, while every aspect of the game, no matter how minor or innocuous, is filled with an absurd sense of style that matches the game's over-the-top aesthetic that only gets more entertaining right up until the end.  I can't wait for No More Heroes:  Desperate Struggle.

Best DS Game:  The World Ends With You

The World Ends With You is simultaneously one of the oddest and most addictive games to hit the DS this past year.  The gameplay is remarkably open-ended, offering a level of customization that allows the player to make it as easy or as challenging as desired.  The dual-screen combat featuring stylus input on the bottom screen and button input for the top is challenging to learn, but at the same time it's forgiving enough that it works, and there's really no other game that plays like it.  And though the characters suffer from Tetsuya Nomura's lack of design originality, the game's colorful design of Shibuya and varied soundtrack are some of the most creative on the platform.  People might bemoan Square Enix's lack of originality and their endless willingness to squeeze every last dollar, yen, and euro out of the Final Fantasy franchise, but TWEWY proves that when they make an effort, they can still make games that are every bit as original, creative, and entertaining as their best efforts of the past.

Best Game of 2008:  The World Ends With You

Neku stubbed his toe on his way to receive the GOTY award.
Yep.  For my money, The World Ends With You is the best game to come out this year.  Though Persona 4 comes close, I have to give the nod to TWEWY for its inventive play mechanics, creative reimagining of Shibuya, and its excellent story.  What starts off as just another tale of an amnesiac teenager suffering from severe emo angst quickly blossoms as the protagonist Neku spends three weeks trapped in an alternate Shibuya and encounters a range of characters ranging from the the intriguing and complex to the out-and-out bizarre.  In the process, the story discusses a range of topics, including a surprising argument on what it means to follow trends versus a chilling true conformity.  With its high customizable gameplay, entertaining combat, and surprising storyline, The World Ends With You is the best game this year.

Princess Debut? It's actually not bad.

I bought it.  I played it.  I reviewed it.  The concept was enough to intrigue me, and after clearing the story for the first time tonight, I have to say that I honestly liked it.  (And before anyone asks, yes, I'm an adult male.)  As odd as it is to see the game on the front page as the most viewed of the current month here on Giant Bomb, I actually thought it was entertaining, and it's not really a bad game.  Of course, when it comes to rhythm games, my first love and favorite will always be Ouendan, but hardcore rhythm action isn't what Princess Debut is about.  It's odd, it's simple, but I had fun with it.

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Character Creator Madness!

I've had Soul Calibur IV in my PS3 for a little over a week now, and my god, the character creation tool in that game is awesome.  Even better is that you never really know what you'll run into when you play online.  Earlier tonight, I fought against Nephenee from Fire Emblem:  Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn.  I was so impressed by the design that I sent my opponent a message after the match (the new in-game XMB is actually pretty useful) to compliment him on it, and we ended up adding each other to our friends lists.  Pretty cool.

The encounter also left me inspired, and I ended up using the character creation tool to create replicas of two other Fire Emblem characters; Titania and Mist.  These characters are joining a growing line-up of character replicas and originals that I'm having a lot of fun just building.  Some of my favorites thus far:

  • Mitsuru Kirijo from Shin Megami Tensei:  Persona 3.
  • Agrias Oaks from Final Fantasy Tactics.
  • Rin Shirosaki from Ouendan 2.
  • Several characters from a story I've been working on.
  • Samson from Cho Aniki.
  • A demonic version of Xianghua (had to go for a full custom version since the ability to edit standard characters is extremely limited.  Also, yes, a demonic Xianghua.  Why not?
  • Hilde dressed in a rather fetching golfer's outfit, complete with her joke weapon, 18th Hole.
  • Cecil from Final Fantasy IV (though I definitely want to go back and tweak him since he was one of my earlier efforts).

There's a lot of potential for more insanity, and the options just keep growing as I unlock more gear.  If I had a digital camera, I'd definitely try sharing some of my creations in visual form.  What sort of madness have you all concocted?
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I'm sorry.  Hopefully that's the last Dragon Ball Z reference I make in this blog.

I guess that there are a couple of things that one could infer from the speed I managed to accumulate 1,000 points.  One is that I really need to find more things to do with my time, which is actually true, although I can say that I have a full-time job and an active social life.  I just spend a lot of time at the keyboard.

The other, however, is that I'm really digging the structure of Giant Bomb.  Although some might say that it's lame that the users are the ones expected to fill out the majority of the site's encyclopedic content, I'm of the opposite mind.  It's cool that we're able to add what we want and share our collective game knowledge, up to and including absurd trivia that a community like Wikipedia would frown upon.  Of course, there are downsides to all of this, like the potential for edit-wars between users with over 1,000 points each, malicious lies not being caught in a timely fashion.  These are issues that the site staff will have to deal with, and hopefully they'll do a good job of managing it, but for the foreseeable future, I'm willing to give this site a chance.

As for what I'm playing right now, I picked up Final Fantasy IV last week and I'm having a blast with it.  It's an excellent remake that shows the developers thoroughly went through every aspect of the original to make sure that nothing would get lost in the transition.  I'm still less than halfway through the game, but I can safely say that this new version is the definitive version in every aspect, from graphics and presentation to gameplay and difficulty.  This is the way that remakes should be done.

I also picked up the PS3 version of Soul Calibur IV last night, and what little I've played of it so far has already left me in a far greater mood than the disappontment that was SCIII.  Even with the tweaks to the gameplay like the soul crush and instant finishers, the gameplay feels more like Soul Calibur II than III, which is something that I approve.  The character creation tool is much more robust, and the story mode, while not nearly as long as Soul Calibur III, feels tighter.  Even Darth Vader, who is still a pretty odd fit for this game, feels like an okay addition (though I dread the thought of fighting 500 Vader players when I finally take the game online).  For extra comedy value, switch the game to the Japanese language track to listen to Vader's Japanese voice.

Also, you might want to switch the voice track to Japanese just out of general principle.  I like the Japanese voice acting a lot better.

I'm not sure how often I'll update this blog, but I'll definitely try.  As I said, I like the direction this site is going so far, and hopefully I'll stick around.  I mean, on what other site is "borked" considered a categorical concept?

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